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FAMILY BUSINESS

The Hunt Is on for Innovation to Fight the Climate Crisis

 Last month, at the annual ChangeNOW conference, the same venue featured hyperloops, hydrogen-powered ships and a device that turns air pollution into algae food. 

  
No matter how odd they appear, some of these gadgets (like the solar-powered water purifier) will likely become part of our everyday lives, just like the diesel engine.

 That was also an oddity when first presented in 1900. It was heavy, ugly and ran on peanut oil. It lacked the glamour of Thomas Edison’s moving boardwalk and the beauty of the Palais de l’Électricité’s 7,000 incandescent lamps.

 
Still, it was the diesel engine that won the Paris Exhibition’s Grand Prize for innovation. Soon after, it was everywhere, replacing steam engines on trains, ships and cars. The engine made travel and manufacturing cheaper and more efficient. But yesterday’s innovation is today’s problem to solve: Diesel is a notoriously dirty energy source.

Businesses both large and small are racing to come up with solutions to lower emissions and slow planetary warming. In Paris, attendees showed off solar-powered ships, machines that recycle clothing and bricks made out of fish scales.

Today, calls for a ban on fossil-fueled vehicles are increasing. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged just last week to end the sale of new combustion engine cars by 2035, five years earlier than planned.

Johnson isn’t alone. Some 24 European cities will ban diesel vehicles over the next decade, including 13 that are planning to eliminate all combustion engine cars.

Greenhouse gas emissions are climbing as well, and not just from the usual suspects in the transportation and manufacturing sectors.

The numbers are stunning. In Alaska, fires released more than double the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuels in the state every year. Similarly, fires last year in Brazil released more than 80% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2018.

It’s an urgent reminder that we’re still in need of innovation to attack big climate problems like catastrophic wildfires.


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