Carbon Engineering, a startup based in British Columbia, has big plans for this planet. Under the direction of Harvard physicist David Keith, Carbon Engineering aims to construct an industrial plant capable of capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air. Global Thermostat in NYC and Climeworks in Sweden also are in the business of carbon sequestration. These companies imagine a future in which this captured CO2 is processed into low-carbon fuel to be consumed locally. The companies have attracted some financial support from the rich and powerful, though they are still in the early phases of R&D.

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Though a future of captured carbon may come to pass, marketing this potentially life-saving technology is proving difficult in the present. As of yet, no one is paying the companies to pull carbon dioxide from the air. Though carbon dioxide could be sold to soda companies or greenhouses for plant growth, the mass production and distribution of synthetic fuels remains the primary goal. “How do you power global transportation in 20 years in a way that is carbon neutral?” says Geoff Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering. “Cheap solar and wind are great at reducing emissions from the electricity. Then you are left with the transport sector.”

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In the end, carbon removal technology may be funded simply because global civilization has run out of options. “Scientists are increasingly convinced that we are going to need large scale removal systems to fight climate change,” says Noah Deich of the nonprofit Center for Carbon Removal. “I’m excited about direct air capture. It could be a really important technology to add to the portfolio.”

Via the Guardian

Images via Theo Heimann/AFP/Getty Images and Carbon Engineering