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Technology and the Market Can Mitigate so-called Climate Change without World Government!

Turn the Free Market Loose on Climate!

Two intriguing articles raise potential means to remove carbon from the atmosphere. This first article discusses reforestation as a means to capture carbon; the second paper postulates the possibility of the circulation of air – as in air conditioning as a carbon trap as well as a potential source of energy.

The promise of both ideas in order:

We have heard for years that planting trees can help save the world from global warming. That mantra was mostly a statement of faith, however. Now the data finally exist to show that if the right species of trees are planted in the right soil types across the planet, the emerging forests could capture 205 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the next 40 to 100 years. That’s two thirds of all the CO2humans have generated since the industrial revolution.

A paper published in the Nature Communications proposes a partial remedy:  Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (or HVAC) systems move a lot of air. They can replace the entire air volume in an office building five or 10 times an hour.  Machines that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—a developing fix for climate change—also depend on moving large volumes of air.  So why not save energy by tacking the carbon capture machine onto the air conditioner?

There are problems:

Chazdon cautions that replanting may not be as simple as it sounds, and she wonders if 0.9 billion new hectares will ever be possible, given competing priorities. More trees consume more water, and this could threaten agriculture or other human activities in dry areas. And local people may not want forests if they need to generate income from the land, say from farming or herding. Some prominent reforestation programs, such as ones in the Philippines, have failed “because there was no local involvement,” she says.

The best places to start reforestation are where multiple benefits can readily be gained. In a July 3 Science Advances paper, Chazdon and colleagues identify a series of locations in the tropics that have higher-than-average potential for benefits as well as ease of getting started.

Other scientists who were not involved in the new paper note two other potential problems. “The idea that Roland has presented is an interesting one,” says Jennifer Wilcox, a chemical engineer at Worcester Institute of Technology, “but more vetting needs to be done in order to determine the true potential of the approach.” While it seems to make sense to take advantage of the air movement already being generated by HVAC systems, Wilcox says, building and operating the necessary fans is not what makes direct air capture systems so expensive. “The dominant capital cost,” she says, “is the solid adsorbent materials”—that is, substances to which the carbon dioxide adheres—and the main energy cost is the heat needed to recover the carbon dioxide from these materials afterward.

Market forces can encourage the air movement process by a by-product of the process: liquid hydrocarbon energy:

The researchers imagine a system of modular components, powered by renewable energy, that would not just extract carbon dioxide and water from the air. It would also convert them into hydrogen, and then use a multistep chemical process to transform that hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

Visionary entrepreneurs like Elon Musk might be able to earn billions through what amounts to recycling energy sources. The energy to run the air system could come from the air system itself. (I suspect there will be an initial need for energy and the system might not be self-sustaining.)

It might be more challenging to have market forces in reforestation, as it might take resources from crops and animal husbandry. But this might be a useful area for NGOs and government to work together and the owners of the land would have passive income from the reforestation. (The issue of land title is a huge problem in many nations and reform of land title recording will be necessary to implement these reforestation efforts.) I would think that government parks and forests would be a source of land for new planting.

Too often climate change is presented as less freedom and more (often world) government solutions. This is one reason for right-wing climate skepticism. But governments did not invent the airplane or the automobile; they mainly were helpful in better laws to help the entrepreneurs thrive. Let’s turn the free markets loose on the climate issue and see what can happen. Consensus might occur between left and right.

This kind of innovation is why we need Del. Glenn Davis to be Virginia’s next governor!

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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