Carbon Capture & Sequestration

Some have dismissed divestment by arguing that Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) will make addressing carbon emissions a moot point. CCS is the process of capturing carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-fired power plants, transporting it, and storing it long term, such as in an underground geological formation. CCS will be needed in the future for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as the world could stop emitting carbon pollution overnight and yet it would still continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. However, using CCS to perpetuate the status quo and not address the underlying issues is a dodge.

While many believe that CCS holds promise, it is still technologically and economically infeasible, and there are no large commercial-scale CCS plants in operation. For CCS to have any meaningful effect would mean scaling it up tremendously; the Grantham Institute has estimated that sequestering one-fifth of today’s carbon emissions would require processing an amount equal to the cumulative volume of what is processed by today’s oil industry. Even an optimistic scenario involving 3,800 commercial projects worldwide would only allow an extra 4% of fossil fuel reserves to be burned. There is also the fact that CCS requires significant energy to work, which is self-defeating, and is also very expensive. A theme in many CCS analyses is that further research will be needed to achieve breakthroughs, but if the world is already struggling to come up with an international agreement to tackle climate change, then how could anyone justify thinking that it would suddenly get its act together on CCS? Arguing that Columbia should not divest because CCS may end up being a potential quick fix is thus a cornucopian dodge.