A new facility designed to pull carbon out of the atmosphere has begun operating in Iceland, boosting an emerging technology the IPCC says is needed to limit warming to 2.7°F (1.5°C). Built and operated by Swiss startup Climeworks, the “Orca” carbon capture plant is the biggest of its kind — increasing global capacity for the technology by more than 40%— and works by sucking carbon out of the air. The carbon is captured in sponge-like filters, which are then blasted with heat, mixed with water, and pumped deep into underground basalt caverns, where the carbon eventually turns to stone.
Captured carbon can also be used to feed plants, provide bubbles for your favorite carbonated beverage, or mixed with hydrogen to produce fuel. Direct air capture carbon removal is energy intensive, requiring additional renewable capacity to make it a true net positive for the climate and currently requires about a 20% subsidy to break even. (Washington Post $, Quartz, Gizmodo, Thomson Reuters Foundation, FT $, E&E News $)