Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Scientists in Canada are developing an industrial carbon dioxide recycling plant that could one day suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into a zero-carbon e-diesel fuel. Developed by tech start-up Carbon Engineering and partly funded by Bill Gates, the system will essentially do the job of trees, but in places unable to host them, such as icy plains and deserts.

Just like these new solar cells that are designed to split water into a hydrogen fuel, the CO2 recycling plant will combine carbon dioxide with hydrogen split from water to form hydrocarbon fuel. The plan is to provide the technology that could one day produce environmentally friendly fuel to complement the renewable energy systems we have now. “How do you power global transportation in 20 years in a way that is carbon neutral?” Geoff Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering, told Marc Gunther at The Guardian. “Cheap solar and wind are great at reducing emissions from the electricity. Then you are left with the transport sector. Carbon Engineering is one of a handful of companies around the world that are now set on coming up with ways to suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to actually put a dent in the effects of climate change. There’s also the New York City-based start-up Global Thermostat, and Swiss-based Climeworks, which demonstrated earlier this year with Audi how its technology can capture carbon dioxide, and deliver it to German company Sunfire, where it was recycled into a zero-carbon diesel fuel

While Climeworks’ demonstration was impressive, what all three companies now need to do is figure out how to make their atmospheric carbon dioxide to fuel systems economically viable. And this won’t be easy. One problem they’re going to have to overcome is the high cost of heating their carbon dioxide to around 400 degrees Celsius so they can process it properly. Another problem is that few investors are interested in giving them money until they can prove that this is actually feasible.

As Gunther reports for The Guardian, governments and private investors aren’t interested in paying anyone to come up with ways to simply suck carbon dioxide out of the environment, no matter how beneficial to the environment it might be. Plus even if someone was interested, they’d better be willing to fork out the billions of dollars it’s going to take to build a system that could actually make a discernible difference to the world’s climate. These developers need to offer their investors something valuable in return, and the obvious answer is fuel.

co2-capture

Right now, Carbon Engineering’s planned system could only capture only about 450 tonnes of CO2 each year, which would barely cover the carbon emissions of 33 average Canadians, but they say this system could be scaled up to 20,000 times to make it more practical.

As the video explains below, direct air capture seems to be the only potentially feasible way to absorb carbon dioxide that’s already been emitted from small mobile sources such as cars, trucks, and planes, which make up 60 percent of carbon dioxide emissions today. The systems require 1,000 times less land than carbon-sucking trees, and can be installed on land, like desert plains, that isn’t worth cultivating or inhabiting.

“I believe we have reached a point where it is really paramount for substantive public research and development of direct air capture,” Klaus Lackner of Arizona State University’s Centre for Negative Carbon Emissions said at the American Physical Society meeting in the US earlier this year.

“Scientists are increasingly convinced that we are going to need large scale removal systems to fight climate change,” Noah Deich from the California-based Centre for Carbon Removal told The Guardian. “I’m excited about direct air capture. It could be a really important technology to add to the portfolio.”

Watch the video below to see how Carbon Engineering plans on doing it. It’s going to take a while before we see the captured carbon to fuel model become a viable solution, but that’s not stopping the likes of Carbon Engineering, Climeworks, and Global Thermostat. We’re excited to see what they come up with.

Scientists are building a system that could turn atmospheric CO2 into fuel

Tropical Monsoon Climate and Vegetation

GoLearnGeography

TROPICAL MONSOON
The tropical monsoon climate experiences abundant rainfall like that of the tropical rain forest climate, but it is concentrated in the high-sun season.
Being located near the equator, the tropical monsoon climate experiences warm temperatures throughout the year.
LOCATION
The monsoon climate beyond the equatorial region between 10◦ and 25 ◦ and North and South of the equator.
The countries are along the coastal regions of southwest India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, South western Africa, French Guiana, and northeast and southeastern Brazil.

CHARACTERISTICS
The major controlling factor over the monsoon climate is its relationship to the monsoon circulation.The Monsoon is a seasonal change in wind direction.
The “classic” monsoon circulation of Asia exhibits an onshore flow of air (air moving from ocean towards land) during the summer or high-sun season, and offshore air flow (air moving from land toward water) during the…

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Tropical Monsoon Climate and Vegetation

Costa Rica achieved 99% renewable energy this year

costa rica

While it may often seem like we have a long way to go when it comes to global renewable energy generation, there are a few countries that are already closing in on being fully powered by renewables that give us hope that one day soon all countries will be able to boast the same results.

Costa Rica has shown the world what is possible this year by achieving 99 percent renewable energy generation. Michael wrote back in April that the country had not used any fossil fuels for electricity so far at that point in the year and, in fact, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute said in a statement that 285 days this year were fossil fuel-free.

Costa Rica is lucky to have a wealth of renewable energy sources to choose from. The bulk of its power generation comes from hydropower thanks to a large river system and heavy tropical rainfalls. The rest is made up of a mix of geothermal energy, which the country is also rich in, wind, biomass and solar power.

The institute said that even though 2015 was a very dry year, Costa Rica was still ahead of its renewable energy targets and goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021. The country doesn’t just want to hit 100 percent renewable energy, but it also wants to clean up energy consumption in general like moving the transportation sector away from fossil fuels and becoming less dependent on hydropower by adding more geothermal energy plants and harnessing energy from other sources.

The citizens of the country have benefited from the cost of energy actually falling by 12% this year and the institute expects it to keep falling in the future.

The U.S. still has a long way to go before it will reach the same milestones, but renewable energy plants make up most of the new energy sources being added to the grid. It’s a larger country with a larger population, but we can still be inspired by Costa Rica and do our part to make sure renewable energy grows and prospers in the U.S.

Source: Costa Rica achieved 99% renewable energy this year

Costa Rica achieved 99% renewable energy this year

World Approves Historic ‘Paris Agreement’ to Address Climate Change

Negotiators from nearly 200 countries reached an agreement Saturday on what they say signifies the most important international pact to address climate change since the issue first emerged as a political priority decades ago.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who headed up the United Nations conference, commonly known as COP 21, said the final deal successfully resolved points of contention that had taken negotiations into overtime and called the agreement “the best possible text.”

“We have come to a defining moment on a long journey that dates back decades,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon before passage of the agreement. “The document with which you have just presented us is historic. It promises to set the world on a new path to a low emissions, climate-resilient future.”

The deal, known as the Paris Agreement, represents remarkable compromise after years of negotiations in which developing countries wrangled with their developed counterparts and failed to come to agreement on several key occasions. Supporters say the agreement will help define the energy landscape for the remainder of the century and signal to markets the beginning of the end of more than one hundred years of dependence on fossil fuels for economic growth

Observers had feared that a negotiated text could result in a lowest common denominator to meet the differing needs of all the parties present in Paris. But climate policy experts appeared largely satisfied with the draft adopted Saturday at the Le Bourget Airport just outside of Paris.

A strong long-term goal to reduce carbon emissions, provisions explaining how developing countries will receive financing for their efforts to adapt to climate change, and a transparency system to ensure that countries meet their promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were among those key goals. The text includes provisions addressing all those key points.

The agreement includes a long-term goal of holding global temperature rise “well below” 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100 and recognizes a maximum temperature rise of below 1.5°C (2.7°F) as an ideal goal. The 2°C target is needed to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, according to climate scientists, but it would not be enough to save many of the world’s most vulnerable countries. Those nations, largely small Pacific Island countries, launched a large-scale push for the more aggressive 1.5°C target to be included in the agreement. The draft text also calls for “global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible” and for the continued reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of this century as science allows.

Measures to finance efforts to fight climate change in the developing world had also been a key sticking point in negations. The agreement renews a commitment by developed countries to send $100 billion a year beginning in 2020 to developing countries to support their efforts to fight climate change. The deal describes the sum as a “floor,” which may presumably be increased.

The agreement also requires all participant countries to assess their efforts to reduce carbon emissions every five years and expand upon those efforts as they are capable. Some countries had previously expressed reluctance to promise to increase their goals so far in advance without knowing their economic situation.

The responsibilities of developed countries are distinguished from those of their developing counterparts throughout the text, a key demand of large developing countries like India and China that worried the agreement might require them to take actions that would slow their economic growth.

“It has all the core elements that the environmental community wanted,” said John Coequyt, the Sierra Club’s director of federal and international climate campaigns.

Source: World Approves Historic ‘Paris Agreement’ to Address Climate Change

World Approves Historic ‘Paris Agreement’ to Address Climate Change

NASA to Fight Forest Fires from Space

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Satellite sensors will catch forest fires before they spread.

When forest fires begin in remote regions, they can go undetected for lengthy periods of time, which lets them spread before emergency services even know they’re occurring. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, along with San Francisco-based start-up Quadra Pi R2E, are working on a new global network of sensors on satellites, called FireSat, that could uncover forest fires much more quickly and effectively than current technologies.

At present, satellites can detect forest fires twice a day and transmit large images to Earth. The goal of the project is to send much lower-resolution images about once a minute and include their exact latitude and longitude.

Robert Staehle, lead designer of FireSat at JPL says “While many wildfires are reported by 9-1-1 calls soon after ignition, some are not, and delays in detection can lead to rapid escalation of a fire, and dramatic growth of the cost of suppression. The system we envision will work day and night for fires anywhere in the world.”

FireSat will consist of over 200 thermal infrared imaging sensors aboard satellites that will be able to detect fires within 15 minutes from the time they start, as long as they are 30 – 50 feet wide. Within three minutes of this detection, FireSat will notify emergency responders who can decide on the best approach from the ground.

If detecting forest fires isn’t enough to convince you of these sensors’ value, they will also be able to detect explosions, oil spills and other dangerous high-heat events around the world.

NASA has turned to an unlikely source of funding for this project: Kickstarter. According to their page, the campaign was developed “to present the FireSat opportunity to the general public to determine whether enough grass-roots interest exists to advance the project.” Their goal is to raise $280,000 of the necessary $30 million from the public. They hope to have the system in space and fully operational by June 2018.

NASA to Fight Forest Fires from Space

Do You Live in a Climate Change Hotspot?

Spaceborne Carbon Counter Map

Nearly half of all human carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by plants, and NASA is monitoring this absorption.

Carbon dioxide or CO2 emissions into our planet’s atmosphere is causing climate change — a major problem that humans need to tackle and adapt to.  It is leading to warmer atmospheric temperatures, warmer and more acidic oceans, rising sea-levels, and changing and extreme weather patterns.  Although nations across the globe have committed to reducing carbon emissions, emissions will not slow in the near future, and CO2concentrations will continue to rise.

An alarming fact is that CO2 concentrations are the highest they have been in 400,000 years, and we are on track to cross the CO2 threshold of 400 parts per million (ppm).  This threshold does not mean there is going to be a climate catastrophe, but it does signal the importance of fighting climate change and how government inaction has only lead to worsening global impacts.

Luckily for us, CO2 concentrations would be much higher if it were not for plants that absorb nearly half of all human emissions each year.  NASA is very interested in this part of the carbon system and is now monitoring and tracking the absorption of CO2 by the land and ocean.

“Some years, almost all of it stays in the atmosphere and some years almost none of it remains in the atmosphere.  So in those years it must be absorbed into the ocean and land,” said Mike Freilich, the head of NASA’s Earth Science Division.

 

NASA scientists have been tracking CO2 movement using models and satellites such as NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2).  “OCO-2 gathers 100,000 high quality measurements of CO2 across the globe daily,” said Annmarie Eldering, deputy project scientist of OCO-2.  The instruments used on the satellite are so sensitive that they can detect changes as small as 1 ppm over any location, allowing scientists to determine potential COhotspots.

For example, data from OCO-2 shows that there has been more CO2 over the tropical Pacific Ocean since the spring.  Scientists are unsure if this is related to our current El-Niño which is known for creating above average ocean and atmospheric temperatures, but the results are different from previously collected data.

Why is it so important to monitor and track this absorbed CO2?  Not only will it help scientists understand how the absorption of CO2 by plants may change with a changing climate, according to Lesley Ott, a NASA research who works on the carbon modeling, “The motivation of all of this is to make models better and predict how the carbon cycle is going to change over the coming years.”

The problem of climate change can no longer be ignored, and improved CO2 modeling will hopefully influence policymakers to make scientifically-informed decisions to protect our planet for generations to come.

Source: Do You Live in a Climate Change Hotspot?

Do You Live in a Climate Change Hotspot?

Scientist May Have Had First Ever Glimpse of a Parallel Universe

artist's impression of parallel universes

Are we limited to parallel universes?  Prepare to be mind blown by these four other prevailing multiverse theories.

The theory of parallel universes is not a new concept — the term multiverse has been used as early as 1895.  But what exactly is a parallel universe? The theory of parallel universes states that many universes exist parallel to each other within a large multiverse. Not all scientists believe in these separate universes, but one cosmologist, Ranga-Ram Chany from the California Institute of Technology, believes he may have captured the first ever glimpse of a parallel universe.

Chany used data from the Planck telescope found at the European Space Agency, and subtracted cosmic microwave background models from Planck’s picture of the universe.  What he found were regions that were much brighter than they should be, almost 4,500 times brighter. This finding is consistent with the idea that bumping parallel universes leave behind a so-called “bruise” in the form of a ring of hot photons during a collision.

SEE ALSO: Our Place in the Universe

Cosmic microwave background research, analyses, and interpretation are extremely difficult, and Chany admits that there is a 30 percent chance his findings are just background noise or space dust.  He hopes to have more results in the next few years, but he likely won’t have proof of his hypothesis until the next generation of space scanning technology is complete in 15–20 years.

The advancement of space scanning technology could also help prove the existence of not only parallel universes, but other hypothesized forms of multiverses.  How many other theories of multiverses could there be?

1. Infinite Universe

An infinite universe is one that is flat and stretches infinitely in space and time.  Since there is a finite number of ways particles can be arranged in an infinite universe, eventually these arrangements will repeat.  This means that if you were to venture out far enough, you would run into infinite versions of yourself, some living the exact same life as you right now and others that are completely different.

2. Bubble Universe

A bubble universe is based on the idea that after the Big Bang, the universe expanded by inflating like a balloon.  The theory suggests that some parts of the universe stop inflating while others continue, resulting in bubble universes that may have completely different laws of physics.  According to the theory, our universe has stopped inflating which is why we have stars and galaxies.

3. Daughter Universe

Daughter universes are hypothesized to be a product of outcomes or choices, meaning each choice we make spawns a new universe.  For example, say you get acceptance letters for two different universities A and B, our universe would then create daughter universes: one where you go to university A, one where you go to university B, and one where you do not go to either.

4. Mathematical Universe

Mathematical universes are ones where mathematics is a physical reality, and the mathematical structure that makes up our universe is not the only structure that exists.  Separate universes are formed by different initial conditions, physical constants, and mathematical equations.

Will the proof of other universes continue to remain just beyond our grasp, or will we one day find the key to unlock the door separating us from the secrets of the cosmos?

Source: Scientist May Have Had First Ever Glimpse of a Parallel Universe

Scientist May Have Had First Ever Glimpse of a Parallel Universe