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Climate Change Raises Mosquito-Borne Disease Risk

Students who are beneficiaries of the activities financed by UNICEF and developed together with their humanitarian partners. This photograph was taken as part of the coverage of recreational days for the prevention of Zika, during the development of the theater play "La Zancuda Patirrayas and the Zika Virus." Manta, Manabí, Ecuador. March 2, 2017. (Photo by UNICEF) Creative Commons License va Flickr

Students who are beneficiaries of the activities financed by UNICEF and developed together with their humanitarian partners. This photograph was taken as part of the coverage of recreational days for the prevention of Zika, during the development of the theater play “La Zancuda Patirrayas and the Zika Virus.” Manta, Manabí, Ecuador. March 2, 2017. (Photo by UNICEF) Creative Commons License va Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BATH, Somerset, United Kingdom, November 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Present-day climate change could result in the spread of deadly mosquito-borne diseases to new places or their return to areas where they have already been eradicated, scientists are warning, based on the largest-ever study of the mosquito evolutionary tree, going back 195 million years.

These diseases – such as malaria, Yellow fever, Zika virus, and Dengue fever – cause millions of deaths each year.

While many of these diseases have been eradicated from Europe and are under control in other parts of the world, resurgence is possible.

New research from British and Chinese scientists at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, University of York  and China Agricultural University, shows that the rate at which new species of mosquitos evolve increases when levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are higher.

Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2017 was 405 parts per million (ppm), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm.

The scientists say this is concerning because the greater the number of mosquito species, the more potential exists for new ways of vectoring diseases, and perhaps for new variants of those diseases.

Professor Matthew Wills, from the University of Bath’s Milner Centre for Evolution, said, “It’s only the female mosquitos that take a blood meal, and they use the CO2 that mammals and other vertebrates exhale as a very general cue to locate their hosts.”

“One line of thinking is that as ambient levels of atmospheric CO2 rose, as they have done in recent decades, mosquitos may have found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the CO2 from their hosts and those background levels,” Wills speculated.

“Vision, body heat and other smells might then have become more important in locating their blood meals, but many of these cues tend to be more specific to particular hosts,” said Wills. “As a general rule, we know that strong host specificity can be an important driver of speciation within parasites, and the same may be true in mosquitos.”

The Bath, York and China Agricultural research found that while there is a link between rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and mosquito diversification, the association is more complicated than previously thought. Other factors – such as the diversity of mammalian hosts – contribute to an increase in the species richness of mosquitos.

Dr. Katie Davis, from the University of York’s Department of Biology, said, “We found that the increase in the diversity of mammals led directly to a rise in the number of mosquito species, and also that there is a relationship between CO2 levels and the number of mammal species.”

“But there are still missing pieces of this puzzle, so we can still only speculate at this stage,” she said.

“It is important to look at the evolution of the mosquito against climate change because mosquitos are responsive to CO2 levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently rising due to changes in the environment that are connected to human activity, so what does this mean for the mosquito and human health?

“Despite some uncertainties, we can now show that mosquito species are able to evolve and adapt to climate change in high numbers. With increased speciation, however, comes the added risk of disease increase and the return of certain diseases in countries that had eradicated them or never experienced them before.”

Chufei Tang, formerly at the Milner Centre for Evolution and now at the China Agricultural University, said, “The rising atmospheric CO2 has been proven to influence various kinds of organisms, but this is the first time such impact has been found on insects. This research provides yet another reason for people to participate in low-carbon lifestyles.”

More research is needed to understand what climate change means for the future of the mosquito, and this research is expected to contribute to further discussions about the value of mosquitos to the ecosystem and how to manage the diseases they carry.

The study, Tang et al (2018) “Elevated atmospheric CO2 promoted speciation in mosquitoes (Diptera, Culicidae)” is published in the journal “Communications Biology,” DOI: 10.1038/s42003-018-0191-7.

Featured Image: Mosquitos, Eldorado, Misiones Province, Argentina, 2012 (Photo by Oscar Fava) Public domain


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EU Planes, Ships Struggle With Emissions

Container ships in the Port of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 19, 2017 (Photo by Frans Berkelaar) Creative commons license via Flickr

Container ships in the Port of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 19, 2017 (Photo by Frans Berkelaar) Creative commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, February 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Aircraft made today are 80 percent more fuel efficient per passenger kilometer than those produced in the 1960s. But improving fuel efficiency to cut emissions and other gradual measures won’t be enough for the aviation and shipping sectors to meet European sustainability targets, finds a new report from the European Environment Agency.

Instead, a major shift in consumer behavior and the adoption of more innovative, ambitious green technologies to power aircraft and sea-faring cargo ships is needed to reduce their long-term carbon footprint, says the EEA in its “Transport and Environment Reporting Mechanism (TERM)” report, TERM 2017 

The two sectors have seen tremendous growth over the past few years amid a general surge in economic growth,  stimulating international trade and travel.

As they have grown, these sectors have come under increased scrutiny from regulators due to their rising emissions and questions over whether they can meet European Union decarbonization goals.

Air transport now represents two to three percent of global human-made CO2 emissions.

By 2050, global aviation and shipping together are forecast to spew out almost 40 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions unless actions are taken to curb them.

Transport, including aviation and shipping, contributes to air pollution and a host of other environmental pressures on ecosystems and is the main source of environmental noise in Europe.

The industries are not deaf to calls for change.

At the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly in 2016, ICAO’s Member States adopted a global carbon offsetting plan for international aviation – the first global scheme covering an entire industrial sector.

ICAO’s Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is a global market mechanism for reducing air transport CO2 emissions.

CORSIA is set to begin with a five-year voluntary period (2021-2026) after which it will become mandatory.

By the end of the ICAO Assembly, 65 states had volunteered to implement the scheme from its outset, covering about 80 percent of the expected CO2 growth in 2021-2035.

Individual airlines, too, are acting to cut emissions.

Last December at the World Efficiency Fair, one year after the ICAO’s adoption of the historic agreement to create a global market mechanism for cutting air transport CO2 emissions, Air France presented what the company calls an Engagement for Green Growth (ECV).

Officials from three French ministries joined the presentation along with reps of four other French industrial groups: Airbus, Safran, Suez and Total.

Their ECV aims to promote the emergence of sustainable aviation biofuel industries, in economically viable conditions that integrate circular economy principles. The plan is to rapidly create the conditions for establishing these industries in France.

Sustainable aviation biofuel has been identified as one of the most promising ways to meet the ambitious targets of stabilizing CO2 emissions generated by global air transport as soon as 2020.

Jean-Marc Janaillac, chairman and CEO of Air France-KLM and Chairman of the Air France Board of Directors, said, “Every day, Air France is committed to building the travel experience of the future. We want the experience to be enjoyable, innovative and responsible. I am very pleased to announce the signature of this ECV which confirms our commitment to reducing the environmental footprint of our activities and our active contribution to the air transport industry of the future.”

ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations for aviation. Its sister organization, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), does the same for shipping.

Shipping Industry Recognizes Sustainable Development Goals

Last year’s IMO Assembly in late November was the largest-ever gathering at IMO Headquarters in London, attended by 1,400 participants, including 56 ministers, from 165 Member States.

The Assembly adopted its strategic plan for 2018-2023, placing the IMO on the path to supporting the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

One of the seven strategic directions in that plan is, “Respond to climate change – developing appropriate, ambitious and realistic solutions to minimize shipping’s contribution to air pollution and its impact on climate change.”

For the first time, the IMO declared a vision statement, which includes recognition of “the need to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Big shippers are getting on the sustainability bandwagon too. Philips Lighting and Maersk Line, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, were awarded the “Business to Business Partnership of the Year” at the Responsible Business Awards 2017.

Maersk Line expects to reduce carbon emissions related to containers shipped for Philips Lighting by 20 percent before 2020.

Kaisa Helena Tikk, Maersk’s Global Sustainability Advisor in Transport & Logistics, said, “We discuss customers’ sustainability challenges and identify actions to jointly work on, as well as look at trading patterns and developments in our fleet to suggest how to reduce carbon footprint five years from now.”

Yet, despite their good intentions, the aviation and shipping industries face complex challenges in reducing their environmental impacts. Both are locked into established ways of operating that can be tough to change, the EEA report points out.

Past investments in conventional airport and seaport infrastructure delay the uptake of more sustainable technologies and alternative cleaner modes of transport.

The long lifespan of airplanes and vessels blocks a faster shift to cleaner technologies.

The international aviation and maritime sectors benefit from tax exemptions on fossil fuels, which also can act as a barrier to change. There is little research on cleaner fuels.

Yet something needs to be done quickly to curb aviation and shipping emissions, the EEA urges.

Emissions from the sector have increased over each of the past four years (2013-2016), at an average rate of almost two percent each year, the EEA calculates.

Greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping in the EU’s 28 Member States have increased by 22 percent since 1990, the highest increase of any sector except international aviation.

The EEA’s TERM 2017 report stresses the key role of governments in supporting investment in research, product standards and subsidies for new emerging technologies and to spur the sharing of data and information on the viability of new technologies.

In the long term, efforts to promote debate on sustainable travel and consumer behavior and changes to lifestyles and transport habits can also help reduce CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts associated with aviation and shipping.

The EEA says measures to reduce transport’s future impacts on the environment now must be designed with a holistic perspective in mind by considering how demand for conventional transport services can be managed while adhering to the principles of sustainable development.


Featured Image: Air France Boeing 747-400 creates a smokescreen on landing. Montreal International Airport, May 2009 (Photo by Patrick Cardinal) Creative commons license via Flickr

Waste Mgt

Permafrost Not So Permanent Any More

Oregon State University and University of Michigan researchers discovered that a key combination of sunlight and microbes can convert permafrost organic matter in the Arctic to carbon dioxide. May 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy Rose Cory, University of Michigan) creative Commons license via Flickr

Oregon State University and University of Michigan researchers discovered that a key combination of sunlight and microbes can convert permafrost organic matter in the Arctic to carbon dioxide. May 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy Rose Cory, University of Michigan) creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, January 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Global warming will thaw about 20 percent more permafrost than previously thought, scientists are warning, potentially releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Scientists estimate that there is more carbon contained in the frozen permafrost than now exists in the atmosphere.

The extent of permafrost regions makes them a global issue. A quarter of the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere consists of permafrost soils, which have been frozen solid for thousands of years. A third of the world’s coastlines are permafrost and span Canada, Greenland, Norway and Siberia and the U.S. state of Alaska.

Permafrost, which covers 15 million square kilometers of the land surface, is extremely sensitive to climate warming. Researchers warn that loss of permafrost would radically change high-latitude hydrology and biogeochemical cycling.

Permafrost soils contain ancient, frozen organic matter. If permafrost begins to thaw, bacteria breaks down the organic matter, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. This leads to greater warming of the Earth’s climate.

How much warming is unclear, because many of the processes associated with permafrost thaw are not yet understood. But in the past year or two, more and more scientists are pursuing this knowledge.

An international research study, written by climate change experts from Norway’s University of Oslo, Sweden’s Stockholm University, and the UK’s National Meteorological Service, the University of Leeds and University of Exeter, reveals that permafrost is more sensitive to the effects of global warming than previously thought.

The study, published last April in the journal “Nature Climate Change,” indicates that nearly four million square kilometers of frozen soil – an area larger than India – could be lost for every additional degree of global warming experienced.

Permafrost is frozen soil that has been at a temperature of below 0ºC for at least two years. Large quantities of carbon are stored in organic matter trapped in the icy permafrost soils. When permafrost thaws, the organic matter starts to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which increase global temperatures.

Thawing permafrost has potentially damaging consequences, not just for greenhouse gas emissions, but also the stability of buildings located in high-latitude cities.

Roughly 35 million people live in the permafrost zone, with three cities built on continuous permafrost along with many smaller communities. A widespread thaw could cause the ground to become unstable, putting roads and buildings at risk of collapse.

Recent studies have shown that the Arctic is warming at around twice the rate as the rest of the world, with permafrost already starting to thaw across large areas.

The researchers, from Sweden and Norway as well as the UK, suggest that the huge permafrost losses could be averted if ambitious global climate targets are met.

Lead-author Dr. Sarah Chadburn of the University of Leeds said, “A lower stabilization target of 1.5ºC would save approximately two million square kilometres of permafrost.

Achieving the ambitious Paris Agreement climate targets could limit permafrost loss. For the first time we have calculated how much could be saved.”

In the study, researchers used a novel combination of global climate models and observed data to deliver a robust estimate of the global loss of permafrost under climate change.

The team looked at the way that permafrost changes across the landscape, and how this is related to the air temperature.

They then considered possible increases in air temperature in the future, and converted these to a permafrost distribution map using their observation-based relationship. This allowed them to calculate the amount of permafrost that would be lost under proposed climate stabilisation targets.

As co-author Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter explained, “We found that the current pattern of permafrost reveals the sensitivity of permafrost to global warming.”

The study suggests that permafrost is more susceptible to global warming that previously thought, as stabilizing the climate at 2ºC above pre-industrial levels would lead to thawing of more than 40 percent of today’s permafrost areas.

Co-author Dr. Eleanor Burke, from the Met Office Hadley Centre, said, “The advantage of our approach is that permafrost loss can be estimated for any policy-relevant global warming scenario. The ability to more accurately assess permafrost loss can hopefully feed into a greater understanding of the impact of global warming and potentially inform global warming policy.”

In October, American researchers sounded their own permafrost alarm.

In a research study published in the journal “Nature Communications” and supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, scientists found that both sunlight and the right community of microbes are keys to the conversion of permafrost carbon to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Oregon State University say the stakes are high because there is more carbon stored in the frozen permafrost than in the atmosphere. This carbon has accumulated over millions of years by plants growing and dying, with a very slow decaying process because of the freezing weather.

“We’ve long known that microbes convert the carbon into CO2, but previous attempts to replicate the Arctic system in laboratory settings have failed,” said Byron Crump, an Oregon State University (OSU) biogeochemist and co-author on the study. “As it turns out, that is because the laboratory experiments did not include a very important element – sunlight.”

“When the permafrost melts and stored carbon is released into streams and lakes in the Arctic, it gets exposed to sunlight, which enhances decay by some microbial communities, and destroys the activity for other communities,” Crump explained.

“Different microbes react differently, but there are hundreds, even thousands of different microbes out there, and it turns out that the microbes in soils are well-equipped to eat sunlight-exposed permafrost carbon,” he said.

As the climate continues to warm, there will be consequenses for the Arctic, says Crump, who is a faculty member in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“The long-term forecast for the Arctic tundra ecosystem is for the warming to lead to shrubs and bigger plants replacing the tundra, which will provide shade from the sunlight,” Crump said. “That is considered a negative feedback. But there also is a positive feedback, in that seasons are projected to expand.”

“Spring will arrive earlier, and fall will be later, and more water and carbon will enter lakes and streams with more rapid degradation of carbon,” said Crump.

“Which feedback will be stronger? No one can say for sure.”

Indigenous Coastal Peoples Losing Homes Built on Permafrost

In November, a team of European scientists, coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, concluded that retreating permafrost coasts threaten the fragile Arctic environment.

Now they are exploring the consequences for the global climate and for the people living in the Arctic.

Working together with residents of the Arctic region, the researchers will co-design strategies for the future that will help them cope with ongoing climate change.

Researchers have known for years that the permafrost is thawing ever more rapidly due to climate change. Yet they still don’t know exactly what consequences this will have for the global climate, or for the people living there.

Experts from 27 research institutions will spend the next five years answering this research question and determining the role of permafrost coastlines in the Earth’s climate system.

The EU project is named Nunataryuk, which translates as “land to sea” in Inuvialuit, a traditional language spoken on the west coast of Canada, will investigate coasts – the interface between land and sea.

Nunataryuk is unique because the scientists collaborate closely with local communities to determine how they can best adapt to thawing permafrost.

“What makes the project stand out is the fact that we’ll study both the global and the local impacts of this thawing, with co-designed projects in local communities,” says Alfred Wegener Institute geoscientist Hugues Lantuit, the project’s coordinator.

“The models view the permafrost as a uniform field, thawing from the top down, but that’s too simple,” Lantuit explains. “For example, on coastlines, permafrost is increasingly crumbling due to the effects of waves. The Arctic coastline is now receding by more than half a meter every year. The models don’t take this into account.”

The thawed soil, together with all of its carbon and nutrients, is now increasingly being transported to the Arctic Ocean by rivers and streams. This factor isn’t reflected in the computer models either, says Lantuit.

The Arctic also has large amounts of permafrost beneath the ocean floor. And scientists have no idea how rapidly these areas will thaw as the climate changes.

In the Nunataryuk project, scientists will for the first time feed a comprehensive map of coastal areas into climate models.

To gauge how much greenhouse gas is being released by coastal areas and the seafloor, airplane and helicopter flights will carry instruments used to measure the carbon dioxide and methane levels in the air.

Lantuit said, “Only then will the climate models be able to better estimate the thawing’s effects on the Earth’s climate.”

One of the Nunataryuk project teams will be tasked with determining the future environmental costs that we can expect to see in the future – in other words, the costs of permafrost thaw to the global economy.”

People living on the coasts of permafrost regions are already at risk: if the ground becomes too soft and fails, they lose their homes. Water pipes can break. Some oil and gas lines have already started to leak, contaminating soils.

The increased load of organic material coming from eroding permafrost soils at the coast is changing the marine habitat.

In the best case, this could increase the amount of nutrients available to marine organisms, especially fish.

On the other hand, it might harm the ecosystem. Contaminants and pathogens that have remained frozen in the soil for millennia could migrate into coastal waters.

“All of these aspects are of course very important to local populations, which is why we’ll work together with them over the next five years to devise new strategies and solutions,” Lantuit explains.

To make that happen, the soils will be precisely surveyed and mapped to identify areas that are thawing only slowly, or are solid and firm, providing locations where new houses can be safely built.

Says Lantuit, “We’re especially happy that the indigenous populations, which have lived in these regions for thousands of years, are also actively involved.”

Birds, Animals Suffer From Melting Permafrost

Two young ecologists from Germany’s University of Münster are studying the serious consequences fires on permafrost can have for vegetation, soils and endangered bird species. Even decades after the last fire, impacts on plant communities are clearly visible.

They presented their results at the Ecology Across Borders conference in Ghent, Belgium in December.

PhD student Ramona Heim from Professor Norbert Hölzel’s working group at the Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, compared two study sites in northeastern Russia, where the last fires occurred 11 and more than 30 years ago.

At the younger site, soil temperature and permafrost depth were higher and lichen cover was much reduced. Moss, grass and herb species were more abundant compared to control sites nearby.

The change in vegetation structure has important long-term consequences for plant communities, microclimates and animals depending on certain plants or structures. For instance, reindeer need specific lichens in their diet, These are less abundant even decades after a fire.

The surveys were conducted in cooperation with Andrey Yurtaev of the University of Tyumen and nine students from Russia and Germany.

Wieland Heim, another member of Hölzel’s working group, investigated the effects of the ever-increasing fires on breeding birds and plant communities in wetlands at Russia’s Muravioka Park.

While many plant species benefitted from the fires and the resulting niches and nutrients available, the diversity of bird species declined. Birds, such as ground and reed breeders that rely on special microhabitats were among the losers.

“Since fires usually break out in spring during the breeding season and many birds do not produce a second brood, the expanding and more frequent fires can have serious consequences for their reproduction,” reports Wieland Heim.


Featured image: Darker shades of purple indicate higher percentages of permanently frozen ground. (Map courtesy Philippe Rekacewicz UNEP/GRID Arendal) Posted for media use 

Grant_Writing

Trending Discovery Clears CO2, Creates Energy

At the University of Central Florida, Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo's blue LED photoreactor breaks down CO2. (Photo by Bernard Wilchusky / UCF) Posted for media use

At the University of Central Florida, Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo’s blue LED photoreactor breaks down CO2. (Photo by Bernard Wilchusky / UCF) Posted for media use

ORLANDO, Florida, January 9, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The work of a chemistry professor in Florida who discovered a way to turn greenhouse gas into clean air and produce energy at the same time has attracted the most attention of all the thousands of science news items posted last year on EurekAlert! the online, global information service operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The process, which triggers photosynthesis in a synthetic material, has great potential for creating a technology that could reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy.

Attracting 898,848 views since April, the University of Central Florida release and video about the research of Assistant Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo is also the most-visited in the science-news service’s 21-year history and surpassed its 2016 predecessor by 116 percent.

“This work is a breakthrough,” said Uribe-Romo. “Tailoring materials that will absorb a specific color of light is very difficult from the scientific point of view, but from the societal point of view we are contributing to the development of a technology that can help reduce greenhouse gases.”

The findings of his research are published in the “Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Uribe-Romo and his team of students created a way to trigger a chemical reaction in a synthetic material called metal-organic frameworks that breaks down the most abundant greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into harmless organic materials.

The artificial photosynthesis process is similar to the way plants convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and sunlight into food. But instead of producing food, Uribe-Romo’s method produces solar fuel.

Scientists around the world have been seeking a way to do this for years, but the challenge has been finding a way for visible light to trigger the chemical transformation.

Ultraviolet rays have enough energy to allow the reaction in common materials such as titanium dioxide, but UVs make up only about four percent of the light Earth receives from the Sun.

The visible range – the violet to red wavelengths – represent the majority of the Sun’s rays, but there are few materials that pick up these light colors to create the chemical reaction that transforms CO2 into fuel.

Researchers have tried it with a variety of materials, but the ones that can absorb visible light tend to be rare and expensive materials such as platinum, rhenium and iridium that make the process cost-prohibitive.

Uribe-Romo used titanium, a common nontoxic metal, and added organic molecules that act as light-harvesting antennae to see if that configuration would work.

The light harvesting antenna molecules, called N-alkyl-2-aminoterephthalates, can be designed to absorb specific colors of light when incorporated in the metal-organic frameworks.

In his lab, Uribe-Romo synchronized it for the color blue.

His team assembled a blue LED photoreactor to test out the hypothesis. Measured amounts of CO2 were slowly fed into the photoreactor – a glowing blue cylinder – to see if the reaction would occur. The glowing blue light comes from strips of LED lights inside the chamber of the cylinder and mimics the Sun’s blue wavelength.

It worked. The chemical reaction transformed the CO2 into two reduced forms of carbon, formate and formamides – two kinds of solar fuel. In the process the air was cleaned of the greenhouse gas.

“The goal is to continue to fine tune the approach so we can create greater amounts of reduced carbon so it is more efficient,” Uribe-Romo said.

To see Uribe-Romo explain the process in his own words, click here.

He wants to see if the other wavelengths of visible light may also trigger the reaction with adjustments to the synthetic material. If they do, the process could become an important way to help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“The idea would be to set up stations that capture large amounts of CO2, like next to a power plant,” explained Uribe-Romo. “The gas would be sucked into the station, go through the process and recycle the greenhouse gases while producing energy that would be put back into the power plant.”

Homeowners of the future may be able to buy rooftop shingles made of the material, which would clean the air in their neighborhoods while producing energy that could be used to power their homes.

“That would take new technology and infrastructure to happen,” Uribe-Romo said. “But it may be possible.”

Eurekalert! officials paid tribute to the information officers at universities who write the press releases explaining some highly technical research.

Brian Lin, director of editorial content strategy at EurekAlert!, said, “Several of this year’s trending releases – including our all-time record-breaker – were based on very technical scientific papers which, without the efforts of public information officers, may have attracted little public attention.”

The 10 most popular news releases on EurekAlert! in 2017 were:

  1.  Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air (898,848 views) University of Central Florida, Journal of Materials Chemistry A
  2. Migratory birds bumped off schedule as climate change shifts spring (484,976) Florida Museum of Natural History, Scientific Reports
  3.  Gene therapy treats muscle-wasting disease in dogs (339,099) University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine, Molecular Therapy
  4. America’s youngest children most likely to live in poor economic conditions (333,716) Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health
  5. New research helps organizations deliver stronger diversity training (288,700) University at Buffalo, Psychological Bulletin
  6. In young bilingual children two languages develop simultaneously but independently (268,129) Florida Atlantic University, Developmental Science
  7. Watching birds near your home is good for your mental health – official (247,763) University of Exeter, BioScience
  8. Fruits and vegetables’ latest superpower? Lowering blood pressure (140,145) University of Southern California – Health Sciences, American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism
  9. Are we being watched? Tens of other worlds could spot the Earth (134,271) Royal Astronomical Society, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
  10.  Scientists find key to regenerating blood vessels (132,145) Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Nature Communications

Featured image : Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo and his team have triggered a chemical reaction in a synthetic material that breaks down carbon dioxide into harmless organic materials and produces solar fuel. (Photo by Bernard Wilchusky / UCF) Posted for media use

Europe’s ‘Clean Energy Revolution’

solarpowertower

Gemasolar was the first commercial-scale plant in the world to apply central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. The molten salt storage tank permits independent electrical generation for up to 15 hours without any solar feed. May 7, 2009, Seville, Spain. (Photo by Markel Redondo / Greenpeace)

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – To keep the EU competitive as renewables displace fossil fuels, shaking up global energy markets, the European Commission has proposed a new package of measures to “equip all European citizens and businesses with the means to make the most of the clean energy transition.”

The “Clean Energy for All Europeans” legislative proposals are designed to show that, as the Commission said, “the clean energy transition is the growth sector of the future – that’s where the smart money is.”

The measures are aimed at establishing the EU as a leader of the clean energy transition, not just a country that adapts to a renewable energy future as required by the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, which more than 100 nations have now formally joined.

In October 2014 the European Council, composed of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, agreed on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework for the EU.

That’s why the EU has committed to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) by at least 40 percent by 2030, less than 15 years away.

Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution,” said Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete.

And just as we did in Paris, we can only get this right if we work together.

With these proposals, said Cañete, the Commission has cleared the way to a more competitive, modern and cleaner energy system. “Now,” he said, “we count on European Parliament and our Member States to make it a reality.”

If the new proposals become law, EU consumers of the future may have the possibility of producing and selling their own electricity, a better choice of supply, and access to reliable energy price comparison tools.

Increased transparency and better regulation give civil society more opportunities to become more involved in the energy system and respond to price signals.

The package also contains several measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable consumers.

The EU is consolidating the enabling environment for the transition to a low carbon economy with a range of interacting policies and instruments reflected under the Energy Union Strategy, one of the 10 priorities of the Juncker Commission.

junckerjean-claude

Caption: Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker briefs the European Parliament, Oct. 26, 2016 (Photo © European Union 2016 – European Parliament”) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

In his State of the Union Address to the European Parliament, September 14, President Jean-Claude Juncker emphasized investment.

The €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe, which we agreed just 12 months ago, has already raised €116 billion in investments in its first year of operation. And now we will take it further,” said President Juncker, doubling down on the EU’s future.

We propose to double the duration of the Fund and double its financial capacity to provide a total of at least €500 billion of investments by 2020,” Juncker said.

The Commission has already offered CO2 reduction proposals. In 2015, the executive body proposed to reform the EU Emission Trading System to ensure the energy sector and energy intensive industries deliver the needed emissions reductions.

Last summer, the Commission proposed ways of accelerating the low-carbon transition in other key sectors of the European economy.

Today’s proposals present the key remaining pieces to fully implement the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework on renewables and energy efficiency.

All the Energy Union related legislative proposals presented by the Commission in 2015 and 2016 need to be addressed as a priority by the European Parliament and Council.

Modernising the EU’s economy is key, said Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic. “Having led the global climate action in recent years,” he said, “Europe is now showing by example by creating the conditions for sustainable jobs, growth and investment.

Clean energies, in total, attracted global investment of over €300 billion in 2015, and the Commission sees opportunity for the EU in the clean energy wave of the near future.

By mobilising up to €177 billion of public and private investment a year from 2021, this package can generate up to one percent increase in GDP over the next decade and create 900,000 new jobs, the Commission said.

The Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative proposals cover energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for the Energy Union.

The Commission also proposes a new way forward for Ecodesign, the law that sets minimum mandatory requirements for the energy efficiency of household appliances, information and communication technologies and engineering.

The package includes actions to accelerate clean energy innovation, to renovate Europe’s buildings and a strategy for connected and automated mobility.

Commissioner Cañete said, “I’m particularly proud of the binding 30 percent energy efficiency target, as it will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions.

Our proposals provide a strong market pull for new technologies,” he said, “set the right conditions for investors, empower consumers, make energy markets work better and help us meet our climate targets.

Links to all documents in the Clean Energy package:


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Investors Assess Their Climate Risks

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Greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired cogeneration Hanasaari B power plant at sunset in Helsinki, Finland, March 9, 2013 (Photo by Fintrvlr) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

OAKLAND, California, October 20, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Investors are being put on notice that some mutual funds and exchange traded funds labeled “sustainable,” “ecology,” “green” or “integrity” may actually have very high carbon footprints.

Now, a free software tool that empowers investors to track the carbon pollution that companies embedded in their funds are emitting has expanded its analysis to cover funds worth US$11 trillion.

FossilFreeFunds.org, a website created by the environmental advocacy nonprofit As You Sow, has added carbon footprinting of over $11 trillion in global mutual funds and ETFs to the site – the largest-ever analysis of this kind.

Fossil fuel investments carry real financial risks,” says FossilFreeFunds.org on its site. Their analysis covers more than 8,500 global mutual funds, including 3,000 of the most commonly-held funds in U.S. retirement plans, so that all investors can be aware of the climate risk in their retirement accounts, with financial data provided by Morningstar.

In August, Morningstar introduced a Sustainability Rating for Funds that offers an objective way to evaluate how investments are meeting environmental, social, and governance challenges, helping investors put their money where their values are.

Transparency leads to transformation,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “Measuring a company’s carbon emissions is a critical way to understand the specific climate risk of your investments.

We have aggregated this data for all of the companies embedded in each of the 8,500 most-held global mutual funds and ETFs,” said Behar. “This tool enables every investor to answer the question, ‘Am I investing in my own destruction or the clean energy future?

The analysis uses data from global sustainability solutions provider South Pole Group, and yourSRI.com, a carbon data analyst and reporting solution provider for responsible investments.

Intially, the analysis will cover funds in Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. The developers plan to expand to include every fund in every exchange around the world.

Institutional investors such as California’s CalPERS and Sweden’s AP4 have embraced carbon footprinting as a way to protect their assets from climate risk.

Major index providers are increasingly offering low-carbon options that incorporate a footprinting analysis.

Traditional fossil-free investment approaches avoid companies with reserves of coal, oil, and gas that represent potential future emissions.

Carbon footprinting turns the focus to current greenhouse gas emissions, helping reveal businesses that operate with higher and lower footprints than their industry peers.

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ConocoPhillips oil refinery, Rodeo, California, December 11, 2012 (Photo by ah zut) Creative Commons license via Flickr

As You Sow explains that, “Carbon footprinting a mutual fund means accounting for the quantification and management of greenhouse gases. It is the first step towards understanding an investor’s impact on climate change.

A carbon footprint is calculated by measuring and/or estimating the quantities and assessing the sources of various greenhouse gas emissions that can be directly or indirectly attributed to the activities of the underlying holdings.

 “Decarbonizing” a portfolio involves investing in companies that have lower carbon footprints than their peers.

The FossilFreeFunds.org platform allows investors to see real scores that are updated every month with Morningstar’s latest holdings data.

A few examples from the analysis:

  • Given that BlackRock recently published a major report on portfolio climate risk, it may be a surprise that the BlackRock Basic Value Fund’s (MABAX) has a carbon footprint 170 percent higher than its benchmark, the Russell 1000 Value Index.
  • Dimensional Social Core Equity (DSCLX) has 85 percent more carbon than the MSCI All World Index, with 13 percent of the portfolio made up of fossil fuel companies including Shell, BP, and tar sands giant Suncor.
  • The State Street SPDR S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF (SPYX) holds 40 fossil fuel companies, including companies with reserves like Phillips66, Valero, and Marathon; coal fired utilities Duke Energy and Southern Company, and oil field services leader Halliburton.

Having funds with smaller footprints is one way to avoid climate risk,” said Andrew Montes, director of digital strategies at As You Sow. “It also actively rewards companies that have made positive decisions to lower the climate impact of their operations.

Investor demand will drive fund managers to drop companies with high carbon footprints and include those companies that are shifting to the clean energy economy,” explained Montes.

By providing a way to examine carbon demand and consider the value chain when measuring climate impact, the data can help investors large and small reconcile their investing with their values.


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CO2 Level Hits 15 Million-Year High

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In 2016, 1.2 million people in the African country of Sudan have been affected by El Niño-induced drought as well as floods. August 24, 2016 (Photo by Anouk Delafortrie / EU/ECHO) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Record high global levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, were measured in September at over 400 parts per million for the first time in 15 million years, jolting leaders into awareness that Earth’s climate is changing quickly.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) urged world leaders to take note of the profound implications of record-high carbon dioxide readings this month and appealed for their increased commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It is deeply disturbing to learn that global levels of 400 parts per million have now been reached in September for the first time,” said Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The last time CO2 levels were this high was 15 to 20 million years ago,” Glasser exclaimed.

A 2009 study published in the journal “Science” found that the last time in Earth’s history when CO2 levels in the atmosphere were this high for a sustained period was between 15 and 20 million years ago.

Then, according to the study, temperatures were between three and six degrees Celsius warmer than today. Ice sheets, the study said, had melted to the point where sea levels rose between 25 and 40 metres.

The lowest levels of CO2 are traditionally recorded September. So, says Glasser, it is not likely that we will see CO2 levels below 400 parts per million anytime soon.

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A balloon over seven metres high outside UN Headquarters in New York represents one metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2). The balloon is part of a project co-sponsored by the Government of Chile and the United Nations to draw attention to the quantities of CO2 produced per person per year. January 27, 2012 (Photo by Mark Garten / UN) Posted for media use .

We know that the safe level is well below this,” he said. “It also means that we are systematically raising levels of disaster risk for future generations and we can expect more severe weather events in the years ahead.

UNISDR serves as the focal point for disaster reduction coordination between the UN and regional organizations. Its work is applied to climate change adaptation; building disaster-resilient cities, schools and hospitals; and strengthening the international system for disaster risk reduction.

Climate disasters already account for 90 percent of all devastations caused by natural hazards – potentially catastrophic, especially for low and middle-income countries that contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions but have huge populations exposed to drought, floods and storms.

Much more vigorous action is necessary for a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C while the Paris Agreement recognizes that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C rather than 2 degrees C would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change,” Glasser concluded.

The year 2016 is on track to be the hottest year ever. August 2016 was the 16th straight warmest month on record, and there are no signs the warming is slowing down.

Global temperature peaked at 1.38°C above pre-industrial levels in February. In the Arctic, temperatures were 4°C above normal during the first quarter of the year.

Iraq and Kuwait experienced summer temperatures of 54°C (129.2°F) - the highest reliably measured temperature in the eastern hemisphere.

Certain parts of the Pacific Ocean are two degrees Celsius warmer than normal, which has helped spur massive cyclones, including super typhoons Winston and Nepartak.

Recently, Super Typhoon Merantiwould have been the equivalent of a Category 6 hurricane, if the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale extended beyond five.

Warm temperatures have led to record breaking mass coral bleaching around the world. An estimated 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching.

Drought and rising temperatures have left over 36 million people in eastern and southern Africa facing hunger. This is the worst drought in Ethiopia’s recent history.

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Disaster Response Team conducts search and rescue operations by boat in Ascension Parish, Gonzales, Louisiana, August 19, 2016 (Photo by J.T. Blatty / FEMA) Public domain.

Catastrophic floods have hit many places, especially China, Pakistan and the U.S. state of Louisiana.

Rainfall in June led to one of the costliest disasters in China’s recent history. Louisiana faced several cases of extreme flooding - during the most recent case “some spots picked up more than a foot of rain in 24 hours and two feet in 72 hours.

Scientists confirmed that five islands have disappeared in the Solomon Islands due to sea level rise. Six others have been partially submerged. Officials from the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu have said that the country has already lost four of its islands to rising seas.

The Isle de Jean Charles band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe were the first community in the United States to receive federal funding to relocate because of climate change. The indigenous village of Shishmaref in Alaska has voted to relocate due to rising sea levels.

On Monday a new report from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) highlights increasing evidence that climate change is taking the largest toll on poor and vulnerable people. These impacts are caused by inequalities that increase the risks from climate hazards.

 “Sadly, the people at greater risk from climate hazards are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized who, in many cases, have been excluded from socioeconomic progress,” observed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the report, “World Economic and Social Survey 2016: Climate Change Resilience – an Opportunity for Reducing Inequalities.

 “We have no time to waste – and a great deal to gain – when it comes to addressing the socioeconomic inequalities that deepen poverty and leave people behind,” Ban urged.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Lenni Montiel told reporters Monday at UN headquarters in New York, “Persistent inequalities in access to assets, opportunities, political voice and participation, and in some cases, outright discriminations leave large groups of people and communities disproportionally exposed and vulnerable to climate hazards.

While there is a large body of anecdotal evidence that the poor and the vulnerable suffer the greatest harm from climate-related disasters, the report determined that much of the harm is not by accident. It is due to the failure of governments to close the development gaps that leave large population groups at risk.

In the past 20 years, 4.2 billion people have been affected by weather-related disasters, and many have lost their lives.

Looking ahead, the report recommends improved access to climate projections, modern information and communications technologies, and geographical information systems to strengthen national capacity to assess the impacts of climate hazards and policy options to minimize them.


 

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Carbon Budgets Ignore Trees on Farms

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Trees and grass established as part of a riparian buffer on the Ron Risdal farm in Story County, Iowa. The Iowa State University AgroEcology team has helped landowners along this stream, Bear Creek, establish miles of buffers and earn the stream recognition as a U.S. national demonstration site, June 6, 2016 (Photo by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 30, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Globally, 1.2 billion people depend on agroforestry farming systems, especially in developing countries, the World Bank calculates. Yet, trees on farms are not even considered in the greenhouse gas accounting framework of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Agroforestry systems and tree cover on agricultural lands make an important contribution to climate change mitigation, but are not systematically accounted for either in global carbon budgets or in national carbon accounting, concludes new research conducted by a team of researchers in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The scientists assessed the role of trees on agricultural land and the amount of carbon they have sequestered from the atmosphere over the past decade.

Their study, titled “Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land: The contribution of agroforestry to global and national carbon budgets,” looks at biomass carbon on agricultural lands both globally and by country, and what determines its distribution across different climate zones.

Robert Zomer of the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, lead author of the study, said, “Remote sensing data show that in 2010, 43 percent of all agricultural land globally had at least 10 percent tree cover, up from eight percent in the preceding decade.

 “Given the vast amount of land under agriculture,” Zomer said, “agroforestry may already significantly contribute to global carbon budgets.

Large forest areas in the tropics are still being cleared for agricultural production to feed the world’s swelling population, now approaching 7.5 billion.

The researchers found that while tropical forests continued to decline, tree cover on agricultural land has increased across the globe, absorbing nearly 0.75 gigatonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) every year.

Study results show that existing tree cover makes a major contribution to carbon pools on agricultural land, demonstrating the potential to add to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts,” said Jianchu Xu of the World Agroforestry Centre.

If tree cover is accounted for, the total carbon stock is over four times higher than when estimated using IPCC Tier 1 estimates alone,” said Xu.

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Acacia tree seedlings in Ma Village, Vietnam, May 30, 2016 (Photo by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In the IPCC system, a tier represents a level of complexity used for categorizing emissions factors and activity data. Tier 1 is the basic method; it utilizes IPCC-recommended country-level defaults. Tiers 2 and 3 are each more demanding in terms of complexity and data requirements.

Given the vast stretches of agricultural land where the potential for tree cover is not yet realized, the study suggests that a huge greenhouse gas mitigation potential exists and should be explored more systematically.

For this study, researchers mapped and tabulated regional and country-level variation in biomass carbon stocks and trends globally, and for each country.

Brazil, Indonesia, China and India had the largest increases in biomass carbon stored on agricultural land, while Argentina, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone had the largest decreases.

The results of our spatial analysis show that trees on agricultural land sequestered close to 0.75 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide globally per year over the past decade,” said Henry Neufeldt, head of climate change research at the World Agroforestry Centre.

If we can harness good policies to enhance positive examples and stop negative trends, trees in agricultural landscapes can play a major role in greenhouse gas mitigation,” Neufeldt advised. “But no one should say that this is already solving the problem for agricultural emissions as long as we do not know what is actually happening on the ground.

 The Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land analysis is part of on-going research at the Center for Mountain Ecosystem Studies, an applied research laboratory jointly managed by the Kunming Institute of Botany, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the World Agroforestry Centre. Their research is focused on mountain ecosystems, biodiversity, traditional communities, and development pressures affecting natural and cultural resources.

Identifying which climate-smart agriculture practices should be supported for upscaling is an investment question, says Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, regional program leader for the CGIAR  Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Southeast Asia.

Answering this question can be most successful when it is the outcome of a participatory planning process during which local farmers share their knowledge in the development of a village-level land-use planning map to help improve community farming decisions.

As one of the most vulnerable regions in the world, Southeast Asia is on the front lines of the battle against climate change. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk as increasing temperatures, flooding, and rising sea levels threaten livelihoods, incomes and food security.

Ma Village, population 729, lies in Vietnam’s Yen Bai province. It is one of CCAFS’ six Climate-Smart Villages in Southeast Asia. These communities are prone to climate change impacts, so CCAFS has been introducing climate-smart agriculture practices to enhance food security and capacity to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Despite its great agricultural potential, the sustainability and profitability of agricultural production in Ma Village remain inadequate as the climate-risk area suffers from the depletion of natural resources, land degradation, and water pollution.

During spring, water shortages due to deforestation compromise the supply of irrigation water, which affects agricultural production, with the rice paddies most at risk.

A community land-use planning activity this year concluded with the farmers’ decision to replace the cultivation of rice crops with drought-tolerant cash crops during the spring season and support reforestation in the upland area of the village.

In residential areas, farmers agreed to replace mixed gardens with fruit trees such as pomelo, lemon and banana.

Village leader Le Van Tam said, “Recovering natural forest and growing more trees within resident land is an option to solve water shortage, soil erosion, and many other unfavored weather events.

Community-based forestry may hold great promise for sustainable development, but it has not yet reached its full potential, according to a February report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “Forty years of community-based forestry: A review of its extent and effectiveness.

 While almost one-third of the world’s forested areas are under some form of community management, the approach has not reached its full potential.

 The FAO report recommends that governments provide communities with secure forest tenure, improve regulatory frameworks, and transfer to them appropriate and viable skills and technologies.

Indigenous peoples, local communities and family smallholders stand ready to maintain and restore forests, respond to climate change, conserve biodiversity and sustain livelihoods on a vast scale,” said Eva Müller, director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division.

What is missing in most cases is the political will to make it happen,” said Müller. “Political leaders and policy makers should open the door to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people to manage the forests on which the whole world depends for a better and sustainable future.”


 Featured Images: Trees on a tea farm in China, April 2012 (Photo by vhines200) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Sustainability Takes Flight

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Airplanes on the tarmac at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, June 30, 2016 (Photo by Caribb) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, August 16, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – Every day around the world, more than 100,000 civil aviation flights take off and land – safely for the most part. Now, the global agency responsible for overseeing civil aviation is working to improve the industry’s sustainability.

Sustainability for Civilian Aircraft,” an environmental report released in late July by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), presents the work of more than 600 experts who deal with noise, air quality, climate change, aircraft end-of-life, recycling and climate change adaptation.

This report from ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, titled “On Board a Sustainable Future,” summarizes the progress made over the last three years across key areas of the agency’s environmental protection activities and serves as the reference document for international aviation and the environment.

The ICAO Environmental report is a crucial step that allows aviation to produce policies that lead to peaking emissions in the industry. This report allows for informed policy decisions based on sound science,” said Christina Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The report will provide a strong focus on sustainability as ICAO hosts its 191 member states and industry groups at the ICAO Assembly September 27 to October 7 in Montreal.

ICAO gathers its members in an Assembly at least once every three years. The scenarios presented for the consideration of the Assembly reflect the inputs of: aircraft and engine manufacturers, airlines, air navigation service providers and non-governmental organizations. Panels of independent experts provide unbiased input related to noise, emissions, and operational changes. The effects of traffic growth, fleet turnover, technology improvement, and operational enhancements are captured.

Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu of Nigeria, president of the ICAO Council, wrote in his introduction to the report that three years ago the ICAO Assembly, “…reaffirmed the collective aspirational goals of two percent fuel efficiency improvement annually, and carbon neutral growth from 2020.

To progress towards these goals, ICAO is advising member states to employ innovative aircraft technologies, more efficient operations, sustainable alternative fuels, and market-based measures for mitigation of climate changing emissions from the air transport industry.

ICAO’s own market-based measure is still a work in progress.

Meanwhile, wrote Aliu, “ICAO’s leadership role on the environment relies in part on our historic ability to guide and assist those who wish to act to protect the environment, but who may not have the means to do so. In the spirit of our ongoing No Country Left Behind initiative, we will continue to pursue capacity-building and assistance measures towards the more effective implementation of ICAO’s global Standards and Policies, a critical enabler of our broader environmental goals.” 

ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu of China wrote in her introduction, “Delivering on an ambitious environmental agenda in response to the mandate received from its Member States, ICAO has evolved its environmental activities into a broader, truly global vision for greener air transport. Sustainable development is at the heart of our strategy…

Turning this vision into action,” wrote Dr. Liu, “ICAO’s current Strategic Objectives contribute to 13 out of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), and our environmental work programme alone contributes to 10 of them. Adopted by world leaders in September 2015, the UN SDGs are our common roadmap to transform our world beyond 2030, and global air transport connectivity is an essential enabler for many of them.

Now for the practical side – making the vision work.

When the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection met in February in Montreal, the 200 participants agreed on a comprehensive set of 17 recommendations that will help ICAO fulfill its mandate on aviation environmental protection.

The set of environmental aircraft design standards cover noise, five pollutants that affect local air quality, and CO2 emissions to protect the global climate.

For the first time the Committee recommended two completely new standards in one meeting:

  • an agreement on a new airplane carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions standard
  • an agreement on a new non-volatile Particulate Matter engine emission standard

 The Committee tabled updated trends for CO2, noise and engine emissions and reviewed the technical work to date on a Global Market Based Measure.

They recommended a new publication on “Community Engagement on Aviation Environmental Management,” and established priorities and work programs for the next work cycle in the years 2016-2019.

In the report, Jane Hupe, secretary to the Committee, explained, “The recommended Aeroplane CO2 Emissions Certification Standard is a technology standard with the aim of encouraging more fuel efficient technologies into aeroplane designs. This technology-based approach is similar to the current ICAO engine emissions standards for Local Air Quality and the aircraft noise standards.

The CO2 standard will apply to subsonic jet and turboprop aeroplanes that are new type designs from 2020, as well as to those aeroplane type designs that are in-production in 2023 and undergo a change,” wrote Hupe.

In 2028, there is a production cut-off. Planes that do not meet the standard can no longer be produced from 2028, unless the designs are modified to comply with the standard.

The Committee’s report identifies these trends. “The CO2 emissions that affect the global climate, and emissions that affect local air quality are expected to increase through 2050, but at a rate slower than aviation demand.

Under an advanced aircraft technology and moderate operational improvement scenario, from 2030, aircraft noise exposure may no longer increase with an increase in traffic.

 “International aviation fuel efficiency is expected to improve through 2050, but measures in addition to those considered in this analysis will be required to achieve ICAO’s two percent annual fuel efficiency aspirational goal.

 “Sustainable alternative fuels have the potential to make a significant contribution, but sufficient data are not available to confidently predict their availability over the long term. Also, considering only aircraft technology and operational improvements, additional measures will be needed to achieve carbon neutral growth relative to 2020,” the Committee projects.

Dr. Boubacar Djibo of Niger, director of ICAO’s Air Transport Bureau, wrote in the report, “Alternative fuels are essential to ICAO’s environmental strategy and are an integral part of airlines’ environmental strategies. Indeed, sustainable alternative drop-in fuels are the only practical renewable energy option available for aircraft today. While the technical feasibility, environmental impacts and safety of biofuels have been well-demonstrated, integrated thinking is now required to accompany their large-scale deployment.

The current ICAO Carbon Calculator for passenger air travel emissions is one of the most popular tools developed by ICAO. It allows passengers to estimate the emissions attributed to their air travel on the ICAO website and on mobile applications. It is simple to use and only requires a limited amount of information from the user.

To complement the ICAO Carbon Calculator for passenger air travel emissions, a method for quantifying air cargo CO2 emissions was recommended by the Committee. This new methodology will predict the CO2 emissions from cargo shipped on board both passenger and dedicated cargo aircraft. This tool will only require information such as origin and destination.

ICAO is a UN specialized agency, established by countries in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, known as the Chicago Convention.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon complimented the Committee on its 2016 report, saying, “This edition of the ICAO Environmental Report shows how air transport is well on its way to carrying out forward-looking solutions – and sets out the strategic path for even greater progress.


Featured image:Plane Silhouette,December 20, 2009 (Photo by David Spinks) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Turning CO2 Into an Asset

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 11, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As the climate heats up, scientists and engineers are finding new ways to lessen the impact of fossil fuel combustion on the climate – both by sequestering the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted and also by producing electricity with this most prevalent greenhouse gas.

The most familiar carbon capture and storage technologies enable the capture of CO2 from fuel combustion or industrial processes, transport the gas via ships or pipelines, and store it underground or undersea in depleted oil and gas fields and deep saline formations.

The world’s first large-scale carbon capture and storage project, launched in November 2015, will reduce emissions from oil sands processing in Alberta, Canada.

The world’s first CCS project started in Norway in 1996 and continues to operate today, storing nearly a million tonnes of CO2 ever year beneath the North Sea.

CCS projects are entering operation, are under construction or are in advanced stages of planning in Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

But energy losses and large capital costs are associated with this type of CO2 capture, transport, and sequestration, so scientists are seeking newer and better ways to keep CO2 from acting as a greenhouse gas, raising the planetary temperature.

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Carl Pendragon, Co-Founder of Carbon Wealth – image courtesy of COP21 www.cop21paris.org

Carl Pendragon, co-founder of the Swedish cleantech firm Carbon Wealth , has developed a new patented process for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide, CO2, into a cheap, clean-burning copy of coal and charcoal – a process he calls “SkyMining.”

SkyMining was designed to be a profitable source of carbon negative energy, that can operate and grow organically in the global markets without any kind of subsidy or legislation.

In a May 2016 interview with the global media platform Climate Action, Pendragon explained how the process works.

 “Businesses are invited to invest in a SkyMining contract to offset their carbon emissions. For each tonne of CO2 that is offset, a company gets a return taken from our fuel sale profits.

We use their investment to plant specialized grass on marginal land; atmospheric carbon is extracted through hyper-efficient CO2-pumps found in the grass,” Pendragon explained.

A large proportion of the CO2 pulled down by our grass is sequestered in the soil on which it is grown. The grass can grow four meters (13 feet) in 100 days, exclusively on marginal land that can’t be used for any other kind of agriculture,” he said.

Our own patented process of thermal carbonization turns harvested grass, saturated with carbon, into a clean copy of coal,” said Pendragon. “Thermal carbonization effectively replicates a 30 million-year natural process in under 30 minutes.”

Pendragon calls his process “the world’s first scalable and profitable carbon-negative energy solution.”  SkyMining safely sequesters large amounts of CO2 as fuel that can be burned instead of fossil fuels in industry, heating and electricity generation. The next step is a commercial SkyMining installation in Senegal.

 Pendragon said, “Our fuel costs less than fossil fuels and charcoal in all chosen target markets. The energy density per tonne of SkyMining fuel is similar to fossil fuels. And, SkyMining fuel does not emit any CO2 in the context of climate change.

 Pendragon says SkyMining brings new advantages to the renewable energy sector.

 “SkyMining produces a burnable fuel that can replace coal,” he said. “This fuel not only directly offsets fossil fuels when it takes their place in an oven, but it also allows us to capitalize on the world-spanning fossil fuel infrastructure built up since the industrial revolution, vastly reducing our costs.

SkyMining is carbon negative,” said Pendragon, “meaning that our fuel’s production and combustion results in a net-reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Finally,” he said, “SkyMining avoids the problem of intermittency, since it does not rely on an irregular source of energy such as wind or sunlight. This makes SkyMining a viable source of backup power for modern renewables like wind and solar. Our carbon-negative energy can ensure that wind and solar power is always beneficial for the environment, unlike when their backup power comes from dirty coal.”

SkyMining involves clean fuel production, electricity generation, carbon sequestration, and sustainable agriculture — all key factors for reaching zero-carbon future, Pendragon said.

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This graphic explains Dr. Lynden Archer’s novel method for capturing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and converting it to a useful product, while producing electrical energy. (Image courtesy Cornell University)

In a completely different approach, Cornell University scientists have developed a power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester CO2 and produce electricity.

Cornell engineering professor Dr. Lynden Archer and doctoral student Wajdi Al Sadat have developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell.

The group’s proposed cell would use aluminum as the anode and mixed streams of carbon dioxide and oxygen as the active ingredients of the cathode.

The electrochemical reactions between the anode and the cathode would sequester the CO2 into carbon-rich compounds while also producing electricity and a valuable oxalate as a byproduct.

Their paper, “The O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell: A system for CO2 capture/conversion and electric power generation,” was published July 20 in the journal “Science Advances.”

The fact that we’ve designed a carbon capture technology that also generates electricity is, in and of itself, important,” Archer said.

The Cornell group reports that the energy produced by their cell is comparable to that produced by the highest energy-density battery systems.

Archer explained that their process generates superoxide intermediates, which are formed when the dioxide is reduced at the cathode. “The superoxide reacts with the normally inert carbon dioxide, forming a carbon-carbon oxalate that is widely used in many industries, including pharmaceutical, fiber and metal smelting,” he said.

A process able to convert carbon dioxide into a more reactive molecule such as an oxalate that contains two carbons opens up a cascade of reaction processes that can be used to synthesize a variety of products,” Archer said.

Al Sadat, who worked on onboard carbon capture vehicles at Saudi Aramco, said this technology in not limited to power-plant applications.

It fits really well with onboard capture in vehicles,” he said, “especially if you think of an internal combustion engine and an auxiliary system that relies on electrical power.

He said aluminum is the perfect anode for this cell, as it is plentiful, safer than other high-energy density metals and lower in cost than other potential materials, such as lithium or sodium, while having energy density comparable to lithium.

A current drawback of this technology is that the electrolyte – the liquid connecting the anode to the cathode – is extremely sensitive to water. The group is working to find electrolytes that are less water-sensitive.

This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research, which is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Funding came also from a grant from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Global Research Partnership program.


Rio Summer Olympics ‘Embrace’ Sustainability

RioMaracana

The Estádio do Maracanã is a 78,838 seat open-air stadium in the city of Rio owned by the Rio de Janeiro state government. South America’s largest stadium, it will be the venue for the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies on August 5 and closing ceremonies on August 21. (Photo by Luciano Silva) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil, July 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A new set of sustainability measures to support the greening of the Rio Summer Olympic Games were agreed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee as far back as 2013.

Expressing its commitment to achieving sustainability, the “Embrace” Rio 2016 plan is based on three pillars: Planet, People and Prosperity, and has been established with the input of the federal, state and municipal governments.

The slogan “Embrace” Rio 2016 is being used in all Games communications related to the Sustainability Plan. The idea behind the name is to engage people, inviting them to be part of the transformation promoted by the event, which opens on Friday, August 5 and ends on Sunday, August 21.

A technical cooperation agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was signed at the launch of the sustainability program in August 2013. It expected to provide an evaluation plan and mediation around the subject of sustainability between Rio 2016 and the people of Brazil.

Denise Hamú, UNEP’s representative in Brazil, said, “Our goal is to integrate sustainability in all organizational processes, reducing the impact of the Games and setting an example of good practice for society as a whole. Together, sports and environment are powerful tools for sustainable development. For this reason, the UNEP has worked in partnership with the Olympic Movement over the last two decades.

Sustainability round tables originated during dialogue between the Organizing Committee and civil society groups in 2013. They began in 2014 and examined six topics in depth: urban mobility, climate change, sustainability education, protection of children and teenagers, diversity and inclusion, and transparency.

The Games will inevitably generate environmental impacts,” says the Organizing Committee. “We are talking about high consumption of water, energy, raw materials, food and so on. Rio 2016 undertakes to use all resources conscientiously and rationally, prioritizing certified, reusable and recyclable materials.”

 Discussions led to awareness, and the Organizing Committee has acted responsibly in many ways during planning and preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

  • 100 percent certified wood: Rio 2016 undertook to buy all the timber items required for the Games from sources with chain of custody certification. That means that the timber is logged sustainably and traceability is guaranteed from the time the timber leaves the forest through to the end user.
  • Sustainable headquarters: Rio 2016 has its headquarters in a temporary building. After the Olympics are over, it will be taken down, and 80 percent of the material will be reused in future structures. While in use, the building consumes 70 percent less energy than ordinary buildings. Timers on bathroom wash basins, intelligent flushes and a rainwater collection system enables the Organizing Committee to cut water consumption.
  • Material life-cycle analysis: The Organizing Committee has analyzed the life-cycles of 106 materials being used by the Games visual identity team to ensure conscientious and sustainable choices and minimize their environmental impact.

With the intention of delivering low-impact Games, the Organizing Committee has completed a study of the carbon footprint of the Rio Games and defined an emissions management strategy, based on impact measurement, cutting emissions, mitigation where possible and offsetting what cannot be mitigated.

To avert some of the consequences of energy use at the Games, Rio 2016 and Worldwide TOP Partner Dow announced the most comprehensive carbon dioxide (CO2) offset program in Olympic Games history. As the Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016, Dow will mitigate 500,000 tons of CO2 equivalents through third party-verified emissions reductions somewhere else.

  • Technology-based carbon mitigation plan: This plan aims to mitigate 100 percent of the emissions generated by the Rio 2016 Games, which will amount to 500,000 tonnes of co2eq direct emissions from operation of the Games and 1.5 million tonnes of co2eq from spectators. Mitigation projects involve the agriculture, manufacturing and civil engineering sectors, and they will reap short, medium and long-term benefits.
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One of Rio’s new state-of-the-art trams makes its way through the new-look waterfront district (Photo by Bruno Bartholini / Porto Maravilha) Posted for media use

Known as the VLT, Rio’s new light rail system started running in June. The high-tech trams have transformed public transport in the city center and given a futuristic look to the business district. The trams connect Santos Dumont domestic airport to the long-distance bus station, running through the waterfront district and stopping along the way at new museums and the busy cruise ship terminal. More than 200,000 people have already used the service.

Fleets of buses and trucks will be fueled by diesel containing 20 percent recycled cooking oil. Biodiesel emits less carbon and sulphur than petroleum diesel. It is estimated that 20,000 oil collectors will be involved, boosting the development of this production chain.

  • Logistics efficiency program: Logistics are a major factor in boosting the Games’ CO2 emissions. Rio 2016 is designing an intelligent route model to cut transportation time, fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the more than 30 million items to be brought in for the Games.

Allowing for public involvement has been an key part of the Organizing Committee’s work. Initial dialogue with civil society took place in 2013 and brought together 34 representatives of 24 organizations to assess the content of the Sustainability Management Plan. These meetings were held annually until this year. Organizers hope they will encourage a strong and effective post-Games transformation network.

  • Rio Alimentação Sustentável: Since 2013, Rio 2016 has been working in partnership with this voluntary organization focusing on healthy, sustainable foods. It is proposed that the Games act as a driving force to improve this sector in Brazil.

Rio 2016 has entered into partnerships with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council so that suppliers can obtain sustainability certification for fish and seafood to be eaten during the Games.

For Rio 2016, one of the key points is waste management, since large volumes of waste will be generated daily during the Games. The great challenge is to minimize waste and raise awareness among spectators, athletes, volunteers about the best way to dispose of and recycle waste.

  • Rio 2016 headquarters waste management: The Organizing Committee has been operating without buying plastic cups, reducing the number of printers available and not providing individual waste bins.
  • Guide to sustainability for packaging: One of the critical points in the generation of waste is packaging. With this in mind, in April 2013, Rio 2016 published a guide to sustainable packaging, in which the committee laid down sustainability options and mandatory requirements for this category of items, including labeling, eco-design, accessibility of information and packaging materials.
  • Games waste management strategies: The strategy began during the preparatory phase and will end when the venues are dismantled. Recycling cooperatives will be involved, and the strategy is based on this sequence: waste generation avoidance → minimizing volume → managing inevitable waste → promoting behavioral change. The strategy also includes treatment of organic waste through composting, in order to reduce the amount that is sent to landfills.
  • Olympic Games Impact (OGI) study: In 2014, the Organizing Committee published its first OGI study, carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Federal University School of Engineering and containing an analysis of 22 environmental, 76 socio-cultural and 25 economic indicators. The first edition relates to the period 2007-2013. A further three reports are to be published, covering impacts up to 2019.

After successfully hosting 44 test events, the Rio 2016 team and the venues are ready for action, with all the facilities receiving their final Olympic touches before the athletes start to arrive. The velodrome and equestrian venues, which were being monitored closely by the organizers, are in the final stage of preparation, and will be ready for the Games.

Golf as an Olympic sport was added just this year, and Rio created a golf course in the previously degraded area of Marapendi, west of Rio to host the new sport. Before the start of work, about 80 percent of the golf course land was degraded by sand extraction, and by the manufacturing and storage of pre-cast concrete.

Over at the Olympic Golf Course, Rio 2016 Sustainability Coordinator Carina Flores says the fresh vegetation has led to “a positive spiral for the development of wildlife.”

 Records indicate the presence of 263 animal species in the region today, as compared with 118 mapped before construction.

 An inspection of the golf course was conducted in December 2015, after a public civil action was filed by state prosecutors who questioned the environmental impact of the golf course construction work. Prosecutors, legal advisors and technicians environmentalists were among the inspectors.

 The forensic report from Brazil’s Court of Justice concluded, “The environmental gain in the region with the construction of the golf course is visible. In addition to the flora, which increased extensively, we can observe the different animal species that have returned to the area.

Rio 2016 is ready to welcome the world,” said International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission Chair Nawal el Moutawakel.

The Olympians of 2016 can look forward to living in an outstanding Olympic Village and competing in absolutely stunning venues,” she said. “From views of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain to the new state-of-the-art facilities in Barra or Deodoro and the iconic Maracanã Stadium and Copacabana Beach, I cannot imagine more spectacular backdrops for the world’s top sportsmen and women to showcase their talents to a watching world.


Jury Still Out on Carbon Capture & Storage

SaskPower's Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan

SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, April 5, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Since the Paris Climate Agreement was reached in December, preventing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the atmosphere has become a top priority for many governments, utilities and private individuals who believe climate change to be the major problem of this generation.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) enables a power station or factory that burns coal, oil or gas to remove the CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere and store it permanently in an old oilfield or a deep saline aquifer formation.

Some attempts at capturing and storing CO2 have been more successful than others.

First, capture technologies allow the separation of CO2 from other gases produced by power generation and factories by one of three methods: pre-combustion capture, post-combustion capture and oxyfuel combustion.

The captured CO2 is then transported by pipeline or ship to the storage location. Millions of tonnes of CO2 are now transported for commercial purposes each year by road tankers, ships and pipelines.

Once at its destination, the captured CO2 is stored in geological rock formations typically located several kilometers below the surface.

At every point in the CCS chain, from production to storage, industry can use a number of process technologies that are well understood and have excellent health and safety records, says the London-based Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA).

Alberta Minister of Energy Diana McQueen and Conservative MP Mike Lake tour the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility at Shell's Scotford plant near Fort Saskatchewan on April 17, 2014. The project is retrofitting the Scotford bitumen upgrader for carbon capture, designed for up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 captured per year, piped 80 kilometers north and injected more than two kilometers below the Earth's surface. (Photo by Chris Schwarz courtesy Government of Alberta) Public Domain

Alberta Minister of Energy Diana McQueen and Conservative MP Mike Lake tour the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility at Shell’s Scotford plant near Fort Saskatchewan on April 17, 2014. The project is retrofitting the Scotford bitumen upgrader for carbon capture, designed for up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 captured per year, piped 80 kilometers north and injected more than two kilometers below the Earth’s surface. (Photo by Chris Schwarz courtesy Government of Alberta) Public Domain

The Canadian province of Quebec is excited enough about this possibility that it just bet Cdn$15 million on a new enzyme-based technology.

Quebec has established a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 37.5 percent below this same level by 2030.

In its 2016-2017 Budget, released March 17, the Quebec provincial government announced that it has allocated $15 million over the next three years to create a consortium that will promote adoption of CO2 Solutions’ patented enzyme-enabled carbon capture technology.

The process is now ready for commercialization.

In the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, the Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project is SaskPower’s flagship CCS initiative.

This project transformed the aging Unit #3 at Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan into a long-term producer of up to 115 megawatts of base-load electricity, capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, the equivalent of taking more than 250,000 cars off Saskatchewan roads annually.

The captured CO2 is sold and transported by pipeline to nearby oil fields in southern Saskatchewan to be used for enhanced oil recovery. CO2 not used for enhanced oil recovery will be stored in the Aquistore Project.

Aquistore is a research and monitoring project to demonstrate that storing liquid CO2 deep underground in a brine and sandstone water formation is a safe, workable solution to reduce greenhouse gases.

Through the development of the world’s first and largest commercial-scale CCS project of its kind, SaskPower hopes to make a viable technical, environmental and economic case for the continued use of coal.

In Norway last December, Aker Solutions signed a contract with the city of Oslo for a five-month test CCS project to capture CO2 emissions from the city-operated waste-to-energy Klemetsrud plant.

The project is funded by Gassnova, the state enterprise that supports the development and demonstration of technologies to capture CO2.

“This is pioneering work with significant potential as the world focuses on finding ways to limit carbon emissions,” commented Valborg Lundegaard, head of Aker Solutions’ engineering business. “This pilot project is of international importance.”

The test will be key to qualifying Aker Solutions’ amine-based CO2 capture technology for commercial application at the world’s waste-to-energy plants. There are about 450 such plants operating in Europe and about 700 globally.

Japan is preparing to test its biggest project yet for capturing and storing CO2 under the ocean floor despite concerns about cost and the safety of pursuing the technology in a region prone to earthquakes.

Starting this month, engineers plan to inject CO2 into deep saline aquifers off the coast of Hokkaido at the northern tip of Japan. The gas will be captured from a refinery operated by Idemitsu Kosan Co. under the government-backed project.

Some Japanese companies are already lending their expertise to and investing in CCS projects overseas.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. designed and built a project in the U.S. state of Alabama with the utility Southern Company.

Three of the six companies building the world’s largest CCS project on Barrow Island off the northwest coast of Western Australia are Japanese. Although a Class A Nature Reserve, Barrow Island is said to be a location where industry and the environment co-exist.

All 51 modules required for the three LNG trains have been delivered to Chevron's Gorgon CCS project on Australia's Barrow Island. (Photo courtesy Chevron)

All 51 modules required for the three LNG trains have been delivered to Chevron’s Gorgon CCS project on Australia’s Barrow Island. (Photo courtesy Chevron)

The Gorgon Project is a liquefied natural gas (LNG) and domestic gas joint venture supplied by the Greater Gorgon Area gas fields.

The Chevron-operated Gorgon Project is a joint venture of the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3 percent), ExxonMobil (25 percent), Shell (25 percent), Osaka Gas (1.25 percent), Tokyo Gas (1 percent) and Chubu Electric Power (0.417 percent).

On March 20, Chevron announced that its first shipment of LNG from the Gorgon Project had left Barrow Island. The cargo goes to Chubu Electric Power, for delivery into Japan.

“Departure of the first cargo from the Gorgon Project is a key milestone in our commitment to be a reliable LNG provider for customers across the Asia-Pacific region,” said Mike Wirth, executive vice president, Chevron Midstream and Development. “This is also important for our investors as we begin to generate revenue from a project we expect will operate for decades to come.”

But bad news appears to dog the CCS industry.

On Friday, the Gorgon project had to temporarily halt production due to technical difficulties with a propane refrigerant circuit at the Gorgon plant site.

Chevron and its Gorgon partners are facing a repair bill that could amount to “hundreds of millions of dollars” after “a major mechanical problem flared as soon as the maiden LNG cargo was sent,” reported the “West Australian” newspaper on Friday.

There are many skeptics, given that it can cost billions of dollars for a CCS facility and none have a long record of successful operation at an industrial scale. Some investors initially put their money into carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies only to see their CCS plans fail or get tossed out by governments.

“It is our view that CCS is unlikely to play a significant role in mitigating emissions from coal-fired power stations,” authors including Ben Caldecott, director of the sustainable finance program at the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, wrote in a report published in January.

“Deployment of CCS has already been too slow to match” scenarios presented by the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they warned.

Another concern is whether stored CO2 will leak from storage sites, releasing the gas back into the atmosphere.

“There is no guarantee that carbon dioxide can be stored in a stable way in Japan where there are many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,” Kimiko Hirata, a researcher for Kiko Network, a Kyoto-based environmental group, told Bloomberg News.

In 2015, the FutureGen Alliance, a U.S. industrial group with a high-profile carbon capture project in Illinois, lost its Department of Energy financing.

FutureGen, a partnership between the U.S. government and an alliance of coal-related corporations, was retrofitting a coal-fired power plant with oxy-combustion generators. The excess CO2 would be piped 30 miles (48 km) to be stored in underground saline formations. Costs were estimated at US$1.65 billion, with $1 billion provided by the U.S. government.

But the U.S. Department of Energy ordered suspension of FutureGen 2.0 in February 2015, citing the alliance’s inability to raise much private funding. At the time of suspension the power plant part of the project had spent $116.5 million and the CCS part had spent $86 million.

In the UK, the British National Audit Office (NAO) has announced plans to investigate then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s 2015 decision to scrap a £1bn prototype carbon capture scheme that has already cost the taxpayers at least £60 million.

The spending watchdog said that this summer it will examine the expenses incurred in running, and then prematurely halting, a CCS competition for financing.

In the competition, the Department of Energy and Climate shortlisted two projects. Shell was developing a trial scheme at Peterhead in Scotland alongside one of the big six energy suppliers and power station owner SSE. A separate White Rose project was being developed by Drax at its coal-fired plant in Selby, North Yorkshire.

They were awarded multi-million pound contracts to finalize these proposals before a final investment decision could be taken.

But in November 2015 the agency withdrew funding for the program, suspending the competition.

The NAO will review the government decision, what impacts it will have on the department’s objectives of decarbonization and security of supply, and the costs incurred by government in running the competition.

Dr. Luke Warren, chief executive of the CCSA, called the funding cut “devastating.”

“Only six months ago the government’s manifesto committed £1 billion of funding for CCS,” said Warren. “Moving the goalposts just at the time when a four year competition is about to conclude is an appalling way to do business.”

In February, the UK Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee reported on the future of CCS in the country in view of the funding cut.

The government’s decision to pull funding for carbon capture and storage at the last minute will delay the development of the technology in the UK and could make it challenging for the UK to meet its climate change commitments agreed at the Paris COP21 summit, the Energy and Climate Change Committee report warned.

Said Angus MacNeil MP, Energy and Climate Change Committee Chair, “If we don’t invest in the infrastructure needed for carbon capture and storage technology now, it could be much more expensive to meet our climate change targets in the future. Gas-fired power stations pump out less carbon dioxide than ones burning coal, but they are still too polluting.”

“If the government is committed to the climate change pledges made in Paris, it cannot afford to sit back and simply wait and see if CCS will be deployed when it is needed,” said MacNeil. “Getting the infrastructure in place takes time and the government needs to ensure that we can start fitting gas fired power stations with carbon capture and storage technology in the 2020s.”


Featured image Coal Pile courtesy of 123R

UK, China Collaborate on Low Carbon Cities

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, November 25, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Researchers from universities in China and the United Kingdom are putting their heads together to reduce carbon emissions from cities in both countries.

Four newly funded research projects aim to develop an overall understanding of current buildings, mobility and energy services to help urban planners lower climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while keeping residents comfortable and moving efficiently.

One new project is directed towards integrating low carbon vehicles, such as electric cars, into urban planning.

The other three will tackle existing buildings to provide energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling, as well as indoor environmental quality.

Meeting the pressing carbon emission reduction targets expected to emerge from the upcoming Paris climate talks will require a major shift in the performance of buildings, say scientists in both countries.

The projects were announced as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK October 20-23.

The UK will spend over £3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and China will contribute equivalent financial resources from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

EPSRC’s chief executive Professor Philip Nelson, a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “The aim of this UK-China research collaboration will be to reduce worldwide CO2 [carbon dioxide] production and ensure energy security and affordability.

“The projects build on the strength of our internationally renowned research and will benefit both the UK and Chinese economies,” said Nelson.

Professor Che Chengwei, deputy director general of NSFC’s Department of Engineering and Material Sciences, said, “NSFC has been working closely with EPSRC for several years to address challenges related to achieving a low-carbon economy.”

“This latest programme, with a focus on future urban environments, will build substantially stronger links between Chinese and UK research communities in relevant areas,” said Che. “It will also brighten the future bilateral collaboration between both countries.”

BYDelectricTaxiLondonCaption: In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015

The four funded projects are:

  1. Low Carbon Transitions of Fleet Operations in Metropolitan Sites to be researched at Newcastle University (NCL), Imperial College London, and Southeast University (SEU)

Low carbon vehicle fleets for personal mobility and freight could contribute to reducing the climate impact of urban transport and improve local traffic and air quality conditions.

But uncertainties remain on the demand for fleet services and effective fleet operations, especially for electric vehicles, where interaction with the power grid becomes a critical issue.

A range of new business models for the operation of urban freight and fleet services are emerging, enabled by new information and communications technologies.

This will provide an integrated planning and deployment strategy for multi-purpose low carbon fleets. It will devise operational business models for maximum economic viability and environmental effectiveness.

  1. City-Wide Analysis to Propel Cities towards Resource Efficiency and Better Wellbeing, to be researched at University of Southampton and Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology

This project is focused on two cities – Xi’an, China and Portsmouth, UK, both known for their cultural heritage and their population density.

On the southern coast of England, Portsmouth, population 205,000, is the densest city in the UK. Landlocked Xi’an in central China has a population of 5.56 million.

Both cities have published ambitious plans for reducing city-wide carbon emissions but both have lots of aging buildings and infrastructure. The project focuses on the likely impact of building refurbishments on human wellbeing and on carbon emissions.

The researchers will gather real energy use information through sensor deployments and surveys of building residents to identify low disruption and scaled-up retrofit methods.

They will model neighborhood and district retrofits and systems integration, including building refurbishment, district energy and micro-generation to improve buildings for their users.

They are expected to identify smart solutions that will reduce energy consumption and meet mobility needs while pursuing carbon reduction targets.

  1. The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK, to be researched by University College London (UCL)  and Tsinghua University

The potential unintended consequences of the inter-linked issues of energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) present a complex challenge that is gaining increasing importance in the UK and in China, these researchers say.

They will address the total performance of buildings to reduce the energy demand and carbon emissions while safeguarding productivity and health.

This project will address the policies and regulatory regimes that relate to energy/IEQ, the assessment techniques used and the ways that buildings are utilized.

An initial monitoring campaign in both countries will compare the same types of buildings in the two contexts and how energy/IEQ performance varies between building type and country.

Researchers will assemble a unique database relating to the interlinked performance gaps. They can then develop semi-automated building assessment methods, technologies and tools to determine the most cost-effective route to remedy the underlying root causes of energy/IEQ under performance.

A second stream of work will address the unintended consequences of decarbonizing the built environment, research already taking place at the University College London.

  1. Low carbon climate-responsive Heating and Cooling of Cities, to be researched by the University of Cambridge, University of Reading and Chongqing University

This project focuses on delivering economic and energy-efficient heating and cooling to city areas of different population densities and climates.

It confronts ways of offering greater winter and summer comfort within China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone while mitigating vast amounts of carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

It concentrates on recovering value from the existing building stock of some 3.4 billion square meters, where more than half a billion people live and work.

The cross-disciplinary team of engineers, building scientists, atmospheric scientists, architects and behavioral researchers in China and UK will measure real performance in new and existing buildings in Chinese cities.

They will investigate the use of passive and active systems within integrated design and re-engineering to improve living conditions and comfort levels in the buildings.

The researchers will compare their findings with existing UK research examining the current and future environmental conditions within the whole National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Estate in England to find practical economic opportunities for improvement while saving carbon at the rate required by ambitious NHS targets.

They will propose detailed practical and economic low and very low carbon options for re-engineering the dominant building types and test them in the current climate with its extreme events.

To ease China’s adaptation, recently published research “Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources” shows that China’s carbon emissions have been substantially over-estimated by international agencies for more than 10 years

From 2000-2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its cumulative emissions.

The findings suggest that overestimates of China’s emissions during this period may be larger than China’s estimated total forest sink – a natural carbon store – in 1990-2007 (2.66 gigatonnes of carbon) or China’s land carbon sink in 2000-2009 (2.6 gigatonnes of carbon).

Published in August in the journal “Nature,” the revised estimates of China’s carbon emissions were produced by an international team of researchers, led by Harvard University, the University of East Anglia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, in collaboration with 15 other international research institutions.

Low Carbon Cities forms part of the Low Carbon Innovation programme, a £20 million three-year investment announced in March 2014.

Facilitated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) China, the first team established outside Europe by the UK Research Councils, this programme builds on five years of collaborative energy research funded jointly by China and the UK.

To date, RCUK China has provided over £160 million in co-funded programmes, supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Buildings of all shapes and sizes enliven Shanghai, which is in China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone. (Photo by Mike Lutz under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide images: A. Climate-changing emissions cloud the air in the Chinese city of Xi’an, December 2013 (Photo by Edward Stojakovic under creative commons license via Flickr) B. The densely populated coastal English city of Portsmouth is under study by Chinese and British scientists as a potentially low carbon city. (Photo by Lawrie Cate under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01. In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015. (Photo by Mic V. under creative commons license via Flickr)

China Plans World’s Largest Carbon Market to Curb Climate Change

ChinaUSPressConf

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, October 7, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Within two years China will open a national market-based cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions from some of its largest industrial sectors, President Xi Jinping announced late last month during his visit to the United States.

Carbon emission levels will be capped and companies will have to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate-warming greenhouse gas.

China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is the top oil importer after the United States and is struggling with a public health crisis caused by severe air pollution in its largest cities.

China’s new carbon emissions trading system will cover key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making and nonferrous metals.

The carbon market – similar to the European Union’s and also similar to two regional markets in the United States – is part of an effort to help China meet its climate targets and move toward energy supplies based on nuclear power plants and renewables.

President Xi said China will implement a “green dispatch” system to favor low-carbon sources in the electric grid.

ChinaSolar

In a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change issued on September 25, the two nations describe a common vision for a new global climate agreement to be concluded in Paris this December. It is scheduled to take effect from 2020.

President Xi said, “We have decided to continue to work together to tackle global challenges and provide more public good for the international community. We, again, issued a joint announcement on climate change. We have agreed to expand bilateral practical cooperation, strengthen coordination in multilateral negotiation, and work together to push the Paris climate change conference to produce important progress.”

President Obama said, “When the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters come together like this, then there’s no reason for other countries – whether developed or developing – to not do so as well. And so this is another major step towards the global agreement the world needs to reach in two months’ time.”

The Joint Statement builds on last November’s historic announcement by President Obama and President Xi of ambitious post-2020 climate targets.

In their Joint Statement, the two leaders expressed a concrete set of shared understandings for the Paris agreement. On mitigating the impact of climate change, they agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome.

First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies. They agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition.

Second, the two presidents underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the goal that world leaders agreed at the UN’s 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels.

ChinaNuclear

Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.

These announcements complement the recent finalization of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which will reduce emissions in the U.S. power sector by 32 percent by 2030.

Both countries are developing new heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards, to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019.

Both countries are also stepping up their work to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants. Besides destroying the stratospheric ozone layer, HCFCs are greenhouse gases many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

China’s government has been planning to implement a carbon trading market for years.

The cap-and-trade system will expand on seven regional pilot carbon trade programs that China began in 2011.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and special envoy for climate change, has been working closely with China in providing technical support to the pilots.

“As China began to pilot through different ways of creating emissions trading systems or emissions reductions systems, we have, through what is called a partnership for market readiness, provided a mutual platform for techno-crafts from different economies in the world to share their experiences of introducing emissions trading systems so that we can all learn from each other,” she said in an interview with China’s state news agency Xinhua on September 30.

“An emissions trading system has existed in Europe for some time. Now we have an auction in California. We have pilots in China. We have a trading system in Korea. Some countries are putting carbon taxes in place,” Kyte said. “We provide a mutual technical platform to let these experiences be exchanged.”

“China is ready to learn from those pilots and move to a national system,” Kyte said, “This will immediately create the largest carbon market in the world. Other carbon markets in the world will want to link with China. This does put China in a leadership position in helping the global economy move to low-carbon growth.”

To ensure a successful carbon trading system, Kyte emphasized the importance of setting the right prices.

“The prices must be set in such a way that the prices reflect the ambition, that the emissions are reduced, that the poor people are treated fairly, that they are transparent and that they can be understood by the consumer,” she said.

China says it will set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions when its next five-year plan comes into force in 2016.


 

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 01:Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama meet with the press after their talks in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 02: This parabolic solar-thermal power plant is adjacent to a large-scale wind farms in China’s north central Shanxi Province. It came online in 2011. (Photo courtesy Shanxi International Electricity Group Co Ltd.)
Image 03: The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is under construction in China’s Guangxi Province. Operated by China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd., it is expected to come online in 2016. (Photo courtesy China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd.)