Tag Archives: Climate change

Not seeing the wood for the trees—the EU’s environmental blunder

Supporting a conversion to wood burning has unwittingly incentivised power plants to increase greenhouse gases.
By George Tyler – The European Union is leading the world in adopting limits on greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, notably via hefty carbon taxes. New policies always experience teething problems but an EU environmental regulation adopted in 2009 has become an embarrassing own goal.

The regulation classified wood burning as environmentally superior to fossil fuels—even carbon-neutral—and exempted it from carbon taxes. That was intuitive perhaps but an untested presumption adopted in a data vacuum. The notion was that harvesting forests for power-plant fuel would establish a virtuous cycle, with tree regrowth offsetting the wood-burning emissions.

But rigorous subsequent analyses have led experts to debunk the notion of wood as carbon-neutral. In no scenario, even stretching over a century, does replanted forest sequester sufficient carbon. In the most environmentally beneficial scenario, a quarter of a hardwood forest can be harvested for power-plant fuel and, if replanted with hardwood—and the entire forest left untouched and free of fire, drought or infestation during the subsequent century—will sequester all of 66 per cent of the emissions released by the initial burning. more>

 

Apocalypse or co-operation?

The perfect storm of Covid-19 and climate change, and resulting economic damage, will likely trigger much more social and political instability.
By Jayati Ghosh – The apocalypse is now. That is the glaring message of the perfect storm of Covid-19 and climate change which has broken. The pandemic is unlikely to end for years, as the novel coronavirus mutates into increasingly transmissible, drug-resistant variants. And the climate catastrophe is no longer ‘impending’ but playing out in real time.

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—whose assessments predate the extreme climate events of the past year—tells us that some drastic, adverse climatic changes are now irreversible. These will affect every region, as the recent heatwaves, wildfires and floods demonstrate. They will also severely damage many natural species and adversely affect the possibilities for, and conditions of, human life.

Keeping future global warming to a manageable level (even if above the 2015 Paris climate agreement goal of 1.5C) will require a massive effort, involving sharp economic-policy reversals in every country. Major changes in the global legal and economic architecture will be essential.

For its part, the pandemic has devastated employment and livelihoods, pushing hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the developing world, into poverty and hunger. The International Labor Organization’s World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2021 shows the extent of the damage in grinding detail. In 2020, the pandemic caused the loss of nearly 9 per cent of total global working hours, equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs. This trend has continued in 2021, with working-hour losses equivalent to 140 million full-time jobs in the first quarter and 127 million jobs in the second quarter. more>

Energize This: Canada Could Become A Global Hub For New Nuclear Technology

By Tomas Kellner – Canada, like many industrialized countries, has pledged to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. But what makes Canada unique is how it wants to achieve that goal. Like others, it has been boosting renewables like wind and solar. But it also plans to add to the mix a powerful new source: small modular reactors, or SMRs.

SMRs can generate carbon-free electricity while overcoming some of the nuclear industry’s biggest challenges — namely, cost and lengthy construction times.

They can play a crucial role in helping Canada decarbonize in several important ways. Designed to produce up to 300 megawatts of carbon-free electricity generation, SMRs can step in when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining, which can happen for extended periods during Canada’s long winters, marked by a formidable mix of snow, cold and short days. But they can also help provide carbon-free generation in remote areas, particularly in the northern regions, where many rely on diesel generators for electricity. more>

New UN climate report is a ‘Code Red for Humanity’

By Reynard Loki – In a grim report released on August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that climate change was “unequivocally” caused by human activity, and that within two decades, rising temperatures will cause the planet to reach a significant turning point in global warming. The report’s authors—a group of the world’s top climate scientists convened by the United Nations (UN)—predict that by 2040, average global temperatures will be warmer than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, causing more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts and extreme weather events. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the bleak findings a “code red for humanity.”

The report found global warming increasing at a faster rate than earlier predictions estimated. “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land… [and] at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years,” the report says. “Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” Even if the world’s nations enacted sharp and stringent reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases today, overall global warming is still estimated to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next 20 years. That means that the hotter, more dangerous future that scientists and the Paris climate agreement sought to avoid is now unavoidable.

Linda Mearns, a senior climate scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and one of the report’s co-authors, offered a stern warning: “It’s just guaranteed that it’s going to get worse,” she said, adding that there is “[n]owhere to run, nowhere to hide.” In an interview with the Hill, Kim Cobb, the lead author of the report’s first chapter, said, “We’re already reeling, clearly, from so many of these impacts that the report highlights, especially in the category of extremes that are gripping these headlines and causing so much damage, but of course the 1.5 degree C world is notably and discernibly worse.” more>

Only a fully digital Europe can keep up with China and the US

By Ludovic Lassauce – While Europe’s vaccination campaigns are only just getting into full swing, the global race towards post-Covid economic recovery is already underway – and as usual, the European Union is lagging behind. While the European Commission estimates the Eurozone will need another year to return to pre-pandemic growth levels, a surging US economy has reclaimed its former mantle as the engine of global economic activity, while China’s record 18.3% growth rate in the first quarter shows Beijing is well on its way to making up for 2020’s losses.

With his characteristic bluntness, France’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire laid out the stakes of the moment when he asked his EU counterparts this month whether they “want to play in the first league” or otherwise “lag behind China and the US.” While trillions of dollars in stimulus spending have already buoyed the US economy, Europe is still months away from disbursing the €750 billion in recovery funds it promised last year. Commission officials like Paolo Gentiloni and European finance ministers like Le Maire are thus rightly concerned that a simple ‘return to normal’ won’t be enough to keep Europe competitive in the post-pandemic global economy.

Digital silver linings

And yet, as EU leaders prepare to debate the terms of the post-COVID recovery with their new US counterpart at this month’s G7 summit, they can take heart in the progress Europe has made towards a fully digital economy in the midst of a public health catastrophe. Faced with an urgent necessity, European economies made years’ worth of progress in digitalization in mere months. Some of Europe’s least digitalized countries, such as Greece, were able to move the majority of their services online practically overnight, using the pandemic to overcome inertia in the span of just a few weeks.

By insisting EU members allocate a minimum of 20% of their shares of the EU recovery package to digital investment, Brussels has sent a clear message to European governments that their chronic failure to implement future-minded reforms and invest in the latest generation of digital technologies, exemplified by 5G, is no longer tenable. Even if China and the US enjoy an advantage in pure growth, the EU’s “green and digital” approach to the recovery can still shape the global conversation – but only if the EU’s national governments get serious about implementing the digital pledges they have signed up for. more>

Unsnarling Traffic Jams Is the Newest Way to Lower Emissions

By John Fialka – The Department of Energy is preparing to use the massive computing power of its national laboratories to tackle a daily scourge of American life: traffic jams.

The effort is aimed at more than just improving motorists’ moods. If it works, it could cut U.S. transportation fuel consumption up to 20% and reduce auto emissions.

A second goal is to recover as much as $100 billion in lost worker productivity by unsnarling rush hour traffic jams in U.S. cities over the next 10 years.

Two years ago Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., selected Chattanooga, Tenn. (population 182,799), as the guinea pig for their first traffic-cutting experiment.

The city, nestled among the hills and ridges of the southeastern corner of the state, is ranked among the nation’s top 20 most traffic-congested cities.

The first step for NREL scientists was to make a detailed computer model, or what it calls a “digital twin,” of the city’s traffic patterns to isolate and then explore solutions to its snarled rush hours.

“Chattanooga provided an ideal microcosm of conditions and opportunities to work with an exceptional roster of municipal and state partners,” explained John Farrell, who manages the vehicle technology management program for NREL.

“Eventually, the plan is to apply these solutions to larger metropolitan areas and regional corridors across the country.” more>

Updates from ITU

The benefits of space must be accessible to all
ITU News recently caught up with Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Simonetta Di Pippo, who leads UNOOSA’s strategic, policy and programmatic activities and advises the United Nations Secretary-General on space affairs. 

UNOOSA carries out an important mission regarding activities in space. What exactly does UNOOSA do, and how does this differ from the work of its sister UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)?

UNOOSA’s mission is to promote the peaceful uses of outer space and ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to the benefits of space technology and applications. ITU, on the other hand, is committed to connecting all the world’s people, wherever they live and whatever their means, so that they can effectively communicate through radio and satellite technology. Therefore, our missions are closely aligned and interdependent.

Space exploration is the backbone of modern communication technologies: every time you make a phone call or access the Internet, you are benefitting from space technology, which also enables satellite navigation, remote financial transactions and many more of the activities that make our modern lives possible.

UNOOSA’s work, in ensuring strong international cooperation in space, the sustainability of space exploration, and inclusiveness for developing countries in benefiting from space, creates a strong foundation for ITU’s work in leveraging the potential of communication technologies. more>

Related>

GE eyes 100% hydrogen-fueled power plants by 2030

By Frédéric Simon – While fossil gas is often seen as a transition fuel towards a fully decarbonized energy mix, GE Gas Power sees low-carbon gas as “a destination technology” with the potential to convert power plants to run 100% on clean hydrogen by 2030.

“Today, we have a 50% hydrogen capability for combustion in our largest baseload gas turbines” used for power generation, said Martin O’Neill, vice president at GE Gas Power.

The company’s objective, he explained, is to continue research and development in order “to advance the percentage of hydrogen combustion capability towards 100% by 2030,” he told a EURACTIV event earlier this month.

However, getting there would require a rapid scale up in the production of clean hydrogen, he added. And that will only be possible if multiple sources of low-carbon hydrogen are added to the mix, including so-called “blue hydrogen” where emissions are somehow captured and stored. more>

Germany’s renewable electric plan gets green light from EU

New scheme lifts some important barriers for the use of electrolysers in order to produce hydrogen
By Kostis Geropoulos – The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, the prolongation and modification of a German scheme to support the production of electricity from renewable energy sources and from mine gas, as well as reductions of charges to fund support for electricity from renewable sources, the EU’s competition chief said.

The German Renewable Energy Act (Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz – EEG) 2021 scheme will provide important support to the environmentally-friendly production of electricity, in line with EU rules, European Commission Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy Margrethe Vestager said.

“Thanks to this measure, a higher share of electricity in Germany will be produced through renewable energy sources, contributing to further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the objectives of the Green Deal,” she said. “The scheme introduces new features to ensure that aid is kept to the minimum and electricity production occurs in line with market signals, while at the same time ensuring the competitiveness of energy-intensive companies and reducing pollution caused by ships in harbour. In this way, the scheme provides the best value for taxpayers’ money, while minimizing possible distortions of competition,” Vestager added.

The scheme also introduces small modifications to the German EEG surcharge reductions for energy intensive companies, a dedicated rule for surcharge reductions for hydrogen for energy intensive companies, as well as EEG surcharge reductions to promote the use of shore-side electricity by ships while at berth in ports.

Hydrogen Europe Secretary General Jorgo Chatzimarkakis told New Europe on April 30 the new scheme lifts some important barriers for the use of electrolysers in order to produce hydrogen. “This is good news and important signal for investments in the sector of ‘HydroGenewables,’” he said. more>

Empire Politician

A Half-Century of Joe Biden’s Stances on War, Militarism, and the CIA
(theintercept.com)By Jeremy Scahill – “I’m not going to change,” Joe Biden said in his 2008 vice presidential debate with Sarah Palin. “I have 35 years in public office. People can judge who I am. I haven’t changed in that time.”

Never in U.S. history has the country had a president with the voluminous paper trail that followed Biden into the White House. Since the Vietnam War, Biden has been in public office for all but four of the past 49 years. He has cast thousands of votes, sponsored or co-sponsored hundreds of bills, and taken public positions on virtually every possible foreign and domestic policy issue. He has served long enough to make it possible to chart, in great detail, the evolution of his positions on a range of issues, to analyze his contradictions, and to draw conclusions about how he sees the role of Congress and the executive branch on the most sensitive and consequential decisions made by the government: decisions about war and organized state violence.

The Intercept conducted an exhaustive analysis of Biden’s political career, with a focus on his positions on dozens of U.S. wars and military campaigns, CIA covert actions, and abuses of power; his views on whistleblowers and leakers; and his shifting stance on the often contentious relationship between the executive and legislative branches over war powers. While many of Biden’s positions could be assessed by reviewing his sprawling voting record and public statements, evaluating some of his actions, particularly from the first few decades of his career, required poring over copies of the congressional record, speech transcripts, archival media reports, and declassified government documents, including from the CIA.

The picture that emerges is of a man who is dedicated to the U.S. as an empire, who believes that preserving U.S. national interests and “prestige” on the global stage outweighs considerations of morality or even at times the deaths of innocent people. It also reveals a politician who consistently claims to hold bedrock principles but who often strays from those positions in support of a partisan agenda or because he wants a policy adopted regardless of the hypocrisy or contradictions. Nowhere is this dynamic more pronounced than on U.S. wars.

The picture that emerges is of a man who is dedicated to the U.S. as an empire. more>