The case for mandatory carbon sequestration

Carbon capture and storage

Given that between three and five trillion tonnes of carbon remain locked up in fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and that a release into the atmosphere of just half a trillion tonnes would lead to a two degree warming, scientists from Oxford and the US are calling for the mandatory sequestration of carbon emitted from power stations.

In an article published tomorrow in Nature Geoscience, atmospheric physicists Myles Allen and Dave Frame, together with Wyoming-based energy economist Chuck Mason, argue that cumulative emissions determine the outcome of anthropogenic climate change, and are thus more important than the annual figures often cited. This calls for a fresh approach to climate change mitigation, say the researchers, who advocate a statutory link between carbon sequestration and fossil fuel extraction.

Of course it would not be easy to implement carbon sequestration on such a massive scale, especially given the expense involved, and the fact that carbon capture and storage technology is unproven. However, Allen and his colleagues say that sequestration could be introduced gradually. They add that, in its favour, sequestration would allow for the decoupling of consumption from climate mitigation, and minimise government intervention.

Further reading

Allen et al., “The case for mandatory sequestration”, Nature Geoscience (2009)