Automobile exhaust is an important contributor to air pollution, but this fuel tax inordinately hits people of moderate to low income who are already using as little gas as possible, cannot afford to live closer to where they need to go or buy a new, fuel-efficient car. Curbing industrial emissions through technology or degrowth, improvement in mass transit, urban planning and policies aimed at gentrification and investment real estate are alternatives.
2018/sep/26: There may be more bicycles but there will also be more planes. We’re still in denial about the scale of the threat to the planet.
Beyond a certain point, economic growth – the force that lifted people out of poverty, and cured deprivation, squalor and disease – tips us back into those conditions.
how come oil production, for the first time in history, is about to hit 100m barrels a day? How come the oil industry expects demand to climb until the 2030s? How is it that in Germany, whose energy transition (Energiewende) was supposed to be a model for the world, protesters are being beaten up by police as they try to defend the 12,000-year-old Hambacher forest from an opencast mine extracting lignite – the dirtiest form of coal? Why have investments in Canadian tar sands – the dirtiest source of oil – doubled in a year?
The answer is, growth. There may be more electric vehicles on the world’s roads, but there are also more internal combustion engines. Given that economic growth, in nations that are already rich enough to meet the needs of all, requires an increase in pointless consumption, it is hard to see how it can ever be decoupled from the assault on the living planet.
It doesn’t matter how many good things we do: preventing climate breakdown means ceasing to do bad things.
Electric vehicles have driven a new resource rush, particularly for lithium, that is already polluting rivers and trashing precious wild places. Clean growth is as much of an oxymoron as clean coal.
2018/09/26: The energy lessons here are many.
The industrial whale business tells us, for example, that human economies don’t respond to the depletion of any commodity with alacrity. Or reason.
The discovery and mining of petroleum could have prevented the slaughter of nearly three million whales in the 20th century, but it didn’t.
Just because a substitute exists — kerosene for whale oil or renewables for some fossil fuels — doesn’t mean the market will use them for conservation purposes.
The factory ship and its fleet could not exist without fossil fuels, which powered the whole operation and allowed for long-duration storage of whale products by running freezers (for meat) and processing whale oil so it would not become rancid.
The prospect of regulating whaling also provided whalers with an extra incentive to catch as many whales as they could before the regulations came into force.
Economists now call this perverse response to resource depletion the “green paradox.”
German economist Hans-Werner Sinn, for example, argues that society is playing out the same game with fossil fuels.
policies aimed at reducing future demand for fossil fuels could backfire by inducing resource owners to bring forward their extraction plans, thus accelerating global warming. In fact most oil-exporting nations such as Canada want to build more pipelines and export more carbon-heavy fuels as quickly as possible.
Technological innovations don’t retire resources or lead to conservation but increase production so as to increase revenue.
The widespread expectation that new technologies will help societies overcome environmental problems reflects the still common assumption that technologies will principally have the consequences intended by those who develop and/or deploy them.
Real change, he writes, “may require active suppression of fossil fuel use, such as by restricting the amount of fossil fuel that can be extracted.”
2018/09/22: Permafrost thawing could indeed release ancient fossil fuels in areas where they intersect.
So now, in the Arctic’s August warmth, she had come back to this isolated spot with a small research team, along with her husband and two young sons, to see what secrets Esieh Lake might yield. Was it simply a bizarre anomaly? Or was it a sign that the thawing Arctic had begun to release an ancient source of methane that could worsen climate change?
When the scientists examined samples of the gases, they found the chemical signature of a “geologic” origin. In other words, the methane venting from the lake seemed to be emerging not from the direct thawing of frozen Arctic soil, or permafrost, but rather from a reservoir of far older fossil fuels.
If that were happening all over the Arctic, Walter Anthony figured — if fossil fuels that had been buried for millennia were now being exposed to the atmosphere — the planet could be in even deeper peril.
Scientists know the permafrost contains an enormous amount of carbon — enough to catastrophically warm the planet if it were all released into the atmosphere. But they don’t know how fast it can come out and whether changes will be gradual or rapid.
the continuing growth of thermokarst lakes — many of which have already formed in the tundra — could more than double the greenhouse gas emissions coming from the Arctic’s soils by 2100. That’s despite the fact that the lakes would cover less than 6 percent of the total Arctic land surface.
2018/09/16: How bad is the situation with plastic pollution? Rather bad, by all means. Citing from a recent paper by Geyer et al., more than 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. Of this mass, 9% percent was recycled, 12% was incinerated, the rest is still around. It is this mass of plastics, billions of tons, which generates the pollution we see today. It is almost one ton of plastic waste for every human being living today. Imagine if it were magically to appear in your living room: one ton for every member of your family.
Still following Geyer et al., we learn that in 2015 the world produced 380 million tons of plastics from fossil hydrocarbons. To get some idea of how polluting this mass is, we can compare it to the total carbon emissions produced by hydrocarbon combustion, which today can be estimated to be around 9 billion tons per year. As an order of magnitude comparison, we can say that about 4% of the fossil hydrocarbons we extract become plastics.
4% doesn't seem to be a large amount, but it is not negligible, either. Apart from the horrible state of some beaches, the islands of plastics in the oceans, it is a lot of carbon pumped into the ecosystems and its effects are scarcely known, especially on humans: we are all eating microplastic particles, today. What will that do to our health, nobody knows -- we are all guinea pigs in a great experiment. The long-run problem is that all this plastic is made from fossil hydrocarbons, it is going to be gradually oxidized and turned into gaseous CO2. Then, it will contribute to global warming.
is bioplastic the solution to the problem? As it often happens, quantification makes short work of ideas that seemed to be good in theory. Today, bioplastics are made mainly from cereals (corn) or directly from sugar. According to the data from Statista, the world's production of sugar was about 170 million tons in 2017, less than half the amount needed to make the currently produced amounts of plastics even in the wildly optimistic assumption of a 100% efficient process. About grain, the data tell us that in crop year 2016/2017, a total of approximately 2.62 billion metric tons of grain were produced worldwide. Again in the wildly optimistic assumption of a 100% efficient production process, it means we should set aside about 15% of the world's grain production - more realistically about 20%-25%. Then, of course, efficiency can be improved and we may find ways to make plastic out of plants not used as food. But, at present, it is the way things stand.
There is just so much that agriculture can do: it can't feed more than 7 billion people and, at the same time, provide fiber, chemicals, and fuel for everybody.
it would be perfectly possible to develop and implement international agreements that would curb the use of plastics made from fossil fuels and eventually ban it completely. That implies changing something in our everyday life: the "overpackaged" products that today are so common in supermarket aisles would have to disappear. But packaging is not evil: it is a way to store food more efficiently. We need to learn how to be much more efficient with it.
2018/09/14: If you want to fight climate change, you want Open Hardware
While these ‘‘dominant designs’’ have made clean energy more competitive with fossil fuels in the near term, they pose a significant risk in the long term: ‘‘technological lock-in.’’ Technological lock-in has been documented across a range of industries in the past—especially in legacy sectors with entrenched incumbent firms and regulatory inertia. Once it sets in, new technologies struggle to achieve commercial traction even if they are superior to existing ones. The warning signs of lock-in are clear across all three fields. Private industry is devoting virtually no investment to the development of next-generation technologies, while making massive bets on the rapid deployment and incremental improvement of existing technologies.
If new solar, wind, and storage technologies are ‘‘locked out,’’ global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could fall well short of those needed to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
A groundbreaking study in Elsevier's Ecological Economics journal by two French economists, for the first time proves the world has passed a point-of-no-return in its capacity to extract fossil fuel
Human-caused climate change and air pollution remain major global-scale problems and are both due mostly to fossil fuel burning. Mitigation efforts for both of these problems should be undertaken concurrently in order to maximize effectiveness.
I read lots of articles these days pointing to the rapid expansion of renewable energy as a reason to be hopeful about our unfolding climate crisis. Unfortunately, the climate doesn't care how many solar panels and wind farms we build.
Oil companies' coordinated cover-up of climate risks stretches back decades and rivals that of big tobacco companies.
Il 17 aprile gli elettori sono chiamati a votare sì o no per il referendum "sulle trivelle", per abrogare un articolo della Legge di stabilità che toglie le scadenze delle concessioni di coltivazioni di gas e petrolio entro le 12 miglia dalle coste italiane. Se non si raggiungerà il quorum (50%) o vincerà il NO, le concessioni scadranno alla "fine utile dei giacimenti".
HONG KONG -- The world recently agreed to a new climate framework, and opinions flooded in immediately. Views crossed the spectrum from Jeffrey Sachs, wh...
We have the technology to make oil from algae, rather than digging up crude oil from organisms that lived billions of years ago. But bringing it to market will take a force of economic and political will.
New research suggests that the impact of fracking and shale gas in reducing US carbon emissions has been overstated.
By JACK JENKINS & EMILY ATKIN, reviewing a draft of the coming papal letter on climate change: "The likely encyclical draft - entitled "Laudato Si" or "Praised Be," from a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi - directly addressed the old biblical claim that because God gave humanity "dominion" over the earth in Genesis, humanity... Continue reading ...
Can we transition to these renewable energy sources and continue using energy the way we do today?
Around 1.6 million premature deaths would be prevented every year if the world's governments stopped subsidising fossil fuels, an IMF study has found.
Future historians may look back on 2015 as the year that the renewable energy ascendancy began.