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Advancing Carbon Abatement Technologies

Context:

At COP28 in Dubai, UAE, draft decisions have proposed the reduction and elimination of carbon emissions through the adoption of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Carbon-Dioxide Removal (CDR) technologies. The focus is on addressing unabated fossil fuels, emphasizing the imperative to “phase out” the combustion of these fuels without employing CCS technologies for emission capture.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. CCS and CDR Technologies: Understanding the Methods
  2. Challenges of CCS and CDR Technologies

CCS and CDR Technologies: Understanding the Methods

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS):
  • Definition: CCS involves capturing carbon dioxide (CO₂) at emission sources before its release into the atmosphere.
  • Sources: Includes fossil fuel industries (coal, oil, and gas combustion for power generation) and industrial processes like steel and cement production.
Carbon-Dioxide Removal (CDR):

Nature and Technologies:

  • Natural means like afforestation or reforestation.
  • Technologies like direct air capture, mimicking trees by absorbing CO₂ and storing it underground.
  • Complex methods like enhanced rock weathering, chemically breaking down rocks to remove CO₂.
  • Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), capturing and storing CO₂ from biomass burning, such as wood.

Importance in Achieving Global Warming Goals:

IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6):
  • Reliance: The AR6 heavily relies on CCS and CDR technologies for projections to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Sequestration Scale: IPCC assumes the world can sequester 5 billion tonnes of CO₂ by 2040 in scenarios with over a 50% chance of meeting the 1.5 degrees Celsius target.
No Pathway Without CDR:
  • The AR6 lacks a pathway to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius target without integrating CDR technologies.
  • Current emission rates pose a risk of surpassing the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold within seven years.
Significant Role in Mitigation:
  • Given current emission rates, achieving the 1.5 degrees Celsius target solely through direct measures (like renewable energy adoption) is nearly impossible, necessitating substantial reliance on CDR technologies.

Challenges of CCS and CDR Technologies:

Risk of Continued Emissions:
  • Concerns: Existence of CCS and CDR may inadvertently create room for continued emissions.
  • Consequence: This might lead to increased emissions or prolonged reliance on fossil fuels instead of transitioning to renewable energy sources.
CCS for Enhanced Oil Extraction:
  • Issue: In some cases, CCS has been utilized to extract more oil by injecting captured CO₂ into oil fields.
  • Concern: This practice potentially prolongs reliance on fossil fuels rather than facilitating a transition away from them.
Land Constraints for CDR Methods:
  • Methods Affected: Afforestation, reforestation, BECCS, and direct air capture.
  • Challenge: These methods are constrained by the need for land.
  • Global South Impact: Land in the Global South, considered ‘viable’ and ‘cost-effective,’ may be used for large-scale CDR projects.
  • Consequences: Adverse effects on land rights of indigenous communities, biodiversity, and competition with essential land-use, like agriculture for food security.
Technological Challenges:
  • Scale-Up Challenges: The scale-up of CCS and CDR poses significant technological challenges.
  • Issues: High costs, limited infrastructure, and the need for substantial innovation to enhance effectiveness and affordability of these technologies.

-Source: The Hindu


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