By Land, Sea, and Air: Emerging Technologies to Tackle Climate Change

The many distractions and disruptions of the past year have made it easy to lose sight of the ongoing climate crisis, but not looking hasn’t made it disappear. Even as a global pandemic temporarily slowed carbon emissions by keeping everyone at home, temperatures continued to rise. In fact, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) reports that 2020 tied 2016 as the single hottest year on record.

Want a quick overview?

Read, “Innovating a Path Out of the Climate Emergency.”

But while your attention was elsewhere, you may have missed something else: the many inventive ways that researchers are tackling climate change. New technologies are making it easier to identify emissions sources, stop further damage with greater energy efficiency and lower-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels, and even remove excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Identifying problems

The first step toward fixing something is determining where it’s broken. We know what the problem is: excessive carbon emissions that are raising global temperatures. But where are those emissions coming from?

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Stopping further damage

Once you know that something you’re doing is creating a problem, the next step is to do things differently. With regard to climate change, that means developing lower-carbon energy sources and finding more efficient ways to use the energy you generate.

Lower-carbon energy is all around us, and researchers are finding increasingly ingenious ways to tap into it:

Abstract wave made of dots and triangular glass panes

Boosting energy efficiency

To reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, we also need to increase energy efficiency. Here, too, new developments are promising:

Farmer using tablet in corn field

Reversing existing damage

Capturing greenhouse gases that would otherwise go into the atmosphere is a necessary aspect of slowing climate change. Removing those gases from the atmosphere is a critical part of undoing it. These are some breakthrough technologies with the potential for reducing the amount of CO2 already in the air:

The climate emergency remains urgent and imminent, but it also remains solvable. These are just a few of the technological innovations giving us hope to go beyond simply averting catastrophe to building a world that’s more livable.