Emissions reduction options

Emissions reduction options

One of the most effective ways of dealing with human-induced climate change is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. This treats the direct cause of the problem, rather than the symptoms. There are various options available for this. They include:

  • Reduced energy consumption, because most energy use currently causes greenhouse gas emissions. This involves energy efficiency and energy conservation measures, including use of higher-efficiency appliances and building designs, smart-metering, mandated energy efficiency standards, and changes in lifestyle habits to reduce energy consumption.
  • Clean coal technologies, to improve the energy efficiency of coal-fired power plants and reduce the emissions per unit of electricity produced.
  • Carbon capture and storage, to capture CO2 that would otherwise be emitted from power plants, transport it and store it in underground geological reservoirs (known as geosequestration), where it is expected to remain for a thousand years or more.
  • The use of natural gas for electricity and heat production as well as for transport fuel, because it produces less CO2 per unit of energy yielded than coal and oil.
  • Renewable energy sources for electricity and heat production, including hydro, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind, geothermal, biomass, wave and tidal, because the operation of these emits no greenhouse gases.
  • Nuclear energy, because the operation of a nuclear power plant emits almost no greenhouse gases.
  • Alternative low-emitting or zero-emitting fuels for transport, including liquefied and compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), and hydrogen.

Discussed in other sections are mitigation options that either aim to increase the rate of removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by optimal management of natural sinks and utilising other potential storage reservoirs for carbon sequestration (including carbon capture and storage), or to manipulate the earth's natural radiation balance or carbon cycle through large scale geoengineering projects. These options, together with adaptation measures, although they may be worthwhile, do not treat the primary cause of climate change (which is the emission of greenhouse gases above natural levels).

Ultimately, a sustainable solution will require transformation of the energy industry from its current fossil fuel dependence to renewable resources. In working towards this goal, however, options such as increasing the share of natural gas in the energy supply, the use of clean coal technologies, and carbon capture and storage will all ease the transition while potentially achieving substantial emissions reductions and thereby helping to reduce the risks of dangerous climate change.



19 November, 2010

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