DEFRA Tabulates Nanotech Impact On Climate Change (but fails to quantify it)

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has released a study exploring some of the ways in which nanotechnology could be used to help combat climate change (download pdf). Not surprisingly, the study identifies similar areas of nanotechnologies to our March study, Nanotech:Cleantech.

Overall, the DEFRA study gives a good overview with a focus on UK policy implications but disappoints in two areas. Firstly there is little sense of whether nanotechnologies will have any impact, with an over use of words like ‘could’, ‘may’ and ‘possibly.’ Our recent report on sustainability actually quantifies the impact based on market forecasts based on, for example, quantification of the penetration of thin film solar into the PV markets.

Secondly the claims that “nanotechnology could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to two per cent in the near term, and up to 20 per cent by 2050 with similar reductions in air pollution” look a little shaky. While the interview based methodology gives a good overview of the technologies, it falls short on quantification of the impact. The numbers are arrived at by making assumptions about the effects of switching to electric cars and phrases such as “the savings offered by nanotechnology are difficult to predict” pepper the attempts at quantification (for comparison, you can see our methodology here).

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