CO2 capture plant of the company Climeworks at the waste incineration plant KEZO Kehrichtverwertung Zuercher Oberland in Hinwil, Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, on May 5, 2017. Climeworks sells and transports the CO2 to the neighbouring company Gebrueder Meier Primanatura AG which uses it for their greenhouses. (KEYSTONE/Gaetan Bally)

There’s a colorless, odorless, and largely benign gas that humanity just can’t get enough of. We produce 40 trillion kg of carbon dioxide each year, and we’re on track to cross a crucial emissions threshold that will cause global temperature rise to pass the dangerous 2°C limit set by the Paris climate agreement.
But, in hushed tones, climate scientists are already talking about a technology that could pull us back from the brink. It’s called direct-air capture, and it consists of machines that work like a tree does, sucking carbon dioxide (CO2) out from the air, but on steroids—capturing thousands of times more carbon in the same amount of time, and, hopefully, ensuring we don’t suffer climate catastrophe.
There are at least two reasons that, to date, conversations about direct air capture have been muted. First, climate scientists have hoped global carbon emissions would come under control, and we wouldn’t need direct …