There is no doubt that we have reached a point of climate crisis. The decisions we make and the actions we take today as a society could have serious consequences for our planet. As a technologically and scientifically advanced society, you might think we have the tools we need to challenge problems and thrive for decades to come.
But it’s not necessarily that simple: Many of the tools we use to limit climate change are in the hands of global governments. Although the recent COP26 climate summit ended with an agreement on the future of climate action, it falls far short of the needs. The good news is that some industries are already taking unilateral steps to fill the void.
This is not limited to the obvious producers of renewable energy that we have all become familiar with. There are industrial players who innovate and are committed to pursuing constant progress in green protocols. Let’s take a closer look at 3 of these neglected industries.
Agriculture is one of the sectors that is already feeling the first impacts of climate change. Increases in heat, droughts and changes in rainfall levels all contribute to crop failure and other negative effects on agricultural production. As such, the industry is rising to the challenge with innovations to achieve sustainability on a larger scale.
Among the most direct impacts are the development, adaptation and use of tools to rethink how our relationship with the earth interacts with the rest of the environment. Many people are already aware of the need to reduce deforestation as part of efforts to manage carbon production. However, studies are also underway to determine whether carbon storage in grassland soil in the United States could help restore grasslands and minimize emissions. This attention to maintaining micro-climates in agriculture has a greater impact on the health of the planet.
There is also significant development underway in other sustainable uses of agricultural products. The diverse potential of fungi is gaining ground in everything from green building to the safety of research clean rooms. It is one of the latest trends in manufacturing materials for use in industries such as construction, manufacturing and textiles, which traditionally generate significant pollution and waste. Focus on how these mycelium-based materials can not only reduce reliance on finite raw elements. It also minimizes the use of plastics and puts less strain on the environment.
We often think of climate change through the prism of what is happening to the quality of our air or our land. However, our relationship with water is of great concern. Climate change is raising sea levels and uncontrolled waste disposal is affecting overall water security. This has a direct impact on human life but also affects crops and the welfare of other animals. The work carried out by the water management industries is crucial to tackle it.
Some of these efforts are applied at the consumer level. Now there are smart devices to automatically measure water consumption and detect leaks. There are even personal devices that use moisture in the air to create potable water. But other businesses operate on a more infrastructural basis. Oneka Technologies has created a wave energy desalination device. This not only converts seawater into potable water for local populations, but it does so without using land resources or releasing harmful emissions.
Along with new technologies, there is a distinct shift in the application of expertise to these issues. In particular, we are starting to see public health professionals focusing on new areas. Those with experience in epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health policy have an increasing number of career paths open to them. One of them works with water treatment plants alongside environmental agencies. They can explore solutions to find sustainable sources of drinking water and develop safe treatment protocols. The population is increasing and drinking water is increasingly scarce. These professionals provide valuable scientific information to create solutions.
We all know the major players in renewable energies. Solar energy is starting to be present in the power supply of private residences. Wind farms continue to expand around the world. However, one of the neglected industries in this area also has one of the most immediate potentials. Bioenergy is steadily gaining ground in important areas of sustainability.
Bioenergy is produced by burning biomass. It is indeed an alternative to fossil fuels created from natural materials such as plants, wood and organic waste. This approach produces CO2 emissions in the same way as the combustion of any other fuel. But it has the advantage of being essentially carbon neutral. Indeed, the materials cultivated to create biomass capture a comparable amount of CO2 by photosynthesis to that spent on combustion.
Along with the production of transportation fuel, significant progress is being made in its use as an alternative source of electrical energy. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported that more than 100 coal-fired power plants have been converted to bioenergy in the past decade. The method has a greater impact in Europe, where it is currently the most widely used renewable energy source.
There is, however, some degree of recognition that process efficiency needs to be improved to ensure wider adoption. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is among those exploring methods to improve the efficiency of biomass creation and use in power plants. This currently includes testing of a new strain of bacteria that converts plant sugars into ethanol with greater efficiency.
To effectively address the challenges of climate change, efforts from all industries must be deployed. Some industries have been working diligently and without much fanfare for years. This includes exploration by the agricultural sector of land use and mycelial material. The water management industry has also grown stronger to improve safety and availability. The bioenergy industry has made significant strides in the area of clean, renewable fuels over the past decade. There is still a long way to go, but these efforts can help us all overcome the challenges ahead.