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Technology Topics for Discussion
Net zero refers to a state in which the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere are balanced by removal out of the atmosphere.
The term net ‘zero’ is important because – for CO2 at least – this is the state at which global warming stops. The Paris Agreement underlines the need for net zero, requiring states to ‘achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century’.
The ‘net’ in net zero is important because it will be very difficult to reduce all emissions to zero on the timescale needed. As well as deep and widespread cuts in emissions, we will likely need to scale up removals. In order for net zero to be effective, it must be permanent, that is, that any greenhouse gas removals do not leak into the atmosphere over time, for example through the destruction of forests or the improper storage of removed carbon dioxide.
All of the different terms (Carbon Neutral, Net Zero, Climate Neutral) point to the different ways in which emissions sources and sinks are accounted for in context, and help to indicate what is, and is not included in the calculation or a target. As net zero is the internationally agreed upon goal for mitigating global warming in the second half of the century, and the IPCC concluded the need for net zero CO2 by 2050 to remain consistent with 1.5C – informed effective climate action that is net zero aligned is required in order to advance progress towards this goal.
Many actors will be able to achieve absolute zero or zero emissions in the process, hence the choice of terms in the global Race to Zero campaign focused on raising ambition. Others will need to scale up removals either themselves directly or by supporting other projects, hence the ‘net’ in net zero.
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The emergence of electric vehicles has led to a number of unique safety concerns, including issues of ‘crashworthiness’ (i.e. how the structural and weight differences of EVs compared with conventional internal combustion vehicles affect vehicle collision behaviour), post-impact vehicle safety (i.e. the challenges associated with high-voltage circuits, batteries or hydrogen fuel-cells following a vehicle collision) and low noise emission (i.e. the impact on vulnerable road users who rely on auditory cues to respond to approaching vehicles).
On average, EVs have significantly higher problem rates than internal-combustion vehicles across model years 2019 and 2020, according to data. That improved somewhat for 2021, but certain models still showed high rates of problems, according to the report.
The most common EV problem areas were "in-car electronics, noises and leaks, power equipment, climate system, body hardware, drive system, and paint and trim," the report said.
How Safe are Electric Vehicles?
At the rate of current progress it seems highly unlikely that we will achieve net zero by 2050, a date so far away that probably most members of Purbeck U3A will be long dead. Science has known about the likely consequence of burning fossil fuels since Savante Arrhenius described the mechanism over 120 years ago.
It is more than a quarter of a century since the Rio summit established the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and yet greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. We know full well what we need to do. Individual action by a few activists, whilst important, will not solve the climate crisis and we see that industry will not do what is needful. We need governments to force change. I appeal to all members of the Science and Technology Group at least to write to their MP pressing for urgent action.