Is industrial CO2 capture a solution to global warming?

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When you order a plane ticket on the internet, it is sometimes possible to tick a green box saying : carbon compensation. By clicking on “Yes”, the company promises that trees will be planted to offset the carbon produced by your journey. During their growth, the trees will ‘fix’ the amount of CO2 produced by kerosene combustion. A priori an ingenious idea. In the same vein, Carbon Ingineering, a Canadian start up partly financed by Bill Gates, will create a pilot factory in early 2014 to test the following theory : industries can make a profit from absorbing atmospheric CO2 by reacting it with sodium hydroxide in order to produce carbonate and sell pure CO2. The carbonate could be stored in the subsoil and the CO2 would be sold for industrial usage. Geoffrey Holmes, one of the scientific managers for Carbon Ingineering,  says that the CO2 could be used for carbonating drinks, manufacturing biofuels or in oil extraction

According to Philippe Escot, a French expert on environmental issues, this form of carbon compensation cannot be considered as a long term solution. He says “considering the large increase in global CO2 emissions, the amount of CO2 captured by new forests or artificial CO2 capture is not enough to reverse the trend. Carbon Ingineering industries proposes solutions, like drink carbonation or biofuels, where most of the CO2 captured returns to the atmosphere. So far, the only solution to save the planet from catastrophic global warming is to reduce CO2 emissions”.

As a consequence, the fifth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change mainly advocates concrete solutions to governments to decrease global CO2 emissions. Thus, it seems that capturing atmospheric CO2 as proposed by Carbon Ingineering is a good idea but may not be enough to compensate for our increasing emissions. “We need to change our behaviour to reduce our energy bills” says Philippe Escot. There are many ways to calculate our own carbon footprint. Here are two different calculators to do it: and Just try it !

Sources :

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change web site : ,, Wikimedia

Source image : sur centerblog.

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