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Science AMA Series: I spent the last year investigating the potential of carbon-capture technology (or “clean coal”) to mitigate climate change. Ask me anything!
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Under the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, the world has agreed to do what is needed to keep global temperatures from not rising above 2°C as compared to pre-industrial levels. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, in every economically viable scenario to that goal requires reaching zero emissions and requires the deployment of carbon-capture technologies on large scale. These technologies allow us to keep burning fossil fuels almost without emissions, while putting us on the trajectory to hit our climate goals. They are considered a bridge to a future where we can create, store, and supply all the world’s energy from renewable sources. But carbon-capture technologies have a tortured history. Though first developed nearly 50 years ago, their use in climate-change mitigation only began in earnest in the 1990s and scaling them up hasn’t gone as planned. My initial perception, based on what I had read in the press, was that carbon capture seemed outrageously expensive, especially when renewable energy is starting to get cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels. At the same time, my training in chemical engineering and chemistry told me the technologies were scientifically sound. And some of world’s most important bodies on climate change keep insisting that we need carbon capture. Who should I believe? The question took me down a rabbit hole. After a year of reporting, I’ve come to a conclusion: Carbon capture is both vital and viable. I’ve ended up writing nearly 30,000 words in The Race to Zero Emissions series for Quartz. You can read the 8,000-word story where I lay the case for the technology here: https://qz.com/1144298; other stories from the series here: https://qz.com/re/the-race-to-zero-emissions/; and follow the newsletter here: https://bit.ly/RacetoZeroEmissions. I’ll be back at 11 ET (16 UTC) to answer questions. You can ask me anything! Bio: Akshat Rathi is a reporter for Quartz in London. He has previously worked at The Economist and The Conversation. His writing has appeared in Nature, The Guardian and The Hindu. He has a PhD in organic chemistry from Oxford University and a BTech in chemical engineering from the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai. 1 ET (18 UTC): I’ve answered all the questions. Thanks for having me!