Technology

Ten ways to fight climate change

 By Nicholas Newman

Politicians and industry are starting to heed climate scientists’ warnings of global warming by responding with an array of policies and technological products designed to slow the rate of rising seas and contain temperature rises to below 2 degrees. This feature outlines ten common approaches designed to fight climate change…

1. Mobile Apps
Apps like Oroeco or PaperKarma can help monitor and reduce humanity’s impact on the environment. The former monitors a person’s carbon footprint, while the latter helps phone owners to remove themselves from junk mailing lists by simply photographing their mail.

2. Internet of Things
Increasingly, the Internet of Things is connecting home, office and factory appliances, heating and lighting systems to their owner’s phones, enabling significant energy efficiencies and thus cutting carbon emissions. For homes, connected thermostatic controls are readily available from Nest and Hive and which can be remotely controlled by the app on your mobile phone or tablet. These smart technologies can also monitor your actual needs for heating or cooling and lighting.

Hive's new thermostat (engadget.com)

3. Clean energy
While pioneering governments initially drove the adoption of clean energy such as wind and solar power, the next wave towards clean energy represents a big technical and financial challenge. In 2015, clean energy production supplied 55 percent of Europe’s power needs, shared by renewables (19 percent), hydro (10 percent) and nuclear (26 percent), reports Energy Matters. Industry giants that can afford it, including Apple and Google among others, currently aim to power their facilities solely by renewables. However, to substantially increase the use of clean energy requires technological innovation in clean energy-generating capacity as well as developing smarter, more cost-effective ways to manage, store and transmit the energy once it is produced.

4. Big Data
Big data underpins public policy, oil and gas exploration and customer targeting. Already, power companies are using weather data to predict demand but, perhaps a game changer is the UN’s Data for Climate Action initiative, which invited data scientists, researchers and innovators from around the world to submit research proposals to DataForClimateAction.org. The winners, who will have access to a wide range of private sector data, will be announced in November 2017.

5. Geoengineering
Geo-Engineering or terraforming, the stuff of science fiction, such as Star Trek, Babylon 5 and Stargate, is now being seriously considered. Geoengineering techniques involving construction of algae farms and mass planting of trees could help capture and reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to solar radiation management by releasing volcanic ash as a coolant, placing mirrors in space to re-direct solar rays or, more prosaically, painting buildings white instead of black to reflect light.

Geoengineering weighed up (newscientist.com)

6. Farming
Livestock rearing is a major source of global greenhouse gas emissions. For example, a cow releases between 70 and 120 kg of methane per year, and to produce 1 kg of beef releases a substantial 34 kg of CO2. Less polluting is lamb production in which 1 kg releases half or 17 kg, Pork around 6 kg and least of all chicken only 4 kg. Therefore, to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions it would be better to switch away from beef or encourage artificial food production with nearly zero emissions. A startup, like Hampton Creek, is making plant protein that looks and tastes like meat.

7. Transport
The transport sector generates at least 23 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, a figure that could increase as demand for transport increases alongside rises in population and wealth. To combat rising emissions, governments are encouraging adoption of electric and hybrid cars, buses and trains. Already, Britain’s Royal Mail has agreed to purchase 100 electric delivery vans from Peugeot to operate in London. Elsewhere, LNG, biogas and hydrogen powered hybrids are on the road. For the future, the governments of the UK, Holland, France and Norway have announced plans to phase out conventional petrol and diesel engine vehicles by 2025 and 2040.

Royal Mail's new electric vans (bbc.com)

8. Improving energy efficiency
Improving energy efficiency is potentially the easiest and most effective first step to conserving energy, cutting fuel bills and reducing carbon emissions. For instance, car manufacturers are improving the fuel economy of their vehicles.

9. Mapping
Interactive maps, tracking storms and hurricanes such as Harvey and Irma, which portraying the extent of flooding and rising sea-levels, have regularly reached TV news channels around the world, mesmerizing viewers and demanding attention. Many government agencies, including Britain’s Met Office now provide interactive maps to indicate the risk of flooding and the optimum areas for locating solar and wind farms.

10. Hackathons
In Philadelphia, Toronto and Boston, like-minded people, such as journalists, scientists, technologists and those concerned with sustainability, meet at events called Hackathons to generate possible climate change solutions. It is hoped that bringing different knowledge sets together to brainstorm in this way will spark serious solutions to climate change.

Challenges to innovation

Despite the excitement generated by the arrival of new technologies to combat climate change, these advances are the result of many years, even decades, of research and development. For instance, the concepts and principles of carbon capture and storage (CSS) were well established but making CSS affordable has proved very difficult, as seen in the delays and cancellations of projects.
Another obstacle to early spreading of new technology is that inventors protect their ‘intellectual property rights’ with patents which keep the technology exclusive for a given time period, thus slowing dissemination. A notable exception is Elon Musk, who released his Tesla electric car patents in order to encourage traditional car manufacturers to produce electric cars.
The availability of finance from investors is crucial. It is clear that bankable technologies that make profits within a short period of time will find their way to the front lines of the fight against climate change.

READ MORE: A weapon against climate change by RP Siegel

about the author
Nicholas Newman
Freelance energy journalist and copywriter who regularly writes for AFRELEC, Economist, Energy World, EER, Petroleum Review, PGJ, E&P, Oil Review Africa, Oil Review Middle East. Shale Gas Guide. https://nicholasnewman.contently.com/