What Will It Take To Ditch All That Carbon?

A new book explores methods of collecting and storing all the carbon in the atmosphere.

By Tyghe Trimble|Monday, May 19, 2008

To reverse climate change, we need to build an atmospheric carbon collector the size of the Great Wall of China, find a giant aquifer, and dump millions of tons of captured CO2 into it. Repairing the climate could be that simple, or at least that is what climate scientist Wallace Broecker and science writer Robert Kunzig propose in Fixing Climate: What Past Climate Changes Reveal About the Current Threat—and How to Counter It (Hill and Wang, $25).

Fixing Climate gives a colorful history of a few of the theories and some of the people that have identified the course of catastrophic climate change. The book deftly explores how we arrived at the point where climate change is no longer preventable and will continue even if we all adopt sustainable alternatives the day after tomorrow.

The authors focus largely on technologies that collect and sequester carbon straight out of the atmosphere. The scale of the projects Broecker and Kunzig propose is huge, but they argue that the endeavor would be no greater an engineering feat than constructing the Great Wall or, perhaps more appropriately, building a modern sewage system. They contend that collecting carbon dioxide is akin to collecting human waste (a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it). Imagine catching carbon and then funneling it underground. Broecker and Kunzig make the case that this scheme is not just attainable but essential to our survival.

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