Three Tech Innovations That Could Reverse Climate Change
Major Industry Behemoths Believe These Tech Companies Will Change The World
Even if all the carbon dioxide emission cuts pledged in the landmark Paris Climate Agreement were to be achieved, it still would not prevent the Earth’s temperature from rising beyond the agreement’s goals – to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2˚ C above the pre-industrial levels. As global temperatures inexorably rise, the slow progress on the political front underscores the urgent need for game-changing and scalable technological innovations deployed at the scale needed for us to have any hope of slowing such pollution and, ultimately, reversing it.
With that in mind, here are three major tech companies with the backing of industry behemoths like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, which continue to push the technological envelope in the race to stave off climate change.
General Fusion: Clean Energy
To radically cut the emission of greenhouse gases, the most obvious target is the energy sector, the largest single source of global emissions according to the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change). Last year, nearly two dozen of the world’s most successful business leaders, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists invested up to $1 billion in a group fund, Breakthrough Energy Venture Fund, spearheaded by Bill Gates, gunning for a zero-carbon emissions world by financing the most promising clean energy technologies. One of its most high-profile members, Jeff Bezos- the founder of Amazon, has heavily invested in a Vancouver startup to develop commercially viable, clean and unlimited nuclear fusion power by 2030. Although fusion power has been around for some time, the Holy Grail is to build a nuclear reactor with the ability to produce fusion power that produces more energy than it takes in.
Fusion power promises to produce nuclear power that generates zero greenhouse gases, without the radioactive wastes and risks of a nuclear reactor meltdown by only producing a harmless byproduct – helium. It can be available to all nations, relying only on the Earth’s oceans. This same energy that powers the sun and the stars, can be generated from hydrogen isotopes and is readily extracted from seawater. From the fusing of two atomic nuclei, the mass is converted into energy in the form of heat, which turns water into steam and drives turbines that generate electricity or fuels. If this ambitious goal to supply clean, affordable and safe nuclear fusion power is to be realised and commercialised, this could very well be the power source propelling us into the sustainable energy paradigm.
Carbon Engineering: Clean Air
Besides trying to reduce carbon emissions with clean energy alternatives, we also need to address the exorbitant levels of carbon dioxide pollution already existing in our atmosphere. The startup of which Gates is an investor as well, Carbon Engineering, aims to capture existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and synthesize it into fuels for commercial use, thus eventually replacing the need for crude oil.
Through the continuous capture of atmospheric carbon dioxide and production of pure carbon dioxide, an air contractor absorbs atmospheric carbon into a capture solution to produce a liquid that is rich in carbon dioxide, which then can be sold and used in industrial applications or permanently sequestered deep underground. The company is already running a demonstration plant in Squamish, British Columbia, that is removing one tonne of carbon dioxide from the air daily.
Cultured Beef Project: Lab Grown Meat
Global meat production today requires enormous amounts of land, water and energy; it takes more power to produce a burger than to fully charge seven iPads. The livestock industry alone accounts for 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions according to the UN Food and Agriculture estimates. As the demand for meat is expected to increase by two-thirds by 2050, this burgeoning appetite for meat will inevitably put a strain on global resources and exacerbate climate change. However, technology is making it easier to reduce our consumption of animal-based foods while satiating our appetite for meat.
Co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, is a major investor of the Cultured Beef project, which uses stem cell technology to culture real beef from the muscle cells of organically raised cows. According to Maastricht University, creators of the first synthetic burger, cells from a single cow could eventually produce 175 million burgers. In comparison, it would have taken 440,000 cows to produce those burgers by traditional means.