Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a complex, multi-faceted problem. Renewables won't be enough

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a complex, multi-faceted problem. Renewables won't be enough

Greenhouse gas emissions reduction is a much more complex and multifaceted challenge than it first seems. It’s about much more than switching power production to renewables.

Here are some other significant contributors to our emissions:

  • Aviation; modern jet aircraft run almost exclusively on crude-oil based fuel. Biofuels are being trialled but have their own challenges, such as competition with land used for food production and with available water.

  • Industrial heat; industrial furnaces and reactors often require high temperatures (> 500C). This is currently provided by coal or natural gas. Finding economically viable emissions-free options for industrial heat is a challenge.

  • Fugitive emissions; so long as we produce coal and gas, we will release methane into the atmosphere. Finding better ways to capture and abate this will be necessary so long as we continue to use these energy sources.

  • Metals production often uses coal, not only as a heat source but as a “reductant” to drive the reaction. Alternatives exist but are a long way from widespread use.

  • Synthetic fertilisers enable us to feed 7.6 billion humans. They produce high nitrous oxide emissions as they break down after being used. We need alternatives that don’t cut food production.

Let’s get to work.

About David T Kearns

I'm an independent professional working in energy, carbon, sustainability and machine learning

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