A technology that once existed only in science fiction may soon emerge as a viable solution to climate change. The City of Flagstaff has added carbon dioxide removal to its plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
Flagstaff officials say that once the technology is proven and deployed, it will extract and neutralize carbon and other pollutants from the atmosphere.
In recent years, significant progress has been made in the development of systems capable of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Ramon Alatorre is climate and energy coordinator for the northern Arizona city. He said he could be one of the first in the country to implement a climate plan to capture and store carbon dioxide.
“We can reduce as much as we can, but we’re still going to produce shows,” Alatorre said. “And so there will, of necessity, be the other half of the equation. To be net zero, we’re going to have to remove emissions from the atmosphere.”
Alatorre said demonstration projects in Iceland and around the world show promise, but are not yet ready for commercial deployment.
He said his office was also working closely with the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University to develop CDR technology.
Alatorre said Flagstaff was part of the Four Corners Coalition with other governments in the region – including Boulder County, Colorado – seeking to secure the new technology when it becomes available.
“If we join Boulder and half a dozen other communities,” Alatorre said. “And suddenly we have an aggregate demand and an aggregate pool of resources that could really attract someone who wouldn’t have looked at Flagstaff on our own.”
Alatorre said that while communities such as Flagstaff will eventually use a variety of solutions to remove greenhouse gases, he believes CDR will play a major role in cleaning up the atmosphere.
He said while the technology can be expensive, the cost of not addressing climate change could be much higher.
“Cost curve bending could definitely be achieved by mid-century if we start now,” Alatorre said. “But that we need those early projects to kick-start the process, that it’s really going to be deployment-focused innovation that will drive down costs and future scalability.”
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