Michael Braungart and Douglas Mulhall, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Criteria for the Built Environment, paint a very pessimistic future for carbon management. Cancun and Durban have both produced few results, and Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol has put the treaty out of its misery. No formal agreements on sustainable growth have been reached between developing and developed countries. Non-governmental solutions are just as fruitless: the carbon market is nothing more than a transfer of certificates to temper a crisis, while carbon capture and storage is not available for widespread use and is a short-term solution.
While everyone knows the dangers of letting carbon dioxide production go unchecked, no counter-measures are being implemented.
Braungart and Mulhall believe that at this point, the only solution is to embrace carbon dioxide and use it like the bountiful resource it is. Indeed, CO2 could be used as an agricultural, industrial and even environmental tool.
The most researched application is underground and underwater “farming”, which consists of injecting CO2 in forests or lakes with large populations of micro-algaes. Algaes are some of the most efficient carbon wells, and can “store up to 50% of their weight in dioxides and have 30 times the [oxygen] production of their land counterparts, such as soja.” This forced cycle can purify air and water at a much faster rate while leaving no detrimental effects behind.
Adding to this, large quanitities of carbon dioxide could be combined with methane to create a “biogas” which could be used as raw energy and a subsitute for burning wood.
On the long-term, carbon nano-structures can replace rare metals in everyday construction. These are, of course, no longer in their toxic airborne form but rather in a solid state, “much like glass or steel.”
Essentially, much of the treatment of carbon dioxide treats it as dangerous waste, when it can also be used as a purifying and rebuilding tool. As it is, for a fee the energy sector removes carbon dioxide and buries it in remote connections. As it could be, carbon dioxide would be treated as an integral part of an environmental system built to improve everyone’s life.
Read here the full article (source in French):
"Point de vue : le CO2, une ressource"
Published on EllenMacArthurfoundation.org, by Braungart and Mulhall - March 1, 2012