The Carbon Challenge

by Dr David Laing Dawson

Last year we humans and our livestock pumped 38 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air we breathe. The earth’s ecosystems managed to reabsorb half of that. That leaves a net increase of 19 billion tons.

It would take a better mathematician than myself to calculate how much carbon we need to take out of the atmosphere each year to achieve some kind of fluctuating net neutrality. We would also have to know just how much carbon dioxide our earth will continue to absorb, and how much that is determined by saturation, ocean temperature etc.

But let’s say we humans need to remove, say, 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere, while we try to reduce emissions, in order to staunch global warming.

Is it possible to do this?

If one gizmo can capture a billion tons in a year we would need only ten of them.

If one gizmo could capture 1 thousand tons we would need 10 million of them.

In the last couple of decades we have built, world wide, between 6 and 12 million cell towers (depending on the definition of a cell tower), and a hundred times that in substations.

For carbon capture there is “source capture” (power stations, oil fields etc) and general air capture. Then we have the problem of transportation and storage or transformation into a usable product.

Currently there are hundreds of experimental trials and actual implementations going on, plus grants and tax credits, in numerous parts of the world.

And if there were no urgency to the problem we could let this wind its complex course to fruition and see what happens, that course fashioned of course by economics and politics. and a little bit of science.

But parts of the world are rapidly becoming uninhabitable, especially for the poor.

In better times we might have expected America to take the lead, to pull together scientists, engineers, politicians and economists, create a Manhattan project for carbon capture, and then take this to the United Nations.

Our grand intention to reduce emissions by switching to alternative sources of energy world wide is pie in the sky.

It is time for someone, some country to take the lead. Justin? Canada?

2 thoughts on “The Carbon Challenge

  1. Continuing your number of gizmos argument, there are 7 billion human gizmos on the planet. Animals make carbon dioxide and the worst offender is homo sapiens. Plants remove carbon dioxide. So let the 7 billion gizmos each set out both to produce less of their own kind and to produce and care for more plants. Each one of us can make a difference. No better time to start than now. 7 billion Johnny Appleseeds!


  2. Agreed……and even there…is the word. Greed. Change ‘greed’ to ‘green’–it’s only one letter–and save this planet….maybe.

    I have recently felt a note of relief in the daily contemplation of the steady worsening of things. We will have to do something. We must. It seems to make a difference to note the cause and to be done with that. This time, regardless of previous global warmings, the causes are clear–industrialization, population explosion (as noted), greed and corruption.

    Knowing this makes the path clear–reduce carbon (and methane) production and remove what has been produced–or else. There is something in knowing this, regardless of greed and corruption, that calms the spirit. A Manhattan Project of carbon reduction/removal….or forget it.

    And yes, 7 billion Johnny Appleseeds. Those who are aware will save the asses of those who don’t care (greed and corruption)….maybe.

    The crux, I think, is the egoic mind which is exclusively focused on its own immediate security, gratification and convenience–and nothing else! The question, in anyone of us, is the degree to which this egoic mind co-exists with a conscious awareness that cares about others and things other than itself.


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