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LISTEN: What Can We Do With All That CO2?

You can't see it, smell it, or taste it, but there's carbon dioxide in the air all around us. And each day, we're producing more of it.

For the past 60 years, scientists have been measuring the increased concentation of CO2 in the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels (along with rapid deforestation around the planet) sends billions of tons of CO2 into the air each year, and the extra greenhouse gas is causing average global temperatures to climb. To slow down rising temperatures, or stabilize them, scientists say carbon emissions need to be dramatically reduced and eventually brought to zero.

Of course, using carbon-free sources of energy, such as wind and solar, is an obvious way to cut emissions. But the world's growing energy demands can't yet be met with renewables and other carbon-free energy, and it will probably be decades before that technology is affordable and widespread. In the meantime, what can we do with all that extra CO2?

In this episode of the Climopedia podcast, Climate Central and OnEarth look at ideas for reducing CO2 concentrations. Columbia University's Klaus Lackner shares his thoughts on why carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is needed. OnEarth contributor Adam Aston describes new technology that can help scoop CO2 right out of the air (see his story on carbon trees). Finally, Princeton University's Andrew Bocarsly explains how we might put some of that captured CO2 to good use.

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Horsefeathers as far as trying to get carbon dioxide out of the air as the costs will be excessive. The CCS technology has a big problem that thousands of tons may escape from pipelines broken by accident or a terrorist action with a small bomb or just ramming them with a truck. The Lake Nyos eruption of a few years ago ought to warn you that you will have no warning from odor about such an escape, so you may want to take action against the "Clean Coal & CCS" fraud that NRDC is supporting. Nature will do a much better job if we get a greatly expanding tree farming program to take up that gas, and then harvesting the trees to pyrolyze them will get a renewable fuel system going. That will give us charcoal to smelt iron ore replacing messy soft coal mining to get coke, which has processing step that is a major source of mercury pollution. You can get more details on making biowastes into a resource thereby stopping unneeded reemitting of CO2 from biowastes by searching my name as I have commented frequently on NRDC blogs as well as NYTimes Green and Dotearth Blogs including the Dotearth's March 3 posting. Dr. J. Singmaster