Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) has been much in the news of late, with the U.S. Department of Energy’s announcement in August 2023 of the first $1.2B of $3.5B eventual funding for Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hubs. Alongside a strong prioritization of deep reductions of global greenhouse gas emissions, the 2023 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report has stated that gigatonne-scale carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is an “unavoidable” component of the climate mitigation necessary to reach net zero by 2050 and have any chance to limit warming to 1.5 or even 2°C. The website cdr.fyi reports that (as of October 2023) total delivery of CDR to date is approximately 114,000 tonnes – an important start, but a far cry from what is necessary.
Scaling high-quality CDR to the multiple gigatonnes that will be required annually by mid-century will be a massive task. Success will require a portfolio approach that encompasses not only DAC but also land-based soil and forest carbon sinks; biomass-based carbon removal and storage (BiCRS); marine carbon dioxide removal (mCDR); mineralization-based approaches – as well as emergent and potentially as yet undiscovered methods. It is critical that public policy, R&D funding, and private-market buyers consider and support this full range of approaches, particularly those with the potential to scale quickly, in the immediate term, and at low cost.
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