How chemistry contributes to the challenges of climate change

8 schools from 3 countries participated in the first Xperimania II chat held in Spanish. The chat expert, Enrique Espi, Senior Toxicologist from Repsol YPF in Madrid, explained to the students how to minimize CO2 in housing and how petrochemistry contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Students from Spain, Slovenia and Sweden participated actively in the first of the 2008-2009 multilingual Xperimania chats held in Spanish. Tackling climate change is a major concern for everyone today – from politician to citizen, from adult to teenager. 

How to consume less energy

Students from the Spanish IES La Nucia (Secondary Institute of Education) were interested in how to reduce energy consumption and CO2 production in one’s own home. The chat expert suggested that having good thermal insulation, using energy-saving light bulbs and energy-saving kitchen appliances was a good start in achieving this goal. In this respect Enrique answered students from the Slovenian Gimnazija Poljane, explaining that energy-savinglight bulbs consume up to 70% less and also last longer and can be recycled.

How is the petrochemical industry handling the CO2 issues? wondered the students from IES La Canal. Enrique Espi described several options such as reducing CO2 production, and capturing and storing CO2 to re-use it in other applications.

Another important aspect is improvement in energy efficiency, which is not new for the petrochemical industry since energy use per unit of production decreased almost 40 % in the EU between 1990 and 2004 and continues to fall.  This is possible thanks to new processes being put in place as a result of the industry's commitment to research into greater energy efficiency for its industrial sites and products.
 
New ways to create energy

Students from the IES Joan Fuster from Sueca, Spain, originating from a highly developed agricultural area, asked whether it was possible to create energy from rice straws or orange peelings for example. Enrique Espi explained that all biomass can be converted into energy, biomass being the total quantity of material derived from living organisms (trees, crops, grasses, tree litter, roots, agricultural waste, etc.). Transforming biomass into energy is easier to do in power stations, and it cannot be easily converted into biofuel for transport.
 
Is a new ice-age possible?

Several students raised questions related to the origin of Climate Change issues. Why is the climate changing? What is our ecological footprint? Students from the IES La Malladeta in La Vila Joiosa, Spain posed a question on the possibility of a new ice-age. Although a new ice-age is highly improbable, explained Enrique Espi, there may be areas which may get colder.

Currently the average temperature on the Earth’s surface is 15ºC. Greenhouse gases tend to increase the temperature, but without greenhouse gases and their natural effect no life would be possible as mankind would have to endure freezing temperature of minus 18ºC.

Recently gas concentration has been growing significantly because of burning fossil fuels, land use and agriculture resulting in a 0.6°C increase over the 20th century. For further information please visit
http://www.greenfacts.org/studies/climate_change/index.htm.

Download the chat transcript here (pdf, in Spanish)

Background article

IES La Canal Petrer School, Spain
Teacher: Magdalena Fernández
IES La Canal Petrer School, Spain
Teacher: Magdalena Fernández
Gimnazija Poljane High School, Slovenia
Teacher: Breda Policar
Gimnazija Poljane High School, Slovenia
Teacher: Breda Policar
IES La Malladeta, Spain
Teachers: Emilio Moncho and Jaume Vaello
Gimnazija Poljane High School, Slovenia
Teacher: Breda Policar