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Countering pollution in the air
July 8, 2016

Screenshot of Melanie Nakagawa and course title (Courtesy of YALI Network)
Melanie Nakagawa teaches YALI Network’s online lesson “The Science of Climate Change.” (Courtesy photo)


You asked, we answered. As part of our #YALIGoesGreen initiative, we invited YALI Network Green Champions to ask questions of Melanie Nakagawa, deputy assistant secretary of state for energy transformation in the Bureau of Energy Resources and the instructor for the first lesson of Understanding Climate Change.

What can we do to reduce the harmful gases which are already in nature? (Burkina Faso)

One great way to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere is by conserving and rebuilding forests. Forests have the potential to absorb up to 30 percent of CO2 from humans by 2030. Proper stewardship of our forests also pays back economic dividends like soil enrichment for agriculture, improvement of irrigation and more.
So plant a locally sustainable tree! It sometimes really can be that easy.

In the lesson you taught, we learnt how the depletion of ozone layer is orchestrated by harmful gases such as CO2 and CH4. In Nigeria we are clamoring for more industries to be established to scale up the manufacturing processes, thereby creating employment opportunities. How do we reconcile the proliferation of industries, the harmful gases emitted from these industries and the effects on the climate? (Nigeria)

In the United States, American companies are signing up to make green pledges. Protecting the environment does not have to come at the cost of economic growth; in fact, many business leaders are viewing climate change as a market opportunity.

There are many ways to “green” a business, such as

  • Committing to efficient production and supply chains.
  • Using electricity from renewable sources to power buildings.
  • Reducing waste to landfills, thereby lessening the amount of methane released to the atmosphere.

Very often, these green business decisions end up saving money, which is a win-win for all stakeholders involved.

How can we get industries that emit a lot of carbon to use alternative forms of energy? And how sustainable are these renewable energy sources compared to the conventional ones? (Nigeria)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that the manufacturing industry can improve its energy efficiency by an impressive 18 to 26 percent, while reducing the sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by 19 to 32 percent, by adopting proven technology and best practices. This is important, because industrial energy demand is projected to increase by as much as 44 percent over the next 20 years, particularly in emerging and developing countries.

Through greater use of cleaner, more efficient energy and production technologies we can continue to reduce pollution, improve public health and the environment, while also supplying the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth, including in energy-intensive industries such as cement, chemicals, and metals production.

These factors helped drive global clean energy investment to an all-time high in 2015 of $329 billion, according to BNEF. Emerging economies like China, India and Brazil invested more in renewable technologies last year than the developed world. These facts suggest that renewable energy is going to be sustainable in the long term.

Are there other effective renewable energy sources that could be used in the future besides biofuels? (Nigeria)

Energy efficiency is a domestically produced, zero-emissions source of energy that can increase energy security while advancing economic development. In the past, energy efficiency was associated with sacrifice in comfort or profit but, with technological advances such as smarter and more efficient appliances and lighting, transportation and even fuel extraction and generation, that is no longer the case.

According to the IEA, realizing the full potential of energy efficiency could shave 28 percent off of global energy demand by 2050 and account for half of energy-related emissions reductions.