Why It’s So Hard to Capture CO2 From the Air


The Earth’s climate is shifting, and it’s
our fault. Not Seeker, specifically, I mean humans in
general. We’re digging up and burning sources of
carbon that otherwise would have been locked away within the Earth, adding it to our atmosphere
and driving average global temperatures up. So why don’t we take the carbon from the
air, and push it somewhere else? That’s the idea behind Negative Emission
Technologies, or NETs. They’re one possible tool to stop climate
change, but they aren’t the silver bullet. It’s tempting to think that if we develop
a way to scrub the air of CO2 we won’t have to cut down our emissions so much. No lifestyle change, no big shift in energy
infrastructure, just some quick fix that keeps this climate change thing from getting out
of hand. Unfortunately while that’s theoretically
possible it’s very far from practical. At the start of 2018 the European Academies
Science Advisory Council released a report on how feasible NETs are for slowing or reversing
the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide and their conclusion is… not good. First it helps to understand why plucking
CO2 from thin air isn’t as easy as it sounds. As of 2013 we were adding an estimated 40
billion tons of CO2 to the air annually. While that’s a lot of CO2, it’s not very
concentrated; there are only about 400 CO2 molecules per million molecules that make
up our air. So if you want to just neutralize the stuff
we’re putting out each year, you’re going to have to churn through a lot of air. Jennifer Wilcox, an assistant professor at
Stanford University, imagines what she calls a synthetic forest. Sounds like cool funky neon trees but really
it’s more a 200 meter wall of fans pushing air through liquid with chemicals that capture
carbon dioxide. The chemical is then separated from the CO2
using high heat, allowing it to go back and capture more carbon. What’s left behind is high-purity CO2 that’s
easier to liquify or repurpose. Now you may have noticed this process isn’t
passive, you need to put energy into it. Wilcox estimates that to remove a million
tons of CO2 a year, you’d need a dedicated power plant putting out anywhere from 300
to 500 megawatts. So to balance out that 40 billion tons we’re
emitting annually, that works out to 40,000 additional power plants. And that’s assuming you use carbon neutral
power. If you use a coal plant, you emit more than
you extract. A synthetic forest isn’t the only possible
negative emission technology. We could go au naturale and plant more forests. Let the trees do the work. Smart. Except planting new forests is hard and we’re
already deforesting what currently exists. Really it’d be better to get that under
control first. Another alternative is sprinkling iron into
the ocean, stimulating photosynthetic plankton to absorb more CO2. But that process is kind of like unleashing
a tiger and hoping it takes care of your gorilla problem. We could try making a carbon capturing mineral
like magnesite in a lab. The mineral forms when magnesium is introduced
to carbonic acid, a molecule that results when CO2 and water react. In August of 2018 scientists discovered how
to make it artificially in just 72 days, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of years
it takes to form naturally. Now we just need to make 80 billion tons of
the stuff every year and we’re set. All of these issues led the European Academies
Science Advisory Council to conclude that betting on NETs alone is not the answer. We can’t keep emitting at the rate we are
now and hope some future carbon capture wonder tech will turn the tide. The goal is still to cut current emissions
as drastically as possible. In the meantime we can still develop negative
emission technologies. Just because they can’t stop climate change
alone doesn’t mean they can’t help. But humans need to scale back our carbon emission
so NETs don’t have to counter 40 billion tons of CO2 every year. While you’re here subscribe for more videos,
and check out Marens video about new solar technology powered by bacteria. While CO2 levels are at 400 parts per million
today, until 1950 CO2 hadn’t risen above 300 parts per million for over 400 thousand
years. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next
time on Seeker!

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100 thoughts on “Why It’s So Hard to Capture CO2 From the Air”

  1. 1angrykoala says:

    I hear there is a really good carbon dioxide filter that intakes the carbon and transforms it to Oxygen. I think they are called trees.

  2. Tom Groebe says:

    Alright well look it would be 40,000 plants to get it all, (also 40,000 around the world isn't that much)
    1. You could assume the tech would improve over time through use.

    2. As you stated it could work as more of an ancillary technology.

    3. If the (clean) power it takes to run it consumes less carbon than it would be intaking then idk what the problem is.

    Building 40,000 plants seems like a pretty feasible solution to the death of the planet.

  3. Dilip Dilip says:

    Hope people will realize the importance of trees.

  4. Kyle Wilson says:

    Please tell me how these other solutions are easier than the natural way with trees, because there was no detail given on that except “it’s hard” then you go on to talk about other methods that use lots of energy or change the chemistry of our water

  5. Sir Raulo says:

    why wont the billion dollar owners of factories emitting CO2 biologically engineer trees/plants that can endure harsh environment and absorb more CO2 than that of ordinary trees/plants?

  6. RCPRO B says:

    Humans are not the cause of global warming

  7. Tyler Kline says:

    I tried so hard to think of a c02 pun

  8. Steven David Stoffers says:

    no, CORSIA is a "basket" of mitigation that complies with the warmly received, by Katowice participants even before COP24 is convened, Global Aspirational Goals of the ICAO. and if anyone thinks the ICAO is a pushover, try exercising your bicuspids on the USA National Rifle Association just for a snack. and if you have no idea what CORSIA is, or even the ICAO is… go back to sleep. Ian Bremmer goofed up on COP21… as well as Trump's election bid… but he isn't a total moron. we will do nothing to scale or in time.

  9. Tony Rx says:

    cutting emission is very very impractical too, it drives up the cost of energy on low and medium income people, and the alternative sources are waaaaay behind

  10. Bundle of Perceptions says:

    All the carbon they want to scrub from the atmosphere had already been scrubbed out of the atmosphere once already — it was part of the carbon that was taken up by the flora that became all the coal and crude oil we've been burning — a process that took millions of years to accomplish.

  11. semilore omoyinmi says:

    Let's farm wood too, let's make gmo bamboo, since it grows as one of the fastest plant, and have structural advantages to other forms of wood

  12. Valerie H says:

    Please produce a video on how I personally contribute to carbon emissions and what steps I can take as an individual to stop or reduce the amount of carbon I produce. Thank you!

  13. Ry tv says:

    just plant trees

  14. 格爾 says:

    just plant some trees

  15. Al Reeves says:

    If only putting carbon dioxide filters on factories were a thing

  16. Zavier Orlos says:

    Want to cut out CO2 ? ? ? … Simple: 1st stop Deforestation and plant trees in every roof of city buildings. 2nd decrease the amount of energy produced (we will not die if we dont have energy once a week, aside from hospitals and other things that really need it, just one day a week globally. 3rd We should cut out of our diet at least 3 products that are made of animal (meat, shoes, butter, icecream, Leather, milk, cheese, Yogurt, sauces, ect.) just 3 of them. That will reduced the amount of CO2 needed to make them and to transport it.AND 4th make Electric cars cheaper than all the others and reduce the cost of Solar panel. …. we have the solution in our hands but we are just too stupid to see it.

  17. Sum Ting Wong says:

    If your business model involves cutting trees for money then you ought to have to pay to or directly replant an equal number of trees at a minimum.

  18. Akai Kiseki says:

    Like you said, planting plants/trees is the best solution…

  19. steve michigan says:

    Just squeeze some tree leafs. They capture co2

  20. Raymundo M says:

    Just put them on the smoke stacks and exhaust pipes.


  21. Raymundo M says:

    Lets just delete humans

  22. fft2020 says:

    nothing will happen until Earth becomes uninhabitable
    People just dont give a phuck

  23. s w says:

    Plant trees

  24. Brent Wilbur says:

    Seeker, you're lying. If you actually did your ice core research into the relationship between average global temperature and concentrations of carbon dioxide, you would find that the increase in temperature precedes the rise in carbon dioxide. Increased carbon dioxide is a consequence of increased temperature, not its cause.

    The science is not settled. You can't just claim humans are responsible when we still don't understand the environment's natural temperature oscillations for us to then determine the value of the human variable.

    Humans may indeed be responsible, but there is grossly and wholly insufficient evidence to declare it as a fact. Stop being a bunch of leftist narrative cocksuckers and dig in to the real numbers.

  25. Vikash Bhalla says:

    its weird. I heard about this a couple years ago.
    Carbon capture, making nanotubes as a by product. Estimates an area the size of 10 percent of the sahara desert covered with solar panels would make enough carbon free electricity to run a process that would end up with nanotubes and bring atmospheric carbon down to pre industrial levels in ten years.

  26. Great American says:

    Need to change your channel name to npSeeker.

  27. systematic101 says:

    wait. How is planting a forest hard? If we made it a thing to have each person plant a tree then the US would have planted over 300 million trees. Do that once every 5 or 10 years and in the life span of 1 generation you'd get 2.6-5.2 billion trees planted.

  28. 1234imnotpooranymore says:

    If only there were something that would inhale co2 and exhale oxygen.

  29. 1234imnotpooranymore says:

    He said ,”planting forests is hard” lol.

  30. AxiomV says:

    2:33 Is planting trees really that hard? I dont think so.

  31. Undeadgarlic says:

    Its easy: just plant more trees.

  32. Bryan Schafer says:

    Is this a real thing? What potential is there for this to become part of the solution?

  33. Donald Keating says:

    Don't plants do a better job?

  34. Jetoler says:

    lmao what if we just let the carbon leave into space lmao

  35. Johnny J says:

    Am I the only one that still has a problem blaming everything on Co2 a trace gas.

  36. skaltura says:

    Young trees are better in capturing Co2 than older trees, so planting new trees still makes sense 🙂 Infact, sustainably using wood is negative net co2 emissions.

  37. Ajit Ghising says:

    What if we capture co2 from the point where it goes to air I mean in every point where they throws out the gas so that they can filter the co2. we don’t have to think to capture from the air but we can filter and not let them escape to air.

  38. David Howells says:

    The problem can be summed up in one word: Thermodynamics.

  39. Christopher C says:

    Look up Carbon Cure

  40. amirbahalegharn365 says:

    we should use antimatter tools in (maybe need to use it in 4D) to get the job done.

  41. Mark Plumeau says:

    You you connect the top of a one way pump to a buie on top of the ocean that leads down to the sea floor. Since the valve on the bottom only lets water in the iron rich lower water will be pumped to the surface. Put this next to every oil rig, collect the algae and start launching the algae to Mars

  42. rubikfan1 says:

    you can also cool down the air to -80 or less. freezing the co2 out of the air. although this isnt realy energy efficient

  43. Chibi Nyra says:

    Man… if only we could put the "nets" directly on the "tail pipe" of the major GHG emmitters and make them pay for the energy and maintenance. Wanna pay less on sequestration? Then make less to sequester.

  44. Jake Clifford says:

    Instead of trying to capture it from the air, why not try to capture it from the source where it is much more dense? Like having the co2 from the plant in 0:12 filtered out. I assume this is what catalytic converters try to do but am not too sure.

  45. Wisam Zaqoot says:

    Reforestation is the easiest, cheapest and most effective solution. SULTANdootORG

  46. Rohit Hemnani says:

    Rather than capturing Co2 from the atmosphere where the concentration is 400 ppm why don't we capture it from the chimneys that are emitting them! I bet the concentration will be much higher there.

  47. Noel Connolly says:

    In Iceland, CO2 extracted from their geothermal power plants is captured and injected with water into porous rock which solidifies into stone. Perhaps the world needs to invest and upscale both those type of power plants and that process of solidifying carbon?

  48. Nico_Sama says:

    In other words stop eating so much meat and use your bike more often.

  49. IThinkWithMy Dick says:

    ENTROPY. 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Will ALWAYS require MORE energy to break apart those CO2 molecules and force that carbon back into the ground than was released when we burned that fossil fuels.

  50. Chitranshu Vashishth says:

    Correct me if I'm wrong. But I've read somewhere that some 20 or 30 cargo ships emit same amount of carbon or green house gasses as all the cars and vehicles in the world. Shouldn't we focus on the biggest contributors like big corporate giants, construction companies, cargo ships.

  51. Skidmark75 says:

    I have always found this global warming debate funny. The normal state of the planet is an ice ball, but it warms up every 100-120 thousand years. We are of course in that cycle now. But we would be lucky to warm the planet enough to escape the next ice ball.

  52. ipissed says:

    Every time a vegan eats a meal a tree gets chopped down.

  53. blackbusiness7 says:

    Pipe factory/power plant exhaust to NET capture facility. Just a thought.

  54. Veselka says:

    2:51 good comparison 😀 with tyger

  55. Robert Higgins says:

    Thank you, I know when I am outdone. 430 and 662nm must miss you.

  56. elbowdashizzle says:

    Once humankind can capture more sustainable energy than it consumes, it will have to use the surplus to power NETs to get back to pre-industrial era CO2 levels.

  57. Lord Aceldama says:

    did anyone else notice seeker wrote C02 instead of CO2? just me?
    2:11 – CO2
    2:14 – C02

  58. Mark Eisenhower says:


  59. skogsgud says:

    Co2 is good for us.Dont believe the Lies.

  60. SheLovesItWhenYouPullOutThatPhenomenalDissertation says:

    put it all back in the ground lol
    btw earth.nullschool dot net is a great site to look at how fkin much co2 there is in any particular area of the planet, google earth but more sciency

  61. Mess With Game says:

    Make carbonated drinks and force everyone to drink it

    PrObLeM sOlvE

  62. Hueborn says:

    Get everyone driving electric cars. Then strangle the energy markets with CO2 regulations. Remember the good old days when we use to complain about Gasoline being expensive. Now everything is electric, and electricity is more expensive than ever. This is such a great plan, I'm not sure why the elites didn't think of it earlier. Why just have high Gas prices, when you can make everything electric, then jack those prices thru the roof.

  63. The Ultimate Reductionist says:

    This is why we need President Skroob in charge: he'll steal another planet's air using mega-maid.
    Oh, wait. We already have a President Skroob/Boob in charge in the White House. I think that's the problem. 🙂

  64. TelosBudo says:

    How much GWh do these dedicated power plants produce 20,000? 40,000? 15,000?

  65. THENOOSCOPER says:

    2:07 that's EASY!, you just need an infinite energy device. that's all … haha! problem solved

  66. Laftis Kuno says:

    Why not capture it before it is release into the atmosphere and create energy/hydrogen/etc for the grid at the same time too.
    Nexo, this is a cities mobile air filter vehicle.

  67. john doe says:

    Or people will stop the fear mongering myths about nuclear power and realize we had the right idea about 70 years ago…

  68. Enoch Simpson says:

    This magical technology that you speak of that could turn the tide exists. It costs though. Its patented. The bill will be 50/ton to deploy globally. If the hedge funds who have the 200 trillion really want to put their money where their mouth is they'll pay up and the world will lose 50% of it's output within months of the start of the deployment of the tech to every city. Will they do it? We'll see! Non profit opens next month for the purpose of cutting 50% of global emissions within 5 years or less.

  69. The Ultimate Reductionist says:

    Because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Entropy. Gibbs Free Energy is negative for everything, especially carbon, combining with oxygen. Greater work energy is required to reverse the reaction.

  70. hdmat101 says:

    So we're all doomed 😨😔

  71. Mertens Lachs says:

    Methane is a bigger problem

  72. YANN FARMINE says:

    Capturing CO2 from air is a daunting task but capturing CO2 from the industries, cars, etc directly before it is rejected in the air is not that complex. It just requires investment to minimise getting rid of it in the air!

  73. pippaknuckle says:

    We're fucked.

  74. Puragus says:

    "That's like releasing a tiger to take care of your gorilla problem"

    Why? Why can't you make your 4 minute video SLIGHTLY longer just to expand on that point a little? I come here for information and you give me a quip.

  75. Jeremy Cornwell says:

    Really??? Dry ice machine!!!

  76. Nick9910 says:

    Multi level farms on barges placed outside harbors of major CO2 producing coastline cities? You could get cheaper fresh produce, while also cleaning the air. Could also make it so that you could plant trees where farms are currently

  77. swissgunner says:

    CO2 levels at 180ppm will kill life on the planet. At 800ppm plants thrive. Plants begin to suffer at 500ppm levels. Scientific fact. To be safe we need 1000ppm CO2 urgently. We are at 400ppm and that is dangerously low. Do your science. Stop with the hysteria.

  78. MetaSimian says:

    I read the other week that Melbourne University has invented a cerium nanoparticles (a liquid metal) that reacts with CO2, creating a solid carbon film on the surface of this liquid metal. Once the carbon gets heavy enough it falls off like a layer of skin and can be collected. If they can ramp up production of this it will easily become the dominant way to collect carbon.

  79. Tony Lillis says:

    there is no such thing as man made climate change!!

  80. S. Satinder Pal Singh says:

    More effective would be to control the population. The first step should be control and limit the population.

  81. Jarno L says:

    Or we start doing all of these as well?

  82. logan graham says:

    carbon nanotube come to mind.
    we wouldn't need so much energy if we could just increase the surface area.
    and we could also capture the co2 coming out at the sources where it is concentrated.
    instead of having power plants and vehicles push their exhaust directly out into the air why not compress the exhaust into containers then you could easily put that exhaust through some chemical bubblier and filter out the carbon that way

  83. عبدالله العنزي says:

    Why don't just use filters in every damn thing produces Co2 we can capture it on the spot instead of running after it like idiots
    Use NETs or what ever as a filter

  84. Safdar says:

    Amazing video. Thanks for this. At 3:59 From where does the number 400,000 come?

  85. BJ700 says:

    These people seem to think is very doable. REF: , however going on these figures, it sounds like EV and an electric driven economy is the future, which could mean some nuclear also.

  86. Cristobal Elorza says:

    -What if we created more oxygen and more nytogen to dilute C02
    -What if we concentrate C02 to a particular zone just for converting it there (example every factory has those big holes there, put something to grab the shit and then move it)
    -I need to know why plankton won´t work
    -Make more innovations in green side that make a ton of money and the market will change

    I do not know shit about science and don´t expect this could be done but i need a scientist to read this

  87. olan levan says:

    Capture it at the source like a CO2 muffler. No need to 'strain', the atmosphere. Just design a CO2 muffler for every engine..problem solved..petes sakes

  88. A Mohamed Nazel says:

    just get the public to plant fruit trees weekly or daily…train them in schools and the media, workplace, etc and subsidize plant cuttings introduce planting technologies and encourage the public to solve these problems,, solar panels, wind turbines, etc

  89. JoyZoneTech says:

    why we need technologies like NETs when we have technologies like TREEs

  90. jordan h says:

    Why not develop efficient carbon collection as part of a system that can be added to carbon producers. The system would focus on using energy released from the carbon producers operations and from wind, solar, etc. to capture carbon for sale. Maybe a dirty plant places extractors on its stacks and uses excess heat, and some other existing source to create the energy to complete the circulation of extraction fluids.

    If these aren't sufficient, why not work on improving nuclear technologies to power extraction?

    Since countries like China produce the majority of carbon emissions, why not concentrate efforts on developing countries and emerging markets instead of uniformly, including developed countries with new, efficient machines and regulation on systems producing excessive emissions? Conservationist should focus areas of high densities of emissions to be efficient with their limited resources and look toward ways other than tax and donation to fund projects. If you could generate returns from capturing carbon, you would do so in absence of pigouvian tax or perhaps even to lower tax payout.

  91. ankita kaushal says:

    Thank u for making this vedio

  92. The Spectosphere says:

    Nuclear power..

  93. Daniel Kitchka says:

    i wish the world will band together and create 40k solar/wind power plants and dedicate them to saving the air.
    the planet itself doesn't need to be saved, it will correct itself and create new life billions of years after we destroy it.
    it is life, that needs to be saved by us, and we have a small window to do it now, or else we won't be able to stop the downfall later.

  94. Andels History says:

    What about taking that co2 that we need to get rid of and sending it off to Mars to try and build its atmosphere?

  95. Cirno says:

    They want to force us back to the 1800s and regulate away our lifestyle whike they still have the tech to oppress us.

  96. Xxochyy says:

    Water is greenhouse gas. So we have to turn water into stone.

  97. Xxochyy says:

    I always thought it was the sun that warmed? Now I understand that it is CO2 that gets me warm.
    Love co2 ….

  98. JokerReaperComedy says:

    Hey buddy. There's a thing called nuclear reactors. Just build that in the middle of nowhere and have that ran for a few generations. Eventually climate change will dissipate. Unless anyone else has a better idea to power these machines, like try and build it in thermal vents or a damn volcano, my idea is better.

  99. then benagcz says:

    Farming needs co2 !!

  100. Richard Hare says:

    The real reason it is so hard is because there is so little of it in the atmosphere… though environmentalists don't like that inconvenient truth!

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