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Carbon captured and stored since 1996 overestimated by 30%

While significant, the real amount of CO2 that has been removed from the Earth’s atmosphere is far lower than previously believed. 

A new analysis of estimations of stored carbon compared with official reports has found that the true quantity of the greenhouse gas that has been captured is actually between 19 and 30% lower than experts thought. 

The work was carried out by Imperial College London, and  published this week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. It found that 197m tonnes of carbon were captured between 1996 and 2020. A significant achievement, nevertheless, problems with the consistency of reporting frameworks mean rates have long been overestimated, giving a false picture of how technology can mitigate climate change 

Researchers say that false or exaggerated beliefs in tech-based solutions risk disempowering the world from meeting climate strategies like the Paris Agreement, and hides issues that could easily be solved. For example, inefficiencies in transport. 

 ‘Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is rightly a cornerstone of climate change mitigation, but without a centralised reporting framework we approach climate change on the back foot when we need to be more proactively tackling the issue with robust and accurate reporting,’ said lead author Yuting Zhang, PhD candidate at the Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College. 

Currently, CCS capacity, rather than the actual amount of carbon stored in each facility, is used to gauge overall impact. A centralised framework that requires the precise amount of carbon captured to be reported is therefore being called for in a bid to put an end to what some have labelled a dangerously misleading disconnect. 

In May, a new high-performing carbon capture system was unveiled by Tokyo Metropolitan University, which could ‘transform industry’. 

Image credit: Marcin Jozwiak

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