Posts filed under ‘Green Scientific Discoveries’
The Bonn climate negotiations which went underway this weekend for a two week period are probably the most important of all the rounds that have taken place thus far. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting is tackling issues like commitment to CO2 levels and the creation of a worldwide carbon trading platform.
Perhaps more interesting than the very first days of the talks, the participants have been issued with a rather informative 16-page document, entitled Information Note, in which the UNFCCC makes careful guesses as to what the practicalities will boil down to of climate change policies globally.
The document is by dint of its nature geared toward the future. Despite being rather vague on the real impact of climate change policies by national governments around the globe, the document is shocking in places. Predicting the biggest overhaul of the global economy ever, the UNFCCC says world citizens ought to brace themselves for a new economic order which will see millions of people lose jobs and others gain jobs. The biggest ripples in the water will be made by industry and companies relocating to areas with more beneficial tariff regulations and/or taxes, the Information Note says.
The impact of environment related tariffs will not be all that different than the impact of any other tariff, but the Information Note points out that the effect of millions of job relocations will be rather tangible. On top of that, we’ll see the introduction of “border carbon adjustments”. This means that some countries will impose a levy on imported goods equal to that which would have been imposed had they been produced domestically under more strict environmental regimes.
Alternatively, exporters might be forced to buy [carbon] offsets at the border. These are going to be massively drastic measures for a rather big number of people involved, but whether the world will be any fairer for it is very very unlikely. At the end of the day, the Information Note reveals, the impact of future environment tariffs will lead to ‘decreased market share for covered foreign producers’. And “such schemes would leave trade and investment patterns unchanged,” the Note adds. Why the bother, you might ask. Why not do a really good job and simply make the world a bit better whilst we’re at it??
It’s issues like these that will have a big impact on the developing nations’ commitment to the environment. As I wrote in a comment (which has yet to be published) on GlobalWarmingIsReal it’s hardly a question whether a 25 percent reduction from 2000 levels by developing countries would be enough (it won’t be). But, the negotiators for the Third World are struggling with how, with these tools, they can achieve reductions at all.
Let’s hope that the richer nations realise this. Let’s hope that people understand that since polluting industries are a historic legacy of the industrialised world, the main responsibility toward the environment falls on the developed nations. In order to persuade developing countries to act, the richer countries have to show they’re completely serious about deep and rapid cuts in their own emissions.
The Europeans are serious about deploying nanotechnology to wean countries off fossil fuels in the next century.
And the good news is that there´s considerable interest from countries around the globe in a round-the-clock solar grid. The logic being that because the sun consistently shines on some part of the planet, we might as well make the most of this constant source of energy.
The ground tone at the recent European Science Foundation conference about Nanotechnology for Sustainable Energy left me with little to guess about; Europe is ready to accelerate development of nano technologies.
The conference focused on solar energy rather than on other sustainable energy sources such as wind. Solar is highly compatible with nanotechnology not least because solar energy conversion holds the greatest promise as a durable replacement of fossil fuels. (more…)
In recent days the news poured in from all corners of the earth; many, many countries are going to force their citizens to change their light bulbs. No joke – 27 countries in Europe, Australia, Canada, Cuba and the Philippines are all eliminating incandescent light bulbs as early as 2010 and replacing them by fluorescent bulbs. And the US 2008 energy bill phases out filament light bulbs for traditional use starting 2012 with an official ban effective in 2014.
It is common knowledge that energy saving Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) decrease lighting energy consumption by a minimum of 40 percent. A new report released last week reveals that the action translates into the elimination of 900 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually in the US by 2030. The report, published by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington calculated that the US alone will gain carbon dioxide savings of 16.6 billion tonnes in that time frame. To put this into perspective; that’s more than twice the amount of carbon emitted in the United States in 2006. (more…)
Solar energy is child’s play. Just use a magnifying glass in the sun and you’re generating energy in a jiffy. It’s what scientists at IBM are doing. They’ve launched what they claim to be breakthrough solar energy which is among the cheapest solar solutions around.
The scientists say they create five times more energy by concentrating the sun’s power through a lens. One square centimeter of solar cell produces as much as 230 watts of energy, the most ever in solar techology.
Having only just pioneered the technology, IBM says it will now focus on commercializing it at an installation cost of less than two dollars per watt. The company believes that it should be possible to produce systems even cheaper than that. The reason that IBM is so confident about this is pure maths; by using a much lower number of photovoltaic cells and concentrating more light onto each cell, they’ll ultimately need less total materials than your average solar farm.
One major hurdle that IBM scientists have yet to tackle is temperature control. Due to the high sunlight concentration – light of the equivalent of 2,000 suns are concentrated- temperatures are also going to be extremely high. The scientists say they will borrow innovations from other IBM R&D staffers specializing in cooling computer chips.
Commercial hemp is a plant that scientists tout as having wonderful capabilities to combat climate change. The plant is outlawed in most countries including the US, but the EU subsidizes industrially grown hemp.
Commercially grown hemp has less than 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THD), the psychedelic substance in ‘real’ cannabis. Most countries that shy away from growing it say they are fearful that farmers will also start growing the THD rich cannabis. Other than in the EU, the crop is grown in Canada, China, Russia and Australia.
Hemp takes in more carbon dioxide than any other plant and what’s more, hemp grows at an amazingly rapid speed. Wood made from hemp has 3-4 times the productivity of trees for paper manufacturing. And because it grows so fast, hemp can be used to solve the large-scale clearing of land and forests around the globe.
Various activists in the US are lobbying to get the crop reinstated. It was outlawed in the 1950s but Henry Ford ran his first car on hemp based fuel. Perhaps soon the activists will have their way. Already, the controlled substances act was amended last year to exclude industrial hemp from the legal definition of marihuana. The Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp informs farmers and interested parties about the positive effects hemp has.
The applications of the crop for the energy industry are manifold and hemp is a way more powerful crop than rapeseed and other ethanol producing crops, without producing any harmful effects for the environment. Only one acre of hemp yields 1,000 gallons of methanol. Also, hemp can be used to create alternatives to coal, fuel oil, acetone, ethyl, tar pitch and creosote.
In the food sector hemp is also in strong demand. In 2004, the US alone imported $12 million worth of the stuff for the food sector. And the US healthcare market used $30 million worth of hemp.
Scientists at UK’s Newcastle University developed an energy efficient way to create a chemical reaction between epoxy and CO2. Big deal, you might think, but the resulting cyclic carbonates are estimated to cut Britain’s greenhouse gas by 4%!
The way it works is that cyclic carbonates are in high demand in the paints, petrol refining and biodegradable packaging industry, but until now the chemical component has been too expensive to create to consider it as a CO2 cutting agent. The process to create the chemical reaction required high temperatures and was therefore highly costly.
But in recent months, the Newcastle scientists found that using aluminum would create the chemical reaction at room temperature. They are now busy devising the most optimal ways to create the commercially very viable cyclic carbonate and the plan is to open a production plant that will manufacture the component for industrial supplies.
As much as 4% of the entire UK’s carbon dioxide can be ‘recyled’ this way, the Newcastle team claims. Professor Michael North who heads up the team says the technology has the potential to use up to 48 million tonnes of waste CO2 per year.
Writers at Carbon Balance and Management have published a study which shows just what happens as the cycle of carbon emissions and climate change reaches its saturation point.
We all know the theory underlying the global warming threat; landmass and oceans contain carbon and exchange carbon dioxide with the atmosphere. As our climate changes, the amount of CO2 absorbed by the land or the oceans changes. The link between the carbon cycle and CO2 emissions might very well only be relevant for the next ‘several centuries. After that, there is no longer a connection between the two.