Where has winter gone !?…..Is climate crisis knocking at our doors? by Lokesh Kesavan

Lokesh Kesavan

Lokesh Kesavan, TCSM Postdoctoral Reseacher, Department of chemistry

By this time, most of us realized that, something is abnormal in the environment and in the climate due to absconding snowy, cold, sub 0 ℃ weather, which is hallmark condition of Finland during the months, December-March. This raises everyone’s eyebrow with a common question ‘where has winter gone?’ This winter seems to be very warm and all the snow which was about to fall, has gone melted in the sky already and falling as rain. Most importantly, the depressing darkness is completely vanished away from the scene during the daytime. There are people who like unusual warm weather in winter season, but most of the Finnish people like regular bone chilling cold weather. However, what everyone would like to have is the bright sunlight during the daytime of the winter season, which we have been gifted this year by the nature. Wait a minute! Is this truly a life enriching gift or the beginning of disaster? Is climate change crisis finally knocking at our doors? These questions have to be contemplated seriously by meteorologists and other scientists, also by climate change denying politicians.

In 2016, world governments signed a pact called ‘Paris Accord’ under United Nations Framework Convention, in which a goal was set to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2 °C to reduce the risk of global warming and its aftermath effects. This convention laid down a strategy to combat this issue by drafting a comprehensive climate & energy policy for 20/20/20 targets. The targets are 1) 20% reduction in carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) emission 2) 20% hike in renewable energy’s market share and 3) 20% climb in energy efficiency. Every nation is working towards these targets right now and huge amounts research carried out in the wake up to this deal. Most of the research dedicated to bring down the dependencies on depleting, high carbon footprint leaving fossil resources and focus more on renewable bio-resources. Now, let us ask ourselves, ‘Are we part of this game?’ What is our role in containing the climate crisis?

‘Biofuture’ is one of the collaborative research themes of TCSM, under which our current research is aiming at mitigating waste carbon dioxide (CO2) into valuable products such as chemicals, fuels, polymers etc. Recycling of CO2 has been a motivating topic for materials chemists like me and involving renewable materials such as cellulose, lignin and renewable energy e.g. solar power to convert CO2 into consumer products is a fascinating subject of exploration. Presently, we are working on cellulose derived reduced graphene oxide materials to catalyze the electro-reduction of CO2 in collaboration with KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. Apart from this ‘Biofuture’ theme, the University of Turku itself has its own umbrella initiative called ‘Zerocarbon’ research. Under this strategic vision, we collaborate with molecular plant biotechnologists to develop catalyst materials for microorganisms involved artificial photosynthesis for carbon neutral future solutions.

In line with the goal of reduction in CO2 emission, another cross border collaborations has just happened with University of Novi Sad, Serbia under ERASMUS staff mobility program. In the maiden visit to Novi Sad, UTU developed catalyst materials were tested for hydrogen production from water, which is another intriguing topic in the present times. Hydrogen is perceived to be next generation fuel, has the potential to replace CO2 emitting fossil fuels. This research is ongoing with the forthcoming researcher visit form Novi Sad in May 2020 to UTU. The present developments exhibits that we as UTU are certainly part of this game (Combating Climate Change) and we are proud of working on these during our University’s centennial time.

Wish you everyone on 100th Year Anniversary of UTU !

Lokesh Kesavan
TCSM Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Chemistry

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