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Carbon capture as a way to combat climate change



Graciela Chichilnisky

Dr Graciela Chichilnisky, lead author on the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spoke at the Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium Wednesday evening about her work on CO2 capture technology. Chichilnisky’s company, Global Thermostat is a proposed market solution to climate change, based on technology that scrubs CO2 out of the atmosphere and sells the gas for use in industry.

Chichilnisky was enthusiastic about creating a “carbon economy” and reselling CO2 for “the profitable CO2 market,” but a Guardian piece from two years ago calls the market for CO2 “limited.” Worse, the number one use for CO2 in industry isn’t carbonated beverages, it’s “recovering hard-to-get-oil from tapped-out wells.” In a word, that’s fracking.

A review of Chichilnisky’s proposal in MIT Technology Review was pessimistic about her technology’s usefulness. “There’s really little chance that you could capture CO2 from ambient air more cheaply than from a coal plant, where the flue gas is 300 times more concentrated,” said Robert Socolow, director of the Princeton Environment Institute and co-director of the university’s carbon mitigation initiative in the piece.

Despite these reservations, controlling, limiting and mitigating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is an important issue that should be seriously addressed. “Negative emissions are definitely needed to restore the atmosphere given that we’re going to far exceed any safe limit for CO2, if there is one,” said Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment as quoted in the MIT piece. “The question in my mind is, can it be done in an economical way?”

The event was sponsored in part by the Tri-State Climate Coalition, a group working on a two-part solution for climate change:

  1. powering the world with renewable energy
  2. extracting carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere

The Tri-State Climate Coalition is working to get state legislators in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts to sign a pledge promising to vote for bills that promote renewable energy and carbon capture technology and against bills that promote new fossil fuel power plants. Rhode Island State Senator Jeanine Calkin (Democrat, District 30, Warwick) is the first legislator to sign on so far.

Below is all the video from the evening, including the video Carbon Negative, which Chichilnisky hopes to develop into a full length documentary.

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Carbon Negative

Dr Graciela Chichilnisky

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.