overtake the G7
this date, the major emerging markets – Brazil, Russia, India and China,
a.k.a. the BRICs – have overtaken the combined GDP of the G7 nations.*
Light-duty hydrogen fuel cell vehicles reach 1 million in annual sales
The first vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells emerged during the Cold War Space Race. These were bulky, inefficient and expensive, however. It was not until the dawn of the 21st century that car manufacturers began to take the concept more seriously.
In 2003, President George Bush proposed the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative (HFI), which was later implemented by legislation through the 2005 Energy Policy Act and the 2006 Advanced Energy Initiative. This aimed to further develop hydrogen fuel cells and infrastructure with the goal of producing commercial fuel cell vehicles. By 2008, over $1 billion had been contributed to the project.
However, the U.S. Department of Energy later shifted its interest from fuel cells to battery vehicles. High costs and the lack of infrastructure were major problems, compounded by the challenge of deploying fuel stations over such a large geographical area. This led U.S. automakers to delay their hydrogen vehicle rollouts. The situation was different in Europe, however – with less geography to cover – and where governments had serious plans to develop the required infrastructure.* Japan and South Korea, too, had similar initiatives getting underway.
In addition to expanded infrastructure, further advances in technology reduced the size, weight and cost of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.* By 2027, global sales of these non-polluting vehicles have reached one million annually for the first time.* Although still only a tiny proportion of total, overall vehicle sales, the industry is now entering a period of explosive growth.*
Tokyo and Nagoya are connected by high-speed maglev
Two of Japan's largest cities – Tokyo and Nagoya – are now connected by the Chūō Shinkansen – a high speed maglev route. This 178 mile (286 km) line runs beneath the Japanese Alps (Akaishi Mountains), at speeds of up to 313 mph (505 km/h), enabling journey times of just 40 minutes. Built by the Central Japan Railway Company, at a cost of 9 trillion yen ($115bn), the route will be extended to Osaka by 2045.**
sequestration is underway in many nations
years of research and development, a number of geoengineering techniques
are now being utilised for trapping and removing CO2. This is offering
fresh hope for mitigating the effects of climate change.
significant technology is "clean coal", being fitted to power
plants. This is seeing widespread adoption, since it now costs less
than unsequestered coal-based power generation.* The carbon dioxide is stored in geological formations deep underground
(including some empty oil wells). Great care and precision must be taken
in choosing these sites, however, as dumping the gas in an unstable
location may cause it to leak back up to the surface or contaminate
aquifers used for drinking supplies.
method of carbon sequestration which is showing great potential is the
deployment of "artificial trees". These are shaped like giant
fly swatters around 10m high, and are becoming an increasingly common
sight along roads, freeways and other polluted areas.* The trees capture CO2 through a filter – thousands of times more efficiently
than real trees – which is then removed and stored.
of Mechanical Engineers
geoengineering project involves strips of algae, fitted to the sides
of buildings, which naturally absorb CO2 through photosynthesis. They
are most common in high-density urban centres, where tall buildings
offer a much greater surface area. These "photobioreactors"
(as they are called) not only sequest carbon, but can also produce biofuel
and biochar as beneficial side effects. The biofuel can be used to generate
energy whilst keeping net carbon emissions to zero, while the biochar
can be used as a very good fertiliser.*
project is the addition of highly reflective panels on rooftops. These
reflect sunlight back into space, reducing the amount of solar radiation
being absorbed by the Earth.
efficient, the geoengineering techniques described above (and various
others) do not represent the ultimate solution to global warming. The
only effective, long-term process for stabilising the climate is the
adoption of solar, wind, hydro, nuclear and other renewable energy sources.
most developed countries now have legally-binding commitments in place
for reducing CO2 emissions and have begun large-scale practical measures.
Britain, for example, has cut its carbon dioxide pollution by 50% compared
to 1990 levels, thanks to legislation enacted in 2011.*
Peak coal is reached in China
China's phenomenal economic growth during the last few decades has been due, in part, to its massive energy and mineral resources. Coal in particular has played a major role, accounting for nearly half of global production.* It is during 2027 that China's coal production finally peaks, declining rapidly thereafter.*
The Europa Clipper arrives in orbit
Europa is a moon of Jupiter and the smallest of the four Galilean satellites. It is slightly smaller than Earth's Moon. Previous missions to the icy body have analysed its structure and composition, but have lacked sufficient detail and resolution to fully characterise its surface environment. This has made it very risky to deploy a lander.
The Europa Clipper – launched by NASA in 2021 – intends to address this, paving the way for future missions to explore the surface.* After a six year journey, it reaches the Jovian system in 2027.* The probe carries an array of instruments including ice-penetrating radar, a topographical imager, magnetometer, infrared spectrometer, neutral mass spectrometer and a high-gain antenna. These are powered by solar, which is much cheaper than radioisotope generators, allowing the mission to stay within its $2 billion budget cap.
The Clipper spacecraft performs dozens of flybys over 2.3 years, at times coming within just 15 miles (25 km) of the moon's frozen surface. Close-up images are returned in breathtaking detail and clarity, along with data confirming its crust thickness, as well as the saltiness and depth of its ocean. Together with information from ESA's JUICE mission,* this helps guide the development of future landers in the 2030s and 2040s.