Innovations That Combat Climate Change

Advancement in technology, particularly the findings and usage of fossil fuels, has led to change in climate conditions. Concentrations of greenhouse gases continue to rise every year. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record high last year, hitting 417 parts per million in May. From megafires and superstorms to rising sea levels and melting ice caps, the devastation of global warming is getting worse. Since the 2016 Paris Agreement aims to keep the global temperature under 2 ℃, climate change has become the talk of the town. While human activities are destroying the ecosystem, they are also innovating to combat climate change.

1. Vacuuming gas from the atmosphere

Global Thermostat, has developed a solution for meeting the climate’s goals. They use Direct Air Capture (DAC) technology comprising a fan of pipes in chemicals and air known as amines to suck up CO₂ emissions from the air, power plants, and industrial facilities. In 2020 only, global CO₂ emissions were 31,500 million tons, so it will take enough DAC to absorb the emissions.

2. Bionic Leaves

Imperial College London, in collaboration with Arborea, develops BioSolar Leaf technology using the photosynthesis of microscopic plants for boosting air quality. This technology enables plant life like phytoplankton and microalgae to grow on solar-panel-like structures.

3. CO2-Fueled Bioplastics

Researchers at The University of Colorado have developed nanobio-hybrid organisms that use nitrogen and carbon dioxide for producing different fuels and plastics. It helps to create affordable carbon sequestration and manufacturing for chemicals. The team uses light-activated quantum dots for firing up specific enzymes within microbial cells that can eat harmful carbon dioxide and convert it into biodiesel, ammonia, gasoline, and biodegradable plastic.

4. Green Beaches

Project Vesta, plans to reduce CO₂ emissions by replacing sand from beaches with green sand made from olivine. Olivine is an ore produced during volcanic eruptions. The team spreads green sand on shores instead of normal sand. When seawater comes into contact, a chemical reaction changes the olivine and reacts by soaking carbon dioxide from the air for producing bicarbonate. When released into the ocean, the marine organisms consume the bicarbonate and transform it into shells or rocks forming limestone that can store the CO₂.

5. SCoPEx by Harvard

The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) project launched by Harvard University researchers to understand the benefits and risks of solar geoengineering that may alter some of the effects of climate change and reduce CO2 emissions. The researchers put a balloon with a package approximately 12 miles into the atmosphere. It releases a small amount of calcium carbonate — 100 gms to 2 kgs into the air to measure atmospheric chemistry, aerosol density, and light scattering changes. The experiment aims in finding aerosols that can reduce stratospheric heating or ozone loss without increasing other physical risks.

6. Pumps to Cool Down Coral Reefs

Coral bleaching occurs when the water around the coral gets warm, thereby causing the corals to lose their colors and turn white. Bleaching enables corals vulnerable to diseases, affects their reproduction, and restricts their growth. Moreover, marine animals like sea turtles, starfish, fish, shrimp and others depend on corals for survival. As coral ecosystems collapse, these species can face extinction. So, researchers are using a geoengineering technique — artificial upwelling, where they use pumps for bringing deep-ocean water to the surface. It is the application of bringing cooler, deep water for mitigating the heat stress on corals.

7. Plastic-Eating Enzymes

Every year, there is the production of over 300 million tons of plastics worldwide. Microplastics enter into the food we consume and have drastic health effects. Studies show exposure to microplastic particles can lead to reduced fertility in women and men. Styrene, a chemical found in plastic and food packaging, causes cancer, hearing loss and nervous system failure. Yet, this could change as researchers have created super-enzymes from plastic-eating bacteria. These enzymes break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a standard plastic used in single-use bottles, carpets, and clothing, into building blocks in a few days.

8. Genetic Modification

Climate change can destroy popular crops like corn, chocolate, and coffee due to the risk of flooding, drought, and pests in the coming years. But, this scenario can change due to genetic modification. Scientists are using molecular technologies to make crops more productive and nutritious for better health. This will enable farmers to grow crops that can withstand saline soils or drought and reduce herbicides and pesticides.

9. Carbon capture and storage

The International Energy Agency states that carbon capture technology ensures sustainable energy and a secure future for all. It is a collection of technologies that plays a diverse role in meeting global climate and energy goals. The technology captures CO2 from significant point sources, including industrial facilities or power generation that uses either biomass or fossil fuels for fuel. Then it compresses the carbon dioxide and transports it by rail, ship, pipeline, or truck for use in various applications or injected into deep geological formations (including saline formations or depleted oil and gas reservoirs) that trap the CO2 for permanent storage. There is no particular technology that can make up for the tons of carbon dioxide waste generated. Everyone must make sincere efforts in reducing greenhouse emissions so that we can restore the planet to its original form.

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