Greenhouse gases are chemical compounds that are capable of absorbing infrared radiation. This is a serious problem because when light passes through our atmosphere, some of it is supposed to be absorbed while the rest is supposed to be reflected into outer space. However, more and more greenhouse gases mean that more and more of the light that is supposed to be reflected into outer space is instead retained within our planet's atmosphere. As a result, the Earth sees an overall increase in temperatures, though it is important to note that different regions can see different results because of the complexities of the climates.
Regardless, an increase in temperatures is a serious threat to human societies for a wide range of reasons. For example, a hotter planet means more energetic climates, which in turn, means a higher chance of serious storms. Furthermore, a hotter planet means higher sea levels through two methods, with one being melting ice and the other being an expansion of the sea water. Considering the sheer number of cities situated close to the sea, it should come as no surprise to learn that this means that some of those cities could be underwater at some point in the not so distant future.
Fortunately, this can be combated to some extent through the construction of seawalls and other structures with the same function, but unfortunately, this will be both expensive and time-consuming even in the places where it will be possible. Finally, it should be mentioned that even if climate change renders some parts of the planet more hospitable for human societies in the long run, the impact of such an enormous and extensive change will cause massive disruptions in human societies. Even worse, human societies that come under stress from natural causes have higher chances of erupting into both internal and external conflict, which would make the consequences of climate change that much worse.
How Can the Problem of Greenhouse Gases Be Combated?
Summed up, it is no wonder that there is so much effort being poured into fighting climate change, though by this point in time, it might be more accurate to say that said effort is more focused on mitigating the consequences as much as possible. A lot of the effort is focused on reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, with an excellent example being the use of ever more efficient engines in motor vehicles. However, it should be noted that there are also efforts to capture CO2 emissions for either storage or other use rather than let them contribute to the problem of climate change by entering the atmosphere. So far, the process remains both expensive and time-consuming, but as the search continues, there are promising results being turned up.
What Is Ethan Novek's Idea?
One example is Ethan Novek's idea, which is even more interesting because Novek is still more or less a teenager. In short, Novek was looking into a cheaper production method for urea, which is an important fertilizer made using CO2 and water. Based on this, the production method for urea sounds like it should be simple enough, but the problem is that the chemical reaction needed to produce urea needs both high pressure and high temperatures, meaning that it uses up lots and lots of energy. In fact, the production of urea uses so much energy that it is actually a relevant factor when one discusses energy use on a world-wide basis, which is something that should speak volumes about what is needed.
Regardless, Novek chose to mix ethanol with ammonium bicarbonate in the hopes that it would result in urea through salting out. Instead, what happened when he turned up the heat was the emission of CO2, which is interesting because breaking the bond between amine and CO2 is the single most energy-intensive step in the current carbon capture. As a result, if the results of Novek's experiment can be turned into a practical industrial solution, that could make carbon capture much less expensive to use, which in turn, should make it that much easier to spread its use.
Of course, there is still the process of turning the results of Novek's experiment into a practical industrial solution, but considering Novek's own cleverness as well as the people and institutions that are lending their support, there is a real chance of that happening sometime in the not so distant future. Likewise, as people continue to search for ways to hold back the consequences of climate change, it seems probable that more and more of them will turn up, which is fortunate when the problem has become so pressing.
Written by Garrett Parker
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