Preserving the Environment

Sucking Carbon Out of the Air Is One Way to Help Save Our Planet

November 21, 2018
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Sucking Carbon Out of the Air Is One Way to Help Save Our Planet
Hallie Steiner
A new technology aims to help fight climate change by sucking carbon dioxide out of the air — and turning it to stone.

Swiss company Climeworks has developed a system to remove carbon dioxide from the air and keep it from being re-released into the atmosphere.

Their technology uses a process called direct air capture, which processes air through filters that can capture and trap carbon dioxide. The air exits the system with 90 percent less carbon than air entering the system. At a geothermal plant in Iceland, Climeworks technology has been used to create the world’s first negative emission power plant, which removes more CO2 from the air than it produces.

While captured carbon can be used to create carbon-neutral fuel, plastic and a range of other materials, the Iceland plant has found a way to inject it underground and transform it into stone, preventing the carbon from being re-released into the atmosphere for millions of years.

So far, direct air capture is only a small part of the global effort to mitigate climate change. It is currently prohibitively expensive and small in scale, but is developing quickly and attracting funding from power investors like Bill Gates.

For the world to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement, we’ll very likely need to not only reduce carbon emissions but also remove emissions from the air. Direct air capture plants like Climeworks and others aim to do so while providing jobs and powering a “new, clean economy.”

Watch the video above to see the new technology in action.

Homepage photo by Arni Saeberg.

MORE: Can the U.S. Continue to Reduce Its Carbon Emissions?

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