Following COP26, the pressure is on to reach the 1.5 degree warming target limit set out in the Paris agreement. Charlie Rapple looks at just some of the innovations that will help us keep our climate targets within reach if we are willing to embrace them.
As awareness of the impacts of climate change increases, there is a risk that we begin to lose faith in our ability to tackle a challenge of this magnitude.
At the recent COP26 meeting, politicians tried to agree on a target date by which 100 per cent of the world’s energy needs will be met by renewable sources. Any of the suggested timelines will require rapid improvements in green energy technologies.
Wind power is the second most common renewable energy source, but the unpredictability of wind speeds makes it difficult to produce wind energy consistently and reliably. Researchers are exploring the use of artificial neural networks to better predict wind speeds, improve design, detect faults, set controls, and plan maintenance in wind energy fields. These could be the key to much more widespread use of wind energy.
Scientists have also been working to increase the efficiency of solar power. Most solar cells convert light to energy using silicon, the preparation of which uses a lot of energy. Researchers have discovered that adding a man-made ‘mineral’ called ‘perovskite’ to the silicon makes it work more effectively, helping to reduce the cost of producing green energy.
Other kinds of green fuel are also becoming more economically viable. A newly developed process can now turn food and water waste into biohydrogen in just 48 hours. Producing this clean fuel from food waste is more environmentally friendly than making it from scratch and reduces our use of natural resources.
Scientists are also improving technologies that can reduce the effects of carbon dioxide already in our atmosphere — CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) converts CO2 into useful chemicals that would otherwise need to be derived from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, machine learning is helping to speed up our ability to test and screen these new innovations.
As awareness of the impacts of climate change increases, there is a risk that we begin to lose faith in our ability to tackle a challenge of this magnitude. The scope and scale of innovation in climate science provides an opportunity to work towards the 1.5 degree warming target if the world can embrace them.