Net-Zero Goals Need More Than Carbon Capture Alone

Net-Zero Goals Need More Than Carbon Capture Alone

At a recent Greenhouse Gas Removal Hub event in London, scientific experts warned that despite carbon capture technologies becoming increasingly common, they are not a silver bullet to solve climate change. Rather, they say greenhouse gas removal (GGR) is just one piece of the decarbonization puzzle.

The Guardian surveyed the event’s attendees as to whether or not the UK will be able to meet its goal to remove 5 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere by 2030. Many of those polled were scientists participating in a government-funded competition to develop the best carbon capture technologies. The results showed that 57% are "not confident”; 11% believe there is "no chance”; 25% are "quite confident.” Still, the UK government remains optimistic about the efficient and effective deployment of GGR in the future.

The Greenhouse Gas Removal Hub: Greenhouse Gas Removal | Getting it right for people and the planet, May 12, 2022.

Ernergi Media: IEA says CCUS key to net-zero by 2050, January 27, 2022.

Why This Matters

The UK is not the only country with ambitious carbon capture goals. The US is also increasingly looking toward technology as a solution. The state of Wyoming, for example, has funneled billions of dollars into research and development, as have the country’s biggest tech and consulting companies. Despite the influx of funding and attention, IPCC scientists warn that the future of these technologies is uncertain on a massive scale -- a scale that would also not be economically feasible. A world that looks to carbon capture technologies as a silver bullet solution is a world looking for a simple solution to a complex problem, and one that still permits the fossil fuel industry to continue extraction. Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires more than one solution, including ending fossil fuel extraction and continuing clean energy expansion.

FT: Carbon capture | The hopes, challenges and controversies, April 5, 2022.

ABC News (Australia): 'Track record of failure' on carbon capture technology, November 9, 2021.

Democracy Now: Bill McKibben | Latest IPCC Climate Report Underscores "Fossil Fuel Is at the Root of Our Problems," April 7, 2022.

Carbon Capture Potential

Nevertheless, experts agree that GGR does hold enormous potential -- so long as it is not the only pursued solution. As part of the competition, the UK is currently funding a variety of projects relating to direct air capture, carbon sequestration within the soil, afforestation, and enhanced weathering to sequester carbon in the ocean.

"GGR is hard and expensive. And we cannot afford to see it as a surrogate to compensate for continued emissions in sectors that can be decarbonized,” stated Gideon Henderson, chief scientific advisor at the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Guardian reports. "It is not an excuse not to decarbonize, so we must drive down emissions anyway.”

The Greenhouse Gas Removal Hub: Introducing CO2RE, May 16, 2022.

CNBC: The reality of carbon capture technology, November 9, 2021.

Simon Clark: The rotten core of the new IPCC report, April 9, 2022.