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The Editors

Is Carbon Removal Finally Getting Serious?

In a field long plagued by hype and high costs, new startups are showing real promise. The question is whether they can scale up in time.

It’s a start.

It’s a start.

Photographer: Arnaldur Halldorsson/Bloomberg

Fitfully, fretfully, the world is beginning to decarbonize. Fossil-fuel demand is likely to peak in the next few years. Solar and wind energy are growing ever cheaper. Related technology, such as battery storage, has improved dramatically. In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cited “signs of progress” — by its standards, an expression of effusive optimism.

Unfortunately, this progress won’t be enough on its own. Averting the worst-case climate scenarios will likely require not just reducing emissions but also removing huge quantities of carbon from the atmosphere — some 21.5 billion tons of it by 2050, according to BloombergNEF. As things stand, carbon removal is costly, inefficient and difficult to scale. Yet promising new technologies provide reason for optimism. Governments can do more to help them succeed.