As surface temperatures rise and weather events become more prominent and intense, this is a defining era for the scientists, engineers and researchers who have dedicated their careers to developing creative solutions to combat the existential threats of climate change. Whether they conduct research at universities or in laboratories, implement solutions in large corporations or develop solutions in startups or small businesses, there is no shortage of dedicated people and teams working hard to bring to market inventions designed to help people to help. communities and businesses are more sustainable.
Human ingenuity has already led to innovations such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), carbon capture technologies and automation solutions designed to help building operators manage their energy consumption. This is why I am optimistic that the world can reach net zero.
In addition to the work being done by scientists and engineers, both public and private sector organizations have an active role to play in the journey to net zero. They must adopt technologies that can be used now to meet their sustainability obligations and take steps to attract and retain talent focused on further developing inventions that enable the energy transition. Combating climate change will require collective innovation, which is already underway.
Implementing currently available technologies
Many business leaders have set goals to reduce their carbon footprint in light of the Paris Agreement, and recent global climate events have highlighted the urgency to act sooner rather than later. According to the November release of Honeywell’s Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), a survey of more than 750 global business leaders engaged in sustainability initiatives, the majority of respondents plan to make material changes to their environmental sustainability initiatives , spurred by this year’s weather conditions.
The ESI responses show that now is the time to take steps in the field of sustainability. There are already innovative solutions to combat climate change, which do not require further development and are now ready to be implemented in various industries.
For example, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 88% compared to conventional aviation fuel depending on the raw material used and does not require any adjustments to the aircraft to be used.1 The International Air Transit Organization estimates that SAF could contribute around 65% of the emissions reductions the aviation sector needs to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Today, aircraft can fly on a mixture of 50% SAF and 50% conventional jet fuel. Greater capacity and more feedstock options are needed to achieve the industry’s net-zero goal, and this is a key focus of current research and commercialization efforts. For example, this year we announced new ways to make SAF from ethanol and methanol, expanding the possible options for making SAF from cellulosic waste and fats, oils and grease.
According to the International Energy Agency, the development of carbon capture, utilization and sequestration (CCUS) technology is accelerating worldwide and there are approximately 40 commercial facilities currently in operation. This technology can be used to reduce CO2 emissions in hard-to-abate industries, such as power plants, iron and steel mills, and cement plants. Carbon capture technologies developed by Honeywell engineers already capture 15 million tons of CO2 per year, which corresponds to the emissions of more than 3 million cars on the road.2
According to the International Energy Agency, commercial buildings account for more than 30% of global final energy consumption. Building automation solutions use software, advanced sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize building operations and reduce energy consumption. This not only reduces fuel consumption, but also saves money, and we have guaranteed our customers $9.2 billion in savings by building energy efficiency projects.
Empowering today’s innovators and encouraging future talent
To continue this innovation pipeline, it is critical that engineers and researchers at the forefront of sustainability solutions are recognized as being able to retain and build future pipelines of talent that will continually improve existing technologies. With jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) expected to grow by 15% between 2021 and 2031, early exposure to STEM concepts and skills can help interest and inspire future innovators to pursue careers that are important for the energy transition.
One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” and one target for that goal is to ensure that students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.
In general, teachers and students want to discuss climate change in the classroom, but more needs to be done to support teachers. An EducationWeek survey of 538 U.S. teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade, conducted in 2022, found that less than a third of respondents teach their students about the science behind climate change, citing a lack of resources and training .
Empowering teachers and equipping them with reliable resources on climate change and sustainability is a necessary step toward encouraging the next generation of climate scientists and inventors. It’s one reason Honeywell is partnering with Discovery Education and other industry and nonprofit organizations to launch the Sustainability Education Coalition, which will provide resources to K-12 teachers and focus on a holistic approach to promote sustainability education.
Today’s talented technologists, as well as the early-career engineers and scientists driven to solve the climate challenges they inherited, make me optimistic that the world can reach the point where the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere removed is equal to the greenhouse gases released in it.
The key to achieving this as a society is to adopt the solutions available today – rather than waiting for improvements in the future – and supporting current and emerging scientists and innovators.