Tech for carbon removal requires mammoth resources (& tight schedule)

Carbon Removal 2 YouTube Thumbnail

Here’s a note from Josh Margolis about this article:

Think we can tech our way out of this climate crisis relying upon direct air capture (DAC)? Visualize this:

➖Globally there are just 18 (some say 26) DAC operating facilities
➖Altogether, these facilities can capture just 0.01 million tonnes of CO2.
➖By 2030, the International Energy Agency (IEA) tells us that DAC plants must remove 85 million tonnes of CO2.
➖By 2050, that total must rise to 980 million tonnes of CO2.

To realize these lofty objectives — in addition to halving emissions by 2030 and zeroing them out by 2050:
➖Along with sufficient pipelines, we’ll need to locate, permit, fund, and build >30 new DAC plants each year, on average.
➖Each of those plants must be able to draw down 1 million tonnes of CO2 a year, for a total of 980 million tonnes per year in 2050.
➖Don’t take that 1 million tonne capacity for granted. Let us remember that Climeworks AG raised $650 million to scale up its DAC capacity — going from 4,000 to 40,000 tonnes per year.
➖For the sake of discussion, here’s a crude back of the envelope on that to-be-built $650M Climeworks facility:
• $650,000,000 capital
• 40,000 tonnes per year
• $16,250/tpy
• $1,625/tonne after 10 years

So, we are woefully behind schedule. While important it would be folly — bordering on recklessness — to stake our future on the hope that DAC will scale in a timely fashion.

What’s the best way to deliver results? Policy interventions that feature:
➖A series of science-based, declining, transparent, enforceable, and economy-wide caps that will deliver sufficient, necessary, and timely reductions.
➖A government administrator that has the ability to accurately monitor sources and the willingness to impose consequential penalties on scofflaws.
➖Because we have limited financial, temporal, and carbon budgets, a trading element that encourages accelerated and over-compliance…that turns waste managers into profit seekers.
➖An auction mechanism that provides a price signal and revenues that can be used to:
(i) ease the low carbon transition;
(ii) address environmental justice needs; and
(iii) provide monies that are used to address the needs of the current plebiscite and future generations.
➖An offset system that:
(i) provides results-based climate finance;
(ii) is jurisdictional in nature;
(iii) ensures sources outside of the cap will be incentivized to deliver high-quality offsets while also demonstrating the viability of new technologies;
(iv) provides sources with a price-relief valve; and
(v) slows and reverses deforestation and protects other nature-based sinks.
➖A firm commitment with near-term metrics to zero-out fossil fuel subsidies ($909 billion in 2017).

Hope is not a strategy. We incrementalized our way into the climate crisis. We cannot face it using a similar strategy. Climate politics is not a spectator sport. Elect progressive leaders. If you can’t find any…run for office.