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Faye Flam

Bet on Carbon Capture (But Not Only on Carbon Capture)

The winning strategy against climate change will involve pulling greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere, eliminating dirty fuels like coal and adding renewable energy.

Curb and capture.

Curb and capture.

Photographer: Shammi Mehra/AFP, via Getty Images

It’s past time to start investing in technology to suck carbon out of the atmosphere — at the source of carbon emissions, and, ultimately, directly from the air. There have been enough small-scale demonstrations that show so-called carbon capture can work, and enough independent reports showing that we can’t avoid dangerous global warming without it. The technology won’t go far without government help: subsidies, infrastructure investments and policy changes that would make carbon capture schemes potentially profitable.

The downside is that people may hold out the possibility of carbon capture as a reason to delay cutting emissions, as a spokesperson for the coal industry did this week in a New York Times story about the latest report from the U.N. climate panel. What’s become clear in the last few months is there’s no choice between eliminating the dirtiest fuels and enacting carbon capture. We’ve got to do it all, now: phase out coal, move to renewables and capture carbon.