Over thousands of years, the Earth’s climate has undergone many changes and cycles. The end of the last ice age (about 7000 years ago) heralded the start of the modern climate era, and the beginning of human civilization. Since then, climate change has accelerated at an alarming rate, with growing concerns of its detrimental impact on our planet.
Innovation is required if we are to reduce our carbon footprint going forward, and engineering is a key industry for implementing such advancements. Below are just some of the current examples in which engineering is helping to combat climate change:
Electric car engines
Electric cars create less pollution than gasoline-powered cars, so they are an environmentally friendly alternative, especially in cities. The gasoline engine is replaced by an electric motor, powered by a controller, and the controller gets its power from rechargeable batteries. It was recently announced that the government has committed to ending the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
Tidal / Wave power
Tidal power or tidal energy is used to convert the energy obtained from tides into useful forms of power, mainly electricity. Built in 2003, the European Marine Energy Centre based in Scotland, has supported the deployment of more wave and tidal energy devices than at any other site in the world.
Environmentally friendly light bulbs
How many engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? Well…maybe a few if the change involves making it more ‘green’. Compared to traditional incandescents, energy-efficient lightbulbs typically use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional bulbs, and can last 3 – 25 times longer. Switched on consumers can also save money using environmentally friendly bulbs.
Environmentally friendly compounds
Known as green chemistry, chemical engineers focus on technological approaches to preventing pollution and reducing consumption of non-renewable resources. Solvents are a good example of where green chemistry research has been applied: traditional solvents are often toxic or are chlorinated. Green solvents, on the other hand, are generally derived from renewable resources and are often a naturally occurring product.