Capturing Carbon May Be Answer to Global Warming
lass=story>A new generation of safe nuclear power plants and coal-fired stations that capture their carbon emissions could solve the problem of global warming, Prof Sir David King, the Government's chief scientist said yesterday.
Sir David disclosed that the Government was considering giving oil companies tax breaks to encourage them to pump carbon dioxide into North Sea oil and gas wells where it would cause no damage to the atmosphere.
He told an international conference on climate change set up by Tony Blair that it was "critically important" to investigate the technology of "carbon sequestration".
He said he had already been involved in talks with the oil companies to see how a tax-break regime could be constructed so the process could pay for itself, with companies paying to get rid of their carbon in return for paying lower rates of pollution tax.
He said a major working experiment with carbon sequestration was needed urgently and should take five or 10 years to produce results. The present infrastructure of oil and gas rigs could be used to pump gas under pressure into wells and, eventually, saline aquifers.
"None of us know whether carbon sequestration is feasible but if it is, it is a way of using coal reserves all over the world," he said.
He said he had been talking to the Chinese about fitting their latest generation of coal-fired power stations with technology that could be used later to capture carbon.
Norway has been using pumped carbon dioxide for several years to push oil and gas out of underground wells and companies have an incentive to do so because Norway has a carbon tax.
British environmentalists, however, have been extremely critical of the technology, saying it is untried and carbon could leak out over decades.
Prof King also expressed interest in the latest generation of small-scale Chinese pebble-bed nuclear reactors, and a different design made by Westinghouse in South Africa, which can be used in series to produce large quantities of power. He said new -generation nuclear power stations would add only 10 per cent to Britain's existing nuclear waste over 60 years.
He said the world needed to explore "every avenue" to tackle climate change including nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, renewable energy, and carbon sequestration, to prevent the worst effects of climate change.
Observers noted that his support for nuclear power goes beyond present Government policy.
Sir David described the conference at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter as "remarkably successful" and said it had produced evidence that climate change was moving faster than scientists had previously predicted.
He had found the new evidence that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was thinning "very concerning" and would be reporting this to Tony Blair.
There had, he said, been several such loud signals of rapid climate change including a heatwave in Europe that was 50 per cent attributable to global warming.
He pointed to other new findings of the conference that tropical forests were growing faster in response to raised levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with soft woods growing faster than hard woods. More carbon dioxide was acidifying the sea and warmer temperatures were pushing the plankton that cod eat further north.
He said there was now "real consensus" among British and American scientists on the science of climate change and President Bush's chief science adviser had come out with a message that global warming was "of concern" and caused by fossil fuels.
The proceedings of leading climate scientists has been dogged by constant questions and interruptions from an economist, Dr Andrei Illarionov, an adviser to President Vladimir Putin of Russia who describes himself as a "climate optimist".
Dr Illarionov said that the observed warming of the past 30 years was likely to be the result of the kind of natural variation in climate which made Europe hotter than it is now 1,000 years ago and at the time of the Romans, when red wine was grown in Britain.
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