Poznan Poses Many Problems

Delegates are not debating the science of climate change at the UN climate conference in Poznan, Poland, but there is one scientific issue they should be debating.

Nothing is finalized, but it looks like carbon capture and storage could win approval as one way to get credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, according to Bloomberg.

Sounds great, except for the fact that the technology is largely unproven. You wouldn’t know that the way everyone is talking about it, including President-elect Obama, who hopes to create jobs developing clean coal technology.

The problem, which is explained nicely on PBS’s Frontline website, has less to do with capturing the carbon from coal plants, although that process is currently very expensive. The real issue is where to put it (what kind of rocks could hold the carbon dioxide, can it just seep out?) and how to get it there (wherever “there” is).

A hotter topic amongst delegates from approximately 190 nations is reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, or REDD. On this issue, the negotiations have also slowed and may even be halted. The question on how to reward developing nations for not cutting down forests is still being debated, and the removal of language that guarantees the rights of indigenous populations has also sparked controversy.

In fact, nothing much seems to be getting accomplished in Poznan. A UN climate change official doesn’t even think a comprehensive framework will be in place by next year when officials will meet in Copenhagen to draft a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

But with talks continuing until Friday, anything is possible.

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