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Welcome to Hitting the Books. With less than one in five Americans reading just for fun these days, we've done the hard work for you by scouring the internet for the most interesting, thought provoking books on science and technology we can find and delivering an easily digestible nugget of their stories.
Grow out your apocalypse beard and strap on your doomsday sandwich board, we're all gonna die! Humanity has always lived on knife edge, our species perpetually one war, one plague, one eruption, one meteor strike away from extinction. But should our species kick the bucket during the 21st century, it may well be through our own actions.
End Times by Bryan Walsh takes an unflinching look at the myriad ways the world might end -- from planet-smashing asteroids and humanity-smothering supervolcanoes to robotic revolutions and hyper-intelligent AIs. In the excerpt below, Walsh examines the work of environmental researcher Klaus Lackner and his efforts to combat climate change by sucking carbon straight from the air.
It might be the German accent, but Klaus Lackner has a way of speaking that lends an air of authority to his statements, even when what he's suggesting seems to be science fiction. "If you asked me fifteen years ago," Lackner told me from his lab in Tempe, Arizona, "I would have said we need to figure out how to stabilize what we're doing to the atmosphere by reducing carbon emissions. Now I'm telling you we're way past that. We have to change carbon levels directly."
Lackner is the director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University and an academic leader what will be one of the most important fields of the future: carbon capture. Lackner is working to build machines capable of capturing and storing carbon dioxide in the air, a process called carbon sequestration. While most climate policy focuses on cutting future carbon emissions by replacing fossil fuel energy consumption with zero-carbon renewables or even nuclear power, Lackner aims to reduce current levels of carbon dioxide directly by sucking the gas out of the air. If it can be done -- and if it can be done affordably -- it would be nothing less than a technological miracle. And as Lackner himself says, we're at the point where we need miracles.
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