Professor Kevin Anderson on Techno Utopias. The Paris “COP21” agreement is/was not only expecting miracles, it was counting on them.
Y’think climate disruption causes ecosystem disruption: Try geoengineering.
Well the answer was simple. If we choose to continue our love affair with oil, coal and gas, loading the atmosphere with evermore carbon dioxide, then at some later date when sense prevails, we’ll be forced to attempt sucking our carbon back out of the atmosphere. Whilst a plethora of exotic Dr Strangelove options vie for supremacy to deliver on such a grand project, those with the ear of governments have plumped for BECCS (biomass energy carbon capture and storage) as the most promising “negative emission technology”. However these government advisors (Integrated Assessment Modellers – clever folk developing ‘cost-optimised’ solutions to 2°C by combining physics with economic and behavioural modelling) no longer see negative emission technologies as a last ditch Plan B – but rather now promote it as central pivot of the one and only Plan.
So what exactly does BECCS entail? Apportioning huge swathes of the planet’s landmass to the growing of bio-energy crops (from trees to tall grasses) – which, as they grow, absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Periodically these crops are harvested; processed for worldwide travel; shipped all around the globe and finally combusted in thermal powerstations. The carbon dioxide is then stripped from the waste gases; compressed (almost to a liquid); pumped through large pipes over potentially very long distances; and finally stored deep underground in various geological formations (from exhausted oil and gas reservoirs through to saline aquifers) for a millennium or so.
And I think some of my progressive, environmentally-minded friends are laughable, worrying about the ecosystem impacts of flooding from hydropower, when Those In The Know (UNFCCC) are proceeding with plans for geoengineering later this century, and commissioning scientific investigations (IPCC) to more deeply examine them and calibrate exactly how much time humanity has before things get really bad (read that as meaning the wealthy start to lose coastal properties and the like).
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