The world’s biggest tech companies are getting serious about carbon removal, the still-nascent technology wherein humanity can pull heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Yesterday, an alliance of prominent Silicon Valley companies—including Google, Meta, Shopify, and the payment company Stripe—announced that it is purchasing $925 million in carbon removal over the next eight years. In a world awash in overhyped corporate climate commitments, this is actually a big deal.

The purchases, which will be made by a new Stripe-owned company called Frontier, will dwarf any previous efforts of their type. In 2020, Stripe announced that it would spend $1 million buying carbon-removal credits—at the time, the largest purchase ever. Since then, Stripe and its customers have spent about $15 million on carbon removal. Now Frontier is vowing to increase it by a factor of 60.

Carbon removal will not solve climate change by itself. To avoid the most catastrophic effects of warming, we must reduce carbon pollution as fast as possible. That means phasing out fossil fuels, adopting clean energy, and switching to public transit and electric vehicles. But even in situations where humanity aggressively reduces its carbon pollution, some carbon removal is now “essential” to zeroing out emissions: This was one of the headline findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report from last week. Even the IPCC’s most conservative estimates say that humanity will need to capture more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year to keep the planet’s average temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above its pre-industrial level, an already unlikely proposition. The median estimate is an even more onerous 6 billion tons a year.

Source: Atlantic - Robinson Meyer

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