How technology is leading us to new climate change solutions

Climate Change 2018 Oceans 2018

WMO/Olga Khoroshunova By absorbing much of the added heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, the oceans are delaying some of the impacts of climate change.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund

A fresh wave of technological innovation is deepening our understanding of tough environmental challenges — and also giving us new ways to solve them. As thousands of business leaders and policymakers gather in San Francisco this month for the Global Climate Action Summit, these game-changing innovations will be showing up all over town.

One example will be new approaches to measuring and reducing emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that has pound for pound more than 80 times the near-term warming power of carbon dioxide. Human-made methane emissions are responsible for a quarter of all the warming we’re experiencing today.

That’s a problem, but it’s also an enormous opportunity. One of the largest sources of methane is the oil and gas industry. Indeed, natural gas is mostly methane. And it turns out that reducing these industrial methane emissions is the fastest, most cost effective way to slow the rate of warming, even as we continue working hard to decarbonize our energy system. But we didn’t know that until recently — or at least we couldn’t prove it — because nobody knew how much methane was coming from the oil and gas sector.

Data reveals problem, opportunity

Five years ago, Environmental Defense Fund set out to measure methane emissions from the US oil and gas sector, launching an unprecedented scientific research effort involving more than 140 researchers from 40 institutions, along with four dozen oil and gas companies that provided site access and technical advice. Researchers used a range of technologies — including sensors mounted on drones, airplanes, and even Google Street View cars — to measure emissions at every link in the supply chain, from remote wellheads to pipes under your local street.

Results were published in over 30 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles. A synthesis paper published this summer in Science concluded that the US oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane each year—nearly 60% more than current Environmental Protection Agency estimates. But these emissions can be controlled, often through simple maintenance.

Data from the project has been instrumental in convincing both industry leaders and policymakers that they have a serious methane challenge. The findings helped shape new regulations in states such as Colorado, Wyoming, California, and Pennsylvania, and national-level policies to reduce emission from oil and gas production on federal and tribal land.

Now, we’re using the data to hold the line against misguided attempts by the current administration to roll back those standards.

Driving a global emissions goal

Worldwide, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reckons that oil and gas methane emissions are about 75 million metric tons – enough to generate all of Africa’s electricity twice over. The IEA estimates that industry could reduce those emissions 75% using existing technologies (two thirds of that at no net cost).

We at EDF are calling for a 45% reduction in global oil and gas methane emissions by 2025. That would have the same 20-year climate benefit as closing one-third of the world’s coal plants. Results on such a scale are conceivable thanks to growing digitization in the industry. For example, reliable, low-cost sensors, remote monitoring and oilfield internet-of-things can help energy companies reduce emissions (and eliminate waste of saleable gas at the same time).

To help realize these prospects, EDF is working with Shell and Equinor (formerly Statoil) to test continuous monitoring technologies developed by entrepreneurs who took part in our Mobile Monitoring Challenge. We’ve also partnered with Stanford University and ExxonMobil to look at mobile detection technologies using aircraft and drones.

Data-driven transparency is sparking competition within the industry itself. In April, BP set its first quantitative methane target. Last month ExxonMobil committed to cut emissions and flared gas volumes. Shell, Qatar Petroleum and other producers have also committed to reduce methane emissions across the natural gas supply chain.

Heading into space

Now we’re pushing the technological envelope even farther, by developing MethaneSAT – a satellite mission due to launch in 2021, and designed to continuously map and measure methane emissions with exacting precision almost anywhere on the planet. MethaneSAT will make it possible to ‘see’ emissions in places where they’re difficult to track today.

Data from MethaneSAT will be available for free to anyone. It will help countries, companies and citizens spot problems, identify reduction opportunities, and measure progress over time. It’s just one of several space-based methane monitoring tools now in the works. The European Space Agency, for example, launched its TROPOMI satellite in 2017. A private company called GHGSAT has one satellite in orbit and another due to launch within the year.

MethaneSAT, shown in an artist’s rendering, aims to use new technology to map and measure human-made emissions globally, to help reduce methane pollution.
Image: Environmental Defense Fund

Some have likened this to a new space race. But I see it as a wave of transformational change emerging from multiple nodes across an innovation ecosystem. Each has different, but complimentary, capabilities, together offering multiple streams of data to paint an unassailable picture of the problem.

Just as we have used the US methane data to spur new policies and better business practices, we will use data from MethaneSAT and our allies to help reach our 45% reduction goal by 2025, and our aim to virtually eliminate the industry’s methane emissions by 2050.

Sensors, sensors everywhere

We’re deploying advanced sensor technologies to help create a healthier environment in other ways, too – from Google cars mapping air pollution and its health effects to wearable bracelets that track your daily chemical exposure.

Elsewhere, retailers and consumer brands are using blockchain to improve accountability and sustainability across far-flung supply chains. Sensors can help farmers reduce the amount of chemicals on their fields, and “smart boats” can help fishermen manage their catch effectively, increasing profits and fish in the sea.

It’s no coincidence the Global Climate Action Climate Summit is happening in California, the heart of America’s most innovative sector and the state that has led the nation in environmental stewardship. California has proven time and again that a strong economy and a healthy environment go hand in hand. Now more than ever, technology is the key to making this a worldwide success story.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Our idea of what makes a company successful needs to change. And it starts with making waste expensive

Aid convoy for north-east Syria postponed over security concerns – UN relief chief

A brief history of cryptography and why it matters

How distorted is the EU labour market by this crisis?

Upgraded EU visa information database to increase security at external borders

Does May have enough time in Parliament to table a soft Brexit deal?

Commission launches debate on more efficient decision-making in EU social policy

Germany may prove right rejecting Commission’s bank resolution scheme

Europe slammed by Turkey’s shaky Erdoğan; both playing with immigrants’ agony

EU Trust Fund for Africa: Can it be beneficial for Italy and tackle the migration crisis in the Mediterranean?

Low quality healthcare is increasing the burden of illness and health costs globally

Here are 4 tips for governing by design in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Vote at 16 in Malta: next stop Europe

EU Commission expects consumer spending to unlock growth

Companies that put employees first perform better

New round of bargaining for the 2014 EU budget late in autumn

Greece leaves EU aid program, gets last 15 billion euro

Brexit update: Will Theresa May’s last-minute desperate efforts procrastinate Brexit?

Council’s position on Visa Directive a step back for young people’s mobility

Tobacco is harming the planet, not just our health, says new study

ECB readies itself for extraordinary monetary measures defying Germany

Eurozone set to abandon monetary and incomes austerity and adopt growth friendly policies

Summertime Consultation: 84% want Europe to stop changing the clock

The cuts on 2014 Budget will divide deeply the EU

Water scarcity is a growing problem across the Middle East. Is this how we solve it?

Girls still being treated as aliens in medicine in the 21st century

Girls groomed for suicide missions fight back against the extremists of Lake Chad

This robot has soft hands. It could be the future of sustainable production

Blockchain could boost global trade by $1 trillion

The costs of corruption: values, economic development under assault, trillions lost, says Guterres

A Sting Exclusive: “Cybersecurity: Why consumer products must be looked at urgently”, by BEUC’s Deputy Director General

Indonesia’s imams are joining the fight against plastic bags

Cyclone Fani hits India, UN moves to protect vulnerable refugees in Bangladesh

As a rising global power, what is India’s vision for the world?

Young health workforce – a core of effective primary healthcare?

Crimean crisis: not enough to slow down European indices

Grexit no longer a threat but how to manage a “tutti frutti” government if not with fear?

The Sichuan Province of China presents its cultural treasure to the EU

10 things you – and your government – should know about competitiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Innovation can transform the way we solve the world’s water challenges

What we can learn from Asia’s courts of the future

FROM THE FIELD: Faces and Voices of Conflict

EU leaders agree to delay Brexit until 31 October

South Africa’s cabinet is now 50% women for the first time ever

UN underscores the need to celebrate indigenous peoples, not confine them

“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” Finally a name and a number to answer Henry Kissinger’s question

Deeper reforms in Korea will ensure more inclusive and sustainable growth

Afghanistan: UN mission condemns deadly attack near Kabul airport

Estonia is making public transport free

Close to 7,000 evacuated from Syrian towns after enduring nearly 3-year siege

Schengen: new rules for temporary checks at national borders

To keep track of the SDGs, we need a data revolution

Central American migrants must be protected, urge UN experts

The Indian miracle state pointing the way to global sustainability

Amid strong outlook for U.S. economy, risks abound

2 trillion drinks containers are made every year – so where do they go?

Precision medicine should be accessible to all

UN human rights chief regrets closure of Burundi office following Government pressure

How to help companies become global defenders of LGBTI rights

Energy Union: EU’s effort towards a cleaner climate with integrated energy market

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s