Combat climate change through technology

Climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1) (IPCC) has confirmed that unless the rise in average global temperature is kept below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, devastating – and irreversible – climate changes will occur.

In July 2008, this was acknowledged by leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised countries, who agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

For the past 40 years the world economy has run almost entirely on fossil fuels. Today, these supply over 80% of the world’s energy needs, a reality set to continue for decades to come. But while fossil fuels provide us with the stable electricity we need to power our nations and drive our economies, they also release billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide – or CO2 – into the atmosphere, thereby accelerating global warming.

Experts agree that we must reduce our expected emissions by at least 50% (2) over the next 20 years. But with world energy demand expected to increase by 50% by 2030 (3) and renewable energy to make up only ~30% (4)  of the energy mix by this date, only a portfolio of solutions can achieve this goal.

This includes energy efficiency, a vast increase in renewable energy – and CO2 Capture and Storage (CCS). Indeed, CCS is the single biggest lever to combat climate change (compared to, for example, energy efficiency which requires many different actions), with the potential to address almost half of the world’s current CO2 emissions.

That’s because CCS can capture at least 90% of CO2 emissions from power plants and heavy industry (e.g. cement, steel, chemicals). The CO2 is then transported in liquid form by pipeline or ship and stored safely and permanently far below the earth’s surface – at least 700m. This process uses natural mechanisms that have been ‘storing’ oil, gas and CO2 for millions of years.

If implemented without delay, CCS could reduce annual CO2 emissions by a massive 0.6-1.7 billion tonnes in the EU and by 9-16 billion tonnes worldwide by 2050 (5). The upper end of this range would require its application to all fossil fuel power plants and to almost all other large industrial emitters – with the large volumes of hydrogen produced used for transport fuel.

As a safe and efficient method of capturing and storing billions of tonnes of CO2 permanently underground, CCS therefore represents the bridge to a truly sustainable energy system. It will enable Europe to grow its economy, enjoy a secure energy supply – and meet its CO2 reduction targets.

Time, however, is of the essence. Unless CCS is deployed rapidly and widely, we simply won’t be able to reduce our emissions in time to prevent the extreme consequences of climate change.

Source: ZEP

Publisert 6/2/2010

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