Will carbon removal be pivotal in mitigating climate change?
72%
chance

FAQ

1. What counts as carbon removal?

Direct-air carbon capture a la https://stripe.com/climate

The spirit of this prediction is for assessing how critical it is to reduce emissions. If carbon capture is expected to get cost-effective enough then reducing emissions now is less critical. Presumably. So anything that permanently un-emits carbon counts. Anything that just prevents emission in the first place, including things like smokestack scrubbing that capture carbon before it's actually emitted, do not count.

2. By when?

By the year 2050.

Originally I included the following blurb but in the meantime Manifold added a loan feature so your money is not tied up in long-term markets which I think makes this unnecessary:

Since it's hard to induce people to bet in very long-term markets, I intend to resolve this to the market probability at some point in the next few years when it feels like we have a better sense of how the carbon capture cost curve is behaving (and once the market probability here has stabilized).

3. What does "pivotal" mean?

Scientific consensus that carbon removal will end up being responsible for half a degree Celsius less warming that we'd otherwise see.

The idea is to predict whether carbon capture will get cheap enough to do at a big enough scale to matter and be worthwhile.

(I'm also considering changing the criterion to be about atmospheric CO2 concentrations rather than temperature. I don't think that that should affect people's wagering so far but let's discuss in the comments!)

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CromlynGames avatar
Patrick Barry

Starting a family of related markets:

JemBishop avatar
Jem Bishopbought Ṁ20 of NO

The only real effective carbon capture is when it is attached to the source of the emissions like in a coal fired power plant for example and those will be phased out anyway in tackling climate change. Otherwise the amount of air you have to move to remove the CO2 is too big as CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is like 0.04%. I think that in terms of direct atmospheric modification that the geoengineering solutions are likely to be orders of magnitude more effective.

habakuk avatar
habakukis predicting YES at 72%

@JemBishop You could also remove bicarbonate from seawater which might be more promising — and scale faster.

JonathanRay avatar
Jonathan Ray

Do trees count? Does accelerated rock weathering count? Those are ones most likely to scale big enough at low cost

AngolaMaldives avatar
Angola Maldivesis predicting NO at 64%

Carbon capture capability (and the green power required to operate it) would have to scale to a truly absurd degree to account for a 0.5C saving by 2050 by itself. This is outrageously overpriced.

B avatar
benjsmithbought Ṁ20 of YES

Does growing trees count?

dreev avatar
Daniel Reeves

@B I hope someone with more expertise can weigh in but my understanding is that it doesn't count because trees don't quite permanently remove carbon from the atmosphere. When a tree dies and decays it emits carbon again. Something like that. But it would be good to get definitive clarification on this, I agree!

JonathanRay avatar
Jonathan Ray

@dreev depends what you do with the wood when it dies!

Bidden avatar
Biddenbought Ṁ50 of NO

Even the rosiest projections for carbon capture and storage have it contributing maybe 10% of the total reduction by 2050, and direct air capture is a fraction of the total CCS technology space. Meanwhile 650 Gt would be over 50% of the total reduction for net zero.

Mqrius avatar
Mqrius

Meta: What's up with the whitespace here? Did you hit enter a bunch or did the website glitch out?

firstuserhere avatar
firstuserhere

@Mqrius This is not the first comment I've encountered in the last 24 hrs with lots of whitespace post text, so, it might be a bug.

ElliotDavies avatar
Elliot Daviesis predicting YES at 61%

@Mqrius It's a bug on mobile

firstuserhere avatar
firstuserhere

@ElliotDavies I'm seeing it on the web browser and not mobile

firstuserhere avatar
firstuserhere

@firstuserhere laptop's web browser*

ElliotDavies avatar
Elliot Daviesis predicting YES at 61%

@firstuserhere The bug is on the commenters' side, I imagine @Bidden wrote the comment on mobile

Mqrius avatar
Mqrius

The title says "carbon removal" but the FAQ says "carbon capture". These seem like two related but different things. I expect carbon capture being used for synthetic LNG to become very big in the next 20 years. However, most of that carbon wouldn't be removed from circulation, just captured, converted, and released again. On the one hand, that doesn't reduce the carbon in the air directly. On the other hand, that does halt the release of new carbon into the air since no more drilling would be necessary. Does this count in itself?

Further carbon removal would then come on the back of this technology. Any captured carbon being turned into plastic is effectively removed from the atmosphere. The government would also have an easier time paying for the removal of captured carbon. This should definitely count, I think.

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 71%

@Mqrius I'm definitely open to suggestions here. The original spirit of the prediction was for purposes of assessing how critical it is to reduce emissions. If carbon capture is expected to get cost-effective enough then reducing emissions now is less critical. Presumably. So I'm thinking that anything that permanently un-emits carbon should count. Does that make sense?

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 61%

PS: And, to clarify, anything that just prevents emission in the first place, including things smokestack scrubbing that capture carbon before it's actually emitted, would not count.

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 61%

(I've now updated the description and still need to decide whether to update the title to say "carbon capture" rather than "carbon removal". Opinions solicited!)

Mqrius avatar
Mqrius

Personally I see a synthetic fuel economy as the most likely path to carbon removal and CO2 reduction, so it makes sense to me that it would count. It's a valid market either way as long as the decision criteria are clear beforehand. Pure carbon removal playing a big role by itself would be a lower chance than synthetic fuels taking off and doing carbon removal as a side effect.

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 64%

@Mqrius Nodding-emoji. But are we on the same page about how this market is about directly reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations by literally pulling CO2 back out of the air?

Mqrius avatar
Mqrius

@dreev yeah that makes sense to me.

AlexPower avatar
Alex Powerbought Ṁ1,500 of NO

I'm saying "NO". The economics for using energy to bury CO2 from fuels aren't there.

Also, I agree that a resolution criteria based on "change in CO2 PPM" would be unambiguous, as opposed to the quite ambiguous "half a degree of warming prevented".

zzq avatar
zzqbought Ṁ2,000 of YES

I'll take the other side of that bet. No, the economics aren't there… yet. But if carbon removal follows the same curve as e.g. solar panels, then in a decade it will. (As Stripe Climate argues here: https://stripe.com/climate#:~:text=Early%20purchasers%20can,and%20solar%20panels.)

It's hard to see how climate change is solved without using carbon removal or similar. Coordinating to halt emissions of carbon is a pie in the sky pipe dream. Social coordination problems are really hard, way harder than is intuitively obvious—your intuitions for how hard such things are were tuned for a band of tens of people, not planet-spanning civilization—and technological solutions are what modern society is at least somewhat good at.

No, it's not a sure thing, and I wouldn't want to bet too much above 70% or so. Lots of things can happen, including some other technological solution or set of solutions. But this is by far the leading candidate at the moment.

Zardoru avatar
Zardoruis predicting NO at 71%

@zzq Direct-air carbon capture needs a lot of energy. It can get cheaper than now but will reach a limit as long as energy is not free.

Using fossil carbon as energy from one side, rejecting it from the atmosphere and from the other side using energy to capture it can't be efficient. Even when taking CO2 at the source of a power plant, it's considered expensive.

As for the coordination problem, why would some people pay to capture CO2 for common good while others put it there for their own profit ? I mean at the full scale it would be needed, not for symbolic use as currently.

Gabrielle avatar
Gabrielleis predicting NO at 71%

why would some people pay to capture CO2 for common good while others put it there for their own profit

That's the classic type of coordination problem that governments are good at solving - tax carbon usage and then do the carbon capturing with the funds. If set up properly, it can be precisely revenue neutral and carbon neutral. Assuming the technology is solved (big assumption), the main problem is that carbon crosses borders. Hopefully treaties can solve that though.

Coordination can be hard, but it's not impossible with top down management.

Zardoru avatar
Zardoruis predicting NO at 71%

@Gabrielle If they can coordinate for that, they can coordinate to reduce emissions. If they can set a tax carbon big enough and collect it globally, this will cause the needed reduction.

Gabrielle avatar
Gabrielleis predicting NO at 71%

@Zardoru I think taxing + carbon capture would be a lot more politically feasible, even though it's a worse overall solution, because people are too addicted to goods and processes that use carbon.

Zardoru avatar
Zardorubought Ṁ10 of NO

I bet NO with a symbolic 10 M. Not more because the the resolution criteria is not clearly defined enough. Promotion of carbon capture is just a way to distract people from the necessity of really reducing the CO2 emissions now.

CromlynGames avatar
Patrick Barry

According to https://www.mcc-berlin.net/en/research/co2-budget.html

Remaining budget for 1.5 Deg c warming was 400gt co2eq. And for 2deg c warming was 1150gt

The difference, for the purposes of the resolution, is 650gt co2eq. Equivalent to 73140542 is gallons gasoline or 1,741,441 barrels

2021 oil production was 89.9million barrels a day so either my maths is wildly off, or we certainly have enough old oilfields and pumping capacity to do this, as long as capture is successful

MartinRandall avatar
Martin Randall

Degrees C or degrees F?

Does this resolve yes as soon as we reach a time where the global temperature is 0.5°C lower than it would have been without carbon capture?

Did this include carbon capture due to rewilding, soil enrichment, algal blooms, and BECCS?

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 72%
  1. Degrees C (description updated; thanks!)

  2. That would definitely yield a YES resolution.

  3. I meant this to be about direct air capture specifically.

CromlynGames avatar
Patrick Barryis predicting YES at 72%

@dreev direct air only? Lemme go sell my yes

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 71%

The spirit of the prediction is whether there's a remotely reasonable case to be made for business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, counting on future technology to then reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations. What else besides direct-air capture makes sense to count?

(An example of something I definitely don't want to count for this question is any kind of geoengineering that directly cools the earth without reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.)

Sinclair avatar
Sinclair Chenis predicting YES at 71%

@dreev tiling the ocean with seaweed.

space mirrors would not count for this question, but I think space mirrors are a really good case for buisiness-as-usual

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 71%

@Sinclair Agreed that space mirrors don't count for this question (and they're a bad argument for business-as-usual even if they would definitely cool the earth because cooling the earth without reducing CO2 concentrations may have severe unintended consequences).

For tiling the ocean with seaweed to pull CO2 out of the air, maybe that's in the spirit of the question? I'm now realizing that the criterion for success here should probably be CO2 concentration in the atmosphere instead of global temperature.

CromlynGames avatar
Patrick Barryis predicting NO at 71%

@dreev direct air capture is always going to be hard as you are trying to collect a trace gas.

Promising tech I've worked on: enhanced mineralisation - left over rock dust from igneous rock quarries, spread on fields or verges. Normally it mineralises co2 slowly, but in the top soil all the growing things means there's water and a local increased partial pressure of co2, so it's quick.

Solid sequestration in the form of buried timber or scattered biochar have good potential, more so if we can incorporate them into useful products to scale. Biochar in particular is a way to stabilise biomass waste for a century or so. We're looking at timber building, then waste wood gets mycelium or biochar treatment.

Capture at chimney is still much better than direct air. It might be plugged onto existing waste incinerator/cement/steel works, or might be integrated into BECCS - grow biomass to capture vco2, burn it for energy, sequester the gas. We've better uses for that biomass than just burning it though.

Seaweed sequestration is a big site of research, but the challenge is proving sequestion. It might become a biomass production machine, tethered off the offshore wind turbines and used for food, oils, fats, fuel or land sequestration.

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 73%

I need to pick a definitive end date for this. What do people think? How about 2050?

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesbought Ṁ100 of NO

On reflection it makes sense that no one has strong opinions on the end date. 2050 is a fine proxy for "eventually" so we'll go with that.

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 70%

But part of the spirit of this prediction is whether stripe.com/climate is a smart bet so we don't want to push the horizon out so far that this could technically resolve YES due to far-future technology that no one could anticipate. In that case it may well be wrong-headed to attempt it now; the current carbon capture naysayers would be correct in that case.

MichaelRucker avatar
Michael Rücker

I'm still a bit new to all of this. Could s.o. explain what it means to resolve "to the market probability"? Or point me to a source explaining it? Thx. :)

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 73%

@MichaelRucker Excellent question! Ok, so, normally you buy shares of YES that pay out $1 each if the thing happens and $0 if it doesn't. (See the first section of https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/prediction-market-faq for a nice primer on these basics.) But what if the thing kind of happens? You can have the YES shares pay out at X% of $1 if the thing "X% happened"!

In this case maybe the market probability started at 50% because we had no clue if the answer would turn out to be yes. Then a few years later we still don't know but we're starting to have a pretty good guess that the answer is yes. Maybe there's now an 80% chance. So if you predicted YES back in 2022 then you've been somewhat proven right. You bought those shares at $0.50 and now they're worth $0.80 each. So you've made money. Not as much as if you waited for a definitive YES but maybe we don't want to wait that long. It's still theoretically perfectly fair. (Insert a bunch of caveats here.)

But also, now that Manifold loans you back the mana you tie up in long-term markets we probably don't need that clause anymore. We can just keep this market open until we have a definitive answer, which is my new tentative plan.

MichaelRucker avatar
Michael Rücker

@dreev Ah OK. Thanks! So essentially that means everyone sells / is forced to sell their shares at that time and receive whatever they are worth then ... right?

Accountdeletionrequested avatar
Account deletion requested

Oct 2, 2025

until that date? Definitely no. But maybe changing resolution date or making new one is viable with new repayment scheme.

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 71%

@M No no, nothing has to happen by that date. This was meant to solve the problem of long-term prediction markets (before the loan feature!) by predicting the nearer-future consensus on the farther-future outcome.

tb avatar
tb

How does question resolve if CC is not mitigated?

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 70%

@tb That would be a NO resolution.

tb avatar
tb

Can you define pivotal?

dreev avatar
Daniel Reevesis predicting NO at 70%

@tb Good question. Let's define it as scientific consensus that carbon removal was (or is predicted to be, since this market will end early) responsible for half a degree less warming that we'd otherwise see.

The idea is to predict whether carbon capture will get cheap enough to do at a big enough scale to matter and be worthwhile.