A New York Professor has invented a process to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere based on the natural functions of trees. You wait 30 years for a solution to the steady degradation of our environment and then, suddenly, five come alone at once. According to the BBC, anyway.
The first episode of the BBC 2 documentary series, Five Ways To Save The World, focused on the developments of a machine that can absorb the carbon dioxide from the air that passes over its leaf-like structures.
Professor Klaus Lackner of New York, came across the idea after watching his daughter working on a school science project, getting a sodium hydroxide solution to remove CO2 from the air. By adapting the design of trees with the chemical reactions of the experiment, Lackner was able to produce the device that could convert atmospheric CO2 into liquid sodium carbonate.
With continued research and enough backing it would be possible to have thousands of these trees in operation around the planet with each one extracting an incredible 90,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. However, with 2006 emission totals at an overwhelming 29 billion tonnes Professor Lackner is the first to state that this is not so much an absolute solution to our problems but more of a time buyer for humanity to find better fuel alternatives.
The other down side is that the CO2 doesn’t actually get used up, just displaced in the solution where it can be better managed - extracted and stored. But the proposed storage scheme sounds like something a James Bond villain might announce in an attempt to blackmail the World. The CO2 would be pumped into the sea bed where, under such pressure and temperature, it would become denser than the water above it and, technically, never be able to permeate it should it escape from its confines.
Professor Lackner stated, “So it puts it away literally for millions of years.”
I am all for trying to make the World a cleaner place for us but I also don’t want to simply pass our troubles on to future generations. If there’s anything that sounds like good intentions coming back to bite someone in the bum it’s a potential 29 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide sitting under the sea.
I look forward to the show’s next suggestion which is to genetically modify Spanish killer bees to breathe carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. The only side effects being that the bees will grow to the size of VW Beetles and fire triflic acid from their stingers.