Climate change poses an ever-apparent challenge for life on our planet as we know it, but technology offers an exciting new opportunity to combat the global problem and create solutions to help us protect the planet. Which technologies will be the most important and most broadly used in the future remains to be seen.
This article by Brickstone Africa reviews KCRA’s publication on the role of technology in combating climate change in the world today, highlighting key technologies that are most effective
What is Climate Change?
The burning of fossil fuels, like oil and coal, to produce energy has increased the amount of carbon dioxide or CO2 gas in our atmosphere. According to NASA, human activity has increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by 50 percent since the industrial revolution began in the 1700s. Usually, greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane in the atmosphere help absorb heat energy from the sun’s rays, trapping it and radiating its heat, helping to keep the Earth warm.
Climate change is the defining challenge of our time. It threatens our planet’s biodiversity, disrupts our food and water systems, and poses a grave risk to future generations.
However, the increase in these gases is causing the planet to warm up too much. Earth’s temperature has risen by 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. The increased global temperature has severe knock-on effects, changing weather patterns, destroying important habitats and changing life on the planet. Reducing the rate of warming and slowing the effects of climate change is a collective responsibility, and climate technology offers a way to help.
What is Climate Technology?
Climate technology comes in many forms, from well-known tech like solar panels and wind turbines to lesser-known innovations like biochar and hydrogen fuel. The technology fits into several types of categories. There is tech that reduces or stops emissions being released and tech that removes existing emissions from the atmosphere. Then there’s tech that improves energy efficiency, tech that helps us adapt to a changing planet, as well as tech that helps improve our understanding of our planet.
Which Technologies are the Most Effective?
The broad categories of climate tech include thousands of brilliant inventions and ideas, all sharing the common goal of reducing the impacts of climate change. The scale of the impact and the immediacy with which we can implement these technologies vary drastically.
Climate technology represents our most powerful tool in the battle against climate change. It’s not just about reducing emissions; it’s about reshaping our relationship with the planet, fostering innovation, and securing a sustainable future for all generations.
According to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations climate change body, there are three types of climate technology that have the most potential to reduce emissions by 2030. In terms of renewable technologies, wind and solar power can make the deepest cuts to net emissions in the short term. Research, increased demand and innovation have made wind and solar energy one of the cheapest energy sources out there, cheaper even than fossil fuels.
Both technologies are scalable, meaning their size and strength can be varied for different purposes, whether that be a solar farm powering a town or a few solar cells on a residential rooftop. Carbon sequestration, or the process of capturing carbon through farming, is also set to have an impact. There are various types of technologies available that help store CO2 that may be released in the agricultural industry, with one promising technology being biochar, a type of carbon-rich soil made from waste plants.
Tech Innovation to come…
Those technologies are currently up and running, already making a mark on reducing emissions. Newer technologies, though, are still in development and need lots more funding and innovation before they can make real changes.
Renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power are becoming cost-competitive with fossil fuels, making them central to the global energy transition. In 2020, renewable energy accounted for over 80% of newly installed electricity capacity worldwide.
According to Erik Birkerts, climate expert and CEO of nonprofit climate venture capital fund Evergreen Climate Innovations, both batteries and hydrogen fuel are technologies to watch for. One of the issues with renewable energy sources is storing power. If the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, batteries will have to be relied upon to release excess energy from a good day. Those batteries, though, are difficult to make, and innovation is needed to create batteries that are efficient, cheap and long-lasting.
Hydrogen fuel is another technology in need of research but holds massive potential. Hydrogen, the lightest element, can be produced in a number of different ways, from refining natural gas to splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. When it is used as a fuel, it can store three times more energy than traditional gas, and when it burns, it’s only byproduct is pure water. However, given its tiny size and lightness, it is difficult to store as it tends to leak, and it is also highly explosive.
Another climate expert, Dr. Jase Bernhardt, a professor at Hofstra University, also mentioned carbon capture as a buzzy new climate tech industry. Direct carbon capture is a technique that uses big fans to suck carbon directly out of the air and then store it. It can also be used in power plants to capture carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere. While the technology sounds revolutionary, it is a long way from being effective and making a dent in global emissions.
Other innovations, such as the recent breakthrough in nuclear fusion, offer a glimpse of hope for a clean energy future but are still decades away from implementation.
Read the complete publication here.