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How does the environmental impact of mining for clean energy metals compare to mining for coal, oil and gas?
Mining, whether for fossil fuels or metals used in clean energy technologies, has serious environmental impacts, and it’s hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons—except in terms of their impact on climate change, where clean energy mining is clearly better.
Can taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and splitting it into carbon and oxygen help stem the tide of rising greenhouse gases?
While CO2 molecules can be broken down and re-used, there are some technological hurdles to clear before we can do this cheaply, put the carbon to good use, and not emit more greenhouse gases in the process.
How will future warming and CO2 emissions affect oxygen concentrations?
Oxygen levels are declining due to the burning of fossil fuels and other kinds of pollution. While the decline won’t directly affect humans in terms of the air we breathe, certain ecosystems are much more impacted, especially aquatic ones.
Why do we compare methane to carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeframe? Are we underrating the importance of methane emissions?
This greenhouse gas is short-lived but has far greater heat-trapping potential than CO2. The more concerned we are about global warming over the next 10 or 20 years, the more emphasis we have to put on cutting methane emissions.
If cities require new buildings to use 100% electric heat, will that raise or lower their greenhouse gas emissions?
Electric heating can cause a short-term rise in emissions in areas that get their electricity from fossil fuels. But without electric heat, we can’t get greenhouse gas emissions to zero.
What is the ideal level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for human life?
Atmospheric CO2 levels of between 280 and 350 parts per million created the climate that let humanity build and feed the modern world. The farther we get from those levels, the more we run the risk of disturbing that balance.
With low-carbon technologies improving so fast, does it sometimes make sense to wait to invest in new infrastructure?
It can make sense to wait for low-carbon technology to improve in efficiency and cost, but to slow climate change we must balance what makes economic sense with what reduces emissions the fastest.
Is there a place in the atmosphere where carbon dioxide is concentrated, and if so, can we remove it?
Carbon dioxide mixes evenly through the atmosphere. But the atmosphere as a whole is densest near the ground, so a cubic foot of air at ground level will contain more carbon dioxide molecules than a cubic foot of air high up in the sky.
Do we have the technology to go carbon neutral today?
We still need new breakthroughs to decarbonize many parts of our modern economy, especially if we don’t want to drive up the price of energy and goods. But we can make real progress with today’s technology, and invest in good ideas for the next generation of low-carbon solutions.