Technology and the End of Climate Change

My optimism that technology can save us from disastrous climate change (just as it gave us the run up to potentially disastrous climate change) is rewarded when I run across reports of constructive innovations.

A Swedish steelmaker, SSAB, is building a plant that a year ago refined iron ore for the production of steel with the emission of water vapor.  Oxygen atoms must be stripped from iron ore to get iron.  Then, iron is transformed into steel.  SSAB’s new plant uses hydrogen instead of CO2 heavy coke, hydrogen separated from water by renewable energy.  Then, the hydrogen is heated to about 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit and injected into a furnace containing iron ore pellets.  The hydrogen combines with water in the iron ore to form water vapor, leaving behind “sponge” iron. The “sponge” iron is melted with recycled scrap to make steel.

The traditional steel making process produces 8% of the world’s CO2 emissions.  SSAB proposes to use electric furnaces to turn iron into steel.

Secondly, there is a systemic problem with electricity transmission grids moving green electricity.  The grids use alternating current, which must oscillate between 50HZ and 60HZ. With fossil fuels and nuclear power maintaining that stable oscillation by the inertia of the generating turbans of older plants.  With wind and solar power, there is no or too little inertia in the grid.  So, flywheels need to be added to the grid to provide the needed inertia.

In Scotland, a new plant has been built housing two giant flywheels, each of which weighs 194 tons and rotates 500 times a minute.  But existing fossil fuel stations could be repurposed to house flywheels and generate inertia for the grid.

Thirdly, researchers at MIT have soaked an order-eating clay used in cat litter with a copper solution.  The resulting compound can capture methane from the air and convert it to CO2, which is a less harmful greenhouse gas.  Devices containing this helpful compound can be put in the vents of coal mines and cattle barns to absorb methane.

If methane emissions were to be reduced by 45% by 2030, projected warming would be reduced by ½ a degree Celsius by 2100.

Another clay, zeolite, has tiny pores which permit it to function as a filter for methane.

Fourth, Alphabet (Google), Meta, Shopify and Stripe and the sustainability practice of McKinsey have pledged $925 million over nine years to buy technology which would remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  It is estimated that humanity needs to remove 6 billion tons of CO2 a year from our atmosphere by 2050.