As the world heats up and extreme weather events increase, governments and businesses have been called on by senior officials, climate scientists and activists to tackle climate change and reduce heating levels.
Climate questions: What are the solutions to climate change?
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is part of an ongoing series that answers some of the most fundamental questions about climate change, the science behind it, the effects of global warming, and how the world faces it.
Scientists and officials agree it’s important not to make matters worse by burning even more fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – which emit heat-trapping gases into the air. In a 2021 report, the International Energy Agency said there could be no new investment in fossil fuels if the world was to meet its climate goals. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said “immediate and deep” reductions in dirty fuels were needed.
“Our reliance on fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the 2021 climate conference in Glasgow, known as COP26.
The world currently depends on fossil fuels for much of its electricity, heating and transportation, as well as for agriculture and industry. It is hoped that cleaner alternatives, such as solar and wind power, will replace much of this demand. As renewable energy costs fall, more and more energy is produced sustainably, although the total amount of energy produced worldwide has also increased.
“There has been a fairly rapid uptake of renewables, but emissions continue to rise,” said Elizabeth Robinson, director of the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. “We also need to see overall global emissions decline, and at the moment, global emissions from fossil fuels continue to rise.”
While renewable energy sources work well for power generation, other industries – such as cement manufacturing, steel and shipping – will be harder to wean off dirty fuels. That’s why experts are studying technologies that could help these specific sectors, as well as the possibility of “green fuels”, such as those made from plant materials or natural waste, called biofuels.
Newer technologies such as green hydrogen, which uses renewable energy sources to produce hydrogen for energy purposes, and carbon capture, which sucks carbon dioxide from the air, are also in the pipeline. study, but their price remains high and they have not been tested on a large scale. ladder.
Methane, a greenhouse gas about 25 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide but which only persists in the atmosphere for about ten years, will also have to be greatly reduced. Countries have pledged to plug methane leaks from oil wells and gas pipelines, which would have immediate benefits in curbing global warming, scientists say.
Robinson also pointed to halting deforestation and adjusting diets as solutions, as forests naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Land use for agriculture, especially for livestock, which also requires large amounts of land for grazing, means that forests have to be cleared and more greenhouse gases are emitted into the air .
“It’s a very controversial area, but in most high-income countries most people eat far more meat than they need,” Robinson said.
In addition to limiting climate change, humans will also have to learn to live with some warming. Seeking to control warming while simultaneously learning to acclimatize is known as “mitigation and adaptation” in climate circles. Many officials and scientists say both are necessary.
“We have to do everything,” Robinson said. “It’s too late to say one thing is better than another.”
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