According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we need a hybrid solution to tackling climate and meeting Net Zero targets - the world needs to reach 1.5°C (2.7°F) by 2050. The approach requires a reduction in CO2 along with the removal of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the atmosphere. Carbon Capture (CCS) technology can remove harmful gases.
What is Carbon Capture?
Industrial processes, transport, energy use in buildings, and energy production, account for over 70% of carbon emissions globally. Some of these industries and energy production methods can be reduced, but some industries will be unable to scale down production in time to meet targets.
This is where carbon capture comes in. Carbon capture utilisation and storage is a suite of technologies that extract CO2 and other harmful greenhouse gases and then pipe them to a safe zone deep underground. It sounds like a simple solution, but it has some issues as well.
How Does Carbon Capture Work?
A carbon capture facility looks something like an oil refinery from the outside, but it has a very different purpose. Instead of refining oil for use in industries that create carbon emissions, the silver stacks and chambers of a carbon capture facility remove harmful gases from the area.
Carbon capture facilities are located close to carbon-emitting facilities in an attempt to reduce the effects of carbon emissions. Currently, CCS facilities are extracting 45 Mt of GHG emissions from the air every year, but this needs to increase. Around 58 Gt of GHG are emitted annually.
Why is Carbon Capture Important?
Carbon capture is certainly not a silver bullet for resolving the climate crisis. Firstly, carbon capture facilities require energy to operate, so until a new sustainable power source is developed, they also contribute to CO2 emissions; and carbon removal is also fairly limited.
Still, carbon capture technology is important and has a role to play in the journey to Net Zero. A holistic approach to the climate crisis is needed to prevent the worst effects of climate change; this includes reducing carbon emissions by some of the worst contributors and CCS technology.
The Downside of Carbon Capture
Critics of carbon capture argue that the technology doesn’t go far enough. Investment in new “direct capture” facilities can remove around 100,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere, but at the same time, a single corporate emissions contributor could be responsible for a million tons.
When it comes to carbon capture technology, there is an issue around the balance of carbon emissions - how much is it contributing to emissions, and how much does it capture? But there are storage issues too. Earthquakes and instability can release carbon from storage deposits.
The Carbon Capture Outlook
While carbon capture is not the simple solution many hoped for, there is no doubt it has an important part to play in Net Zero. CCS can reduce the worst effects of heavy industries that will struggle to adapt in time. It makes Net Zero more realistic until long-term solutions are found.
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