Best Tech Solutions for Climate Change
World economies already possess many of the technologies necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate global warming, but more must be done in order to reach net-zero emission goals by 2030.
These technological processes, materials and products could provide the solution for combatting climate change.
1. Solar Panels and Wind Turbines
Solar and wind turbine installations offer one of the cheapest and easiest ways to combat climate change, harnessing its energy with renewable technologies such as solar cells and turbines that harness its power from sun and winds. Together these renewable energies could enable us to transition towards an autonomous electricity grid that’s carbon neutral while meeting population growth demands.
These technologies can also assist in replacing fossil fuels in power plants, transportation and industry with renewable ones, helping to cut emissions of carbon dioxide which account for three-quarters of global warming. But to reach net zero we will require even more advanced technologies – to create clean fuels for shipping and aviation use; reduce deforestation emissions; make cement without carbon footprinting; and remove carbon emissions from the air.
Many clean energy innovations are already commercialized, while others still need further funding and innovation to become cost-competitive with fossil fuels globally. One such example would be developing batteries to store energy during periods when there’s no sun or wind; another being hydrogen fuel for use by cars and ships which replaces diesel, thereby cutting pollution levels significantly.
Tech solutions may include genetically modified crops that absorb carbon, returning it back into the ground where it remains for decades. Other geoengineering techniques, like reflecting sunlight away from Earth’s surface or seeding clouds and oceans with small particles to regulate rainfall patterns or increase carbon absorption rates can temporarily lower global temperatures but don’t address climate change’s root cause – potentially leading to rapid temperature rise back when discontinued.
Bioenergy offers one of the best technical solutions to climate change – electricity and transport fuels generated from organic matter such as plants, crops, wood or waste – which generate electricity or transport fuels generated from renewable energy sources like biofuels made of plant matter such as plants or trees that take carbon dioxide out of the air through photosynthesis – plants absorb CO2 through photosynthesis during their growth which makes biofuels carbon neutral sources of energy production. Biofuels can be produced using many forms of organic materials including crops like corn and wheat as well as waste products such as animal dung and human sewage as well as fast growing seaweed sources of production – even fast growing seaweed is used!
All three can be used to produce clean and green energy. Biofuels can be burned in conventional power stations, or converted into renewable transport fuels such as biodiesel or ethanol for use on vehicles. They produce less emissions than fossil fuels; although carbon dioxide may still be released during production.
Renewable energies often face difficulty storing their electricity for later use, but new batteries have made significant advancements and can now store enough power to power an electric car for hundreds of miles.
Geoengineering techniques that temporarily lower global temperatures – for instance by refreezing poles or brightening clouds to reflect more sunlight – could be employed. Unfortunately, however, such solutions don’t address the core cause of climate change and risk heating up again once stopped.
Nuclear fusion and carbon capture technologies hold great promise but still require considerable development aFnd investment. Nuclear fusion could produce more energy than conventional coal, oil, and gas while emitting far fewer greenhouse gases; carbon capture uses large fans to pull carbon directly out of the air before it enters our atmosphere and raise temperatures on Earth.
3. Seaweed Farms
Seaweed, like other photosynthesizers, absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows and transforms it into biomass. Recently, seaweed has gained more attention as an emerging biogas and ethanol crop that could also serve as plastic replacement or cattle feed; yet some fear its increased popularity could disrupt ocean ecosystems and fail to deliver on climate benefits.
Biofuel research has become an international initiative as interest grows in renewable sources of energy such as plant matter and algae to produce power without using fossil fuels, but many technologies require extensive land and water resources for cultivation. Seaweed may offer one potential solution; it can be grown on large scale in remote parts of the ocean using underwater drones for caretaking before being harvested by autonomous vessels for harvesting purposes. What would be its costs and greenhouse gas benefits, however?
Our analysis employed combined biophysical and technoeconomic models to examine the costs and climate benefits associated with growing seaweed. Cost estimates include capital and operating expenses, emissions associated with transportation and land use production processes and harvesting operations, among others. In addition, we modeled how seaweed farms might impact greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and forestry on land-based areas.
Simulations conducted by us showed that farmed algae could produce approximately 3.4 gigatons of biomass each year, representing 3 percent of global fossil-fuel emissions that contribute to climate change. While this amount is significant, it still does not achieve enough reductions of greenhouse gases immediately; to do this effectively would require expanding this technology’s scale and geographic reach while finding better harvesting and transport systems requiring major innovations in farming practices and ship design.
4. Direct Air Capture
Direct air capture (DAC) technology is one of the most promising solutions to achieve net-zero emissions, but requires significant funding to accelerate its development. Public investment in DAC could assist companies to accelerate their operational learning curves while decreasing risks related to technology failure in future technologies.
DAC can be used to produce synthetic fuels that could replace fossil fuels and thus mitigate climate change. Furthermore, carbon capture technology may capture carbon from the atmosphere for storage underground or ocean sediment storage – however this solution has an expensive energy requirement which makes its implementation prohibitively expensive.
Companies are working on technologies for CO2 capture that could significantly reduce energy requirements. Some of these techniques utilize large fans to’suck’ CO2 from the atmosphere; however, none are yet ready to make an impactful reduction in global emissions.
Researchers are offering alternative ideas to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, such as refreezeing the poles to reflect sunlight or fertilizing oceans to promote algal blooms that would absorb more CO2. But such initiatives would likely lack sufficient scale to meet climate goals; taking such actions may compromise biodiversity while potentially leading to ecological disasters in local regions.
Other proposals propose extracting carbon dioxide from the air through solid sorbents that adsorb and desorber CO2, heating/cooling it and using thermal energy from heating/cooling to power a fan to move air across its adsorption bed. Such systems resemble liquid solvent DAC processes currently commercialized but may offer lower capital and operating costs due to less energy needed to power its fan.
Carbon capture has emerged as one of the hottest new climate tech sectors, aimed at curbing future emissions by extracting existing carbon from the atmosphere and extracting it either geologically through burial underground or biologically through encouraging plants to absorb it during growth – this latter process known as carbon sinks can occur naturally on a large scale – forests, grasslands, soil, and oceans all act as natural carbon sinks, sucking up CO2 in their processes.
More artificial or direct methods of carbon sequestration are currently being researched, such as placing sulphur into the ground to make fertilizers less effective, and sucking CO2 out of the air using massive fans and storing it underground. Although these efforts hold promise, it’s too soon to tell how effective they will be at reducing total global emissions.
Geoengineering technologies that aim to lower global temperatures by reflecting sunlight away from Earth or “seeding” clouds and oceans to increase rainfall or absorb more carbon can have immediate benefits while failing to address its source, risking temperatures to skyrocket if their use ceases.
At companies, there are various strategies they can use to reduce their carbon footprint, such as recycling, using responsible suppliers, using technologies like geospatial and AI for optimal resource use, investing in emerging technologies that accelerate circular economy such as Topolytics’ app to track waste streams in real time – you can learn more at our event ‘Whatever It Takes: Is There A Plan B For Climate Change?’ held on 20 September in LSE Old Building.