A possible solution to climate change is robotic ‘trees’
Climate change requires innovative solutions, and one such solution utilizes (DAC) Direct Air Capture technology. This is one of many theoretical ideas considered to help curb the effects of climate change.
It works by collecting and sequestering atmospheric carbon to minimize the amount of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. The idea behind carbon storage is not new and has been studied for a long time. Nature has a natural way of storing carbon through plant and tree growth. The problem with this is that C02 is typically only stored while the plant is living, once it dies or is burned in power plants for electricity generation it begins to release carbon back into the environment.
(BECCS) bio-energy with carbon capture and storage is utilized on an industrial scale to absorb carbon emitted from power plants which is currently pulling about 550,000 tons of C02 annually and storing it underground. The caveat with this however, is that it only works with concentrated levels that come directly from factory smokestacks.
(DAC) is more promising because it can collect C02 from more diverse and distributed sources making this method very convenient.
DAC technology works by pushing air past a sorbent chemical which binds with carbon dioxide but allows other molecules to pass unhindered. A common chemical used for this process is calcium hydroxide which, when exposed to C02 creates calcium carbonate. This can then be processed and used for industrial applications such as concrete and other materials. The main reason this technology has not been implemented and scaled globally is that costs per ton of C02 extracted is still pretty high. Around $400 to $1000 per ton extracted is a large number when noticing that nations need to pull collectively 5 billion tons of carbon out of the atmosphere by 2050 in accordance with the Paris climate agreement.
There are a few start ups and companies currently working on cost reduction with promising efforts of reducing costs to $30 a ton of extracted C02. It should be noted that it’s easier currently to eliminate carbon production at the source than trying to sequester carbon after its been released as energy input is required for carbon sequestering. So until we are fully carbon neutral it won’t be as efficient.
“Direct air capture could become a major industry if the technology matures and prices drop dramatically,” Professor Chris Field, former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC), and Dr Katharine Mach, director of the Stanford Environment Facility, wrote in a 2017 Science article. “Direct air capture might require much less land but entail much higher costs and consumption of a large fraction of global energy production.”
I would like to note that planting trees on a global scale is possibly a much easier endeavor that can contribute greatly to carbon sequestering and even provide habitat for animals and ecosystems that have suffered from over zealous natural resource depletion.