Let’s talk Carbon: The Paris Agreement, Sinking Carbon, & our 1st test next Monday June 11th
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

June 8, 2018

At this point, you probably know about climate change or at least the generalities of the science that correlates rising CO2 with increased global temperatures and increased intensities in natural weather phenomenons. If you are familiar with that, you may also know about the Paris Agreement that was signed by every nation in the world except the US, committing the world to limiting the global average temperature rise by 2°C.

What you don’t know is that “The UN report envisions 116 scenarios in which global temperatures are prevented from rising more than 2°C. In 101 of them, that goal is accomplished by sucking massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—a concept called “negative emissions”—chiefly via BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage). And in these scenarios to prevent planetary disaster, this would need to happen by mid-century, or even as soon as 2020.” This is from the magazine WIRED that did a fascinating and scary story on this Dec. of last year, seen here.

The reason the story is so scary is that we have crafted a plan that depends on negative CO2 emissions while there is no current technology in the world that actually exists today. We have crafted a plan, one that is already under risk of being overshot, that fundamentally depends on inventing something that does not exist today. “Here’s the hardest truth: Even if negative emissions debuted in highly crafted, impractical computer models, we now need negative emissions in the real world to keep the planet’s temperatures at safe levels.” (WIRED Dec. 2017)

A lot to digest no? To think our carbon emission story is so much bigger than we thought and to know we are already betting on inventing something to save us. If that doesn’t make you want to double down on personal efforts like biking, flying less, eating less meat, and planting trees on your own…. well I hope you don’t live in Miami… to say the least. But this is not a negative story or blog post. Our fight to save our planet will never be won by scaring people into action.

We all have problems, climate change being a big existential one and we want solutions. Well, on Monday June 11th, I will travel to San Diego with a dedicated team invested in bringing to the table a carbon sequestration technology in the effort to arrive at a tool in which humanity can transition from fossil fuels. The idea is simple; using wave energy, we will operated a one way valve to send carbon rich surface water (the ocean absorbs 1/3 of our daily emissions), down a 1000 meter pipe to the ocean depth. As the water is pumped to depth, the temperature equalizes with the surrounding water and the higher concentration of salt in the surface water being pumped down (due to evaporation of water at the surface), will begin to sink on its own towards the depth as it exits the tube. This creates a “salt fountain” which acts as a kind of siphon that pulls carbon rich surface water to the depths where it will stay for somewhere between 500-1000 years.

This is not a silver bullet as a solution to our carbon conundrum. The carbon we could sink will come up eventually. But even if it gives humanity 500 years, that time is critical in allowing humans to transition to a carbon free and eventual carbon negative economy. Given the industrial revolution started about 100 years ago, 500 is a huge amount of time in the telescoping technological revolution of man.

Are there concerns, yes. Are there potential failures, sure. However, the fact of the matter remains, we need to sink carbon yesterday and we need to sink a lot of it. On Monday, we will deploy our first prototype following a year and a half of collaborative research with Sandia National Labs off the coast of San Diego. The effort is call Ocean Based Climate Solutions and you can read more at the linked website.

When not working on this project or trying to desalinate seawater using ocean waves with Atmocean, I will personally spend the remainder of my summer planting trees and building sustainable housing. All hands on deck.




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