Will the world be able to sink the climate problem underground or under the oceans? Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies exist but can they really advance climate protection? Will carbon capture help keep warming below 2°C or be a hindrance—a false climate solution just buying us time?
Carbon Capture: Hopes and Challenges
April 6, 2022
“Once a fringe idea, carbon capture and storage has become a key part of decarbonisation plans the world over. Supporters argue that we need a way to remove CO2 already in the atmosphere to stay below 1.5C of global warming. But does this technology risk providing big polluters a license to carry on as normal?” — Financial Times
Help or Hindrance
Because the world is failing to reign in pollution and prevent catastrophic warming, carbon removal is becoming unavoidable. The latest IPCC reports have sounded alarm bells and Antonio Gueterres (UN Secretary General) has issued stark warnings about the need to cut emissions drastically by 2030—now less that eight years away:
- IPCC Group I Report (August 2021): “code red for humanity…we are already at 1.2 degrees and rising”
- Working Group II Sixth Assessment Report (AR6): “an atlas of human suffering and damning indictment of failed climate leadership”
- Working Group III Sixth Assessment Report (AR6): “enormous, growing emissions gap…a litany of broken climate promises”
Despite the warnings and irrefutable evidence that we are experiencing runaway global warming, the fossil fuel industry is desperate for a CCS solution because it wants to keep drilling and pumping oil down to the last drop. Governments are being pressured by lobbyists to prolong the use of fossil fuels in combination with CCS even in the long term.
Oil countries like Norway and Canada are adding CCS to their climate plans. Norway has launched its Northern Lights project that will store captured carbon in the North Sea via pipelines some 3000 metres below sea level.
In its 2022 budget, Canada introduced a “carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) investment tax credit expected to cost $2.6 billion over five years,” reports the National Observer. “At the same time as (the feds are) trying to move towards a zero-carbon future, they’re trying to go full steam ahead on oil & gas development,” according to Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) economist David MacDonald.
Excerpts from video transcript:
I don’t think, at this stage, we really have a plan of getting to net zero without some role for carbon capture and storage.
Long-term, you really need to change so many things about our system, rather than using the same old existing fossil fuel sources of energy, and then finding a really expensive solution to how to deal with their emissions.
It can be a part of how we address the problem, but it can’t be a magic cure to climate change.
Because the world hasn’t reduced emissions, 40bn tonnes a year, it means that the timeline for a tipping point in warming, which is regarded as 1.5 degrees, is nearing. And governments, policy makers, businesses are all really scrambling now. That means they’re turning to the most obvious solutions.
But it still is tinkering at the edges, it seems to me, of a much bigger problem. And it is not going to be the answer to the masses of carbon dioxide that are emitted from fossil fuel extraction in the first place, or from the burning of other carbon-producing fuels.
The question is always, how much trust do those oil companies have, having been at the centre of some of the biggest emissions over the last three decades, and been at the centre of a really contentious effort to push back, in some cases, against environmental strategies over the past 30 years
The worry is that if you overly focus on CCS, and if you’re seen to have this quick fix, do you just go first for that, rather than changing your processes to make them less energy-intensive or carbon-intensive?
Environmentalists and climate change experts and scientists, believe that the first priority should be the reduction of carbon emissions in the atmosphere. if we don’t reduce oil and gas production and consumption, then we’re not going to hit net zero 2050…we don’t actually need that coal and gas, full stop…CCS is a bit of a distraction.
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