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Climate Adaptation

Inside Microsoft’s Mission to Go Carbon Negative

Can the unproven technology Lucas Joppa is betting on arrest the climate crisis in time?

Lucas Joppa on a trail at his North Bend, Wash., home in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. His work-from-home view includes bears and bobcats.

Lucas Joppa on a trail at his North Bend, Wash., home in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. His work-from-home view includes bears and bobcats.

Photographer: Grant Hindsley for Bloomberg Green

Over the past four years, Lucas Joppa, Microsoft Corp.’s 37-year-old chief environmental officer, has dislocated and broken one shoulder, separated the other one, broken his right wrist, and also broken his left thumb. In early May he was pretty sure his right thumb was broken, but his hand surgeon said it was a torn ligament. It’s not that he’s clumsy or reckless—he calculates that, given the amount of time he spends on a bike or skis, his “error rate” is about 0.08%—it’s just that he has a tendency not to look before he jumps.

It’s this tolerance for risk—and falling—that makes him well-suited for the unprecedented task that lies ahead. In January, Microsoft pledged to be carbon negative (removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits) by 2030 and to spend $1 billion on a climate investment fund, much of it aimed at bolstering carbon-removal tech, a nascent field with lots of big ideas but only a handful of companies that are trying it. It was a statement of intent more than a concrete plan. Right now none of this is possible. Joppa and his colleagues are all too aware they can’t wait to act until everything is certain. The fund plans to announce its first investment later this year.