- Proposals to store tens of millions of tonnes of carbon
dioxide under the seabed are to be unveiled by ministers tomorrow in a
dramatic attempt to tackle global warming.
- Elliot Morley, the environment minister, will ask the
world's leading industrial nations to support a plan to develop underground
reservoirs of carbon dioxide around the globe by using disused oil fields
and old water sources in the surface of the earth.
- Ministers believe that the proposal - which has infuriated
some environmentalists - has been given increasing urgency by the latest
scientific studies, which warn that the effects of climate change are accelerating
and posing fresh problems for the environment.
- The Government's chief scientist, Professor David King,
warned earlier this month that there had been a sudden and unexplained
jump in CO2 levels in the atmosphere over the past two years - risking
a sudden surge in global warming. Scientists also fear that man-made CO2
is making the seas more acidic - and could kill off plankton and coral
- Mr Morley told The Independent on Sunday that storing
CO2 in the seabed - a technique known as carbon sequestration - could help
to make deep cuts in the UK's emissions of the gas. "Our priority
is to reduce emissions but, as an interim move, carbon sequestration is
an option we should be exploring," he said.
- "If we are to move ahead with this option, we need
to involve the international community, particularly to ensure we can be
satisfied that it has proper safeguards built in for the marine environment."
- Experts who back the proposal claim that, technically,
the UK could store all its carbon emissions for more than 100 years in
exhausted oil and gas fields in the North Sea. Around the world, similar
projects could theoretically hold all man-made carbon emissions.
- They claim the gas will be safely trapped in the bedrock
for tens of thousands of years or more - long enough for the human race
to stop and even reverse global warming, and to find a long-term alternative
to the use of fossil fuels.
- Mr Morley will unveil the plan in London tomorrow, when
governments meet to discuss a major international treaty which bans the
dumping of waste in the marine environment - the London Convention, set
up in 1972.
- If - as expected - they agree, Mr Morley will then ask
the convention to set up a series of working parties to investigate the
scientific and technical feasibility of the plan and address fears that
the gas will leak out.
- The revolutionary technique involves pumping liquified
carbon dioxide at high pressure from places such as coal- and gas-fired
power stations along pipes on the ocean floor.
- Ministers are optimistic the proposal will be backed
because the technique is already being tested in the North Sea by Norway
and by the US government.
- But the scheme will be heavily criticised by environment
groups such as Greenpeace. It claims the plan is a technically unproven
"distraction" from the real task of deeply cutting our use of
oil, gas and coal.
- Blake Lee Harwood, Greenpeace's head of campaigns, said:
"This is the big excuse that oil giants like Exxon and Texaco are
looking for, to avoid having to do anything about climate change. They
will be dancing for joy at the prospect of a huge international push in
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