Prof Myles Allen, the scientist behind Net Zero talked at Wallingford Town Hall on 3 February. Here are some of the main points if you missed it.

We need to stop fossil fuels causing global warming but we need to do it before the world stops using them.  One day, we will no longer use fossil fuels, but it will be too late.

To stop fossil fuels from causing global warming:

  1. We could ban them completely but this isn’t realistic and won’t happen quickly enough (see below).
  2. We could decarbonise them by permanently disposing of CO2.  The fossil fuel industry could pay to stop global warming with the money they’re making.

Basically, the fossil fuel companies are not disposing of their waste.  Just as the water industry isn’t disposing of sewage, similarly, the fossil fuel industry isn’t disposing of carbon.  It is a waste disposal problem.  The fossil fuel industry needs to take back its carbon!

Why we’re not going to reduce the use of fossil fuels soon enough:

  • The fossil fuel industry is extremely profitable and therefore powerful.  They would have us believe that they are investing in green renewable energy but in fact they’re not investing much because fossil fuels are so much more profitable.
  • Carbon tax won’t stop people using fossil fuels – the rich can still afford them.  They tried this in Sweden but it didn’t work
  • We can’t rely on nature and the biosphere as a carbon dump eg planting trees. Trees take 100 years to get to the stage where they take in much CO2. We need to store the carbon permanently (for thousands of years) and safely.  Most trees don’t last thousands of years.
  • There is lots of natural oil and gas in poorer countries in South America and Africa – try telling them to keep it in the ground, particularly when developed countries have already extracted their own: it’s not an option.
  • Aviation uses fossil fuels and they’re not going to change quickly enough.  Airlines plant trees to offset the carbon but these are monocultures and no good for nature
  • Concrete is one of the most commonly used building materials in the world.  Cement production produces CO2

Removing carbon from the atmosphere:

  • There is the technology and know-how already
  • Involves extracting carbon dioxide from the air, pressurising it to a liquid, trickling it into rocks where it’s stored as a liquid under pressure.
  • It is happening now but only a fraction – only 1/1000 – of the CO2produced is removed.
  • Cost to dispose of carbon = $250/tonne CO2

This equates to 50p/L petrol
This doesn’t necessarily mean that petrol prices will increase by 50p per litre to the consumer as the fossil fuel companies will just sell the fuel for the price they can get for it on the market. The price would end up being shared between producers and consumers. If the price goes up, it will drive down consumption.  Prices are currently high but it’s not costing more for the fossil fuel companies to extract it – they’re just charging what they can get away with.

  • The producers and those using more fossil fuels would pay the price.  The high users are the ones currently benefiting the most from the relative low cost of fossil fuels.  Those using less, benefit less from the low cost of fuel.

What needs to happen:

  1. Carbon capture:

o   We need to build facilities to start removing CO2 from the atmosphere now

o   We need to get good at it – the longer we leave it, the more urgent the problem will get, and the more quickly we will have to do it.

o   There needs to be legislation now, for example: a progressive requirement over 30 years; initially a requirement to remove say 10% of the carbon waste; there would then be investment in carbon capture which would be paid for by the fossil fuel users (it needn’t cost the tax payers or government any money).

o   Monitoring would need to be in place to monitor the amount of CO2removed – to ensure that the amount removed is what they say it is.

  1. Burn less fossil fuel, about 3/4 to 4/5 less than we do now (but some countries won’t!) by:

o   Reducing overall energy use by eg. Insulating houses

o   Switching to green energy

The legislation requiring the fossil fuel companies to take back the carbon their products produce isn’t going to happen in the USA first as the fossil fuel industry lobbies politicians.

Holland nearly introduced the legislation but the environmental movement wouldn’t back it because it would involve working with the fossil fuel industry.

The fossil fuel industry know they can remove carbon and accept that this is a solution, but they don’t want to say so in public as it would reduce their profits.  They have the solution in their hands.


We need legislation to require the fossil fuel companies to pay to dispose of their waste – carbon take back – just as we require the water companies to properly dispose of sewage.

“Keep our skies blue, take back your CO2 – Stopping fossil fuels from causing global warming.