I take the optimistic view on climate change – that mankind is sufficiently inventive and resourceful to overcome the problem. A recent article in New Scientist magazine (Better world: Top tech for a cleaner planet)highlighted a few interesting ideas that are under development:
Modern passenger planes are masterfully streamlined but the aircraft are still burdened by turbulence that forms as a result of friction between the plane's skin and the air that passes over it. Wind tunnel tests now show that if only a small part of an aircraft's wings were made to oscillate from side to side, the resulting decrease in drag would reduce fuel consumption by 20 per cent. [UK: under development]
Floating wind turbines
Conventional offshore wind turbines are fastened to the seabed with giant thick monopiles. This limits their use to shallow waters, but the strongest winds are often far offshore, where the water is deep. So why not let the turbine float like a boat, anchored to the seabed with huge chains? In June, Hywind, the world's first full-scale floating wind turbine, was anchored 10 kilometres off the Norwegian coast. The 2.3-megawatt turbine floats in 200 metres of water. It will begin feeding power into the grid this month. [Karmøy, Norway: available now]
On the other hand, here’s a more radical suggestion – kill and eat your pets:
SHOULD owning a great dane make you as much of an eco-outcast as an SUV driver? Yes it should, say Robert and Brenda Vale, two architects who specialise in sustainable living at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. In their new book, Time to Eat the Dog: The real guide to sustainable living, they compare the ecological footprints of a menagerie of popular pets with those of various other lifestyle choices - and the critters do not fare well.
As well as guzzling resources, cats and dogs devastate wildlife populations, spread disease and add to pollution. It is time to take eco-stock of our pets.
To measure the ecological paw, claw and fin-prints of the family pet, the Vales analysed the ingredients of common brands of pet food. They calculated, for example, that a medium-sized dog would consume 90 grams of meat and 156 grams of cereals daily in its recommended 300-gram portion of dried dog food. At its pre-dried weight, that equates to 450 grams of fresh meat and 260 grams of cereal. That means that over the course of a year, Fido wolfs down about 164 kilograms of meat and 95 kilograms of cereals.
Well, OK, they may not actually be recommending killing and eating them…