Ten ways to save the world in ten years

Preaching climatic Armageddon is easy. Much more difficult is suggesting ways we can achieve zero carbon emissions without destroying the global economy and throwing billions into poverty.

Prince William's declamation that we have ten years to save the world may be hyperbolic — just like his father's statement in 2009 that we had only 100 months to act.

But William is to be applauded for launching an award, the Earthshot Prize, to reward people who come up with practical solutions to help us work towards zero emissions while continuing to grow the economy.

Each year throughout the 2020s, the prize will recognise the efforts of five individuals, teams and organisations.

Prince William's declamation that we have ten years to save the world may be hyperbolic ¿ just like his father's statement in 2009 that we had only 100 months to act, writes Ross Clark

Prince William's declamation that we have ten years to save the world may be hyperbolic — just like his father's statement in 2009 that we had only 100 months to act, writes Ross Clark

Ten years is a long time in technology. Who would have guessed in 2010 that, by the end of the decade, carbon-free forms of energy — wind, solar, hydro and nuclear — would be generating 48.5 per cent of Britain's electricity, and fossil fuels just 43 per cent?

Coal, the dirtiest source for electricity, which in 1990 supplied three quarters of our needs, was down to just 2.8 per cent in 2019.

There has certainly been a huge wave of public support for tackling climate change over the past 12 months, as the consequences of fossil fuel-burning, plastic pollution and other human activities become clear.

Diesel car sales are plummeting, and we use a tenth of the number of plastic bags we did five years ago — thanks in large part to a Mail campaign. Plastic drinking straws are no longer thought acceptable.

Yet we are not prepared to downgrade our lifestyles to the extent demanded by the green zealots from Extinction Rebellion.

As Prince William's prize recognises, it is technology, not monkish self-denial, that can save the Earth. So here are my suggestions for innovations that, in the next ten years, would make the planet greener and might scoop one of William's awards.

So here are my suggestions for innovations that, in the next ten years, would make the planet greener, writes Ross Clark (Pictured: an electric car)

So here are my suggestions for innovations that, in the next ten years, would make the planet greener, writes Ross Clark (Pictured: an electric car)

1. An affordable electric car that does 500 miles between charges and takes no longer than five minutes to charge.

The Government is committed to banning new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, but these would become obsolete within ten years if manufacturers could overcome two problems: the high purchase price and limited range of vehicles.

The current best-selling electric car, the Nissan Leaf, costs from £26,345 (compared with £17,395 for a petrol-powered Nissan Juke) and has a maximum range of 168 miles, or closer to 100 miles if it's fully laden and driven at motorway speeds. An hour-long 'rapid' charge will allow you to go another 100 miles.

If battery technology does not greatly improve on this soon, there is an alternative route to zero emissions: electric hybrid cars with small biofuel engines that will constantly recharge the batteries.

2. Lorries and buses powered by hydrogen.

For the past six years, hydrogen-powered buses have run in the capital between Aldwych and the Tower of London, as well as in Aberdeen and Brighton. They produce no emissions except water vapour and can travel 350-400 miles between refills. Even then, it takes only 3-5 minutes to refuel.

Hydrogen does not occur naturally as a standalone fuel but can be made with green electricity.

The drawback is that it is an explosive gas and cumbersome to store. But this year, Transport for London will introduce double-decker hydrogen-powered buses on three routes. By 2030, expect the smelly diesel-powered bus to be a thing of the past

For the past six years, hydrogen-powered buses have run in the capital between Aldwych and the Tower of London, as well as in Aberdeen and Brighton (stock image)

For the past six years, hydrogen-powered buses have run in the capital between Aldwych and the Tower of London, as well as in Aberdeen and Brighton (stock image)

3. Electricity storage systems that hold vast amounts of energy for days.

The cost of wind and solar power has tumbled in recent years, but the Achilles heel of these two sources of electricity remains; they are highly intermittent, and we don't have nearly enough electricity storage capacity to keep the lights on when the wind doesn't blow and the sun isn't shining.

Over the next ten years this will have to be solved. It is possible that by 2030 we could have wind and solar farms operating in tandem with hydrogen plants that convert water to hydrogen and oxygen when wind and solar power is plentiful. The hydrogen could then be burned to produce heat or electricity when wind and solar power are scarce.

4. Biodegradable plastic

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