CO2 Capture

Two and a half years ago, I wrote down my best guess for what will happen regarding climate change:

  1. We should try to minimize CO2 emissions.
  2. But, given the incentive structure, we'll most likely fail to eliminate enough, quickly enough.
  3. Since cost of geo-engineering the atmosphere to let through less sunshine is low, at least one actor (private or government entity) will most likely attempt to cool down the planet, at least temporarily ("put sunglasses on the planet").

A month ago, some new data and claims came out on CO2 capture technologies, suggesting that the cost of removing a ton of CO2 could be closer to $100-200, rather than the $600 we had long thought was the minimum cost we could achieve.

$100-$200/ton is still more expensive than what it costs us to reduce our emissions by a ton (~$80). So most people dismissed the new findings as interesting, but not particularly impactful.

They're missing the point though. As Noah Smith articulated in his excellent tweet storm, CO2 Capture gets cheaper with scale, whereas the cost of reducing our emissions gets exponentially more expensive with every ton.

I'm cautiously optimistic about the potential of CO2 Capture — as a research field, and maybe even as an industry.