By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The idea of removing carbon dioxide from the air by sucking emissions from the atmosphere has been a pipe dream for environmental scientists for years – but there are some who believe the moment for these giant vacuums has arrived.

(credit: ClimeWorks)

These vacuums, which look like a wall of giant airplane turbines, are already being used at more than a dozen sites around the world.

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“There’s something like 14 sites around the world, they look like large sets of jet airplane engines that suck air and carbon and they grab the carbon out of the air,” Ken Alex, director of Project Climate at the Center for Law, Energy and Environment at UC Berkeley, said in a Zoom interview. He says the largest of these vacuums takes 4,000 tons of carbon out of atmosphere a year, but that’s just a drop in the bucket considering that California, which is responsible for just 1% of the world’s emissions, outputs 425 million tons of carbon a year.

“The scale of this has to be significantly larger than it is now to make a big difference,” Alex said.

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The biggest obstacle to setting up more of these giant vacuums is cost, but the hope is that those prices will eventually come down as they did for solar panels and electric panels.

Rajinder Sahota, deputy executive officer for climate change and research at the California Resources Board, believes the investment in such technology will happen this decade.

“We as a state are actually geologically set up very well for not just pulling carbon out of the atmosphere, but also storing it permanently in the ground,” Sahota said.

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Carbon, which contributes to warming the planet and accelerating climate change, can be used to make things like plastic and fuel.