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Jan Wurzbacher, director and founder of Climeworks, says the company has planet-altering ambitions by cutting costs to about 0 a tonne and capturing one percent of global man-made carbon emissions a year by 2025.
“Since the Paris Agreement, the business substantially changed,” he said, with a shift in investor and shareholder interest away from industrial uses of carbon to curbing climate change.
Among new university research, a Harvard geo-engineering project into dimming sunlight to cool the planet set up in 2016 has raised .5 million from private donors.
It plans a first outdoor experiment in 2018 above Arizona.
But UN data show that current plans for cuts in emissions will be insufficient, especially without the United States, and that the world will have to switch to net “negative emissions” this century by extracting carbon from nature.
Riskier “geo-engineering” solutions could be a backstop, such as dimming the world's sunshine, dumping iron into the oceans to soak up carbon, or trying to create clouds.
That might appeal to a company wanting to be on forefront of a new green technology, he said, even though it makes no apparent economic sense.Other companies involved in direct air capture include Carbon Engineering in Canada, Global Thermostat in the United States and Skytree in the Netherlands, a spin-off of the European Space Agency originally set up to find ways to filter out carbon dioxide breathed out by astronauts in spacecrafts.The Paris Agreement seeks to limit a rise in world temperatures this century to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial times.If buried underground, vast amounts of greenhouse gases extracted from the air would help reduce global temperatures, a radical step beyond cuts in emissions that are the main focus of the Paris Agreement.Climeworks reckons it now costs about 0 to extract a tonne of carbon dioxide from the air and the plant's full capacity due by the end of 2017 is only 900 tonnes a year.
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That's equivalent to the annual emissions of only 45 Americans.