New carbon capture technology should be welcomed. But weaning the world off coal, oil and gas is what matters most
The switching on of the world’s largest carbon capture and storage plant, in Iceland, is a glimmer of hope in a bleak climate landscape. The amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by this new machine will be tiny: 4,000 tonnes a year, which is equivalent to that produced by 870 cars. Still, the project brings a step closer the possibility that significant amounts of carbon dioxide could, one day, be removed from the atmosphere.
The significant risks that such technological developments carry must be addressed head-on. The danger is that they are a displacement activity from the massive and necessary task of reducing and then eliminating emissions (with any residual emissions offset or, if carbon capture technologies are scaled up, removed). This distraction need not be deliberate, although fossil fuel producers have consistently undermined climate action by promoting the idea that technological solutions will eventually make calls to decarbonise obsolete.