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By Daniel Ross
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report lays out a rather grim set of observations, predictions and warnings. Perhaps the biggest takeaway? That the world cannot warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5°C) over pre-industrial levels without significant impacts.
By Howard J. Herzog
Featured prominently in the report is a discussion of a range of techniques for removing carbon dioxide from the air, called Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies or negative emissions technologies (NETs). The IPCC said the world would need to rely significantly on these techniques to avoid increasing Earth's temperatures above 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to pre-industrial levels.
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Scientists at the Canadian company Carbon Engineering have moved carbon-capture technology one step closer from pipe dream to viable solution.
The company has developed technology at its plant in British Columbia that can both remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into carbon-neutral fuels, suggesting such technology could be a meaningful part of the fight against climate change.
Nestled inside the U.S. budget lawmakers passed Friday morning were tax breaks for an array of energy sources, including some struggling and controversial projects and technologies.
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, including several Democrats from coal-producing states, pushed through extended tax breaks for carbon capture and storage technologies (CCS) in the new bill, expanding a tax credit created in 2008 for 12 years.
A revolutionary plant that can suck carbon dioxide right from the air was unveiled on top of a waste recovery facility near Zurich on Wednesday.
Swiss company ClimeWorks is capturing CO2 from the air with the world's first commercial carbon removal technology. Its Direct Air Capture plant is capable of removing 900 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere a year.
By Mary Hoff
What should we be thinking about when we think about the future of biodiversity, conservation and the environment? An international team of experts in horizon scanning, science communication and conservation recently asked that question as participants in the eighth annual Horizon Scan of Emerging Issues for Global Conservation and Biological Diversity. The answers they came up, just published in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution and summarized below, portend both risks and opportunities for species and ecosystems around the world.
"Our aim has been to focus attention and stimulate debate about these subjects, potentially leading to new research foci, policy developments or business innovations," the authors wrote in introducing their list of top trends to watch in 2017. "These responses should help facilitate better-informed forward-planning."
1. Altering Coral Bacteria
Around the world, coral reefs are bleaching and dying as ocean temperatures warm beyond those tolerated by bacteria that live in partnership with the corals. Scientists are eyeing the option of replacing bacteria forced out by heat with other strains more tolerant of the new temperatures—either naturally occurring or genetically engineered. Although the practice holds promise for rescuing or resurrecting damaged reefs, there are concerns about unintended consequences such as introduction of disease or disruption of ecosystems.
2. Underwater Robots Meet Invasive Species
If you think getting rid of invasive species on land is a challenge, you haven't tried doing it in the depths of the ocean. Robots that can crawl across the seafloor dispatching invaders with poisons or electric shock are being investigated as a potential tool for combating such species. The technology is now being tested to control crown-of-thorns starfish, which have devastated Great Barrier Reef corals in recent years and invasive lionfish, which are competing with native species in the Caribbean Sea.
3. Electronic Noses
The technology behind electronic sensors that detect odors has advanced markedly in recent years, leading biologists to ponder applications to conservation. Possibilities include using the devices to sniff out illegally traded wildlife at checkpoints along transportation routes and to detect the presence of DNA from rare species in the environment.
4. Blight of the Bumblebees
We tend to think of pollinating insects as our ecological friends, but in the wrong place nonnative bees can spell trouble instead by competing with native insects, promoting reproduction in nonnative plants and potentially spreading disease. And they're doing just that, thanks to people who transport them internationally for plant-pollination purposes. Out-of-place bumblebees are already spreading through New Zealand, Japan and southern South America, and there is concern they could do the same in Australia, Brazil, Uruguay, China, South Africa and Namibia.
5. Microbes Meet Agriculture
Select bacteria and fungi are emerging as potential agricultural allies for their ability to help kick back pests or stimulate growth in crops. As research advances in this area, questions are being raised about potential implications for nontarget species, ecosystems, soils and more.
Bumblebees imported to pollinate crops are a growing threat to native pollinators around the world. iStock
Tuticorin power plant in India will convert carbon emissions to soda ash.Roger Harrabin / The Guardian
The process was developed by London-based Carbon Clean Solutions Limited (CCSL). A pilot project, completed in May 2016, demonstrated the advantages of the process. Soda ash, also known as sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), is used in glass manufacturing, fiberglass insulation, sweeteners and household products. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), is one of those products.
"This project is a game-changer," said Aniruddha Sharma, chief executive officer at Carbon Clean Solutions. "This is a project that doesn't rely on government funding or subsidies—it just makes great business sense."
CCSL said that it can capture CO2 at $30 per metric ton, far lower than the $60 to $90 per ton typical in the global power sector. It said that the project will capture more than 60,000 metric tons (about 66,000 U.S. tons) of carbon each year.
Carbon Clean Solutions is not the first company to attempt to commercialize a process to convert CO2 emissions into commercially marketable products.
In 2012, a U.S. startup named Skyonic raised $9 million from investors to build a plant to convert carbon emissions from a cement plant in San Antonio, Texas. The investors included ConocoPhilips, BP and PVS Chemicals. The facility opened in October 2014 at the Capitol Aggregates plant and became operational in January 2016. Outputs include baking soda, bleach and hydrochloric acid.
Skyonic has said that, at full capacity, the plant will be able to capture 75,000 tons annually of CO2. The company claims that its process uses 30 percent less energy than more common carbon capture technologies. The plant was financed with the aid of a $28 million award under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
California-based Blue Planet produces concrete and other building materials from sequestered CO2. The company says its concrete can be carbon neutral or carbon negative. Climate activist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio is a member of the firms' government affairs advisory board.
In Germany, ThyssenKrup Steel Europe began a pilot project in December 2015 to produce ammonium bicarbonate (NH4HCO3) from carbon emissions. This compound is used in the manufacturing of ceramics and in the plastic and rubber industries among others. Initial results, the company said, have been promising.
In a twist on the idea of creating baking soda from carbon emissions, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California has created microcapsules and an absorbent sponge that use baking soda itself to capture carbon. They believe this process could be about 40 percent cheaper than current carbon capture methods.
TACFL has been producing soda ash at the Tuticorin plant since 1981. The chemical is generally made from trona ore. Major deposits of the ore are found in California, Wyoming and Utah in the U.S. as well as Botswana, Egypt, Turkey, China and parts of Africa.
Carbon Clean Solutions' patented technology scrubs CO2 emissions and feeds them to a chemicals plant where they are used to manufacture common products such as baking soda.Source: Carbon Clean Solutions Limited
In the Chennai coal plant, flue gases are diverted to an absorber that removes CO2 using technology patented by CCSL. The CO2 is then fed to the TACFL chemical plant.
Ramachadran Gopalan, owner of the Tuticorin plant, told BBC Radio, "I am a businessman. I never thought about saving the planet. I needed a reliable stream of CO2, and this was the best way of getting it."
Gopalan said the plant now produces zero carbon emissions. He is looking to install a second coal boiler to produce additional CO2 that can be used to synthesize fertilizer.
By Sophie Yeo
How do you reduce CO2 emissions? The Global CO2 Initiative is pushing a unique approach: turn them into useful products, then sell them.
Based in San Francisco, the company has the ambitious aim to capture 10 percent of global CO2 emissions through carbon capture and usage. While this method is still in its infancy, the initiative aims to commercialize new ideas quickly by granting up to $100 million a year for 10 years to researchers developing viable new products. Its global advisory board includes Steven Chu, the former U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Jeremy Oppenheim, program chair of the New Climate Economy project.
Carbon Brief spoke to Dr. Issam Dairanieh, the company's CEO, about his idea to tackle climate change through CO2 reuse. He explained what carbon capture and usage is, and how it could play a role in future efforts to reduce emissions:
"The idea here is go with what we call 'carbon negative technologies.' So think of trees on steroids. That's really what it is. So it is acceleration absorption of CO2 converted into products. Nature does it, does it very well, but does it slowly, and our solution says let's see what nature does, and do that extremely fast. So, instead of years, we want to do that in minutes. And the idea here is really all about developing and commercializing technologies that can absorb CO2 and convert it into useful products."
He spoke about the products that can be made using CO2 and their potential reduce emissions:
"The first product that we are going to invest in is making cement. So think about cement and concrete and how much is produced. It is probably the material that has the highest amount of any material that man makes, basically. Just this product contributes over 7 percent of the global emissions of CO2. We have identified a company that produces cement and concrete at a carbon footprint 70 percent less than what's currently done. So imagine what we can do with this. If you can replace everything we're doing right now with this new type of cement material, you will reduce global emissions by 5 percent, which is significant. What we have set out to do is, we said we want to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent a year. That's really our objective. And we think that just by adopting one technology we will be able to reduce it by half of our target."
He talked about how best to capture CO2 emissions to be used in products:
"Where we're going to start is where it's very easy to do so. So, if you go to power plants, CO2 is mixed with other things. The concentration can be anywhere between 3 percent and 12 percent, maybe 13 percent, but that's about it. However, if you go to different places, in a refinery where hydrogen is generated using something called methane reforming, when you do that, you generate pure CO2 that's just emitted. We think there is 100, 200 million tons of that that we can go to. The second area is if you look at how biofuels are made, when you ferment basically biomass and you end up with ethanol that's used in biofuels. As a byproduct, you get a stream which is 100 percent CO2, so you don't have to concentrate, you don't have to purify—it's there."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Mexican President Nieto are expected to announce a joint plan to generate half the three nations' electricity from clean power by 2025 at tomorrow's North American Leaders Summit. The plan encompasses not only renewables, but also nuclear power and carbon capture and storage operations.
President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau and Mexican President Nieto are expected to announce a joint plan to generate half the three nations' electricity from clean power by 2025 at tomorrow's North American Leaders Summit.
Including these sources, 37 percent of the countries' electricity came from clean energy last year. Mexico is also expected to join the U.S. and Canada's target of cutting methane emissions 40 to 45 percent by 2025.
White House senior adviser Brian Deese said the energy target is "an aggressive goal" for the U.S. but "achievable." Deese also said that the cooperation on climate and energy policy between the three countries "is stronger than it has been in decades … In all three countries, there is a significant move toward a clean energy economy."
Sierra Club's executive director Michael Brune agrees. "This agreement means the United States will more than double the amount of clean, renewable energy we get from sources like wind and solar within the next decade. Plus, this new commitment moves us towards achieving this goal five years earlier than under existing agreements.
"This is another demonstration of the international and North American unity behind a consensus for strong global climate action. Now more than ever, it's time we retire dirty and dangerous sources of energy like coal, oil, gas and nuclear, crack down on existing sources ofmethane pollution here at home, and commit toward growing a clean energy economy that creates jobs and protects our communities."
Lou Leonard, senior vice president of climate and energy for the World Wildlife Fund, sees the coming announcement as "a clear signal that cooperation, not isolation, remains atop of the global climate agenda."
"As the largest energy consumer, the United States must lead the way to this collective continent-wide goal by exceeding it at home through truly clean renewable energy and higher energy efficiency, Leonard said. "There's a big gap between what leaders pledged in Paris and the emissions cuts needed to fend off the most dire impacts of climate change. The United States needs to continue to drive international cooperation to accelerate emissions reductions and help developing countries leapfrog dirtier pathways. Today's announcements help move us closer to closing that gap."
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