Posts filed under ‘Green Scientific Discoveries’

UN Issues Information Note With Prognosis Of Practical Impact Of New Climate Regulations

image by net_efekt

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.

March 30, 2009 at 10:09 pm Leave a comment

Should We Make A Global Solar Energy Grid?

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…)

March 2, 2009 at 2:37 am Leave a comment

How To Change A Green Lightbulb?

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…)

October 25, 2008 at 10:58 pm Leave a comment

IBM Invents Dirt Cheap Solar Energy Using A Magnifying Glass

IBM_Solar_2_t.jpgSolar 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.

This post also appeared on Triple Pundit, the new blog by Treehugger, to which I contribute freelance articles about the environment and business.

May 17, 2008 at 5:12 pm 3 comments

Hemp Is Outlawed In The US, But The Plant Could Be Key In Combating Global Warming

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.

May 14, 2008 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

Britain To Start Recycling CO2 Waste Into Biodegradable Packaging

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.

May 1, 2008 at 10:12 am Leave a comment

Interactions Between Carbon Dioxide Emissions And Atmospheric Reactions Under The Loup

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.


April 28, 2008 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

Scientists Studying Southern Ocean Find Deep Sea Gets Colder

Scientists who went on a two month expedition to the Southern Ocean say that the Antarctic deep sea gets colder, which might stimulate the circulation of the oceanic water masses. It was the first finding of the expedition and in the next few years they will study information from autonomous buoys to find out if there’s a trend. The scientists studied ocean currents as well as the distribution of temperature, salt content and trace substances in Antarctic sea water whilst aboard an Ocean vessel called the Polarsten and ended their trip in Punta Arenas/Chile. Their findings coincide with satellite image information indicating that last summer the Antarctic sea-ice extent has been the largest on record.

The expedition which counted 58 scientists and two teachers from ten countries aimed to investigate the role of the Southern Ocean for past, present and future climate. Oceanographer Eberhard Fahrbach who led the group said that the sinking water masses in the Southern Ocean play a major role in global climate. „While the last Arctic summer was the warmest on record, we had a cold summer with a sea-ice maximum in the Antarctic. The expedition shall form the basis for understanding the opposing developments in the Arctic and in the Antarctic,“ Fahrbach said. His team also reported they found the smallest iron concentrations ever measured in the ocean. (more…)

April 21, 2008 at 11:10 pm Leave a comment

Bangkok Climate Summit Negotiators Are Playing For Time

The climate change summit in Bangkok which ends tomorrow is not expected to reach much progress. Analysts say that the talks at best will result in an agreement to schedule more rounds of negotiations. The talks which are sponsored by the United Nations, would require new financing if this is the case.

The meeting aimed to draft an accord succeeding the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. The Bangkok talks are the first of what had been planned to be three summits. Some 1,200 delegates from 63 countries are participating. The negotiators are working on the basis of the ‘principle of common but differentiated responsibility’ which they accepted in Bali in 2007. In other words, the new pact will bind all countries to various actions.

These are the opinions of the main countries involved:

China; developed countries should live up to a guideline they agreed on in Bali; 2020 cuts of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

April 3, 2008 at 1:14 pm Leave a comment

New Solar Energy Dye Soon To Be Embedded In Hundreds Of Consumer Products

electrol.jpgOrganic photoelectrochemical, dye-sensitized cells, a new type of solar energy, is expected to hit the market this Summer. The technology, which is easy and cheap to use, will be embedded in hundreds of day-to-day consumer products. The dye cells can be used for windows, building facades, gadgets and even in clothing. The pioneer behind the technology is a Swiss professor named Michael Gratzel, who claims that his invention is more robust than regular photovoltaic panel solutions.

Dye based solar cells are made of titanium oxide nanochrystals. These are coated with light absorbing dye that can be used in various materials including glass and plastic. The dye is immersed in an electrolyte solution. When light reaches the surface, the dye sets free electrons which in turn create ‘holes’ – positive charges as a result of ‘lost electrons’. The titanium dioxide semiconducts and transfers electricity to an electrical circuit and energy is created.


The solar cells convert light to electricity with an efficiency of 7.2 percent, which is a record for this type of cell. Solar panels typically convert 16 percent to 20 percent of light into energy. But the advantage of the organic dye cells is that they also convert low light and that they can be ‘tuned’ for specific wavelengths.

The first company manufacturing dye sensitized solar cells is Konarka, which is based in Lowell, MA. This company announced it had successfully conducted the first-ever demonstration of manufacturing solar cells by highly efficient inkjet printing ten days ago. Konarka is focusing on getting the technology embedded in hundreds of day to day products. In the Summer Konarka is planning on shipping out its first products, mainly gadgets, lights and smart cards.

One drawback of the solution’s first editions was that the electrolyte could start to leak in cases of high temperatures. This has been redressed by altering the electrolyte liquids. Grätzel and his team refined this original design by optimising the sensitiser and using organic dyes based on indoline. This allows the titanium oxide to be thinner, which reduces the electron path length.

Michael Gratzel explained in a recent scientific paper published in Inderscience’s Angewandte Chemie how he’s sophisticated his technology.

March 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm 1 comment

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