Could technology help solve the climate crisis?

ITV News Health and Science Correspondent Martin Stew looks at the cutting edge technology which could help protect the planet

Words by Lily Ford, Multimedia Producer

Greenhouse gases have continued to rise despite years of international government pledges to bring them down, which is creating an increasingly hostile environment for human beings and wildlife by bringing fiercer heatwaves, droughts and storms.

Data up until October shows 2023 to have warmed 1.4C above the pre-industrial average, which is higher than the previous two hottest years of 2020 and 2016, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said.

The WMO wants urgent action from global leaders at the COP28 summit to hit the brakes on fossil fuel emissions, which is the main cause of the warming climate.

According to International Energy Agency, more than a third (35%) of emission cuts will come from renewables like wind and solar.

Nineteen percent of savings by 2050 need to come from electrification and a further 11% of cuts are dependent on lifestyle choices.

The remaining third relies on new tech - much of which is still being rolled out quickly and at scale.

One such publicised idea is removing carbon out of the air and turning it back into a solid.

It’s called carbon capture and storage - and could account for 11% of cuts.

Karen Finney, Senior Research Fellow at at the Translational Energy Research Centre (TERC), explained to ITV News how it works.

Karen Finney told ITV News that the problem with carbon capture is scale. Credit: ITV News

"We can take our flue gases from any of the rigs on site and with our solvent system, we can produce a pure stream of CO2 and then choose what to do with that," she said.

It can either be turned into an alternative fuel or even buried or injected back underground.

At the moment, it’s relatively expensive - the UK government has pledged £20bn of funding.

"The technology is really progressing. Also, as you deploy more technology it will become cheaper and cheaper," Ms Finney added.

The issue at the moment is scale.

Globally, carbon capture removed 43 million tonnes from the atmosphere last year - which is going up. But it's dwarfed when you compare it to total emissions.

Last year, the UK put 36,800 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere - 856 times more than we captured and stored.

Can Hydrogen stop the emissions in the first place?

Using renewably generated electricity, engineers are able to separate hydrogen molecules from oxygen within water.

So-called green hydrogen is then a clean fuel which emits only water vapour. It is a process in its infancy.

"So we’re looking at a situation where we’re going to go from de facto zero green hydrogen production to the equivalent of two nuclear power stations in six years," said Stuart Dawson, chief engineer at the University of Sheffield.

"It’s technically possible, but on a scale we’ve never seen in this country before."

Decarbonising the planet is one of the goals that the world has set for 2050. Is Hydrogen the answer? Credit: ITV News

At Low Carbon Materials, in Newcastle, waste products, which used to be burnt, are instead being turned into carbon neutral aggregate for roads and concrete.

The green economy is estimated to be worth $10 trillion (£7.8 trillion) by 2050 - businesses looking for a cut in Dubai will promise the Earth, but do the next generation trust them to deliver the future?

"We make goals we make targets but nothing’s happening," one child told ITV News.

"I think it’s important we stay positive because if we’re negative nothing will change," another said.

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