Maybe one day a story will be told.

It could be a heroic epic, as full of magic as the country in which it began, for it heralds how an impending global catastrophe was averted at the last moment.

And this is how the story could begin: Brave men from the land of mountains went up to the land of fire and ice to make stone out of air - and thus save the earth.

Kitschy?

Certainly.

Nevertheless, the project that is currently being developed in Iceland could develop into a fabulous story in the fight against climate change.

Andreas Frey

Freelance writer in the science of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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So far, however, only dozen of fans are turning in the green mountains of the island in the North Atlantic.

The setting is on a plain a few kilometers from the capital Reykjavik.

In this wasteland, the Swiss start-up Climeworks, headed by two German engineers, built the system that is considered to be the great hope for effective climate protection.

"Orca" is what the main characters called the project, after the Icelandic word "Orka" for "energy".

The huge fans filter the climate-damaging carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere before it is pressed into the depths in a neighboring system and solidified into stone.

They get their electricity from geothermal energy in a climate-neutral way.

The exact procedure is of course much more complicated and the costs are still far too high, and numerous obstacles pave the way to saving the world. And yet: if you ask around among industry representatives and climate researchers, you will feel the confidence. The direct air capture process, as the large CO2 filters are called, could become the new big thing in the fight against climate change. Orca is the largest facility of its kind to date and, in principle, a way in which the world could still reach the 1.5-degree target - and prevent the worst climatic consequences.

To avoid any misunderstanding: the air filters are not a way to maintain the use of fossil fuels. The emissions have to go to zero - one way or the other. It is too complicated and expensive to separate carbon dioxide from the air and store it permanently. Be it in water, moors, wood - or even in the rock. It is also true, however, that even an immediate stop to the burning of fossil fuels is no longer enough to meet the Paris climate targets. Humanity will not be able to stop the rise in temperature for the time being, as the latest world climate report made it unmistakably clear. To limit the warming to 1.5 degrees, mankind has already released too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As a result, the planet has warmed by 1.2 degrees, and in just a few years the CO2 budget,that is left for the 1.5 degree target must be exceeded.

The climate report therefore suggests a dual strategy: avoidance and extraction. But there is another reason for the latter: Climate research must assume that greenhouse gas emissions cannot be reduced to zero in all industries, or more precisely: to net zero. Because the emission of carbon dioxide, methane or nitrous oxide can hardly be avoided in the fertilizer and cement industry or in animal husbandry.

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