The Challenge of Scaling Negative Emissions

The Challenge of Scaling Negative Emissions

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Carbon capture plant
March 3, 2020

The author of the first text book on carbon capture looks at the potential for negative emissions technologies to limit global warming, and discusses the challenge to scaling solutions for positive climate impact.

Negative emissions technologies are a key part of the strategy to keep global warming within the 2 degree Celsius target set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. In fact, it's projected that we’ll need to remove dramatic quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year to keep within the Paris goal. Yet today negative emissions hardly exists in any practical sense, and major barriers to growth lie ahead in the form of high costs, environmental impacts and political support.

Jennifer Wilcox, professor of Chemical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and author of the very first text book on carbon capture, talks about the challenge of scaling negative emissions technologies to the point at which they can meaningfully limit carbon dioxide concentrations in Earth’s atmosphere. Along the way, she looks at how the challenge of scaling negative emissions recalls early barriers to growing the wind and solar industries, and at recent efforts to speed the deployment of negative emissions technologies including direct air capture.

Jennifer Wilcox is professor of Chemical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She is a member of committees at the National Academies of Sciences and the American Physical Society charged with assessing carbon capture methods, their costs, and their climate impacts.