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Negative Emission Technologies: can we learn from the Ancient Egyptians how to manage the global commons?

Negative Emission Technologies: can we learn from the Ancient Egyptians how to manage the global commons?

The ancient Egyptians knew how to manage the commons. A single central authority managed the Nile river, to make sure that everybody had enough water for their needs. Could we do the same for our atmospheric commons? Above, a Pharaoh (probably Ramses II) receives the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Before I went to hear Klaus Lackner in Les Houches in March 2018 (image on the right), I had a very poor opinion of direct atmospheric capture (DAC) and negative emission technologies (NET).  If you had asked me, I would have said that there is no need for these technologies: why can’t we just avoid emissions, instead of trying to remedy a situation that we didn’t need to create? And, besides, if you were to tell me about “artificial trees,” I would have told you that Mother Nature spent some 350 million years to develop trees, and She knows better than us how to remove CO2 from the air.

Well, I changed my mind. I came out of Lackner’s seminar convinced that DAC/NET may give us a fighting chance to survive. Consider that it is perfectly possible that we already passed the “tipping point” that will lead Earth’s climate to move to a different climate state. In that case, reducing emissions or even zeroing them will not help us. And, in any case, we are not doing that fast enough. So, DAC/NET as the last hope to save civilization? (*) Possible and even likely. Let me explain.

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