Skip to content

Musk and Google Add to $2 Billion Boost for Carbon Removal

The delay in cutting emissions is opening up opportunities for technologies that promise to undo climate damage.

relates to Musk and Google Add to $2 Billion Boost for Carbon Removal
Illustration: Charlotte Pollet for Bloomberg Businessweek

The path to tackling climate change used to be fairly straightforward: Cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero, and global temperatures would start to stabilize. But straightforward doesn’t mean cheap, convenient, or politically expedient, and nations have dragged their feet so much that scientists now say we risk a climate catastrophe even if we reach zero emissions in the next couple of decades. That’s why, after years of discussion and development, the idea of removing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it where it can’t reenter the atmosphere is gaining momentum.

The need for carbon removal—a task that’s far more difficult than trapping gases at the top of smokestacks—is “unavoidable” if the world is to reach global temperature targets, according to an April report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And the European Union has set a goal of increasing use of the technology a thousandfold within a decade. “We need to get to zero emissions globally and then go negative by a significant amount,” says Niall Mac Dowell, an energy systems engineer at Imperial College London. “To fully compensate for the damage to the planet, you need to permanently remove the CO₂ from the atmosphere.”