Home Sci-TechEnvironment Africa: Bill Gates Says We Can Avoid Climate Disaster With Green Manufacturing, but How?

Africa: Bill Gates Says We Can Avoid Climate Disaster With Green Manufacturing, but How?

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The multi-billionaire says tech can decarbonize cement and steel

Bill Gates’ new book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”, published on Tuesday, is set to be widely read as the world counts down to the U.N. climate conference in November.

The software-developer-turned-philanthropist says tech and innovation can help cut climate-warming emissions to zero, particularly in manufacturing – which accounts for roughly a third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

So how can it be done? Here’s what you need to know.

WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH MANUFACTURING?

Manufacturing emits more greenhouses gases than power or transport, yet receives much less attention from policymakers.

The biggest polluters are cement and steel production, which make up nearly half of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, according to the World Resources Institute think-tank.

It estimates cement emissions need to drop by 85% to 91% globally, and steel emissions by 93% to 100%, by 2050 to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

As the global population climbs and cities continue to grow rapidly, it is expected that more steel and cement will be needed.

WHY IS MANUFACTURING SO HARD TO DECARBONIZE?

There is currently no way of making steel and cement without releasing climate-warming emissions as the chemical processes involved release carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

Steel- and cement-making also require huge amounts of heat, at temperatures well above 1,000C, which is achieved by burning fossil fuels.

“Any recipe that starts with melting rocks uses a lot of energy,” said Julio Friedmann, an expert on low-carbon solutions for industry at Columbia University.

“Those are hard things to electrify because you need (heat) on demand, in huge volumes and continuously,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The burning of fossil fuels to produce heat for industrial processes is responsible for approximately 10% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, Friedmann said in a 2019 study.

WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?

Manufacturers can use less steel and cement, including recycling more steel and redesigning building codes to use less concrete, but it is hard for businesses to make such changes to their organizational cultures, said Friedmann.