Revolutionary Technology Removes CO2 Directly from Air


A groundbreaking new technology hopes to put a dent in the rapidly growing climate crisis.
On September 8, a Swiss startup, Climeworks AG, began operating a plant in Iceland designed to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air and deposit it underground.
This CO2 capture plant is taking the lead in the implementation of carbon capture technology and is in increasingly high demand as more companies and consumers seek to reduce their carbon footprint, according to Reuters.
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere induces global warming by trapping heat when in excess. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are increasing exponentially, and the world is warming up at an alarming rate.
“We are adding roughly 40 billion metric tons of CO2 pollution to the atmosphere per year,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist Pieter Tans in a National Public Radio interview. “If we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, the highest priority must be to reduce CO2 pollution to zero at the earliest possible date.”
Removing the pre-existing CO2 pollution is the effective fundamental solution to the global issue, said Chris Pelliccia, Chemistry and Genetics teacher.
“To combat global climate change, we need to 1) reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 2) attempt to remove (sequester) existing GHGs in the atmosphere,” he explained in an email.
One of the many pioneering companies, Climeworks AG owns 15 carbon capture facilities.
“The technology is definitely still in its nascent stage but is quickly gaining traction. There are already a few systems up and running in mainland Europe,” including the Sept. 8 launch of the facility in Iceland called “Orca,” according to a September 13 article in The Week.
Orca is designed to take-4000 tons of CO2 per year from the atmosphere, making it the world’s biggest climate-positive facility to date, according to Climeworks. Direct air capture is one of the solutions that can help achieve the global goal to remove 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year by 2050.
Pelliccia is optimistic about Climeworks’ technology, yet remains alarmed by the current global situation.
“I just think this [carbon capture technology] is a really exciting possibility,” he said. “The science of climate change (both causes of, and consequences of) is evident, now it is up to politicians to hammer out viable solutions that penalize emission and incentivize carbon-neutral and carbon-capture solutions.”
While there are many hopes about the technology, there are many improvements needed. The amount of carbon that could be removed through carbon capture is limited and is not enough to cease climate change, according to Climeworks detractors.