Hey I goofed and got overenthusiastic with my millions!
A trillion tons of carbon dioxide in the last century and a half is a *million million* tons. And 2018’s emissions of 37.1 billion tons means 37.1 *thousand* million tons.
Props to Steven Goodman from Climeworks for the catch!
PS My attempt at using millions as the maximum unit (no billions or trillions) was inspired by Stephen Hawking's “A Brief History of Time”. From Hawking's explanation, the Earth is about four thousand million years old and there are a hundred thousand million galaxies in the universe. Using millions as the biggest unit made the universe more approachable to my brain, and so wanted to try it with carbon!
We’ve got 410.51 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the air today. That’s an excess of a trillion tons of carbon dioxide in the last century and a half (that’s a million million tons). In 2018 we added more carbon to the air than ever - 37.1 billion tons (that’s 37.1 thousand million tons).
In a year, an average tree can pull 48 pounds (0.024 tons) of carbon dioxide from the air. That's the carbon dioxide created from about 2.5 gallons of gasoline.
Here's how this compares to some other carbon removal technologies, both natural and engineered:
Carbon dioxide removed per acre per year:
But today's engineered systems are energy hogs, cost millions of dollars, and like any machine, they break down -- whereas trees and algae seem to just need land, water, and sunlight. And what happens to the carbon dioxide gas once it’s captured…how do we store it, bury it, use it on a large scale?
That’s why entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers are building engineered systems smaller, energy-efficient, modular, and figuring how to remove carbon from the air permanently.
40 years ago, a computer was a big box of blinking lights that was programmed by flipping little switches. Today we've got more computational power in a singing birthday card. If this is where we got with computers in 40 years, think about where we can go with this in the next 40 years.
Let’s shift from giant machinery we can barely understand to something that runs on 100% renewable energy, combines our best lessons from biology, chemistry, and economics, maybe even looks like a tree or algae, and removes 100,000X more carbon per acre per year. These are the technologies that help us solve climate change for 7.7 million million people on this planet.
PS if you’re working in the field of carbon removal, apply to join 320 members on the AirMiners Slack Community (formerly Carbon180 Slack). I’m the new organizer!