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Relying solely on carbon capture to solve climate crisis risks pushing our problems onto the next generation’s path
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Relying solely on carbon capture to solve climate crisis risks pushing our problems onto the next generation’s path

A labelled image of plants in a forest


As the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Makes it clearIt is clear that the 2020s must be a A decade of transformationIf we want to have any chance of achieving these goals, Paris Agreement.

Carbon capture and storageCCS (carbon capture and storage) is widely expected to play a major role in this transformation, helping to reduce carbon emissions around the world. However, CCS may be overlooked. SolutionsThis focuses on reducing energy consumption and making it more sustainable. Changes in behaviorThat puts sustainability first

In order to meet the Kyoto Protocol, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to drop rapidly over the next few years. Carbon Law, a relatively simple equation developed by scientists to achieve decarbonisation: halving emissions by 2030, then continuing to halve them every decade until 2050 to reach a level that can be stored by “natural carbon sinks” such as forests, pastures and peatlands.

Current strategies to reduce emissions quickly have proven successful. Inadequat. Many governments are now looking to CCS technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide (CO₂) released by burning fossil fuels and other industrial processes. CCS also includes systems that capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuels. capture CO₂You can either burn organic matter (BECCS), or you can get it directly from the air.

CCS could be a key technology to reduce emissions from certain sectors. CCS could be a critical technology to reduce emissions in some sectors, like cement production. 8% of global CO₂ emissions. Of this, 60% are “process emissions”, meaning they can’t be avoided, even if fossil fuels stop being used in the cement manufacturing process entirely. CCS can capture this carbon.

CCS is still in use. Having troubleThe process was not easy. More than 80% failed due to poor policy support and complicated infrastructure. It could be dangerous to rely too heavily on CCS.

Model evidence

Along with the Exponential Roadmap InitiativeAvit Bhowmik is the author. modelled different ways in which we might be able to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2100.

Together, we’ve mapped greenhouse gas emissions across six sectors – energy, industry, buildings, transport, food, and agriculture and forestry – to assess whether existing SolutionsIncludes Circular business models, renewable energytech Low-carbon heating & cooling systems, can eliminate emission without the use of CCS.

We found that if solutions that don’t rely on CCS were implemented within Carbon Law guidelines, global emissions could be cut from 54 billion metric tonnes in 2020 to 34 billion metric tonnes in 2030.

With the accelerating developmentBy 2030, the energy sector could have a reduction of three billion tonnes due to renewable energy. In the Sector buildingsAutomating energy consumption and retrofitting buildings could reduce emissions by five billion tonnes by 2030. Electric vehicles, digital carpooling and other services are also available. remote meetingPlatforms could save another 3.5 million metric tonnes from transport.

A labelled image of plants in a forest
Food forests can trap and store more carbon.
Zack Dowell/Flickr, CC BY -NC-SA

What’s more, adding nature-based solutions such as managing cattle grazing rebuilding forestsCould reduce emissions by preventing degradation of land and add 9.1 billion tonnes of capacity to carbon sinks. For example, creating “Food forests” – layered forests with crops built in – could sequester up to one billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

If we manage to put these plans into practice, we’d be able to achieve net zero emissionsCCS will be significantly reduced in the coming decades. But that’s only half of the story.

Renewable power

Over the past decade, the cost of renewables fell dramatically. Solar and wind power are the most affordable forms of electricity in most regions of the globe. However, economic models have struggled with keeping up with the pace of change and sometimes use unrealistic renewables costs. New researchNeil Grant and his colleagues examine what happens when cost assumptions are changed to reflect the incredible progress made over the past decade.

We found that cheap renewables decrease the need for technologies like CCS. The economic value of CCS fell by 15-96% by 2050. This effect is not uniform across sectors.

Two people install solar panels
The price of renewables continues to fall.
GPA Photo Archive/Flickr, CC BY -NC-SA

For example, while cheap renewables slash the value of CCS in electricity and hydrogen production by 61-96%, CCS remains valuable in cement production and CO₂ removal, where its value only falls 15-36%. It seems like targeting CCS where it’s most needed could be a better strategy: less “spray and pray”, more “select and perfect”.

Climate discount

Models of a Future with low carbonIt is important to decide how to spread efforts to tackle climate change over a century. They often use “Get Discounts” to achieve this. Discount rates determine how a dollar’s worth of action today – for example, a dollar spent installing a wind turbine – compares to a dollar’s worth of action in the future.

A higher discount rate means it’s cheaper to spend the dollar in the future, creating an incentive to delay that action. Many models still use discount rates as high as 4-5%. This leads to a tendency to do less now – and compensate for it later.

Neil’s Research shows that when lower discount rates of 1% are used – to reflect the importance of future generations’ wellbeing – the value of CCS plummets across sectors. Particularly, the value of BECCSis reduced by more than half. This is a way to avoid BECCS becoming less useful.

While capturing carbon will be essential in tackling the climate crisis, it shouldn’t be used to delay action now. It is important to update our models in order to better consider future generations’ needs when designing climate policies. Large-scale carbon capture could be dangerous.


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