Tackling the greenhouse gas emissions challenge fast and effectively

Around 16% of the world’s energy consumption already comes from renewable resources such as biomass, hydro, wind, solar, waste to energy and geothermal. Renewable sources of energy have been the driver of much of the growth in the global clean energy sector for the past 25 years, and currently at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20% of energy supply and a few above 50% like Norway, New Zealand and Costa Rica.

This drive to renewables is a step in the right direction and needs to continue if we are to meet the Paris accords requirement to reduce our emissions to prevent 1.5 or 2.0C rise in global temperature averages. As Lord Stern said, we need to decarbonise our emissions by 60-80%, this means not just coal, but oil and natural gas (LNG) as well. If we look at global greenhouse gas emissions, we see they come from a variety of sectors.

The economists and statisticians forget proportionality in the equations. Methane emissions account for 24 times those of carbon dioxide and account for 5% of the total emissions. So in reality methane accounts for much higher amounts of greenhouse gases. The vegetarians will tell you a lot of it comes from intensive animal production. Some emissions come from the livestock, but most of the emissions come from the manure decomposing into methane. Where, like in the USA where antibiotics are used as growth hormones, it makes the waste unusable.

If we stopped using anti biotics and we took then used the waste and digested it effectively (by anaerobic digestion) we could turn it into power and fertilizer and reduce the carbon footprint by up to 96%. If we look at the other main emitter, waste, yes that stuff we throw into our bins we can gasify (convert that waste that into useful clean energy) as well, we not only reduce the carbon footprint by up to 96% but also eliminate a public health and environmental disaster at the same time. A no brainer, surely.

There is a simple rule known as the Pareto rule 80-20 rule. The 20% of the produce in your fridge cost 80% of the produce in the fridge, 80% of the produce is worth 20% of the cost. If we apply the same principal we should focus our effort on the 20% of the problem that is causing the issue, the methane emitters first, the coal second. The methane emitters need to convert the waste to energy from anaerobic digestion for animal waste and to convert the landfill waste to power by gasification. These 2 very simple ideas will reduce our global emissions to levels close to what the Paris Accord has set us. Why aren’t we doing it, the technology exists, the finances make sense, just the lack of political will and confidence to change from the status quo.

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Joe Eades – Ispahan Group