Insights and Commentaries
Let's talk seriously about emission reduction, including CCS
15th August 2015
The following Insight is an excerpt from an article by Professor Robin Batterham, Kernot Professor of Engineering, University of Melbourne and Chief Scientist to the Australian Federal Government 1999-2005. Read the full article here.
The 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) will take place in Paris in December. There are high hopes amongst many that this will result in international agreements that will set all nations on a path to much more serious emission reductions. Let’s do a sanity check here: to even reach 21 conferences and still find emissions set to skyrocket from around 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year to 46 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, is telling us something. Put simply and with no sense of denial of anthropogenic impact on climate being measurable, 21 conferences and a rise of 25% by 2035 suggests to me that current messages, particularly of the more extreme scenario variety, are not having much impact. Numerous other publications suggest the same.
We live in a world where promissory notes abound, eg our G7 leaders meeting recently in Bavaria are targeting zero emissions by 2100. Zero overall implies negative for some areas to compensate for those areas like cement and metal production where CO2 emissions are inevitable. We need power generation with negative emissions and co-firing biomass with coal plus CCUS is one way of getting there.
Let’s pause a moment, take a step back, move away from the hype and the incredible vitriol targeting those whose sense of urgency is less than overwhelming and consider some realities. It helps sometimes to move away from the arguments about how, how much, by whom, etc. and start more from common ground.
It will be a long time before we reach agreement on whether the rest of this century will see 1.5°C rise or 4+°C, the ranges quoted by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But we already have broad agreement that anthropogenic inputs to the climate are observable. Further, we have very considerable support for the position of minimising emissions. If we start from this common ground, the nature of the dialogue changes to focus on how much and who pays. This is familiar territory. It is for many of us the daily round: it covers education, infrastructure, support for the arts and sports, let alone health and medical expenses, especially with ageing populations. The difference with minimising emissions however is that it is not just about how much and who pays, it is critically about technology and of course, which technologies, noting no single technology has all of the answers.
Emission reduction with reasonable economics and impact should be our target. This is all doable and should include all options, CCS being quite attractive on economic grounds. The discussion should be about “how much do we want to pay?”. Given the lack of global progress on emission reduction to date, this also seems to be what the wider population is saying.
This is an excerpt from an opinion piece by Professor Robin Batterham, Kernot Professor of Engineering at the University of Melbourne and Chief Scientist to the Australian Federal Government 1999-2005. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the Global CCS Institute. Click here to read the full version.