Efforts to mitigate climate change are almost entirely focused on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and the preferred method for bringing those levels down has to this point involved stopping them at the source. That approach inevitably brings with it economic trade-offs, so it’s no surprise that researchers have been busy looking at ways to capture and store carbon already emitted—a solution that would allow us to have our cake and eat it, too.
But efforts to commercially scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies have been unsuccessful thus far. In an effort to make the capturing of carbon more profitable, scientists are looking at ways to reuse those emissions. The New York Times reports:
[I]ncreasingly, scientists are asking, rather than throwing away or storing CO2, how about recycling some of it? At laboratories around the world, researchers are working on ways to do just that. The X Prize Foundation has created an incentive, a $20 million prize for teams that by 2020 come up with technologies to turn CO2 captured from smokestacks of coal- or gas-fired power plants into useful products.
But perhaps the ultimate goal of researchers in this field is to turn the waste product of fuel-burning into new fuel. In theory, if this could be done on a large scale using renewable energy or even sunlight, there would be no net gain of emissions — the same carbon dioxide molecules would be emitted, captured, made into new fuels and emitted again, over and over.
Take the time to read that article in full—it’s a fascinating look at a technological solution that could be just the pipe dream humanity needs to sustainably thrive. Climate change is a real—if uncertain—threat, and greenhouse gases can easily be identified as culprits. If new research can make it possible to take those gases out of the atmosphere and make money in the process, mitigation efforts won’t feel so much like pulling teeth.
This is what good green news looks like. The future doesn’t look nearly as bleak as your average environmentalist would have you believe.