Can carbon capture and storage save the climate from the consequences of fossil fuel burning? This in-depth report from Scientific American surveys global efforts to eliminate climate impacts from power generation. Without such technology, it will be extremely difficult for the world's largest emitters—China, U.S., the European Union and India—to combat climate change and produce the energy to power the global economy. As an environmental journalist since 1999, I have been covering climate change for a decade now. From the failures of previous negotiations, I have witnessed firsthand the critical role technology will play in solving the problem of excess greenhouse gas emissions as well as making climate change politically possible to solve.
A new framework for reducing carbon emissions takes a crack at the knottiest dilemma confronting a global climate solution: how to divvy cuts between rich and poor nations. The approach attempts to sidestep rancor that has stymied climate negotiations for years. It starts with a surprising finding that virtually every country has a class of individuals – the so-called "high emitters" - enjoying a rich, carbon-intensive lifestyle. If those individuals, no matter their locale, are forced to take responsibility for their emissions, a great swath of countries become participants in the climate effort. "It's ingenious," said one climate expert. "It's a great way to shift the conversation."