Wicked Problems
Wicked Problems - Climate Tech Conversations (Subscriber Feed)
A Mammoth Task: Sucking Carbon out of the Air

A Mammoth Task: Sucking Carbon out of the Air

Robert Höglund of MilkyWire and Ben Cooke of The Times talk CDR

In this episode of Wicked Problems - Climate Tech Conversations, we return to one of our favourite topics: carbon dioxide removals (CDR) and its potential role in combating climate change. Our host, Richard Delevan, interviews two distinguished guests: Ben Cooke, Earth Editor at The Times, and Robert Höglund, manager of the MilkyWire Climate Transformation Fund, founder of CDR.fyi and writer of

. Together, they provide unique perspectives on the challenges, innovations, and future of carbon removal technologies.

1. Ben Cooke, Earth Editor at The Times, discusses his recent trip to Iceland to visit Climeworks' Mammoth facility, the world's largest direct air capture plant.

Key Discussion Points:

- Overview of Climeworks' Mammoth Facility:

- Ben describes the setting of the Mammoth facility, its reliance on geothermal energy to power its Direct Air Capture technology, and the role of an Icelandic startup - Carbfix - in turning the captured CO2 into rock.

- Technological Details:

- Explanation of how the facility captures carbon dioxide using fans and sticky filters, and then locks it away underground through a process developed by Carbfix.

- Future Goals and Challenges:

- Discussion on Climeworks' ambitious targets of capturing a million tonnes of CO₂ annually by 2030 and a billion by 2050, and the challenges they face in scaling up.

- Economic Viability:

- Insights into the cost dynamics of carbon capture technology and the potential for future cost reductions.

- Policy and Support:

- The crucial role of government policies and financial support in advancing carbon capture initiatives.

- Memorable Quotes:

- "Jan Wurzbacher, the co-CEO of Climeworks, said that his company could potentially get to the tens of millions of tons by 2050 if it only relied on the voluntary market but would only get to the billion-ton scale if governments obliged companies to pay to remove their emissions." - Ben Cooke

2. Robert Höglund, manager of the MilkyWire Climate Transformation Fund, shares his expertise on carbon removal technologies and the voluntary carbon market.

Key Discussion Points:

- Current State of Carbon Removal:

- Overview of the development and cost trajectories of direct air capture (DAC) technologies.

- Market Dynamics:

- Insights into the voluntary carbon market, key players like Microsoft, and the potential for scaling up carbon removal efforts.

- Policy and Regulation:

- The importance of government intervention and the potential impact of policies like the carbon take back obligation.

- Ethical and Practical Considerations:

- Addressing the ethical implications of carbon removal and the need for a balanced approach that includes significant emission reductions.

- Memorable Quotes:

- "We know that we're going to exceed 1.5 degrees warming now, even if everyone reduces their emissions extremely fast. So there is a lot of unknowns and a lot of risks when it comes to this very rapid warming and people are going to die because of this. It's just a question of how many." - Robert Höglund

- "The voluntary carbon market can achieve tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of tons removed per year by 2030. But then going to gigatons, billions of tons, it's government either through making it mandatory to buy carbon removal for your last tons or making it mandatory to reach net zero." - Robert Höglund


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Robert’s Catalysts:

CDR Primer - a great resource to understand the basics

Open Air Collective’s “This is CDR” Series

Termination Shock, by Neal Stephenson (and here’s the author chatting about it with Francis Fukuyama)

Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Links and Resources:

- Follow Ben Cooke on Twitter, LinkedIn

- Subscribe to

’s Substack at , and he’s a great follow on Twitter and LinkedIn

- Learn more about Climeworks and their carbon capture projects

- Follow us on LinkedIn, BlueSky, Threads

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Thanks for listening!

Wicked Problems
Wicked Problems - Climate Tech Conversations (Subscriber Feed)
A show about climate tech - the intersection of people, politics, technology, and capital that will help shape the future. And whether you'd want to live in it.