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!
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!