Friday, August 05, 2005

The captured state

I met yesterday with Jonathan Gibbins at Imperial College to discuss new ways forward on climate change.

As a thought experiment, Jon suggests a different way of looking at the central challenge. My garbled version of what he says is as follows: the only thing that "matters" to the atmosphere is how much greenhouse gas is added (see, for example, reference in this post to the case made by Myles Allen and co). No widely championed technology or approach - e.g. renewables, efficiency or nuclear - can guarantee that the carbon (oil, gas, coal, gasified coal) will not be burnt elsewhere. The only thing that can do that is carbon capture and storage(CCS). There is limited time, money, resource and political will. Therefore efforts need to concentrate on CCS.

Jon pointed to two House of Commons Select Committee enquiries coming up in September. The Environmental Audit Committee will frame its enquiry around "nuclear v. renewables". The Science and Technology committee will look at carbon capture and storage technologies. The two enquiries are not connected. Aargh!

Meanwhile a UK government decision on whether or not to build around 10GW new nuclear will be taken - it seems - within a year. There is everything to play for.

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