Authors: Sean Low and Stefan Schäfer
Full Citation: Low, S., & Schäfer, S. (2020). Is bio-energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) feasible? The contested authority of integrated assessment modeling. Energy Research & Social Science, 60, 101326.
Abstract: How are novel energy, technology, and land-use systems strategies for limiting climate change judged to be ‘feasible’? Controversy has arisen around the research community behind the integrated assessment modeling (IAM) scenarios used in IPCC Assessment Reports. This regards the role played by bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), an unproven component in projected energy systems that allows IAMs to achieve ambitious temperature targets since adopted by the Paris Agreement. Our study inquires after the lodestone of that controversy: how the ‘feasibility’ of BECCS is understood, calculated, and communicated. Why does this matter? ‘Feasibility’ is an amorphous concept contested by the creators, critics, and users of IAM scenarios, and in those contestations, we witness how the expertise and authority held by the IAM community is being challenged. We find that judgements of BECCS’s feasibility are proxies for wider worldviews, tied up with different understandings of the freedom of scientific inquiry in policy-driven assessments, the proper relationship between science and policy, and the shape of appropriate science communication. In turn, these understandings underpin different ideas for the reform of IAM assessments, with repercussions for how future mitigation strategies will be mapped—and perhaps, executed.
Read Low and Schäfer’s full paper in Energy Research & Social Science.