So long as the complex machinery of the world keeps ticking, it is established that ramifications, either positive or otherwise, will inevitably occur. Poverty, injustice, discrimination, segregation are just some of few basic complications which were embedded in our recorded history. There is no denying that the current century has come with its own unique merits and challenges, from enduring COVID-19 outbreak to still raging war in Ukraine the world latterly has found itself in a peculiar situation. SARS-CoV-2 was the one of the most spread viruses since Spanish flue 1 and is certainly the most important one world has ever faced post-industrial revolution era. On top of its health impacts, it was the first stone that muddled the pond of global economy. The pandemic basically dislodged the global supply chain 2 in ways that has never experienced prior and before we can see diminishing effects of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine has broken and enforced the catastrophic impacts of COVID-19 both in humanitarian and economic fronts.
Considering the recent developments, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has published Global Risk Perception Survey (GRPS) in its Global Risk Report 2023 3. This survey dissected the precepted risk in short and long-term categories and it is not hard to see the effects of both pandemic and the war in these categories. In addition to well established problems of the globe such as natural disasters and weather events, climate change and failure of climate change adaption, cybercrime and cyber insecurity newly added risks are highlighted, and these new risks are mostly the results of the pandemic and the war. For instance, the disruptions in the global supply chain because of the pandemic and rising energy costs due to the war have caused an increment in cost-of-living 4, thus WEF report emphasizes this as a short-term risk. Large-scale environmental damage incidents 5 and geopolitical fragmentations that carry the risk of further warfare 6 are also both in short- and long-term risk categories.
Although it is convenient to feel downhearted and helpless regarding the fore-mentioned topics, one of the most outstanding qualities of mankind is to tackle the problems which we created in the first place. If one is able to examine the Global Risk Report of WEF broadly, it is clear that most of the mentioned problems can be overcome with the help of science and progress. At its core these issues came into existence either due to lack of raw material or energy and advancements in technology are eventually going to push us to get rid of these problems. The concept of green patent which has been tracked in detail by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 7 is a clear sign of which the world is in the right direction to figure out its both long standing and recently breaking problems. From more effective waste management and sustainable consumption policies 8 to ever increasing efficiency and deployment of renewable energy sources 9, there is no doubt that humanity will prevail and manage both their short- and long-term risks. Green patent is a type of patent designated to products or designs that provide environmental benefits and OECD's green patent tracking numbers demonstrate that there is a significant increment in such patents as of late. Unfortunately, in preset day conditions innovation does not come just for the sake of improving something, there should be either an economic interest or an incentive from higher governmental bodies, and for the green patent applications it is obvious that governmental incentive is there and is working 10.
Effects of economic impact payments as known as stimulus checks and all the post-pandemic money printing has recently caught up with world as rising cost of living and inflation which outlined as a short-term risk in WEF's report 11. Moreover, still yet to recover global supply chain is deepening the bottom line as in shortages of semiconductors and lumber 12. Such issues have arisen due to the distractions in high volume production facilities, lack of low-level assembly workers in such facilities and distribution of these products from manufacturing sites to integration sites. In order to prevent such future occurrences, still young but rapidly developing additive manufacturing (AM) technology known as 3D printing is here to obviate the short comings of current global supply chain system 13. With growing greener AM technology, issues caused by distribution of products and closure of high volume production facilities might be neglected since AM offers in-site fabrication of products. In contrast to widely used subtractive manufacturing (SM) and injection molding techniques, AM has various greener advantages. It has no need for abrasive tools used in SM and by its nature it has significantly less waste product than SM, thus AM is more energy and material effective in most of situations. Although AM is still in its infancy, it is a major technological improvement, and it has the potential to be a more environmentally friendly technique especially considering both the manufacturing and supply chain side 14.
The wars of the past were mainly fought to reach new lands and raw resources, however conflicts of present primarily unfold around energy. No matter how advanced technology has gotten from, for example, old dumb phones to today's do-it-all smart devices, the only things that stay the same are energy storage and production solutions for these devices. It is not difficult to imagine that if humanity can solve its energy production and storage problems, lots of the conflicts we experience today will die out one way or another. Burning fossil fuels is a dual tread because it both causes environmental harm and rapid depletion of raw resources leading potential disputes as mentioned in WEF's report. Although the shift towards renewable energy is a step in the right direction, at its current form it is not an unambiguous solution 15. The well-established nuclear power plants that use nuclear fission technique have their unique nuisances. In the short term, they are very efficient and hassle-free for production of energy compared to other alternatives yet in the long term, we still do not have effective waste management programs 16. Moreover, when mishandled or eventual natural disaster strikes, there are catastrophic outcomes 17. In order to prevent potential future conflicts and to abide by the international promises given for slowing down climate change, nuclear fusion seems our best bet to combat the long-standing energy issues. Nuclear fusion is called the holy-grail of energy production because it has most of the benefits of fission with far less drawbacks and with recent breakthroughs happening in the field spread hope that one day such technology would be commercialized 18. As energy storage solutions lithium-ion and similar composition batteries such as lead acid currently dominate the field. Increasing popularity of electric vehicles and consistently expanding smart mobile devices are multiplying the demand for lithium-ion batteries, but inherit concerns surround this liquid type batteries. At its core mining and processing of lithium for usage as liquid electrolyte in batteries create ecological burden and there is still no feasible recycling process for such liquid electrolyte batteries 19. In contrast to lithium-ion batteries solid state batteries, which use lithium or similar elements as solid electrolytes instead of liquid, are a greener alternative. Notwithstanding the fact that mining of lithium and other rare earth elements remain as an issue, solid state batteries are far more energy dense, have longer shelf life and have no leakage problems 20. All these factors play a huge role in making this state-of-the-art battery technology sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Even though the unique problems the world is facing get more complicated and depressive in each passing year as cited in WEF's report, the ability of humans to cope with such challenges also improves. Ever thriving technological and sociological advancements and looking at problems from environmental point of view will no doubt lead us to a greener and sustainable future. The significant increment in green patent applications as shown by OECD is an indisputable proof that, no matter the circumstances, mankind strives to a worthier future for new generations to come.
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