One of the dreams of those who take catastrophic anthropogenic climate change seriously has been to suck CO2 out of the air and deal with it safely. The cost of such decarbonization has so far been astronomic at more than $600 per ton of carbon, but recently Canadian company Carbon Engineering announced that it would be able to achieve a cost of $94-232 per ton.
The British Columbia-based tech startup has garnered much interest for its technological innovation. Most notably, Bill Gates and several oil companies have invested $68 million in it. The reason for their enthusiasm is that if they achieve the promised cost, a fossil fuel economy can easily be rendered carbon neutral. It won’t be cheap, but it beats all renewable alternatives both in terms of price and stability.
The importance of such a technology cannot be overstated: It is an insurance policy that enables the world to continue to use fossil fuels for the foreseeable future. We wouldn’t have to rely on wildly speculative and uncertain model projections about the future; we could afford to wait and see what, if any, climate changes occur. If global warming turns out not to be a problem, no harm is done, and we will have all saved a lot of money and resources.
If, however, the doomsday scenarios turn out to be real, we would have the option of switching to a zero-emission economy overnight, at surprisingly low cost. In practice, the technological breakthrough calls off the crisis.
One might assume this news would be met with unanimous praise around the world, but that is not the case. During a discussion with MSNBC, several vested interests expressed their opposition to Carbon Engineering’s research.
Dr. Dan Kammen, Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, said that “Partnering with an oil company is absolutely a step in the wrong direction.” Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, Dr. Mark Jacobsen, complained that “You’re not stopping the fossil fuel industry; you’re actually promoting it.”
Let that sink in: They are complaining about a technology that can render fossil fuels carbon neutral. Such statements reveal that these influential figures are not concerned with global warming. Rather, they are using climate change as an excuse to eliminate the technology and energy source that has fueled the rise of the modern industrial era, lifted billions of people out of poverty, and done wonders for the preservation of certain wildlife species.
Why are they against it? One clue was given by co-chair of the U.N. International Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group III for “Mitigation of Climate Change,” Ottmar Edenhofer, in a 2010 interview. He said:
“We are effectively redistributing world wealth through climate policy. That the owners of coal and oil are not enthusiastic, is obvious. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy, with problems such as forest dying or the ozone hole.”
Edenhofer later argued that the above statement is often quoted out of context by climate skeptics, however, the main thrust of his argument is still that climate policy is mainly about global redistribution of wealth. The people who are attracted to climate policy, such as Kammen and Jacobsen, come into the field with a political bias toward socialism, or drastic changes to the global economic order.
It is not hard to understand how a technology that efficiently solves the problem of climate change would threaten their careers and undermine a field in which they are heavily invested.
Fortunately, key players like Bill Gates have a different agenda: to solve the perceived climate crisis at minimum cost and maximum benefit to humanity.
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