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The Promise Of Carbon Capture For Addressing Climate Change

Emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo., in February. President Biden is announcing a new pledge for the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris climate agreement.
Charlie Riedel AP
Emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo., in February. President Biden is announcing a new pledge for the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris climate agreement.
World leaders are discussing ways to slash carbon dioxide emissions as quickly as possible to avoid a disastrous increase in global warming. But some scientists are now saying the only way to achieve a limit to global temperature rise is to pair emission reduction efforts with a massive investment in carbon capture technology.

As President Biden and leaders around the world engage in a climate summit on this Earth Day, the focus is reducing carbon emissions. Leaders are discussing ways to slash carbon dioxide emissions as quickly as possible to avoid a disastrous increase in global warming.

But some scientists are now saying the only way to achieve a limit to global temperature rise is to pair emission reduction efforts with a massive investment in carbon capture technology — basically removing some of the existing carbon dioxide concentrations already in the atmosphere.

"From a high level it's quite simple, it just involves using organic compounds that selectively absorb (carbon dioxide) from gas streams and so what you get out the back end is on the one hand a pure (carbon dioxide) stream that you can use, whether it goes to underground storage to address climate change concerns," said Ryan Hanna, assistant research scientist at UC San Diego and lead author of a paper on the emergency deployment of direct air capture as a response to the climate crisis. "And then a relatively depleted stream of atmospheric gases that are mostly free of (carbon dioxide) that goes back to the atmosphere."

Hanna joined Midday Edition Thursday to talk about the promise carbon capture holds for slowing the affects of climate change.