The carbon collection process has been hailed by some as an essential technology to tackle climate change.1 Adherents to this view insist that carbon dioxide (CO2) needs to be removed from the atmosphere in order to help prevent a global increase in temperature.2 In reality however, none of the existing carbon collection technologies are close to being developed at sufficient scale to significantly impact global warming.3 As such, many people argue that instead of investing in the carbon collection process, we should concentrate resources on renewable energies instead.4
Pros of the Carbon Collection Process
Proponents of the carbon collection process as a viable climate change solution contend that the technology can capture up to 90 percent of the CO2 emissions from power plants and factories (although new research has cast serious doubts on this figure).24 Once stored underground, this could prevent a huge amount of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. With this technology attached to industrial facilities, it could make significantly greener energy, whilst continuing to meet production demands.2
Feasibility of the Carbon Collection
It is true that removing CO2 from the atmosphere and capturing it at the source would create greener energy. However, for the technology to generate negative emissions at a global scale, it would need to be scaled up massively.1 Estimates suggest 2,500 carbon capture facilities would need to be operating by 2040, each capturing 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually.1 Such an increase is extraordinarily ambitious. At present, there are just 23 large-scale carbon capture and storage projects around the globe, 18 of which are currently operational.31 Subsequently, many experts suggest that instead, resources and funding should go towards replacing gas or coal power with renewable energy sources.4
Another issue with the carbon capture process is that in practise it does not capture 90 percent of CO2 emissions.4 On the contrary, research has shown that in reality the amount captured averages around 10-11 percent of emissions.4 Even worse, carbon capture technology also often increases air pollution.4 This makes investing in cleaner renewable energy sources an even more appealing alternative. Wind farms, for example, produce no air pollution and very little CO2.5 They do not require any investment in costly carbon capture technology and so present a more attractive option from an economic and an environmental perspective.4
The Verdict on the Carbon Collection Process
Overall, relying on carbon capture technologies to supply our future energy does not seem to be a feasible solution. Some scientists also warn that investing in carbon capture solutions increases our dependence upon fossil fuels, drawing attention away from renewable alternatives.5 There has been investment from all the major oil companies into so-called negative emissions technologies.5 Nevertheless, since the first large-scale CCS project began operating in 1996, there are just 18 such facilities operating worldwide.1 Both economically and environmentally, the carbon capture process cannot solve the world’s climate crisis and we should therefore look to renewable energy as the most expedient solution.
- What is carbon capture and storage and what role can it play in tackling climate change? LSE. http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/faqs/what-is-carbon-capture-and-storage-and-what-role-can-it-play-in-tackling-climate-change/ Published May 1, 2018. Accessed June 7, 2020.
- Ronca, Debra. How Carbon Capture Works. How Stuff Works. https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/carbon-capture.htm#:~:text=Carbon%20capture%20involves%20trapping%20the,power%20plant%2C%20creating%20greener%20energy Accessed, June 7, 2020.
- Poggio, Marco. Carbon Capture: Will It Save the Climate, or the Fossil Fuel Industry?. The Climate Docket. https://www.climatedocket.com/2019/03/13/carbon-capture-fossil-fuels-ciel-report/ Published March 13, 2019. Accessed June 7, 2020.
- Kubota, Taylor. Study casts doubt on carbon capture. Phys. https://phys.org/news/2019-10-carbon-capture.html Published October 25, 2019. Accessed June 7, 2020.
- Thomson, R Camilla, Harrison, Gareth P. Life cycle costs and carbon emissions of wind power. Climate Change. https://www.climatexchange.org.uk/media/1459/life_cycle_wind_-_executive_summary_.pdf Published 2015. Accessed June 7, 2020.