The Development of Greener Technologies, Is It Worth It?

by | Dec 18, 2023 | Climate change and sustainable development | 0 comments

By Kiera Ford

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash


A society with greener technology is a society I hope we all dream of, a world with fewer CO2 emissions and a world where we aren’t in constant fear of reaching the dreaded ‘tipping point’ of exceeding 1.5°C global warming [1]. Though what will it take to reach that idealistic society and what would we have to sacrifice to achieve it? The potential environmental consequences of creating greener technologies in the first place may be enough to reach that ‘tipping point’ anyway. The state’s motivation to create technology that can benefit our climate is not necessarily for the right reasons, therefore the dedication towards avoiding environmental consequences is minimal.


Let’s take the Lithium mining that’s begun in Cornwall, on the surface this sounds like an optimal way to help lead the evolution of electric cars, with the mine being able to equip 500,000 cars with lithium-ion batteries (LIB) [2]. However, the impacts of lithium mining and the factories required to create the LIB may potentially outweigh the benefits of creating them. First of all, Aichberger and Jungmeier (2020) pointed out that the creation of one LIB makes 120kgCo2 – eq/kw [3], so is it worth the conversion to battery-powered cars? With 35 gigafactories [4] planned to be built in Europe, the carbon footprint on building these gigafactories and then building the batteries themselves will be immense, and the high energy demand during the LIB production will have negative impacts on the environment. So the question is, are the short-term impacts worth creating in order to achieve a greener society? If we lived in a world where all cars ran on LIB then that would be incredible for the tackle against climate change and overall the impacts made from the creation of the LIB and Mining would be minimal. However, it’ll take a long time for us to reach this point and considering scientists suggest we are due to reach the ‘tipping point’ by about 2030 [5], this doesn’t give us long to make an electric car society without pushing the Co2 emissions over the edge.


Though there are some greener technologies which aim to improve without the potentiality of negative impacts on the environment, such as Solar Foods, a Finnish food technology company set on creating sustainable food [6]. Imagine being able to enjoy the protein given to us through red meat without having to release 45 kilos of Co2 per kilo of protein from cattle. The benefits this has towards the climate is undeniable, considering 30% of CO2 emissions come from food production the breakthrough of scientific food would be a major step forward in creating a greener society without the consequences of agricultural CO2 emissions. This is an example where the creation of greener technologies is worth it, its positive impact on the climate and reduction of CO2 emissions can potentially change our increasing global warming and help to slow it down.


So why only now are states investing in greener technologies? Well, you’d of thought the ever-growing fear of the irreversible point of global warming would push them to commit to this sustainable future and the realisation that we can’t keep living the way we are or it’s none of the above. It’s been suggested that this sudden urge to develop our greener technologies is more comparable to an arms race over the want to sustain our environment. The beginning of lithium mining in Cornwall was almost certainly an aim to catch up with other countries who are booming ahead in the LIB industry, for example, Australia is mining, on average, 320,000 tons of lithium a year, whereas the UK is mining about 20,000 tons [2]. However, I suppose that even if the state’s motivation isn’t in the right place, the fact that they are still leading to the goal of a greener environment is the main thing.


To conclude, there will always be pros and cons to the development of greener technologies. It’s about going about it in the most efficient way possible, so even if the development of LIBs does have ecological impacts, the benefits of a green car society outweigh those consequences. Even if we don’t reach that version of society before the ultimate ‘tipping point’, the aim to improve the crisis of global warming is what matters.




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