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Saturday, May 23, 2015

California governor orders aggressive greenhouse

It is starting to look as if state's are competing to be first in cutting greenhouse gases to their lowest possible level. That is one race we hope ends in a tie and they all win.

This is an exciting year, and one of the most exciting times to be alive.  We are living the next great industrial revolution as we migrate from a fossil fuel-based economy to a clean-energy one.  The transformation is speeding along at a very rapid rate.  With it, we believe, will come new jobs, co;s, technology, lifestyle that will endure for generations.

California governor orders aggressive greenhouse gas cuts by 2030

By Rory Carroll

Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order on Wednesday to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, a move he said was necessary to combat the growing threat of climate change.

The targeted reduction was tied to 1990 levels and is "the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions," Brown said in a statement.

California operates the nation's largest carbon cap and trade system. The state sets an overall limit on carbon emissions and allows businesses to hand in tradeable permits to meet their obligations.

Achieving the new target will require reductions from sectors including industry, agriculture, energy and state and local governments, Brown said.

"I've set a very high bar, but it's a bar we must meet," Brown told a carbon market conference in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Brown said the new target will position California as a leader in combating climate change in the United States and internationally.

Brown said he has spoken to leaders in Oregon, Washington and Northeastern states about collaborating with California to cut their output of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Those states could potentially link to California's carbon market in future years.

He said he has had similar discussions with leaders in the Canadian provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario, as well as in Germany, China and Mexico.

Quebec is already linked to the California market. Leaders in Ontario this month signaled their intention to join the program.

"This will be a local policy but it will be globally focused," Brown told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the news and encouraged other states and cities around the world to also take action, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

"California's bold commitment to tackling climate change is a strong example to states and regions all over the world that they can join their national governments in taking ownership of this critical issue and in showing leadership," Haq said.

The plan for how California will achieve the 2030 target will be hammered out over the next year by the California Air Resources Board (ARB), which oversees the cap-and-trade program.

"With this bold action by the governor, California extends its leadership role and joins the community of states and nations that are committed to slash carbon pollution through 2030 and beyond," said Mary Nichols, chair of the ARB.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Susan Heavey and David Gregorio)

Blooming Algae Could Accelerate

Another interesting example of environmental changes and their potential impact on our climate. Algae, as you well know, is soon to be used in many different and new applications that will power our world in a clean fashion.  However, for many years we've been fighting its rampant choking of ponds and the surrounding vegetation.

Again, there is much controversy on whether we are seeing accelerated warming or accelerated cooling across the globe (with predictions we will experience record low temperatures for the next decade in the US, as an example).  Either way there's significant risk to our economy and quality of life.  The Arctic is clearly in danger of suffering great physical change.

Blooming Algae Could Accelerate Arctic Warming

Blooms of algae in the Arctic Ocean could add a previously unsuspected warming feedback to the mix of factors driving temperatures in the north polar regions up faster than any other place on the planet, according to the authors of a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“By the end of the century, this could lead to 20 percent more warming in the Arctic than we would see otherwise,” said lead author Jong-Yeon Park, of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, in Hamburg Germany.
Average temperatures in the region are already 2.7°F higher than the 1971-2000 average — twice as much as the warming seen in other parts of the world. Even without this newly identified algae feedback, summer temperatures in the region could be as much as 23.4° F warmer in summer than they were before human emissions began in the 1800s. Add 20 percent to that and you’re up to 28° — a level that could thaw permafrost drastically, and release even more heat-trapping CO2 into the air.
There’s no question that algae blooms are on the increase as Arctic ice thins. Scientists have generally believed that more algae — more specifically, the type known as phytoplankton — would be good for the climate, since they thrive on CO2 while alive, then carry the carbon they’ve absorbed down to the sea bottom when they die. Some experts have even suggested that fertilizing the oceans to encourage algal growth would be one way to counteract global warming.
But Park and his co-authors point out that thicker layers of algae on the sea surface would prevent sunlight from penetrating deeper into the water.
“More heat is trapped in the upper layers of the ocean, where it can be easily released back into the atmosphere,” Park said. He and his team reached this conclusion by marrying computer models of how ocean ecosystems behave to models that simulate the climate. Then they ramped up levels of CO2 to see how the algae would respond to the resulting warming, the extra carbon dioxide itself, and changes in sea ice. 
The analysis makes sense, according to independent scientists — up to a point, anyway.
“The authors show that phytoplankton plays a role in the vertical distribution of solar energy reaching the Arctic Ocean,” Mar Fernández-Méndez, a sea-ice biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Biology, in Bremen, Germany, said. “But while the study is credible, it’s based on model results, not observations.”
That being the case, Fernández-Méndez said, any incorrect assumptions in the model would lead to an incorrect conclusion. The particular model Park and his colleagues used, she said, is not specifically designed for the Arctic, where a number of factors could skew the results.
© Provided by Climate Central 
One, which the authors themselves note, is that the warming of the Arctic Ocean that is already happening could trap nutrients in deeper, cooler layers that would make them less available to feed algae blooms. Another is that an increase in Arctic cloud cover — a plausible outcome of global warming, which promotes evaporation from the oceans — could deprive algae of the sunlight they need to thrive. Nevertheless, said Fernández-Méndez, “the results stress the importance of taking biological processes into account in climate models.”
This study, like virtually all research that breaks new ground, is hardly likely to be the final word on the matter.
“This aspect of climate change has not been adequately modelled in the past,” said Victor Smetacek, of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar Research, in Bremerhaven, Germany. The new study, he said, is an important step in the right direction.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Utility Sales May Drop by Half

This is perhaps an unexpected result of the world's aggressive investments in renewables, but we think it is a good one.   When a community starts to invest in locally produced energy, jobs flow and money comes back into the economy as most communities are not in areas that produce oil or natural gas.  Most of us are spending lots of money bringing fossil fuel into our homes and cars.

Then,, of course, there's the value of fixing costs and protecting the environment and health. We can also avoid building new power plants to meet growing demand (efficiency does this as well), and it prevents very high peak-season demands that force costly consumption of energy.

We think this will lay the ground work for more micro-grids as well.

Utility Sales May Drop by Half as Homes Make Their Own Renewable Power

Renewables Account for 75 Percent

Good timing on this.  This comes on the heels of a great victory in RI as West Warwick became the first town (or city) to invest in 100% clean energy.  They will be the off-taker of three 1.5 meg wind turbines that will be built this summer in a nearby town.  This comes on top of their significant investments in solar.

The world is building a new economy and nature is powering that.

Renewables Account for 75 Percent of New US Generating Capacity in First Quarter of 2015

According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower combined provided over 75 percent (75.43 percent) of the 1,229 megawatts (MW) of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service during the first quarter of 2015. The balance (302 MW) was provided by natural gas.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Putting a price

Here's one more example of contemplating the costs of protecting or not protecting our natural resources;  in this case, the oceans.  If WWF is right a gross marine product of 2.5 trillion per year is incredible valuable.  Oceans are the playing field for many competing industries, shipping, fishing, tourism, and is attracting big, new players like wind energy companies.

So, how do we use the assets of our oceans without destroying them?  Can we be more careful (we just had an oil spill yesterday in CA) on what industries we allow to exploit the resources?  How much should we invest in restoring their health (such as, cleaning up the mountains of plastic waste) and protecting them?

Science is allowing us to understand our world so much better.  We can't claim ignorance any longer.  We know the price we pay for misusing or abusing our natural resources.  Now that we can measure their economic value, and understand their importance to certain industries and jobs, it should be easy for us to justify substantial investments i preserving their value to us for many centuries and generations.

Putting a price on the world's oceans

A new WWF report says puts the annual gross marine product at $2.5 trillion, which makes it more valuable than all but six of the world's economies. But for all that, it is continually exploited.
Not only fish are at risk from the challenges we constantly throw at our oceans
When it comes to our oceans, there is no fair exchange. They provide us with treasures and we fill them with rubbish. They stabilize the climate and we challenge them to work harder.

Conservationists and marine biologists have long lamented this inequality, appealing to countries, companies and communities alike to understand the importance of the salty waters that cover more than two-thirds of the earth's surface.

The message may have got through to some, but the alarming reality is that our oceans are in dire danger of being over-fished, over-polluted, over-heated, and over-acidified. The consequences, the WWF says in its new report, pose a threat to "the future of humanity."

The document, entitled Reviving the Ocean Economy: The case for action – 2015, WWF "conservatively" estimates the value of key ocean assets to be $24 trillion (22 trillion euros), and puts the annual gross marine product at $2.5 trillion. That figure, which does not take into account non-direct outputs such as offshore oil and gas or wind energy, would make the ocean the world's 7th largest economy.

The long route to restored health
More than two-thirds of the gross marine product is dependent on healthy ocean assets, but as the seas are degraded, they become less able to feed and provide livelihoods for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on them.

Coral reefs could disappear completely within the next 35 years if we don't change our habits

By way of example, WWF says 90 percent of global fish stocks are either over or fully exploited. The picture is equally bleak for other marine or marine-related life. According to the paper, current rates of temperature increase will lead coral reefs to "disappear by 2050."

Against that backdrop, the report lays out an eight-point restoration plan, calling on the international community to ensure that ocean recovery "features strongly in the UN Post-2015 Agenda" and address the problems of ocean warming and acidification. It also stresses the need for countries to deliver on the agreed target for protected marine and coastal areas, and to revise policies to prevent further over-fishing.

It further suggests the establishment of a coalition to monitor sustainable ocean management, and private-public partnerships that factor in "the well-being of communities, ecosystems and businesses."

If adhered to, the report says the plan of action could provide a sustainable future for those who rely directly on the ocean for their food and jobs, "and for all humanity, which depends on the ocean as an essential contributor to the health of our planet."

Grey wolf of the Isle Royale National Park

We know there's great dispute around "climate change";  is it contrived by those who can make money studying and fixing the problem, or is it truly the greatest challenged mankind has faced.

Regardless, and we avoid the dispute, we know over development, too much carbon in the air, pollutants souring our water supply is avoidable in many situations, and offers tremendous economic growth as migrate away from a fossil-fuel based social structure.

Environmental changes impact nature as seen below.  Some of these same ramifications show up in our health care costs and risks.  Balancing nature and commerce and restoring natural resources is good business and protects our lands, water ,wildlife and quality of life. 

Grey wolf of the Isle Royale National Park could drive to extinction due to climate change


Gone have the days, when Michigan’s Isle Royale was known for its huge population of grey wolves in the whole United States of America. But today, these bigger and broader animals of wolf family are about to extinct from the most remote national park, as there remain just three individuals, a mated pair and their pup, on the island in Lake Superior. Illegal hunting, and inbreeding are some of the reasons in the eyes of archaeologists, but they blame a sudden climate change in the region for the rigorous decline of the species.

Although, it might be too late for the wildlife experts and managers of the Isle Royale National Park, but is not impossible to recover the population by bringing more wolves to the park and restore the ecosystem health by keeping the growing moose population in check.

Michigan Technological University department wildlife ecologist, John Vucetich, who worked on the new report, said, “Isle Royale is the last place on the planet where you have a forested ecosystem, a wolf population and moose population where none of them are exploited by humans.”

Due to its isolation from human influence, Isle Royale National Park is an ideal place to study predator-prey dynamics. Keeping the ideal environment of Isle Park in mind, ecologists, since 1950s, have been working and conducting surveys on the populations of wolves and moose to figure out how and why the balance between the predator and prey shifted over time in the island.

According to Vucetich, the moose came to the island from the start of 1900, and used to eat the native plants and trees of the island, such as balsam firs, without the danger of any predator. However, in the early 20th century, Aldo Leopold presented the idea of introducing grey wolves on the island to put a check on the moose population, he added. However, by the late 1940s, grey wolves started shifting to the island through an ice bridge on their own, which increased the wolf population to 50 individuals over time.

In the late 1980s, the wolf population suddenly decreased due to an outbreak of a type of disease called canine parvovirus, which spread through pet dogs in the area, said Vucetich. The last time an increase was noticed, after the sudden crash, was around by 1990s. But, unfortunately, biologists are observing another frequent drop in the population of the famous wolf in the island.

In the last year’s survey report of the ecologists, there were counted nine grey wolves in total, while from the start of 2015, only three wolves have been seen by the biologists marking a new low.
On the other hand, the population of moose, over the same one year period, grew 19 percent, to 1250 from 1050, according to the survey report.

“With such a small population, the wolves are susceptible to inbreeding, which can lead to serious health and reproductive problems. Bone deformities that occur at a rate of 1 in 100 in the general wolf population have been occurring recently at a rate of 1 in 3 in the wolves on Isle Royale” said Vucetich. The three individual left on the island consisted of a mated pair and their pup that has a deformed tail and hunched posture and is currently with its parents.

Other than inbreeding and hunting, scientists believe that climate change is likely the most important factor in the sudden drop of the wolf population in the island, and the reproduction is unlikely without creative genetic material. Due to in rise in global temperature, it is likely for the wolves to get to the Isle Park from the mainland as ice bridge is longer seems to form in the winter, Vucetich said.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

China’s jaw-dropping progress at reducing CO2 emissions

We are, in all honesty, happily shocked by this story and improvements show by  China.  Who predicted this?

We think this proves, again, that positive change can come quickly. The world is now passionate about clean and green.  The scales have tipped to reducing carbon levels, regardless of green house gases influence on global warming.  Our race to temper our prior pollution levels and pull back to safe levels is in high gear.  It is good to see China part of the solution.

Against all odds, China has made tremendous strides in the fight against CO2 emissions. In just four months, it reduced levels to the amount the UK emits in the same period. Experts have been warning China for years of an impending eco catastrophe.

The progress comes on the heels of Chinese promises to shut down the last remaining coal plant in Beijing in 2016 and cut reliance by 160 million tons in a matter of just five years. Very worrying statistics have been coming out of the country, with stark health warnings to people living in or near the industrial regions of the country.

An analysis of its energy production, carried out by Greenpeace and Energydesk China, reveals a drop of eight percent in coal consumption and a reduction in CO2 emission by five percent in as little as four months, since the start of this year. In comparison to last year, the pace of weaning itself off coal is gathering steam.

To achieve these reductions, China has had to close more than 1,000 coal plants (it leads the world in coal consumption and greenhouse gas emissions). It managed to get levels down to the same amount the UK has emitted in the last four months.

It’s a good time to get results, as the UN Paris summit on climate change is coming up in just six months, with all hopes pinned on reaching a global consensus on policy matters.

But China, historically, has been very resistant to others telling it what to do, due to a huge reliance on outdated methods of energy generation. This appears to be changing, with President Xi Jinping’s and Indian Prime Minister Nadendra Modi’s public calls for developing countries to commit to cutting carbon emissions and a pledge to help others to do so.

The two nations have just signed a record $22 billion in deals.
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