Senior Sustainability Scholar Klaus Lackner, director for the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, has created a machine that physically sucks greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. This machine gave a group of Arizona State University grads another idea: Instead of building the new technology, how about creating a marketplace that would incentivize carbon removal, whether by Lacknerian machines or some other method?
In 2018, the grads — Paul Gambill, Jaycen Horton and Ross Kenyon, along with Christophe Jospe, who worked for Lackner at CNCE — founded Nori. The Seattle-based company is flipping some basic ideas about climate change mitigation on their head. Instead of aiming to lower CO2 emissions, Nori focuses instead on Lackner’s notion of pulling out the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere. Instead of, say, taxing those who put CO2 into the air, they want to pay those who remove it.
They like to call themselves “used-carbon salesmen” and they’re finding ways to do what seems unthinkable: making CO2 a valuable commodity.
The way the team at Nori views it, CO2 is a waste product, and it should be treated like other waste products. We don’t throw our trash out the window, and we shouldn’t simply fling our greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, either. We need a system to pick it up, just like our system of trash collection, and a market so that those who do the removal get paid for it.