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In 2023, the world witnessed the devastating effects of climate change, such as wildfires, floods, droughts, heatwaves, and hurricanes, that caused unprecedented human and economic losses. The scientific consensus was clear: the world needed to rapidly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and remove the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to limit the global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement, which aimed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, was seen as the minimum necessary to avoid catastrophic consequences.
In 2025, the U.S. and China, the two largest emitters, announced a landmark deal to cooperate on climate action, including carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods and technologies. The deal included a joint commitment to invest $100 billion each over 10 years in research, development, and deployment of CDR solutions, as well as a mechanism to share data, best practices, and lessons learned. The deal also included a carbon pricing scheme, that would create a market incentive for CDR projects, and a carbon border adjustment, that would impose a tariff on imports from countries that did not have a similar scheme. The deal was hailed as a game-changer for global climate governance, and inspired other countries to join or enhance their own CDR efforts.
In 2027, the first large-scale direct ocean capture (DOC) plant started operation in Australia, a 100-megaton (Mt) per year facility that used an alkaline solution to capture carbon dioxide from seawater, and then injected it into deep-sea basalt formations, where it mineralized into solid rock. The plant was built by a consortium of Australian and European companies, with the support of the Australian government and the World Bank. The plant was able to operate at a cost of $50 per ton of carbon dioxide removed, and had a minimal environmental impact, as it used renewable energy, recycled water, and monitored the ocean chemistry and biology. The plant was seen as a breakthrough for DOC technology, and a model for future projects.
In 2029, the first commercial biomass carbon removal (BCR) plant started operation in Brazil, a 50-Mt per year facility that used fast-growing eucalyptus trees to sequester carbon dioxide from the air, and then converted them into biochar, a stable form of carbon that could be used as a soil enhancer or a fuel. The plant was built by a joint venture of Brazilian and American firms, with the support of the Brazilian government and the Green Climate Fund. The plant was able to operate at a cost of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide removed, and had a positive social and ecological impact, as it provided jobs, income, and energy for local communities, and improved the soil quality, water retention, and biodiversity. The plant was seen as a breakthrough for BCR technology, and a model for future projects.
In 2031, the first large-scale direct air capture (DAC) plant started operation in Canada, a 10-Mt per year facility that used a sorbent material to capture carbon dioxide from ambient air, and then compressed and liquefied it for storage or utilization. The plant was built by a Canadian company, with the support of the Canadian government and the Carbon Engineering Initiative. The plant was able to operate at a cost of $100 per ton of carbon dioxide removed, and had a low energy and water footprint, as it used waste heat, geothermal energy, and recycled water. The plant was seen as a breakthrough for DAC technology, and a model for future projects.
In 2033, the world reached a tipping point, where the total amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by CDR solutions exceeded the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, achieving net-negative emissions for the first time. This was the result of a combination of factors, such as the rapid deployment and innovation of CDR technologies, the widespread adoption of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electrification, the implementation of carbon pricing and regulation, and the behavioral and cultural changes of individuals and organizations. The world celebrated this achievement, and reaffirmed its commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, and maintaining net-negative emissions thereafter.
In 2035, the world witnessed the emergence of new applications and industries based on CDR solutions, such as synthetic fuels, carbon fibers, carbon nanotubes, carbon capture and utilization, and carbon sequestration and storage. These applications and industries offered various benefits, such as reducing the dependence on fossil fuels, creating new markets and jobs, enhancing resource efficiency and circularity, and improving the quality of life and the environment. These applications and industries also fostered a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and a vision of a carbon-neutral and carbon-positive economy.
In 2040, the world reached another milestone, where the total amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by CDR solutions exceeded the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere before the Industrial Revolution, restoring the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million (ppm). This was the result of a continued and accelerated effort of CDR technologies and other climate solutions, as well as the positive feedback effects of reducing the global warming and enhancing the natural carbon sinks. The world celebrated this achievement, and recognized its significance for the stability and resilience of the climate system and the biosphere. The world also acknowledged the challenges and uncertainties ahead, and the need to monitor and manage the carbon cycle and the Earth system.
In 2045, the world reached a state of carbon balance, where the net flux of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere, the oceans, the land, and the human activities was zero, meaning that no net carbon dioxide was added or removed from the system. This was the result of a careful and coordinated management of the carbon cycle, using a combination of CDR technologies and natural carbon sinks, as well as a balanced and sustainable use of carbon resources and services. The world celebrated this achievement, and appreciated its implications for the harmony and health of the planet and its inhabitants. The world also embraced the opportunities and responsibilities of being the stewards and guardians of the carbon cycle and the Earth system.
In 2050, the world achieved the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement, reaching net-zero emissions, and limiting the global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This was the result of a collective and transformative effort of the global community, involving all sectors and stakeholders, and driven by a shared vision and values of a low-carbon and high-wellbeing society. The world celebrated this achievement, and reflected on the journey and the lessons learned. The world also looked forward to the future of the carbon cycle and the Earth system, and the new challenges and opportunities it will bring.
In 2053, everyone has access to clean, safe, and abundant carbon dioxide removal resources and services, and the carbon cycle is resilient, efficient, and intelligent. The world also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first large-scale DOC plant, the 25th anniversary of the first net-negative emissions, and the 20th anniversary of the first carbon balance, as milestones of human achievement and progress. The world also looks forward to the future of the carbon cycle and the Earth system, and the new frontiers and possibilities it will open.