Technology 3 min read

Microsoft to Recapture the Carbon Dioxide it Emitted In the Past

Billion Photos /

Billion Photos /

On Thursday, Microsoft announced plans to atone for its carbon emission sins. The tech giant says it wants to remove all the carbon dioxide it has ever released into the atmosphere by 2050.

Microsoft has been carbon neutral since 2012, now sourcing energy from in renewables and carbon offsets.

Shortly after, the company started encouraging its divisions to slash emissions. It did this by charging each business unit a fee for the greenhouse gases they generate.

In addition to those measures, Microsoft president, Brad Smith has now announced plans to source all its electricity from renewables by 2025.

As you can imagine, the climate initiative is an expensive venture. So, for funding, the tech giant intends to charge its businesses for the emissions they generate along the entire supply chain.

In a statement to The Verge, a senior research scholar at Columbia University, Julio Friedmann said:

“It reminds me of the Microsoft of old. They used to do big, audacious stuff like this all the time, and I’m glad to see that ethos return on a planetary basis. It’s also long overdue.”

But, the most daring commitment that Microsoft made might be its plan to remove carbon out of the atmosphere altogether.

The Challenges With Recapturing Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

Carbon capture and storage is a relatively new and mostly unproven technology. Meanwhile, Microsoft is betting heavily on the controversial climate solution.

Friedman, who is a proponent of carbon capture, points out that the technology is mature enough to achieve the tech giant’s aim. However, it would be way too expensive to pull off right now.

For example, Microsoft expects to have emitted about 16 million metric tons of carbon this year. According to The Verge, that’s an equivalent of roughly 15 coal-fired power plants.

It costs as much as $600 per ton to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Using this rate, the tech giant would have to spend a whopping $9.6 billion to remove this year’s carbon emissions alone. Now, imagine the cost of removing the emission since the company’s founding in 1975.

Be that as it may, the price of negative emissions technology is expected to drop as adoption increases. Between Microsoft’s backings and its $1 billion infusions of cash, the solution could ultimately become cheaper and more appealing.

During an event for media this week, Smith said:

“The only way we can go forward is actually to take steps that will remove carbon from the environment.”

The president, however, admitted that the technology to solve the problem is still out of reach.

Carbon capture is gaining traction in the fossil fuel industry rapidly. In 2016, a team of oil and gas companies channeled $1 billion into developing the technology.

But critics worry that relying on carbon capture could take the pressure off polluters that are working to burn less fossil fuel.

Read More: Carbon Emissions from Australia Wildfires Raise Concerns

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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