Reflections on the Podcast interview of Greta Thunberg with the Guardian.

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

You are right when you said at the Austrian World Summit on Tuesday, May 28 that we have not been told by the people who know better the magnitude of the climate crisis and the solutions that are available to us. It is a travesty that global leaders have not taken urgent action – and you and every young person should be angry that older generations are rolling the dice with your futures

Podcast: CCS triggered climate strikes

In the interview with Jonathan Watts, Global Environmental Editor at the Guardian when he asked what triggered you to conduct the climate strikes, you replied, Link to Podcast with Global Environmental Editor Jonathan Watts.

“Two years ago, I saw a film about negative emissions technology called carbon capture and storage that you suck CO2 out of the air. The film ended by stating this is not going to exist in my lifetime. And then I figured that the technology is not going to save us. I became very scared, because I thought that we had this under control. And then I decided to take action myself.” (Link: About CCS)

Grateful for your leadership

We are very grateful that you are leading the way, where current global leaders are not. We are sorry that you and other young people around the world are sacrificing a day of school in order to force leaders to sit up and pay attention – you shouldn’t have to do this, and the fact this sacrifice is met with stinging criticisms from many older people and elements of the press with the same tired insults aimed at young people. Rest assured you are not “snowflakes” “entitled” or “naïve” – but the insults show your protest is getting under their skin and working. Change is sometimes painful, transition is hard, and changing hearts and minds slow, but for every one adult who insults your generation or doubts the cause – know that there are a hundred of us behind you and rooting for you.

CCS can be realized

The documentary that you saw two years ago about carbon capture and storage, abbreviated as CCS, was correct in that the will to realize this solution to combat the climate crisis is lacking. However, CCS has been a technology around for 45 years and has been utilized for climate purposes for the last 20+ years.

This came about because the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland and the Labor party imposed in the early 90’s a CO2 offshore tax that was high enough to incentivize the Norwegian energy company Equinor to implement the largest CCS projects worldwide for climate purposes only. As of today, offshore fields of Sleipner and Snøhvit in Norway have captured and stored more than 20 million tonnes of CO2 offshore. These have given Equinor more than 20 years of operational CCS experience – and models an excellent example for the rest of the world.

Currently, there are 43 CCS large-scale facilities – 18 in commercial operation, five under construction and 20 in various stages of development around the world (Source: Global CCS Institute: The Global Status of CCS 2018). And this past year there has been growing support for CCS action around the world (see CCS illustration below).

The vision that has been growing in the hearts and minds of some leaders is to develop a European CCS infrastructure. What this means is to create a CCS highway (CCS network) where ships pick up CO2 from harbor-to-harbor CO2 and transport out offshore and return the CO2 back into the same formation that originally drilled for oil and gas.

We want to inform you that CCS can happen in your lifetime if we get the public to understand the importance of CCS. We need your help to get the word out to the public to inspire political and business leaders to act.

The creation of a common European CO2 network will help make Europe climate proof and “strengthens the regional industry base with access to a CCS system that can withstand growing political and financial pressures associated with the rising climate concerns of the 21st century.” (Source: An Industry’s Guide to Climate Action report, The Bellona Foundation)

What we are not told: Paris climate change targets cannot be reached without CCS

What we are not told is that the Paris climate change targets cannot be reached without CCS. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the International Energy Association (IEA) the solution to our climate crisis is a combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy and CCS. In fact, the, European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plants (ZEP) cites, “We need to move from successful small-scale CCS projects in operation today to building 3,400 commercial scale projects worldwide by 2050 if CCS is to provide 20% of the CO2 reductions needed” (Source: IEA – Technology Roadmap, Carbon, Capture and Storage).

The 20% that CCS can capture globally by 2050 is the 90% of emissions from the world's largest emitters including steel, chemicals, fertiliser, pulp and paper, petrochemicals, natural gas processing, oil refining. As of today, CCS is in fact the only technology capable of reducing large-scale emissions across major industrial sectors and this cannot be done by renewables.

CCS is not a one-stop shop for all industrial emissions, but it can buy us time and provide industries a window of opportunity to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy (Source: An Industry’s Guide to Climate Action report, The Bellona Foundation.)

For CCS to be able to take 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, we need global leaders around the world to come together in partnership with business and citizens to support the creation of a CCS infrastructure that is borderless, so that by 2050 we can capture 90% of the emissions from large industries. And at the same time while we are developing this CCS network to vigilantly continue to develop new technologies to replace fossil fuels, the greatest culprit in emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.

Even though most of the people in charge know this, the ‘adults’ in the room are slow to realize CCS at a global scale. One of the main reasons is because this is bigger than what one country can take on by themselves. We need to cooperate. There is no current model that shows CCS to be profitable unless we impose fees or taxes. For us to keep the market fair all countries would need to impose similar taxes. What is needed is shift in the mindset to where it is generally accepted that companies that emit carbon into the atmosphere are responsible and should be charged a fee. So how can we infect the great optimism and enthusiasm that occurs during the research and demonstration phase of CCS and ensure we have staying power all the way to full implementation of CCS?

The answer is that we need the public to understand the importance of CCS.

As you identified in your podcast with Jonathan, forcing this political will is now necessary:

“I have spoken to many politicians and they always say that they can’t do anything without the people’s will and today you do not get votes by having radical climate politics. And that of course need to change. Of course, there are lot of politicians that do not want to do anything, because they benefit from not doing anything. But we have to put pressure on them, so that they will do these things.”

The future is Generation Z

Recently a Norwegian politician posed a dilemma in one of the regional papers, “Do we want to invest hospitals, infrastructure and military or CCS? And left it hanging for the reader -- what will the people chose? People choose options they both fully understand and have an emotional connection with – so hospitals was the preference for the majority of adult respondents.

However, when we interviewed college students from BI Norwegian Business School about CCS and language and posed the question: What would you invest into CCS or hospitals? – the overwhelming response was CCS. As one student said, “what is the point of a hospital if we do not have a world to live in?”

This contrast in young/older respondents was a function of i.) young people priortising environmental issues and ii.) Understanding the what CCS recycling was and how important it is for the health of the planet.

So what is stopping us?

Foremost, there is not yet a multilateral understanding of what carbon capture and recycling is and just how important it is. This means it doesn’t have the same urgency to it, as global warming or climate change does. Fortunately, this is shifting and thanks to the effort of people like you and others, CCS will soon have household name recognition. This will create enormous pressure on all governments to act, particularly as the solution and technologies already exist.

This will create discipline and effort from all those like you who want to change the world for the better and want those in charge (for now!) to be held accountable for the damage that is being done to the planet every minute of every day.

Have faith your bravery and your message are working and on the days that you feel despondent remember you – and all of Generation Z – are the change you want to see. The future is the place you and your generation have to live – make it the very best place you can.

Authors: Chloe Combi, author & expert on Generation Z, and Torund Bryhn, project manager & researcher for Beyond Acronyms, a project researching to find the right words to gain public acceptance for Carbon Capture and Storage, Thought Laboratories