C02 capture – technology or trees?
Friday 1 Jun 2018This time last year, on 31 May, the world’s first commercial carbon dioxide capture-plant was opened in Hinwil, Switzerland. It’s designed and operated by a Swiss company called Climeworks, and uses a modular design that can be scaled up over time.
The company says that the plant will remove 900 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year by passing it through a special filter that isolates carbon dioxide molecules. What will happen to all of this carbon dioxide? Some of it will be cycled into nearby greenhouses to help the plants grow and some to use in carbonated beverages, the rest underground. The company says their technology could be used to stop climate change.
They estimate that 250,000 such plants would be necessary to capture enough carbon to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change‘s goals of capturing 1% of global emissions by 2025. Why would anyone do this when you could plant beautiful trees instead, trees that provide shade and fruits, as well as take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replace it with breathable oxygen? Trees are really good at this. It only takes an average of 98 trees to remove 1 ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year.
That means that this plant is worth only 88,200 trees per year — and really more than that if you add in the enormous carbon and energy footprint for the fabrication of all the parts. We can’t compare the costs of Climeworks “solution” to trees, because Climeworks doesn’t state the cost of their plant on their website—probably because it’s egregiously high.
But we do know the cost of planting trees. You can sponsor charities to plant trees for you at 20 cents per tree. We probably don’t even need to plant more trees, we just need to stop cutting them down to make room for new development and ranch land—better land management is actually our cheapest, and most effective option at preserving the environment.
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