CAPTURING EMISSIONS: Pulling CO2 directly from the air is likely to prove too expensive to be practical, especially compared with capturing it when concentrated in the emissions of a power plant.Image: TBoard/Flickr
One of the seemingly ideal and direct solutions to climate change is to efficiently vacuum up greenhouse gases straight from the atmosphere. But a new study finds that such a proposal is very far-fetched and tremendously expensive.
The president's science adviser, John Holdren, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu have expressed support in the past for capturing and storing pollution from the air as a measure to mitigate global temperature increases. However, in a paper published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that trying to scrub the air is much more expensive than keeping it from getting dirty in the first place.
For the scientists conducting the study, air capture was shown to be largely wishful thinking that distracts from more effective strategies for combating pollution and climate change. "We thought it was important to set the record straight because [air capture] has policy implications," said Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Energy Initiative and one of the report's authors. He said that air capture is appealing because it allows people to get away with not changing anything about their energy use.