This new study found that direct air carbon capture and storage -- basically, machines that pull CO2 out of the air -- deployed at a scale capable of helping us reach 1.5 or 2 degree targets would use MORE THAN HALF of today's total electricity production.
And I'll point out that we can't do that, because that electrical capacity has already been pre-allocated to Dunning-Krugerrand proof-of-work, and to training facial-recognition neural nets for the Panopticon cartel.
Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.
Because leaving alone undeveloped areas with significant biomass/vegetation would be... too hard.
Cows gotta cow.
Remember in high school chemistry how we learned that gas molecules spend most of their time in "free path" flight, not touching anything else, but aqueous phase liquid molecules are always touching one-another? That "residue surface" has huge implications for reaction processes, especially when the reactants you want to get at are only a small fraction of the molecules in question.
So direct air capture of CO2 is just ridiculous, as is anyone advocating for it. Luckily, atmospheric CO2 is in equilibrium with the carbonate in seawater, and the same kind of dialysis used to detoxify diabetics' blood can remove carbonate from seawater. I am not making this up. Electrically charged sheets of plastic, seriously, are the key. The first person to figure out that method, which is an order of magnitude better than what the US Navy has been trying to do since the '60s was Michael Eisaman at Stony Brook, who got noticed by PARC and then Google, where the entire process was commercialized as "Project Foghorn" and carefully measured, but priced from retail electricity costs and on that basis, abandoned!
(At this point I should mention that the dialysis process produces vast, agricultural quantities of fully desalinated potable water, represented by the tiny cup on this helpful official diagram.)
Who uses retail electricity prices to price industrial processes? Apparently Astro Teller and The Team At X, An Alphabet Company, that's who.
Well, that's not the whole story.
Apparently Exxon started a pilot project plant on the Texas coast, which got wiped out by Hurricane Harvey two years ago, and the licensing has been in limbo ever since.
Anyway, it's completely inevitable because the details are public and relatively simple as industrial chemical processes go and wind power, the fastest growing form of renewable energy, has a huge off-peak surplus at night, when the US grid uses only 2-5% as much energy as the peak daytime load.
What that means is that liquid transportation fuel synthesized from the carbonate in seawater, whether it be gasoline, diesel, kerosene jet fuel, cost less than half wholesale as the same fuels from petroleum already.
Sorry, the inventor is named Matthew Eisaman, not Michael.
I have no idea what I am talking about, but this is what I recently heard in a German podcast:
The only place where CO2 capturing makes sense is in factories or power plants producing CO2. These usually have no motivation to do it though, because currently producing CO2 is free. And if they would do it they would have to store it somewhere and everybody prefers to store it ideally in someone else ground, so this isn't ideal.
He also mentioned CO2 capture out of the air for fun. Apparently this is currently a stupid idea and you still have to store it.
I admit to not having done the maths (or understood the chemistry: I'd welcome correction on either) but it seems to me that any of the carbon storage schemes either needs to turn CO2 into something else to store it, which is energetically problematic since we got the stuff in the first place by going down some energy gradient, or needs to just store CO2 somehow. The latter is like the nuclear waste problem, except you need to store hugely (really hugely) more of it, and it's dangerous for ever instead of just fir a fairly long tim. But because it does not involve the word 'nuclear' this makes it OK.
It helps if you think about all those coal pits, digging up coal to be burned, need to be filled up with coal made from co2 pulled out of the atmosphere. Or we need to cover half the world with trees or grassland. Yes, we're fucked.
Yes, I think that's right: trees & other plants are really machines for taking CO2 and energy and making carbon. If there aren't mechanisms for turning CO2 into something stable in storage without input of energy (and 'something stable' is definitely not going to be carbon, obviously), then we end up needing to store CO2. And we have to store billions of tonnes of it every year. And it is dangerous for ever. And somehow this is fine, but storing thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste (total high-level nuclear waste in the US in 2018 was 80,000 tonnes), is not OK, because nuclear.
(I think that there are mechanisms for eating CO2 which are painless: rock weathering is one big one. I don't understand the energetics of that.)
All of this is academic of course: we're not going to do anything & we're all fucked as a result if we're not fucked sooner than that by the mindless fascists. The best we can hope for is to preserve some history.
If one accepts the IPCC SR-15 report, then the only plausible course of action is a precipitous, immediate reduction in emissions - driven by a huge reduction in energy demand. The only politically plausible way to do this is is if the developed world, particularly the U.S. go the fastest. Otherwise (in the estimates in this report) we will sail past any chance at stabilizing around 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, pass 2° at a good clip, and speed towards levels that will easily threaten civilized society as thing found on Earth within the lifetimes of young adults who are alive today.
And yes, as is widely known, betting money is increasingly that the IPCC SR-15 is over-optimistic.
An increasingly popular image for the future (as far as I can tell) among those not betting on magic new high-tech carbon capture and sequestration seems to be a mix of extremely rapid transformation of agricultural methods and land use, and levels of human-aided reforestation that are mind boggling. Agriculture will have to become once more much more labor intensive. And - think locally: during WWII, victory gardens provided something like 40% of all fresh produce consumed in the U.S.
If the above characterization is at least roughly correct the only course of action is to immediately shut down large swaths of the economy, and begin working out adaptations to keep human society going anyway, even during the resulting economic crisis.
Like, don't go to work this Monday or Tuesday. Or any Monday or Tuesday ever again. We'll cut back more in 2020. That kind of thing. Just for starters.
The need for that level of whole-society mobilization is pretty much the main motive for the Extinction Rebellion and the young persons Climate Strikes every Friday. The latter group, incidentally, is calling for a general strike in September. I suspect the Rebellion will join them in addition to trying to shut down some airports using drone swarms.