Dusk til Dawn
Carbon sequestration is underway in many nations
Following years of research and development, a number of geoengineering techniques are now being utilised for trapping and removing CO2. This is offering fresh hope for mitigating the effects of climate change.
The most significant technology is “clean coal”, being fitted to power plants. This is seeing widespread adoption, since it now costs less than unsequestered coal-based power generation. The carbon dioxide is stored in geological formations deep underground (including some empty oil wells). Great care and precision must be taken in choosing these sites, however, as dumping the gas in an unstable location may cause it to leak back up to the surface, or contaminate aquifers used for drinking supplies.
Another method of carbon sequestration which is showing great potential is the deployment of “artificial trees”. These are shaped like giant fly swatters around 10m high, and are becoming an increasingly common sight along roads, freeways and other polluted areas. The trees capture CO2 through a filter – thousands of times more efficiently than real trees – which is then removed and stored.
Another geoengineering project involves strips of algae, fitted to the sides of buildings, which naturally absorb CO2 through photosynthesis. They are most common in high-density urban centres, where tall buildings offer a much greater surface area. These “photobioreactors” (as they are called) not only sequest carbon, but can also produce biofuel and biochar as beneficial side effects. The biofuel can be used to generate energy whilst keeping net carbon emissions to zero, while the biochar can be used as a very good fertilizer.
Yet another project is the addition of highly reflective panels on rooftops. These reflect sunlight back into space, reducing the amount of solar radiation being absorbed by the Earth.
Although efficient, the geoengineering techniques described above (along with various others) do not represent the ultimate solution to global warming. They are only a temporary measure. The only effective, long-term process for stabilising the earth’s climate remains the large-scale adoption of solar, wind, hydro, nuclear and other renewable energy sources.
The Tycho massdriver begins to successfully launch cargoes into orbit for pick up by cargo shuttle craft.