Folks across both the public and private sector are constantly in search of new innovative technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and decelerate the pace of climate change. Yet, in the recent release of the AR6 Synthesis Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that there is a greater than 50% chance the global temperature rise will reach or surpass 1.5°C - the global tipping point originally noted in the 2015 Paris Agreement - between 2021 and 2040. Every fractional degree of additional warming escalates the likelihood of significantly adverse impacts, extreme weather events, and related losses with very high confidence from the IPCC.
As we continue emitting on a similar trajectory, the livable, sustainable planet as we know it will become increasingly and alarmingly less so. Corporate net zero targets and high-level emissions reduction commitments alone are guaranteed to fall short without actionable, verifiable methods of attack.
In recent years, it has become necessary to complement mitigation efforts by not only reducing but also removing GHGs from the atmosphere. The rate of a clean energy transition, transport electrification, and other more sustainable economic / industrial overhauls is unlikely to happen fast enough to halt potential irreversible damage upon surpassing the 1.5°C threshold - especially as we currently find ourselves on a path to more than double it.
This key, foundational point demonstrates the power and importance of solutions that are able to remove major polluters like carbon dioxide (Co2) from the atmosphere. Less gas trapping heat in the atmosphere, less global warming. How do we accelerate there being less gas trapping heat? We suck out the gas - most notably, the Co2, through a chemical process known as carbon removal.
Carbon removal comes in a number of different forms with varying levels of complexity - from planting trees in the ground to constructing building-sized equipment to vacuum Co2 out of the air and turn it into concrete or biochar. As with the excitement of many new climate tech innovations, though, it is important to consider the ultimate net benefit. For direct air capture in particular, the 18 plants in operation around the globe require vast amounts of energy and water to power the massive, complex industrial equipment in use.
In 2019, Dr. Brian Baynes, Prof. T. Alan Hatton and Dr. Sahag Voskian developed a breakthrough technology to solve just that. Their idea, spun out of their work together at MIT, resulted in one of the most exciting soon-to-be commercial applications of carbon removal to date. Combining the efficiency of electrochemistry with the tunability of organic chemistry, Verdox is able to maximize the use of electrical energy to target Co2 with unparalleled selectivity at any concentration levels. The result - a 70% increase in energy savings compared to conventional methods when removing carbon dioxide from industrial emissions and/or the air.
The Woburn, MA-based startup made its official launch in February of 2022 with an $80M capital commitment from some of the most prolific names in the climate tech venture ecosystem including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Prelude Ventures, and Lowercarbon Capital. The team is now working to make its electroswing adsorption (ESA) technology commercially viable while accelerating their journey down the cost curve for potential customers.
Assuming our current trajectory of roughly 40B metric tons of Co2 emissions released into the atmosphere every year, we are set to surpass the 450 parts per million threshold for 2°C warming in the next 10-20 years. A combined natural and technological approach to reducing and reversing climate change is necessary.
As UN General Secretary António Guterres said in an April 2022 statement reacting to the flagship IPCC report, “it’s now or never.” Boston continues to position itself as one of the epicenters for innovative climate technology, and now more specifically with the paradigm shift in carbon removal technology from the Verdox team. In the face of new, more threatening climate change milestones, it is hopeful and inspiring to see potentially life-changing innovations come to fruition, particularly from the startup ecosystem in Boston.
Interested in learning from, hearing about, and/or networking with others in the startup ecosystem - including climatech - in the Boston area? Register now for Startup Boston Week from September 11-15, 2023 to grab your free ticket and do just that!