In order to protect our planet from additional harm, it is imperative that we devise viable solutions and formulate effective strategies to implement. In a recent Q&A, Mike Dieterich, Senior Director of Sustainability Services, CRB, highlighted essential transformations required at all levels, spanning from individual behaviors to global initiatives.
#CTS: Our planet continues to deteriorate with each passing day. If we want to reverse this process, what profound changes shall we make at every level, from individual actions to global initiatives?
Mike Dieterich: The Paris Agreement in 2015 was the first time the world agreed on a topic, climate change, and said something needed to happen. The market responded. Since then, Corporations have set Energy, Carbon, Water, Waste, and Biodiversity targets with an overall objective to achieve Zero Carbon by 2050.
Individuals can act. Everyone can do something, not everyone can do everything. Some people choose to have a Meatless Monday, compost at home, go vegetarian/vegan, not to own a car, or may even decide whether or not to fly in airplanes.
Corporations are the key solution drivers; plastic beverage bottles are found on every beach around the world. Switching to other materials, reducing packaging waste, reducing supply chain emissions, switching to renewable energy (electric and gas), constructing zero carbon facilities, and renovating existing buildings and infrastructure, allow society to continue to grow with less impact on the environment and to the surprise of many also reduced cost. With metering, we can measure, and when we measure and monitor systems, we can make changes that optimize our systems that use energy, water, and generate waste. This, in turn, reduces cost and environmental impact.
Global initiatives that incentivize are key. Government establishing guidelines that support these changes accelerates innovation and technological advances, this creates jobs in new emerging markets. Solving climate change is creating new market opportunities, jobs, technology, and uniting people to solve a common problem. This allows our civilization to also preserve at a minimum 30% of our wild environment to maintain biodiversity, so supporting this with local vegetation at home or work maintains habitat and allows for the survival of more species.
#CTS: In the battle against Climate Change, to what extent do you believe transitioning to Climate Technologies can be a game-changer? Which specific climate technologies have the potential to revolutionize our approach?
Mike Dieterich: HVAC equipment is evolving rapidly, reducing energy consumption, and providing what industry needs. Like LED lighting and controls in the previous decade, renewables are a big game changer. Solar and Wind are bridging the electrical demand gap. Battery storage and demand response afford civilization an opportunity to eliminate fossil fuel via Emergency power backup supplies. Full electrification is an affordable solution. CRB has built Zero Carbon industrial sites that depending on the region, are cheaper or the same price to construct, and in one case, utility spend is 48% below a code-built building. The opportunity to save money, reduce costs, improve operations, deliver the same product, and mitigate environmental impact is here today!
Electrification is not available everywhere due to grid resilience or newer existing equipment. A diversified approach is required to decarbonize now while technology catches up and becomes part of a bigger plan.
Methane is up 164%, from anthropogenic sources, since the industrial revolution. To better manage these methane emissions, we can utilize Farms, Landfills, Waste Treatments and capture the methane and inject it into the pipelines to reduce fossil fuel sources. One strategy is scaling anaerobic digestion to capture industrial food and farm waste. This is one of the million-piece puzzle on the journey of decarbonization. Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) provides methane reduction and displaces fossil fuels in the grid, supports small farmers with <1000 head of cattle, and gives them access to nonchemical fertilizers, which can increase soil biome and, in turn, uptake more carbon from that atmosphere. There are so many synergies that happen in solving various parts of this puzzle, and RNG is one piece.
Local governments can thermally gasify municipal solid waste (MSW), which would include trash, recycle, and compost. Break it down into carbon chains to become RNG, or ethane to create a circular plastics economy that can utilize all types of plastics. This process has no emissions and eliminates the landfill, waste to incineration, poor land use management, the slow leakages of materials into the groundwater, and methane released to atmosphere over hundreds of years. Again, a lot of synergies. This is at scale working outside Reno, NV, which produces a product that turns into aviation fuel decarbonizing the aviation industry. There are several applications and opportunities to reduce fossil fuel consumption and maintain the standard of living we have today as we better manage our multiple sources of emissions.
#CTS: Collaboration is often touted as the key to tackling climate change. But what specific forms of collaboration are truly capable of unleashing the transformational power needed to address this global crisis?
Mike Dieterich: Brainstorming and designing with charrettes to bring together individuals from multiple disciplines to find synergies and flush out solutions. I.e., existing buildings will account for ~60% of the buildings in 2050. Retrofitting and upgrading the building envelope costs 10-20% of the cost of an evaluated newly built building and will provide the same level of Energy Use Intensity (EUI). Making it very affordable to upgrade existing infrastructure and building HVAC systems. These synergies improve the thermal efficiency of a building, coupled with HVAC optimization. Operating costs also drop by 60%, mitigating climatic impact and making the building more comfortable in a warming environment.
This approach involves building owners, corporations, architects, engineers, technicians, envelope specialists, and energy modelers working together to identify the best solution for a building, campus, or industry. Synergy is the concept that 2 heads are greater than the sum of the parts working separately, collaboration between teams' multiplies this 10-fold.
#CTS: In the journey to combat climate change, how vital is the widespread dissemination of relevant knowledge and technical expertise? How can we ensure that this knowledge reaches the right hands and brings about real change?
Mike Dieterich: Extremely vital! We have all of the tools today to solve climate change; we have the resources to pivot and know what works and how to scale it. Ensuring everyone in construction, product development, supply chain, transportation, government et al. are aware of technologies that are working and how they can scale are key to making significant progress to reducing emissions to near zero and working with natural environments to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
#CTS: What role does events like London Climate Technology Show play in realising a totally decarbonized and sustainable future?
Mike Dieterich: This is a place for idea exchange, collaboration, and conversations about how technology bridges the gap to create a sustainable future.