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How we hit climate targets

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Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Global climate targets can be met with the help of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, according to a new Imperial College London study.

The new research, released today in Energy & Environmental Science, reveals that it is possible to capture and store levels of carbon dioxide that can support efforts to keep global warming rises below 2°C – and possibly 1.5°C – above pre-industrial levels by 2100. While it is not a silver bullet, the seminal reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlining these targets identified CCS as a key solution to achieving these goals, alongside the transition to renewable energy and adoption of electric transport systems.

What the Imperial analysis indicates is that the IPCC’s global warming targets can be met with the storage that is available, as long as capacity growth continues at the current pace. By capturing CO2 underground at its emission source, and preventing it from entering the atmosphere – CCS, as an innovation employed in tandem with other mitigation strategies, are the steps to hitting the IPCC targets.

“Nearly all IPCC pathways to limit warming to 2°C require tens of gigatons of CO2 stored per year by mid-century. However, until now, we didn’t know if these targets were achievable given historic data, or how these targets related to subsurface storage space requirements,” said Dr Christopher Zahasky, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who previously conducted the work at Imperial.

“We found that even the most ambitious scenarios are unlikely to need more than 2,700 Gt of CO2 storage resource globally, much less than the 10,000 Gt of storage resource that leading reports suggest is possible.  Our study shows that if climate change targets are not met by 2100, it won’t be for a lack of carbon capture and storage space.”

An important factor in maximising the impact of CCS is storing CO2 quickly. That way, ‘less total subsurface storage resource is needed to meet storage targets’.

“Our analysis shows good news for CCS if we keep up with this trajectory – but there are many other factors in mitigating climate change and its catastrophic effects, like using cleaner energy and transport as well as significantly increasing the efficiency of energy use,” added Dr Samuel Krevor, from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering.

Recommended reading on this topic

Carbon Capture, Howard J. Herzog (MIT Press Essential Knowledge series)

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Susan Robertson
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Susan is the co-founder of Innovators Magazine and a consultant for OnePoint5 Media. Susan is also a member of the UNFCCC-led Resilience Frontiers Nexus group and a board member of the APOPO Foundation UK.

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