Climate change continues to damage the environment, pushing the Earth closer to a catastrophic state that is damaging to all life. Countries agreed in the Paris Agreement to constrain the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels until year 2100. Despite current efforts in carbon filtration and promoting cleaner energy, current warming trends show that the Earth’s projected temperature rise is well above 2 degrees. According to the Climate Action Tracker, or CAT, holds that current policies will increase the temperatures in 2100 by 3.1-3.7 degrees Celsius. The CAT state that greenhouse gases not only have to be curtailed but by 2050, emissions need to be reduced to zero if the Paris Agreement temperatures are to be achieved.
Simply shutting down all infrastructure for current power generation isn’t feasible without radical change in living standards or manufacturing efficiency. One solution for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere without drastic change was offered by Klaus Lackner, the director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions. At Columbia University, he built a prototype machine able to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mix it with water. He disposes this byproduct underground or in saline aquifers (salt bodies of water underground). This process is called “engineered chemical sinkage”. Lackner states that “it is impossible to stop people from using fossil fuels, so we have to develop technologies which allow us to use them without creating environmental havoc to the planet”.
Other similar technologies have developed recently by Carbon Engineering. Their Direct Air Capture technology has successfully captured carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and refines it into a hydrocarbon fuel compatible with current engines. According to Carbon Engineering’s website, their fuel can even be mixed with fossil fuels. It has the potential to supply energy in a way intermittent power sources cannot. Unfortunately, like most alternative energy, the synthesis of this fuel is more expensive than using conventional energy sources like crude oil or coal. However, if Carbon Engineering’s claims are correct and their fuel can be substituted with conventional fuel without any issue then integrating their technology has more viability than most other alternative energy sources that have logistical difficulties. Carbon Engineering’s fuel and technologies have only worked in a proving ground and yet to be tested for market viability, though their website states that they are currently working on scaling up their technologies into commercial markets.