Good Idea? Bad Idea?

When I started this post, I went to TED talks. Searched for ‘climate change’. This is what I found.

This video made me ask several questions. The first was “why have I not heard of anything like this before?” and “why aren’t we doing this!?”

The second was “who is Dr. David Keith?”

To answer my first question I went to the office of University of Guelph’s very own Dr. of atmosphere and meteorological sciences (I am not sure, but I think that his official title) Jon Warland. I explained to Dr. Warland that putting these molecules into high orbit sounds like a good idea. These molecules will help reduce/reverse climate change by reducing the about of solar energy that reaches earth. These molecules could act like a large mirror and reflect an amount of solar energy (heat), back into space, reducing the amount of heat that is created by the greenhouse effect.

Dr. Warland never went into specifics, but he impressed onto me that although putting sulfides into the high atmosphere sounds like a good idea to mitigate climate change, there are other problems that will result from the very process of putting the sulfides into high orbit. These problems are probably why we have not put these sulfides into orbit to act like a solar shield.  What these problems are, I have been left to speculate. However, Dr. Keith said it himself, putting these molecules into our high atmosphere is not a permanent solution to climate change. Putting these sulfide molecules in our atmosphere does not reduce the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases that are the main contributors to climate change. Putting these molecules into high atmosphere should only be a ‘band aid’ to prevent castrophy, because it is not a solution.

I said thanks to Dr. Jon Warland, and left his office thinking about my second question. Who is Dr. David Keith?
Dr. Keith is many things but one of these things (relevant to my post), is the CEO of Carbon Engineering. A company that is using carbon capture technology, to remove CO2 that has been emitted from many sources (like burning fossil fuel) into our atmosphere.

So what is carbon capture?

Air containing CO2 passes over a baffling system.  This air passing over the baffles will come into contact with a solution. This solution, which is on the baffling, reacts with CO2 to create a Carbonate salt. This process removes approximately 80% of the carbon in the air. This carbonate solution is then taken and put through a process to remove the CO2, in order to reuse the solution. the CO2 is then taken and sequestered somewhere.

This is where I ask new questions.

So, this carbon capture technology, removes CO2 from our atmosphere. Lowering the amount of greenhouse gas, halting and possibly reversing the damage done by climate change.

This part of the process is not hard for me to understand.

The part that I have problems with is where we put the CO2 after we have removed it from the air?

There are current practices of pumping the CO2 underground, or in the ocean (in the deep ocean) which traps the gas.

I have issues with this! Putting CO2 into our oceans increases the carbonation of our ocean WHICH makes the oceans more acidic. Oceans that are more acidic make it difficult for animals like coral or crabs to have hard shells/skeletons.  The acidification of the oceans reduces the amount of available calcium  for these animals to build their shells/skeletons because the Calcium bicarbonate reacts with the CO2 and forms a type of molecule called Aragonite. Aragonite is found closer to the surface of the water and therefore unavailable for these animals to use it because they do not live at the surface of the ocean.

According to the company Carbon Engineering, hydrogen can be added to the CO2 which was removed from the atmosphere. Doing this creates hydrocarbons (fuel) that we can then use to power our cars. Burning this fuel will release CO2 into the air that will be recaptured by this carbon capture technology and reused (we could call it ‘a carbon loop’). In a perfect system, the amount of CO2 released is equal to the amount of fuel that we need to fuel our vehicles, thereby preventing the release of new/more CO2 into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

This (carbon capturing) sounds great. reducing the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere will help mitigate the  change in climate we’ve seen from CO2 in our atmosphere.

ALSO this practice will help reduce the acidification of our oceans.
AND hopefully, we as a people can change our habits to reduce the amount of activities we do… which release CO2 and other greenhouse gases. This new technology combined with others will stop the changes to our climate…

… maybe.

-Shalackma

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About shalackma

University of Guelph Bio-Med Undergrad
This entry was posted in Adaptation and Mitigation, Global Climate Change and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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