Heavy industry produces more carbon dioxide than the entire US. Improve new technologies that can clean it up, and we can achieve a decisive victory over the climate
“DANGEROUSLY. Unauthorized access is prohibited. Hot rolling in progress. ” Anyway, the sign under the dirty piece of industrial equipment says nothing. When the 11 ton metal plate that I observed comes out of the oven at 1300 ° C, it glows white. It then slides along the conveyor belt, hissing and smoking as it cools with jets of water before being pushed into the final product by a line of rolling cylinders: a shiny sheet of steel.
Despite the fact that we live in a digital age, we still depend on such hot and dirty processes to build our cities, houses and vehicles. Walking through a steel plant in Newport, UK, I have an idea of how much energy is required, and this is exactly the stage at which steel is processed. Making it from raw iron ore is even more difficult. In fact, the production of steel and other basic building materials, concrete, accounts for up to 16% of human annual carbon dioxide emissions. This is tantamount to the US carbon footprint. Heavy industry is the final frontier in the fight against climate change. Decarbonization of transport and energy is the easiest part. Steel and concrete are different beasts. They are much more difficult to manufacture without emitting huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Yet if we want to achieve clean, zero-carbon targets, we can no longer ignore them