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What is the best technology to capture carbon dioxide?
What is the best technology to capture carbon dioxide? We do not even know if humans are producing excessive amounts of CO2. The past 150 years or so has seen a great increase in the burning of fossil fuels, but before this period atmospheric CO2 was higher than it had been for 800,000 years (and possibly three million years). If we were to return to pre-industrial levels there would be little change on global temperature and sea level: . It is difficult therefore to treat excess human emissions as a major cause of climate change.
The main argument that humans are responsible for climate change is based on the perceived increase in temperature caused by human CO2. But this has occurred too slowly to be a cause (the planet’s response to any forcing, such as increased heating effect of CO2 or decreased solar output, takes at least several decades). The rate of warming over the past 50 years is well within normal variation: . There may have been an acceleration in warming during recent decades but we cannot be certain until 2060 or so.
As for human-caused CO2, the current concentration is a tiny 0.04 percent of all gases in Earth’s atmosphere: . The effect of this increase on global temperature would be minimal if it were true (perhaps 1 degree Celsius). It is difficult to believe that such an insignificant change could cause climate changes of any significance.
The effect of CO2 on the climate could be positive rather than negative. It is a greenhouse gas, but it also reflects away some radiation that would otherwise have reached Earth – this has been suggested as a possible reason why Venus is too hot for life.
By far the most important source of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere is not human activity but natural processes, especially photosynthesis by plants. This produces about 2.5 times as much CO2 as humans.
A 2011 paper by the US Department of Energy (DOE) calculated that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels for energy have produced a net reduction in atmospheric CO2 over the past decade: . This is because plants absorb carbon during photosynthesis and release it when they die, decompose and become food for other organisms.