For decades, climate change stays an inexhaustible topic for discussion. But do people really know what climate change is or how it differs from global warming? Let’s find out before we move to solutions developed to mitigate the adverse effects of a rapidly changing Earth’s climate.
Climate change implies long-lasting changes in common weather patterns that determine Earth’s climate on local, regional and global scales. Such changes are the consequences of human activities, especially fossil fuel burning, which leads to significant greenhouse gas emissions (mostly CO2) and hence the rise of the Earth’s surface average temperature. And exactly this global temperature increase is commonly referred to as global warming.
However, contrary to global warming, climate change can also be caused by natural processes. One of the most famous examples of such processes would be the cyclical ocean patterns like El Niño and La Niña. Ultimately, global warming is only one “slice” in the climate change diagram and refers to long-term heating of our planet due to human activities, especially evident after the industrial revolution.
The mitigation of climate change and global warming primarily relies on preservation of environmental resources (land, water, air) and CO2 emissions reduction. For instance, in terms of land preservation, the study by the University of Eastern Finland and Natural Resources Institute Finland claims that abnormalities in soil’s CO2 exchange ability are caused mostly by drought rather than warming. This means that the issue could be solved locally and easily via the application of soil aeration process that is unfortunately frequently neglected by farmers.
As for more global and not so easily eliminated issues posed by climate change, let’s see what solutions modern technology has to offer.
Space tech is one of the main forces in the battle against climate change. Various inventions based on space data have already proved their efficiency in environmental preservation and energy conservation.
Here is one example of using space tech for the good of the environment. French company Leosphere has designed a small instrument for wind speed and direction measurement from the ground up to hundreds of meters with the goal to magnify the amount of electricity from wind turbines.
Another example would be an Italian company Flyby that utilizes weather satellites data to make accurate predictions about the energy output of solar power plants. Such information enables the design of enhanced systems that easily detect faults in operating solar power plants. Elimination of these faults can help significantly reduce energy production.
Owing to the use of renewable power sources, electrification currently offers efficient ways of carbon emissions reduction. Unfortunately, complete electrification is not possible for every industry. The biggest of those industries is aviation, where electrification and battery technology are no solution.
Luckily, sustainable fuels are here to help. Such types of fuels are nearly identical in nature to fossil fuels. This means that they can be used in a standard jet aircraft with little or no modification. However, the magic lies in the fact that it is 80% less carbon-intensive during its life cycle and can be created using a range of sustainable, renewable sources.
Sustainable fuel for aviation usually comes from the following sources:
- Used vegetable oil. Oils derived from plants or animals and no longer suitable for cooking can be reused as fuel for plane engines.
- Municipal waste. Solid waste from homes and businesses can be converted into jet fuel. This includes waste from food, paper, plants and food packaging.
- Energy crops. Some plants, such as camelina and carinata, grow rapidly and can be harvested to produce jet fuel. Because they can be used between food crops, they can be useful to growers as part of their normal crop rotation.
- Algae. These microscopic plants can be grown in polluted or salt water and absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide. They are currently one of the most exciting advances in aviation fuel because of the speed at which they can grow.
- Forest waste. Excess wood and other agricultural waste can be processed into synthetic fuels.
Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS)
CCUS or CCS technology implies the capture of CO2 that would otherwise be released to the atmosphere from industrial activities and then injecting it into the deep grounds for safe and secure storage on an ongoing basis.
CCS is one of the most critical low-carbon technologies necessary for enabling socially significant climate change management goals at the lowest cost. In addition, CCS technology is one of the few that would make decarbonization possible for such sectors as refining, chemical, cement, and steel manufacturing. CO2 capture and emissions reductions enable companies to meet the demand for affordable energy while reducing their carbon footprint and managing the risks of climate change.
Improved Battery Efficiency
According to experts, lithium-ion batteries that are used in almost all modern gadgets will be replaced by lithium-metal ones. However, a number of problems that cause the rapid destruction of such batteries have not yet been resolved. Luckily, the breakthrough was announced by American scientists, whose technology allows the production of capacitor batteries that support faster charging compared to existing solutions.
One way to increase battery capacity is to replace the copper and graphite anodes with pure lithium. While this could increase the energy storage density, scientists have yet to overcome the problem of dendrites destroying the battery from the inside.
A revolutionary solution was proposed by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania who created a protective layer capable of maintaining a lithium-metal battery in good condition for a long time. Experiments have confirmed that the battery can withstand multiple charging cycles, making it suitable for use in commercial products including smartphones, drones, and even electric vehicles.
Inventing Climate Change Tech
A great example of inventing climate change technology would be Joyn Bio agriculture technology company that aims to minimize the environmental damage agriculture poses through nitrogen management. Although most crops are unable to use natural nitrogen from the atmosphere, it is still critical for healthy plant development. To satisfy crop needs in nitrogen, farmers rely on nitrogen fertilizer, the production and use of which is to blame for a large share of greenhouse gases emissions.
The company leverages the power of synthetic biology to engineer microbes that can enable cereal crops to fix nitrogen from the air into a usable nutrient. Such tech can help reduce the use of synthetic fertilizer by half without sacrificing crop yield.