Elon Musk, renowned entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, is hoping to inspire brilliant minds to develop ‘the best carbon capture technology’ by offering a multimillion-dollar prize.
The planet is heating up at an unsustainable rate and we must find a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas that absorbs and radiates heat, in the atmosphere before it’s too late.
Roughly 50 billion tons of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere every year due to human actions. While it’s easier to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere than to try and retrieve it, we must find a way to do both to fight global warming.
Elon Musk tweeted last week that he is offering $100 million as a prize for the best carbon capture technology. He said more “details next week”.
Countless people replied to the tweet saying trees are the best and most green way to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere. Trees do efficiently remove carbon from the atmosphere with each mature tree absorbing more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Researchers in Switzerland published a study that said planting 1 trillion trees would capture more than 800 billion tons of carbon dioxide, about 25 years’ worth of pollution.
But scientists warn we need to do more.
While trees seem like the obvious solution, Musk said, “They are part of the solution, but require lots of fresh water & land. We may need something that’s ultra-large-scale industrial in 10 to 20 years. For now, by far the top priority is accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy economy.”
To keep the rise of global temperature to a 1.5 to 2 degrees celsius by 2100, set in the Paris Climate Agreement – which President Biden just rejoined, scientists say we must remove roughly 10 billion tons of CO2 every year from the atmosphere.
The only way forward is to address global warming by cutting emissions and with both biological (planting trees) and technological (chemical-based) solutions.
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Carbon capture technology is not a new idea but one that has always been seen as expensive and impractical – until now. Multiple companies around the world – Global Thermostat in Huntsville, AL, Climeworks in Zurich, Switzerland, and Carbon Engineering in Squamish, B.C. – have been designing and implementing carbon capture processes to remove CO2 from the air. Some methods recycle the CO2 into hydrogen fuel or algae for fish, while others store it in rocks or clay underground.
But the process of sucking carbon from the air is expensive with some models costing up to $600 per ton of carbon removed.
Steve Oldham, CEO of Carbon Engineering said there is a way to reduce costs. The company’s first large scale facility in Texas is, “expected to be a one megaton atmospheric CO2 plant. That’s the equivalent of 40 million trees in one plant. Our cost point is a little bit less than $200 per ton for the first plant.”
Oldham said the world would need 40,000 of these type of facilities to ‘eliminate the world’s emissions.’
Musk isn’t the only one investing money into carbon capture technology. Shopify and Stripe, e-commerce companies, have invested millions in various carbon-removal start-ups.
Drastic measures must be taken to preserve the planet and hopefully this prize money will go towards an affordable and efficient way to fight climate change.
Watch the video below for Musk’s view and thoughts on actions needed to fight climate change.
How You Can Help Now
Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is the last remaining temperate rainforest on the planet and absorbs 8% of carbon in the United States. Over 9 million acres are at risk of commercial logging due to the removal of the Roadless Rule. Sign the petition below and tell President Joe Biden to immediately reinstate the Roadless Rule to Tongass National Forest for the sake of people, animals, and the planet.Whizzco