June 24, 2010
By Danielle Demetriou
The Japanese government has launched a campaign encouraging people to go to bed and get up extra early in order to reduce household carbon dioxide emissions.
The Morning Challenge campaign, unveiled by the Environment Ministry, is based on the premise that swapping late night electricity for an extra hour of morning sunlight could significantly cut the nation’s carbon footprint.
A typical family can reduce its carbon dioxide footprint by 85kg a year if everyone goes to bed and gets up one hour earlier, according to the campaign.
The amount of carbon dioxide emissions potentially saved from going to bed an hour early was the equivalent of 20 per cent of annual emissions from household lights, “Many Japanese people waste electric power at night time, for example by watching TV until very late,” a ministry spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph.
February 1, 2010
By Steve Connor
It would be 100 times cheaper to shield the Earth from sunlight with a man-made “sun block” than to cut emissions of greenhouse gases. This is one of the reasons why the world needs an international project to investigate ways of safely manipulating the global climate in addition to cutting greenhouse gases, scientists have said.
Simulating a volcanic eruption by putting man-made aerosol particles into the atmosphere to reflect the Sun’s heat would rapidly lower global temperatures and could provide a vital respite from global warming until cuts in carbon dioxide emissions begin to have the desired effect, they added.
It is important to start tests in “geoengineering” now rather than leave it until a full-blown emergency, according to three environmental scientists who argue that governments should establish a multimillion-pound fund to pay for research into solar-radiation management – techniques for shielding the Earth against sunlight.
“The idea of deliberately manipulating Earth’s energy balance to offset human-driven climate change strikes many as dangerous hubris,” said David Keith of the University of Calgary in Canada, Edward Parson of the University of Michigan and Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon University, writing in the journal Nature.
“Many scientists have argued against research on solar radiation management, saying that developing the capability to perform such tasks will reduce the political will to lower greenhouse gas emissions. We think that the risks of not doing research outweigh the risks of doing it,” they wrote.
Until recently, even discussing the idea of manipulating the global climate artificially to combat rising temperatures has been considered a taboo subject among scientists. However, last year a survey of 50 climate scientists by The Independent found there was a growing appetite to at least investigate the idea, an approach supported by a report into geoengineering last September by the Royal Society.
The latest call by David Keith and his colleagues emphasises that there are serious potential problems with building a solar shield, and that it should never be seen as an alternative to cuts in greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, they argue that it is better for an international research project to be established rather than leaving it until a “rogue state” decides to go it alone.
“It is plausible that, after exhausting other avenues to limit climate risks, such a nation might decide to begin a gradual, well-monitored programme of deployment, even without any international agreement on its regulation,” the scientists said.
“In this case, one nation – which need not be a large and rich industrialised country – could seize the initiative on global climate, making it extremely difficult for other powers to restrain it.”
An international research effort into such a project could begin with an annual budget of about $10m (£6.3m), rising to about $1bn by 2020. It could investigate the risks, such as altering weather patterns, as well as known drawbacks, such as it doing nothing to combat the increasing acidity of the oceans.
Scientists have suggested that generating sulphate aerosols in the upper atmosphere, which are naturally emitted during a volcanic eruption, could quickly lower global temperatures, which happened after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. Another possibility is to spray fine droplets of seawater into the air to create low-level clouds that would lower daytime temperatures over the oceans.
“Opinions about solar radiation management are changing rapidly. Only a few years ago, many scientists opposed open discussion of the topic. Many now support model-based research, but field testing of the sort we advocate here is contentious and will probably grow more so,” the three scientists wrote.
“The main argument against solar radiation management research is that it would undermine the already-inadequate resolve to cut emissions. We are keenly aware of this ‘moral hazard’; but sceptical that suppressing research would in fact raise commitment to mitigation.
“Indeed, with the possibility of solar radiation management now widely recognised, failing to subject it to serious research and risk assessment may well pose the greater threat to mitigation efforts, by allowing implicit reliance on solar radiation management without scrutiny of its actual requirements, limitations and risks,” they said.
December 21, 2009
By Ben Webster and Frances Elliot
A new global body dedicated to environmental stewardship is needed to prevent a repeat of the deadlock which undermined the Copenhagen climate change summit, Gordon Brown will say tomorrow.
The UN’s consensual method of negotiation, which requires all 192 countries to reach agreement, needs to be reformed to ensure that the will of the majority prevails, he feels.
The Prime Minister will say: “Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down those talks. Never again should we let a global deal to move towards a greener future be held to ransom by only a handful of countries. One of the frustrations for me was the lack of a global body with the sole responsibility for environmental stewardship.
“I believe that in 2010 we will need to look at reforming our international institutions to meet the common challenges we face as a global community.” The summit failed to produce a political agreement among all the countries. Delegates instead passed a motion on Saturday “taking note” of an accord drawn up the night before by five countries: the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa.
Despite being the first world leader to join the summit, Mr Brown was excluded from the key meeting where the compromise was decided.
Ed Miliband, the Climate Change Secretary, admitted today that the results of the Copenhagen conference were “disappointing” because of the absence of agreement on emissions targets or a deadline for turning the accord into a legally binding treaty.
Mr Miliband pointed the finger of blame at China for resisting a legal agreement and its rejection of a proposal for 50 per cent cut in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Efforts to give legal force to the commitments in the Copenhagen accord came up against “impossible resistance from a small number of developing countries, including China, who didn’t want a legal agreement”, he said.
Challenged over accusations that the agreement reached in Copenhagen failed to protect poor people in developing countries, Mr Miliband said: “The eventual outcome was disappointing. But the idea that walking away from agreement would have been better for people facing climate change is frankly ridiculous.
“I think we can protect and help those people’s lives and indeed protect them from climate change through this agreement.
“The fact is that we have got fast-start finance of $10 billion a year flowing as a result of this agreement.” He said it was important that countries had agreed for the need to make emissions cuts, even though they had failed to commit to specific targets.
“We won’t know the precise shape of [the national emission targets] until the beginning of February, and we are going to have to push for them to be higher.
“Even though there were things we didn’t achieve, the fact is we have got for the first time developing countries coming together and saying that they are going to reduce emissions, and the finance is flowing.”
Mr Miliband rejected claims that Britain and the European Union were “sidelined” by their absence from a meeting at which President Obama and the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa thrashed out the basic shape of the accord.
“I don’t think that was the meeting that in the end decided the agreement,” he said. “The big decisions took place in a group of about 30 countries in which President Sarkozy, Chancellor Merkel and Gordon Brown were represented.”
In the accord
• Agreement that “deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science”
• “Long co-operative action” needed to keep the global temperature increase below 2C
• Rich countries should submit proposals for economy-wide emission reduction targets for 2020 to the UN by January 31
• By the same date, developing countries should produce plans to cut the rate of growth of their emissions
• There should be international monitoring of any emission cuts in developing countries that are funded by rich countries
• A reassessment of the accord by 2015 to check whether emission reductions are on track to keep the temperature increase below 2C
• Consideration in 2015 of strengthening the goal to 1.5C
December 17, 2009
By David Gutierrez
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is targeting cement plants in California as a major source of mercury and other toxic emissions.
The agency has issued new proposed regulations for Portland cement kilns that it says would reduce the cement industry’s mercury emissions by between 81 and 93 percent. Because a total of 90 percent of all airborne mercury emissions in California come from these kilns, the rule would have a significant and immediate impact on air quality in the state.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is particularly dangerous to children and pregnant women.
“This regulation will help all Californians breathe easier, particularly the dozens of California communities neighboring cement kilns,” said Riverside high school student and American Lung Association representative Otana Jakpor, testifying before the EPA on the proposed rule. “It will reduce hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic chemicals that harm young people. And it will do so with technology that already exists. … As a young person who lives in an area with some of the worst air pollution in the country, I feel especially passionate about this.”
The toxic emissions in the cement industry come primarily from the burning of coal, petroleum coke or even industrial waste to produce the energy that powers the manufacturing process.
December 4, 2009
A map of how California will be affected by climate change in the future was unveiled yesterday by state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The map, which demonstrates the devastating effects of global warming in just a century, shows how San Francisco Airport would be completely underwater if sea levels were to rise by 150cm (60in).
The coastline on the map was also coloured, highlighting how nearly half a million Californians are at risk from rising sea levels.
The map, named CalAdapt, which was revealed at a press conference on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay by Mr Schwarzenegger and Google CEO Eric Schmidt, was created as part of a plan for the state to adapt to global warming.
‘Within a century, Treasure Island, this place where we are right now, could be totally under water,’ the governor said. ‘It is technology in the end that will save us.’
Though California leads the U.S. in its legal mandate to cut greenhouse gases, Mr Schwarzenegger explained how $2.5 trillion of property and assets were still at threat from climate change.
He said that the state’s first report into adapting to climate change showed that a longer dry season has worsened the risk of wildfires, and a smaller winter snowpack is affecting water supplies.
The map, which is available to view on a specially created website, was accompanied by an animated video that showed how the state would change over time.
Mr Schwarzenegger argued in the film that cutting carbon dioxide emissions would not be enough.
‘We must also be prepared for some continued climate change, which is now inevitable,’ he said.
November 13, 2009
By E. Huff
The Journal of the American Medical Association has published a report conducted by the University of Chicago that estimates nearly 10 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from the health care industry. Findings reveal that hospitals are the number one polluter with pharmaceuticals at a close second.
Jeanette Chung, PhD, and study co-author David Meltzer, MD, PhD, procured their findings by analyzing 2007 health care spending numbers through the environmental input-output life cycle assessment (EIOLCA) model. By capturing both direct and indirect environmental effects caused by day-to-day health care industry actions, the model was able to assess the carbon intensity of each dollar spent on various activities and come up with an estimate.
The high energy demands of operating and maintaining hospitals account for their number one position as health care carbon emitters. Similarly, pharmaceutical companies expend tremendous amounts of energy in researching drugs, manufacturing them, and transporting and distributing them.
The goal of the study was to draw attention to the environmental impact of health care in general and to highlight the possibility of improving environmental efficiency in health care. The study’s authors hope to bring awareness to the issue of carbon emissions and to encourage innovation that will make the health care industry cleaner with less negative impact on the environment.
Researchers suggest that hospitals can improve their environmental impact by purchasing goods and services from environmentally-friendly suppliers, as well as implementing recycling programs. Architecturally, hospitals can take more advantage of natural sunlight by implementing facility designs that capture natural light and utilize it for energy, light, and temperature control.
The University of Chicago Medical Center has a sustainability program of its own that requires 90 percent of hospital cleaning supplies to bear Green Seal Certification. The center also operates a recycling program that deflects 500 pounds of plastic waste each day from landfills to recycling plants.
The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program is another option facilities can strive to achieve by implementing energy efficient designs and technologies. LEED recognizes building and community designs that strategically aim to improve energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved environmental quality, and concerted stewardship of resources that recognizes their environmental impact.
From a preventative perspective, the health care industry needs an ideology overhaul that redirects the focus from symptom treatment to healthy lifestyles that incorporate nutrient-dense diets rich in superfoods and living, whole foods. Proper nutrition and preventative natural medicine will keep people out of hospitals and away from pharmaceutical drugs, which will in turn have a positive impact on the well-being of the populace and on the environment.
August 7, 2009
The “cloud ships” are favoured among a series of schemes aimed at altering the climate which have been weighed up by a leading think-tank.
The project, which is being worked on by rival US and UK scientists, would see 1,900 wind-powered ships ply the oceans sucking up seawater and spraying minuscule droplets of it out through tall funnels to create large white clouds.
These clouds, it is predicted, would reflect around one or two per cent of the sunlight that would otherwise warm the ocean, thereby cancelling out the greenhouse effect caused by Carbon Dioxide emissions.
The unmanned ships would be directed by satellite to areas with the best conditions for increasing cloud cover, mainly in the Pacific and far enough away from land so as not to affect normal rainfall patterns.
Other ideas, such as sending mirrors into space by rocket to deflect the sun’s rays, and scattering iron powder into the seas to boost CO2-absorbing plankton, have been dismissed as unfeasible or too expensive.
According to The Times, The Royal Society is expected to announce that the decade-old cloud ship plan is one of the most promising.
The Copenhagen Consensus Centre, which advises governments on how to spend aid money, examined the various plans and found the cloud ships to be the most cost-effective.
They would cost $9 billion (£5.3 billion) to test and launch within 25 years, compared to the $250 billion that the world’s leading nations are considering spending each year to cut CO2 emissions, and the $395 trillion it would cost to launch mirrors into space.
At present, British and American teams are seeking funding to launch sea trials. The US team has been boosted by a donation of several hundred thousand dollars by The Carnegie Institute, while the British team, led by John Latham, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Manchester, and Stephen Salter, an engineer at the University of Edinburgh, is working with a Finnish shipping company, Meriaura.
Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen think-tank, is hosting a conference in Washington DC next month at which a panel of Nobel laureates will vote on the most cost-effective solution.
He believes the schemes could prove that there are better ways of addressing climate change than simply reducing CO2 emissions.
“The space sunshade is really just science fiction but cloud whitening ships deserve serious scrutiny,” he told The Times.
“We need to have a debate about all of the options, not just the politically correct one of reducing CO2.”
Another scheme considered by the Copenhagen Consensus Centre is one to mimic the effects of volcanic eruptions in shielding the sun’s rays with a chemical haze and creating a global cooling effect that can last for over a year.
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 sent billions of tonnes of sulphur dioxide and other particles into the atmosphere which reduced global average temperature by about 0.5C. The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 saw 1816 become known as the year without summer.
Scientists have proposed various ways of emitting such particles into the atmosphere, including using squadrons of air tanker potentially based in the Arctic to protect the polar ice cap.
However, the scheme would cost $230 billion and could not be reversed, unlike the cloud ships scheme.