Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas and its steady accumulation poses ever-increasing risks of harmful climate change. The need for collection of carbon waste and its permanent and safe disposal will not stop even if the world succeeds in abandoning fossil fuels. Halting the rise of carbon dioxide at any reasonable concentration demands a transition to a net zero or even net negative carbon economy. Negative carbon emissions via air capture provide an important and largely neglected tool for mitigating climate change. Air capture could recover carbon flows that were allowed to escape into the atmosphere, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Therefore, we aim to create a Center of Excellence within ASU’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions (CNCE) to research negative carbon emissions and direct capture of carbon dioxide from the ambient atmosphere. Led by Klaus Lackner, the mission of the CNCE is to demonstrate that direct air capture is feasible and useful. This includes performing research that leads to further cost reductions and the development of a coherent narrative that explains the value of direct air capture for fossil and non-fossil energy systems alike. Direct air capture is a scalable technology that will interface with carbon dioxide utilization and disposal research to begin reversing the course of climate change, and is a safe and non-invasive intervention that can help balance the world’s carbon budget. Because it removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, direct air capture could play a very important role in climate change, which is only otherwise provided by photosynthesis.