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New Research Suggests CO2 Can Be Scrubbed From the Atmosphere to Avoid Climate Change Crisis

Oct 28, 2016 05:57 AM EDT
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We've made 9.1 billion tonnes of plastic since it was invented – here's where it ends up
New research proposes a revolutionary method to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to combat global warming
Pictured above are giant excavators removng the upper layers of sandy soil so that other excavators can scoop up the coal beneath, which then runs on conveyor belts directly to the Boxberg coal-fired power plant. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

There is now a new research that proposes a revolutionary method to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to combat global warming. Cornell researchers proposed utilizing a "bioenergy-biochar system" that could eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere until other removal methods become economically accessible. This groundbreaking research appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of Nature Communications.

Biochar, a carbonized plant matter made by charring organic material without using air, is stable and has carbon-eliminating properties. It can be sowed into the soil to act as a fertilizer substitute and increase crop production.

Dominic Woolf, a Cornell research associate in crop and soil sciences and lead author of Optimal Bioenergy Power Generation for Climate Change Mitigation With or Without Carbon Sequestration, said, "If we continue on current emissions trajectories, we will need to draw down excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere if we're going to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change. We're offering a mitigation model that can do that. It's not a silver bullet, but it may be among the tools we need in a portfolio of carbon dioxide mitigation strategies."

The United Nations' World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned that the amount of global carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has broken previous records, signaling the beginning of a "new era of climate reality." The WMO predicted that the carbon dioxide concentrations will stay above this record-high level for the entirety of 2016 "and not dip below that level for many generations."

Despite this current environmental crisis, Woolf remains hopeful. "We need a full suite of mitigation strategies. It's quite possible to scrub the atmosphere and remove carbon dioxide to avoid runaway climate change - where we could transition to manageable climate change," he said. "This isn't purely about advocating completely for biochar, but we need to recognize that we have technologies in place that can help our atmosphere, and we should create an optimal portfolio for ideas."

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