Refining metal ores is one of those things that’s really, really hard to do without emitting a huge amount of greenhouse gasses. The energy sources behind our material economies are not as easily substitutable with renewables, because what they often require is extreme heat, and sometimes the carbon itself (in the case of steelmaking and concrete). Researchers at MIT are looking at a way of directly refining molten iron oxide directly into pure iron electrolytically that results in very pure iron, and virtually no emissions, and it might work for other oxide refining processes as well.
An interesting Sankey representation of global GHG emissions, from Ecofys, updated with data from… 2010. Yowza. Would be good if we could get much more timely reporting of this stuff.
Hans Rosling, world famous Swedish demographer (how many celebrity statisticians are there?) and creator of the Gapminder data visualization tool, offers some thoughts on the importance of timely and transparent reporting of CO2 emissions. If you’re not familiar with his eye-opening presentations already, check out his several TED Talks on YouTube, or explore two centuries worth of CO2 emissions data visually.
Rosling wants all kinds of public data not only to be easily available, but woven into stories that engage the public:
It’s like that basic rule in nutrition: Food that is not eaten has no nutritional value. Data which is not understood has no value.