As demand for rapid climate action intensifies, oil, gas, and petrochemical companies are increasingly promoting false climate solutions that enable business-as-usual pollution under the guise of climate action. The most pervasive of these false solutions is carbon capture and storage (CCS). Rather than simply avoiding the carbon dioxide emissions caused by burning fossil fuels, CCS proposes to capture those emissions from the countless sources where they’re created, transport the captured carbon dioxide through tens of thousands of miles of new pipelines in the US (and untold thousands more worldwide), and safely “store” it through a dizzying array of risky schemes — most of which end with using the carbon dioxide to produce even more oil.
Industry proponents paint CCS as a magical technology that will allow continued use of fossil fuels and polluting technologies by making greenhouse gas emissions magically disappear. CCS threatens to divert vast amounts of public funds from proven technologies like solar and wind power, and lock in fossil fuel dependence — at a time when the world needs to be managing the decline of dirty energy, not propping it up. While the headlines trumpet the potential of CCS, its failures and the significant environmental, health, and human rights risks it poses have received far less attention and too little scrutiny. In reality, CCS is a costly handout to industry that will lock in new fossil infrastructure for decades to come while endangering fenceline communities and our shared global climate.
CIEL is leading civil society partners to debunk false narratives promoting CCS, and cut off this new source of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. Over the last year, we’ve given briefings to US legislators and legislative staff, with a focus on the dangers of carbon dioxide pipelines and the particular risks they pose to communities of color already disproportionately burdened by toxic pollution and now targeted for the buildout of CCS infrastructure. We’ve presented on the costs and risks of CCS at teach-ins and training sessions for local and national leaders. In collaboration with the Environmental Working Group, we released a briefing busting the myth that CCS is a climate solution. In partnership with the Red Black and Green New Deal, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, and the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, we published a Louisiana-specific follow-up briefing, already being used by local coalitions resisting CCS.
Critically, CIEL has worked to build civil society awareness and engagement around these issues. Already over the last year, we have witnessed a growing number of public statements on the risks of CCS and other false solutions, culminating this past July in an open letter to leaders signed by more than 500 US and Canadian organizations, accompanied by full-page spreads in The Washington Post and Ottawa’s The Hill Times.
We don’t have time or money to waste on risky, ineffective, and unnecessary technologies that double down on the existing fossil fuel economy. We need to seize upon proven, affordable measures, like rapid electrification with renewables and shrinking emissions-intensive, toxic industries, like petrochemicals. The urgent need to reject CCS as a false solution is only growing, but so is our movement.
Solar Geoengineering: A Critical Debate on a Dangerous Idea
CCS is not the only false solution that looms on the horizon. As the world begins to grapple with the climate emergency, a host of other measures designed to compensate for inadequate climate action are gaining traction in the headlines. Yet misplaced reliance on the false promise of such technologies threatens to weaken climate ambition while creating significant new risks for human rights and the environment. These risks will fall disproportionately on the Global South, on vulnerable communities in the Global North, and on future generations. Solar radiation modification (SRM) — a geoengineering technique that purports to lower global temperatures by reducing the amount of sunlight the earth absorbs — captured international attention when a controversial experiment known as SCoPEx was proposed over Saami Indigenous territories in Sweden. Together with partners, CIEL organized a high-level virtual event to explore the rising risks of solar geoengineering. The event brought together leading climate and social scientists, Indigenous leaders, youth, and climate activists to share their concerns about SRM and geoengineering. The panels reached hundreds of thousands of people across digital platforms and media outlets, helping build awareness, support, and momentum to confront the rapidly growing threat of geoengineering.