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Turning a curse into a blessing: CO2 can be harvested profitably from the air

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At the current trajectory, the carrying capacity of the Earth is going to rapidly decline. One of the most pressing issues is the elevated level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air.

By 2015 we will have about 3 Watts (per square meter) of forcing, which will elevate the temperature about 2 degrees Centigrade by mid-century. It takes around 50 years for CO2 emitted now to fully warm us, so we’ve incurred a very large future warming commitment. In other words, by mid-century America’s climate will likely be similar to Iraq now, and it will only get worse.
The current paradigm is to lower the CO2 level in the air by cutting emissions, with nature removing the excess.
The problem is carbon sinks are becoming carbon emitters as we warm, far outpacing our emission cuts. Nature removes about half of our CO2 emissions each year now, but carbon sinks are becoming saturated, significantly degrading nature’s ability to remove CO2 from the air. Furthermore, natural greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically increasing due to warming.
Besides, a rapidly growing population and world economy is unlikely to cut emissions so fast and drastically that we avoid either ecosystem collapse (abrupt climate change), or natural emissions going out of control (runaway global warming).
"Processes that would normally regulate climate are being driven to amplify warming. Such feedbacks, as well as the inertia of the Earth system — and that of our response — make it doubtful that any of the well-intentioned technical or social schemes for carbon dieting will (work). What is needed is a fundamental cure." --Dr James Lovelock
There is a way to harvest the CO2 from the air profitably: naturally evolved organisms that eat the CO2 and excrete fuel. Ironically, the limiting factor in the rate of biological fuel production is the low amount of CO2 in the air.

This is a paradigm shift from excess CO2 in the air being a great liability, to it being an asset (fuel stock).

We can live with a temporarily elevated level of atmospheric carbon (until it can be converted to fuel or food) by using the extremely low cost simple scheme of putting a small amount of aerosol into the upper atmosphere to dim the sun.

Currently, very expensive greenhouse gas emission cuts are being prescribed to lower the CO2 level of the air. Not only won’t that scheme work, but the great expense is unnecessary. On our present trajectory, there will be famine, war, pestilence, and death in the near future as the carrying capacity of the Earth rapidly declines

We need to start treating CO2 in the air as an asset to harvest.

Brad Arnold

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National Master at chess. Mensa member.
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