Chevron, Occidental Petroleum and BHP have invested in Carbon Engineering, a start-up developing technology to take carbon out of the atmosphere.
New York Times
SQUAMISH, British Columbia — Everyone knows an electric fan can make people feel cooler on a steamy day. But could fans moderate the planet’s rising temperatures?
Some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies would like to find out.
Chevron, Occidental Petroleum and the Australian mining giant BHP this year have invested in Carbon Engineering, a small Canadian company that claims to be on the verge of a breakthrough in solving a critical climate change puzzle: removing carbon already in the atmosphere.
At its pilot project in Squamish, an old lumber town about 30 miles north of Vancouver, the company is using an enormous fan to suck large amounts of air into a scrubbing vessel designed to extract carbon dioxide. The gas can then be buried or converted into a clean-burning — though expensive — synthetic fuel.
Investing in Carbon Engineering and other carbon-reduction initiatives is part of an emerging effort by fossil-fuel industries to remain relevant and profitable in a warming world. With electric cars and solar and wind power becoming increasingly affordable, executives acknowledge that business as usual could put their companies at risk.
By local standards, Alaska has been sweltering this spring. Temperature records have been set across the state, including in Kotzebue, where the thermometer reached 42 degrees Fahrenheit on the last day of March — 30 degrees above normal.
On Tuesday the unusual statewide warmth was confirmed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which released data showing that, overall, March temperatures were as much as 20 degrees above historical averages.
The heat is an extreme example of the general climate-change trend in the state, which shows that the Arctic is warming roughly twice as fast as other parts of the world. Northern Alaska is no stranger to temperature anomalies: In November 2017, readings in Utqiagvik, on the North Slope, were so high that NOAA’s computers rejected them as faulty.
After a tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan eight years ago today, triggering the meltdowns of three reactors, many believed it would result in a public health catastrophe.
“By now close to one million people have died of causes linked to the Chernobyl disaster,” wrote Helen Caldicott, an Australian medical doctor, in The New York Times. Fukushima could “far exceed Chernobyl in terms of the effects on public health.”
Many pro-nuclear people came to believe that the accident was proof that the dominant form of nuclear reactor, which is cooled by water, is fatally flawed. They called for radically different kinds of reactors to make the technology “inherently safe.”
But now, eight years after Fukushima, the best-available science clearly shows that Caldicott’s estimate of the number of people killed by nuclear accidents was off by one million. Radiation from Chernobyl will kill, at most, 200 people, while the radiation from Fukushima and Three Mile Island will kill zero people.
In other words, the main lesson that should be drawn from the worst nuclear accidents is that nuclear energy has always been inherently safe.
The Invading Sea is a non-partisan source for news, commentary and educational content about climate change and other environmental issues affecting Florida. The site is managed by Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. Read more