Low-Carbon_EmissionsIs it feasible to provide energy to the poor with low-carbon emissions? The World Bank believes so. It claims clean energy is the solution for getting people out of poverty.

In our modern age, those in poverty can’t get out without access to reliable energy. Currently, 1 billion people globally have no power, which means no opportunities to run a business, provide light for kids to study, cook and Internet access to search for jobs and be informed.

Climate change is and will continue to affect everyone, but no one will suffer more than the poor, throwing away decades of development work.

The World Bank Group supports building low-carbon, climate resilient cities, forward movement on climate-smart agriculture as well as speeding up energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the Group is also focused on supporting work on ending fossil fuel subsidies and developing carbon pricing to increase costs of emissions that will lead to energy for all and decreased emissions. The focus is a balancing act on growing economies and reducing emissions, but it can be done.

More and more we see a shift to renewables, such as hydropower, geothermal, solar and wind. Government financial departments are realizing how costly the effects of climate change are with rising sea levels, changes in weather patterns and human migrations, costing trillions and potentially killing hundreds of thousands.

Notably, there has been an increase in renewable energy of 45 percent globally from 2010 to 2012, with Asia leading by 42 percent. Governments such as those in Bangladesh are developing sustainable strategies with more than 3.5 million solar home systems, creating 70,000 direct jobs.

In addition, Morocco is leading the way in Africa with its formation of an agency for solar power and coming up with a super grid for solar, wind, hydropower and biomass. The country has increased its renewable energy investment, to some extent by reducing fossil fuel subsidies from $297 million in 2012 to $2.8 billion in 2013.

For the rest of Arica, the cost of renewable energy is out of reach for most governments, and the private sector doesn’t want to invest in it because it doesn’t know if it will be a safe investment. This is a shame given the amount of resources Africa has. The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) is providing some funding.

Carbon taxes are or will be used by 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces to decrease emissions, generating nearly $50 billion. Green bonds are also increasing in popularity, with the World Bank raising $8.4 billion through the 100 total it has issued in 18 currencies.

Green bonds are currently funding two energy efficient projects in China that are eliminating 12.6 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, the equivalent of eliminating 2.7 billion cars every year.

It seems that some governments have realized the cost implications of the inaction to climate change, mostly because they are being affected more and more by it.

Not only is it cost-effective to address this problem, it’s also moral to get people out of poverty and prevent them from having to endure the bulk of the consequences of a problem they didn’t create.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: African Development Bank Group (AfDB), The Guardian
Photo: Pixabay

Scientists have been arguing for a reduction in carbon emissions ever since the effects of global warming were recognized. Now, to further aid the fight against increased global warming, some of these scientists have found a way to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This technology will manifest in the form of “artificial trees” that absorb up to one ton of carbon dioxide in a day.

These artificial trees look and feel nothing like real trees. In fact, they resemble cars in size and shape. Not only will they hey absorb carbon dioxide from the air a thousand times faster than a normal tree would, but they will also not release carbon back into the atmosphere unlike real trees.

Previous inventions that removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere necessitated the processing huge volumes of air, since carbon dioxide makes up just 0.04 percent of the air we breathe. Artificial trees, however, will simply absorb carbon from the air into their leaves, which are coated with sodium carbonate. When sodium carbonate comes into contact with the carbon dioxide, it shall form a harmless bicarbonate – baking soda.

Klaus Lackner and Alan Wright, the brains behind this new technology, understood that carbon dioxide emissions needed to be decreased within the next few decades to prevent the non-reversible effects of climate change. Even if humans stopped all carbon dioxide emissions today, the amount left in the atmosphere would keep temperatures increasing for the next hundred years.

Artificial trees have the potential to reverse this trend. Ten million artificial trees could absorb 3.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year. This would amount to 10% of all global emissions. A single tree would initially cost $20,000, around the price of a car in the U.S. However, as production of these trees increase, price would also fall, making this initiative cost less prohibitive.

The carbon dioxide collected by the artificial trees could also be used or stored in few ways. It could either be transformed into a liquid and buried underground. Alternatively, hydrogen could be added to it to create hydrocarbon fuel. As long as the process uses renewable energy, this fuel would not release any new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the gas could be injected into rocks such as peridotite, which can hold huge amounts of carbon dioxide.

The concept of artificial trees is a simple one, yet has immense appeal. The economy of energy would remain the same, enabling people to continue living existing lifestyles. Artificial trees would just allow us to maintain these lifestyles better. Noting that the U.S. will also be producing as much petroleum as Saudi Arabia by 2020, it is unrealistic to hope that alternative sources of energy would replace oil any time soon.

On the other hand, it is not economically sound for companies to invest in these artificial trees currently. Only when high penalty for companies that have huge emissions is put in place, will absorbing carbon dioxide be viewed as a solution equivalent to reducing emissions.

– Radhika Singh

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, National Geographic
Photo: Physics World