Welcome to this series of newsletters on the topic of ‘Net Zero by 2050 — Technology for a Changing Climate’.
In response to the climate crisis many business leaders have committed their organizations to a ‘Net Zero’ program. By this they mean that their organization will not be emitting greenhouse gases by a specified date — often the year 2050. The purpose of these letters and posts is to help these leaders make the right choices by providing realistic and practical information to do with Net Zero technologies. There is no shortage of good ideas when it comes to climate change — the challenge is figuring which of them will actually work. Are the good ideas merely good ideas, or can they be implemented economically and at scale within the next 28 years?
The material in these letters addresses the hard questions that business leaders ask when looking at new technologies — questions such as:
Does it work?
Is it safe?
Can it be implemented and scaled up so as to have a meaningful impact by the year 2050?
How much does it cost to develop, implement, commission and operate?
Could it generate new sources of profitable revenues?
What could go wrong?
The posts are in two groups. Those in the first group describe and evaluate different types of alternative energy technology; they are organized around the questions just listed. They follow the structure of the book Net Zero by 2050: Technology for a Changing Climate (scheduled for publication later in this year).
The posts in the second group are more news oriented. They discuss current developments in alternative technology and the implications of policy changes. For example, the post Coal: Clean or Dirty describes ways in which coal can be burned so that it can be considered as being a “clean” fuel.
To learn more about the eBooks, videos, books and other services that we provide please visit our Sutton Technical Books site (https://iansutton.com). Our YouTube video channel is here. The video that goes with this post is here.
Once more, welcome to this series. If you find the material that we publish to be of value, please consider subscribing so that you will receive information to do with the letters and posts as they are published. Thank you.
The climate is changing and the consequences are getting worse. Droughts, floods and wildfires are more frequent and more severe. Even places such as the Pacific Northwest that were thought to be safe are suffering the consequences of a changing climate. For example, in the year 2021 the Province of British Columbia in Canada experienced a heat dome, fierce forest fires and flooding caused by an “atmospheric river”.
In response to this crisis many business leaders have adopted a ‘Net Zero by 2050’ goal, i.e., by the year 2050 they plan to restructure their businesses so as to have no net greenhouse gas emissions. This strategy is not only good for the planet, it can give them a competitive advantage by opening up new business areas. One way in which they will achieve their Net Zero goal is to adopt technologies that do not emit greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide or CO2. They are also investing in carbon capture techniques that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
Here is an example of the type of change that is already taking place.
The picture shows the CEO of the Ford Motor company, James Farley, standing in front of an electric F-150 pickup truck. The text associated with the picture reads,
Ford Motor plans to increase its production capacity of electric vehicles to 600,000 units globally by 2023.
That is a very ambitious goal and is indicative of the type of change that companies such as Ford feel that they must undertake in response to climate change, and in order to gain a competitive advantage.
There is no shortage of books, reports, web pages and videos that describe the climate change dilemma. They explain in great detail how the climate is changing, what is causing those changes, and what the consequences may be.
The image shown here is from one of the most important of those reports. It is the cover IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Special Report on Global Warming, published in the year 2018.
But, having described the predicaments in which we find ourselves, most of these publications then leave the ball lying on the ground. They basically say, “We have a dilemma, someone somewhere needs to do something about it”.
It is generally assumed that national governments and international organizations will take the necessary actions. The pictures here are of Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations. Both men were leaders of the COP26 conference held in Glasgow in November 2021. They both gave strong speeches describing the seriousness of the climate crisis.
Yet, although government response is vital, the fact is that national governments and international agencies have failed to respond adequately. For example, the COP26 conference was, as its title tells us, the 26th such conference. Governments have been talking about climate change for more than a generation. Yet the chart shows that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have climbed inexorably during that time. (Overlaid on the chart are some of the major international events and reports that have taken place in that time period. They seem to have had little impact.)
A new approach is needed.
Given that governments and international organizations have failed to lead us out of the climate change dilemma, fresh leadership is needed. Business and industrial executives and managers are in a position to provide that leadership. Their motive is not to “do good”, but to be successful commercially and to gain a competitive advantage. They also want to avoid their own “Kodak Moment” — that is, they do not want to be driven out of business because they failed to understand that their environment is changing.
With regard to climate change the following business and engineering concerns are crucial.
Some means of storing large quantities of energy economically is needed. Intermittent power sources such as solar and wind operate for only about a third of the time. Bulk energy storage is needed to capture the surplus energy when it is available, and to release that energy when the sun is not shining nor the wind is blowing.
Many transportation systems — particularly ships, airplanes, trains and trucks — require liquid fuels. New types of liquid fuel are needed. Candidates are biofuels, liquefied hydrogen and liquid anhydrous ammonia.
Many Net Zero programs rely on some means of economically removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Technologies for doing this are still at the demonstration phase.
The following is a list of some of the technologies that will be discussed and analyzed in future posts, newsletters and publications.
Carbon Capture and Sequestration
Throughout these publications the status of each technology is evaluated using a simple Phase-Gate diagram.
Each technology is placed somewhere along this project timeline. This helps determine just how close that technology may be to having a world-wide impact within just 28 years.
We hope that you have found this introduction useful and informative. If you would like to know more, please subscribe to our regular newsletter and blog posts using the button shown. Or else visit our web page at Sutton Technical Books.