Tomorrow, a Zurich-based company will attempt to pull off a feat that sounds more like alchemy than engineering: extracting CO2 from Icelandic air, mixing it with water, and burying it underground, where they say it will interact with basaltic rock to turn to stone.
Carbon capture and technology is something of a silver bullet when it comes to mitigating climate change. If it were able to be scaled to commercial levels at relatively cheap costs, it could nullify concerns over humanity’s impact on global climate via carbon dioxide emissions in one fell swoop.
But if it sounds too good to be true, that’s because—at this point—it is. It’s dreadfully expensive, and attempts to scale it up have been met with large cost overruns. This latest experiment in Iceland is no different, but Climeworks, the Swiss company behind it, is hoping to use this as a proof of concept.
Barring some technological breakthrough, this won’t be a cost effective option anytime soon, but its potential to one day fundamentally remake the calculus underpinning climate change makes it worth pursuing. Of course, it’s still prudent to pursue policies (sane ones) that seek to minimize emissions in the meantime, but governments should be doing everything they can to support projects like this one.
Research and development spending often gets short shrift by climate advocates in favor of subsidies for current-gen products like solar panels or wind turbines, both of which often require financial support in order to compete with fossil fuels. However, given the magnitude of the climate problem, we ought to be doing everything we can to develop new technologies—like the one being tested this week in Iceland—that have the potential to change the game.