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Technological optimism in climate mitigation: the case of carbon capture and storage

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Abstract

This chapter explores and critiques technological optimism and the socio-political appeal of technological fixes with regard to energy and climate mitigation. The term ‘technical fix’ is frequently used by academics and activists to describe the application of a technological solution to a social problem, where a reductive problem definition leads to only a partial and superficial solution. As the transition to lower-carbon energy systems proceeds, technological change, rather than social change, is consistently prioritized in climate policy discourse, despite well-established recognition of cultural and institutional changes involved in reducing fossil fuel reliance. The history of development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies provides an illustrative example of technological optimism in climate mitigation. The political appeal of CCS as a prominent climate change mitigation approach showcases the tendency toward technological optimism and how promises of technological fixes have dominated political discourse surrounding climate mitigation.