The term “snowball effect” is an unfortunate way to describe climate change, but a new study is predicting just that.Climate scientists warn that by 2050, an astonishing 55 trillion kilograms of carbon could be released into the atmosphere from the soil. To put things in perspective, that’s the emissions equivalent of adding another United States to the planet. And, like a rapidly tumbling snowball, more emissions mean more warming, and more warming means… well, you get it.Of course, this nightmare scenario hinges on our inability to curb carbon emissions—a fate that’s become significantly more realistic with Donald Trump, a vocal climate change denier and coal aficionado, about to enter the White House. Our failure to meet the goals mandated by the Paris Agreement would result in “about 17 percent more than the projected emissions due to human-related activities during that period,” Tom Crowther, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, said in a statement.
–OK, this is BAD.
–What if: 55 trillion kilograms of carbon = 55 trillion kilograms of Ethanol?!
Scientists Accidentally Discover Efficient Process to Turn CO2 Into Ethanol
The process is cheap, efficient, and scalable, meaning it could soon be used to remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect. [Go herefor a new in-depth interview about the findings with one of the lead researchers.]
The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles.
“By using common materials, but arranging them with nanotechnology, we figured out how to limit the side reactions and end up with the one thing that we want,” said Adam Rondinone.
This process has several advantages when compared to other methods of converting CO2 into fuel. The reaction uses common materials like copper and carbon, and it converts the CO2 into ethanol, which is already widely used as a fuel.
Perhaps most importantly, it works at room temperature, which means that it can be started and stopped easily and with little energy cost. This means that this conversion process could be used as temporary energy storage during a lull in renewable energy generation, smoothing out fluctuations in a renewable energy grid.
The researchers plan to further study this process and try and make it more efficient. If they’re successful, we just might see large-scale carbon capture using this technique in the near future.