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Mega CO2 Sucking Plants – the next big tool against Global Warming

Commercially viable plants that can extract CO2 from the air just hit a huge milestone with one such facility opening up in Zurich, Switzerland.

HUGE DISCLAIMER: This doesn’t mean that Global Warming is a hoax and everyone is free to spew greenhouse gases as they wish. It’s just a step in the right direction of reversing the damage that’s already been done.

Climeworks is a company with an ambitious goal: Reducing global emissions by one whole percent. Now that might not seem as much, but considering the amount of CO2 released in 2015 alone was close to 10 BILLION tonnes, one percent is a worthy accomplishment. Scientists have known several methods to suck up atmospheric CO2 over the years but all of these were experimental or prohibitively expensive until now.

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14 Greenhouse Meier Cucumber Courtesy: Julia Dunlop

Climeworks’ plant, which sits perched atop an incineration facility in Zurich, works on the principle of special chemical sponges. The coating on the surface of these sponges interacts with the CO2 molecules in the air to heat them to about 100°C and separate them and store them inside. Once a sponge has been saturated, the stored CO2 can be extracted and used for several purposes, such as fizzing up beverages, further decomposition to get pure carbon to make other products or even pumping it into greenhouses to increase fruit and vegetable yield. They call this technology as Direct Air Capture or DAC [Maybe they should make an additional module to collect other greenhouse gases and call it the Air Molecule Processor or AMP for short :P]. It’s powered by the heat generated by the incineration facility that would otherwise go to waste, displaying a very remarkable use of cogeneration. The plant extracts about 2500 kilogrammes of CO2 a day.

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Climeworks is currently supplying 900 tonnes of CO2 per annum to a nearby greenhouse and is looking for further opportunities to sell to other markets. This CO2, aside from being produced with negligible emissions and energy costs, also reduces the consumer’s dependence on fossil fuels for producing CO2. Negative emissions are a vital part of mankind’s fight against global warming, with it being ratified again in the recently conducted Paris Climate Summit, and this plant is a huge milestone in that direction. It’s just the beginning though, with Climeworks estimating they need about 255,000 such plants set up by 2025 (Reality check people, it’s only 8 years away now ._.) to achieve their 1% fewer emissions goal. They also insist that negative emissions are just a postponement of the disastrous future of a 2°C temperature rise throughout the globe that scientists predict our current levels of Global Warming and Emissions will lead to. Even though it’s basically a band-aid over a bullet wound, this plant still marks out a path of hope in an otherwise bleak future. Check them out at http://www.climeworks.com.

Oh and if you know an armchair scientist who claims stuff like Mount Etna spewed out more CO2 in a day than humankind could in 10 years, here’s enough ammunition to debunk them.

Prithvi Sudhan

Prithvi Sudhan