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DAC requires an interdisciplinary approach

(Photo: Andrew Neel)

A journey to direct air capture

I studied environmental engineering as an undergrad because I thought it would center me in climate-focused work. I was wrong. Most of the discussions I was having and courses I was taking in my university’s engineering department were missing two key ingredients — the climate crisis and carbon removal.

Why direct air capture?

DAC is one component in a portfolio of carbon removal solutions working to limit warming to 2℃. DAC is a chemical process that captures CO2 directly from the atmosphere. The captured CO2 is then permanently stored in geologic formations, or utilized in building materials like concrete. Rhodium Group analyses show that DAC has the potential to remove 0.5–5 gigatons of CO2 annually by 2050, and possibly as much as 40 gigatons of CO2 per year by the end of the century. If scaled to this level, DAC would have a significant impact — 40 gigatons per year is more than all global emissions from 2018. Scientific literature suggests that global carbon removal mechanisms will need to remove roughly 10 gigatons of CO2 per year by midcentury to limit warming to 2℃, deeming DAC a tool critical to meeting our climate goals.

A home for many disciplines

A holistic and interdisciplinary approach will foster an abundance of opportunities for DAC deployment. DAC is interdisciplinary by nature — it requires engineers for research and development, policymakers for policy support, businesspeople for market and commercialization research, and social scientists to understand changing behaviors in a changing climate. Professionals must work together to make comprehensive decisions regarding climate solutions.

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