By Dr David Laing Dawson
I am an amateur in these matters. I don’t really know the science of Global Warming. But boiled down it seems we have to either stop pouring CO2 into our atmosphere or find a way of taking it out of the atmosphere as fast as we put it in.
Okay. We have two choices. Stop using fossil fuels or find a way of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Or we perish. Slowly but surely. The most vulnerable and the poorest first. And not without a lot of chaos.
Every few months I read a small article on technologies that might be able to take CO2 out of the atmosphere. There are two problems remaining to be solved with this approach: scale/cost (whatever technology does this better must be distributed world wide) and what to safely do with the CO2 once it is captured. (stick it in the ground, turn it into something useful).
But every day I read about green energy, solar power, wind power, electric vehicles, reducing carbon emissions. Hours of talk. Hours of energy used. Billions of dollars spent. Alliances, declarations, conventions, plans, agreements.
Maybe Norway will get there. Having made a great deal of money exporting oil, having been fiscally prudent (unlike Alberta), and having a small post industrial contained population, all doing well with education, employment, health and social services – maybe they can get there. They are talking now about prohibiting the sale of gas or diesel vehicles after 2025. That one small country may soon enough get to the point of neutrality. Emitting no more CO2 than their forests can absorb.
No one else will.
It is time to get realistic. I may be an amateur in the science of global warming and the consequences of this, but I am not an amateur in the observation of human behaviour, singularly and in groups.
We will not get there simply talking about and trying to reduce CO2 emissions. It won’t happen. Even today the burning of coal is dramatically increasing in China and India. The USA produces 40% of its electricity burning coal. We will make a dent here and there. We can feel good about all those wind turbines despoiling the landscape, driving our expensive electric cars, buying efficient refrigerators, using LED lighting. Maybe a few more small countries like Norway will reach neutrality. But not the others. All the others are striving to achieve just a little of the safety, mobility, security, comfort and luxury of the developed world. They will use cheap energy to get there.
So. I want to be reading less about green technology and more and more about capturing and using CO2. And that is where we need to put our billions of research money, our best scientists and engineers. That should be the focus. I want to be reading about billions and billions of dollars spent researching and developing methods to remove and reuse CO2 around the globe. It is time for a Manhattan project to develop scalable ways of removing, safely sequestering, and/or reusing CO2.