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Report: Unproven tech could stall action on climate change

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Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) Some 45 environmental groups across Colorado are sounding the alarm about a host of emerging technologies that have been attached to legislation aiming to blunt the worst impacts of climate change. 

Valley Lopez - the promoting climate solutions coordinator with 350 Colorado - said they are concerned that baking unproven or potentially dangerous tools, such as carbon capture and next generation nuclear reactors, into climate policies could severely hamstring efforts to reduce climate pollution by 2030, the deadline set by the world's leading scientists.

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"That transitions money, resources, time, energy away from solutions that we already know are going to work," said Lopez. "Things like solar and wind and stable energy storage, those are the places where we need to be investing our time and our energy."

The fossil fuel industry has argued that capturing CO2 at power plants will keep more workers employed and keep electrical grids reliable. 

The sector lobbied successfully for billions of dollars for carbon capture projects in President Biden's infrastructure and climate legislation. 

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A host of bills introduced this session by Colorado lawmakers also call for investments in nascent technologies.

A recent report suggests that the number of jobs created by fossil fuels has been overblown. 

Less than 1 percent of Colorado jobs come from the oil and gas sector, which contributes just 3 percent to the state's GDP. 

But Lopez said no one is advocating a transition to clean energy without support for workers and communities dependent on fossil fuels.

"One of the things that we're seeing right now," said Lopez, "is we're seeing legislation that is studying ways that we can transition those workers away from those industries, and we can do it in a way that is just."

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Scientists have repeatedly warned that in order to avert catastrophic impacts of a changing climate, we must stop burning fossil fuels. 

Lopez said carbon capture and sequestration, direct air capture, hydrogen, and new nuclear technologies could take decades to develop to scale, and are much more expensive than proven technologies that can be expanded now.

"We don't have that kind of time if we are going to meet our goals," said Lopez. "We need policy solutions to incentivise solar and wind, but we also need policy that creates consequences for not phasing out fossil fuels."