Use the future to build the present
Negative Emission Technologies
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Sub-Field:

3.1.1Negative Emission Technologies

At the current CO2 emission rate and its projected growth, which will stem from continued population growth and the industrialisation of developing countries, it is projected that the world is headed for a catastrophic temperature rise above 3°C in this century.7 In fact, there is already so much CO2 in the atmosphere that simply reducing emissions is no longer sufficient; the effort now requires the implementation of “negative emissions technologies” (NETs) that can extract carbon directly from the atmosphere. NETs can both impact past emissions and also help manage those emissions from small, dispersed sources, like automobiles.

Examples of NETs include nature-based solutions such as afforestation, reforestation, and the use of agricultural soils that can take up and store carbon; of the various proposals made to date, these technologies are included in a short list of NETs that are sufficiently developed to remove carbon from the atmosphere for less than $100 per tonne.8 Unfortunately, these technologies also require rapid and widespread changes in forest and soil management practices. Unfortunately, many past programs, meant to provoke landowners to change their behaviour, have been unsuccessful. So, transforming how society manages its land is no small challenge. Given this, other proposals regarding NETs have been made. These include activities such as extracting CO2 directly from the atmosphere using chemical interactions, a process called direct air capture (DAC). In this case, the CO2 would be extracted from air and subsequently sequestered underground for long term storage.9 Unfortunately, DAC is still in its early stages, making it too expensive at the moment. Like other NETs, DAC also must be combined with a robust carbon-pricing system, which mandates that emitters pay for the greenhouse gases that they produce as a cost for “clean up”. Such carbon pricing is key, as it can help pay for the capture process and promote NET optimisation; the latter can reduce the economic cost associated with removing carbon from the atmosphere, and hence, help to eventually develop a CO2 market that might further incentivise the adoption of NETs.

Image credit: Climeworks direct air capture plant to sky image is © Climework, by Julia Dunlop

Future Horizons:

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5-yearhorizon

The development of a CO2 market

With the anticipated reduction of the price of carbon capture for selected NETs to below $100 per tonne of CO2,10 the global CO2 market will start becoming attractive for private actors. From a technology standpoint, experts do not expect game-changing developments at 5 years but rather incremental improvements to make those technologies more efficient and better integrated into the so-called circular economy. With continued reduction in the cost of captured CO2, we can begin to move towards its utilisation in the production of a variety of value-added products. Nevertheless, investments into start-ups and scale-up activities will be increasing quickly, on the prospects of a commercially competitive market. All of these developments are expected to accelerate if there is a global consensus on a carbon price that is sufficiently high that investments in CO2 emission reductions become profitable.

10-yearhorizon

Mining CO2 from the air is commercially viable

By combining solar energy and various CO2 extraction methods, including newly developed approaches to DAC, the production of synthetic fuels from carbon is becoming commercially viable. DAC is boosted via economic and policy incentivisation.

25-yearhorizon

Large-scale CO2 capture and utilisation begins

Breakthroughs in DAC and conversion technologies now allow large industrial scale applications where CO2 is captured from air and converted into synthetic fuels and other value-added chemicals.

Negative Emission Technologies - Anticipation Scores

How the experts see this field in terms of the expected time to maturity, transformational effect across science and industries, current state of awareness among stakeholders and its possible impact on people, society and the planet. See methodology for more information.

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