Renewables are a better investment than carbon capture for tackling climate change

10.04.2019 - London, UK - Silvia Swinden

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Renewables are a better investment than carbon capture for tackling climate change
(Image by Frank J. (Frank John) Aleksandrowicz, 1921-, Photographer (NARA record: 8452210) • Public domain)

A report published by Science Daily states that “Solar panels and wind turbines coupled with energy storage offer a better hope for tackling climate change than trying to capture carbon from fossil fuel power stations, according to new research. New research shows that resources that would be spent on developing and installing carbon capture technologies would be better invested in creating more solar panels and wind turbines and focusing on developing energy storage options to support these instead.”

An international team of researchers from Lancaster University, Khalifa University, Clemson University, UiT The Arctic University and the University of Florence have published their findings that show that investment in renewable forms of energy such as solar and wind would be better to tackle climate change than the yet underdeveloped carbon capture technology.

The study “calculated the energy output after taking into account the energy needed to create and operate the system, for carbon capture technologies across a range of fossil fuel power stations — including coal and natural gas.

“They compared these results with the energy return on energy invested for renewable energy systems, such as wind farms and solar panels, combined with various kinds of energy storage systems, such as batteries, hydrogen or pumped hydro-power and discovered that worst cases of renewables, with storage, compare to the best examples of carbon capture.”

There has been a race in the fossil fuel industry to try to justify their continuing use rather than moving to renewables by attempting to develop technologies that reduce their effects on climate change, carbon capture being one of them, but there have been other, sometimes ominous proposals such as geoengeneering consisting in injecting sulphur dioxide or other aerosol particles to reduce  the heat from the sun. They not only waste precious time in the now urgent need to address climate change by investing in proven and every time cheaper renewables, and also do away with the precautionary principle since a miscalculation could lead into another ice age, but also completely ignore the fact that the warming of the earth is not the only consequence of burning coal, gas and oil.


The WHO warns that “there are 4.2 million deaths every year as a result of exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution, 3.8 million deaths every year as a result of household exposure to smoke from dirty cookstoves and fuels and 91%of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits.”

”Worldwide ambient air pollution accounts for:

  • 29% of all deaths and disease from lung cancer
  • 17% of all deaths and disease from acute lower respiratory infection
  • 24% of all deaths from stroke
  • 25% of all deaths and disease from ischaemic heart disease
  • 43% of all deaths and disease from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Pollutants with the strongest evidence for public health concern, include particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2).”

It stresses the high capacity for penetration of small particles into the lungs and bloodstream, with particular concern for children (see another Science Daily report) and pregnant women. No amount of carbon capture could completely eliminate these risks.

The powerful fossil fuel lobby including those in government such as Donald Trump have been arguing that renewables are expensive and unable to cover the whole energy needs of humanity. The former is no longer true and the latter depends on the political will to invest and research, mobilised by well informed and active populations.

The System

The new generations are accurately linking climate change to health problems but also to the socio-economic order of high inequality not only in living conditions but also in life expectancy, obscene concentration of wealth and differential carbon footprint in which the poor suffer the consequences of pollution by the rich.

Proposals such as the Green New Deal reflect the need for change in all these areas and is being considered by other progressive politicians (Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to that effect). The rabid smears directed towards the people and the ideas should make us aware that such changes are actually possible.



Categories: Ecology and Environment, Health, International, Politics
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