Costs of Technology to Reduce Emissions

Seven years, and we’re on track to exceed the 1.5 ° C target established by the Paris Agreement in 2015 to limit global warming by 2030. Instead, we may be turning up the heat to 3.0 ° C, according to a report released last month by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). And in this case, doubling the wager does not hold potential for greater rewards.

It is clear that current climate policies will not accomplish the mitigation of emissions needed to achieve the target. Equally clear is the challenge for policymakers to decide how much to spend on measures to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and for people to understand the costs and reasons for the outlay from governments (people’s money) or higher prices for products and services (again , the people’s money). To make informed and as-realistic-as-possible decisions, all stakeholders need to be able to compare and understand the costs of various options.

Those costs are not easily calculated. Mitigative measures are nascent when viewed in the context of “how things have always been done.” In this third IPCC report released since August 2021, the focus was on the technologies to mitigate emissions.

Science-based measurements of the types and amounts of emissions and their validly measured reductions are critical to making the most beneficial and cost-effective decisions about the technologies to be implemented. The IPCC tackled the task of quantifying various technologies’ effectiveness as estimated in GtCO2-eq yr-1 by 2030, their likelihood of doing so this decade, and the economics of their deployment.

The chart shows the current accounting. Note the lines indicating the “uncertainty range” for each option. Blue shading represents cost competitiveness today; light orange to dark red means investment is needed.

Mitigation options costing $ 100 GtCO2-eq-1 or less are estimated to potentially reduce global GHG emissions by at least half the 2019 level by 2030. Options costing less than $ 20 GtCO2-eq-1 are estimated to make up more than half of this potential. Large contributions that cost less than $ 20 come from solar and wind energy, energy efficiency improvements, reduced conversion of natural ecosystems, and CH4 emissions reductions (coal mining, oil and gas, waste).

Carbon capture and storage, not surprisingly, needs investment today and in the longer term. Its potential by 2030 is small and it is expensive. For example, Oxy updated investors on March 23 on its plans to invest up to $ 1 billion in its direct-air-capture facility, expected to remove up to 1 mtpa of CO2 annually from its location in the Permian Basin to be sequestered in enhanced-oil-recovery reservoirs. Larry W. Lake presents a pragmatic view of using what has been learned in CO2-EOR to upscale CCS in this month’s Guest Editorial.

The report dedicates a chapter to innovation, technology development, and transfer. Slowdowns result from an inadequate supply of trained scientists and engineers and the willingness of consumers to accept new technology. Another barrier referenced in the report is the concept of the “four valleys of death” for climate-tech entrepreneurs.

The complete report can be found here and warrants at least a skim of the executive summaries of the chapters of interest to you.

Leave a Comment