Change needed to happen “years ago” in humanity’s battle against climate change, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) associate professor in the department of mechanical engineering Asegun Henry. Now it may be a case of too little, too late, with humanity losing the battle as the planet continues to warm after a seemingly lacklustre battle.
According to Prof Henry, the battle comes down to a matter of physics.
Virtually all of society’s energy consumption involves generating or transferring heat, which, coupled with greenhouse gasses, adds to the warming planet.
Prof Henry has subsequently declared a “mission” for scientists to create an energy storage system which essentially does not lose heat when creating energy.
He told MIT: “The first challenge is developing thermal storage systems for the power grid, electric vehicles, and buildings.
“Take the power grid: There is an international race going on to develop a grid storage system to store excess electricity from renewables so you can use it at a later time.
“This would allow renewable energy to penetrate the grid. If we can get to a place of fully decarbonising the grid, that alone reduces carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production by 25 percent.”
However, the scientist, who has recently joined other experts in penning a paper outlining their goals, believes we have a matter of decades before it is too late.
He said: “In short, we have about 20 to 30 years of business as usual, before we end up on an inescapable path to an average global temperature rise of over 2 degrees Celsius.
“This may seem like a long time, but it’s not when you consider that it took natural gas 70 years to become 20 percent of our energy mix.
“So imagine that now we have to not just switch fuels, but do a complete overhaul of the entire energy infrastructure in less than one third the time.
“We need dramatic change, not yesterday, but years ago. So every day I fear we will do too little too late, and we as a species may not survive Mother Earth’s clapback.”
The planet is continuing to warm, with scientists stating the global temperature has risen by roughly 0.15-0.20C per decade.
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This has led to the visible loss of ice in the polar caps but frozen water is also melting beneath the surface, scientists have warned.
Permafrost is a permanently frozen layer beneath the surface, which affects 18 million square kilometres in the upper reaches of the northern hemisphere.
The layer of ice contains rocks, soil, sand and stores the remains of plants and microbes which have been stored in the permafrost for millions of years.
However, with this means the carbon dioxide (CO2) from dead plants and microbes has also become trapped in Earth’s natural freezer – and with permafrost beginning to melt at an alarming rate, this CO2 will eventually be released into the atmosphere.
Current estimates suggest there is up to 1.5 trillion metric tons of carbon stored in permafrost.
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