An expensive band-aid?

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PBS recently ran a Frontline documentary entitled “Heat”, on climate change. A section of the movie describes the status of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the US, a technology that both the IPCC and the IEA consider necessary to achieve emissions reduction. I note that no tests have been run so far in the US to verify the technical feasibility, economic viability and safety of this option. Purely from the technical point of view, the task could be feasible, although extremely challenging. It’s the idea of storing huge amounts of CO2 underground or in the deep seas (less likely) that makes me doubtful. CO2 will need to be sealed away in carefully selected sites, but safety issues are only part of the picture.

My main concern is that the solution seems once again temporary; it is relying on the assumption that future generations will be better posed than us to keep this gas safely stored. We simply don't know that. What we do know is that uncertainty is enormous. If our efforts to limit climate change are insufficient, the opposite may very well be the case, and future generations may be less able to cope with the challenge.

I believe we must stop thinking this way, stop betting on expensive short-term solutions, and instead throw the full weight of our ingenuity and finance behind a complete long-term redesign of energy technology.


Nicola Cenacchi

Research Assistant, World Development Report 2010

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