Opinion: What fossil fuel companies might try to tell us about achieving our climate goals
According to a new report, it is too late to reach our climate goals with emissions reduction alone. We need to add carbon dioxide removal to our efforts
In its latest report of April 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognized that it is now too late for the world to achieve an average temperature increase of no more than 1.5 degrees C through emissions reduction alone. We have procrastinated, denied and delayed too much for that to be possible.
The panel recognizes that some form of carbon dioxide removal is now essential for us to have any chance of meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Now, not only must we worry that we are not decarbonizing quickly enough (we aren’t), or that political authorities still do not recognize the urgency (they don’t), but we must also develop a carbon dioxide removal technology that can be rapidly implemented at a vast scale.
Trees, wetlands and healthy soils are all natural removal systems. But they themselves are threatened by fire, drought and urbanization in our warming world. Technological approaches exist and could have a significant positive impact but because they rely on sequestering removed CO2 in the ground, the entities best able to implement them are fossil fuel companies.
Carbon capture and storage for example, is an existing process where scrubbed CO2 is injected and stored in depleted oil wells, but for the purpose of forcing out the remaining oil (aka “enhanced oil recovery”). So the result of sequestering CO2 is producing more oil to burn
The danger with carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture and storage is that fossil fuel interests will present them as substitutes for reducing emissions or as reasons why it could be slowed down, allowing them more time to profit from their fossil fuel reserves and infrastructure. The panel report is clear that removal needs to be in addition to, not instead of, urgent emissions reduction. To leave carbon dioxide removal in the hands of the fossil fuel companies would result in an industrial scale greenwashing which the world most certainly does not have time for.
Salt Lake City