Can A Fake Tree Stop Global Warming?

Although certain parts of the political class still deny it, global warming is becoming more dangerous by the year. Some scientists already think that the time to undertake major action to stop climate change was yesterday, and failure to act could lead to a future of more volatile climate conditions - more storms like Hurricane Sandy, more famine, and more dangerous events like tsunamis.

If the world's countries can't band together to reduce the amount of carbon emissions entering the atmosphere, where does that leave us? Scientists are hoping to develop new technology that would allow us to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and one way forward could be carbon-capturing artificial trees.

According to the National Post, Dr. Klaus Lackner, chairman of the Earth and Environmental Engineering department at New York's Columbia University, has developed a mock-up of an "artificial tree" that can "mimic the photosynthesis of real trees by chemically sucking carbon dioxide out of the air."

What's more, the trees are capable of eliminating one ton of carbon from the air every day - that's the same amount that 36 cars would emit into the atmosphere every day. They cost less than a car to build, and because carbon is spread evenly around the planet it doesn't even matter where they're placed; the trees will still capture the same amount of carbon. Fields of artificial trees could conceivably help humanity fight off the disastrous consequences of global warming.

Unlike radical geo-engineering proposals that involve, say, shooting chemicals into the clouds to reflect more of the sun's rays back into space, these artificial trees don't fundamentally or unpredictably alter the earth's atmosphere or potential habitability. They simply suck out what we put into the skies.

Still, although carbon capture technology is promising, there are obstacles blocking its widespread use.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that carbon capture is an integral part to reducing the effects of climate change, even though the cost of applying it on a large scale is too expensive at the moment.

According to Ed King, "With no global price for carbon, incentives for the private sector to invest are limited, although anyone who manages to make the technology work on a commercial basis is likely to be well rewarded."

Either incentives have to increase or some plucky individual companies are going to have to break through. The fact that we may limit our responses to either option isn't pleasant to think about.

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