Carbon capture and storage: where should the world store CO₂? It’s a moral dilemma


PTI, Dec 7, 2021, 2:39 PM IST

Representative Image

Cork (Ireland): The recent Glasgow climate pact committed 197 countries to “phas[ing] down unabated coal”. Unabated coal refers to when power stations or factories burn coal without capturing and storing the carbon dioxide (CO₂) generated.

Because the world has made such little progress in eliminating coal, oil and fossil gas, climate modellers foresee some use of carbon capture and storage as necessary to reach zero emissions in enough time to avert catastrophic warming. The technology to capture carbon is in development, but one burning question remains: where on Earth should we store all that carbon? Different methods of carbon capture will take place at different sites.

Some involve absorbing emissions immediately after burning fossil fuels in chimneys and smokestacks where the CO₂ is highly concentrated. Other methods capture carbon directly from the air, either by using chemical reactions that bind the carbon using lots of energy or by growing carbon-hungry plants that can be burned for energy and the resulting emissions subsequently captured.

In new research, myself and environmental engineer Joe Lane at Princeton University in the US argued that, regardless of the method, leaving decisions about where to store carbon to commercial entities would mean avoiding an important moral dilemma.

Funding for carbon capture and storage is insufficient. At the current rate of deployment, 700 million tonnes of CO₂ storage capacity will be added by 2050 – 10% of what is required.

Countries would have to massively ramp up investment to be compliant with the Paris agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Some of this money would be public funding, and people would reasonably expect it to fund projects which are morally sound.

On the one hand, it might be deemed important to develop storage sites with the best prospects for storing lots of greenhouse gas for the longest duration. This argument maintains that the most important consideration for deploying carbon capture and storage is making the largest possible contribution to arresting climate change.

To give carbon storage sites the greatest chance of success, it makes sense to develop them in places where the geology has been thoroughly explored and where there is lots of relevant expertise. This would imply pumping carbon into underground storage sites in northern Europe, the Middle East and the US, where companies have spent centuries looking for and extracting fossil fuels.

Storing carbon is roughly the reverse of extracting it from the ground, and there is an opportunity for workers in the oil and gas industry to lend their skills and expertise to this endeavour.

On the other hand, it might be important to develop storage sites in economies where the current and future demand for carbon capture and storage is greatest. These competing aims pull in different directions. The regions with the best prospects are not often those with the greatest expected need.

Developing storage sites in economies where the expected demand for carbon capture is highest overwhelmingly favours developing regions of Asia. In India and China, for instance, coal power stations and cement plants are expensive to decommission and will need lots of carbon capture and storage capacity to decarbonise.

If developing regions are expected to decarbonise without sufficient support to roll out carbon capture and storage, it could mean they have to throttle development to reduce emissions.

There are no easy answers in this debate. Increasing carbon capture and storage capacity as quickly as possible could benefit future generations by reducing the severity of climate change. So, you could argue that developing the most promising sites in Europe is the best way forward. But directing investment for storage facilities from wealthy countries to developing regions could help address the debt the former owes the latter for causing the brunt of the climate crisis.

World leaders should recognise this moral dilemma and consider the choices with urgency. The need to remove and safely store carbon becomes more severe by the day. Given the time and costs involved in developing storage sites, and the real possibility that the storage sites may not be sufficient for the carbon countries emit, this is a question that cannot be delayed. (The Conversation)

(By Kian Mintz-Woo, Lecturer in Philosophy, Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork)

Udayavani is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest news.

Top News

India records 2.86 lakh new Covid cases, 573 more deaths

Sensex slumps over 1,100 points in early trade; Nifty falls below 16,950

‘Swabhimana padayatra’ receives tremendous response

34 personalities write to CM, MLAs over alleged violence against religious minorities

Govt to review situation, decide about reopening tourist places: Aaditya Thackeray

Tatas take first step in Air India, to introduce ‘enhanced meal service’ in 4 flights on Thursday

Karnataka set to establish military school in the name of Sangolli Rayanna


Related Articles More

Mysterious object in Milky Way ‘spooks’ astronomers

Could 5G really ground planes? Why the US has delayed rolling out the mobile internet technology around airports

Some endangered species can no longer survive in the wild. So should we alter their genes?

Low-cost smartphone-based test can accurately detect COVID-19 in 20 minutes

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has reached its destination, 1.5 million km from Earth. Here’s what happens next

MUST WATCH

Rajpath witnesses splendid fly-past of 75 aircrafts

Mysore student led NCC at the Republic Day 2022 Parade held in Delhi

NEWS BULLETIN 26-02-2022

Stunning motorcycle display by BSF all-women biker team at India’s 73 Republic Day parade

Siddaramaiah Talk’s About Election


Latest Additions

Consumer court directs shop to compensate retd judge’s wife for burnt Mysore silk saree

SC asks Punjab govt not to arrest SAD leader Majithia in drugs case till Jan 31

K’taka HC orders Rs 17.66 lakh compensation to man who lost genitals in road accident

Man goes to hospital with hernia, doctors discover female genitalia in bulge

Shivamogga: Two killed in road accident

Thanks for visiting Udayavani

You seem to have an Ad Blocker on.
To continue reading, please turn it off or whitelist Udayavani.