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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Nascent tech that pulls CO2 from the atmosphere could "significantly" reduce the costs of fighting climate change, but achieving scale is hardly a sure thing and massive deployment would consume lots of energy, a new peer-reviewed study warns.

Why it matters: The paper in Nature Communications arrives amid increasing attention to direct air capture (DAC) and other negative emissions technologies. They're important because it looks pretty unlikely that nations will cut emissions enough to meet the goals of the Paris climate deal.

  • The firm Carbon Engineering — whose backers include Bill Gates and oil giants Chevron and Occidental — recently announced plans for a big DAC plant in Texas.

What they found: According to the study, widespread deployment down the road would create a longer cushion to achieve steep emissions cuts.

  • In one scenario they modeled for holding global temperature rise to 1.5°C, it pushes the horizon for achieving "net-zero" emissions back from 2050 to roughly 2070, which would be "compensated by larger negative emissions thereafter."

Threat level: If policymakers wrongly bet on large-scale deployment, it could lead to a global temperature "overshoot" of up to 0.8 °C. That's a lot, given that Paris aims to limit the total increase to 1.5°C–2°C above preindustrial levels.

  • And large-scale deployment (think tens of thousands of big machines under one tech scenario), if even proven feasible would need to be really large, and that's not without consequences.
  • In theory, a huge buildout would consume as much as a fourth (!) of global energy demand to power and heat the systems by 2100, the paper notes.

The bottom line: The paper warns that DAC should not be viewed as a crutch, but rather as complementary to emissions-cutting strategies.

  • The authors recommend that policymakers speed up development and deployment, but "without easing near-term mitigation efforts" due to risks of the tech underperforming or failing.

Go deeper, via Carbon Brief: Direct CO2 capture machines could use ‘a quarter of global energy’ in 2100

Go deeper

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.

Ina Fried, author of Login
40 mins ago - Technology

Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal complicates Big Tech regulation

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Microsoft's surprise $68 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard is adding a fresh twist to the heated debate over which tech companies have monopolies that need to be reined in.

The big picture: The deal could force a question the company has happily ducked for a decade: whether its size and power make it just as deserving of regulatory scrutiny as its Big Tech rivals.

Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free

Photo: Ken Cedeno/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration will announce Wednesday that 400 million non-surgical N95 masks will be made available to the public for free at thousands of "convenient locations" across the U.S.

Why it matters: This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history, according to a White House official. The masks are slated to be available at numerous local pharmacies.