Solve A Problem Like Climate Change With Mechanical Trees

We’re Exploring How We Can Efficiently And Economically Have The Wind Deliver Carbon Dioxide To Mechanical Trees

Solve A Problem Like Climate Change With Mechanical Trees
By Klaus Lackner

As we consider how to address climate change in an uncertain world, some things are, indeed, certain. We know climate change is a profound challenge. We know its effects – drought, major storms, sea level rise – are adversely affecting people, communities and the environment. And we know scientific experts agree: Reducing emissions will not be enough to address climate change. We need to remove excess carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. Researchers like myself in Arizona and across the United States are advancing carbon dioxide removal, a diverse suite of innovative strategies with support growing among industry leaders, across the business sector and in Congress. Much of the recent focus in the media has been on natural techniques, such as planting trees.

These solutions are necessary, but not sufficient.

To truly change the game and solve for climate change, we will also need technological solutions, such as direct air capture (DAC) machines that pull excess carbon dioxide out of the air.

Direct air capture is a critical solution

In 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Academies of Sciences here in the U.S. identified the need for technological advances like DAC to meet our climate goals. The economic experts at McKinsey recently included direct air capture as a critical and promising technology to develop in response to climate change. And new analysis from the Rhodium Group makes clear that a full and rapid scale-up of direct air capture technology by 2050 could create tremendous employment and business opportunities, with a surge in demand across sectors and hundreds of thousands of new, high wage jobs.

I am proud of the work on such innovation taking place at Arizona State University. At ASU’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, we’re exploring how we can efficiently and economically have the wind deliver carbon dioxide to Mechanical Trees. Envision a forest of these trees removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – several times more efficiently than real trees – which then can be stored deep underground or used in products from cements to fresh, carbon-neutral fuels.

Arizona is particularly well positioned, as it can provide unlimited, low-cost and clean solar energy for direct air capture and carbon dioxide use. Leaders on both sides of the aisle, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, are recognizing and creating policy solutions to advance these crucial technologies. Sen. Sinema led the introduction in July of the bipartisan CREATE Act, which provides for intragovernmental coordination on carbon dioxide removal to be led by the White House. She should be applauded for this outstanding contribution.

ASU will build a Mechanical Trees on campus

Direct air capture is a demonstrated technology, with the first commercial projects in the pipeline. Several companies have demonstrated the technology and delivered carbon dioxide. At Arizona State University, we have partnered with a new startup company, Silicon Kingdom Holdings, to build the first Mechanical Tree on campus. Research and innovation, like the work we are doing at ASU in partnership with industry, are needed to transform a nascent concept into a large, revenue-generating industry that not only stabilizes the climate but also provides well-paying jobs.

More breakthrough innovation requires more funding. The federal government is best positioned to do that and make the United States a leader in developing and deploying this climate-saving technology. We are encouraged to see legislation like the CREATE Act and federal funding for innovation through the U.S. Department of Energy. With the right investments, this could be the start of a flourishing carbon dioxide removal sector in the country. To prevent the worst impacts of climate change, protect our communities and conserve the environment, we need to unleash – and invest in – the best of our ingenuity, research and problem-solving abilities.

This news was originally published at AZ Central