Climate Stabilization Wedges Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala have proposed a solution to help battle climate change. They believe that current technologies are sufficient to reduce carbon emissions enough to stabilize global warming. They have described fifteen different strategies to help battle climate change. The fifteen wedges can be broken up into four categories: energy efficiency and conservation, nuclear power, fossil fuel-based strategies, and renewables and biostorage. They believe that each carbon cutting wedge would reduce emissions by a billion metric tons every year, by 2057. They suggest that implementing twelve of their wedges would lower emissions by fifty percent.solution to help battle climate changefour categories
Misleading Wedges Dr. Martin Hoffert of New York University claims that Socolow and Pacala’s climate stabilization wedges are misleading. He argues that while the technologies are available in a technical sense, they are not available in an operational sense. Simply knowing how to do a thing is not enough. He argues that while humanity knew how to build nuclear weapons in the late 1930s and go to the Moon in the 1960s, it took the Manhattan and Apollo programs to realize those accomplishments. He believes that an Apollo-like program in alternate energy would be a more effective solution to climate change than a broad spectrum of mitigation technologies. climate stabilization wedges are misleading
Who is Correct? Hoffert’s Apollo-like program focused on alternative energy may be just as unlikely to happen as Socolow and Pacala’s wedges. If neither the climate stabilization wedges or an Apollo-like program are currently being implemented, and are unlikely to be fully implemented, what else can be done?
Energy in Harsh Environments There are programs which have the potential to help realize both theories. Some scientific programs are currently working on creating highly energy efficient renewable energy forms to help with discoveries in outer space and in the deep sea, where refueling is not a possibility (fuel cells and deep sea geothermal). There are other programs that are focused on improving energy efficiency through improving energy storage capacity and improvement of designs to decrease the need for high energy use (flywheels, solar energy storage on the moon and earthships). These programs are not the energy program that Hoffert envisions, but they may help create similar results. They may also make Socolow and Pacala’s efficiency and renewable wedges become more feasible to implement, and eventually decrease the need for nuclear and fossil fuel energy altogether.
Renewable Energy One of the four categories of climate stabilization wedges focuses on utilizing renewable energy. Some forms of renewable electricity include wind power, solar power, and biofuels. Unfortunately, as of 2012, the amount of renewable energy used in the United States only represented 9% of total energy use. One of the reasons why renewable energy use is so low is that it currently is not as efficient as fossil fuels, which as of 2012 represented 83% of energy use in the United States. If these technologies can become more efficient, then they have the potential to grab a greater share of the energy market in the United States. Some projects are showing promise for great advances such as fuel cell and deep sea geothermal efficiency. 9% of total energy use
Fuel Cells Hydrogen vehicles use fuel cells instead of engines. A fuel cell works much like a battery, but they do not need to be recharged. Fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen, or another oxidizing agent, to produce electricity. Batteries have two electrodes that are separated by an electrolyte, and a solid metal electrode which is consumed as electricity is produced. In fuel cells the electrode is not consumed, which allows it to produce electricity as long as hydrogen and an oxidizing agent are continuously pumped through it.fuel cells
Future of Fuel Cells The NASA Glenn Research Center heads NASA’s fuel cell research and development. Three types of fuel cells show promise for the future: (1) proton-exchange- membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), (2) regenerative fuel cell (RFC) systems, and (3) solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs).
Proton-Exchange-Membrane fuel cells NASA developed PEMFCs for the Gemini mission, but the early versions had design issues so they were not used. PEMFCs are more powerful, lighter, safer, simpler to operate, and more reliable than alkaline fuel cells. They last longer, perform better, and may cost less than alkaline fuel cells. PEMFCs use hydrogen fuel and their only byproduct is water, which is pure enough to be used as drinking water.
Regenerative Fuel Cell Systems RFC fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water, and heat. Solar powered electrolyzers can then be used to break the water down into hydrogen and oxygen, which the fuel cell can use again. The waste heat can also be used to increase efficiency. RFC systems could be used to provide a renewable energy conversion system. RFC concepts for storing energy have been developed for use on the International Space Station and high-altitude aircraft. RFCs may be used for storing energy on the Moon or Mars in the future.
Solid-Oxide Fuel Cells SOFCs are being considered for use in space because of their high efficiency, high power density, and low pollution. They can operate at high temperatures and produce power from easy-to-transport fuels instead of just pure hydrogen. SOFCs also are being developed for portable electronic devices, cars, and aircraft.
Energy Efficiency Energy storage and energy efficiency have been a challenge for renewable energies. Business Insider: There's basically one thing holding solar back: storage. Business Insider
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