Why It’s So Hard to Capture CO2 From the Air

The Earth’s climate is shifting, and it’s our fault. We’re digging up and burning sources of carbon that otherwise would have been locked away within the Earth, adding it to our atmosphere and driving average global temperatures up. So why don’t we take the carbon from the air, and push it somewhere else?

That’s the idea behind Negative Emission Technologies, or NETs. They’re one possible tool to stop climate change, but they aren’t the silver bullet. It’s tempting to think that if we develop a way to scrub the air of CO2 we won’t have to cut down our emissions so much. No lifestyle change, no big shift in energy infrastructure, just some quick fix that keeps this climate change thing from getting out of hand.

Unfortunately while that’s theoretically possible it’s very far from practical. At the start of 2018 the European Academies Science Advisory Council released a report on how feasible NETs are for slowing or reversing the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide and their conclusion is not good.