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Carbon Capture: A Tool for the Future

Thank you to our guest blogger, Alina Doan!

Alina is a high school student at Chief Sealth High in Seattle, WA whose passion for the environment inspired this write up on capturing carbon.

Global Warming. A controversy that’s been spread through social media, scientific reports, casual conversations and political debates for years. There are people who advocate to stop polluting the earth and there are people that believe China created it. What the common citizen is unaware of is what’s behind the scenes of climate change. Claims and accusations are constantly thrown into our faces without facts and data, and the people are uneducated on the global cascading effects of greenhouse gas emissions beyond the scare tactics shared in TV advertisements and news articles. It’s a fight between humans and toxins.

Sure, greenhouse gases mean a hotter summer for people to bathe in the sun, but the melting ice caps and rising sea levels aren’t just about the polar bears. For example:

As a high school student, I was able to get my feet wet on this topic through an essay dedicated to genesis and the effects of climate change. Even though I’m a strong advocator for an immediate change in the way we live, I acknowledge that it is nearly impossible to do this in just a few years. Our society is so technologically advanced that if we wanted to be eco-friendlier, we’d have to turn back in time and commit to not just the cheapest invention, but the most sustainable invention. In the past 10 years, we have discovered new ways to further pollute the earth and we’re stuck in a cycle of creating solutions to society’s inefficiencies or problems then trying to catch the effects later.

If we accept that technology will continue to advance on the trajectory set forth by the “American Way,” then we find that arguing about the issues gets us to ad hoc solutions slower than what is required. We must be able to use technology to our advantage and combat the imminent growing emissions with carbon sequestration.

From a TED Talk I recently watched, Jennifer Wilcox states that, “For every 400 molecules of carbon dioxide we have another million molecules of oxygen and nitrogen.” I realized that even though there is more pollution in the air than there has been in centuries, it isn’t much compared to the amount of oxygen keeping us alive. Therefore, it is extremely hard to capture carbon dioxide from the air.  Even so, there are companies out there that have built and used a system of capturing the CO2. Jennifer Wilcox has stated in her TED Talk that this process usually costs $1000/ton ($50/gallon), but with the technology we have now, it’s possible to lower it to $600/ton.

Watch the video here:

This machine is called the air capture contractor. It is 200m wide, and you would need 10 of these to capture only 1 MtCO2 per year. While it is not a lot, it is an improvement.

Why would a business or municipality spend so much of its resources on a technology like this? Brand reputation. Saving the environment is like saving a life because the closer we get to carbon neutral, the healthier the world gets, and the cascading effects reduced. By appealing to the public on minimizing health risks and the effects of extreme weather, a business or municipality begins to build trust and support from its communities, enhancing brand value.

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