Study finds far less carbon capture needed to help meet climate targets

21 May 2020

Image: © kamilpetran/

New research has said the world is on track to capture and store enough carbon dioxide to meet IPCC climate targets, working alongside other measures.

While climate scientists advocate for focusing on cutting our carbon emissions to meet global climate targets, geoengineers and others have proposed the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a critical aid to this effort. This would involve trapping CO2 at its emission source, such as at power stations, and storing it underground to prevent it escaping into the atmosphere.

CCS was noted as a potential key component of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) reports. The IPCC used models to find 1,200 technology scenarios where environmental targets could be met using a mix of interventions, most of which include CSS.

Now, researchers from Imperial College London writing in Energy and Environmental Science have estimated that 2,700 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 would be enough to play a major part in reaching the IPCC target of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This is far less than estimates by other academic and industry groups, the researchers said, which suggest there is more than 10,000Gt of CO2 storage space globally. Also, the current rate of growth in the installed capacity of CCS – 8.6pc over the past 20 years – is on track to meet some of the targets identified in IPCC reports.

However, the researchers’ findings are based on the idea that research and commercial efforts continue to maintain this rate of growth while identifying more sites for underground CO2 storage. This research is one of the first to quantify the amount of CO2 storage needed to meet IPCC goals.

The study’s co-author, Dr Samuel Krevor, said: “Rather than focus our attention on looking at how much storage space is available, we decided for the first time to evaluate how much subsurface storage resource is actually needed, and how quickly it must be developed to meet climate change mitigation targets.”

He said that storing faster and sooner than current deployment might be needed to help governments meet the most ambitious climate crisis mitigation scenarios identified by the IPCC. However, CCS on its own will not be able to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis on meeting IPCC targets.

“Our analysis shows good news for CCS if we keep up with this trajectory – but there are many other factors in mitigating climate change and its catastrophic effects, like using cleaner energy and transport as well as significantly increasing the efficiency of energy use,” Krevor said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic