Innovations Combating Climate Change

Author: Nicole Reed

Floating Solar Panels

Large solar panel installations are difficult to build on uneven terrain and in urban areas. Floating solar panel installations on hydroelectric dams utilize the unused water surface near hydropower. By building the installations near hydropower it minimally disrupts aquatic environments and the hydropower can subsidize the solar panels.

Globally there are almost 400,000 square kilometers of man-made reservoirs which have the potential of being used for floating solar panels. South Korea recently built the world’s largest floating solar panel installation, which will provide power for 60,000 people.

Green Cement

Concrete production is ranked third in carbon dioxide production worldwide. The carbon dioxide is produced when limestone is heated to 1500oC, however Solidia has created a cement which is produced at lower temperatures, decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide produced by a third. The concrete is cured using carbon dioxide gas, locking the gas into the rock and further decreasing carbon dioxide production by 70%. If the concrete is adopted across industry then it would save 3 trillion liters of water and decrease annual carbon dioxide production by 1.5 gigatons each year.

Tree Corridor

“Urban heat islands” are created by pavement and cement in big cities, increasing the number and severity of heat waves causing more energy to be used for air conditioning . “Green corridors” are small strips of park which are built down city blocks which reduce urban temperatures. Additionally, they create wildlife habits and reduce air pollution.In Medellin, Colombia 30 tree corridors with over 350,000 trees and shrubs have been built, reducing the overall temperature of the city by 3oC. Similar projects are being launched in Boston, Chicago, Mexico City, and Paris.

Cows and Seaweed

Agriculture is responsible for two thirds of the world’s methane emissions and cattle are primarily responsible for this. Each year a single cow produces 220 pounds of methane. Feeding cows a diet principally composed of Red Seaweed can decrease emissions by 80% without compromising their diet.

The downside of this innovation is currently there isn’t enough Red Seaweed to feed the world’s cattle. Additionally, it can only be grown in tropical environments so the carbon footprint of the transportation to bring the seaweed to the cattle may outweigh the benefits. That said, for cattle raised in tropical climates this is still a viable method to decrease their emissions.

Synthetic Aircraft Fuel

Though aviation only accounts for 2.5% of the world’s carbon emissions, it also produces aerosols, nitrogen oxides, and water vapor. Currently airplanes use kerosene-based propellants but researchers are experimenting with e-fuels. These e-fuels are produced by splitting water molecules using electricity and then combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide to make jet fuel. KLM has already launched a flight using this type of synthetic fuel.

Another solution is turning biomass into fuel; these biomasses range from vegetable oil, to pulp leftover from agriculture, to used diapers. These methods are currently expensive, however in the next decade they have the ability to become viable solutions. 

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