This study delves deeply into the current state of the earth, as well creating a clearer image of the future, provided that countries act collectively, to restore the planet before the impacts are irreversible. The Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration released a statement declaring that “human civilization will crumble by 2050 if we do not combat climate change now.” There are many solutions to eradicate the main causes of climate change: greenhouse gas emissions and human behaviour. This study takes finding long term solutions from an engineering perspective, such as using solar geoengineering, biotechnology and civil engineering; not only to provide a way to combat climate change, but also a way to fully replace non-renewable energy resources with renewable energy resources and use the idea of population control, to structure the world in a way that future generations will become accustomed to, so that the state of the atmosphere will be adequate. With these methods, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will greatly decrease, the temperature of the planet should reduce to what scientist’s claim is a safer level, and standards of living across the globe shall boost considerably. The behaviour of volcanic eruptions, the exploration of the use of ocean space to plant seaweed and the observation of the quantity of carbon emissions from wealthier countries with lower fertility rates have all been investigated in order to compose a viable, abiding resolution to be able to prevent the “crumble of human civilisation by 2050 as a result of climate change.
It is widely known that global sustainability is one of the worlds greatest aims for the future. When considering how to make this challenge into an achievement, many factors must be taken into consideration, such as the exponential growth of the global population, and the reason why replacing non-renewable energy resources with renewable resources may not be the best option for the planet, despite the overall benefit.
One of the greatest setbacks of achieving global sustainability is the use of the earth’s natural resources. Fossil fuels are a finite resource which tend to be favoured to use by industries, due to the relatively low costs (in comparison to some types of renewable energy), the value of the fossil fuels and the great usefulness such as for heating, electricity and transportation – which affect the lives of every individual. The benefits of using fossil fuels are experienced by the majority of the global population, hence why the extreme overuse that countries and engineers are having to manage today should have been acted upon when the over use was predicted in the early 2000’s. to discover and develop alternative energy sources is one of the major engineering challenges of the next century, because if humans are not able to sustain the planet very soon, the earth’s state will be considered irreversible and destroyed. Therefore, engineers today must continue to develop technology that will aid in preventing the destruction of the planet, so that humans can continue to live in civilisation.
The global increases in the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the result of mainly fossil fuel use and land-use change. Discussions on how to tackle these detrimental impacts on the earth take place very regularly , however, disagreements tend to occur over the strategies to reduce these changes, whether it would be from encouraging a greater reduction in meat production, to governments subsidising more solar panels, in order to reduce demand for electricity. The question is what strategy is effective, realistic and has the least consequences for life on earth. Upon being aware of the discussion surrounding greenhouse gas emissions, many only consider the idea that greenhouse gas emissions are the result of industrial processes, without realising that something which may seem minor, such as cows also release a large amount of methane into the atmosphere. Farming livestock represents roughly 14.5% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions in the world. Therefore, even reducing meat consumption could contribute to improving sustainability, due to the knock-on effects that greenhouse gas emissions has on the environment. Knowing this, all humans can play a role in preventing destroying the earth.
Countries have been endeavouring to ensure that energy is produced as efficiently as possible, without the consequences to our planet. An example of this is Canada, who have recently invested millions into technological innovation, renewable energy, and ways to encourage other countries to develop improved sustainable methods, as well as having vowed to “phase out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030.” China have built some of the largest solar farms in the world, yet these solar farms are still not enough to greatly impact the existing demand for electricity produced by fuel, which may still increase.
Many countries are known to have “stepped down the carbon ladder” which is a term which refers to when instead of completely replacing a carbon energy source with one which isn’t countries will replace a higher carbon energy source with a lower carbon energy source, such as natural gas instead of coal. The production and consumption of carbon from the lower carbon energy source would release fewer carbon emissions that negatively impact the earth.
One of the biggest reasons why there is such a large demand in electricity is due to the exponentially increasing global population. In 1999, Africa had a continental population of approximately 800 million, whereas today, the population is approximately 1.3 billion. The population growth is increasing exponentially, and with the increase in population, countries are looking for ways to be able to provide for the populations needs. Also, in 1999, only 37% of Africa was urban, and the continent was predominantly rural. However, Africa has the fastest rate of increase in urbanisation, and even countries such as china are investing in countries such as Ethiopia, in order to help industrialise these countries. This is because, as the world is adapting and the population is increasing, more and more people are demanding for a better quality of life. A lot of urbanisation is occurring due to people migrating from rural areas to the urban areas, however this has consequences and global impacts. Similarly, to the results of the British industrial revolution in the late 1800’s, in Africa, pollution figures are largely increasing. Ethiopia, with the help of China aims to become a middle-income country by 2025, causing them to encourage agricultural industrialisation . However, with the increase in urbanisation and industrialisation comes an increase in the emissions in global gases from factories that are increasing production, as well as pollution which is the consequence of an increase in activity in the cities such as cars and factories. With sustaining the population being a large challenge for the future, countries must find strategies to maintain a suitable standard of living, while considering environmental aims that must be met in order to lead the earth into an irreversible condition.
There are limits to achieving global sustainability, largely because it is becoming more and more difficult to be able to predict the state of the earth in the coming years, especially because many factors, such as the rate of increase in the global population is changing uncontrollably. Hence, predictions are made, which will allow engineers and governments to work based off of the predicted worst-case scenario of the planet.
What can engineers do?
It is no secret that carbon dioxide emissions are one of the greatest contributors to the dangerous amount of global warming in the world today. Neither is it unknown that finding renewable energy sources instead of non-renewable energy sources is rather a priority for engineers due to the beneficial impact that reducing the use of fossil fuels will have on the atmosphere. One solution to reduce the use of fossil fuels is to replace the use of fossil fuels with using biofuel instead. Biofuel comes from biomass material and is used to generate energy. However, one of the main drawbacks of using biofuel is the fact that when they are produced in large quantities, it can lead to food scarcity because the land used to grow the biomass would have been used to grow crops intended for consumption. The USA and Brazil produce the most amount of biofuel in the world. However, since the expansion of production in these countries, there has been a price increase of food . The main consequence of using biofuel as a large replacement for the use of fossil fuels appears to be the lack of food being produced. Nevertheless, a way to challenge the food shortage dilemma is by The Ocean Sunrise Project in Japan.
Bioethanol is one of the most popular biofuels used today. The ocean sunrise project uses the idea of farming seaweed, in order to produce enough bioethanol. The Japanese government announced their aim to have produced 6 million kilolitres of biofuel by 2030, which should majorly help to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Seaweed is a plant that grows in the ocean, which is not yet commonly used to combat the global warming and climate change today. However, some seaweed grows up to 60% faster than plants on land, which could be proven more efficient due to the speed of growth. The Ocean Sunrise Project aims to use a fermentation system, which is designed to be both efficient and technologically advanced enough to be able to produce seaweed biofuel by converting alginate, fibre contained in seaweed and alginate into bioethanol and butanol. Since seaweed can be farmed on such a large scale, large amounts of energy can be produced. 70% of the ocean is unused space, which allows the idea that seaweed farming can be used for generations to come, which will not have to affect the food supply in the world. The only disadvantage to this is that the costs of farming such large amounts of seaweed is high. Moreover, the Ocean Sunrise project’s method to keep the costs low is by farming the seaweed in countries where there are low labour costs. The Ocean Sunrise project is currently underway, and with expansion across the world, seaweed production to produce biofuels may be the way forward in tackling greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
Geoengineering is another approach which is considered as a way to combat the global warming. In particular, solar geoengineering. This is limiting the amount of the suns energy that reaches the atmosphere, by directly reflecting the sun’s rays so that it does not all reach the earth. There are numerous methods to reflecting the sun’s rays one of the most strongly considered is by artificially increasing the levels of Sulfur in the stratosphere. In June 1991, the world’s second most tremendous volcanic eruption occurred, in the North-West of the Philippines. The explosion caused a gas cloud to reach the stratosphere, which is approximately 50 kilometres above the earth’s surface. Moreover, the volcanic eruption which directly impacted Mount Pinatubo emitted roughly 20 million tonnes of Sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere . This quantity of Sulfur dioxide caused the particles of Sulfur to spread around the earth and acted as a mirror to the sun’s rays. The particles reflected the sun’s rays and resulted in the overall temperature of the earth to be lowered for the 4 years. This outcome was universally recognised by scientists, and today, solar geothermal engineers, working with scientists aim to imitate the impact of the eruption of 1991, in order to lower the earth’s temperature further, as well as reduce the rate of the greenhouse effect, by increasing the reflection of the sun’s rays. A study by both Harvard and Yale university zooms into the approach to carry out the injection of Sulfur dioxide particles into the stratosphere. The idea would be to build roughly 95 planes, which would allow for 60,000 flights per annum. These planes would spread hundreds of thousands of Sulfur dioxide, mimicking the outcome of the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption every year. The main aim of this would be lowering the earth’s temperature by approximately 0.3 degrees Celsius, within 15 years . Nevertheless, a severe consequence of the increased quantity of Sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere is that it heavily alters rainfall patterns., because by decreasing the amount of sunlight that is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere heavily challenges the hydrological cycle which can lead to extreme droughts in countries that already suffer from a lack of rainfall, and even worser famines. Another matter to consider is that solar geoengineering would not explicitly remove pollutants from the atmosphere, and instead just slows down the greenhouse effect so that the earth’s temperature decreases more rapidly. The question here which detrimental predicament that challenges the future of the planet is a priority to be fixed first, and which will have the worse impact.
A solution which all countries could carry out collectively is by slowing population growth. Although the outcome of reducing the rate of population growth may not appear directly linked to contributing towards making the earth more sustainable, controlling the rate of increase in the population actually plays a large role.
It is evident that there is a strong positive correlation between the increase in the population over the years and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. For example, reforestation is commonly expected to be an effective solution to counteract the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, with the population increasing at such a fast rate, the land that may be thought of as beneficial to carry out reforestation may have to be used for homes or farming crops to feed the greater population. Another predicament of having such a fast-growing population is the idea of a carbon footprint. Every single person has an individual carbon footprint, so the obvious result of the population growing so quickly is that carbon emissions will also continuously rise too. Furthermore, the demand for carbon-requiring materials such as electricity and car fuel would also increase with the population, therefore encouraging carbon emissions further.
One of the “top 10 most workable solutions to combat climate change today is educating people and family planning. In poorer and more developing countries, the birth rate tends to be incredibly higher than the birth rate in wealthier countries for 3 main reasons: lack of education, lack of contraceptives, and child mortality rates. In Bangladesh, the average fertility rate was 7 in 1971, but out of those 7 children 25% of the children would die before the age of 5. As a result, women would have many children expecting that a few of the children would die at a young age. With advances in healthcare and standards of living over the years, the fertility rate in Bangladesh has now decreased to 2.06 children per woman . The same cycle applies to every country around the world. Currently, many African countries are experiencing the advances technologically and medically that would encourage women to conceive less children, with increased confidence that all of their children will live beyond childhood.
Engineers in china have already aided in the development and transformation of many African countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, and Ethiopia. In 2016, Civil engineers built a 3.2-billion-dollar railway in Kenya which reduced the journey time between the 2 largest cities, Nairobi and Mombasa from about 12 hours to 4 hours. In Ethiopia, engineers built a light rail system that would reduce the traffic in the capital city Addis Ababa. These constructional developments have vastly improved standards of living and boosted the economies of these countries. With more money being made by the countries, these governments can strive to increase the utility of the country’s citizens more, such as by providing more contraception for women, as well as increasing education. Indirectly this will contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions due to the improved control of population growth.
In Nigeria, up to 45% of food goes to waste due to the inability to keep the food cool enough to store for a length of time . However, engineers are now developing the use of solar power to produce ‘cool’ which will be used in solar powered fridges. The solar power would be generated at a surplus, where the extra power will be used in cooling fridges at night. This is expected to contribute immensely to a reduction in food waste. As a result, there should be a decrease in deaths due to starvation and should encourage women to increase their confidence enough to reduce the number of children that they have.
However, carbon dioxide emissions are severely greater than emissions from poorer countries; where China and the United States have the greatest carbon dioxide emissions in the world, which brings about the question whether the overpopulation of the world, heavily influenced by the fertility rate in Africa or the direct emissions of carbon dioxide from wealthier and more developed continents have a worser impact on the environment and the future sustainability of the earth. With a combination of population control and a direct reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, the future sustainability of the planet should be all the more awaited with confidence.