The other half of the climate solution.

A look into green technologies

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Because I am unemployed now, I have a lot of time to read and also watch Youtube videos. So for all the working folk that haven’t seen it, here is a video of 16 year old climate activist, Greta Thunberg, reprimanding world leaders at the UN Climate Summit yesterday.

TL;DW: In short, she calls out world leaders for not taking any action despite the science having been right in front of them for over 30 years.

Green Technology

Greta’s call for climate action legislation is necessary (mostly because our political and corporate leaders failed us) because it is clear now, that we need to hold present and future corporations responsible for their actions (they simply aren’t going to do it themselves). However, climate action legislation, like carbon pricing, is only one half of the solution to climate action.

The other half of the solution involves green technology innovations like electric vehicles, green energy, and lab grown meat. So today, I want to bring into light all of the green technologies that are being worked on today and what role they will play in climate action.

Pie chart showing emissions by sector. 25% is from electricity and heat production; 14% from transport; 6% from residential and commercial buildings; 21% from industry; 24% from agriculture, forestry and other land use; 10% from other energy uses.

Green Energy

At 25% of the global emissions, it’s no surprise that energy is the biggest piece of the carbon emissions pie. Everyone uses energy for heat during cold winters and electric energy to power appliances. A big part of where this energy currently comes from is from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels made up 65% of the greenhouse gases emitted back in 2014 and its use is pretty much ubiquitous on the industrial scale.

Global GHG emissions by gas: 65% is from carbon dioxide fossil fuel use and industrial processes. 11% is from carbon dioxide deforestation, decay of biomass, etc. 16% is from methane. 6% is from nitrous oxide and 2% is from fluorinated gases.

Clearly, the solution is to replace fossil fuel resources with something more green/renewable. Over the past couple of years, we have seen a surge in renewable technologies like solar, geothermal, hydro and even biomass. These renewable resources are the future and more and more people are taking the future into their hands by starting their own companies with a focus on making them more efficient than fossil fuels.

Take a look at Berlin based startup, SolarKiosk. Since 2011, SolarKiosk has provided small businesses in off-grid markets with solar power. Rural communities now have access to sustainable energy, clean water, communication, and business opportunities. And this is SolarKiosk’s business model. By empowering locals with green technologies, they are growing a sustainable energy empire and I believe that this is the business model of and for the future.

Green Transportation

Electric vehicles are all the rage in today’s day and age. More and more car manufacturers are investing into it. Electric vehicles run on clean energy, 0-60 mph in 4 seconds, federal and state tax incentives for purchasing EVs - what’s not to like from a consumer standpoint?

Electric planes, however, are nonexistent and that’s because the main problems with commercial electric planes stem from battery energy storage density. Batteries today just aren’t efficient and they’re big and heavy. And when it comes to electric flight, size matters. But a new battery technology is pushing the dreams of electric flight into the realm of reality and contributing to making a dent in the 14% greenhouse gas emissions produced by transportation.

Lithium Metal

So to those wondering the answer to the age old question: does size matter? You have your answer now (when it comes to electric planes anyway) and that is lithium metal. Lithium metal batteries are more energy dense, more flame retardant than lithium ion, and smaller form factor. Colorado based, Solid Power, claims that their batteries are at least 50 percent more energy dense than their lithium ion counterparts.

Massachusetts based, Solid Energy, another lithium metal battery startup, shows just how much more dense these batteries are by comparing them to today’s lithium batteries.

These batteries will play a major contribution to making electric planes a reality and I am very much looking forward to the day when I can sit in a plane that barely makes any noise.

We need to re-prioritize

So, there you have it. I have only provided a small list of new companies that are changing the game. And like any new technology, industry takes time to adapt because when it comes to implementing new solutions, any business will ask: how much will the production of these technologies cost and how do we implement these solutions so that there is no hiccup in the economy? These are really big questions because they get in the way of industry adoption and no one really has answers to them.

Today, there is no alternative power source that can keep up with the efficiency of fossil fuel resources and to the corporate executives, politicians, dictators around the world, that efficiency holds more priority than climate action. These people only care about increasing numbers like the GDP because to them, it measures success. GDP, otherwise known as gross domestic product is a monetary measure of the market value of all the final goods and services produced in a year and to the average person, it means and represents nothing. It does not help the layperson in anyway except tell us that we are creating some artificial value that is a function of every resource required to make it. It does not tell us the environmental impacts or feedback loops that may result from extracting these resources.

The people in power know this but reducing environmental impact is not their number one priority. But I would argue that environmental impact should be and it has to be what we use to measure success because better resource management and energy efficiency would create a more sustainable economy AND I am speaking for the general public when I say this: a sustainable economy is preferable to one overstretched by inequality and short term profits.