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Every shoot starts small: Joining the decarbonization revolution

While governments debate climate change many initiatives are taking place to redress the balance and create a more sustainable future.

Vestas Wind Systems and its partners have developed a new technology for recycling wind turbine blades. Image Courtesy of Vestas, (V100-2.0 MW, South Plains, Texas, USA).
Vestas Wind Systems and its partners have developed a new technology for recycling wind turbine blades. Image Courtesy of Vestas, (V100-2.0 MW, South Plains, Texas, USA).

For many climate change advocates, the pace of change is too slow (just look at COP26’s scope). World leaders are only proposing piecemeal changes and in many cases the corporate juggernauts are proving hard to steer towards a pro-green agenda.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, global fossil fuel emissions had been rising at about one percent per year over the previous decade. The coronavirus pandemic may have slowed this down, yet there are signs of the emissions starting to rise again.

Yet a new review finds encouraging shoots creeping out of the side of the concrete. This is in the form of clean energy technology ‘niches’. These niches vary in the form of countries, states or corporations. Yet each one offers hope and id engaging in practices that seek to pioneer decarbonization.

An example of a positive practice, that the report authors highlight, is when Germany launched a major investment program in solar photovoltaics. The effect of this was to push down costs. The actions also made photovoltaics more politically and economically viable around the globe.

Photovoltaics refers to the conversion of light into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. The power is used for electricity generation and to operate photosensors.

The review comes from University of California San Diego. Some of the examples cited include:

  • Norway and California are leading on electric vehicle and other light duty zero emission vehicles.
  • Republic of Ireland is pioneering wind power.
  • China is pushing ahead with electric buses and new nuclear plants.

The types of vehicles being adopted in Norway and California include battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel cell electric vehicles. Each of these contributes significantly to lowering carbon emissions.

Also, with California is the state’s forest offset program. This seeks to reduce carbon emissions by preserving trees. Simply put, each ton of carbon sequestered in a living tree represents a ton that is not contributing to climate change.

While these examples help to shine a positive light on tackling climate change, it is important to pool the emerging knowledge of how technology transitions happen. It is also important to develop international cooperation, moving beyond the niches to apply greener technology on the global stage.

The review is published in the journal Nature Energy. The peer reviewed paper is titled “Marking the decarbonization revolutions.”

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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