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  • Writer's pictureThe Climate Coach

What industries impact climate the most?

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Oof - good question. Most industries produce some kind of emissions - some more than others however there are a few key industries that produce a significant proportion of emissions across all industry. Namely the "big three": iron/steel, cement and chemical/petrochemical.

Now you may be asking, why are you talking to me about industry when there is absolutely nothing I can do about that. Whilst I agree that it is one of the most difficult areas to address when it comes to climate, it's definitely worth understanding a bit more about - as you may be able to make some more informed choices in the future, potentially around where you decide to invest.

So how bad is it?

Estimates vary and some studies have suggested Cement alone makes up 8% of global emissions - however the estimate below is slightly lower. Whichever you look at it - it's not insignificant given it's just one product.

If we take cement as an example - there are a number of reasons why it produces such high emissions. To make cement, powdered limestone is heated and combined with a variety of components, to produce an intermediary product called clinker. Forty per cent of the weight of limestone is CO2, which is released during this process. Also, the fact it's heated usually means burning more fossil fuels to get the required heat - which again generates further emissions.

Where in the world are these emissions coming from though?

Well emissions are generally assigned to the country who produces the product - rather than uses it so perhaps unfairly China has the vast majority of emissions from cement as an example. If you attributed it to the countries using it - you'd likely see a much more even split worldwide - but focussed around countries which are going through rapid development and infrastructure deployment.

Ok, at a high level then, what do we need to do?

This particular area is quite problematic as we haven't yet found a low carbon alternative to cement as an example. However there are ways that the current cement production process can have its process improved to reduce carbon - such as carbon capture technology and using lower carbon methods to heat the limestone. Whichever way you look at it though, it needs some proper investment and focus to transform the industry because personally I can't see us moving away from using cement - or reducing it's usage anytime soon. More than anything else, it wouldn't be right for developed nations (who've already used significant amounts of it) to start saying that less developed nations should stop using it/use less of it without having a proper low carbon, cost effective alternative.

If you have any thoughts, feedback or ideas you wish to contribute on this or any other topic covered by The Climate Coach - please get in touch, we'd love to hear from you.

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