From wall paint to nuclear fusion – a future dream of green?
Green technologies are very popular for companies and consumers. But which solutions really improve the carbon footprint? An overview.
Which technologies do you use to reduce your CO2 footprint?
Electric Vehicles, solar thermal energy and intelligent thermostats are already relatively widespread today. We asked passers-by in Frankfurt which technologies they use at home to live a more climate-friendly lifestyle and which innovations they would like to see.
Environmental aspects do not only play a role in domestic use. The industrial use of green technologies, such as solar and wind energy, began in the 80s. Since the Paris Agreement, the urgency and pressure to increase the use and further development of green technologies has increased significantly. The degree of maturity and penetration of individual methods vary greatly and time is running out to achieve climate targets globally.
The energy sector remains the largest emitter of carbon dioxide. It provides the fuel for our economic and social development. Although alternatives to fossil fuels are on the rise, they still have room for improvement: whether wind, solar or bioenergy - renewable energies currently account for almost 30 percent of the globally generated electricity mix. This is set to increase – especially since wind and solar energy in particular can be generated comparatively efficiently. The downside is that they depend on the weather - and are therefore not consistently available.
As early as 1966, American economist Kenneth E. Boulding wrote that our planetary resources are limited and started the idea of the circular economy. It needs less raw materials, recycles more, produces much less waste and CO2 and also serves biodiversity. The circular economy is more than recycling and includes the entire value chain: all materials circulate. According to management consultancy Roland Berger, a circular economy would reduce CO2 emissions by almost 70 percent by 2050. However, there is still a long way to go. Although the circular economy is regarded as a growth area, it also requires us to completely rethink our previous way of doing business and consuming.
The Sunday roast: eating meat only on public holidays is getting a renaissance. In Germany alone, meat consumption has declined in recent years. In addition, sales of meat substitutes are also increasing. This is good for our climate balance because food accounts for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. If, for example, beef is replaced by chicken, CO2 emissions would be reduced by half. Meat substitutes from plants or the laboratory are on the rise, as shown by the number of innovations and start-ups in this field. 65 percent of them come from the US.
Green hydrogen has the potential to save CO2 by as much as 70 percent in many areas such as industry, heat supply or transport. We can obtain it from water by electrolysis. If the energy required for this comes from renewable energies, it is called green hydrogen. However, this is still very expensive because there is not yet enough renewable energy available. The same applies to electrolysers which are not yet produced at scale. This is set to change in the near future. Africa in particular is currently developing into an important supplier of green hydrogen because the continent has regions with a lot of sun, wind and large open spaces.
The technical storage of carbon dioxide, the so-called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), is currently one of the most controversial discussions. In particular, agriculture and industries such as cement, lime and glass will not be able to completely avoid CO2 emissions. Companies have been working for several years on technologies to store carbon dioxide in specially designed plants in the long term. These can be located on the seabed or on land. According to studies, 65 to 80 percent can be permanently absorbed from the atmosphere. This needs a lot of energy and there are risks, such as leakages. The contribution of CCS to climate protection is controversial. However, there is also the prognosis that we will not be able to achieve the 1.5 degree target by CO2 reduction alone.
The sun is our most important source of energy. To be able to imitate the sun’s energy production is one of the great hopes of science. An approximation of the sun's energy production is nuclear fusion, where atoms are fused together (in contrast to nuclear fission which comes from splitting atoms). The recent scientific breakthrough in the US to gain more energy from the fusion of atoms than it takes to fuse them is likely to further advance research. According to current knowledge, this procedure is considered safe and clean. But it is still very expensive, and the market maturity is a long way off. However, the method is said to have a lot of potential. According to science, it can become the most cost-effective and cleanest source of electricity. Until then, the earth will orbit the sun a few more times.
… is responsible for digital campaigns and communication projects. She uses technologies such as electromobility and solar thermal energy to make everyday life more sustainable. She hopes that green technological developments will have a faster impact.
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