These are 5 strategies for reducing CO2 emissions across the globe. Most of us are well-aware of the dangers of CO2 emissions, just as we are well-aware of the truly despicable attempts by governments to reduce those highly dangerous results of human activity. In light of this criminal negligence, I am glad to report 5 strategies for reducing CO2 that hold the potential for significant change.
The paper and pulp, steel, concrete, plastics and aluminum industries create far more CO2 than all the world’s planes, lorries/trucks, cars, trains and ships put together.
Number 1 of 5 strategies: PAPER & PULP: The paper and pulp industry creates 0.9 BILLION TONNES of CO2, globally, every year.
Scientists have invented a magical gadget that sucks the ink off printer paper so each sheet can be used 10 times over. They aim to cut the amount of planet-heating carbon dioxide (CO2) by reducing demand for office paper. The trick to the so-called “de-printer” is specially coated paper, which stops ink (or powdered toner) from soaking into the page. A powerful laser then vaporises the ink.
Number 2 of 5 strategies: STEEL: Globally, the industry emits almost 3 BILLION TONNES of the gas a year – that’s roughly equal to all the annual CO2-producing activities in the entire Indian economy.
Normally, making steel involves mixing iron-bearing rock with coke – which derives from coal – then super-heating it at 1,500C, using highly-polluting coal or gas. The heat sets off a chemical reaction that turns the iron into a precursor of steel. But this creates even more CO2 – in fact, the process makes more tonnes of CO2 than it makes steel.
In the town of Lulea – just south of the Arctic Circle – the multinational steel manufacturer SSAB has found a way of stopping the creation of CO2. The first step is to use renewable power – such as from wind turbines or hydro-electricity – instead of coal to produce the necessary heat. Step two is to substitute hydrogen for coke in the reaction stage. Instead of producing CO2 as a by-product, the reaction with hydrogen and iron produces only water.
Number 3 of 5 strategies: CEMENT: The cement industry produces 2.5 BILLION TONNES of CO2 a year.
The rail firm HS2 is building a viaduct in Buckinghamshire, in south-east England, made from a sandwich of cement and steel. This smart design allows less material to be used by harnessing the different physical properties of the cement and steel. The engineers say this innovation cuts materials costs, and halves the CO2 emissions of more traditional construction.
Number 4 of 5 strategies: PLASTICS: The plastics industry produces 1.8 BILLION TONNES of CO2 annually.
In the Netherlands, the bio-chemical firm Avantium is claiming a world first – a plant-based plastic to rival PET, (polyethylene terephthalate) which is used to make most drinks bottles.
The new product is called PEF (polyethylene furanoate) and is said to produce a third fewer emissions than PET. The raw material is derived from wheat and corn.
Number 5 of 5 strategies: ALUMINUM: Aluminum production accounts for 0.6 BILLION TONNES of CO2 annually.
In Dortmund, Germany, they’re resurrecting an invention that’s more than 100 years old.
It’s a machine that takes in aluminum chips, then warms them and compresses them though a sort of giant toothpaste nozzle, to produce a tube of re-formed aluminum – at a fraction of the emissions of normal recycling.
Wherever you look, innovations like this are helping firms reduce emissions. But here’s the trouble – the inventions are not being developed nearly fast enough to meet the global goal of almost halving CO2 by 2030.
The biggest problem for all these industries is the shortage of clean electricity from renewable sources to power factories, as well as cars and our homes.
Prof Julian Allwood from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, sums it up by saying: “So many of us would like to have a solution based on inventing a new technology. But unfortunately inventing it isn’t the problem. What matters is the speed at which we can scale things up. You can bring out a new phone and sell it very quickly but you can’t bring out a new power station quickly, so the solutions we need have to be fundamentally based on technologies that already exist – and about doing things differently. These materials (paper, steel, cement, plastic and aluminum) have been made in such high volumes – and have been so cheap – we’ve used them wastefully.”
These 5 strategies won’t solve the problems of CO2 emissions but they give us some hope that scientists’ imaginations and skills can at least address the issue.