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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Technology as a Vanguard on the War Against Climate Change

Climate change has become an alarming issue to our world today that leaders from 195 countries have come together to create a pact called the Paris Agreement on Climate Change vowing to combat climate change through focusing on significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and keeping the global temperature ranging between 1.5C and 2C. Having taken full force in 2016, the Paris Agreement also includes the Global Stocktake, a process that takes place every five years to assess the ‘collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the Agreement and its long-term goals.’

A majority of people still doesn’t identify climate change as an imminent threat to the planet’s survival with more than half of Americans believing that climate change won’t have much of an impact in their personal lives. 43 percent express worry for the issue of climate change while only 45 percent see global warming as a serious threat in their lifetime. The poll also shows how political factors have largely influenced people’s divisive stance against climate change and have turned Republicans and Democrats more polarized towards the issue such as the Trump administration’s climate skepticism and the greater sense of urgency Democrats have about the issue.

Aside from policymakers, tech giants have also stepped up to take the fight against climate change in their own hands. Bill Gates, along with some private investors, global corporations and financial institutions, have launched a funding venture to invest in ‘building new technologies that change the way we live, eat, work, travel and make things so we can stop the devastating impact of climate change.’

Science and technology have always been at the forefront of innovating and changing our daily lives and making it easier and convenient. The solutions to the pressing issue of climate change can therefore be found nowhere further than science, technology and engineering.

One of the initiatives in technology in monitoring and reducing carbon emission is by developing the MethaneSAT, a satellite mission ‘designed to continuously map and measure methane emissions with exacting precision almost anywhere in the planet and ‘see’ emissions in places where they’re difficult to track today.’ Methane is a greenhouse gas that has ‘more than 80 times the near-term warming power of carbon dioxide’ and can be largely found in the oil and gas industry. Methane emissions comprise a quarter of all the warming the world is currently experiencing.

Nuclear power has proven itself as a viable energy source that has lesser carbon emissions but its potential for commercial use continues to be highly debatable due to the safety issues concerning the said technology such as the incidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima. 60 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide has been prevented by nuclear reactors from entering the atmosphere over the past 50 years, however the radioactive waste could greatly harm humans and wildlife if not properly contained. One proposed innovation in nuclear power is using a molten salt reactor to continuously cool down the reactor even if safety mechanisms are shut down to prevent overheating. To fast track the utilization of nuclear energy, the Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies Act was passed by the US Senate’s energy committee to proceed with the research and development of four advanced nuclear reactors by 2028.

More steps in transportation have been taken to decrease carbon footprint by shifting towards electric cars. According to the World Bank, transport represents 23% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. Electric cars are more efficient and cleaner compared to vehicles powered by internal combustion engines because they are almost exclusively run on hydropower. There are many types of electric vehicle, and whether and how it uses electricity while delivering performance and range can vary. With the demand of transportation continuously increasing, a group of 26 state leaders during the Global Climate Action Summit back in September of this year has called for carmakers to increase and speed up the production of electric-powered vehicles. In the US, where preference for larger cars still loom, sales of nearly 200,000 electric cars were sold the year before although lagging behind compared to other countries.

The use of sensor technology has also been tapped to promote a healthier environment and to create awareness of the air pollution in your area. These gadgets, as reported by The New York Times, are ‘installed on a porch, a console table or hooked to a backpack, these small, sleek and increasingly inexpensive devices measure hyper-local air quality.’ These gadgets can test air pollution whether indoors and outdoors while you’re on the go and can help users identify areas with high level of pollution.

With many initiatives in technology leading towards a more sustainable and environmentally safe practices, one crucial part of effectively combatting climate change is through the collective efforts of citizens for reducing our carbon footprint. Resort to using energy-efficient appliances while constantly ensuring maintenance such as hvac repair for your air conditioners, refrigerators and heaters as they can consume the most electricity. Switching to electric cars is also a major way of lessening carbon emissions without sacrificing performance.

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