Technique of burning biomass then pumping released carbon underground included in leaked draft from UN climate panel
A biomass plant in Metz, eastern France. A UN report has suggested burning biomass then pumping the released carbon underground could provide a fix for climate change. Photograph: Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/AFP/Getty Images
An upcoming UN report suggests that unproven technologies to suck carbon out of the air might be a fix for climate change, according to a leaked draft obtained by the Guardian.
Scientists and government officials gather in Berlin this week ahead of Sunday’s publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s third part of its series of blockbuster climate change reports, which deals with policies addressing the emissions that drive global warming.
But environmentalists criticised the report’s inclusion of a controversial new technique that would involve burning biomass – trees, plant waste, or woodchips – to generate electricity, and then capturing the released carbon, pumping it into geological reservoirs underground.
Proponents of the technique – known as bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) – suggest that regrown trees and crops might sequester additional carbon, making the technology “negative emission” because it might reduce the overall amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
It is part of broader group of geoengineering technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the air – most of them experimental – that the IPCC is now forecasting may require “large-scale deployment” to keep global warming below rises of 2C.
But critics have warned that “negative emissions” claims about the technology aren’t well-founded, since associated industrial agriculture and forestry activities cause heavy emissions and regrown tree plantations do not act as carbon sinks. They further warn that large-scale conversion of land for the technology could threaten the livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries in the same way that the drive for biofuels has been linked to land grabs and food price rises.
“The technology is the dangerous spawn of two very bad ideas: it brings together the false premises and injustices of the bio-energy debacle with the risky, costly and unproven notion that we can bury carbon dioxide out of sight. That hardly seems a hopeful formula for calming the climate crisis. Such techno-fix fantasies will be welcomed by oil companies because they distract attention from the obvious solution of cutting fossil fuel use,” said Almuth Ernsting, co-director of bio-energy watchdog Biofuelwatch.
Global Climate Change
Cyprus International Institute (CII) (Harvard School of Public Health) http://Cyprus-Institute.us