Information is power, and the fossil fuel companies don’t want anyone but them to have power. They have lied to governments, manipulated political parties, and publicly deny their actions are killing all of us. Obviously, that’s not good.
Now an international team of researchers and concerned organizations have launched the Global Registry of Fossil Fuels to track the work of companies which are actively extracting deadly fuels. The goal is to help decision makers from local politicians to CEOs understand the dangers of the industry and explain plainly what harm they are doing.
Countries around the world are projected to produce more than twice the fossil fuels consistent with 1.5°C by 2030. It is clear that addressing the climate crisis requires managing the supply of fossil fuels, alongside demand-side measures, and that this needs to be done fairly and equitably. The Global Registry of Fossil Fuels is therefore the first the first-ever comprehensive, independent, policy neutral and fully open-source database that demonstrates the scale of CO2 emissions associated with each country’s national reserves and production, thus enabling policy-makers, investors and others to make informed decisions to align fossil fuel production with 1.5°C, and equipping researchers with the data needed to provide timely analysis.
The simple kelp plant could help us suck carbon out of the air in large quantities, and if so then we need more kelp – and fast! Kelp is a seaweed that naturally grows up to two feet per day, which puts it on a similar growth rate to algae which is similar and we’ve looked at before as a carbon sink. Kelp is so good at using carbon that a startup is currently creating a kelp factory that functions as an industrial carbon-removal service.
The company produces groupings of kelp that float on water and absorb carbon, when they get heavy enough the groupings fall to the ocean floor. It’s an imperfect idea and still being tested, but we must remember that climate change will be addressed by thousands of little solutions and not one grand gesture.
At its core, carbon removal is “a mass-transfer problem,” Marty Odlin, Running Tide’s CEO, told me. The key issue is how to move the hundreds of gigatons of carbon emitted by fossil fuels from the “fast cycle,” where carbon flits from fossil fuels to the air to plant matter, back to the “slow cycle,” where they remain locked away in geological storage for millennia. “How do youmovethat?” Odlin said. “What’s the most efficient way possible to accomplish that mass transfer?” The question is really, really important. The United Nations recently said that carbon removal is “essential” to remedying climate change, but so far, we don’t have the technology to do it cheaply and at scale.
By now you’ve heard that the most recent IPCC report shows that humanity is in a dire situation and we need to act now to avoid making the planet uninhabitable to humanity. That is, if we keep doing what we’re currently doing with too much consumption and the use of planet-destroying gas and oil. So let’s change what energy sources we use while reducing excessive consumption by the extra wealthy. It really is that simple and all we need to do it act.
To save the planet vote for politicians that want to curb carbon output and increase the use of renewables. Whenever possible get rid of gas-consuming devices in your life and use 100% electric replacements.
The most heartening section of the report is on alternatives to fossil fuel use. The overarching solution to our energy needs is to electrify everything we can, from heating buildings to transport, and power everything using clean renewables and storage. We are getting a huge helping hand from great leaps forward in clean technology.
Between 2010 and 2019, the report says that the cost of solar energy plummeted by 85%, wind energy by 55% and lithium-ion batteries by 85%. These are staggering figures that point to a radically reshaped energy future. With the tsunami of suffering that is about to engulf UK households from soaring energy costs set by skyrocketing gas prices, everyone in government needs to see this message. There is a cheaper, cleaner way.
The best thing to do to prevent climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels, until that happens we need to find ways to extract carbon from the air to reduce the speed of climate change. Of course, carbon removal needs to be powered by renewable systems themselves. The XPrize for carbon removal kicked off in February, part of that launch involved a competition for universities to apply for funding radical carbon removal ideas. The winners have been announced and the projects are looking at everything from cleaning up asbestos to making a tea out of yard waste.
The Blue Symbiosis team from Australia’s University of Tasmania is looking to tap into the natural CO2-absorbing properties of seaweed, by repurposing oil and gas rigs as regenerative farming sites. The offshore platforms provide the trunk, while the seaweed will act as the branches, according to the team. The team aims to scale up production to the point where the system can have a real impact on ocean health, with part of the seaweed to also be used in construction materials such as fire-resilient bricks, enabling the carbon being stored to be quantified.
“I researched the potential of repurposing oil and gas infrastructure to regenerative seaweed sites, which led to the conclusion that this holds real promise for both environmental and commercial reasons,” says team leader Joshua Castle. “Decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure is an emerging AU$60-billion (US$44-billion) problem for governments and industries in which they are expected to share the costs. Seaweed has the potential to deliver vast environmental benefits for ocean health – but if it can’t be scaled, significant impacts on ocean health can’t be realized.
The COP26 news coverage has focussed on pledges from counties to cut their emissions (which is good) and on funding for new technologies to suck carbon out of the air (which isn’t so good). Increasingly scientists, ecologists, and activists have been calling out that technical solutions are a distraction from the core problem: we’re burning up fossil fuels. Technology won’t save us, cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero will.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t research carbon capture technologies, rather we should prioritize not putting more carbon into the air in the first place. Leave the oil in the ground, stop all coal consumption, and ban the production of fossil fuel powered engines.
“Simply put, technological carbon capture is a dangerous distraction,” they wrote. “We don’t need tofixfossil fuels, we need toditchthem.”
Despite these groups’ concerns, we’re likely to be bombarded with more good-news climate stories like the coverage accorded to the plant in Merritt and the project in Iceland. And carbon capture, utilization, and storage is a key component of Canada and B.C.’s plans for reducing overall emissions.
The report acknowledges that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s future scenarios allow for the deployment of carbon-capture technologies from the air in achieving the Paris targets.