Climate change seems to be the topic of our generation.
Everybody in the western world is inescapably followed by talk of CO2 emissions, the strain of industrialization on our planet and how we need to be making changes to rectify the state that our forbears have left our environment in. Before we were under the impression that if we cycled to work and used eco-friendly solutions in our home we would be able to make a dent in the disrepair, but it has become clear that this is not the case. We don’t just need to lessen our emissions a little; we need to decrease them exponentially and find a solution to the CO2 we have already emitted.
Climeworks has developed a solution that they think might be the answer, or at least one answer to the problem. Earlier this year they released the first commercial plant, which takes CO2 out of the air and repurposes it. The plant, based near Zurich in Switzerland, uses filters to capture carbon in the atmosphere. The captured carbon is then pulled in with air and eventually heated to 100 degrees so as to be stored. The whole process is done using mostly low grade or waste heat, making as little impact as possible. With the carbon stored, the company is able to then sell it to industries which can make use of it in their production processes. Right now it is being used in greenhouses to grow vegetables, but in the future it may be used for other productions such as carbonating drinks.
The company is currently selling the captured carbon for $600 a ton, which is a price too high for many to see it as a feasible solution. The company’s response to this cost is that low-scale production means that parts are made from scratch and this would inevitably be less of an issue with wider scale production. Their hope is to bring the cost down to $100 but maintain this is not possible without commercialization. The other critique that Climework has received is that it is not a substitute for reducing carbon emission. Though it is beneficial to work at taking back some of the emissions we have created, it still remains important to find more sustainable ways of moving forward.
The Independent featured co-founder Christoph Gebald, who said, “The vision of our company is to capture [one] percent of global emissions by 2025, which is super ambitious, but which is something that is feasible.” The currently existing technology from Climeworks can capture approximately 900 tonnes of CO2 a year and to reach their goal of one percent would require “…building hundreds of thousands more of the devices.”
If this goal were to become a reality it could greatly increase chances of reaching the goals set by the Paris Agreement, which was adopted by many countries in late 2015. The Paris Agreement aims to “…limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and given the grave risks, strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.” It is a goal recognized as important by many because of the severe impacts of rising atmospheric temperatures; temperatures, which have an effect on rising sea levels and the extreme weather patterns globally that have become increasingly difficult to ignore.
Critics are still concerned that this is not the most effective way of dealing with climate change though. There are already ways of capturing carbon straight from fossil fuel plants, a cheaper and more proactive measure. Some European scientists describe it as an “unjust gamble” with other better options out there.
For those not in the scientific professions, it is difficult to discern what the benefits and downfalls of this new technology really are. One thing is clear, if this technology remains at the same high cost it will be difficult to reach the company’s goal. It certainly shows us that there are new solutions to be considered in the efforts to maintain a livable environment for our generation and those that will follow.
By Annalisse Crosswell
Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.