From: Phil Couvrette, Associated Press
Published September 27, 2005 12:00 AM

UN Recommends Capture, Storage of Carbon Dioxide Underground To Prevent Global Warming

MONTREAL — Existing technology should be used to capture and store carbon dioxide underground to prevent emissions and curb global warming, experts suggested in a comprehensive report released by the United Nations.


The document, prepared by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and released Monday, recommends using existing and emerging technologies for capturing the carbon dioxide produced by power plants and factories before it enters the atmosphere.


Carbon dioxide is one of the gases believed to cause the so-called greenhouse effect, which is warming the earth's atmosphere and is widely believed to be the cause of the planet's increasingly bizarre weather patterns.


"While the most important solutions to climate change will remain energy efficiency and cleaner energy sources, this new report demonstrates that capturing and storing carbon dioxide can supplement these other efforts," said Klaus Topfer, executive director of United Nations Environment Program.


The report suggests emissions should be captured from sources such as electricity generation, refineries and oil plants, compressed and stored in geological formations, the oceans or in minerals, instead of being released in the atmosphere.


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Such practices could lower the cost of mitigating climate change by one-third over the next century and potentially account for half of emissions reductions needed between now and 2100 to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.


Storage of carbon dioxide underground could use much of the technology already developed by the oil and gas industry and become increasingly economical with technological advances, the report said.


The report estimates the risks associated with underground storage are similar to current practices of storing natural gas and that 99 percent of properly stored carbon dioxide would not leak during the next 1,000 years.


The 650-page report is considered the most comprehensive on the subject and was written by some 100 experts from 32 countries.


According to the IPCC, emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could raise global average temperatures by up to 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.


They will continue to affect weather patterns, water resources, ecosystems and extreme climate events. Scientists already have detected many early signs of global warming, including the shrinking of glaciers and Arctic sea ice, longer summers, changes in the migratory patterns of birds and the spread of many insects and plants toward the poles.


The IPCC report comes ahead of the first meeting in November of all signatories of the Kyoto Protocol since the treaty took effect this year. The Protocol, an international treaty on climate change, caps the amount of carbon dioxide that power plants and fuel-intensive manufacturers in more than two dozen countries are allowed to emit.


The United States, which accounts for one-fourth of the world's greenhouse gases, has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, saying it would harm the U.S. economy by raising energy prices and eliminating some 5 million jobs.


Source: Associated Press


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