Political solutions within a problem area often give rise to antagonisms, and sometimes even to the creation of wholly new problem areas which in turn become the target of political intervention. Nowhere is this dialectic more evident than in the field of environmental politics, the formation of which in Sweden in the 1960s has been succinctly described by environmental historian Lars J Lundgren as the discovery of a new problem continent. My research is focused on this interplay between politics and society in the state regulation and management of the environment.
Having finished a three-year research project on Swedish mining politics in the 21st century, I now study large-scale technologies as a solution to climate warming. Specifically, my research is about BECCS – bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, which is a technology that has been given much attention in the aftermath of Paris 2015 due to its theoretical potential to allow for net negative emissions. The idea here is that societies combust large amounts of biomass for electricity and other purposes, capture and store the CO2 that is released while growing new biomass, in a virtuous circle of negative emissions. In theory, this would allow for the reclaiming of already made emissions from the atmosphere, but there are enormous uncertainties in regards to the possibility of scaling up this largely untried technology to the scale where it can deliver the numbers implicitly promised in the Paris agreement. Apart from technical uncertainties, the idea of claiming enormous tracts of land for the purpose of growing energy crops seems questionable from a moral perspective and problematic from a purely biophysical perspective.
In my project I look at how actors in Sweden and Tanzania – two countries with relatively good potential for BECCS – view a possibility of implementing the technology in their countries and industries. By comparing these two countries, I will shed light on global difficulties and preconditions for the implementation of large-scale BECCS.