There’s no doubt we have reached a point of climate crisis. The decisions we make and actions we take as a society now could have grave consequences for our planet. As a technologically and scientifically advanced society, you might think we have the tools we need to counter issues and thrive in the decades beyond.
But it’s not necessarily that simple — many of the tools we’re using to limit climate change are in the hands of world governments. Though the recent COP26 climate summit ended with an agreement on climate action moving forward, this fell far short of what is needed. The good news is, certain industries are already unilaterally taking action to fill the gap.
This isn’t just limited to the obvious producers of renewable energy we’ve all become familiar with. There are industrial contributors making innovations and commitments to pursue steady progress in green protocols. Let’s take a closer look at 3 of these overlooked industries.
Agriculture is one of the sectors already feeling the early impacts of climate change. Heat rises, droughts, and shifts in the levels of rainfall are all contributing to crop failures and other negative effects on agricultural production. As such, the industry is rising to the challenge with innovations to achieve sustainability on a wider scale.
Among the most direct impacts is the development, adaptation, and utilization of tools to rethink how our relationship with the land interacts with the rest of the environment. Many people are already familiar with the need to reduce deforestation as part of efforts to manage carbon output. However, there are also studies underway to explore whether storing carbon in prairie soil across the U.S. could help restore grasslands and minimize emissions. This attention to maintaining micro-climates in agriculture has a larger impact on the health of the planet.
There is also significant development underway in alternate sustainable uses for agricultural products. The varied potential of fungus is gaining traction in everything from green construction to keeping research cleanrooms safe. This is among the latest trends in fabrication materials for use in sectors like building, manufacturing, and textiles that traditionally generate significant pollution and waste. Focusing on how these mycelium-based materials can not only reduce reliance on finite raw elements. It also minimizes the use of plastics and puts less pressure on the environment.
We often think of climate change through the lens of what is happening to our air quality or land. However, there is significant concern regarding our relationship with water. Climate change is causing sea levels to rise and unchecked waste disposal is affecting the overall safety of the water. This directly impacts human life but also affects crops and the well-being of other animals. The work being pursued by water management industries is crucial in tackling this.
Some of these efforts are being applied on a consumer level. There are now smart devices to automatically meter water consumption and detect leakages. There are even personal devices to use air humidity to create drinking water. But other businesses are operating on a more infrastructural basis. Oneka Technologies has created a wave-powered desalination device. This not only converts seawater to drinking water for local populations, it does so without using land assets or releasing harmful emissions.
Alongside new technologies, there is a distinct shift in applying expertise to these issues. In particular, we are starting to see professionals in public health focus on new areas. Those with experience in epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health policy have an increasing number of career paths available to them. One of these is working with water treatment plants alongside environmental agencies. They can explore solutions to finding sustainable sources of clean water and developing safe treatment protocols. The population is rising and safe water is becoming more scarce. These professionals provide valuable scientific insights to create solutions.
We have all become familiar with the major players in renewable energy. Solar power is starting to have a true presence in powering private residences. Wind farms are continuing to spring up around the world. However, one of the overlooked industries in this area also happens to present some of the most immediate potential. Bioenergy is steadily gaining ground in important areas of sustainability.
Bioenergy is produced by burning biomass. This is in effect an alternative to fossil fuels created from natural materials such as plants, wood, and organic waste. This approach produces CO2 emissions in the same way as burning any other fuel. But it has the advantage of being essentially carbon neutral. This is because the materials grown to create biomass capture a comparable amount of CO2 through photosynthesis as is expended in burning.
Alongside producing fuel for transportation, significant strides are being made in using it as an alternative electrical energy source. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported that more than 100 coal-fired power plants have been converted to bioenergy in the last decade. The method is making a greater impact in Europe, where it is currently the most commonly used renewable energy source.
There is, however, a certain amount of recognition that the efficiency of the processes needs to be improved to ensure wider adoption. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is among those exploring methods to improve the efficiency of creating and using biomass in power plants. This currently includes testing a newly engineered strain of bacteria that converts plant sugars into ethanol with greater efficiency.
To tackle the challenges of climate change effectively, there need to be efforts from all industries. Some industries have been working diligently and without much fanfare for years. This includes the agriculture sector’s exploration of soil use and mycelial materials. The water management industry has also stepped up to improve safety and availability. The bioenergy industry has been making significant strides in clean, renewable fuel over the past decade or so. There’s still a significant way to go, but these efforts can help us all address the difficulties ahead.