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New Tech to Tackle the Climate Crisis

Here are seven emerging technologies that could help us kick the carbon habit

Roland Weihrauch/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Climate change can make us feel hopeless. From superstorms and megafires to melting ice caps and rising seas, the ravages of global warming are only getting worse. If human activity is driving us to the brink, the good news is that humans are also developing and deploying new technologies that can help the world kick the carbon habit. We already have affordable, market-ready solutions like solar, wind, and hydropower — the massive deployment of which could make America carbon neutral by 2050. And there are new technologies on the near horizon that could accelerate our trajectory toward a green future. What follows are seven advances — from electric planes to “green” cement to tidal-power generation — that could make modern living more sustainable for our only planet.

From Rolling Stone US

Green Cement

The ChallengeThe world uses four gigatons of cement in construction annually. But it’s a hidden carbon villain, requiring limestone to be heated to more than 2,700 degrees in a chemical reaction that also releases enormous quantities of CO2.The TechSolidia has developed a cement that can be fired at lower temperatures, cutting emissions by a third. Its concrete is then cured using CO2 gas, locking the pollutant in the rock, creating carbon reductions of 70 percent.The PotentialIf it were a country, cement would rank third in emissions — eight percent of global CO2. If adopted across the industry, Solidia says, its technology could lower annual CO2 pollution by 1.5 gigatons, and save 3 trillion liters of water.

Low-Methane Cows

The ChallengeMethane is 85 times more heat-trapping than CO2, and grazing animals create a third of emissions. While cow farts get all the jokes, 95 percent of methane leakage actually comes out the front end, in belches.The TechU.K.-based Zelp has invented a halter that rests loosely over a cow’s nostrils, monitors methane exhaust, and zaps it with a catalyst, creating water and less-harmful CO2. The device can lower bovine emissions by half.The PotentialIn the U.S. alone, there are more than 90 million head of cattle. Wearable technology can help ranchers track and claim their reduced emissions, while also giving them valuable data on the health of their herds.

Hydrogen Ships

The ChallengeMaritime shipping emissions contribute 2.5 percent of global CO2, and big ships burn tons of low-quality “bunker fuel” that can foul the air of port communities with toxic particulates.The TechA partnership of Scandinavian nations is building a large ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which create energy from hydrogen gas and release only water. The hydrogen itself will be green, sourced from splitting water molecules with wind energy.The PotentialThe ferry will connect Oslo and Copenhagen by 2027 and avoid 64,000 tons of CO2 annually. The U.S. Department of Energy underscores vast potential for hydrogen on the high seas, calling it suitable to power “most vessels in the world’s fleet.”

Tree Corridors

The ChallengeSunbaked pavement and cement can create “urban heat islands” that exacerbate the extremes of climate change, turning heat waves more deadly and increasing energy demands for air conditioning.The TechTropical Medellín, Colombia, has planted more than 350,000 trees and shrubs since 2016 to create 30 shaded “green corridors” that have reduced urban temperatures by more than three degrees.The PotentialWith similar strategies underway from Mexico City to Paris, greening cities is one of the cheapest climate-mitigation strategies, and the foliage offers ancillary benefits, from reducing air pollution to creating wildlife habitats.

Electric Planes

The ChallengeAirplanes contribute about two percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and battery-weight challenges have limited the development of electric planes. Pound for pound, jet fuel produces about 14 times more energy than a battery.The TechE-planes are moving closer to takeoff. Last June, a modified Cessna with room for nine flew for nearly 30 minutes over Washington state. In October, a hybrid electric plane cruised for two hours and 30 minutes over California.The PotentialHalf of all flights are less than 500 miles, creating a sweet spot for e-planes. U.K. budget airliner EasyJet plans to commercialize e-plane travel on routes like London-to-Amsterdam by 2030.

Floating Solar

The ChallengeLarge solar installations are hard to site in densely populated countries with costly land or rugged terrain. Solar also produces intermittent power that must be supplemented by other energy sources.The TechFloating solar installations on hydroelectric dams exploit unused aquatic surface adjacent to hydropower that can create energy in the dark. A new floating solar plant in South Korea will be the world’s largest, at 41 MW.The PotentialThe Korean plant will provide power for 60,000 people, but with more than 150,000 square miles of man-made reservoirs globally, floating solar has a “potential on a terawatt scale,” according to the World Bank.

Tidal Energy

The ChallengeTidal currents — a huge, largely untapped source of energy for coastal communities — have been hard to harness because the turbulent ocean waters can batter and damage the underwater equipment.The TechIn February, Sustainable Marine launched the world’s first floating tidal-energy platform in Canada, a barge with six submersible turbines that can pivot with the tidal flow, creating steady power.The PotentialDeployed in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, famous for its high tides, the initial project will power 3,000 homes. If tidal energy emerges as a reliable, scalable technology, it could provide more than five percent of global energy needs.