January 2017

January 30, 2017

 

Reuters/Phil Noble

Ireland votes to stop investing public money in fossil fuels

By Jon Fingas

Ireland just took a big step toward cutting coal and oil out of the picture. Its Parliament has passed a bill that stops the country from investing in fossil fuels as part of an €8 billion ($8.6 billion) government fund. The measure still has to clear a review before it becomes law, but it would make Ireland the first nation to completely eliminate public funding for fossil fuel sources. Even countries that have committed to ditching non-renewable energy, like Iceland, can’t quite make that claim. The closest is Norway, which ditched some of its investments back in 2015.

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January 29, 2017

 

Image: World Economic Forum / Valeriano Di Domenico

5 ways businesses are turning up the heat on climate change

By Emily Farnworth and Jahda Swanborough

Businesses and investors are increasingly recognizing climate change as one of the top global risks. And so it is not surprising there were a record number of events during the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos to discuss the challenges and help advance the solutions. Here, we summarize the key conclusions.

The business community now falls into two main camps. The first group have already started mobilizing to drive the shift to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy, looking to take advantage of the economic opportunities it presents. The second group – reading the signals from policy-makers and markets – is beginning to realize that the world’s shift to a low-carbon future is now inevitable and is grappling to understand the disruptions it will bring and the speed at which they will come.

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January 28, 2017

How Did Denmark Spark Its Miraculous Food-Waste Reduction?

By CHARLIE SORREL

Why does Denmark find it so easy to stop food waste? The country managed to reduce it by 25% over just five years, something close to a miracle. It’s cultural, but perhaps not in the way you might imagine. And Denmark’s startling waste reduction also a great example of how peer pressure is the best tool for social change

Writing in National Geographic, Jonathan Bloom gives a lot of credit to one person, Russian activist Selina Juul, who came to Denmark as a teenager, and noticed the contrast between the wasteful Danes, and the empty shelves of her home. Since starting Stop Wasting Food in 2008, Juul has been a catalyst for reducing food waste.

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January 27, 2017

[Photo: IpekMorel/iStock]

Delhi Just Banned All Disposable Plastics

By CHARLIE SORREL

While Michigan is busy banning the banning of plastic bags, Delhi, the Indian city of nearly 10 million people, has just banned all disposable plastics. Unlike U.S. cities, which often favor the short-term interests of business over the long term care of the people and their environment, India isn’t afraid to take desperate measures when they are needed.

India is one of the world’s top polluters, but this ban is not so much altruistic as practical. Delhi’s three main trash dumps—Okhla, Gazipur, and Bhalswa—are “a depiction of mess that can be created for environment and health of people of Delhi,” said India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairperson Swatanter Kumar at the tribunal.

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January 26, 2017

 

© Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

Do personal steps to reduce your carbon footprint really make much difference?

By Lloyd Alter

It was déjà vu all over again, reading the Guardian’s recent list of ways to reduce your carbon footprint. All the green living websites used to be full of lists like this (including TreeHugger) but they have pretty much disappeared, since they were often impossible to do or really, did not make that much difference. Sami has addressed the complexity of this issue by noting:

By focusing too strongly on the ethics of each personal lifestyle decision, I fear we lose many a would-be environmentalist who would support policy-level action to transition to a low carbon culture which in itself would do more to discourage fossil fuel use and overconsumption than any individual lifestyle decision ever will.

Do our individual actions matter anymore? Are the lifestyle suggestions that the Guardian recommends actually meaningful? Do they still make any sense?

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January 25, 2017

      This Is The Greenest Place On Earth…

By Jennifer Barton

Costa Rica is the Central American country known for its extraordinary biodiversity (over half a million different species of plants and animals call it home) and stunning landscapes (you’ll find everything from volcanoes to waterfalls to pristine stretches of sandy beaches there).

It’s the place to visit to interact with rare wildlife, where sloths, sea turtles and monkeys abound. Costa Rica is also a thrill-seeker’s paradise, where you can raft, snorkel and cliff dive to your heart’s content.

It’s also the country that can teach the rest of the world a thing or two about living the green life.

Costa Rica recently topped the Happy Planet Index for the third time, making it the happiest and most sustainable country on Earth. What’s more, Costa Rica’s inhabitants have a higher life expectancy than those in the US.

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January 24, 2017

 

Credit: City of Burlington, Vermont

These Cities Are Setting the Standard for Clean Energy Worldwide

By Kathleen Riley

The Green City

Some of you might have heard of Burlington, Vermont. It’s a relatively small city that borders Lake Champlain on the state’s western coast. The total population was just a little over 40,000 in 2013. It’s also home to United States senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

But there’s also something that Burlington has that sets it apart from any other city in the entire nation—something that we hope municipalities will use as a model for green initiatives.

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January 23, 2017

 

(Credit: Asian Development Bank / Flickr)

China, India not deterred by Trump’s apathy toward climate change

By JOANNE LU

The next four years of U.S. action – or inaction – against climate change hangs in perilous balance as Donald Trump takes the office of the presidency today. While Trump and his cabinet appointees continue to question the impact of human activity on the climate, carbon giants on the other side of the globe are taking the opportunity to reiterate their dedication – and leadership – in the fight against climate change.

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January 22, 2017

Watch a century’s worth of global warming in less time than it takes to microwave your lunch

By Fast Company

Government agencies said today that Earth’s surface temperatures in 2016 were once again the warmest on record. This marks the first time since record-keeping began in 1880 that global temperatures beat records three years in a row. The findings came from analyses conducted independently by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The animation below is nothing short of terrifying.

Click here to watch!

January 21, 2017

 

Credit: Reuters

Donald Trump sees the future in coal. China sees the future in renewables. Who’s making the safer bet?

By Peter Thomson

In Donald Trump’s vision of America, some parts of the country’s future look a lot like its past. Exhibit A: his promise to revive the flagging coal industry.

Meanwhile the world’s other economic giant, China, which now uses more coal than any other country on Earth, is moving sharply in the opposite direction. China recently announced another huge new investment in renewable energy — $360 billion by 2020, which the Chinese government says will also create 13 million new jobs.

So which is the better bet on where the jobs and the energy of the future will come from?

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January 20, 2017

 

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Before Trump can stop it, Obama just spent $500 million to fight climate change

By Adele Peters

Days before Trump takes office, the State Department announced that it will send $500 million to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries fight climate change. That’s money that Trump threatened not to pay—but now he won’t be able to stop it.

“The check is cashed, so to speak,” says Jesse Bragg from Corporate Accountability International, a group that organized a petition in late 2016 to pressure the government to make a payment. “So there’s no way for the Trump administration to rescind this or other payments that the Obama administration has made to the Green Climate Fund.”

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January 19, 2017

 

Gauthier DELECROIX – 郭天/Flickr

The end of coal is near: China just scrapped 103 power plants

By Peter Dockrill

China has announced plans to cancel more than 100 coal plants currently in development, scrapping what would amount to a massive 120 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired electricity capacity if the plants were completed.

For a bit of context, the entire US has approximately 305 GW gigawatts of coal capacity in total, and this massive adjustment leaves room for China to advance its development of clean, renewable energy.

Despite China’s much-publicised pollution problems, the reason for the cancellations is because the country was actually vastly exceeding its planned coal capacity for the future.

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January 18, 2017

Wildfires, sea level rise, coral bleaching: Climate change is already here

By Sean Greene

From extreme wildfires in the Western United States to melting ice sheets in Antarctica, the effects of rising temperatures on Earth have not gone unnoticed.

On Wednesday, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced 2016 was the hottest year on record. Before that, the record was set in 2015. Before that, it was 2014.

Both agencies linked the record-breaking temperatures to human-caused climate change. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released by cars, factories and power plants trap more heat in the atmosphere, causing temperatures to climb upward.

Although the most severe consequences of this warming have yet to come — especially if greenhouse gas emissions remain at current levels — some of the effects have already been felt. Scientists, public health officials and even the Pentagon are watching with great concern. Here’s a look at some of those effects:

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January 17, 2017

Here’s the Best Way to Explain Climate Change to Your Inquisitive Kids

By Richard Muller

How do I explain climate change to my teenager? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, author of Now, The Physics of Time, on Quora:

The best way to explain climate change to your teenager is to let him know that there is strong evidence that the average surface temperature of the Earth has warmed by about 1.5C, ever since the thermometer was invented. That’s not much, but it is enough to have caused the sea level to rise by about 8 inches (mostly because warmer water expands).

We know this warming is due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mostly from burning fossil fuels. That’s called the “Greenhouse effect”. Carbon dioxide increases the effectiveness of the atmosphere at trapping heat, so when carbon dioxide increases, it gets warmer.

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January 16, 2017

With Nine Gigawatts Coming Online In 2017, India Set To Emerge As Solar’s Third Superpower

By Peter Kelly-Detwiler

Global solar market has record 2016, but shows signs of a slowdown – 2016 was a record year for global solar installations.

Although final numbers are still being tallied, estimates suggest a number around 76,000 MW (or 76 GW). China drove the train, with 22 GW in the first half of the year before stalling out in the second half.

The U.S. also had a solid year, with around 14 GW. However, both of these key markets show signs of slowing in 2017, with the total global market retrenching to perhaps around 70 GW. China will scale back owing to a reduction in feed-in tariffs (the guaranteed price paid for solar output).

For its part, the U.S. is expected to see a hangover as a consequence of the late 2015 extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit, which resulted in developers jamming projects into 2016 to beat a deadline which was then extended. So 2017 U.S. installations will fall off somewhat.

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January 15, 2017

A new study just blew a hole in one of the strongest arguments against global warming

By Gene Kim and Jessica Orwig

The oceans are warming up faster than we thought. While this is bad news for the planet, it’s good news for climate change scientists who have — for the last two decades — puzzled over warming trends in ocean surface temperatures for nearly 20 years.

According to a big chunk of ocean surface temperature recorded by boat, the oceans were not warming nearly as quickly as the rest of the planet. This mystified scientists, but climate change skeptics used it as surefire, “scientific” proof that climate change either wasn’t as bad as scientists thought, or it didn’t exist, at all.

Now, a new study, published in Science Advances, has confirmed what NOAA first discovered in 2015 — the oceans are indeed warming, and faster than we thought. So why the change? It comes down to what every scientist knows too well — analyzing data collected by different methods, and at different times, is a tricky business because some methods of collecting ocean surface temperatures are more accurate than others.

The new study confirmed that data collected by boats were slightly different than data collected by buoys and satellites. So, when scientists combined all of the data, it skewed the results. To identify what’s really happening, the new study analyzed numerous data sets individually — instead of combing them all together.

They discovered that oceans have been warming about 70% more per decade for the last 19 years than previously thought. Source

January 14, 2017

 

© TYER Wind

 

This startup’s wind generator flaps its wings like a hummingbird

By Derek Markham

Even in the wild world of offbeat wind energy machines, Tyer Wind’s design stands out.

Small wind power seems like a great idea for a home or business until you learn the facts about how much more efficient, both cost- and energy-wise, large conventional wind turbines are. For certain situations, notably off-grid and rural locations with adequate wind speeds, small wind generators on tall masts can be a good option, but for the rest of us, mounting a tiny wind machine on our roof or in the backyard and expecting it to produce meaningful amounts of electricity just isn’t realistic. However, unconventional wind generators still attract a lot of attention, perhaps because of our attraction to the new and different, even if they will (most likely) never make it past the R&D and investment phases and into mass market.

This new wind converter design, from the folks behind the Saphonian bladeless wind machine, falls clearly into the ‘new and different’ category, and while the details of the TYER Wind machine are sparse, the available images and video are intriguing, to say the least. It’s not specifically a small wind machine, as the company appears to be envisioning large-scale deployment, but the working model is clearly in the micro- to small-scale wind category.

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January 13, 2017

 

(Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Scientists have a new way to calculate what global warming costs. Trump’s team isn’t going to like it.

By Chelsea Harvey

How we view the costs of future climate change, and more importantly how we quantify them, may soon be changing. A much-anticipated new report, just released by the National Academy of Sciences, recommends major updates to a federal metric known as the “social cost of carbon” — and its suggestions could help address a growing scientific concern that we’re underestimating the damages global warming will cause.

The social cost of carbon is an Obama-era metric first addressed by a federal working group in 2009. The basic premise is simple: Scientists agree that climate change will have all kinds of impacts on human societies, including natural disasters and effects on human health, productivity and agricultural output, all of which have economic consequences.

The social cost of carbon, then, refers to the monetary cost of emitting a single ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, given that these emissions will further contribute to global warming. The value has been used to aid in cost-benefit analyses for a variety of federal environmental rules. Currently, it’s set at about $36 per ton of carbon dioxide.

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January 12, 2017

Towards sustainable growth and climate-change adaptation

By Simón Gaviria Muñoz

Colombia- Bogotá – Despite belated efforts from the world’s nations to address the global warming challenge, it is now clear that temperatures will inevitably rise and that environmental and social consequences will follow. And yet, though it may be too late for humanity to prevent temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius globally, governments and citizens are still in a position to mitigate the consequences by effectively preparing to what is coming. Hence the looming question: will the world rise to the challenge and enact the necessary policies and incentives to adapt to climate-change or will it rest idle while it unfolds?

Considering the complexity of the issue and the multiple influencing variables, it is natural that the way in which countries and governments are to respond will vary. The major polluters, for instance, should focus primarily in reducing their carbon footprint as quickly as possible lest temperatures become intolerable. Meanwhile, countries set to be particularly affected by global warming–say, emerging economies that are likely to suffer from severe floods and droughts–should prioritize adapting their territories and infrastructure to withstand natural phenomena, while still trying to reduce their emissions.

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January 11, 2017

10 Reasons to Be Optimistic for a Low-Carbon Future

By Peyton Fleming

Sure, many of my friends in the climate change movement can’t wait to forget 2016, the year when an incoming Trump presidency brought new meaning to climate uncertainty. But there is a movement taking hold that is far bigger than the U.S.—I’ve seen it in the last year in Africa, in Europe and the U.S.

Here are 10 shining lights for the irresistibility and inevitability of the low-carbon future. It’s here—and there is no turning back.

1. Solar Symphony

Solar costs keep plummeting, the latest record low being a 120-megawatt solar project in Chile whose power will be sold for $29.10 a megawatt-hour, less than half the coal plant bid. Solar photovoltaic costs are dropping the fastest compared to other renewables, which helps explain the record 4,300 megawatts of new solar PV capacity installed in the U.S. in third quarter ’16. (That’s 60 percent of new generating electric capacity installed in the US last quarter). We also saw the opening of the world’s first one-kilometer road paved with solar panels, dubbed the “Wattway,” this month in France.

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January 10, 2017

 

Shutterstock/kstudija


The 13 top energy developments of 2016

By Laurie Guevara-Stone

While certain events in the past year may have had some people scratching their heads, we can look back on 2016 with a lot of gratitude. We’re not just talking that we got to run around with smartphones and catch Pokémons, or that we can now download Netflix movies. There were some exciting clean energy developments as well. Below are some of our favorites (in no particular order):

1. The Paris Agreement becomes legally binding
Even though 196 nations signed the COP21 Paris Agreement in 2015, it didn’t become legally binding until the agreement was ratified by 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions between them. That happened in October (in September, the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters — the U.S. and China — ratified the agreement), and on Nov. 4, the Paris Agreement became the first legally binding agreement, signed by all of the world’s functioning governments, to lay down a commitment to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100.

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January 9, 2017

 

Photograph: Chiang Ying-ying/AP


Prepare for reanimation of the zombie myth ‘no global warming since 2016’

By Dana Nuccitelli

Climate myths are like zombies – you shoot them through the heart, walk away thinking they’re dead, and then they pop back up behind you and try once again to eat your brain.

So it is with Stage 1 climate denial and the myth that the Earth isn’t warming. It’s so persistent that it’s related to the 5th, 9th, and 49th-most popular myths in the Skeptical Science database. Climate deniers have been peddling the myth ‘no warming since [insert date]’ for over a decade.

It’s a popular myth among those who benefit from maintaining the status quo because if the problem doesn’t exist, obviously there’s no need for action to solve it. And it’s an incredibly easy argument that can be made at any time, using the telltale technique of climate denial known as cherry picking.

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January 8, 2017

Make 2017 More Sustainable!

By Tania Arrayales

A New Year doesn’t have to mean unattainable resolutions. This year is all about bettering each other and celebrating every type of change no matter how big or small.

Want to live a more sustainable life? And don’t know where to start? I’ve put together a list of 12 ways to make difference in many aspect of your life.
Insider Tip: Write these down and place somewhere you can see it as a reminder.

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January 7, 2017

50 Ways to Make Your Business Greener This Year

By Annie Pilon

If one of your 2017 resolutions is to make your business greener, you’re in luck. There’s no shortage of ways you can improve your business practices to help the environment. And as a bonus, many of these improvements can also save your business some money. Here are 50 different ways you can make your business greener in the new year.

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January 6, 2017

5 Climate Change Innovations You’ll Hear About in 2017

By Jacqueline Ronson

There are a lot of big ideas floating out there in Earth’s carbon-heavy atmosphere about how to save the planet and its inhabitants from the worst effects of climate change. Some are risky and far off, like plans to put a giant mirror in orbit to divert the sun’s light, or spraying large quantities of sulphuric acid into the upper atmosphere to slightly darken global skies. Others are small and pretty easy to latch on to, like switching out a light bulb for one that will save you money on your electricity bill.

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January 5, 2017

 

Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology


New technique predicts frequency of heavy precipitation with global warming

By Jennifer Chu

On Dec. 11, 2014, a freight train of a storm steamed through much of California, deluging the San Francisco Bay Area with three inches of rain in just one hour. The storm was fueled by what meteorologists refer to as the “Pineapple Express”—an atmospheric river of moisture that is whipped up over the Pacific’s tropical waters and swept north with the jet stream.

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January 4, 2017

 

Photograph: Roger Harrabin


Indian firm makes carbon capture breakthrough

By Roger Harrabin

Carbonclean is turning planet-heating emissions into profit by converting CO2 into baking powder – and could lock up 60,000 tonnes of CO2 a year.

A breakthrough in the race to make useful products out of planet-heating CO2 emissions has been made in southern India.

A plant at the industrial port of Tuticorin is capturing CO2 from its own coal-powered boiler and using it to make soda ash – aka baking powder.

Crucially, the technology is running without subsidy, which is a major advance for carbon capture technology as for decades it has languished under high costs and lukewarm government support.

The firm behind the Tuticorin process says its chemicals will lock up 60,000 tonnes of CO2 a year and the technology is attracting interest from around the world.

Debate over carbon capture has mostly focused until now on carbon capture and storage (CCS), in which emissions are forced into underground rocks at great cost and no economic benefit. The Tuticorin plant is said to be the first industrial scale example of carbon capture and utilisation (CCU).
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January 3, 2017

 

David McNew/Getty Images


4 reasons not to completely despair about climate change in 2017

By Neil Bhatiya

The end of 2016 has not been a sunny time for climate activists.

As the Trump administration takes shape, it has become crystal clear that the president-elect’s climate change denialism will soon become de facto U.S. policy. And Trump will not only have many options for rolling back the progress President Obama made to curb carbon emissions, he already is putting in place the personnel to do it. Trump’s proposed picks include: for head of the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is currently suing the agency; for secretary of the interior, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who despite his support for protecting public lands, is lukewarm on climate issues; and, for state department secretary — the face of the United States in international climate negotiations — Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil who is locked in a battle with the descendants of the oil company’s founder over its role in distorting the evidence of climate change.

Not all of the news is this bleak, however. As the year ends, there are some pockets of optimism:

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January 2, 2017

 

Photograph: Will Singleton/AP


The five innovations that shaped sustainability in 2016

By Laura Parker

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. In the world of sustainability alone, we saw the landmark Paris climate change agreement come into force; learned how rising temperatures in the Arctic are negatively impacting local residents; and watched as the world’s top conservationists mourned the declining state of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

And then, a bombshell: a certain “short-fingered vulgarian” won the US presidential race and called into question everything from America’s basic environmental protection to Nasa’s ongoing climate change research. Corporate America took evasive action, signing a letter telling Donald Trump it is serious about sustainability, while others began unpacking Trump’s emphasis on “clean coal” and what it really means for the future of energy in the US.

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January 1, 2017

 

A power plant in Sweden where waste is converted into energySource: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/Getty Images

A power plant in Sweden where waste is converted into energySource: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/Getty Images


Sweden is so damn good at recycling, it ran out of trash

By Eric Lutz

Sweden, a nation with a long history of green leadership, gets a significant portion of its energy from burning household waste.

But a self-described “recycling revolution” has led to less than one 1% of the country’s waste being landfilled, and Sweden has taken to importing garbage from other countries to keep its recycling plants going, the Independent reported.

Yes, you read that right: People are sending Sweden their garbage.

Countries like Norway and England are paying Sweden to take their trash, and Sweden is using that trash to heat their homes.

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