The halting of and possible reversing of global warming will require intelligence, co-operation and determination. There are no short term, simple fixes. Addressing this issue is multifaceted and fundamentally deeply political. The changes in the ways tha

All is not lost – how energy efficiency and clean energy could save our planet

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The Built Environment

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energy efficiency

With just three years to go before we reach the tipping point (the 3C rise in global temperature) the stakes at the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference could not be higher! There was general agreement that the current trajectory of a 3C rise in global warming is untenable. Climate experts and political leaders meeting in Bonn for the COP23 were determined to forge ahead with a truly international framework for reversing global warming. Opinions were mixed over whether we will or won’t succeed in averting the 3C tipping point, with some sceptics; notably the president of the United States, refusing to accept the dangers of global warming. Turning the tide of carbon build-up will require the scientific, political and business sectors to work together towards the objective of slowing and eventually reversing our carbon footprint.   How global temperatures have been rising: NASA | Temperature Data: 1880 - 2011 There are however grounds on which to be optimistic. This is founded on the fact that recent scientific and engineering developments have resulted in exponential changes in both energy production and consumption.        One of these areas of change is within the food manufacturing sector. It has long been recognised that an increase in average wealth has led to a growing demand for meat and dairy products. Their production leads to methane and nitrous oxide (highly toxic greenhouse gases) emissions. Over the past decade this sector has seen a marked increase in research and development with figures such as Bill Gates getting into the fray. This in turn has resulted in new, meat and dairy substitute products being added to the market on a daily basis. Coupled with an exponential rise in demand, this sector has outstripped all expectation. Richard Branson, another heavy weight investor is characteristically upbeat. “I believe that in 30 years or so we will no longer need to kill any animals and that all meat will either be [lab] or plant-based, taste the same and also be much healthier for everyone.” Another cause for optimism is the meteoric decline in the use of fossil fuel and coal in particular. Instead of the demand growing as predicted by 40% over the past four years it has seen a rise of just 1%. The cause of this amazing reversal in fortunes is due to the unprecedented rise in green energy. Solar and wind power are now cheaper to produce than their dirty predecessor, a trend that is set to continue.  Currently two thirds of new power is now supplied by green energy and this increase in market share is still gaining pace at the cost of fossil fuel. The transport sector too is seeing a transformation. Innovation combined with governmental policy has seen uptake and change of behaviours exceeding expectation. Fears that there will be insufficient lithium (the main constituent of batteries) have turned out to be unfounded, whilst research and development in this area has seen massive increases in battery storage capacities, making the electric car a more attractive option. The pace of change within this sector is such that industry expert Viktor Irle  stated “I don’t think it is going to slow down”, he also predicts that by 2030, 80% of all new cars will be electric. Clean energy combined with low carbon production and manufacture can only go so far. To reverse carbon build up in the atmosphere and ultimately achieve our goal of returning our planet to its original carbon balance we also need to use our clean energy optimally. Due to member state initiatives the European Union has succeeded in reducing carbon emissions from its transport, industrial and built environment sectors by 20%. It is recognised that there is still much to be done, however the previous four decades have shown that improvements can be made. Ethicality, practicality and affordability all play their part in achieving the goal of living sustainably: from the food we decide to put on our plates, through to the amount and type of energy we chose to use at work and at play. The halting of and possible reversing of global warming will require intelligence, co-operation and determination. There are no short term, simple fixes. Addressing this issue is multifaceted and fundamentally deeply political. The changes in the ways that man lives and interacts with his environment will need to adapt and change if we are going to have a long term future on this planet.