Can early-stage technologies such as carbon capture, – and planting trees – really suck enough carbon from the air to help us reverse global temperature rise? The proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions due to energy and transport is about 76 per cent. That is what’s covered by the IEA report. When all sources of greenhouse gas emissions are taken into account – that is, from waste and agriculture/land use change – reaching net zero by 2050 looks extremely challenging. Those now scrambling to advocate various means of actively removing carbon from the atmosphere as a way of compensating for our inability to cut emissions will have to prove that the technologies they propose can step up to the mark. The verdict of Mike Childs at Friends of the Earth UK, quoted in the Financial Times. “On a list of priorities for spending money, CCS would be at the bottom,” he says. He favours first massively ramping up renewables, investment in hydrogen, and improving energy efficiency. To which we can add repairing soils and ecosystems, and becoming less reliant on meat products. CCUS is analogous to treating heroin addicts with methadone. It allows addicts to function but doesn’t remove the base cause of the problem, the dependency. For dependency to end, a managed withdrawal from the drug is usually preferable to enforced cold turkey. Unless we can wean ourselves off fossil fuels this decade, we may be left with no choice but to go cold turkey. Then again, addiction does sometimes unfortunately end in the death of the subject.
The Fifth Estate 31st May 2021 read more »