Global Warming | Culture

The Uncertain Plan To Pull CO2 Out Of The Air

Can carbon capture alter our fight against global warming?

Sean Kernan
5 min readSep 12, 2023

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Pexels via Joao Roberto

Another hurricane just slammed into us here in Florida which, on its own, isn’t unusual. But we’ve seen increasingly hot weather and record setting water temperatures that are threatening to kill off our coral reefs.

The threat of climate change is more real than ever and it’s already here. 137 countries have taken the carbon neutral pledge — with many having a target date of 2050. Progress is being rigorously tracked but many nations have a long way to go.

The hard reality is that most modeling scenarios have a built-in assumption that we’ll innovate better ways of removing CO2 manually. Which brings us to carbon capture — which is fascinating, but not without flaws. Here are a few ways it can happen.

Rock weathering

This generally happens naturally in these steps:

  1. Rainfall hits rocks and reacts with it, capturing CO2.
  2. The CO2 breaks off and goes into the water.
  3. It is used by shells and coral.
  4. Then it’s converted to limestone.

Companies like Project Vesta are working to accelerate this process by grinding olivine minerals up and depositing them in sand. It’s harmless and goes unnoticed by most people on a beach, and is eventually swept into the ocean.

Manual rock weathering is almost always done this way. The problem remains that it’s highly inefficient. To counter all global emissions, they’d need to grind 36 cubic kilometers of rock per year.

A vacuum-like solution

Direct air carbon capture is an emerging technology that works well. A set of big fans pull in the air and manually filtrates out the carbon dioxide. It’s like a carbon vacuum.

It might bring to mind the science fiction concept of terraforming — which appeared in Aliens, where giant fans and reactors systematically altered the air to become more breathable.

We are a long way from that and the process is still inefficient because air is so…

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Sean Kernan

Former financial analyst turned writer. Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.