Steel and concrete are climate change’s hard problem. Can we solve it?

Heavy trade produces extra carbon dioxide than your complete US. Good the brand new applied sciences that might clear it up and we will rating an important local weather victory


13 November 2019

steel making

With temperatures reaching 1300 °C, making metal is a sizzling and soiled enterprise

Wolfram Schroll/Industriefotograf

“DANGER. No unauthorized entry. Scorching rolling in progress.” If something, the signal beneath the soiled hunk of commercial equipment underplays issues. When the 11-tonne slab of metallic I’ve been watching emerges from the furnace, heated to 1300°C, it glows incandescent white. Then it zips alongside a conveyor belt, hissing and steaming as it’s cooled by water jets, earlier than a line of rolling cylinders press it into the ultimate product: a sheet of gleaming metal.

For all that we reside within the digital age, we nonetheless depend on sizzling and soiled processes like this to assemble our cities, properties and automobiles. Strolling across the steelworks in Newport, UK, I get a way of the immense vitality required – and that is solely the stage at which the metal is labored. Making it from uncooked iron ore is much more intensive. In actual fact, the manufacturing of metal and that different development staple, concrete, accounts for as a lot as 16 per cent of humanity’s annual carbon dioxide emissions. That’s equal to the carbon footprint of the US.

Within the struggle towards local weather change, heavy industries are the ultimate frontier. Decarbonising transport and vitality is the straightforward half. Metal and concrete are completely different beasts. It’s a lot more durable to supply them with out releasing huge quantities of CO2 into the environment. And but if we wish to attain net-zero carbon targets, we will not ignore them.

Cleansing up concrete and metal is such an immense problem that it may …

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