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Removing CO2 from the Atmosphere

by David Zhang

As Climate Change continues to occur due to numerous human-produced waste products such as methane and CO2, the race is on to find sustainable methods of removing these byproducts; especially, CO2, tons of which is produced everyday and will accumulate within the atmosphere and remain for centuries to come. Authorities on climate change say that humans must limit temperature growth to 1.5C, or 2.7F in order to avert the worst effects of climate change. To accomplish this change, experts estimate that a few hundred million tons of CO2 must be removed from the atmosphere within the next few decades.

One tried and true method is afforestation, or the planting of trees. This is one of nature’s methods for reducing CO2, and also one of the cheapest, costing around $10 per ton of CO2 removed. However, its effects are not instantaneous, as it takes decades for trees to grow to maturity. Additionally, the requirement for more agricultural land to satisfy the growth of the population will conflict with the increase in land used to plant forests. Soil carbon sequestration can slightly offset this problem because crops can be used to store CO2 within the soil. Nevertheless, a more efficient solution must be implemented to resolve climate change in the short term.

Current alternative methods including bonding CO2 to certain materials. This method is currently used by CarbFix, which injected twelve thousand tons yearly into these materials, at $30 per ton. This is significantly more expensive than the natural methods but has an immediate effect on the atmosphere. Carbon Engineering, which boasts Bill Gates as an investor, has a plant in western Canada that can capture one million tons of CO2 a year by directly taking CO2 from the air. Projecting on a larger scale, this plant could remove CO2 from $100 to $150 per ton, which is another price jump but allows from the mass reduction of CO2 to become accomplishable. The captured CO2 can be used to make certain fuels, which could possibly reduce the cost of this kind of venture. 

None of this is currently enough to achieve the mark which is needed to prevent any significant global warming effects. The current methods and technologies have not reached a suitable scale yet, but scientists continue to study innovative, creative, and efficient techniques to accomplish the removal of 100 million tons of CO2, averting potential disasters due to increasing temperatures.

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