“The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.” – Antonio Guterres
Throughout the battle against climate change, the narrative has evolved from “global warming” to “climate change” to “climate crisis.” Now, with some parts experiencing warmer summers, attributed to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, the term “global boiling” has been coined by the United Nations Secretary-General. Beyond this, there's an evident shift in climate discussions from "emissions" to "burning".
For example, Doomberg1 points out, “YouTube currently contextualizes all videos on its platform that mention climate: Funny, we thought emissions were the problem | YouTube.”
Historically, the focus was on slowing and eliminating carbon emissions from fossil fuels. Yet, as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies near commercial viability, there's been resistance from environmentalists. An emphasis on this technology by Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, President of the upcoming 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), has sparked significant debate. The UN’s former climate chief, Christiana Figueres, commented on Al Jaber's speech, saying, “The fact that ‘emissions’ is in that sentence is very worrisome,” during her Outrage and Optimism podcast.
Interestingly, the industry, often portrayed negatively, is teeming with technologists working to solve environmental challenges. With the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 supporting CCS development, there’s optimism for scalable solutions to reduce CO2 emissions. When tasked with complex problems—such as extracting CO2 from fossil fuel combustion and securely storing it underground—these professionals often find solutions. The strong resistance from Malthusians suggests these efforts are nearing success.
Historically, two key challenges to CCS adoption were the lack of economic incentives for captured CO2 and insufficient pipeline infrastructure. However, by the 1970s, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) applications provided utility for CO2, resulting in the development of a CO2 market. Given this background, Exxon Mobil's intention to acquire Denbury, an owner of a significant CO2 pipeline network, for $4.9 billion aligns strategically.
Incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act could be instrumental in encouraging power producers to adopt CCS. One such company, NET Power, after going public, has highlighted its oxy-combustion process that yields almost pure CO2 without post-processing. As their incoming CEO, Danny Rice, describes, “This oxy-combustion process produces three things, a whole lot of energy, carbon dioxide, and water... We believe this process to be the most cost-effective way to capture CO2 from gas power generation.”
Additionally, there are innovations aiming for “negative carbon” solutions that remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere. Although energy-intensive, there’s investment interest in this area, evident from Warren Buffett-backed Occidental Petroleum Corp.’s decision to acquire Carbon Engineering Ltd. for $1.1 billion.
Yet, amid these technological advances, there are ironies. Embracing nuclear power could potentially offset the need for CCS. Also, despite the benefits of CCS, it might face strong opposition from groups against the use of fossil fuels, reminiscent of the resistance encountered by the nuclear industry.
In conclusion, the fight against climate change has evolved in narrative and focus. As innovations emerge, they bring hope but also face potential resistance. Secondly, those opposing, in particular, the Malthusians out there, CCS likely do so because it might make fossil fuels emissions-free, not out of environmental concern. As Doomberg summarizes, “It was never about emissions, you see. It was always about fewer humans.”
Note: Doomberg has clarified that no financial interests are held in any companies mentioned in the article.
1 Adapted from source: Doomberg. "It Was Never About Emissions." Doomberg, 20 Aug. 2023, doomberg.substack.com/p/it-was-never-about-emissions.