Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a greenhouse gas mitigation technology implemented as part of the Kyoto Protocol designed to intercept the CO2 produced by industry before it is released into the atmosphere and instead pump it deep underground. There, it is sequestered for more than a millennia—far longer than in shallower carbon sinks or in terrestrial biomass. The project is already in progress; as of January 2012, we buried some 550,000 tons of CO2 annually using this method and though the UN is only aiming for a 2 gigaton processing goal by 2050, a 2013 study from Stanford University suggests we could achieve 11 gigatons annually if we put some serious effort in.


The problem is that BECCS schemes have a nasty habit of causing earthquakes, much like fracking efforts. When you blow open massive underground repositories to either suckout or pump in liquids and gases, it tends to cause unexpected rumblings. And in the case of BECCS, if a quake opens up a seam to the surface, the CO2 can escape back into the atmosphere in gas from, negating the whole effort.

"We live in an era of man-made climate change," said Vicente Barros, Co Chair of Working Group II. "In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future."


And these investments must include CO2-free electricity production. According to UNEP estimates renewable energy production from solar, aero, and hydro schemes constitutes about 30 percent of the global total—it needs to be nearly triple that, 80 percent by 2050. Fossil fuel use must be essentially extinguished entirely by 2100 unless BECCS comes into its own, per the IPCC's Climate Change 2014 report. And even that is an iffy fix at best.

This doesn't mean we have to go back to living in caves, though. It just means that we—as a planet and a species—simply need to get our act together and embrace a new way of doing things. "Mitigation does not mean the world has to sacrifice economic growth," Ottmar Edenhofer of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany told New Scientist.


In fact, other cost and carbon saving measures outlined in the IPCC report such as investment in renewable energies, more efficient building techniques, better urban planning and public transportation with more efficient vehicles, more trains and fewer trains, all stand to open up enormous job markets the world over spurring on industry and national development. We just need to stop arguing and start taking action, before it's too late. [New Scientist 1, 2, 3 - UNEP 1, 2, 3, 4 - IPCC - Stanford University - UCAR - IIED]

Top image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, Filr