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New Energy, Green Technology, and Circular Economy

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[Stanford University]



 - Global Warming and Climate Change

Earth’s temperature is rising, and it isn’t just in the air around us. More than 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed into the oceans that cover two-thirds of the planet’s surface. Their temperature is rising, too, and it tells a story of how humans are changing the planet.

Scientists say the accumulation of heat in the oceans is the strongest evidence of how fast Earth is warming due to heat-trapping gases released by the burning of fossil fuels. Oceans have enormous capacity to hold heat. So ocean temperatures, unlike temperatures on land, are slow to fluctuate from natural forces, such as El Niño/La Niña patterns or volcanic eruptions. Think night and day. As night falls on land, so do air temperatures. But in the oceans, temperatures vary little. This makes it easier to tease out the influence of human-caused climate change from other possible causes of surging ocean heat.

As our climate warms, we’re experiencing stronger winds, higher storm surges and record rainfalls during hurricane season -- which is also why these storms are becoming more destructive and costly. Warmer oceans fuel storms. So why do hurricanes bring more rain in a warmer climate?

  • Evaporation intensifies as temperatures rise, and so does the transfer of heat from the oceans to the air. As the storms travel across warm oceans, they pull in more water vapor and heat. That means stronger wind, heavier rainfall and more flooding when the storms hit land. 
  • Sea level rise makes storm surges worse. Storm surge happens when waters rise above their normal levels and are pushed inland by wind. This phenomenon is made worse by sea level rise, which is triggered by human-caused global warming as warmer ocean water expands and land ice melts. The average global sea level has already risen by half a foot since 1900 -- nearly four of those inches since 1970 -- as countries have developed and populations have grown. Higher sea level can push more water inland during hurricane-related storm surges. 
  • Hurricanes are stronger, intensify faster. Stronger hurricanes are becoming more common in a warmer climate. Researchers suggest that the most damaging U.S. hurricanes are three times more frequent than 100 years ago, and that the proportion of major hurricanes (Category 3 or above) in the Atlantic Ocean has doubled since 1980. How fast hurricanes intensify has also increased in the Atlantic since the 1980s, due to climate change. At the same time, hurricanes are moving more slowly, making more damage possible. Scientists are still debating exactly how this drop in speed is linked to climate change, but here’s the leading theory: The winds that steer hurricanes move more slowly in a warmer climate. The damage we've seen from catastrophic hurricanes in recent years shows we need science more than ever to help us prepare for -- and act on -- climate change.  


- Green Technology

[Green Technology]: The field of “green technology” encompasses a continuously evolving group of methods and materials, from techniques for generating energy to non-toxic cleaning products. The present expectation is that this field will bring innovation and changes in daily life of similar magnitude to the “information technology” explosion over the last two decades.

The goals that inform developments in this field include:

  • Sustainability - meeting the needs of society in ways that can continue indefinitely into the future without damaging or depleting natural resources. In short, meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  • “Cradle to cradle” design - ending the “cradle to grave” cycle of manufactured products, by creating products that can be fully reclaimed or re-used.
  • Source reduction - reducing waste and pollution by changing patterns of production and consumption.
  • Innovation - developing alternatives to technologies - whether fossil fuel or chemical intensive agriculture - that have been demonstrated to damage health and the environment.
  • Viability - creating a center of economic activity around technologies and products that benefit the environment, speeding their implementation and creating new careers that truly protect the planet.


- Green Tech vs. Clean Tech vs. Climate Tech

Green technology or environmental technology refers to the use of science and technology to protect the world's natural resources and reduce the negative impact of human activities on the environment.

Clean technology is a broad category that includes solutions that increase production performance and efficiency while reducing any type of negative environmental impact. Thus, clean technology includes innovations in clean energy, wastewater treatment, waste management, etc.

Climate technology, meanwhile, addresses issues related to human-caused climate change—basically, any technology focused on mitigating the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, although water treatment and waste management are considered clean technologies, they do not qualify as climate technologies


- From A Linear To A Circular Economy

The world population is growing and this is affecting the environment. To ensure there’s enough food, water and prosperity in 2050, we need to switch from a linear to a circular economy. The aim is to ensure healthy and safe living and working conditions, and cause less harm to the environment. 

For a long time, our economy has been ‘linear’. This means that raw materials are used to make a product, and after its use any waste (e.g. packaging) is thrown away. In an economy based on recycling, materials are reused. For example, waste glass is used to make new glass and waste paper is used to make new paper. 

To ensure that in the future there are enough raw materials for food, shelter, heating and other necessities, our economy must become circular. That means preventing waste by making products and materials more efficiently and reusing them. If new raw materials are needed, they must be obtained sustainably so that the natural and human environment is not damaged. 



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