Climate change: Beyond prevention and mitigation, it's time for solution
Why CO2 'Air Capture' Could Be Key to Slowing Global WarmingPhysicist Klaus Lackner has long advocated deploying devices that extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to combat climate change. Now, as emissions keep soaring, Lackner says in a Yale Environment 360 interview that such “air capture” approaches may be our last best hope.
by Richard Schiffman, Yale Environment 360
For two decades, Klaus Lackner has pioneered efforts to combat climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Now, after years of watching the global community fail to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control, Lackner — director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University — is delivering a blunt message: The best hope to avoid major disruptions from global warming is to launch a massive program of CO2 "air capture" that will begin to reverse the buildup of billions of tons of carbon in our atmosphere.
Trained as a theoretical physicist, Lackner developed a device while at Columbia University that was patterned after a tree, absorbing the carbon dioxide that passed through it as wind and releasing it in a stream of water.
Lackner says he is continuing to perfect this design, which he hopes will one day serve as a prototype for millions of such devices around the globe.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lackner says that while the development of renewable energy is essential in slowing global warming, these alternative sources are being deployed far too slowly. He contends the best course of action — and one that will become more palatable as the costs of rising seas and other climate upheaval mounts — is for governments to require the petroleum industry, the coal sector, and other emitters of CO2 to remove the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere that they release as emissions.
"If you pump a ton of carbon out of the ground, you will need to take a ton out of the air," says Lackner. "We need to have the ability to walk this backwards. I’m saying this is a war, and we need to use all the weapons at our disposal. You don’t want to get into this fight with one hand tied behind your back."