This is a long story so we will cut it into a couple of days. We'd love to hear from you on what technology you believe shows the most promise:
Toyota is slated to display its hydrogen-powered concept car at the Consumer Electronics Shows in January 2014. The company plans to produce the vehicle, which has a driving range of at least 500 kilometers and refueling times as low as three minutes, around 2015.(Photo: Toyota Motor Corp.)
"In the 1890s, New York City was swamped — not by a storm but something smellier, horse manure.
Horses, the primary mode of transportation, dropped more than a million pounds each day, causing a sanitation crisis. No one found a fix, and some estimated the streets would eventually be buried several feet deep.
Then, "shift happened," says Harvard chemist Daniel Nocera. The automobile arrived, and almost overnight, it replaced horses and cleaned up the streets. Hailed as an environmental savior, it solved a seemingly insurmountable problem.
What a difference a century makes. Cars are now known contributors to the modern-day scourge of climate change. Their heat-trapping emissions have helped warm the planet beyond its natural variability. So sea levels have risen, and drought, heat waves and hurricanes have intensified — as USA TODAY explored in a year-long series, "Weathering the Change."
As in the 1890s, society is once again looking for the Next Big Fix — whether high-altitude wind kites, "plug and play" nuclear reactors, giant synthetic trees to absorb carbon dioxide or sulfate aerosols to cool the planet. Next week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, two concepts will be on display: Toyota's hydrogen fuel-cell car, which emits no greenhouse gases, and Ford's hybrid, powered partly by renewable energy.
Yet will technology deliver this time? Or will inertia push the planet, already struggling with higher temperatures, to a cataclysmic breaking point?
"I'm totally optimistic," says Nocera, citing a plethora of technological advances, including his own "artificial leaf" for producing hydrogen fuel. "All over the world these things are happening." He says projections are based on current conditions but innovation can shift the paradigm, adding: "That's what discovery can do.
Even optimists agree it won't be easy. "No amount of new technology will magically solve the climate problem or even help much," unless there's broad consensus on the need for urgent action, says Harvard physicist David Keith.
In Washington, D.C., where climate change remains politically divisive, action is unlikely. Congress has rebuffed a tax on carbon emissions, which Keith and other climate scientists say would be the best way to spur clean-energy innovation. Opponents such as the American Petroleum Institute say the tax could boost energy prices and hurt the U.S. economy.
Global leaders have also made little progress in agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which continue to increase as rapidly developing nations such as India and China use coal to power economic growth.
Still, change is bubbling up. Dozens of states now require that a portion of their electricity come from renewable sources. In October, California became the first to require its utilities to install energy-storage equipment — expected to boost technologies such as batteries that can be used when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow. China has increased its use of solar power to reduce the smog blanketing its major cities.
"The good news: We already know how to do a lot," says Jane Long, who's leading the California Council on Science and Technology's study on how the state can meet its pledge to slash emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Even so, she says breakthrough technologies, requiring a public and private partnership, will be needed to make fuels with nearly zero emissions.
There's not a lot of time to make changes, says climate scientist David Archer of the University of Chicago. He says research suggests dire changes could occur if the Earth warms 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century...."