Should We Spend $1 Trillion A Year On This Climate Technology? We May Have To.

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As Nazi U-boats plagued the open sea in late 1940, the U.S. government launched an emergency shipbuilding program. In the first year, the program ramped up production at a breathtaking rate of 20% per month, supplying allies ― and eventually its own combat forces ― with about 6,000 vessels by the time World War II concluded five years later. Today the world faces a different kind of global threat, similarly metastasizing after years of failing to confront it. Keeping the planet from warming beyond recognition requires an unprecedented economic effort to halt climate-changing emissions.

But even the most optimistic scientific projections call for not only stopping the output of carbon dioxide but also removing the vast concentrations of the gas already in the atmosphere, where it will continue to trap heat for more than a century to come.  New research set to publish Thursday in the journal Nature outlines how the U.S. government could once again conjure the full force of its industrial might to build and deploy a massive fleet of machines to suck CO₂ from the sky. Known as direct air capture, such technology could eventually extract roughly half the atmospheric CO₂ that United Nations forecasts show needs to be removed more...