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Shell Says Saving Planet Probably Means Sucking CO2 From the Air

Cutting emissions won’t be enough to keep the planet from warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius: to achieve that goal, according to Royal Dutch Shell Plc, will require sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

A scenario report from the Anglo-Dutch oil major describes a world woefully unprepared to meet the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Shell says that by 2060, carbon capture and storage must exceed global emissions as the company sets a course for pre-industrial pollution levels. For decades after, such facilities would need to work at breakneck pace to inhale the carbon dioxide spewed by previous generations. 

That jars with the current reality where carbon capture and storage technology is a commercial failure, with fewer than 50 active projects compared with the 10,000 needed under one of Shell’s scenarios for attaining climate safety.

While Shell says the report isn’t a call to arms, but merely analysis of what’s required to meet climate goals, it’s still a robust statement for a company that depends on fossil fuels. The oil major may hope that such aggressive scenario modeling demonstrates the urgent need for a carbon price. 

Along with its peers, Shell has proposed charging for carbon emissions as a way to foster the type of progress modeled in its report. Financial penalties for pollution would also improve the economics of carbon capture and storage projects.

With many carbon capture projects reliant on injecting the fluid into the ground, it’s a natural line of business for a company with expertise in drilling and geology, and Shell already has such facilities in at least three countries.

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