Innovating Cooling Technologies: A Solution to Escalating Climate Costs

July marked the hottest month ever recorded in human history, with heatwaves shattering temperature records across the globe. While the discomfort of excessive heat is undeniable, the consequences extend far beyond discomfort. Severe heat is the deadliest weather event, surpassing floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined in terms of annual fatalities in the U.S. As climate change intensifies, access to cooled spaces is evolving into a vital health necessity and a fundamental human rights issue.

However, conventional air-conditioning systems have ensnared society in a detrimental feedback loop: as temperatures rise, the demand for air conditioning increases, leading to higher energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. “We’re trapped in a vicious and accelerating cycle,” remarks Nicole Miranda, an engineer specializing in sustainable cooling at the University of Oxford. Cooling has become the fastest-growing contributor to energy consumption in buildings, with projections indicating that global demand for cooling will triple by 2050 if the current trajectory continues. This surge equates to an additional 4,000 terawatt-hours of energy consumption, equivalent to the entire annual energy usage of the United States.

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Lessons from India’s Forest Restoration: Beyond Tree Cover

As the world seeks strategies to combat climate change and biodiversity loss, forest restoration has emerged as a key approach. However, a closer look at global efforts reveals a significant reliance on fast-growing tree plantations. The allure of quick results often guides such choices, but the history of forest restoration in India offers vital insights into the potential pitfalls of this approach. While tree planting can yield immediate outcomes, the long-term consequences for ecosystems and communities require thoughtful consideration.

India’s experience with tree plantations stretches back over 200 years, providing valuable lessons for today’s foresters. During British colonial rule, forests became crucial resources for timber, driven by the demand for railway sleepers and ships. The Indian Forest Act of 1865 placed high-yield timber trees under state control, limiting local access to resources and sparking tensions. Planting initiatives introduced species like teak, eucalyptus, and pine, transforming landscapes into monocultures and endangering native ecosystems.

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Advancing Carbon Removal: Over $1 Billion Federal Grants for Scaling Up Direct Air Capture Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a significant boost to carbon removal efforts by awarding federal grants totaling over $1 billion to projects in Texas and Louisiana. These initiatives, designed to remove more than 2 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually, mark a crucial milestone in scaling up direct air capture (DAC) technology.

The chosen projects include Project Cypress in Louisiana, led by Battelle in partnership with Climeworks Corporation and Heirloom Carbon Technologies. Additionally, the South Texas DAC Hub in Kleberg County, Texas, proposed by Occidental Petroleum’s subsidiary 1PointFive, along with Carbon Engineering Ltd and Worley, has been selected. To facilitate broader adoption of DAC, the DOE has introduced various initiatives aimed at reducing technology costs to under $100 per net metric ton of CO2-equivalent within the next decade.

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Robotic Innovations Empower Solar Industry to Meet Climate Goals

As the United States accelerates its transition from fossil fuel-based energy to renewables, the solar industry faces a pressing challenge in meeting the demand for skilled workers. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) predicts a need for 800,000 new solar workers by 2030 to achieve the nation’s decarbonization objectives. However, 44% of solar industry employers report difficulty finding qualified applicants, raising concerns about staying on track to meet climate goals.

In response to this workforce gap, solar developers are increasingly turning to autonomous robotic solutions to revolutionize solar installation, particularly at utility-scale projects. Terabase Energy and Sarcos Robotics Corp are at the forefront of this emerging trend.

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Supercharged soil could pull carbon right out of the air

A simple seed treatment could drastically increase the amount of atmospheric carbon captured by crops, and store it underground for longer


Fundamentally, two of the world’s most pressing challenges, climate change and soil degradation, boil down to a simple imbalance: there is too much carbon in the air, and not enough in the ground. And for Guy Hudson and Tegan Nock, the solution is patently obvious.

The duo are the co-founders of Soil Carbon Co, an Australian agritech startup specialising in what it terms “microbe-mediated carbon sequestration” ­– a method of removing carbon from the atmosphere via microbial fungi and bacteria. The technology in question? A biological treatment applied to seeds that converts atmospheric carbon into a more stable compound which can then be stored deep in the ground – potentially for centuries.

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In a world-first, Australian University builds its own solar farm to offset 100% of its electricity use


LIMITING GLOBAL WARMING to well below 2℃ this century requires carbon emissions to reach net-zero by around 2050. Australian households have done much to support the transition via rooftop solar investments. Now it’s time for organizations to take a more serious role.

The University of Queensland’s efforts to reduce its electricity emissions provides one blueprint. Last week UQ opened a 64-megawatt solar farm at Warwick in the state’s southeast. It’s the first major university in the world to offset 100% of its electricity use with renewable power produced from its own assets. In fact, UQ will generate more renewable electricity than it uses.

The Warwick Solar farm shows businesses and other organizations that the renewables transition is doable, and makes economic sense.

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The future of energy is being shaped in Asia


China now accounts for almost three-quarters of global solar panel production.

A Frenchman is credited with being the first to discover the photovoltaic effect that produces electricity from sunlight. The first solar panel was built in the US. But when Abu Dhabi decided to build the world’s largest individual solar power project, they looked east for help.

The country partnered with Chinese and Japanese companies to construct a facility, which opened this year, with a peak capacity of 1.18 gigawatts generated by 3.2 million solar panels. That’s because Asia, more than any other region on the planet, and China, more than any other nation, currently represent the future of solar energy, and are at the heart of the ensuing industrywide transformation from fossil fuels to renewable and nuclear energy.

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Scientists used loudspeakers to make dead coral reefs sound healthy. Fish flocked to them.


A mass coral spawning on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Nov. 16. Derek Hawkins

The desperate search for ways to help the world’s coral reefs rebound from the devastating effects of climate change has given rise to some radical solutions.

In the Caribbean, researchers are cultivating coral “nurseries” so they can reimplant fresh coral on degraded reefs. And in Hawaii, scientists are trying to specially breed corals to be more resilient against rising ocean temperatures.

On Friday, British and Australian researchers rolled out another unorthodox strategy they say could help restoration efforts: broadcasting the sounds of healthy reefs in dying ones.

In a six-week field experiment, researchers placed underwater loudspeakers in patches of dead coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and played audio recordings taken from healthy reefs. The goal was to see whether they could lure back the diverse communities of fish that are essential to counteracting reef degradation.

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Wildfire science: computer models, drones and laser scanning help fan the flames and prevent widespread devastation


Experts believe that with drier, hotter weather becoming the norm, even more wildfires could rage in the future. That’s why scientists are using the latest technology to monitor intentionally ignited fires.

At past midnight on a Thursday night in June, researchers in Utah are still sending excited emails, updating each other on the day’s action. The team has just finished following a huge fire that has ripped through a remote area of the Fishlake National Forest in the south of the state. And they’re still buzzing.

This was no wildfire. It was intentionally set. Early in the afternoon, ignition helicopters were sent in to start the burn. Utah University atmospheric scientist, Adam Kochanski, watched the flames unfold.

“There were two helicopters with so-called heli-torches – kind of like flame-throwers – just suspended beneath,” he recalls. “They were flying back and forth, and on top of that there were some ground crews with handheld torches and they also started fires on the ground.”

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Scientists cook up new recipes for taking salt out of seawater


As populations boom and chronic droughts persist, coastal cities like Carlsbad in Southern California have increasingly turned to ocean desalination to supplement a dwindling fresh water supply. Now scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) investigating how to make desalination less expensive have hit on promising design rules for making so-called “thermally responsive” ionic liquids to separate water from salt.

Ionic liquids are a liquid salt that binds to water, making them useful in forward osmosis to separate contaminants from water. (See Berkeley Lab Q&A, “Moving Forward on Desalination”) Even better are thermally responsive ionic liquids as they use thermal energy rather than electricity, which is required by conventional reverse osmosis (RO) desalination for the separation. The new Berkeley Lab study, published recently in the journal Nature Communications Chemistry, studied the chemical structures of several types of ionic liquid/water to determine what “recipe” would work best.

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‘LarvalBot’ underwater drone will reseed coral reefs damaged by climate change


Since August 2018, the Great Barrier Reef in the ocean off Australia has had a special protector — an autonomous underwater drone called RangerBot that has monitored the status of the reef and protected the corals from the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish. But now researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia have announced that the RangerBot has a new mission: it is to be rechristened “LarvalBot” and will be repurposed to spread coral babies.

Scientists have collected hundreds of millions of coral spawn from the surviving corals of the Great Barrier Reef which have not yet succumbed to coral bleaching. These spawn are then reared into baby corals in special floating enclosures, and once they have grown large enough to survive on their own, they are delivered by the LarvalBot to a designated location in the reef. If necessary, many coral larvae can be distributed at once in a “larval cloud” that can blanket an entire damaged area of a reef. This technique is called larval restoration and may be reef’s best hope for the future.

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Scientists create artificial wood that is water – and fire resistant


The synthetic material is faster to make than natural wood.

A new lightweight substance is as strong as wood yet lacks its standard vulnerabilities to fire and water.

To create the synthetic wood, scientists took a solution of polymer resin and added a pinch of chitosan, a sugar polymer derived from the shells of shrimp and crabs. They freeze-dried the solution, yielding a structure filled with tiny pores and channels supported by the chitosan. Then they heated the resin to temperatures as high as 200 degrees Celsius to cure it, forging strong chemical bonds.

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