Setting goals to reduce carbon emissions and then figuring out a way to achieve those goals is difficult for any country. Now, imagine doing that for not just one nation but 139 of them.
That’s the enormous task a team of researchers led by Stanford University environmental engineer Mark Jacobson decided to take on. He and his colleagues built a roadmap for 139 countries across the globe that would lead to them relying solely on renewable energy by 2050, and they’ve published that plan today in Joule.
The 139 countries weren’t picked arbitrarily. The researchers chose them because data on each was publicly available through the International Energy Agency. Combined, the chosen nations also produce more than 99 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.
To develop their roadmap, the researchers first analyzed each country. They looked at how much raw renewable energy resources each one has, and then they determined the number of wind, water, and solar energy generators needed for that country to reach 80 percent renewable energy dependence by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
The researchers also calculated the amount of land and rooftop area such power sources would require, as well as how a transition to renewables could reduce each nation’s energy demand and costs. Aside from the energy sector, the team also took into account the transportation, heating/cooling, industrial, and agriculture/fishing/forestry industries of each of the 139 countries while creating their roadmap.
“Aside from eliminating emissions and avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] global warming and beginning the process of letting carbon dioxide drain from the Earth’s atmosphere, transitioning eliminates 4-7 million air pollution deaths each year and creates over 24 million long-term, full-time jobs by these plans,” Jacobson said in a press release.
“What is different between this study and other studies that have proposed solutions is that we are trying to examine not only the climate benefits of reducing carbon but also the air pollution benefits, job benefits, and cost benefits,” he added.
Benefits Beyond the Climate
As each of these 139 countries is unique, their paths to 100 percent renewable energy are necessarily unique as well. For instance, nations with greater land-to-population ratios, such as the U.S., the E.U., and China, have an easier path to renewable dependence and could achieve it at a faster rate than small but highly populated countries surrounded by oceans, such as Singapore.
For all countries, however, the goal is the same: 100 percent dependence on renewables.
According to the study, this transition would lessen worldwide energy consumption as renewables are more efficient than their fossil fuel-powered counterparts.
It would also result in the creation of 24 million long-term jobs, reduce the number of air pollution deaths by 4 to 7 million annually, and stabilize energy prices. The world could potentially save more than $20 trillion in health and climate costs each year.
And these 139 nations now know exactly what they need to do to reach this goal and all the benefits that come with it.
“Both individuals and governments can lead this change. Policymakers don’t usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do,” Jacobson explained. “There are other scenarios. We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”
For co-author Mark Delucchi from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the study sends a very clear message: “Our findings suggest that the benefits are so great that we should accelerate the transition to wind, water, and solar, as fast as possible, by retiring fossil-fuel systems early wherever we can.”
Meanwhile, China has already cleared its goal of reaching a capacity of 105 GW by the end of 2020. The country has now attained 112.34 GW, and as such has tweaked its forecast for 2017, now predicting that this year’s installations will total between 40 and 45 GW when all is said and done.
In an upcoming episode of ABC’s Catalyst, Australian environmentalist and global warming activist Tim Flannery will talk about an unusual idea brewing to fight climate change: seaweed. Featuring Adam Bumpus from the University of Melbourne and colleagues, the episode raises the possibility that these ubiquitous marine plants can help in reducing climate warming gasses.
While the technology to use seaweed to reduce greenhouse gasses remains largely unproven, its potential to do so has already been recognized. For starters, seaweed grows at about 30 to 60 times faster than land-based plants. This means that its ability to absorb carbon dioxide is greater than other plants and makes it ideal for large-scale production.
One possible use is in feeding seaweed or algae to cattle and sheep to reduce their methane emissions. Another involves cultivating giant kelp farms that could make the oceans less acidic, a problem that is growing as the ocean sponges up excess carbon dioxide. Seaweed could even potentially help reduce the huge problem of plastic pollution in the ocean, Bumpus suggests in an article for The Conversation. It could also be potentially easier to maintain than other large-scale plans to combat climate change.
Of course, for the global goal of reducing greenhouse gases and carbon emissions to match the numbers set by the Paris Climate Agreement, a single effort isn’t enough. In particular, developing nations like India could potentially add even more carbon emissions, as they bring new power sources online to keep up with booming populations.
Currently, nations all over the world are relying primarily on developing more renewable energy sources: reduced or zero-emissions technologies such as wind power and electric cars, and even building carbon-capture and storage facilities. But this will likely not be enough, as Bumpus writes: “we need an array of solutions, with complementary waves of technology handling different problems.”
Adding seaweed into the mix, one study shows, could contribute significantly. For example, using nine percent of the world’s oceans to farm seaweed on the surface could remove about 53 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year. Since seaweed is also sturdy, it can store that CO2 in the long term.
Fully harnessing seaweed’s potential would take time and effort, however, just as renewables have before becoming a more popular solution. “With further research, development, and commercialization, the possibilities offered by seaweed […] are potentially game-changing,” Bumpus wrote. “We must support the scientists and entrepreneurs exploring zero-carbon innovations – and see if seaweed really can save the world.”
On August 21, solar power facilities across the US faced a big test when the sun was eclipsed by the moon for several hours between Oregon and South Carolina. Despite the unavoidable disruption, it seems that current infrastructure was well equipped to handle the situation.
Solar Edge tracked solar energy generation from over 300,000 systems to produce the video below. It demonstrates that while the eclipse did cause interruptions, panels were able to resume harvesting energy not long after the event, with systems as far east as Idaho and Utah reporting high levels of production by the time the totality was over South Carolina.
The day of the eclipse was also a great success for the California Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s bulk electric power system. California has more solar energy capacity than all other states put together, but the heavens aligned without major issues. Mild weather that negated widespread need for air conditioning, and plenty of water in the reservoirs used for hydroelectric pumps, helped engineers maintain power supply with any major outages.
Over on the east coast, in North Carolina, the story was largely the same. Even when the eclipse was at its most dramatic, and 1,700 of the 2,500 megawatts available in peak conditions were blacked out, Duke Energy was still able to service its customers.
Next Time Around
Solar energy is getting more and more popular around the world, but adoption rates in the US are expected to see a sharp uptick when Tesla’s cheap, convenient roof panels become available to homeowners. If this comes to pass, it might spur some extra considerations for the eclipse in 2024.
This time, the states that rely most on solar energy managed to avoid any hiccups, thanks in no small part to the skilled engineers responsible for operating the system. It’s worth noting that Duke Energy had natural gas generators ready and waiting in case it couldn’t meet demand in North Carolina.
Keeping an alternative source of energy in reserve is essential for this kind of scenario — but natural gas generators might not be so palatable if the country has shifted even further toward solar energy in seven years’ time. Instead, Duke is researching large-scale battery technology that could store energy while the sun is being obstructed.
“Solar energy, by definition, is an intermittent form,” says Lio Handelsman, the vice president of marketing and product strategy and co-fonder of Solar Edge, to Futurism. “Think of our water. Imagine a situation where the water company has to pump from the ground exactly the amount of water that was being used in every faucet in the country — that would be a very tricky thing to do.”
Water companies use reservoirs and elevated towers to keep water in reserve, and batteries are the equivalent for solar energy. Now that solar panels are becoming more cost-effective and efficient, it’s crucial that similar improvements are made to battery technology.
Our ongoing transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is good news for the planet, and for its population. However, figuring out how to handle periods when the sun, wind, and flowing water aren’t easily harnessed is essential if we want reliable access to electricity. We’re on the right path, but the more we depend on renewable energy, the greater the challenge.
The “Issues” section of the White House is still bereft of any mention of climate change. Instead, it speaks only of reviving the coal industry. This has caused a number of experts to voice concern.
In March, President Trump signed an aggressive executive order reversing the course of US environmental policy and undoing some of the more significant environmental regulations of the Obama era. “The wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency continues,” Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell told Time. “The executive order undercuts a key part of the nation’s response to climate change, without offering even a hint of what will replace it.”
Shortly thereafter, in April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deleted all mentions of climate change from its website, saying in a press release that the website is being updated to “reflect the approach of new leadership.”
In May, the Interior Department released a US Geological Survey study showcasing the link between sea-level rise and climate change, but according to what the report’s authors told The Washington Post, it was edited to omit the phrase, “Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding.”
Avoiding Key Issues
In June, CNN reported about the ongoing pattern of avoidance White House staffers have engaged in on the topic of climate change, citing comments from former deputy EPA administrator under President Barack Obama, Bob Perciasepe, who said the avoidance of the term “climate change” by the Trump administration, “just makes them seem out of touch with reality.”
“Climate change is happening, whether they speak about it or not,” Perciasepe, now president of the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told CNN. “You can’t make something not real if you just don’t talk about it. It doesn’t change reality — it’s just a way for them to de-emphasize something the rest of the world knows is going on.”
In July, climate scientist and former director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the US Interior Department Joel Clement became a reluctant whistleblower after the administration involuntarily relocated him to an accounting position based on his former work preparing Alaskans for climate change: “I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities. During the months preceding my reassignment, I raised the issue with White House officials, senior Interior officials and the international community, most recently at a U.N. conference in June. It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government.”
Also in July, the three remaining employees of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) science division left their posts, leaving the division unstaffed. The White House denied that the division was empty, referring to the overall OSTP which still retained employees. Kumar Garg, an Obama-era OSTP staffer, commented of the White House to The New York Times, “They are flying blind when it comes to science and tech issues.”
Most recently in August, a team of climate scientists inside and outside of 13 government agencies leaked the most comprehensive report on climate change to date, based on their concerns that the White House would alter or suppress their findings. At the same time, leaked memos and emails from the USDA revealed that leadership have instructed staff not to use the phrase “climate change” in keeping with the White House and Trump administration position. Meanwhile, US envoys abroad have been instructed by the State Department via diplomatic cable to “sidestep questions” about what it would take for the US to reenter the Paris Accord.
At the time of this writing, the entirety of the White House’s position on the environment and climate change is this passage: “Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.”
The sum total of this position and these policies on climate change, or lack thereof, is “reckless and indefensible,” as Al Gore told Futurism recently. The bottom line is that the White House is, at best, mute on the issue of climate change.
It is no secret that this Monday, August 21st, there will be a total solar eclipse visible from a 112 km (70 mile) wide strip for thousands of miles across the United States. And outside of this area, a partial eclipse will still be visible. Millions are expected to come out for the event, some even planning to travel to sites where the total eclipse will be able to be seen. But will the eclipse be simply an incredible phenomenon that we might not witness again, or will it interfere with life on Earth? Specifically, with technology that relies on the sun to function? It seems it could: Eric Schmitt, vice president for operations at the California Independent System Operator (which is in charge of California’s electric grid) is preparing for a huge blow to its solar panels .
A Good Exercise
According to the New York Times, at its peak, the eclipse is expected to knock out over 5,600 megawatts’ worth of solar panels. This is a massive piece of the total 19,000 megawatts that currently provide California with 10% of its electricity. The plan for filling this deficit is to use additional power from hydroelectric sources and natural gas. An additional challenge will be faced after the eclipse when these solar grids will quickly spring back to life. Those operating the grid will have to quickly react by scaling back hydroelectric and gas power accordingly; a delicate dance between energy sources.
While this will be a challenge for those managing electric grids across the country, according to Randy Wheeless, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, “this is going to be a good exercise for us.” Solar power is becoming an increasingly dominant source of energy and so, while it might be strange to consider the impact of infrequent phenomena like eclipses, as solar energy rises in popularity, they are important considerations. Perhaps this event will inspire solar panel developers to incorporate such variables into future designs.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the current best estimate of Earth’s rate of climate change, if humans continue with our present use of fossil fuels, the average temperature on Earth will rise by 2.6 to 4.8 degrees Celsius (4.7 to 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2100. This much has generated a consensus among scientists — about 97 percent of them worldwide.
As the climate warms, species of all kinds are observed migrating in attempts to survive in spite of climate change. Many populations of wildlife struggle and decline as areas become too dry or hot. Paradoxically, though, certain species are now found in regions that were too wet or cold in the past. The extinction and near extinction of various species has already been noted by the scientific community, often a result of climate change-related loss of habitat.
A team of researchers has recently published their findings on why some species are more threatened by climate change than others. In essence, they have tried to answer the question: what are the qualities that allow some species to adapt and survive climate change, colonizing new habitats, while so many others die out? Answering this question could help humans prioritize conservation efforts.
Ability to move great distances was previously thought to be the most critical factor. This ability is thought to have contributed to the widespread success of the wasp spider, quickly spreading north to cooler climates; this little arachnid can create “balloons” from fine threads of silk and float on them for long distances.
Yet the authors found that other factors were also crucial: the speed of the life cycle, the breadth of the choices of food the species has, how effectively they compete for resources when pitted against other species, and how flexible their habitat requirements are.
Based on these findings, the team predicts that the wood mouse will survive throughout Europe with far greater ease than the European ground squirrel. The former can live almost anywhere, eat many different foods, has a quick breeding cycle, and travels distances well. The latter, however, is limited to grasslands, which drastically limits its options. Conservationists will need to keep an eye out for the effects of animals on the move — and on the ones who might become extinct because they’re stuck.
Fighting Back the Tide
Other researchers have suggested that these predictions actually underestimate the risk Earth’s species will face.
Research conducted in 2016 by an international team of scientists, who studied the Earth’s climate over nearly 800,000 years, shows that the climate becomes more sensitive to greenhouse gases as it warms. In other words, the rate of climate change is nonlinear: as the temperature creeps higher, the climate will react more quickly and drastically than it has in the past.
The bottom line result from their work is that the true global rise in temperature could be as much as 4.78 to 7.36 degrees Celcius by 2100.
Penn State University professor Michael Mann told The Independent via email that the new research on nonlinear climate change and faster rates of warming appeared to be “sound and the conclusions quite defensible.” He also added that the research “provided support for the notion that a Trump presidency could be game over for the climate.”
“By ‘game over for the climate,’ I mean game over for stabilizing warming below dangerous (ie greater than 2C) levels. If Trump makes good on his promises, and the US pulls out of the Paris [climate] treaty, it is difficult to see a path forward to keeping warming below those levels,” Mann wrote.
“Our results mean it is not impossible to stay within 2C but it probably — if we are right and climate sensitivity is higher than this — would require even strong cuts in carbon emissions,” Dr. Ganopolski, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, told The Independent. “Whether it’s feasible politically … I believe it is feasible technically.”
If we do stick to the Paris goals as a species — with or without the federal government of the United States on board — many experts feel we have a good chance of limiting the change to the 2C degree range. Even a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2100 could result in deadly heatwaves experienced by almost half of the world’s population.
Meanwhile, as conservationists welcome new colonist species to new regions, they face difficult questions. Are their efforts to protect local wildlife helping heartier, potentially damaging species spread elsewhere? How can scientists tackle the issue of predicting how shifting species will change new places? Conservation in the Anthropocene epoch is posing some difficult questions.
Clearly, thinkers like Stephen Hawking don’t see any of these fears as especially alarmist. In 2016, he estimated that humans had about 1,000 years left on Earth; recently, he has cut that down to a mere 100 years before doomsday. A huge part of this issue for him is climate change. When both Stephen Hawking and NASA see Earth’s future looking more like Venus’s present, it’s time to stop denying the facts and get to work.
Developing clean energy and eco-friendly cars isn’t new for Korean automobile maker Hyundai. For the most part, the company has focused on fuel-cell technology, but it recently decided to shift focus, according to an announcement on Thursday.
“We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles,” Hyundai EVP Lee Kwang-guk told a news conference, Venture Beat reports. The decision comes as the company seeks to catch up with Tesla and other rivals in the EV stage. However, it will still continue to work on fuel cells and hybrid vehicles for a “multi-pronged” approach, the car maker said in a press release.
July 2017 had tied July and August 2016 as the hottest month on record, according to a new analysis from NASA. May 2017 is not far behind, resting not-so-comfortably in second place.
According to NASA, last month was 0.83 degrees Celsius (1.49 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average July temperature for the 1951 to 1980 period. July 2016 had a similar temperature difference of 0.82 degrees Celsius above average, while all previous months of July were recorded to be nearly a tenth of a degree cooler.
Mashable notes that we haven’t had a month that was cooler than the 1951 to 1980 average in over 30 years. The last time was in December 1984.
Mitigating Climate Change
A draft of the Climate Change Report, which was obtained by The New York Times, notes that July 2017’s higher-than-normal temperatures are just one example of the changes our planet has felt in recent years: “The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, as well as the warmest years on record for the globe, and continued decline in arctic sea ice. These trends are expected to continue in the future over climate (multidecadal) timescales.”
Increasing temperatures from year-to-year are yet another effect of global warming, and the trend will continue if nothing is done to address our influence on our planet.
Fortunately, some are already taking steps in the right direction.
Earlier this week, police officers in Luxembourg confirmed they would be adding two Tesla Model S sedans to their police force. Those electric vehicles will help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide the force releases into the air while on patrol, and while that’s a relatively small initiative, every bit helps.
Meanwhile, others have much larger initiatives either already underway or on the horizon.
“We’ve been trying to get more efficiencies through solar arrays. That’s really the ‘holy grail,’” NASA’s acting administrator Robert M. Lightfoot Jr. tells Futurism. “You see, solar arrays are not very efficient.”
Typically, solar panels can only convert the Sun’s rays to electricity with an efficiency of about 25 percent. However, all kinds of attempts to improve this figure are underway, ranging from Japanese firm Kaneko’s record-breaking efforts earlier this year to a more recent research project out of Washington D.C. that pushed the upper boundary to 44.5 percent efficiency.
ROSA Rolls Out
NASA’s primary concern is advancing the capabilities of the ISS, as well as other off-world craft that need electricity while navigating space on exploratory missions. However, as Lightfoot notes, the advances made by this kind of research could have major benefits for those of us back on Earth.
“We did a flexible solar array recently with the last SpaceXlaunch. You give that to the military or anyone who lives in the middle of nowhere, roll it out, and you got power in a place where you didn’t have power,” he asserts.
Lightfoot is referring to the Roll Out Solar Array, better known as ROSA. The technology wraps a solar panel around a thin rod, forming a compact cylinder that’s easily stowed for launch and transport. When it’s time to deploy the panel, strain energy is used to unfurl it to full extension. The two-stage process only takes around 10 minutes.
ROSA was designed to make solar energy available even in the difficult conditions experienced by space explorers. The fact that it’s easy to transport and straightforward to deploy means it could have all kinds of applications on Earth, particularly in situations where hauling traditional solar panels around is not practical.
However, rolling out ROSA on existing satellites could offer up benefits to Earth dwellers, too. According to NASA, the technology’s improvements to performance could help satellites provide better service for things like GPS, weather forecasting, and satellite radio and television broadcasts.
ROSA underwent a week-long trial in June, after which it was jettisoned following unsuccessful retraction attempts. Based on the results of the experiment, NASA still has some work to do, but the agency may well be on their way to reaching the “holy grail” of highly efficient solar arrays.
Elgin Energy is the company behind a 13MW project in Perthshire that is currently Scotland’s largest solar farm, and the company is going to great lengths to ensure that the new build doesn’t interfere with the land’s current agricultural usage.
“Existing field boundaries will not be disturbed and mature hedgerows will provide generous screening for the site,” they wrote in a statement, according to BBC. All cabling for the project will be buried underground as well, allowing sheep to graze in and around the site.
The northeast of Scotland is well-suited for solar energy projects because it typically enjoys clear skies and long daylight hours. To take further advantage of these characteristics, Elgin Energy is also seeking planning permission for a 50MW farm near the city of Elgin.
A start date for the Moray build hasn’t yet been announced, but once completed, the amount of clean energy produced by the farm should help Scotland achieve its clean energy targets.
A Global Trend
Solar energy has reached a point where it’s both cost-effective and relatively straightforward to install. All over the world, the technology is being implemented on both the commercial and residential scale to help people meet their energy needs.
Last month, Indian Railways rolled out a train that’s topped with solar panels to provide power for its on-board lighting, fans, and other components, which is expected to save the company Rs41,000 crore ($6.31 billion) over the next decade.
Analyzing the impact of solar and wind energy in the U.S, the paper’s authors focused on how these renewables have saved both lives and money during a nine-year period (from 2007 to 2015). By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increased dependence in solar and wind energy sources have improved air quality in the U.S., at a rate that varies between region to region.
“We find cumulative wind and solar air-quality benefits of … US$29.7–112.8 billion, mostly from 3,000 to 12,700 avoided premature mortalities,” the researchers, led by Dev Millstein from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, wrote in their report.
The premature deaths referred to here are from air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution causes around 3 million premature deaths worldwide per year, and that 92 percent of people live in places with air quality that does not meet WHO standards for health. Deaths from air pollution increased globally in 2015, a separate study showed.
That wasn’t the case in the U.S., however, where particulate pollution in 2015 was down by 27 percent from 1990 levels — which matches Millstein’s findings. Thanks to an increase in solar and wind energy generation, the U.S. saw a drop a 20 percent drop in carbon dioxide, while fine particulate pollutants were down by 46 percent, the study showed.
Clean Energy, Cheaper Energy
Interestingly, solar and wind generation also led to what the study calls “cumulative climate benefits,” which cover energy use, changes in agricultural productivity, losses from disasters (like flooding) that impact human health, and general ecosystem services. The total monetary benefit of lowered carbon CO2 emissions from 2007 to 2015 , the study said, is at $5.3 billion to $106.8 billion.
The authors also noted that their “analysis does not incorporate benefits outside of air quality and climate benefits such as energy, capacity or transmission impacts.” It’s worth pointing this out, as other reports do cover these impacts. Nations have better access to renewables now compared to 2015, thanks to cheaper costs. Solar energy has become increasingly affordable because of drops in the price of solar panels, while wind is now cheaper than fossil fuels.
Buildings could soon be able to convert the sun’s energy into electricity without the need for solar panels, thanks to innovative new technology.
Renewable Energy experts from the University of Exeter are developing a pioneering new technique that could accelerate the widespread introduction of net-zero energy buildings through the latest Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).
These products, similar to the solar tile created by Tesla, can become a part of a building‘s architecture to generate electricity. The team have created an innovative glass block, which can be incorporated into the fabric of a building and is designed to collect solar energy and convert it to electricity.
It is thought that buildings consume more than forty percent of the electricity produced across the globe. This new technology would allow electricity to be produced at the site of use, whilst being seamlessly integrated into the building.
The blocks, called Solar Squared, are designed to fit seamlessly into either new buildings, or as part of renovations in existing properties. They are similar to existing glass blocks by allowing daylight to resonate around a property by replacing traditional bricks and mortar with transparent glass bricks.
Crucially, however, the Solar Squared blocks have intelligent optics that focus the incoming solar radiation onto small solar cells, enhancing the overall energy generated by each solar cell. The electricity generated will then be available to power the building, be stored or used to charge electric vehicles.
The Exeter team, which has created a start-up company Build Solar to market and produce the pioneering product, is now looking to encourage investment to carry out commercial testing of the product, and then aims to take it to market in 2018.
Dr Hasan Baig, founder of Build Solar and Research Fellow from the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute said: “BIPV is a growing industry with a 16% annual growth rate. Setting up a company, which can cater to this growing market shall prove beneficial for the UK economy in the long term.”
“We are aiming to build integrated, affordable, efficient and attractive solar technologies, which have the smallest impact on the local landscape. It’s an exciting venture and one that should capture the imagination of the construction industry, when looking to develop new office blocks and public buildings or infrastructure projects such as train stations and carparks,” said Professor Tapas Mallick, chief scientific advisor for Build Solar.
The Build Solar team believe their blocks have better thermal insulation than traditional glass blocks, as well as providing power to the building. The patent pending technology is at prototype stage and the team are now in the process of fine-tuning their designs in order to test the technology at pilot sites.
Co-inventor and Exeter’s research commercialisation manager in Cornwall, Jim Williams, believes that the timing of the technology is favourable. “It’s now clear that the world is moving to a distributed energy system, of which a growing proportion is renewable. This, coupled with the shift to electric vehicles means that there are substantial opportunities for new ways of generating electricity at the point of use”
This article was provided by University of Exeter. Materials may have been edited for clarity and brevity
Undoubtedly, EVs are starting to take over the automobile market. International investment bank UBS thinks the first step in market dominance of EVs would be in terms of costs. In a report published on May, analysts from the bank’s “evidence lab” predicted that EV prices will soon match those of combustion-engine cars.
According to The Telegraph, the UBS report predicts that the “total cost of consumer [EV] ownership can reach parity with combustion engines from 2018”, a trend which would likely begin in Europe. “This will create an inflection point for demand. We raise our 2025 forecast for EV sales by 50% to 14.2 million — 14% of global car sales.” UBS reached this conclusion after tinkering with a Chevrolet Bolt EV, which it described as “the world’s first mass-market EV, with a range of more than 200 miles.”
Speaking of new vehicles, the recently launched Tesla Model 3 is expected to boost mass adoption of EVs with its relatively affordable price. While it’s currently the cheapest EV out there, Nissan’s 2018 Leaf promises to cost some $5,000 less than the Model 3. This doesn’t mean, however, that electric cars aren’t going to be profitable. “Once total cost of ownership parity is reached, mass-brand EVs should also turn profitable,” the report said.
The UBS report also noted that manufacturing EVs is cheaper than they previously thought — and there’s still more room for cost reduction through strategies like developing cheaper batteries and building more charging infrastructure. These measures will be important, since more and more countries are now opting for EVs. France will ban selling petrol and diesel cars by 2040, while all cars sold in India will be electric by 2030.
Electric cars aren’t the only clean energy tech that’s been getting less costly. Renewable energy sources, like solar and wind, continue to be cheaper than their fossil fuel counterparts. The price of solar panels has, for example, dropped over the last few months. The decreasing cost of EVs seems to be part of a greater revolution towards clean energy.
Solar panels have tremendous potential to provide affordable renewable energy, but many people see traditional black and blue panels as an eyesore. Architects, homeowners and city planners may be more open to the technology if they could install green panels that melt into the landscape, red panels on rooftops and white ones camouflaged as walls.
A new study published this week in Applied Physics Letters brings us one step closer to a future of colorful, efficient solar panels. Researchers have developed a method for imprinting existing solar panels with silicon nanopatterns that scatter green light back toward an observer. The panels have a green appearance from most angles yet only show about a 10 percent power reduction due to the loss of absorbed green light.
“Some people say ‘why would you make solar cells less efficient?’ But we can make solar cells beautiful without losing too much efficiency,” said Verena Neder, a researcher at AMOLF and lead author of the paper. “The new method to change the color of the panels is not only easy to apply but also attractive as an architectural design element and has the potential to widen their use.”
Most research on solar cells has focused on increasing efficiency and reducing cost. Currently, the solar panels sold to consumers can ideally turn up to 22 percent of the sun’s light into usable energy. Colored solar panels are already on the market, but the dyes and reflective coatings that give them their color greatly reduce efficiency.
Neder and colleagues created their efficient, green solar panels through soft-imprint lithography, which works somewhat like an optical rubber stamp to imprint a dense array of silicon nanocylinders onto the cell surfaces. Each nanocylinder is about 100 nanometers wide and exhibits an electromagnetic resonance that scatters a particular wavelength of light. The geometry of the nanocylinder determines which wavelength it scatters and can be fine-tuned to change the color of the solar cell. The imprint reduces the solar panel’s efficiency by about 2 percent.
“In principle, this technique is easily scalable for fabrication technology,” said Albert Polman, a scientific group leader at AMOLF and senior author on the paper. “You can use a rubber stamp the size of a solar panel that in one step, can print the whole panel full of these little, exactly defined nanoparticles.”
Unlike existing colored solar panels, the nanopatterns give a consistent appearance from different angles. “The structure we made is not very sensitive to the angle of observation, so even if you look at it from a wide angle, it still appears green,” Neder said.
The nanopatterns also could be useful in making tandem solar cells, which stack several layers, each designed to absorb certain parts of the spectrum, to achieve efficiencies of greater than 30 percent.
Next, the researchers are designing imprints to create red and blue solar cells. Once they master these three colors, the primary colors of light, they can create any color, potentially even white. “You have to combine different nanoparticles, and if they get very close to each other they can interact and that will affect the color,” Polman said. “Going to white is a really big step.”
Whether you’re scrolling through cat memes on your phone, writing a glowing Game of Thrones review on your laptop, or running out to grab a coffee in your electric car, modern life relies on lithium — most likely, lithium mined in Australia or Chile. But a new study suggests future electronic devices could be powered by lithium from an explosive source here in America: supervolcanoes.
The researchers analyzed rock samples from several lithium-rich sites, including the McDermitt volcanic field on the Nevada-Oregon border, where several supervolcanic eruptions originating in the Yellowstone hotspot occurred between 16.5 and 15.5 million years ago.
They found these crusts had an average lithium concentration of about 1,300 parts per million. Compared to other, non-supervolcanic deposits the team examined, this concentration is relatively low. However, when they erupt, supervolcanoes produce roughly one to two orders of magnitude more magma than other volcanoes — scaling the concentration up such that, with higher volume, significantly more lithium is available in total.
For Long Ridge alone, one of the regions in the McDermitt field the researchers analyzed, the volcanic eruption produced as much as two million megatons of lithium. Over the years, a fraction of that lithium would seep out of the magma as the volcanic crater filled with water and concentrate within volcanic clay. The authors don’t yet know how much lithium that leaves for us to viably extract, but suggest that it is “significantly greater in large caldera settings than in the more Li-rich but smaller eruptive systems.”
In analyzing these samples, the researchers also discovered a previously unknown correlation between lithium and easily-analyzed trace elements: For example, it turns out that a higher abundance of rubidium indicates there is more lithium in a deposit, while high concentrations of zirconium suggest less lithium.
“Now that we have a way to easily find more of these lithium deposits, it shows that this fundamental geological work can help solve societal problems,” said lead author Thomas Benson, a recent PhD graduate from Stanford Earth. “That’s really exciting.”
Mining an Electric Future
Lithium is already classified by several governments as an energy-critical element, due to demands for low-cost, high energy lithium-ion batteries for portable electronics, electric vehicles, and large power grids.
With more and more car makers producing hybrid and electric vehicles — and some, like Volvo, swapping over to electric entirely — the demand for lithium-ion batteries is set to increase. Globally, humans currently use about 32.5 kilotons of lithium per year. Yet Benson estimates that by 2050 that demand will grow to between 3 and 35 megatons, while the current reserve of lithium we can feasibly extract is only around 14 megatons.
“We’ve had a gold rush, so we know how, why and where gold occurs, but we never had a lithium rush,” Benson said. “The demand for lithium has outpaced the scientific understanding of the resource, so it’s essential for the fundamental science behind these resources to catch up.”
Presently, the lithium market is dominated by Australia and Chile, where more than three quarters of the world’s lithium is produced. If the US wants to get ahead in the sustainable energy market, having a domestic source would prove a huge boon.
“We’re going to have to use electric vehicles and large storage batteries to decrease our carbon footprint,” said study co-author Gail Mahood, a professor of geological sciences at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “It’s important to identify lithium resources in the U.S. so that our supply does not rely on single companies or countries in a way that makes us subject to economic or political manipulation.”
The government of South Australia has announced plans to construct the world’s largest single-tower solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta. California-based solar tech company SolarReserve will be responsible for both the build and upkeep of the facility.
The Aurora Solar Energy Project is based on plans that were developed as part of the Rice Solar Energy Project in California, which stalled as a result of changes to tax credits related to renewable energy.
Once built, arrays of heliostats will focus solar energy onto a central tower, which uses molten salt technology to store that energy as heat. These molten salts will provide 1,100 megawatts of energy storage capacity, which equates to eight hours of full load storage. This will allow the facility to generate electricity during the night as well as during the day when sunlight is shining down.
Aurora is projected to have an output of 150 megawatts and an ability to generate 495 gigawatt hours of electricity each year. The station will be able to service 90,000 homes and is expected to be able to cater to around five percent of South Australia’s total energy needs. Construction on the $650 million plant will begin next year, with the expectation that Aurora will be producing electricity by 2020.
The Sun Sets on Coal
The Aurora Solar Energy Project won’t be the first major renewable energy project for South Australia. In July, the local government inked a deal with Tesla to install a Powerpack system that will work alongside the Hornsdale Wind Farm.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been very clear about the potential for solar to help the U.S. meet its own energy needs, asserting that the entire nation could be powered by an area measuring 25,600 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) filled with solar panels.
Despite these claims and the assertions of other experts, however, U.S. President Donald Trump appears determined to try to revive the coal industry.
Despite a lack of federal support, individual states and cities within the U.S. are committing to fossil fuel alternatives as well — just this month, Orlando, Florida, became the fortieth city in the country to make a commitment to completely transition to renewables within the next several decades.
A primary contributor to this increased adoption is cost. For a long time, a main argument against renewable energy sources has been their high cost when compared to fossil fuels.
Now, the solar panels that we’ve become accustomed to seeing atop residential homes have dropped in price significantly, and building a new commercial solar plant is also cheaper than building a plant that’s powered by fossil fuels. Experts are predicting that solar energy will actually be cheaper than coal within the next four years.
This increased affordability will no doubt lead to the creation of more projects like the one in Port Augusta, and that will go a long way toward helping the world meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and stem the damage we’ve done to the planet through the use of fossil fuels.
We are always looking for new and innovative ways to power the myriad of devices we use each day, even more so if that power can be generated without harming the environment. Even so, few could have predicted that we would one day have paper batteries that are powered by our spit. We can now thank a team of researchers from Binghamton University for developing their paper-based, bacteria-powered batteries.
With just a little spit, the battery is able to power an LED light for about 20 minutes. The technology is not limited to lighting up diodes. There are some very important possible applications, especially for those in underdeveloped nations. The batteries could be used to power important medical tools like pregnancy tests, HIV tests, glucose monitors, and other potentially life-saving medical devices.
The batteries can be easily and cheaply assembled and anyone with functioning salivary glands can power the device. Even if you can’t muster the spit, the batteries can also be powered by a little dirty water. The research has been published in the journal Advanced Materials Technology.
The batteries can be easily and cheaply produced using only a few select materials: paper, carbon, and printing wax. “The battery includes specialized bacterial cells, called exoelectrogens, which have the ability to harvest electrons externally to the outside electrode,” professor for computer science at Binghamton University Seokheun Choi told Nexus Media. “For the long-term storage, the bacterial cells are freeze-dried until use. This battery can even be used in challenging environmental conditions like desert areas. All you need is an organic matter to rehydrate and activate the freeze-dried cells.”
This is just the latest example of science helping us to build better batteries. There are also batteries in development that will be able to hold three times the amount of energy as others, bendable batteries that could help devices better conform to our bodies, and also instantly recharging batteries that could be the final nail in the coffin for fossil fuels.
Batteries will be an integral part of our clean energy future. The ability to store and efficiently access energy generated by renewable sources will be key to the widespread adoption of these Earth-saving energy solutions.
This is the sort of conversation explored in Peter Diamandis’s online community called Abundance 360 Digital (A360D). If you want access to the A360D knowledge base and community lead by Peter Diamandis, click here to learn more.
Futurism only supports products that we trust and use. This video post is in partnership with A360D, and Futurism may get a small percentage of sales.
President Donald Trump’s recent comments directed at North Korea have us all wondering if we’re slowly building up to nuclear war. While politics occupies most of that discussion, it’s worth knowing exactly what nuclear warfare would do to our planet, from the horrific impact to the prolonged fallout and famine the aftermath brings.
As it stands, there are nearly 15,000 nukes spread across nine nations. They are: The United States, Russia, The United Kingdom, North Korea, France, China, Pakistan, India, and Israel. According to tables and graphs from Business Insider and the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Russia and the U.S. own a majority of the nukes available, and have also deployed the most throughout their respective histories—over 1,900 by Russia, and nearly 1,700 by the U.S. As for North Korea, it’s largely unknown how many nukes the country has, though The Washington Post reports the country may have around 60 nukes, and has managed to produce a miniaturized warhead capable of fitting inside of a missile.
Tactically speaking, U.S. nuclear warheads are designed less for maximum yield than for incisive accuracy. This includes bombs like the B61-12, with a yield of 50 kilotons. That is equivalent to 50,000 tons of TNT. The most destructive American bomb in service since October 2011 is the B83, with a maximum yield of 1.2 megatons (1,200 kilotons). By contrast, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons.
The FAS notes that, while numbers for the U.S. are based on “real” numbers, the statistics for the rest of the world are not as accurate. Most information related to a nuclear weapons are a widely held secret, and as such, it becomes difficult to know specifics about a nation’s military power.
One Small Exchange
The very idea of nuclear warfare is worrying enough on its own, but it becomes more terrifying when you realize how little it takes to affect the entire world. A 2014 study published in an American Geophysical Union (AGU) journal reveals that it would only take a small conflict between India and Pakistan to cause near-irreparable levels global devastation.
“A limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which each side detonates 50 15 kilotons (kt) weapons could produce about 5 teragrams (Tg) of black carbon (BC),” reads the journal. “This would self-loft to the stratosphere, where it would spread globally, producing a sudden drop in surface temperatures and intense heating of the stratosphere.”
National and global transportation systems and the economic activity they support have been optimized for the climate in which it all developed: Machines are designed to operate in common temperature ranges, logistical plans depend on historical weather patterns and coastal land development is based on known flood zones. In the aviation sector, airports and aircraft are designed for the weather conditions experienced historically. Because the climate is changing, even fundamental infrastructure elements like airports and key economic sectors like air transportation may need to be redesigned and reengineered.
As scientists focused on the impacts of climate change and extreme weather on human society and natural ecosystems around the world, our research has quantified how extreme heat associated with our warming climate may affect flights around the world. We’ve found that major airports from New York to Dubai to Bangkok will see more frequent takeoff weight restrictions in the coming decades due to increasingly common hot temperatures.
Climate Changes Flights
There is robust evidence that extreme events such as heat waves and coastal flooding are happening with greater frequency and intensity than just a few decades ago. And if we fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly in the next few decades, the frequency and intensity of these extremes is projected to increase dramatically.
High air temperatures affect the physics of how aircraft fly, meaning aircraft takeoff performance can be impaired on hot days. The amount of lift that an airplane wing generates is affected by the density of the air. Air density in turn depends mostly on air temperature and elevation; higher temperatures and higher elevations both reduce density.
Lower the air density, the faster an airplane must travel to produce enough lift to take off. It takes more runway to reach a higher speed, and depending on how long the airport’s runway is, some airplanes might risk running out of room before reaching sufficient speed. When this occurs, the only immediate option is to reduce the aircraft’s weight to lower its required takeoff speed – by removing passengers, luggage and cargo. This is referred to as a weight restriction
Weight restrictions happen now, especially in hot places like Phoenix and Dubai and at airports with short runways like New York’s LaGuardia and Washington, D.C.‘s Reagan National, but our research suggests that they may become much more common in the future.
The frequency and magnitude of weight restrictions is projected to increase – in some locations, the number of days requiring at least some amount of weight restriction for certain aircraft could double or triple, perhaps covering 50 or more days per year.
The Economics of Adaptation
On most affected flights, the amount of cargo, passengers and fuel that must be removed to allow for takeoff will usually be small – between 0.5 percent and 4 percent of the total load. That means fewer paying customers on airplanes, and less cargo on board. When those restrictions add up across the global air transport system, the costs can be significant.
Carrying just a fraction of a percent fewer passengers or less cargo can add up to millions of dollars in lost revenue for an airline over years of operation. That makes even small weight restrictions a concern in such a highly competitive and optimized industry. These limits could disproportionately affect long-haul flights, which require large fuel loads and often take off near their maximum weights.
There are ways that airlines could mitigate increasing weight restrictions. The most feasible is to reschedule some flights to cooler hours of the day – although with air traffic increasing and many airports already operating near capacity, this could prove difficult.
Another potential solution is to build longer runways. But that’s not always possible: Some airports, like New York’s LaGuardia, are on coastlines or in dense urban environments. Even where a longer runway is technically possible, buying the land and expanding an airport’s physical area may be expensive and politically difficult.
These changes are merely examples of the countless procedures, processes and equipment requirements that will have to be adjusted for a changing climate. Even if those adaptations are successful, they will take effort and money to achieve.
Many sectors of the economy, including the aviation industry, have yet to seriously consider the effects of climate change. The sooner, the better: Both airport construction and aircraft design take decades, and have lasting effects. Today’s newest planes may well be flying in 40 or 50 years, and their replacements are being designed now. The earlier climate impacts are understood and appreciated, the more effective and less costly adaptations can be. Those adaptations may even include innovative ways to dramatically reduce climate-altering emissions across the aviation sector, which would help reduce the problem while also responding to it.
To avoid this issue altogether, researchers from China’s Fudan University have developed a new kind of battery that doesn’t include the chemicals that can make traditional batteries dangerous. As a bonus, their designs are also thin and flexible.
“Current batteries like the lithium-ion ones used in medical implants generally come in rigid shapes,” Yonggang Wang, one of the researchers from Fudan, said in a press release. “Additionally, most of the reported flexible batteries are based on flammable organic or corrosive electrolytes, which suffer from safety hazards and poor biocompatibility for wearable devices, let alone implantable ones.”
In a study recently published in Chem, the researchers present their two flexible design alternatives, neither of which requires the electrolytes used in current batteries. Instead, these batteries use one of two bio-compatible sodium-based liquids: a normal saline solution or a cell culture medium that contains amino acids, sugars, and vitamins.
The first design is a “2D” belt made of thin electrode films over a steel strand mesh. The other features a carbon nanotube fiber weave with nanoparticle electrodes embedded on it. According to the researchers, both designs “showed excellent performance,” even faring better than most existing lithium-ion batteries used in wearable electronics in terms of how much energy they could hold and the power they could produce.
Designed for Implants and More?
The thinness and flexibility of these batteries make them ideal for implants, the researchers noted, and they could be hugely beneficial to the development of brain-computer interfaces, which are, obviously, implanted into one of the most sensitive organs inside the human body.
The researchers also stumbled upon an unexpected potential use for their second battery design. The battery’s carbon nanotube backbone caused the conversion of dissolved oxygen into hydroxide ions to accelerate. This isn’t good for the battery itself, the researchers said, but it could prove beneficial for cancer starvation therapy.
“We can implant these fiber-shaped electrodes into the human body to consume essential oxygen, especially for areas that are difficult for injectable drugs to reach,” Wang explained in the press release. “Deoxygenation might even wipe out cancerous cells or pathogenic bacteria since they are very sensitive to changes in living environment pH.”
Of course, as this wasn’t the object of the research, much more in-depth studies would be required to validate this effect. Until then, it remains largely theoretical.
The batteries themselves, though, show a great deal of promise for their intended use. The next step is to make sure they would be able to meet the power needs of today’s wearables and implants, as well as those that are still to come.
Carnegie Mellon University chemist Terrence J. Collins has developed an approach that quickly and cheaply removes more than 99 percent of bisphenol A (BPA) from water. BPA, a ubiquitous and dangerous chemical used in the manufacturing of many plastics, is found in water sources around the world.
In a paper published in Green Chemistry, Collins’ research team and collaborators at the University of Auckland and Oregon State University also compiled evidence of BPA’s presence in a multitude of products and water sources, as well as the chemical’s toxicity. The research team builds a strong case for the need to effectively remediate BPA-contaminated water, especially industrial waste streams and landfill runoff, and they offer a simple solution.
BPA is a chemical used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Its use is so widespread — BPA can be found in products from DVDs and eyeglass lenses to cash register receipts — to which people and wildlife are regularly exposed.
BPA is dangerous because it mimics estrogen, a naturally occurring hormone, and can affect the body’s endocrine system. Studies in fish, mammals and human cells have shown that BPA adversely affects brain and nervous system development, growth and metabolism, and the reproductive system.
Concerns over BPA’s health effects prompted manufacturers to start making BPA-free products like baby bottles and water bottles starting in 2010. Ironically, many BPA replacements also have similar toxicity to BPA itself.
“BPA replacements have often not been adequately tested despite the fact that testing is easy to do,” said Collins, the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon. “A large team of environmental health scientists and green chemists developed a methodology called the Tiered Protocol for Endocrine Disruption for identifying endocrine disruptors to the highest levels of contemporary science, that we published in Green Chemistry in 2013.”
With more than 15 billion pounds of BPA still being produced annually, BPA contamination and cleanup present a significant challenge.
“There is no escape from BPA — for any living creature,” said Collins, the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon. “The massive global use of BPA burdens an already overstrained water treatment infrastructure and most BPA water releases simply never reach a water treatment facility. Our approach has high potential to be a much better remediation strategy for BPA-contaminated waste streams.”
Currently, BPA-contaminated water such as industrial waste or landfill runoff may or may not be treated before it’s released into the environment or to wastewater treatment plants.
Collins’ team offers a simple, effective and cheap cleanup solution. Their system involves a group of catalysts called TAML activators, small molecules that mimic oxidizing enzymes. When combined with hydrogen peroxide, TAML activators very effectively break down harmful chemicals in water.
In the current 25-page paper, the researchers demonstrate the efficacy and safety of TAML activators in breaking down BPA. Adding TAMLs and hydrogen peroxide to water heavily contaminated with BPA resulted in a 99 percent reduction of BPA within 30 minutes at near neutral pH, which is the pH norm for wastewater treatment.
TAML treatment at this pH caused BPA to assemble into larger units called oligomers, which clump together and precipitate out of the water. According to Collins, the oligomers could be filtered and disposed of in a BPA water treatment facility. Most importantly, extensive studies by Collins and his collaborators found that the oligomers are themselves not harmful. The nature of the bonds that stick the BPA molecules together doesn’t allow the oligomers to revert to BPA.
To ensure the safety of the decontaminated water, including the oligomers, the researchers tested it with Tiered Protocol for Endocrine Disruption (TiPED) assays. They found that the TAML-treated BPA water did not show estrogen activity or cause abnormalities in yeast and developing zebrafish embryos.
The researchers also tested the efficacy of TAML treatment on BPA-laden water at a pH of 11. At this higher pH, there was a greater than 99.9 percent reduction in BPA within 15 minutes. In contrast with pH 8.5 treatment, the BPA molecules were destroyed and no oligomers were detected.
“Because TAML/hydrogen peroxide treatment eliminates BPA from water so easily at concentrations that are similar to a variety of waste streams including paper plant processing solutions and landfill leachate, assuming the lab studies transfer to the real world, we can now offer a new and simple procedure for reducing BPA exposures worldwide,” Collins said.
This article was provided by Carnegie Mellon University. Materials may have been edited for clarity and brevity. And make the name of the source a link back to their website.
In 1465, a volcano erupted that caused lunatic environmental changes across Europe for the next decade. It turned the sky an eerie dark, dusk-colored blue for the the marriage of King Alfonso II of Naples. It triggered rain so heavy that corpses floated to the surface in German cemeteries and citizens in Thorn, Poland, traveled the streets by boat. Four years later, it would go on to instigate a mini ice age in Europe, during which fish froze in ponds, grass didn’t grow, and citizens in Bologna traveled their city’s frozen waterways on horses.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of the story, though, is that scientists are clueless as to where the volcano is to this very day — beyond that it erupted in the tropics. Because of this, it has become known as the ‘Unknown Eruption’.
Archaeologists visiting Tongoa, in Vanuatu, contributed the first clues to this mystery, when they heard tales of a massive volcanic eruption that split an island and scattered its inhabitants. All that was left of the ancient volcano was a crater roughly one kilometer (or half a mile) hidden beneath the ocean. It was known as Kuwae. Stories placed Kuwae’s eruption between 1540 and 1654 AD – and spikes of acidity in polar ice cores suggested a volcanic eruption somewhere in the 15th century. Could they be related?
The event only grew more enigmatic as study of it continued. Kevin Pang was the first to think he had found some certainty in 1993 when he dated the volcano’s eruption as 22 May 1453, based on a correlation of historical reports and geological findings derived from studying the rings in British oak trees. His estimate was within the grounds of viability, but meant that it was too early to give the king of Naples a dusky wedding day.
This date was also challenged by geological finds at the site itself. French scientists visited Kuwae, and, based on its size, estimated that the explosion released enough molten rock to fill the Empire State 37 million times over, and occurred between 1420 and 1430.
That estimate stood until another team led by Karoly Nemeth, an environmental scientist from Massey University, New Zealand, undertook a study on the islands surrounding the crater and found that there was no indication of a eruption big enough to alter the world’s weather so dramatically. He told the BBC, “there’s no doubt that there are volcanic deposits, but their extent isn’t what you’d expect from a truly massive eruption.” Nemeth instead proposed a single volcano had erupted multiple times in a relatively short period.
Nowadays, our best conjecture is based off findings from the Law Dome, where a geological record of world events is frozen in thick layers of Antarctic snow. Researchers who sampled Law Dome in 2012 found that there had probably been two explosions – but that they were both much later than the eruption at Kuwae. This goes some way towards satisfying both the disparate dates proposed for the eruption, and the smaller than expected size of the volcanic eruptions. But it also revealed that the discoveries at Kuwae by the French team had been mistakenly linked to the same event when they were in fact unrelated.
While some of the players have been identified, the eruption which caused the individual events of 1465 remain out of reach. Researchers still think the culprit was likely a volcano in the tropics, but one so big that its eruption probably sunk it into the sea, where it remains – still a mystery.
What We’ve Learned
Perhaps the most pertinent piece of knowledge we can extract from our studies of the geological events of the 15th century is how much we don’t know — or more precisely, how much we still have to learn. After numerous conclusions were reached with apparent certainty, further studies only revealed that they were conclusions based on coincidence, not causality: exercises in confirmation bias rather than definitive assertions.
However, while we may not have learnt the precise nature of the volcanic events of the 1500s, every study conducted has contributed to our understanding of volcanic eruptions in general – and of how we can react to them.
The latter of these two technologies has potential benefits outside of reducing the human cost of a volcanic explosion: it has been proposed as a method of reducing global warming. While the Unknown Eruption caused an ice age that lead to famine and suffering across the world, a reduced and controlled version — in which scientists could use the sulfur particles from an eruption to reflect the sun’s heat away from earth — has been proposed.
The idea is called ‘geoengineering’, and it takes its impetus from events like the natural eruption of Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991. This eruption cooled the earth by half a degree in two years — which represents a temperature decrease equivalent to 25 percent of the ambition of the Paris Agreement. Recently, a $20 million project run by Harvard University was announced that plans to disperse water and calcium carbonate particles into the stratosphere by 2022.
Using volcanic principles to cool the environment, despite their notorious history of death and destruction, shows the ingenuity and boldness of modern science. While it remains to be seen if geoengineering will prove to effective at helping us save the planet, it represents a promising broad-mindedness towards any method, no matter how science fiction-esque, to save our world.
The fight against climate change continues, and the city of Orlando has now pledged their support to the cause. The city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to push for a resolution that puts Orlando on track to run solely on renewable energy by 2050. Orlando joins 39 other cities — including San Diego, Atlanta, and Chicago — in adopting a 100 percent renewable energy goal.
The decision comes after the U.S. federal government opted to withdraw from the historic Paris Climate Agreement, which set carbon emission reduction goals to help stop human-made climate change. In the face of this lack of federal support, politicians on the local and state level have taken up the fight for a cleaner environment.
“This administration has decided not to honor our commitment to the Paris climate accord, but a lot of mayors around the country have picked up the reins to say if we’re not doing it at the federal level, it’s incumbent that we lead at the local level,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer after the resolution passed.
A Worldwide Appeal
In addition to the environmental implications of transitioning to renewables, the government of Orlando also recognized the economic benefits. Solar, in particular, has become very inexpensive.
“The power from the Sun is cheaper to produce electricity than the power from fossil fuels, including coal and even natural gas,” said Chris Castro, Orlando’s director of sustainability, following the vote. “What we want to do is maintain the affordability of our electricity rates. A lot of people think that just by going solar, it’s going to be more expensive, and that is not the case.”
The city is also keen on the job opportunities produced by renewable energy. Castro said that solar energy added 1,700 new jobs in Florida in 2016, growing 10 times faster than the state’s overall economy. Indeed, in the U.S. as a whole, renewables are providing more jobs than their fossil fuel counterparts and adding new jobs at a rate 17 times that of the overall economy.
Cities aren’t the only entities committing to clean energy targets. Various stateshave made their own pledges, with fourteen of those forming an alliance to keep the U.S. on track with the Paris climate accord’s targets. Nations beyond the U.S., including Scotland, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and 47 others, have all set their own targets of 100 percent renewable energy generation between 2030 and 2050. These pledges are very welcome as our planet needs all the allies it can get in the fight for a cleaner environment.
Ikea has launched a range of solar panels and home battery packs in the UK. Partnering up with Solarcentury, the country’s leading provider of solar technology, the company hopes to simplify customers’ efforts to make their homes more eco-friendly.
While the systems cost thousands of British pounds, Ikea claims that they could cut owners’ electricity bill by up to 50 percent. An online tool can estimate the savings based on geographic location (postal code), based on measurements of the roof taken from satellite imagery.
While Ikea’s furniture is generally self-assembly, solar panels will be installed by experts. Interested parties can get a free quote, which is verified by a home survey before engineers install the hardware.
Solar power is becoming more and more accessible. Many expect Tesla’s solar roof to further expand the reach of the technology because of its cheaper price tag than current implementations, and its completely noninvasive appearance.
The big difference with Ikea is that, unlike Tesla, Ikea is a tried-and-true brand, and the convenience of its installation process will appeal to a lot of consumers. If its solar range proves to be popular in the UK, we might even expect to see the company expand the program to other countries.
Given the dramatic impact human-made carbon emissions are having on our planet, cleaner energy sources have become increasingly popular alternatives to their fossil fuel counterparts. Currently, solar and wind are the most widely used renewable energy sources, but both are dependent on certain conditions. The former can capture energy only during daylight hours, while the latter is more unpredictable, but often peaks at night.
As such, there’s a mismatch between when solar and wind energy are available and when energy is needed. The world needs a way to maximize renewable energy usage, and that’s what Malta, a project currently brewing at Alphabet X, the “moonshot” factory by Google’s parent company, is hoping to provide.
The goal of Alphabet X is to develop technologies that could “someday make the world a radically better place.” The organization follows a three-part blueprint for their moonshot projects that starts with identifying a “huge problem” and then providing a “radical solution” that could be implemented using a “breakthrough technology.”
For Malta, the idea was to find a way to maximize the use of energy generated from renewables. Their radical solution is bridging the gap between renewable energy and grid-scale energy storage technologies using a breakthrough technology developed by Stanford physicist and Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin.
According to the project’s website, this technology is still theoretical and involves storing electricity as either heat within molten salt or cold within a liquid similar to the antifreeze used in cars. They claim this energy could remain stored for up to weeks at a time.
Essentially, Malta is hoping to develop clean and cost-effective energy storage devices, which is similar to the concept behind Tesla’s Powerpack. The difference between the Malta project’s tech and the Powerpack is mostly what’s inside. While Tesla’s energy storage device uses 16 individual battery pods, Malta’s relies on molten salt or the antifreeze-like liquid.
Additionally, the tanks used to store the salt used by Malta’s system could potentially last for up to 40 years, which the project claims is three or more times longer than other current storage options. That extended lifespan would make Malta a cheaper alternative to other renewable energy storage devices.
After two years of developing and designing their system, the Malta team is now gearing up to test the commercial viability of their technology. “The next step is to build a megawatt-scale prototype plant which would be large enough to prove the technology at commercial scale,” according to their website.
We now have multiple ways to generate energy from renewables, but if we ever hope to fully transition away from traditional energy solutions, we need better storage devices. Though they are clearly better for the environment, renewables aren’t as consistent as fossil fuels, and that unreliability is a huge barrier to widespread adoption.
Storage systems like those proposed by Malta could collect the energy generated by renewables and ensure it is available to power grids whenever needed, putting us one step closer to a future completely free of fossil fuels.
With respect to the release of the Tesla Model 3, Elon Musk has been playing his cards close to his chest. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently made public the electric vehicle’s EPA certification, which provided our first look at the highly anticipated EV’s specs, but Teslawas quick to note that the numbers from the EPA report do not fully represent the pack’s capacity.
However, we may finally have a definitive answer as sources present during a conference call hosted by Goldman Sachs have told Electrek’s Fred Lambertthat Elon Musk revealed the battery pack options for the vehicle during the call.
These sources say that customers will be able to choose between two battery options. The first will have a capacity of “just over 50 kWH,” equating to a range of about 354 kilometers (220 miles), while the second will have a capacity of roughly 75 kWH and a longer range of about 499 kilometers (310 miles).
Customers with access to Tesla’s new online design studio will notice that only the “long range” option is currently available, which puts the vehicle at a much higher sales price than the promised $35,000. Customers interested in the standard (cheaper) battery pack have the option to be put on a separate waiting list.
Last week was a busy one for Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk. On Friday, the first 30 Model 3 units were handed over to their excited new owners — though one of them was Musk himself. And, while Musk already said that the coming months would be a “production hell” for Tesla to meet the 500,000 demand for the Model 3, he’s since updated the figure to an annual demand of over 700,000 units.
Musk mentioned that the updated demand during a conference call on Monday, at an investors meeting hosted by Goldman Sachs, where Tesla discussed raising $1.5 million in bonds to fund production. During the event, two sources confirmed to Electrekthat Musk projects Model 3 demand to reach “700,000 units per year,” and could even go higher.
In order to meet this demand, Musk is considering moving Model S and Model X drive unit production from Tesla’s Fremont factory to the Gigafactory 1 in Nevada. The former, which is already capable of producing 500,000 units per year, could then focus on just the Model 3.
A Growing Demand
Musk also updated the average sale price for the new electric sedan. Previously pegged at $35,000 to $42,000, Musk told the investors that it’s going to be priced closer to $45,000. At any rate, the Model 3 is going to be both costly and beneficial for Tesla. Production will be tedious and expensive, which is why Musk is asking for investors to dedicate funding. The high demand, however, will obviously increase Tesla’s revenue. Musk believes, without a doubt, that Tesla’s up to the task.
Prepared by scientists from 13 federal agencies, the CSSR concludes that human-made climate change is real and that its effects are being felt by Americans right now. According to the report, average temperatures in the U.S. have risen dramatically since the 1980s, and the past few decades have been the warmest of the last 1,500 years.
“Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” the CSSR reads. It’s “extremely likely” that more than half of the global average temperature increase since 1951 is linked to human influence. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change.”
The scientists also validate concerns over rising sea levels, which are already affecting some places in the U.S. The report also notes an unmistakable link between climate change and extreme weather conditions. However, this field of “attribution science” is complex.
The researchers found “relatively strong evidence” that man-made factors played a role in such extreme weather events as the 2003 European heat wave and the 2013 record heat in Australia. Other events, like the Texas heat wave in 2011, were more “complicated,” with La Niña playing a significant role.
While the CSSR doesn’t include any policy recommendations, it does predict some potential implications of climate change in the U.S.
Depending on future carbon emission levels, average annual temperatures in the U.S. could increase by 2.8 to 4.8 degrees Celsius (5.0 to 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit) before the end of the century.
Indeed, to remain below the global mean temperature increase limit of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), worldwide emissions need to be significantly reduced.
The CSSR’s authors, however, have one other concern. One scientist who wished to remain anonymous told The New York Times that they’re worried the Trump administration might try to alter or suppress the report.
“It’s a fraught situation,” Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geoscience and international affairs at Princeton University who was not involved in the CSSR, told TheNew York Times. “This is the first case in which an analysis of climate change of this scope has come up in the Trump administration, and scientists will be watching very carefully to see how they handle it.”
According to a new study conducted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, extreme weather could kill as many as 152,000 people in Europe each year by 2100 if no action is taken to slow the effects of climate change. This would be about 50 times as many climate/weather caused deaths as are currently reported. 99 percent of these weather-related deaths would be caused by heat waves, and southern Europe would be affected the most.
This research also showed that by 2100, climate related disasters will affect two out of every three people in Europe, compared to one in 20, which was the rate at the start of the 21st century. Furthermore, the study predicts a substantial rise in coastal flooding deaths, which the researchers estimated could reach 233 annually by 2100 compared with the six victims a year rate Europe experienced in 2000. These findings are in line with what researchers are seeing in the US, with more summers being much hotter than before, and southern states being hit hardest by climate-related conditions. Other studies have also predicted that it is unlikely that the world will warm less than 2C by 2100, against the Paris goals.
To draw their conclusions, the researchers looked at disaster records from the 28 EU countries as well as Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland from 1981 to 2010. They analyzed the impact of the seven most dangerous kinds of weather-related events: coastal floods, cold snaps, droughts, heat waves, river floods, wildfires, and windstorms. The team then estimated population vulnerability and predicted both the ways populations might increase and migrate and how climate change might progress.
The Paris Agreement
The timing of this study has coincided with the first written notification from the US to the United Nations, confirming to the rest of the world that the US will indeed withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement. However, the notice from the State Department also indicates the US will continue to participate in international climate change negotiations and meetings, to protect its own interests. It further stated that the US will remain open to “re-engaging” in the Paris Agreement if “more favorable” terms for the country can be reached. Leaders in the international community have already rejected this idea.
This withdrawal and other regressive environmental policies have been harshly criticized. “The policies are are really reckless and indefensible,” Former Vice President Al Gore told Futurism. “But in spite of that we’re seeing a big movement in the U.S. to pick up where Trump is leaving off.” He also pointed out that various cities and states are still working to uphold the Paris Agreement — and Gore thinks they will succeed. “We’re going to meet the commitments. [It] looks like the U.S. will meet the commitments made by former President Obama regardless of what Trump says.”
According to EPA estimates, Tesla’sModel S 75D should have a range of ~416 kilometers (259 miles) per charge under ideal driving conditions, while the Chevy Bolt should be able to last for ~383 kilometers (238 miles) on a single charge.
Now, these results don’t imply that the Model S is secretly a bad vehicle — in fact, it is very common for cars to perform below EPA estimates. These estimates are based on testing done in ideal conditions, but Consumer Reports’ test involved what’s called “mixed driving.” That means the vehicles were operating under slightly less than ideal conditions, which makes the Bolt’s performance even more surprising.
An impressive range doesn’t automatically make the Chevy Bolt the better vehicle, though. In fact, Consumer Reports still placed it second behind the Model S in their list of best electric vehicles due to factors like its charging time and uncomfortable seats. At a cost about half that of the Model S, though, the Bolt’s range victory will certainly make it an appealing choice for those on a tighter budget who are looking to go electric.
A Competitive Field
According to Engadget, the Chevy Bolt is “big enough to carry four full-size adults plus a week’s worth of groceries, while the vehicle itself retains the nimbleness and driving experience of a small vehicle.” As mentioned by Consumer Reports, the vehicle has its flaws, but it is all-electric and, perhaps most importantly, has an affordable price point.
While still widely recognized as producing superior vehicles in terms of performance, the massive price difference could be luring buyers away from Tesla’s models and toward cheaper but comparatively capable vehicles like the Bolt. Although Tesla’s Model 3 is the company’s most affordable vehicle to date, even it could end up being much pricier than initially expected if the available add-ons are taken into consideration.
With forthcoming offerings from Volkswagen and Volvo poised to make the affordable EV field even more competitive, Tesla will need to continue to make smart moves to stay on top — that overnight price reduction for the Model S and Model X was a good place to start.
The consequences of climate change are not only real and imminent, but increasingly catastrophic. Currently, climate change is has been attributed to dangerously increasing temperatures, sea levels rising, the extinction of a variety of species, and much more. Without fierce opposition, the effects of climate change will only become more and more destructive. Natural disasters, mass flooding, food shortages and other crises are all possible (some already happening, in fact) if current trends continue. One part of the world may even become uninhabitable in our lifetime.
Elfatih Eltahir, a professor at MIT, recently published new research in the journal Science Advancesthat shows how, by the end of the century, areas in South Asia could be too hot for humans to survive there. In a Skype interview from Khartoum, Sudan with CBC News, Eltahir said, “The risk of the impacts of climate change in that region could be quite severe.”
Eltahir and his colleagues analyzed this projected situation under two conditions: a “business-as-usual” model and a model in which we increase our efforts to mitigate emissions. The team concluded that the “business-as-usual” model was not only most likely, but would yield unlivable conditions by the year 2100.
The Only Way is Forward
The effects of the projected heat waves will not fall over sparse landscapes that would be easily escapable. They will wash over the densely populated, agricultural areas of South Asia, directly threatening the lives of countless inhabitants who — because many of the people living there live in poverty — will be essentially trapped in the deadly conditions.
Climate change has already taken lives, and isn’t slowing down. This deadly heat wave scenario would only be a piece of the puzzle in the year 2100. Where will the people of the agricultural regions of South Asia go if the rest of the planet is also facing the catastrophic effects of global warming? (That is, of course, if they are able to leave at all in future socioeconomic conditions.) The only way is forward, and the only way forward includes our best efforts against climate change.
Tesla has led the way in developing all-electric vehicles to meet a variety of needs and wants. Case in point: their Model X, the world’s first all-electric sport utility vehicle (SUV).
In an effort to make their high-performing vehicles more accessible, Tesla has, overnight, modified their online design studio to lower the price of the basic Model X as well as include more standard options for the performance versions of both the Model X and the Model S. This change comes in the midst of what Elon Musk has described as “production hell” for their Model 3.
The Model X 75D now costs $3,000 less than it did previously, starting at $79,500. The performance version of the vehicle, the Model X P100D, now starts at $145,000, while the Model S P100D starts at $140,000 — a difference of just $5,000.
The one thing that has prevented Tesla from being many customers’ top choice is, quite simply, the price. Tesla vehicles are not made to be the most affordable, and at their current price points, they are, for most people, completely inaccessible.
Additionally, as a recent range test by Consumer Reports shows, some performance aspects of these high-end vehicles are incredibly comparable to features in more affordable models.
While the new pricing for the Model X and Tesla’s performance vehicles might not be enough to make these vehicles accessible to everyone looking to purchase an electric vehicle, they could incentivize those on the fence to give Tesla a try. After all, if futuristic falcon wing doors are a must-have EV feature, you don’t have many other options.
The Earth is at a critical point in its evolution. When it comes to climate change we seem to be at a point of no return, or at least the point where markers normally signifying a “tipping point” is the very best we can hope for. According to a study recently published in Nature Climate Change, it is unlikely that the Earth will warm by less than 2 °C (3.6 °F) by the year 2100.
Those two degrees are a significant milestone in terms of warming on a global scale. Back in 1977, an economist from Yale University proposed that a rise of 2 °C stand as a threshold in the measurement of global climate change. As CNN’s Ashley Strickland puts it, passing that threshold will change life on Earth as we know it. “Rising seas, mass extinctions, super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes, decreased crops and fresh water and the melting of the Arctic are expected.” The Paris Climate Agreement adopted this threshold when drafting the accords and set 1.5 °C as the goal.
The reality may be even worse: the study shows that temperatures have a 90 percent chance of increasing by 2.0 — bringing the rise to to 4.9 °C. “Our analysis is compatible with previous estimates, but it finds that the most optimistic projections are unlikely to happen,”says lead author Adrian Raftery, a Universtiy of Washington professor of statistics and sociology. “We’re closer to the margin than we think.”
Death by the causes and effects of global temperatures rising are also set to spike. The World Health Organization estimates that 12.6 million deaths can be attributed to pollution alone. They also predict that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will be responsible for adding 250,000 more deaths around the world.
The United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Accords will not increase optimism. Still, states and individuals are picking up the slack left by the federal government. So, while there is little hope of avoiding the 2 °C threshold, there is hope that we can come together to mitigate future damage.
In his 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Former Vice President Al Gore quoted author Upton Sinclair in regards to those who refuse to believe, or even acknowledge, the reality of climate change. “You know, more than 100 years ago, Upton Sinclair wrote this, that ‘It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.’”
Gore’s choice of quote could not have been more precipitous: a decade later, the current presidential administration has positioned itself unapologetically in the climate change skepticism camp. In fact, several members (arguably even President Trump himself) have aligned in toto with those who deny climate change entirely — even in the face of blatant evidence, regarded as fact by the vast majority of the scientific community. A community whose job it is to understand — and to help the rest of us understand — climate science irrespective of any fiscal interest or compensation.
In the first six months since taking office, the Trump administration made drastic changes to several of the United States’ environmental policies – with many of those decisions coming within the president’s first hundred days. The appointment of Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the administration’s decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, set the tone and intention.
The rollbacks to come, predominantly in the form of slashed funding and repealed regulations, dealt a major blow to the integrity of the U.S.’ climate strategy. The gamut of repeals included rules that protected land and water supplies from toxic chemicals (like arsenic and lead) being dumped there, to the lifting of regulations that were designed to track, and ultimately reduce, emissions by oil and gas companies. Criticism of standards abounded, including those that have guided vehicle fuel efficiency and are aimed at reducing pollution.
The rewriting of the EPA’s clean power plan, which began in March, ended a moratorium on coal mining and effectively ended requirements for climate change considerations when approving projects. Moratoriums put in place to prevent drilling on federal land were also lifted, and the Trump administration was quick to approve the controversial Keystone and Dakota access pipelines.
“The policies are are really reckless and indefensible,” Gore said in an exclusive interview with Futurism. “But in spite of that, we’re seeing a big movement in the U.S. to pick up where Donald Trump is leaving off.” He added, referring to the grassroots movement in several cities, driven by state and municipal governments and citizens, to uphold the Paris Agreement at the city level — efforts which Gore praises and believes will prevail. “We’re going to meet the commitments. [It] looks like the U.S. will meet the commitments made by former President Obama regardless of what Donald Trump says.”
Gore’s sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, aptly titled An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, drops this week. When the first film came out ten years ago, it aimed to help people understand the real-time and longterm consequences of global warming. The sequel, then, will hopefully invigorate and mobilize this knowledge into action— if not at the federal level, then the local level.
According to Former V.P. Gore, that’s the message that he hoped to convey all along: That the fight against global warming has to happen where it started, which is with us, in our communities, our workplaces, and our homes. “I don’t even like to think about the prospects for humanity if we fail to act,” he said. “I think we will act. The remaining question is, how long will it take to really cross this political tipping point where we get bold action?”
If you have seen or read The Martian, you may recall the stranded astronaut converting a hydrogen-based fuel into water. Well, we may have just discovered material that easily reverses this process. Researchers at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Ground Research Laboratory were developing a high-strength aluminum alloy when they made a startling discovery. During routine testing of the alloy, water poured over its surface started bubbling and producing hydrogen gas.
This is an unusual reaction — typically, aluminum exposed to water oxidizes, creating a protective barrier to prevent further reactions from occurring. In this case, though, the hydrogen-producing reaction just kept going, signaling the possibility of a portable, affordable source of hydrogen for fuel cells and other energy applications.
This serendipitous discovery, announced in July, has the potential to reinvigorate the hydrogen fuel industry. Aluminum that could react with water in a sustainable way would be able to produce hydrogen on demand. This would make hydrogen fuel cells much easier to use since there would be no need to pressurize and transport hydrogen gas for use. Instead, simple, stable tanks of water and pieces of aluminum would be all you’d need.
Previous attempts to drive the aluminum/water reaction required catalysts or high temperatures, and they were slow. Ultimately, they were only about 50 percent efficient, and obtaining the hydrogen took hours. In contrast, the method that uses this new alloy takes less than three minutes to achieve almost 100 percent efficiency.
The new material is stable and remains ready for use indefinitely. The starting material for the alloy is inexpensive scrap aluminum, which is fairly plentiful and cheap. This and other metals are used to create micron-scale grains, which are then arranged in a specific nanostructure.
The Hydrogen Energy Solution
Hydrogen gas has been hailed as a clean fuel for some time, but its widespread use has been hampered for practical reasons. It is bulky, demanding pressurization, making it tough to transport and store. This is where the new alloy really stands apart.
“The important aspect of the approach is that it lets you make very compact systems,” Imperial College London fuel cell expert Anthony Kucernak, who did not conduct the research, commented to New Scientist. “That would be very useful for systems which need to be very light or operate for long periods on hydrogen, where the use of hydrogen stored in a cylinder is prohibitive.”
The army team has powered a small remote-controlled tank with this process, and they believe it should be feasible to scale up production significantly. The next step will be field testing, so that the researchers can ensure that the alloy would work in a practical setting.
If the discovery does prove effective in the field, it might be used in 3D printing. For example, the army could 3D print small robots or drones that could consume their own frames for fuel. This type of self-cannibalizing device would be ideal for one-way missions for intelligence-gathering. Drones or robots that could self-cannibalize for fuel might also someday be useful in delivering supplies into volatile areas of the world — and would disappear without hurting the environment they landed in.
According to We Forum, blockchain‘s key property in fighting climate change is its decentralized nature, which enables interconnection between the human “swarm.”
Climate change is a fundamentally international problem, and a major difficulty in tackling it is navigating the web of different languages and regulations between countries. Blockchain provides a solution by cutting out middlemen and bureaucracy, providing a way for individuals to have interpersonal relationships that can be the beginning of a bottom-up solution, rather than politicians dictating from the top-down after lengthy and often inefficient political communication.
This application of blockchain to climate change is one of many potential uses of the technology — and the others that have been proposed are just as ingenious.
Perhaps most promisingly is that blockchain could also allow us to have much cleaner information. Currently, emissions data is frequently fiddled with, inadvertently laden with mistakes, or incorrectly taken in the first place.
Blockchain data cannot be changed when it is in the network, meaning that — coupled with the internet of things — we could receive totally secure information from machines, devices, or producers that could not be tampered with, intentionally or unintentionally. This is would allow for a much better diagnosis, which could lead to a more targeted prognosis — in which those responsible could be disciplined and those who are helping are rewarded.
In May 2017, at the UN Climate Change Conference, the idea of blockchain being used against climate change was discussed extensively. Ideas included improved trading of carbon emissions, facilitating clean energy trading between consumers, financing climate change research transparently, and tracking and reporting of emissions reduction. IBM and Energy Blockchain Labs, out of China, are developing a marketplace that uses blockchain to trade carbon assets. The Australian company Power Ledger allows people to buy, sell, and exchange surplus renewable energy without a middleman by using blockchain. Many companies are also working on blockchain-powered smart energy grids, which regulate the demand on the grid so that power outages don’t happen.
The future of energy looks sunny. According to the latest Renewables Global Status Report from REN21, more renewable power capacity was added in 2016 than all new fossil fuel capacity combined. In fact, for the fifth consecutive year, investment in new renewables was roughly double fossil fuel investments, with $264.8 billion invested in renewables worldwide in 2016.
Across the globe, renewable electricity costs are dropping, and of all the forms of renewable energy, REN21’s report asserts that solar energy-capturing technology was the most popular in 2016.
This report is big news for the planet. Burning oil, coal, and other carbon-based fuels generates carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. A trend toward clean energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower can only help the environment, but that’s not the only reason for the switch.
As Australian National University professor Andrew Blakers wrote in The Conversation, “It is probable that construction of new coal power stations will decline…because PV (solar photovoltaics) and wind are now cost-competitive almost everywhere.”
The financial benefits of renewables may not be enough to spur their adoption in the U.S., however. The current administration’s America First Energy Plan withdraws the nation from the Paris Agreement, rescinds the Clean Power Plan, and supports new investment in coal — three acts that could stymie the switch to clean energy. Additionally, President Trump’s position on trade has the solar industry, which manufactures mostly in China, nervous.
Despite being the star of the Global Status Report, solar faces its own environmental drawbacks, also. As IEEE outlines, huge amounts of energy are required to manufacture solar panels, and in China, that energy is often generated through the burning of fossil fuels.
The process requires lots of water, produces toxic chemicals, and can expose workers to unsafe working conditions. The price cuts that come from manufacturing solar panels abroad have been a huge boon to the industry, but it has further polishing to do before it can be considered truly green.
Sometimes a clean energy innovation is on par with the standard version, so choosing between the two can be tough. When it comes to Tesla’s newest solar product, however, the choice is clear.
The first Tesla solar roofs have been installed, and they are beautiful. Ask the most high-profile owner of the roof: Elon Musk. On the Q2 August 2 earnings call for Tesla, Musk said that both he and Tesla CTO Jeffrey B. Straubel already have working solar roofs installed. He also provided unretouched photos of the installed solar tiles to showcase their aesthetic appeal.
One can argue that the differences are minimal, at best. However, now that Tesla has begun deliveries of their new Model 3 line, some are concerned the company won’t be able to meet the overwhelming demand for the electric vehicle (EV). Founder and CEO Elon Musk assured investors during an earnings call for the company’s second-quarter of 2017 on Wednesday that that will not be the case.
“What people should absolutely have zero concern about, and I mean zero, is that Tesla will achieve a 10,000 unit production week by the end of next year,” said Musk. “I think people should really not have any concerns that we won’t reach that outcome from a production rate.”
The CEO was referring to plans to ramp up Model 3 production by significant increments over the rest of this year, from 100 cars in August to more than 1,500 in September. That number is predicted to grow to 20,000 cars a month by December.
This is a surprisingly strong statement, Electrek reports, given that Musk has always tended to flavor predictions with phrases like “best guess” or “I might be wrong.” He has previously admitted that the next few months would be a “production hell” for Tesla, but he appears confident they will be able to deliver.
First there were three — California, New York, and Washington State. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy — not for America, not for anybody,” California governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. previously said in a statement. “If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”
Now, the alliance boasts a membership of 13 states and Puerto Rico representing a bi-partisan coalition “committed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions [26-28 percent from 2005 levels] consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” Latest to join the group is Colorado, after governor John Hickenlooper passed an executive order to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions before 2025.
Do we have a fundamental right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food? The idea of environmental human rights is receiving growing attention worldwide, driven by our global ecological crisis. But the United States has lagged behind in codifying these rights into laws and in successfully furthering them.
While this may seem like an issue for legal scholars, it has very real importance for regions like Appalachia, where I work. Coal mining has caused widespread ecological and health damage here for more than a century, alongside other industries such as chemical manufacturing and, recently, natural gas production.
Few international agreements explicitly refer to environmental human rights. At the national level, however, more than 100 countries around the world have constitutions that enshrine environmental rights to some degree, including Brazil and Kenya.
Only a handful of U.S. states, including Pennsylvania and Hawaii, have constitutions that explicitly incorporate environmental rights. What is more, these provisions were largely established decades agoand have had uneven success in their enforcement.
Appalachia’s Environmental Challenges
Appalachia is a classic exemplar of the “natural resource curse” – a theory developed by social scientists to explain why some places that are rich in extractable resources fail to develop. According to this view, outside capital interests that control these resources – in Appalachia, Big Coal – wield vast power, and often “capture,” or co-opt, regulatory agencies.
Mountaintop removal produces numerous pollutants, including selenium, arsenic and airborne pollutants released during coal extraction and processing. Studies have associated it with serious environmental health risks, including higher rates of birth defects, cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.
Coal mining is not the only challenge. Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale has been linked with negative health impacts. The 2014 Elk River chemical spill, which left 300,000 Appalachian citizens without potable water for up to nine days, spotlighted our aging industrial infrastructure and weak state regulation of industry.
Of course, laws and regulations are of little use if they are not robustly enforced. Pennsylvania adopted an amendment to its constitution in 1971 stating that “the people have a right to clean air” and “pure water.” It also requires the state to act as trustee of public natural resources “for the benefit of all the people.” For years Pennsylvania courts gave relatively light weight to this provision.
But in June of this year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court established a broader interpretation of the environmental amendment in an oil- and gas-related matter. This decision in a case that challenged the lucrative business of fracking was a heartening precedent, and shows the value of advocating for the people’s right to a healthy environment.
In fact, a dense network of grassroots activists and ordinary Appalachian citizens has long contested environmental injustices, exemplified by the long and bitter fight against Big Coal. But these efforts seldom are acknowledged in the national media or leveraged into real and lasting legal reform.
Appalachia is well-suited for a bottom-up, critically informedapproach that focuses on human rights at the grassroots level. Discussing rights at the local level will give people opportunity to describe specific harms they have experienced from activities such as mountaintop removal and fracking. It also will help to promote participatory democracy for citizens who have long been denied real self-determination.
The Appalachian Justice Initiative at West Virginia University will produce scholarship, conduct policy advocacy and offer direct legal services and outreach to Appalachian communities. Our goal is to help people in our region call for laws and actions that actually guarantee the right to a healthy Appalachian environment.
Pursuing environmental human rights in Appalachia challenges counterproductive stereotypes about our region’s supposed isolation. Appalachia is not some “other America”: we are fundamentally interlinked with the United States and the wider world ecologically, economically and socially.
Our challenges reflect the profound ills of a global economic regime that values perpetual growth over environmental and social justice. Advocating for environmental human rights in Appalachia can help reveal this essential truth and build a more just and healthy future.
California is striding closer to a future that includes 100 percent renewable energy, faster than ever before. California Senate President Kevin de León (D) has proposed a bill which would simultaneously limit California’s hydrocarbon consumption and increase its consumption of renewables according to several goals, and the bill has, as of now, officially cleared the committee stage. Experts feel it is likely to be signed into law by Governor Brown, and when it is, it will push California to produce 50 percent renewable energy from 2030 to 2026, and set new goals for 60 percent renewable energy by 2030, and 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
This comes at a critical time in the US. President Trump has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Agreement and significantly weakened the EPA and other relevant agencies. Now is a crucial time for states, especially larger states with strong economic chops like California, to show leadership against climate change. Jerry Brown and the California state legislature are making it known that they are committed to doing just that. Should the bill pass, California and Hawaii will be the only two states with legal requirements for 100 percent renewable energy use by 2045, although Massachusetts is considering a goal of 100 percent renewable energy use by 2050.
After markets close on Wednesday, Tesla will release its second-quarter (Q2) earnings report for 2017. Tesla’s usual practice has been to conduct a conference call and Q&A with the company’s management team and investors after releasing quarterly reports. This is the plan for tonight at 5:30 PM ET (2:30 PM PT).
Tesla’s first quarter 2017 update back in May featured an overall increase in production and revenue. “Vehicle production in Q1 increased by 64% compared to a year ago, which enabled us to set new quarterly records of 25,051 deliveries and $2.7 billion in GAAP revenue,” the report read. The trend was expected to continue for Q2, including the decline in earnings per share.
Speculations about the company’s Q2 results from various sources are generally the same: consensus in Wall Street, as well as figures from independent firms like financial estimates crowdsourcing website Estimize, and Zacks Investment Research are consistent. Tesla’s expected to report a growth in revenue of around $2.548 billion to $2.599 billion. The company’s revenue has been growing over the past four quarters, almost always beating expectations, according to Electrek.
Earnings per share, on the other hand, are going to be on the decline: current estimates predict a loss of around $2 per share. Wall Street predicts a $1.94 per share for the quarter, Estimize counts a $1.81 loss per share, while Zacks puts it at $2 per share. For those wondering about the difference between revenue and earnings, earnings are counted after all deductibles (such as production costs, taxes, etc.) have been considered. Revenue is the profit from products sold.
The loss per share comes from investing heavily on Model 3 production and a decline in deliveries for Q2. Tesla’s already reported a total of 22,000 deliveries from April to May, down from a Q1 total of 25,000. The company claims that despite the decrease, it’s able to hit the low-end of its mid-year delivery target of 47,000 to 50,000 vehicles.
Updates: Solar Products, the Model 3, & More
Speaking of production, this Q2 report would be a significant one for Tesla, as it’s going to be the last one before Model 3 production and sales will be counted. As such, delivery numbers are expected to go up before the end of the year as Tesla works towards fulfilling the large number of pre-orders for the Model 3. Less than a week since its release, the low-cost electric vehicle has been receiving favorable reviews.
“That is why we named it Mola tecta (the Hoodwinker Sunfish), derived from the Latin tectus, meaning disguised or hidden.”
Looking like a cross between a giant pancake and a suitcase with wings, sunfish are the heaviest bony fish in the world. They can weigh up to two tonnes and reach three metres in length.
Despite making regular appearances on YouTube, sunfish are notoriously hard to track down thanks to their solitary nature and preference for living in the hard to reach depths of the ocean. The life of a sunfish is a balancing act between deep-diving for jellyfish and swimming to the surface to warm up.
Their taxonomic history is also a hot mess, with early explorers describing several new species based on single specimens they found whilst sailing. When explorers reached Australia and New Zealand, they began labelling any sunfish they came across as Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) which made things even more complicated.
The last time researchers identified a new sunfish species was 130 years ago, which was the Southern ocean sunfish (Mola ramsayi).
But while Nyegaard was studying the population genetics of the Southern ocean sunfish, she noticed there was a genetic difference in the skin samples collected by fisheries in Australia and New Zealand.
“A Japanese research group first found genetic evidence of an unknown sunfish species in Australian waters 10 years ago, but the fish kept eluding the scientific community because we didn’t know what it looked like,” Nyegaard said in a press release.
The discovery of these mysterious genes sparked the beginning of a four year game of hide and seek with the tricky Hoodwinker sunfish. Apart from the genetic evidence, the only clues the team had to go by were a few grainy photos taken by fisherman.
While they occasionally turn up in commercial fishing nets, fisherman rarely haul these stealthy giants on board due to their size.
“Early on, when I was asked if I would be bringing my own crane to receive a specimen, I knew I was in for a challenging – but awesome – adventure,” says Nyegaard.
The team’s best bet was waiting until a Hoodwinker sunfish washed up on beaches in New Zealand and Australia. The team began sorting through sunfish photos on social media to see if they could pick out any unique physical features.
But when Nyegaard studied a photo of a sunfish hauled onto the deck of a fishing boat, she noticed something that set this creature apart from other sunfish.
“I noticed this part on the end of its tail that I hadn’t seen on a sunfish before,” Nyegaard told ScienceAlert. “I began to wonder if this feature was a unique characteristic of this species, or if it was just something that this particular fish had.”
The one day back in May 2014, four sunfish washed onto a beach near Christchurch in New Zealand. When Nyegaard found out, she jumped on a flight from Perth to see the fish for herself.
“A local artist drove me down to the beach in the middle of the night, and he shone the car headlights on this fish,” Nyegaard told ScienceAlert. “The puzzle became a picture.”
Unlike the other two sunfish species, the hoodwinker sunfish has a smooth, slender body and no protruding snout. Between the upper and lower backfins is a flexible piece of skin connecting the two halves.
But the researchers hadn’t finished piecing the puzzle together just yet. After travelling thousands of kilometres and relying on the help of fisherman, locals and museums, the team collected 27 samples from stranded sunfish, which ranged between 50 centimetres to almost two and a half metres.
To confirm that they had discovered an entirely new species, the researchers ploughed through old texts dating back as far as the 16th century. While the old records included colourful descriptions of mermen, sea monsters and several invalid sunfish species, it was clear that the Hoodwinker sunfish had managed to slip away from the eyes of taxonomists for almost three centuries.
Now that the Hoodwinker’s tricks have been revealed, the next steps for Nyegaard and her team are finding out more about its distribution and feeding habits with the help of satellite tagging.
“It’s quite humbling to know that the ocean still holds so much mystery,” Nyegaard told ScienceAlert. “We tend to think that we know everything, but we still have so many mysteries to unravel.”
Energy supplier Deepwater Wind hopes to team up with Tesla to provide clean power to the state of Massachusetts during peak times. Bloomberg reports that the company has proposed the building of an offshore wind farm with a 144-megawatt capability and a 40-megawatt storage capacity thanks to Powerpack commercial storage batteries. The batteries would store power collected during high generation times and save it for heavy use hours. This is how other facilities with Tesla Powerpack batteries work, such as the Kauai energy storage installation that went online earlier in 2017.
When it comes to discussing the fight against climate change, there are two facts we must behold: First, climate change is here; it’s happening; it’s been happening…and we’re already feeling the impact. Second, for those living in the United States, the current political climate is not one of change. The current administration has, in fact, taken steps that have sent us backwards in the fight against global warming, not forward.
But we can change the tide (literally).
Ten years ago, Former Vice President Al Gore released a documentary entitled An Inconvenient Truth. For many Americans, especially those of younger generations, the film brought about the first meaningful conversations they’d had about global warming. Notably, the film did more than just encourage awareness, it placed the responsibility of changing our course (and the culpability of creating our current path) firmly in the hands of corporations, politicians, and—most notably—everyday citizens.
Now, a decade—and a demonstrably warmer world—later, the Former Vice President is releasing another film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.
There’s really only one place to start: Education.
In an exclusive interview with Futurism, he acknowledged that the current political climate is a precarious one, calling President Trump’s environmental policies “reckless and indefensible.” But the Former V.P is not without hope, largely due to the grassroots movement that has risen up around the country in response to some of President Trump’s more drastic decisions — such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Former Vice President Gore believes that the momentum behind the movement, and the commitment at the local level to uphold the work of the Paris Agreement, will be successful, “regardless of what Donald Trump says.”
But if we want to tackle climate change from the ground up, so to speak, where — and how — should we truly begin?
Where to Start
As far as the Former V.P. is concerned, there’s really only one place to start: Education. “Number one, learn about it,” he said, “People sometimes feel that it’s hard to talk about the climate crisis. But the more you know, the more confident you are, the easier it is to talk about it.” And he clarifies that his films, and their corresponding books, were conceived as tools to help facilitate these conversations.
But as they say, talk is cheap. It’s one thing to know that we need to reduce our carbon footprint collectively, but how do we do it individually? And furthermore, given the enormous, far-reaching scope of the problem, how do we convince ourselves that our efforts to do so aren’t futile?
“When you go into the marketplace, choose the most climate-friendly, environmentally-friendly alternative,” he offers, adding:
That may seem like a trivial matter, because it only reduces your impact a little bit as an individual, but it sends a signal to business and industry that — together with what others are sending — really does drive change.
Knowing whether or not something truly is environmentally-friendly, though, can be a challenge. One strategy is to buy locally when you can — whether it be food or other products. When you know exactly where something is coming from, how it’s been produced, who is producing it, and what it’s been sourced from, you can be more confident about any claims of “green” status it may tout. You’re also not just supporting the environment, but your community by strengthening local economies.
Investing in the assets readily available to you in your own neighborhood (and even your own backyard) can also help to reduce your carbon footprint in other ways, like using your car less. Whether you’re walking, biking, carpooling, or using public transit, you’re not just reducing emissions, you’re also sending a message to your municipal government. That message being that your community wants, and would use, infrastructure that would help you to drive less. Whether it’s repairing sidewalks or creating bike paths, the more people who come out in support (or who show up at town halls to bring up the issues), the more likely it is that a local government would deem it worthy to invest the time, money, and resources in development.
“We can, and we will, win this.”
Which brings us to the Former V.P.’s third suggestion: Getting involved in politics, whether it be at the city, state, or federal level. “Let the candidates asking for your votes know this is important to you,” he said. “Let the office holders who hold town hall meetings know that you really care about this.”
He concludes, “We can and will win this.” And there’s reason to hope he’s right. While governments and corporations play a role, and can have a major impact in terms of setting standards and writing policy (and, ideally, adhering to them), they aren’t the only ones who need to step up.
Regardless of where you live (and whether or not your local or federal government supports the efforts). the first step is to acknowledge our responsibility for what has already happened and start a conversation. This is how all of our greatest movements—from the Civil Rights to the Campaign for Women’s Sufferage—got started.
We can’t reverse the damage that has already been done, but we can set our sights on what’s happening right now — and commit to doing better.
Elon Musk tweeted a few weeks ago that there’s “no need to rely on scientists for global warming — just use a thermometer.” While climate change is more complicated that that, with implications that extend far beyond just temperature, Musk’s point stands. Summers across the globe are hotter than they used to be, and extreme weather has never been more common.
According to Hansen’s data, 15 percent of summers between 2005 and 2015 fall into the category of “extremely hot,” while the number of “hot” summers has doubled compared to the base period (1951 to 1980), jumping from around 33 percent to 66 percent.
Todd Sanford, director of research at Climate Central, told The New York Times that the findings “really highlight that changes in the average, while they may seem modest, have big implications for the extremes. And that’s what’s going to affect society and ecosystems.” He also asserted that this upward trend provides “a glimpse to what’s in our future.”
However, the last few years have marked a shift in the way we approach climate change, as well. While the 2000s were marked by a distrust of statistics and skepticism regarding the true extent of the problem, the 2010s have seen more people asking the question, “What can we do?”
Good news for those who like their Teslas cranked up to 11. Elon Musk has tweeted that a performance version of the Model 3 should be arriving about a year from now. The news came as the response to a recent tweet:
Probably middle of next year. Focus now is on getting out of Model 3 production hell. More versions = deeper in hell.
This latest response regarding a performance version of the Model 3 is not the first time Musk has mentioned the “production hell” surrounding the vehicle — he used the same phrase at a press briefing Friday night. Meeting the 500,000 unit annual production target for the Model 3, ensuring that the car has “mass appeal,” and piecing together the 10,000 individual components of the car are all contributing to the difficulty producing the highly anticipated vehicle.
While no specifics have been released explaining exactly what a performance version on the Model 3 would entail — beyond its faster speed than the standard model — several sources have made educated guesses.
Jalopnik predicts that the upgraded electric car would be “a dual motor car with all-wheel-drive, a sub-four-second 0-60 mph time, and a top speed not likely higher than around 155 mph,” while Electrek wrote that they expect it “to be equipped with a dual motor all-wheel-drive system, and if it turns out like the performance versions of the Model S and Model X, it should have as [sic] new high-power performance rear motor with higher amperage connection to the battery pack.”
Whatever the performance version may look like, the release of the Model 3 is already a phenomenal achievement. Since Tesla’s humble startup beginnings, the company has not only created a series of cars that are gorgeous, functional, and futuristic, they’ve also helped start an electric car revolution that will benefit the planet.
Aquatic plants buried underground for more than a century can be revived and regrown, according to a new study investigating the phenomenon of “ghost ponds” – ponds that aren’t properly drained but filled in with soil and vegetation under agricultural land.
Restoring some of these buried ponds, and the habitats hidden in limbo beneath the soil, could be a valuable way of reversing habitat and biodiversity losses, say researchers, and we could even bring some plant species back from the dead.
The team from University College London in the UK has dug out three ghost ponds so far and estimates there could be as many as 600,000 similar patches spread out across the English countryside.
“We have shown that ghost ponds can be resurrected, and remarkably wetland plants lost for centuries can be brought back to life from preserved seeds,” says lead researcher Emily Alderton.
Ghost ponds often appear as damp areas of land, marked by poor crop growth or a change in soil colour. They’re typically created when farmers use plants and soil to cover up small ponds as they extend and reorganise their fields.
The researchers used Ordnance Survey maps and other historical records, as well as the tell-tale visual signs, to identify ghost ponds and get the land owner’s permission to have a go at excavating them.
Based on the three sites so far, with ponds thought to have been buried for 40, 50, and 150 years, eight different plant species have been resurrected from their watery graves with follow-up tests in the lab.
Eggs from two crustacean species were also found, but the researchers haven’t yet assessed what kind of state they’re in.
“With UK farmland ponds typically supporting between six and 14 aquatic plant species, the eight species that survived under prolonged burial represent a significant proportion of the expected species diversity in farmland ponds,” says one of the team, Carl Sayer.
These zombie seeds seem to be made of stern stuff, and now the researchers want conservation groups to target ghost ponds in their attempts to restore aquatic habitats and plants that might have been lost to farming over the last century or more.
Very rare or even extinct species could be brought back to flourish, and in the study it took just six months for a ghost pond to be restored with a range of aquatic plant species.
As land above ghost ponds makes a bad foundation for agriculture anyway, the scientists suggest these vibrant pond habitats could be brought back to life without losing any of the productive land already being used.
Christopher Hassall, from the University of Leeds in the UK, wasn’t involved in the research but welcomed its findings.
“This study is fascinating because it demonstrates not only a new way to repair the damage that we have done to the environment, but also the resilience of some species,” Hassall told Karl Gruber at New Scientist.
“For plants to grow back after being buried for over 150 years is remarkable. Ponds are often neglected compared to lakes and rivers because of their small size, but they punch above their weight in terms of the number of species that they contain.”
At least since 2013, one of the biggest concerns in the climate change debate has been the so-called carbon budget – a fixed limit to the volume of carbon dioxide emissions that we can put into the atmosphere before irrevocably committing to a considerably hotter planet.
People living in urban centers, in many ways, have more access to a large variety of services. However, such urban regions are also more prone to having toxic heavy metals in water, as they often come from urban runoff. The problem isn’t limited to big cities, though, as remote areas are often more exposed to polluted water.
Filtration systems and devices are one way to eliminate this risk, but the effectiveness of these vary. That’s why Andrew Barron, a Rice University chemist, alongside a high school student came up with a new filter — called supported-epoxidized carbon nanotube (SENT) — that can remove toxic heavy metals from water. The filter, which is a material that looks like ordinary cotton, is also reusable.
“We grew carbon nanotubes onto quartz wool, then epoxidized them to make them active to adsorb metal ions,” Barron told ResearchGate. “We then discovered that vinegar reacts with the metal in solution to adsorb it from solution in a very efficient manner.”
The Quest for Clean Water
In their study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, they showed that their filter was able to remove 99 percent of contaminants from samples with cadmium, cobalt, copper, mercury, nickel, and lead. One gram of this material, the researcher claimed, could easily get 83,000 liters of water at par with WHO standards.
“The initial idea came from two different directions,” he told ResearchGate. “First, was the desire to be able to remove toxic metals from drinking water in remote locations that didn’t have power. The second was the Fukushima disaster, where there was a need to remove complex radioactive metal waste.”
A new study projects that if climate change continues unabated, heat-related deaths will rise dramatically in 10 major U.S. metropolitan areas compared to if the predicted increase in global warming is substantially curbed and cities take steps to adapt.
“The conversation about climate change is typically focused on the costs of mitigation, but this paper shows the human toll of policy inaction,” said senior author Gregory Wellenius, associate professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health. “These results show the cost in terms of human lives due to just this one aspect of climate change: temperature. We have here an opportunity to save lives and improve people’s health.”
The analysis, published in the journal Environment International, is based on a set of internationally accepted temperature models through the decade 2085-2095 and the research team’s calculations of present-day temperature-related mortality specific to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
The study forecasts deaths due to heat and cold for two different possible futures: A “better case” in which policy and technology mitigate climate change, yielding only a 1.8-degree Celsius increase in average global temperature by 2100, and a “worse case” in which greenhouse emissions continue growing at the current pace, leading to a 3.7-degree Celsius increase globally by 2100.
Across all 10 metropolitan areas, assuming no population growth at all, the study forecasts a “worse case” range of mortality averaging 10,300 heat-related deaths a year by 2050 and 26,000 heat-related deaths annually by 2090, compared to only about 2,300 in 1997. In the “better case” the heat-related deaths rise “only” to around 7,700 by 2050 and 10,400 by 2090 from the 1997 baseline.
“This paper highlights the importance of both mitigating and adapting to climate change, because what we see is that heat related deaths are going to increase even under the better case scenario,” said lead author Kate Weinberger, a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Public Health and the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES). “We should try to avoid the worse case scenario, but we will still need to protect people from heat, even in the better case.”
The projected increase in deaths rose significantly when the researchers factored in predictions of population growth from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency With population growth, heat related deaths across the 10 metros rose to around 12,300 in the better case and 16,400 in the worse case in 2050 and then 21,100 in the better case or 52,339 in the worse case in 2090.
The study also looked at cold-related deaths under both climate change scenarios and with and without population growth. Overall the authors found that while rising temperatures reduced the risk of dying from cold, the reduced threat of cold was overwhelmed in 8 of 10 metro areas by the much greater increased risk from heat, leading to a net increase in the number of temperature-related deaths under climate change overall.
For example, without population growth, total cold-related deaths, which are just shy of 27,000 in 1997, decline to 22,000 in 2050 and 17,700 in 2090 in the worse case or to 23,000 in 2050 and 21,800 in 2090 in the better case. These declines fall short of the projected increases from heat-related deaths above.
The effects vary in each metropolitan area because each is forecast to experience a unique combination of temperature change and population growth, and each has shown different historical rates of death from cold or warm temperatures, the researchers said.
The local temperature projections for each metropolitan area in the study came from the 40 climate models encapsulated in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The population growth estimates are based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Climate and Land-Use project.
To determine each metropolitan area’s propensity for temperature-related deaths, the researchers analyzed the relationship between mean daily temperature and daily mortality between 1986 and 2005.
This article was provided by Brown University. Materials may have been edited for clarity and brevity. And make the name of the source a link back to their web
As part of a $3.9 billion initiative (£3 billion) to improve air quality, the U.K. government has announced a ban of new diesel and petrol cars in 2040. Of this amount, $330 million (£255 million) has been awarded to local councils to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases. The government says that the sum will be generated by taxing diesel vehicles — although more precise details will be announced later this year.
Although the move to ban cars will not occur for about a quarter of a century, the Department for Environment, Farming, and Rural Affairs has expedited other aspects of the process by cutting the time for councils to make their self-determined plans of action from 18 months down to eight.
Should councils not meet their targets, more extreme measures could be implemented, such as restricting the use of diesel vehicles at peak times and charging diesel drivers for coming into certain towns.
As well as cutting down emissions and pollution, aspects of the bill promote greener infrastructure. For example, the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill allows the government to make it mandatory to have charge points for electric vehicles at motorway service stations.
The International Movement
The U.K. has a serious problem with emissions from the use of fossil fuels and the damage this causes: 40,000 premature deaths a year are linked to emissions, and the country is above limits set by the EU — meaning that 40 million people are living in areas with illegal levels of pollution. The measures will hopefully help the country rectify these failings.
The move reflects a wider international trend, in part instigated by the Paris Agreement, of setting deadlines for banning pollutant technologies in light of a growing awareness that climate changeneeds to be dealt with immediately or it may become too severe to deal with at all.
There are already a number of researchers involved in developing stable nuclear fusion. The goal may seem simple enough in theory: harnessing the same energy that powers the Sun— but attaining it has proven to be rather difficult. For one, sustaining a stable nuclear fusion reaction is tricky, as it requires playing with variables that aren’t that easy to manipulate. That’s why Google Research is working in tandem with nuclear fusion company Tri-Alpha Energy to help simplify the process.
Their solution is a computer algorithm, dubbed the Optometrist algorithm, that can speed up experiments involving plasma, the core ingredient in a fusion reaction. It’s also the most challenging aspect to manipulate. “The whole thing is beyond what we know how to do even with Google-scale computer resources,” Ted Baltz, a senior software engineer from the Google Accelerated Science Team, wrote in a Google Research blog.
“We boiled the problem down to ‘let’s find plasma behaviors that an expert human plasma physicist thinks are interesting, and let’s not break the machine when we’re doing it’,” Baltz added. “This was a classic case of humans and computers doing a better job together than either could have separately.”
The Optometrist algorithm was applied to Tri-Alpha Energy’s C2-U machine, where it was able to perform experiments that usually took a month to finish in just a few hours. The result, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, was a 50 percent reduction in system-induced energy losses that increased total plasma energy. “It was only for about two milliseconds, but still, it was a first!” Baltz wrote. The next step is reaching that critical threshold necessary for nuclear fusion to occur and to stabilize.
A Truly Renewable Energy
Fusion research has garnered significant attention in recent years as scientists have recognized its potential as a renewable and clean energy source. Nuclear fusion could generate four times the amount of energy nuclear fission produces (one fission event yields about 200 MeV of energy, or about 3.2 ´10-11 watt-seconds). It’s no wonder, then, that fusion is considered the “holy-grail” of energy research.
Recent questions in fusion research have been concerned with finding ways to stabilize the plasma that powers it — not an easy feat, since it requires temperatures of over 30 million degrees Celsius to sustain. Thus far, some researchers have proposed building better fusion reactors, and others are looking at the possibility of using a different base for plasma. Instead of the usual hydrogen, deuterium, or helium, physicists from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory have been tinkering with argon-based plasma.
Where does Google’s algorithm fit in? Well, it could significantly shorten the amount of time needed for each of these experiments. “Results like this might take years to solve without the power of advanced computation,” Baltz said. By running computational models alongside human experiments, the Optometrist algorithm can breeze through every possible combination for nuclear fusion to work.
Tri-Aplha Energy has already ditched the C2-U machine in favor of the more advanced Norman, which already achieved first plasma earlier this month. They’re set to build a power generator for demonstration pending more successful experiments with the Norman.
Experts have long thought it was out there, but now we’ve got confirmation – there’s a second garbage patch of plastic out in the Pacific Ocean, which may cover as much as 2.6 million square kilometres (a million square miles), or 1.5 times the size of Texas.
Like the patch of floating debris in the North Pacific, this one in the South Pacific has been formed by a swirling mix of currents and winds called a gyre, concentrating plastic waste into one area.
As depressing as the news is, it’s not entirely surprising: the research team that found patch number two has been searching for it for six months, and a recent studyhighlighted the huge volumes of plastic washing up on Henderson Island in the same part of the ocean.
Now researchers have actually been to visit the site of the South Pacific Garbage Patch and collect samples.
“We discovered tremendous quantities of plastic,” oceanographer Charles Moore from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, told ResearchGate. “My initial impression is that our samples compared to what we were seeing in the North Pacific in 2007, so it’s about ten years behind.”
Most of the plastic the researchers found wasn’t in the form of water bottles or shopping bags but rather tiny plastic pieces smaller than grains of rice – and that indicates this debris has been on a longer journey than the trash in the North Pacific.
As these bits of plastic are so tiny they’re very difficult to clean up, and we really need to be stopping this stuff getting into our oceans in the first place.
The researchers will need to properly weigh and analyse their samples before officially publishing their findings, but wanted to get news of their discovery out early so we can begin to think about how to tackle the problem.
“Hardly anybody goes there, and it’s really very poorly studied. We need observations like these to constrain our modelling, so I was excited to see Charles’ project. It’ll feed nicely into that.”
With plastics concentrated into smaller groups within the entire patch, it’s going to need several journeys crisscrossing the area to work out the full extent of what we’re looking at, but this new report is another sign of how big the problem has got.
We’re putting millions of tonnes of plastic into the oceans every year, and the amount keeps on rising. While you might not think a patch of debris out at sea is much to worry about, there’s concern about its impact on marine life – and anything that affects the ocean ecosystem also affects us on land.
It looks like the patch is filling up fast, too: marine pollution researcher Marcus Eriksen from the 5 Gyres Institute, who wasn’t part of this trip, sailed through the area in 2011 and saw very little plastic debris.
“Gone are the silly notions that you can put nets in the ocean and solve the problem,” said Eriksen. “This cloud of microplastics extends both vertically and horizontally. It’s more like smog than a patch.”
“We’re making tremendous progress to clean up smog over our cities by stopping the source. We have to do the same for our seas.”
Yesterday, Lamar Smith, the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 21st congressional district and Chair of the House Committee on Science, published an opinion piece on The Daily Signal touting the “benefits” of climate change. In the political arena, global warming is a contentious issue. It is also an issue that could have a dramatic impact on humanity’s future (and the future of many other species). With this in mind, here, we examine how the Representative’s statements align with what science actually has to say.
Does it Benefit Life on Earth?
One of the most notable statements made by Representative Smith is that higher carbon levels are good because it will benefit plant life: “A higher concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere would aid photosynthesis, which in turn contributes to increased plant growth. This correlates to a greater volume of food production and better quality food. Studies indicate that crops would utilize water more efficiently, requiring less water. And colder areas along the farm belt will experience longer growing seasons.”
Representative Smith continues by further discussing the impact that carbon will have on crops in particular: “While crops typically suffer from high heat and lack of rainfall, carbon enrichment helps produce more resilient food crops, such as maize, soybeans, wheat, and rice. In fact, atmospheric carbon dioxide is so important for plant health that greenhouses often use a carbon dioxide generator to increase production.”
Representative Smith’s claims do not align with what peer review evidence reveals about resilient food crops.
According to the most up-to-date scientific studies, the increased temperatures that are associated with carbon ultimately increase the dryness of Earth’s soil, which depletes the nutrients that plants need to survive. And as micronutrients dwindle in major crops worldwide, research indicates that food production will ultimately decrease.
The most recent research also shows that the net effects of climate change will lead to increases in crop pests and increased vulnerability to these pests—things that are not beneficial for food production.
Representative Smith’s claims also do not align with what peer review evidence reveals about resilient food crops. Such crops are mostly grown in hotter areas, such as Africa. Research on the effects of climate change on agricultural yields in Africa shows the following changes: up to 72% of the current yield projected to decline for maize, rice, and soybeans; up to 45% yield reductions are expected for millet and sorghum. Consequently, any benefits would be limited to higher latitudes, such as those of the United States, Canada, and Europe, but even in these locations, the benefits would be time-limited.
Representative Smith also asserts that, contrary to some assertions, the world will not become a desert as a result of increased temperatures, but will grow greener: “Besides food production, another benefit of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the lush vegetation that results. The world’s vegetated areas are becoming 25-50 percent greener, according to satellite images. Seventy percent of this greening is due to a rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.”
Long-term research shows that plants with overly high supplies of CO2 face limited availability of other nutrients. This means that, despite a brief burst of “greening” upon initial exposure to increased atmospheric C02, effects caused by the “nitrogen plateau” soon outweigh any benefit. This is one reason why scientific evidence reveals that planting trees is not enough to fight our emissions problem—carbon decreases nutrient supplies and plants wither; planting new vegetation cannot alleviate this problem.
Next, Representative Smith asserts that climate change increases species diversity: “Greater vegetation assists in controlling water runoff, provides more habitats for many animal species, and even aids in climate stabilization, as more vegetation absorbs more carbon dioxide. When plant diversity increases, these vegetated areas can better eliminate carbon from the atmosphere.”
However, according to science, climate change is hurting species globally. Recent research asserts that changes caused to ecosystems as a result of global warming are harmful disruptions. Studies indicate that only two groups of mammals (rodents and insect-eaters) may benefit. This is due to their fast breeding rates coupled with their ability to adapt to many habitats (most species do not have this ability).
Does it Benefit the Economy?
Representative Smith then turns to our oceans and how climate change will improve the economy, asserting: “As the Earth warms, we are seeing beneficial changes to the Earth’s geography. For instance, Arctic sea ice is decreasing. This development will create new commercial shipping lanes that provide faster, more convenient, and less costly routes between ports in Asia, Europe, and eastern North America. This will increase international trade and strengthen the world economy.”
According to scientists, a decrease in Arctic sea ice is not beneficial. More than 20,000 scientists have so far indicated that the loss of Arctic sea ice is a major problem for both habitats and plant and animal life. Arctic habitats are being destroyed; native cultures are dying; the presence of increased ships is polluting waters and increasing the risk of oil spills; and sea temperatures are rising faster than before, which kills species (this happens because heat from the Sun is absorbed rather than reflected).
Representative Smith proceeds by turning to human society, asserting: “Fossil fuels have helped raise the standard of living for billions of people. Furthermore, research has shown that regions that have enjoyed a major reduction in poverty achieved these gains by expanding the use of fossil fuels for energy sources.”
While industrialization may increase the standard of living for many, according to science, these same gains can be acquired by powering society with cleaner sources of energy. Furthermore, fossil fuels do not benefit all humans. They are proven killers. The pollution they cause is responsible for numerous childhood deaths worldwide and contributes to 1.2 million premature deaths in China alone.
Representative Smith continues by emphasizing the need for cheap energy: “For nations to progress, they need access to affordable energy. Fossil fuels provide the energy necessary to develop affordable food, safe drinking water, and reliable housing for those who have never had it before.”
According to studies, renewables are more affordable in context. Solar energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many areas. And China and India have both created health crises in urban areas by their overuse of fossil fuels. This results in a dramatic increase in healthcare spending.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the hidden costs of fossil fuels include: fatalities and disease; environmental destruction and associated crop loss caused by mining, and habitat loss; contamination of drinking water from oil pipelines, strip mining, and oil and gas drilling; sea pollution and loss of species diversity from offshore drilling; among other costs.
Following this, Representative Smith focuses on job creation: “Studies indicate that in the U.S. alone, the natural gas industry is responsible for millions of jobs and has increased the wealth of Americans by an average of $1,337. Economic growth, as well as greater food production and increased vegetation, are just some of the benefits that can result from our changing climate.”
More people are employed in the solar industry than in oil, coal, and gas combined — about twice as many.
According to statisticians, more people are employed in the solar industry than in oil, coal, and gas combined — about twice as many — and those people are not at health risk, unlike their peers in fossil fuels. Solar is creating jobs 17 times faster than the rest of the US economy.
The Paris Accord is the next point raised: “The Obama administration planned to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on policies that would have a negligible impact on the environment. The Clean Power Plan would have reduced global temperatures by only three one-hundredths of 1 degree Celsius. If we stop over-reacting to climate change hysteria, we can allocate those funds to benefit Americans in such areas as educational opportunities, health care, and technological innovation.”
However, as an MIT analysis of the Accord notes, “the temperature reduction is much larger, on the order of 1 degree Celsius….though much more is needed if the world is to achieve its goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less.” According to NASA and other scientists, even half of one degree at a planetary scale is enormously significant.
Likewise, a 2016 study published by the European Geosciences Union examined the difference between a global temperature increase of 1.5 degree Celsius vs. a 2.0 C by the end of the century. It found that: heatwaves would last about a third longer; sea levels would rise higher; rainstorms would be around a third more intense; tropical coral reefs at risk of severe degradation would be greater, and while at 1.5 C some might recover, at 2 C they would be permanently gone; water loss in the Mediterranean area almost doubles; losses in wheat and maize harvests in the tropics double; and any carbon increase advantage in crops, Smith’s favorite “benefit,” disappears at 2 C rather than 1.5 C.
Representative Smith continues along these same lines, highlighting the impact on jobs and the economy: “Bad deals like the Paris Agreement would cost the U.S. billions of dollars, a loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and have no discernible impact on global temperatures. Instead of succumbing to fear tactics and exaggerated predictions, we should instead invest in research and technology that can help us better understand the effects of climate change.”
Researchers estimate that the GDP of the US between 2016 and 2099 will actually be 36% lower if climate trends continue. And many major US companies — including Apple, Gap, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips— support the Paris accord. It is logical to infer that, as these leaders of industry support the cause, there is no great threat to jobs in, at least, these sectors. Moreover, turning to clean energy (as noted above) creates many new jobs.
In short, according to science, is dangerous to add CO2 to the atmosphere. Research shows that any positive impact that climate change has on agriculture is realized only in the very short term, and the benefits are overwhelmed by the negative effects. Increased atmospheric CO2 will increase the size of deserts and shrink the range available to other plants. It will increase plant damage from insects, and water and soil fertility requirements will become unfulfillable. Increased CO2 levels are beneficial inside small enclosed spaces like greenhouses, not on a planet-wide basis.
Two new studies have been published in Science outlining research on a pair of geoengineering methods, sulphur atmospheric injection and cirrus cloud modification, that could prove helpful if Earth’s climate reaches catastrophic levels. While the researchers behind these studies hope that the methods will never become necessary, they assert that researching them is important just in case a climate red button is ever needed.
The first method would involve attempting to mimic the effects of volcanic eruptions. Using dispersal planes, we would inject enough sulphur into the atmosphere to deflect a significant amount of solar radiation away from Earth, thus decreasing its surface temperature.
The second method is to modify cirrus clouds. These clouds are adept at trapping heat in the atmosphere, having a similar effects on the planet as greenhouse gases. The proposed geoengineering method would be to “seed” these clouds with tiny particles of chemicals, desert dust, or pollen in order to break them apart and let more heat escape.
Injecting sulfur into the atmosphere is a highly risky proposition. Financially, it could cost $20 billion a year for as many at 160 years. It could also potentially lead to the destruction of the ozone, which would have the domino effect of causing worldwide draughts while not decreasing acid levels in the ocean or carbon dioxide levels in the air.
Cloud seeing also comes with risks. If the seeding isn’t perfectly executed, it could lead to further cirrus cloud formation, which would have the counterintuitive effect of trapping more heat. It also wouldn’t decrease CO2 levels in the air or stop ocean acidification.
As Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at NASA and Columbia University, said in a Ted Talk, ultimately, geoengineering is like “going to a doctor who says ‘You have a fever, I know exactly why you have a fever, and we’re not going to treat that. We’re going to give you ibuprofen, and also your nose is going to fall off.’” They’re simply risky, temporary solutions that don’t address the core problem.
The Core Problem
We’re seeing more and more evidence that the climate is heading toward disaster and that humans are driving the change. Over the last decade or so, the general tone concerning the topic has moved from “we should do something” to “we must do something now to avoid planetary collapse.”
A team lead by Jim Hansen, NASA’s former chief of climate science, made the situation clear in a recently published study: “The world has already overshot appropriate targets for greenhouse gas amount and global temperature, and we thus infer an urgent need for rapid phasedown of fossil fuel emissions.”
However, some climate scientists remain optimistic that the environmental crucible we are facing is going to force change before we have resort to geoengineering. Alan Robock, an environmental science professor at Rutgers, told Business Insider that international agreements could be made necessarily more severe if the right person is leading the campaign: “With charismatic leadership, things can change very quickly […] I’m optimistic the world will do that and we won’t need to use geoengineering.”
Melting glaciers. Rising seas. Extreme weather events. Perhaps there are no melting ice caps in your backyard. Perhaps the ocean you swim in seems the same as always. Perhaps you haven’t found yourself caught up in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane.
But elsewhere in the world, people cannot say the same.
In our attempt to encourage action, we warn of the effects that global warming will have on the lives of our children and our children’s children, thinking those disasters are deferred. But the irrefutable truth, whether you have personally witnessed it or not, is this: Climate change is already transforming the lives of millions worldwide.
It’s no longer a question solely of prevention because much damage has already been done. And to this end, our efforts must be focused on stopping the damage that’s already begun—that’s already been done—and trying to repair the harm we have caused.
But there is a barrier to repairing this harm. Though it has become increasingly difficult to deny the existence of climate change and its impact, denialists continue to find a way. But in one place on Earth—the place that is the epicenter of the real-time, real-world impact of climate change—denial is not an option.
Feeling the Impact
According to the 2015 Global Climate Risk Index, the Philippines (the southeast Asian country made up of more than 7,000 islands) is one of the places the most affected by climate change — particularly when it comes to extreme weather.
Typhoons, hurricanes, and tropical storms form over oceans, drawing their strength from the water’s temperature. Global warming has caused the surface temperature of ocean waters to increase, and warmer waters contribute to stronger storm systems. Given its location, the Philippines has not been a stranger to these meteorologic phenomena, but in recent years the storms have been getting more intense—and so too has the damage left in their wake.
Related: Futurism’s exclusive interview with former Vice President Al Gore
Hurricane Katrina was still reverberating at the forefront of our collective consciousness when An Inconvenient Truth came out in 2006. Fast-forward seven years. On November 8, 2013, the Philippines was ravaged by the strongest storm in modern history. In the new documentary, we see the devastating impact of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan: We see a young Filipino cry as he recalls the fear and terror and loved ones lost. We see another describe how he had to break through the ceiling of his home so that he and his family could escape drowning.
But there are many, many more people who were there. And they, too, have stories to tell.
Futurism’s team is made up of writers, editors, and creators from many parts of the world. Several members of our staff live and work in the Philippines. We turned to them to go beyond the film and to understand what the people that we know and work with—the people that we call friends—have experienced as a result of our warming world.
Their observations and experiences give us a glimpse into what the future of the cities and towns we live in will be…if we fail to take action.
June Javelosa pointed out that the weather extremes in the Philippines — particularly, flooding — have long been seen as an inevitable part of life in the country: “I don’t think a year has passed that I don’t get stuck in my car because the highways are waist-deep in floodwater.”
June adds that, for a long time, these incidents were seen as more of an infrastructure or urban planning issue rather than an overly concerning weather pattern. Of course, that was before Typhoon Haiyan—the “super typhoon” that hit the region in 2013. “I think that’s when the public began to realize just how defenseless we were to climate change,” June states, adding that, “the death, loss of livelihood, food insecurity experienced in provinces where Haiyan hit the hardest…that made it clear that the government was ill-equipped to protect or even prepare the Philippines for climate change.”
She concludes by that, at this point, extreme weather events in the Philippines seem all too natural: “Most just see it as nothing more than a nuisance.”
In 2014, just one year after Haiyan, Typhoon Glenda hit. Joi Paras was living in the region that saw the highest death toll, and she remembers the experience quite vividly.
By 6 a.m., our livingroom was taking in water from the opening under our front door. The water spread out into the dining room. I had to move furniture and remove rugs by myself. My two brothers had to stay upstairs mopping up my room. Our staircase was flooded by rain water coming from the windows (that don’t open). It looked like we had an indoor waterfall. I told them not to go down for fear that they might slip and fall. I had to bring some bread up to them as a snack.
We did not have electricity for 2 weeks. My dad decided to buy a gas generator so that we could have power. We could not store food, and it was difficult because my mom only ate fish and no meat. My son was covered in mosquito bites. We had to camp out in the living room where it was cooler at night.
Joi also noted that, in rural areas, the aftermath of a natural disaster can be particularly devastating if supplies—or vital messages—are not received. “There are also a lot of people who refuse to leave their homes despite being warned,” she said, adding that many feel as though leaving really isn’t a viable option: “When they leave their homes, you can be sure that they will return to an empty and robbed house.”
Dom Galeon says that he feels a lot of people in the Philippines are “honest-to-goodness believers in climate change,” because, while flooding and typhoons are part of the country’s normal weather patterns, these patterns have become atypical over the last several decades.
The typhoon was locally called “Ondoy.” Its international name was “Ketsana.” It hit the Philippines in September of 2009. Back then, I was living in a house that had an elevated first level. It was high enough to allow for a garage below. When the typhoon hit, the flood rose very fast, and even reached the elevated first floor. The garage was flooded, of course. Water inside the house was almost knee deep. We had to move stuff to the second floor. It was really bad.
When the typhoon passed, it took as a whole day of cleaning to get things back. Then I joined my university’s volunteer drive to help in areas that were badly hit. I remember cleaning mud from a house that was flooded to the ceiling. That family lost so many things…
Many of the most pressing issues in science today contain a lot of missing pieces and are rife with unanswered questions. As technology advances, we hope that it will continue to guide us as we attempt to unravel the mysteries of the universe and help give us the clarity we need to devise solutions.
Climate change, however, is not an ambiguous issue: The answers to the most basic of questions are all right in front of us. We know the who, what, where, when, why, and how — but in accepting the answers, we must accept our own complicity and shoulder the blame.
We, in many respects, are the who. We know what we’re up against. We know where it’s happening. We know that it’s no longer a matter of when because it’s happening right now. And the evidence in support of why it’s happening is there.
We, as the who, will never be fully absolved of our role in climate change. But as we helped to create global warming, so can we help determine how this issue—indeed, if this issue—is solved.
Mary Ann Lucille Sering, secretary of the Philippines climate change commission, is one of the voices leading the charge. “We hope that the Philippine experience, no matter how difficult, can help unite all nations to take more concrete actions on climate change,” Sering said back in 2014 after Typhoon Hagupit swept through the same path that Haiyan had devastated the year before.
In the U.S., Former Vice President Al Gore became a force in the climate change conversation when he released An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. The sequel, like its predecessor, takes on some of the larger sociopolitical factors influencing the climate change fight, and it comes just weeks after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement.
Whether we live in a region where the real-life effects of climate change are being felt, or we’re just watching them play out from afar, our task clear…as the closing credits roll: “Fight like your world depends on it. Because it does.”
In 2015, NASA revealed that Earth’s oceans are rising faster than expected, and the space agency projected that we’re now “locked in” to at least 90 cm of sea level rise in the coming decades.
That in itself would be enough to displace millions of people around the world, but if this trend continues and all our polar ice caps and glaciers melt, it’s been predicted that the oceans will rise by a mind-blowing 65.8 metres (216 feet). So where will all that water end up?
The Business Insider video team has created this animated map to take us on a virtual tour of what all the continents would look like without any ice, and we have to admit it’s kind of terrifying.
Some of the areas that go under first are probably unsurprising – low-lying islands and already water-logged cities such as Venice are quick to disappear. And at first glance, the planet doesn’t really look that much different.
But when the globe spins around to Asia around the halfway mark, things get pretty real, with huge cities like Calcutta and Shanghai disappearing into the ocean altogether (that’s a combined population of almost 19 million people). And suffice it to say, the US also gets a whole lot smaller. You can pretty much kiss Florida goodbye.
What’s most shocking is that this map isn’t some kind of crazy projection of an unlikely future – sure, things aren’t going to look like this in our lifetime, but scientists have regularly predicted a future where there’s no longer any permanent ice on Earth.
And, to be honest, if there was enough carbon in the atmosphere to heat things up that much, sea level rise would probably be the least of our worries, with the average temperature of the planet predicted to reach around 26.6 degrees Celsius, rather than the 14.4 degrees Celsius it is currently. This would wreak havoc with plant and animal life.
But while we’ve all heard those types of projections many times before, it’s different to actually see the affect our behaviour could have on the physical shape of our planet with our own eyes, which is what animations such as this one do so well.
Watch it, and remember just how fortunate we are to be alive during a time where we can witness wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef, Venice, and the Maldives in all their glory.
A new study indicates that warming temperatures caused by climate change may be releasing heat-trapping methane from layers of gas and oil that’s been lurking beneath the Arctic permafrost for thousands of years. Until now, anyway. As the permafrost melts, millions of tiny openings are created, and some of these greenhouse gases rise to the surface, escaping into the atmosphere.
Scientists sampled air in different parts of the atmosphere to detect sources of methane emerging from beneath the permafrost in northwestern Canada along the Mackenzie River Delta. The 10,000 square-kilometer area has long been known to have gas and oil deposits. Their findings indicate that pockets in the permafrost that have deeply thawed are responsible for 17 percent of all measured methane in the region. What’s more staggering is that these hotspots for emissions comprise just 1 percent of the permafrost’s surface area.
Bacterial decomposition is commonly found in permafrost, and typically causes peak concentrations of methane emissions that are far lower than those seen in this case — which were about 13 times higher than average. This higher level of emissions indicates that there are also geological sources of the methane, such as gas and oil. The scientists concluded that global warming will continue to open new pathways for greenhouse gas emissions as it causes the permafrost to thaw, which in turn feeds the carbon-climate feedback loop.
Previous research in Alaska had focused on single sources of deep methane. Findings from 2012 came to similar conclusions as researchers reached in the more recent case; although, those findings were based on areas around melting glaciers and along the edges of permafrost areas. All these findings prove that, over time, the loss of glaciers and permafrost can cause greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, complete melting isn’t needed for those gases to be released.
“I think another critical thing to point out is that you do not have to completely thaw thick permafrost to increase these geologic methane emissions,” permafrost researcher and author of the 2012 study Katey Walter Anthony said to InsideClimateNews. “It is enough to warm permafrost and accelerate its thaw. Permafrost that starts to look like Swiss cheese would be the type that could allow substantially more geologic methane to escape in the future.”
It’s not yet clear how rapidly climate change will trigger methane releases, or in what amounts greenhouse gases will invade the atmosphere. Scientists are also concerned that melting permafrost may lead to the revival of viruses that haven’t been active for thousands of years. Experts around the world are issuing dire warnings, making it clear that the planet we know and love will not be the same if we don’t act now.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are fast outgrowing their reputation as a niche market, according to InsideEVs’ recent report of EV and hybrid car sales in the United States.
The most notable data from the report is the 45 percent increase in EV sales from July 2016 to June 2017 compared to the prior 12-month period. Offerings from a variety of manufacturers contributed to the increased sales figures.
From July 2016 to June 2017, Tesla sold more than 28,000 of its Model S units, while Chevy sold about 25,800 of its hybrid Volts. At the third spot is Tesla’s Model X, with just under 21,000 units sold. Toyota’s Prius Prime, which hit the market late last year, is currently on track for a big year as the third highest selling electric hybrid since January 2017.
An Industry’s Future
While some may argue that 45 percent isn’t much, it’s actually a surge when you take into account how EVs were performing in years past. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) noted that plug-in sales grew annually at a 32 percent rate from 2012 to 2016. At that rate, the UCS predicted that EVs would account for 10 percent of all new car sales in the U.S. by 2025.
If the past 12 months are indicative of a shift in consumer behavior towards EVs, however, this growth rate could be sustained for years to come, UCS predicts. If just a 40 percent rate were sustainable, 10 percent of car sales in the U.S. would be EVs by 2023, and that could easily grow to 20 percent just two years afterwards.
The rise of plug-ins and hybrid vehicles owes itself to the increasingly low prices of electric batteries and the expansion of charging infrastructure. These help reduce the cost of EV ownership in the long run. Government support also plays a role, with initiatives like California’s Zero Emission Vehicle program making EV ownership more attractive.
An ordinary petrol or diesel car pumps about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, so taking just one of these vehicles off the road is already a step forward on the path to a cleaner environment. Removing 10 or 20 percent of them is a leap.
Most nations and institutions are attempting to fight climate change due to global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At present, this is mostly done by cutting down on the use of fossil fuels, replacing them with alternative sources of energy that are renewable and cleaner. However, totally shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will take significant time, as the necessary infrastructure will need to be built.
In a study published in the journal Nature, this combined team of researchers discussed their discovery of a reaction that could turn CO2 into methane. The process is a photochemical approach to triggering electrochemical conversions. It involves exposing a CO2 solution to irradiation by sunlight at ambient temperature and pressure, which triggers a molecular electro-catalysis. The CO2, after being irradiated by sunlight for several hours, is converted into methane, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen.
Questions of Efficiency
The researchers acknowledged that the current process isn’t yet particularly efficient. For one, it yields an 82 percent carbon monoxide byproduct, and it produces methane at a very slow rate of 12 grams per hour.
Refining the process could result in it working more efficiently, however. One potential solution is revising the technique into a two-step process — after the initial ingredients are converted into mostly carbon monoxide with some of that becoming methane, a second step could be used to convert the CO into more methane.
Another challenge is actually figuring out what goes on during the photochemical process. The researchers know, for example, that iron — one of the initial components mixed with CO2 — ends up binding with carbon dioxide in the first part of the process. What they don’t yet understand is how hydrogenation of the CO2 occurs.
Additionally, the CO2 sample used in the study came from a canister and was, therefore, more pure than what’s in the air, so the team plans to work on finding ways to capture CO2 from the air and filter out impurities.
Still, being able to convert CO2 into the more useful methane is a feat. Methane, the primary component in natural gas, is a cleaner source of energy, so this method could do two things at the same time: reduce carbon emissions and supply cleaner energy.
However, methane is still a fossil fuel and it could even be more harmful than CO2 if it’s allowed to leak into the atmosphere. An extreme amount of care and caution will be needed to ensure that this newly produced methane is properly stored and transferred.
From mid-September onward, solar panels will be mandatory for new homes in South Miami, Florida. The law — which was passed with a four-to-one majority — states that builders must install 16 m² (175 ft²) of solar panel per 93 m² (1000 ft²) of sunlit roof area, or one panel with a 2.75 kilowatt capacity per 93 m² (1000 ft²) of living space; the rule also extends to some renovations.
The changes are affirmations that South Miami is marching towards a clean energy future, despite the topic causing friction due to the bent of its Republican leadership, complex deals with fossil fuel-based utilities companies, and numerous battles between citizens and energy suppliers concerning whether independent sellers can compete with energy suppliers.
Phillip Stoddard, the mayor of the city, told the Miami Herald: “We’re the first city in the United States outside of California to approve this […] It’s not going to save the world by itself, but it’s going to get people thinking about [solar].”
However, the law has caused controversy as some parties believe it de-incentivises new buildings. This is because the cost of implementing solar panels will fall on building companies rather than the government covering cost. Eric Montes de Oca, president-elect of the Miami chapter of the Latin Builders Association, further argued to the Miami Herald that the measure essentially means that “anyone who does not want to have solar panels, [is] not welcome to live in South Miami. This, I would argue, runs counter to our individual freedoms.”
South Miami joins a growing number of U.S. cities which have implemented similar rulings: in January, San Francisco began enforcing a rule that buildings 10 stories or shorter have to have either solar panels or water heaters, and Lancaster in California has passed measures to ensure that new houses are renewably self-sufficient.
According to new research, humans must start removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere immediately in order to avoid the extreme repercussions of climate change. Otherwise, future generations will be spending hundreds of trillions of dollars to battle these catastrophic effects. The international team who came to this stark conclusion was led by NASA’s former chief of climate science, professor Jim Hansen.
An academic paper on this topic drafted by the team, and depressingly yet accurately titled, “Young people’s burden: requirement of negative CO2 emissions,” establishes their case.
According to The Drive, Porsche’s opening gambit in the bid will be the Mission E — slated for release in 2019 — followed by an electric crossover coupe, and then a new generation Macan crossover in 2022. The Macan will prove to be the make or break EV for the German car company, as its current gasoline incarnation is Porsche’s bestseller, with roughly 100,000 vehicles sold in 2016.
Porsche joins a growing number of car companies making ambitious plans to transition to electric in the coming decade. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson said in a video on Twitter that “the future of Volvo is electric,” and to that end, the company plans to make every car off the production line either partially or entirely electric from 2019 onwards.
Beijing is well on its way to a future powered by clean energy as the city’s municipal development and reform commission announced on Tuesday that there will be almost no coal consumption in Beijing’s plain areas by 202o.
This latest thrust in the Chinese effort to fight air pollution will all but eliminate coal use in the southern plain areas and six downtown districts of the Chinese capital city. Almost all coal use in the downtown areas will be replaced by clean energy, electricity, and gas, with all coal-fired boilers used for heating and industrial purposes converted to clean-energy alternatives.
The commission added that the city’s gross coal consumption will be capped at 5 million tonnes by 2020. Its total energy consumption will be limited to the equivalent of 76 million tonnes of standard coal by that year, which would be an average yearly consumption increase of 2.1 percent.
With these changes in place, renewable energy should account for more than 8 percent of Beijing’s total energy consumption by 2020, while the proportion of high-quality energy consumption is projected to exceed 95 percent. It’s just the latest measure in China’s aggressive war against pollution, which is designed to save lives as well as prevent the destruction of the environment.
Indian Railways is decreasing their diesel consumption by rolling out a Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train with a solar-paneled roof. The panels will produce the power required by the fans, lights, and electronic display systems in passenger coaches. Any surplus energy can be stored in an onboard battery.
The train debuted in New Delhi, which is one of the most polluted cities in the world, on July 14, and the company plans to retrofit solar panels onto 24 more trains in the near future.
Indian Railways estimates that attaching solar panels to six coaches on a train could save as much as 21,000 liters of diesel every year. Not only would that be environmentally beneficial, it would also be economically wise.
The solar train initiative is symptomatic of two wider trends: India’s bid to become a greener nation and a worldwide stress on developing cleaner transportation.
India hopes to produce 60 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027, and to that end, the nation has launched a series of projects to decrease its carbon footprint. India Coal, which produces 82 percent of the country’s coal, has closed 37 mines; the government has announced a plan to use only electric cars by 2030; and a 10 km2 (3.86 m2) solar power plant in Tamil Nadu broke the record for the largest solar farm in the world.
The trains are also one example of many ingenious methods engineers and scientists are using to decrease emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for 14 percent of worldwide emissions.
A combination of individual innovations — such as trains that utilize solar energy — and national changes in energy policy will prove invaluable in our fight against global warming. Decreasing emissions worldwide is the goal, and while each of these initiatives may only be a drop in the ocean, when combined, they can make a world of difference.
The report indicates that June 2017 was third warmest June on record, behind only 2016 and 2015. It also states that the average temperature for the year-to-date in the contiguous U.S. was 10.5 degrees Celsius (50.9 degrees Fahrenheit), roughly 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. This makes the first half of 2017 the second warmest on record, behind only 2012.
2017 is still unfolding, so it still may be the warmest year on record. If it isn’t, all indications point to it being in the top three.
As for precipitation, the total for 2017 in the contiguous U.S. has been 2.55 inches above average. That means the first six months of 2017 were the wettest since 1998 and the sixth wettest on record.
In terms of disasters, 2017 is even more notable. Between January and June, the U.S. experienced nine separate billion-dollar climate and weather disasters. These include six severe storms, a freeze, and two floods, which caused 57 deaths in total. Only 2011 and 2016 had more billion-dollar weather and climate disasters by this point in the year, with ten events each.
Climate in Context
Higher levels of precipitation in many places must be seen in the context of drought in others — both extremes are part of the massive chain reaction caused by upheaval in the climate. While there were floods and major storm fronts with high levels of precipitation along the Gulf Coast, for example, some of these areas had previously been experiencing drought conditions.
These significant fluctuations will cause unpredictable and destructive weather patterns, and experts like James Hansen, former NASA climate research head, see rising sea levels as a looming threat that could render much of the world ungovernable.
At a panel discussion during the DS Virgin Racing Innovation Summit on Friday, Virgin Galactic CEO and founder Sir Richard Branson had a suggestion for the United States government. Instead of trying to revive the country’s declining coal mining industry — a promise U.S. president Donald Trump made in March as part of a “new era in American energy and production and job creation” — Branson suggested focusing on clean energy.
“Coal mining is not the nicest of jobs, and coal mining disappeared in Britain many decades ago,” Branson said, replying to a question by Yahoo Finance. “Pretty much every single one of those coal miners went into jobs which were far more pleasant, far less dangerous, far better for their health, and I doubt that there’s one coal miner that looks back thinking, ‘God, I wish I was down in a coal mine.’”
During the talk, Branson noted that clean energy jobs wouldn’t just benefit the coal miners. They’d also be good for the U.S. and the world as a whole. According to a study from the Michigan Technological University, the coal industry causes 52,000 American deaths each year due to air pollution, and transitioning to clean energy sources would decrease the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, helping the world in the fight against global warming.
How coal could compete with clean energy in the future has not been made clear by the Trump administration, and Branson sees the federal government’s lack of support for clean energy as a problem.
“Obviously, what’s happened in America, having an administration that put out the most bizarre statement on [the Paris climate agreement] is not good news because you do need governments to set the rules,” Branson told the audience in New York. ”And you do need to make it clear that clean energy should have a leg up over dirty energy. And you have a government that’s not setting proper differentials. That’s going to be tricky.”
Le Journal du Dimanche, a weekly French newspaper, has reported that French President Emmanuel Macron has been holding talks with U.S. President Donald Trump concerning the U.S.’s possible re-entrance into the Paris Agreement.
Macron reportedly told the paper that “[Trump] told me that he would try to find a solution in the coming months,” and that the two “spoke in detail about the things that could make him come back to the Paris accord.” In addition, Macron claims that the most notable point of the discussion was “the link that exists between global warming and terrorism.”
Trump himself has remained opaque about the discussion. Politico report that he said “we will talk about [the Paris Agreement] over the coming period of time. And if it happens, that will be wonderful, and if it doesn’t, that will be OK, too. But we’ll see what happens.”
However, France, Germany, and Italy made their position clear when they issued a joint statement upon Trump’s reneging from the agreement. In essence, the statement said that the deal cannot and will not be changed to suit the president’s wishes by asserting that:
“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies, and economies.”
Despite Trump’s federal withdrawal from the Paris Agreement in June, numerous states and institutions have released statements and implemented measures to uphold the landmark climate deal.
“If you wanted to power the entire U.S. with solar panels, it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States,” Musk said. “The batteries you need to store the energy, to make sure you have 24/7 power, is 1 mile by 1 mile. One square-mile. That’s it.”
Why solar? Well, as Musk explained, as far as energy sources go, we can count on solar to come through for us: “People talk about fusion and all that, but the sun is a giant fusion reactor in the sky. It’s really reliable. It comes up every day. If it doesn’t we’ve got bigger problems.”
At present, about 10 percent of the U.S. is powered by renewable energy sources. To achieve a complete renewable energy power, Musk thinks solar is the way to go.
To start, he suggested combining rooftop solar and utility-scale solar plants. The former would be on the rooftops of houses in the suburbs, while the latter could power other areas. As we’ve seen with Tesla’s new rooftop solar unit, and efforts in other countries, like Australia, to build large-scale solar plants, this is a goal well within reach.
Next, while in transition from fossil fuel to solar, it’d be necessary to rely on other renewables. “We’ll need to be a combination of utility-scale solar and rooftop solar, combined with wind, geothermal, hydro, probably some nuclear for a while, in order to transition to a sustainable situation,” Musk explained.
Finally, the U.S. has to build more localized power sources, like the rooftop solar setups. “People do not like transmission lines going through their neighborhood, they really don’t like that, and I agree,” Musk said. “Rooftop solar, utility solar; that’s really going to be a solution from the physics standpoint. I can really see another way to really do it.”
Scientists have developed a solar cell that is capable of converting direct sunlight into electricity with 44.5 percent efficiency — making it, potentially, the most efficient solar cell in the world. Current solar technology only converts electricity with a maximum efficiency of about 25 percent. The impressive cell works by stacking multiple layers of solar hardware into a single cell, each of which absorbs a different aspect of the solar spectrum.
This new tech is innovative compared to other cells in two regards. First, it uses transfer printing, which allowed the scientists to assemble the component parts with a high degree of precision. Second, it uses materials derived from gallium antimonide (GaSb) substrates, which are usually reserved for infrared lasers and photodetectors, in order to absorb every part of the direct sunlight.
Matthew Lumb, lead author on the study, stated that “our new device is able to unlock the energy stored in the long-wavelength photons, which are lost in conventional solar cells, and therefore provides a pathway to realizing the ultimate multi-junction solar cell.”
The Solar Revolution
As with any piece of energy converting technology, in order to maximize the amount of energy produced, one can either increase the quantity of converters, or improve the efficiency of the converters themselves. If this technology is scaled up, solar panels would require roughly half the space to produce the same amount of energy as the systems in place today due to their greater efficiency.
Although producing the initial was expensive, this experiment — and others like it — are crucial to show the upper limits of what is possible in solar technology. It has established a precedent, and the space in the market for another individual to make the cell cost effective.
Solar power already accounts for an increasing amount of energy produced worldwide, and it is becoming ever cheaper. Therefore, it is important to continue to find ways that make solar energy more and more effective so that it can surpass fossil-fuel based energy and become a green energy source capable of helping our planet (and us) to survive the harm we have caused it.
The Energy Observer was once a racing boat, but now it’s on a more important mission: raising awareness and providing a practical example of emissions-free energy all over the world. It set sail from Paris on July 15, beginning a six-year global voyage. Throughout the trip, the boat will use solar and wind power from a kite sail and turbines during the days, and draw hydrogen from its reservoirs after the sun has set.
Energy Observer replenishes its hydrogen stores via electrolysis of sea water. This eliminates the problem with most hydrogen-fueled vehicles: “The problem is that 95 per cent of the hydrogen that you use already is made out of fossil energies,” skipper Jérôme Delafosse told WIRED UK in February. “We will produce hydrogen onboard from the ocean, we will clean and purify the water and then we will electrolyze it and then compress it in tank storage.”
Improving Solar Boat Technology
The 5 million-euro ($5.25 million), 30.5 meters (100 feet) boat was originally designed in 1983 for racing, and enjoyed success in open-sea sailing before its owners and captains, Frederic Dahirel and Victorien Erussard, teamed up with researchers, engineers, architects, and others to convert it into the Energy Observer project. The boat traded the standard solar battery for its hydrogen tanks, making it almost three times lighter than the last solar powered boat to circumnavigate the globe, MS Tûranor PlanetSolar. It can also move three times as fast, with a top speed of 42 knots. It will typically be cruising at eight to 10 knots as it makes its planned 101 stopovers in 50 countries all over the world.
The designers hope that this journey will model a successful use of emissions-free energy that could power the networks of our shared human future. “We want to demonstrate the use of renewable, green, zero-pollution fuel technologies and spread the message all over the world,” Erussard told Discover Magazine. The team also wants to explore and showcase other technological innovations that can help the environment. During the trip, the team will visit start-ups around the world which are using innovation to protect the planet. “This will include all the technological solutions aimed at protecting our planet such as creating corals using 3D printers, generating light from sea bacteria or creating plastic using seaweed,” Delafosse told Discover Magazine.
Hopefully as we all watch the long global voyage we’ll see not only a successful, practical deployment of green technologies in action, but also a host of other conservation-based tech in use by the crew.
Volkswagen chief strategist Thomas Sedran announced at the Automobil Forum that the I.D. Concept will sell for $7,000 to $8,000 less than Tesla’s model. Aside from competitive pricing, the I.D. Concept was designed to compete with the Tesla Model 3 across the board. The price cutting strategy is one of the company’s more traditional competitive moves in a battle that has, at times, strayed into the unorthodox. According to Electrek, last year before unveiling the concept, VW misrepresented the Model s’ NEDC-rated range in a presentation designed to favorably compare the VW concept electric vehicle (EV).
At this point, it appears that the all-electric hatchback from VW will be available to compete with the Model 3 in the U.S., but not for more than a year after the Model 3 hits the market. Meanwhile, the concept vehicle — which is about the size of the VW Golf — will be part of the company’s more focused EV efforts in the EU and China. Its crossover model made its debut in Shanghai in April.
While Tesla may see the VW model as a potential competitor, its marketing strategies are more centered on converting drivers of gas-powered cars to EVs. However, if VW follows through with its plan to offer 30 all-electric or hybrid models by 2025, it seems likely that it will remain a competitor for Tesla — and everyone else.
Between 2017 and 2024, completely electric cars are expected to “become the rational choice for motorists in Europe,” the report said, as EV showroom prices fall due to cheaper batteries and EV ranges increasing. Charging infrastructure is also expected to become more widespread, in part due to government support.
Stanford University economist Tony Seba, who published a separate report on EVs, made a similar forecast for worldwide adoption. “Our findings clearly indicate that essentially all vehicle miles travelled will be electric by 2040 [worldwide],” he told The Guardian. “The car industry faces an imminent technology disruption by AEVs [autonomous electric vehicles] in the early 2020s. Even without autonomous technology, the internal combustion engine car industry will have been long decimated by 2040.”
According to former NASA climate research head James Hansen, the effect of climate change we should be most focused on isn’t the warming of the atmosphere. It’s the rising sea levels.
Hansen told New York Mag that he doesn’t think the atmosphere will actually warm as much as some have predicted by the end of the century, but he does think that sea levels will rise significantly due to melting polar caps. “I don’t think we’re going to get four or five degrees [Celsius] this century, because we get a cooling effect from the melting ice. But the biggest effect will be that melting ice,” he asserted. “In my opinion that’s the big thing – sea-level rise.”
In a paper published last year, Hansen warned that continuous reliance on fossil fuels could increase sea levels by several meters in just a period of 50 to 150 years. That seems like a long time, but Hansen’s predictions are significantly greater than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projected range of sea level rise of 30 centimeters (~1 foot) to just under a meter (3.2 feet).
Coastlines are home to more than half the world’s large cities, so a significant portion of the population will be affected by these rising sea levels. “The economic implications of that, and the migrations and the social effects of migrations … the planet could become practically ungovernable, it seems to me,” said Hansen.
Of course, the rising temperatures themselves will impact the population, too. While they won’t really be an issue in the U.S., Hansen believes they could be a major problem for countries in the subtropics. If the prediction of a four to five degrees Celsius (7.2 to nine degrees Fahrenheit) increase does come true, it would make these places practically uninhabitable and potentially grind their economies to a halt.
“It’s already becoming uncomfortable in the summers, in the subtropics. You can’t work outdoors, and agriculture, more than half of the jobs are outdoors,” he explained.
Hansen asserts that a carbon tax could help stabilize the economy as the world transitions away from fossil fuels, but the important thing is that this transition happens. Without serious efforts on every level, from the individual to the institutional, we stand no chance of preventing climate change from wreaking havoc on our planet.
A tech startup on a mission to make modern commercial and housing estates energy neutral has outfitted the headquarters of a Dutch bank with the world’s first commercial, fully transparent solar-power-generating windows.
The windows have solar cells installed in the edges at a specific angle that allows the incoming solar light to be efficiently transformed into electricity.
“Large commercial estates consume a lot of energy,” said Ferdinand Grapperhaus, co-founder and CEO of the startup, called Physee. “If you want to make these buildings energy-neutral, you never have enough roof surface. Therefore, activating the buildings’ facades will significantly contribute to making the buildings energy-neutral.”
The windows could generate 8 to 10 watts of power, according to Grapperhaus.
“This enables the user to charge a phone per every square meter [11 square feet] two times a day,” he told Live Science.
The first installation of Physee’s PowerWindows was unveiled in June in Eindhoven, in the south of the Netherlands. The headquarters of Rabobank, the Netherlands’ biggest bank, has been fitted with 323 square feet (30 square m) of the PowerWindows. The bank’s employees will be able to plug their smartphones into the windows using USB ports to charge their batteries, according to Physee.
Other buildings in the Netherlands are already lined up to receive the innovative solar technology, which has won Physee a place on the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers 2017 list.
At the end of June, the headquarters of the Amsterdam-based charity the Postcode Lottery were fitted with the PowerWindows. After that, Physee will move forward with its first large-scale project: a 19,000-square-foot (1,800 square m) installation in a large, newly built residential complex in Amsterdam, the Bold tower.
“I believe that every new type of glass needs power,” Grapperhaus said. “Either for the glass to be tinted electrically or heated or inside windows there are these solar blinds, which are electrical and can go up and down but also more and more you can see video glass.”
Grapperhaus said that the cost of the wiring that brings power from the grid to such windows is considerable in large commercial estates, and investing in power-generating windows would, therefore, make commercial sense.
Physee is already working on the next-generation technology that would triple the efficiency of the PowerWindows. The surface of the second generation of PowerWindows will be coated with a special material that transforms incoming visible light into near-infrared light, which is then transported toward the solar cells in the edges of the windows.
“It works similarly to a [glow-in-the-dark star],” Grapperhaus said. “The difference is that the glow star emits the green wavelength, but the coating on our windows emits light in near-infrared wavelength.”
The coating is based on the rare-earth metal thulium. Grapperhaus, together with his friend Willem Kesteloo, discovered the ability of thulium to transform a broad spectrum of light into near-infrared light in 2014, during their studies at the Delft University of Technology.
“Over time, our efficiency will improve further due to the development of better solar cells but also because of the economies of scale,” Grapperhaus said. “Right now, we are looking for iconic projects all over the world to show that a large glass building can be made energy neutral in an aesthetic way.”
Physee was among 30 early stage technology pioneers highlighted for 2017 and selected by the World Economic Forum for their potential to change the world. The list, announced June 14, consisted of firms developing various technologies, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity solutions, and biotechnology.
Physee’s presence on the list shows that the world is starting to take climate change seriously, Grapperhaus said.
“Ten years ago, sustainability was something that wasn’t taken very seriously — not by venture capitalists, not by many governments and neither by large corporations,” Grapperhaus said. “What I have seen over the last three years is that corporations are becoming more and more responsible, governments are becoming more and more supportive, and venture capitalists are becoming more and more interested” in sustainability.
These Transparent, Solar Power-Generating Windows Are the World’s First was originally published by NBC Universal Media, LLC on July 6, 2017 byTereza Pultarova, Live Science. Copyright 2017 NBC Universal Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
Back in March, Elon Musk vowed on Twitter to provide a green energy source capable of helping an Australian state fraught with power issues. He also said that if it isn’t built in 100 days, he’ll provide it free of charge. Seems like it can only be good news for the country, right? Perhaps not: Elon Musk’s latest promise has revealed a deep divide in the motivations and forces driving Australia’s energy industry, which stem from a turbulent history.
Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free. That serious enough for you?
The root of the problem in Australia over the last decade or so is that, while the general population has professed that they want to move towards more renewable sources, the government remains committed to keeping energy prices low. They’ve primarily done this by continuing to promote the use of coal.
The Australian government’s attitude towards renewables has been worrisome for years: when Anthony Abbott was in power between 2013 and 2015, he described coal as “good for humanity.” He went on to cut the country’s goals for implementing more wind and solar sources by 2020, and eroded a levy on carbon emissions because they increased energy costs.
Since Abbott lost power two years ago, the government’s stance has softened, but it is by no means promising. Josh Frydenberg, the Energy Minister of the country, has said “when it comes to energy sources, ours is a technology-neutral and all-of-the-above approach” — which means there is no secure plan to phase out of the use of coal. Such a plan was proposed last month with the intention of increasing Australia’s dependence on renewables to 42 percent by 2030 — but it was met with staunch opposition.
Musk Wades In
Elon Musk’s intervention has had a polarizing effect on both sides of the energy production spectrum. Frydenberg has responded to Musk’s bid to introduce the worlds’ biggest lithium ion battery for energy storage by saying that it will have a negligible effect on the country’s green energy market. More specifically, Frydenberg responded with a colorful analogy: “A lot of sizzle for very little sausage.”
However, the move has also galvanized other parties in Australia into taking action against climate change. A neighboring state, Victoria, has announced that it will stop building coal power stations. In addition, Ali Asghar, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney, has said that market forces may determine Australia’s fate. He stated “as solar and wind become cheaper and continue to undermine the economics of operating coal, investment in new coal plants become an even riskier proposition.”
Australia seems to be one of the few countries where Elon Musk’s energy solutions are met with governmental disdain: in the U.S., his solar roof tiles are sold out well into 2018, and Tesla’s Model 3 (their most recent and affordable EV) is being anticipated quite unlike any other car in recent memory. Let us hope, for the planet’s sake, that Australia’s attitude towards coal changes soon because, as Musk said during a recent visit, “Coal doesn’t have a long-term future. The writing’s on the wall.”
A street in London is being used as a petri dish for a futuristic technology that could make shoppers’ experience safer and more enjoyable. Among the installations on Bird Street, a small shopping street just off Oxford Circus, are Pavegen tiles which convert the force of footsteps into electricity to power bird noises and street-lighting as well as Airlabs filters that clean the polluted city air. Airlite paint that uses light-activated molecules to break air pollution down into innocuous salts is also being tested.
What is perhaps most promising about these technologies are their ability to be integrated into everyday city life as streets, decoration, or city benches — because of this they do not intrude on or complicate the running of the city. Experiments like these are vital to discover environmental solutions that can be easily integrated into existing infrastructure.
These kinds of solutions need to be implemented alongside changing our living habits in order to repair some of the damage humans have caused the planet. Innovation and individual responsibility have never been under more time pressure in the light of warnings from Stephen Hawking and others that we will soon cross the environmental threshold and become unable to repair our world.
The federal government in Australia has yet to commit to a renewable energy target, but that has not stopped the state of Victoria from setting its own. The state has developed a green energy plan meant to increase reliance on renewable energy while decreasing dependence on fossil fuels. This action plan was officially launched Thursday by former U.S. vice president and global clean energy advocate Al Gore.
The government of Victoria is dedicating $146 million to its plan, and the money will go toward several initiatives.
One is the creation of a battery storage facility capable of delivering four hours of power to the 100,000 people living in two regional towns in the state. $8 million will be used for various small-scale “micro-grid” initiatives, which would create local micro-grids that are independent from the national energy grid.
The state will buy $48.1 million in renewable energy certificates, as well, some of which will be used to provide solar power for Melbourne’s 410 trams. During the launch event, Gore rode one of those trams and spoke about the global shift toward renewables.
Victoria aims to have 40 percent of its energy needs met by renewables by 2025 and be completely carbon neutral by 2050. This action plan puts them on the path to achieving those goals and sets an admirable example for the rest of the world.