Will it be possible to remove CO2 from the atmosphere? Now it is better to cut emissions

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Is it possible to remove CO2 from the atmosphere? The big tech goal is to remove 100,000 tons of CO2 by 2030. But that’s not enough.

Some tech giants have formed an alliance in the name of a promising but still developing technology. It happened last May at World economic forum from Davos. This is the mechanism of removal of carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide removal, Cdr), with which it would be possible to suck CO2 from the atmosphere, transforming it into something else. For example, in building bricks.

The sectors with the most environmental impact are those of transport and construction © iStockphoto

CO2 removal: there is still talk of something far away

The problem? These machines are still very expensive and inefficient. Also for this reason, companies like Microsoft, Alphabet e Salesforce have announced an investment of 500 million dollars for the sector, which aims to remove one hundred thousand tons of CO2 by 2030. Stunning numbers that remain only promises, at least to date. Indeed, the spectrum of carbon dioxide removal risks becoming “a dangerous distraction”, as the magazine called it. Technology review of With, because it makes an exit life that does not exist for now seem near and possible.

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Worse still, the idea of ​​magically removing CO2 from the atmosphere could be used as an alibi to avoid investing in the necessary – however painful – policies that are the only key to addressing the environmental crisis: drastically reduce CO2 emissions to the point of canceling them, affecting particularly heavy sectors such as that of buildings (cement alone is responsible for eight percent of global carbon dioxide emissions) and transport. And instead Big tech, an energy-intensive sector but always attentive to green solutions, is becoming infatuated with a technology that is still shaky and risky. A United Nations report published last April limited the use that could be made of machinery for the removal of carbon, which are however defined as “inevitable” to balance the emissions of industries that are unlikely to become carbon-free, such as chemicals or those linked to production aluminum.

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In short, the future needs an approach to the environment drastic and complex of which the removal of carbon can be a part but will not be the secret weapon, the deus ex machina with which to erase our footprint from the atmosphere. However, the plan of technology companies seems to go in a different direction, investing considerable resources to “scale” the technology, making it more accessible and cheaper. Last April, after all, another group of companies in the sector – including Stripe, Alphabet, Meta e Shopify – launched an “early commitment to market” called Frontier. In practice, with Frontier, these giants have pledged to purchase more than $ 900 million worth of carbon dioxide removed by 2030. Removed carbon which, to date, however, does not exist or does not exist in significant quantities. But the intent is to encourage researchers and companies to invest in the sector, indicating it as a business possibility for the future. It is to be hoped that it will work, even if the hypothetical technology alone would not be enough to resolve our relationship with the resources of this planet: the magic wand will not be enough for that.

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