R&D fighting against climate change
Climate change is coming
Climate change is happening as surely as ‘Winter Is Coming’ according to John Snow, the only difference being that rather than facing never-ending cold nights, the Earth is endangered by the persistent threat of climate change. Science does not generally dispute that significant environmental change has occurred on Earth since the beginning of the previous century. In fact, during 2016, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at record speed, hitting a level not seen for more than 3 million years (the globally averaged concentration of CO2 had reached 403.3 parts per million). Population growth, intensive agriculture, deforestation and industrialisation are driving the emissions higher and higher and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now increasing 100 times faster than at the end of the last ice age.
R&D as a way to tackle climate change
One way to respond to climate change is, naturally, to transform the way that we produce energy. As living standards have risen significantly over the last 250 years in the western world, our energy consumption has also drastically increased. More than a cut in global emissions, the tech giant Bill Gates affirms that “we need an energy miracle”. The science and technology that contributed to these environmental changes could also provide game-changing solutions to the challenges faced by future generations. Here are three innovations that could help us reduce the environmental impact of our daily lives.
Our demand for transport is expected to increase and already represents 23% of energy-related CO2 emissions.
The improvements brought about by the rise of electric vehicles is on its way. One of the problematic limits of conventional lithium-based battery power is that cannot currently compete with petrol cars in terms of travel distances. However, Researchers at the University of Surrey discovered new materials offering an alternative to these, including a supercapacitor proven to be between 1,000 to 10,000 times more powerful than existing batteries.
Meanwhile, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) developed an airplane that emits only water. The HY4 project created a plane that runs on an electrical current from a supply of hydrogen and oxygen. Currently only being able to fit four people, this innovation still opens a wide range of opportunities to be developed. The project leader, Josef Kallo, already imagines a controlled airspace where these small planes could be flying around Los Angeles, allowing people to avoid the dreadful traffic jams.
Innovation powers the emergence of ‘smart cities’ and ‘greener houses’. This field is blooming with new or upcoming brilliant inventions. Researchers seek to reinvent the way we use energy in our homes and streets. Some inventions appeared to us as brilliant, using the houses’ inhabitants and their external environment as unexpected sources of energy.
Laurence Kemball-Cook created an indoor-outdoor floor tile generating electricity from the people walking on it. From a different perspective, Raymond Wang invented a roof tile that turns the impact of raindrops into useable electricity.
Michigan State University are working on transparent solar panels. These panels made of clear cells called transparent luminescent solar concentrator (TLSC) are raising the possibility of transforming every window in your house in a source of energy.
Representing about a quarter of all global emissions, feeding the world has more impact on the atmosphere than the transport sector. Scientists agree that the livestock industry is in desperate need of change. A significant part of the emissions related to the food sector is associated to meat consumption. Trying to satisfy our appetite for meat but acknowledging our incapacity to produce it without catastrophic consequences to our environment, the company Beyond Meat created an entirely plant-based burger. The researchers sought to use vegetable protein found in peas to produce the first substitute that looks, tastes and feels like the real meat. We will let you decide if you like it as much as the original.
 Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
 The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, UN’s annual report