Questions for ‘Engineers cook up new way to tackle too much carbon dioxide: Make baking soda’ 

steam coming out of a coal-fired power plant chimney as seen from a distance

Steam is seen leaving this coal-fired power plant’s chimneys. They emit a lot of climate-warming carbon dioxide, too — which you can’t see. A new tech could filter this greenhouse gas from the air and put it in a form safe enough to shed in ocean water.

Adam Smigielski/iStock/Getty Images Plus

To accompany Engineers cook up new way to tackle too much CO2: Make baking soda’  


Before Reading:

  1. Why is too much carbon dioxide — or CO2 — in the atmosphere a problem? Describe two ways that humans try to manage the amount of atmospheric CO2 today. 
  2. What are the three states of matter commonly found on Earth? In which form is CO2 usually found? Which of these three states of matter do you associate most closely with climate change? Imagine you could change CO2 into another state of matter. Would you predict this ability would affect the global climate-change problem? If so, how? Explain your answer.
  3. The chemical name for baking soda — a common kitchen chemical and baking ingredient — is sodium bicarbonate. The chemical formula for sodium bicarbonate is NaHCO3. This chemical formula contains four chemical symbols: Na, H, C and O. Based on this formula, what are the names of the four elements that make up baking soda? (Look it up on a periodic table if you aren’t sure.) Now consider CO2. From what two elements is this chemical composed? Which elements do carbon dioxide and sodium bicarbonate have in common?

During Reading:

  1. Summarize Arup SenGupta’s approach to tackling the CO2 problem in one sentence.
  2. How does the air that exits SenGupta’s new device differ from the air that enters? 
  3. How might the addition of sodium bicarbonate benefit our oceans?
  4. What does the acronym IPCC stand for? What does this group hope to achieve? 
  5. What are DAC technologies? When this story was written, how many DACs were operating in the United States, Europe and Canada?
  6. Describe one potential problem with scaling up this new technology. 

After Reading:

  1. Imagine that you are a scientist researching the technology described in this story. But you need money, so you plan to ask the government to fund your research. Please write a short letter to persuade a government entity to grant you this money. In your letter, explain the value of such technology. Also, predict a concern they might have about this research. Address that concern in your letter and explain why a better understanding of such technology will benefit people.  
  2. Based on your reading, what are the two main approaches for managing CO2 levels in the atmosphere? With which of these approaches are you most familiar? Or in other words, which of these approaches do you hear about more in your daily life? Why do you think this approach is the one that’s most talked-about? In your opinion, how important is it to develop technology to tackle both approaches? Explain your reasoning.