by Marina Orhei
MONACO. Climate change is one of the biggest threats to human and ecosystem health. It ‘also an accelerator for many other environmental risks. The impacts of climate change affect health through floods, heat waves, droughts, reduced agricultural productivity, exacerbated air pollution and allergies and the carrier, food and waterborne diseases. Since the Astana International Expo 2017, the theme of which was “Energy of the Future” with the slogan “Reflecting the Future,” the Principality of Monaco and the Prince Albert II Foundation have taken part on the theme of energy-efficient urban development and the reduction of CO2 emissions. Climate change is rattling the world. Scientists predict a gloomy future: one of misery, destruction and catastrophe. But the climate debate remains highly polarized. The world is too busy picking winners and losers and pitting technologies against each other. We are losing sight of what needs to be done: solving our CO2 problem.
In 2019, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels made one of their highest leaps in the past 62 years of measurement, the UK’s Met Office said. This is because the tropical Pacific ocean is warmer this year, which leads to hotter and drier conditions that make it more difficult for plants to grow and absorb the excess carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels, which is fueling climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will hold its 51st session in the Principality of Monaco from 20 to 23 September 2019, at which the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Context (#SROCC) assessing the physical processes and impacts of climate change on ocean, coastal, polar and mountain ecosystems will be examined.
The report also assesses the consequences for human communities and options for people to adapt to climate-related changes for a more sustainable future. Under the impetus of the Sovereign Prince, the Principality of Monaco and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation have mobilised strongly to implement this special report, due to the worrying consequences of global warming and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions on the Ocean. The report will be made public at a press conference on Wednesday 25 September at 11 a.m. at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco in the presence of the authors. The IPCC, as part of its 6th assessment round, published in October 2018 a special report on the consequences of a global warming of 1.5°C and in August 2019 a special report on climate change and land on climate change, land degradation and food security. The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Context will be the third special report in this cycle.
In the meantime, today these below are perhaps the most futuristic technology researches about this crucial topic.
Bill Gates, the famous founder and current honorary CEO of Microsoft is endorsing a futuristic project that aims to lowering the planet’s temperature and mitigating the effects of global warming dispersing millions of tons of white powder (based on calcium carbonate) in the terrestrial stratosphere to block and reflect part of the sun’s rays, a serious research project coordinated by scientists from the prestigious Harvard University and funded by Bill Gates.
A solar geo engineering project of this kind, of course, requires a long and accurate experimentation process. A first pilot study – costing 3 million dollars – should verify the effectiveness of the “chemical shield” in a limited portion of the sky. The experiment, called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (ScoPEx), is based on the launch of a research balloon in the stratosphere above New Mexico, where it is expected to release about 12 kilograms of calcium carbonate powder. The balloon, associated with a probe equipped with propellers, is equipped with numerous sensors capable of measuring the reflection factor of sunlight, the changes of air above and below the layer of dust and other fundamental parameters to determine the effectiveness of the shield. This “crazy idea” did not come about by chance, but is based on the analysis of the effects of the 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide released into the air from the Mount Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines, which exploded in 1991.
When there was the catastrophic eruption, that killed about seven hundred people, the cloud spread in the upper atmosphere of the entire planet, partially blocking the sun’s rays and contributing to the decrease in global temperatures by 0.5 ° centigrade.
This is why scientists believe that freeing up millions of tons of dust in the stratosphere could be a viable solution to reduce the rise in global temperatures. But WHAT ARE THE RISKS? Despite the premises, it is a project with very high risks, potentially even more serious than the global warming that we want to oppose. For this reason scientists are proceeding with extreme caution, carefully studying all the possible scenarios. The main risk is that of inducing uncontrollable perturbations in the climate of the whole world, which could determine extreme atmospheric effects in some regions (such as floods and cyclones) and devastating drought in others.
The dust “parasol” could also alter the circulation of ocean currents, modify the behavior of animals and bring many species to the brink of extinction. Dust could also break down the ozone layer that protects us from the most lethal radiation from space, change the rain cycle and much more. Not to mention that some countries could use the chemical shield as a weapon to impoverish / attack others indirectly. It is therefore, reports Fanpage, of an extremely delicate project and the cooperation of all countries, united against the pressing threat of climate change, will be necessary before being implemented.
Bill Gates is an investor in Carbon Engineering and is endorsing another invention that could change the world for the better. The Carbon dioxide catcher. Practical and affordable ways to capture carbon dioxide from the air can soak up excess greenhouse-gas emissions. Even if we slow carbon dioxide emissions, the warming effect of the greenhouse gas can persist for thousands of years. To prevent a dangerous rise in temperatures, the UN’s climate panel now concludes, the world will need to remove as much as 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere this century. In a surprise finding last summer, Harvard climate scientist David Keith calculated that machines could, in theory, pull this off for less than $100 a ton, through an approach known as direct air capture. That’s an order of magnitude cheaper than earlier estimates that led many scientists to dismiss the technology as far too expensive—though it will still take years for costs to fall to anywhere near that level. But once you capture the carbon, you still need to figure out what to do with it.
Carbon Engineering, the Canadian startup Keith cofounded in 2009, plans to expand its pilot plant to ramp up production of its synthetic fuels, using the captured carbon dioxide as a key ingredient. ( Zurich-based Climeworks’s direct air capture plant in Italy will produce methane from captured carbon dioxide and hydrogen, while a second plant in Switzerland will sell carbon dioxide to the soft-drinks industry. So will Global Thermostat of New York, which finished constructing its first commercial plant in Alabama last year. Still, if it’s used in synthetic fuels or sodas, the carbon dioxide will mostly end up back in the atmosphere. The ultimate goal is to lock greenhouse gases away forever. Some could be nested within products like carbon fiber, polymers, or concrete, but far more will simply need to be buried underground, a costly job that no business model seems likely to support. In fact, pulling CO2 out of the air is, from an engineering perspective, one of the most difficult and expensive ways of dealing with climate change. But given how slowly we’re reducing emissions, there are no good options left.
Another way is CCS. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has to play an important part in getting this job done. CCS is a set of technologies that prevents CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere and stores them safely underground in dedicated geological storage, and it can play a key role in reducing emissions and achieving global climate targets. This technology is also an enabler of negative emissions, through extracting CO2 from the atmosphere. Often decried as an expensive and unproven fig-leaf for the fossil fuel industry, the reality – that we cannot combat climate change without CCS – is, for many, an inconvenient truth. The Paris climate agreement – in which the world has agreed to limit global warming to well below 2˚C – cannot be reached without CCS. The International Energy Agency’s Sustainable Development Scenario, which outlines the world’s path to reaching the energy-related UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, forecasts that at least 7% of emissions reductions will need to come from CCS. Here’s one of the reasons why. Despite the acceleration of the green energy revolution, the world is expected to continue to depend on fossil fuels for its primary energy demand in the decades to come. According to the IEA, fossil fuels satisfy 81% of primary energy demand today. In the Sustainable Development Scenario this number is forecast to fall to 60%.
Of course, Ceasing construction of unabated sources of emissions is a must.
Reports show that the world is at risk of locking in its emissions by continuing to build coal plants without CCS today. While investments and the number of final investment decisions for coal plants without CCS have declined, unabated coal-fired power generation needs to decrease by 5.6% annually until 2030 to meet the Sustainable Development Scenario. And this calculation doesn’t even include all other unabated sources of emissions currently under construction. This infrastructure in total is expected to account for 95% of the world’s remaining total carbon budget until 2040. Deploying CCS to capture emissions from the industrial and power sectors is the only viable solution.
Currently, CCS deployment is off-track. There are 43 large-scale CCS facilities – 18 in commercial operation, five under construction and 20 in various stages of development around the world. Projections estimate that by 2040, we will need more than 2,000. While abundant storage is mapped and available to trap hundreds of years of emissions, there is still a long way to go in terms of policy and deployment. The first step would be to recognize that there is no silver bullet. We can no longer afford to ignore CCS, or talk about one solution vs another; the goal must be to eliminate CO2. We need energy efficiency. We need renewable energy. We need CCS. It’s time to embrace an all-encompassing approach to clean energy globally – one with consistent government and private sector support – and the only approach that will enable us to reach our climate goals.