National Geographic : 2015 Nov
PHOTO: KYOCERA TCL SOLAR. ART: ROMUALDO FAURA In 2014 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” unless greenhouse gases are curtailed. More than 830 scientists, bringing the concerns of the 80-plus nations they call home, contributed to the report. Within their borders and on the world stage, nations wield influence that individuals, cities, and businesses cannot. Their policies can spur green innovation or stunt it, toughen pollution standards or weaken them. The fate of any accord on climate change lies in their hands. Some 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered from a million recycled cell phones. In 2010, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the food available in the U.S. wasn’t eaten. OFFSHORE ENERGY Solar is the “biggest tool in the toolbox” for cutting carbon, says Greg Wilson of the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab oratory. The International Energy Agency says wind power will also play a big role and could increase up to tenfold by 2050. At their peak potential, solar and wind could help us avoid some 12 gigatons of yearly carbon emis sions, almost a third of the world’s current total. New wind and solar tech nologies abound. Places short on land are using local waters for wind turbines and solar panels (like these on a pond in Japan’s Kato City). 1 2 3 CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE It’s too late to keep some fossil fuels from being burned. According to one estimate, the world’s existing power plants are on track to pour more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere before they eventually shut down. That’s where carbon capture and storage comes in (right). Projects in the U.S., Canada, and China are attempting to let us have our coal and burn it too by seizing carbon before it escapes into the air and storing it, usually in the ground. Capturing carbon, though, makes burning coal much less of a bargain. The cost of one pilot project in Mississippi has ballooned to more than six billion dollars. Nation s All of the electricity used by the CTrain in Calgary, Canada, is purchased from renewable sources. Capture CO2 from power plants or industrial processes. Inject the CO2 into deep underground rock formations for storage. Transport the captured and compressed CO2 , usually in pipelines.