Category: emissions

Paris Officially Says It’s Phasing Out All Non-Electric Cars

The Future of Fuel

Soon, drivers will only have the option of using electric cars in Paris as authorities in the French capital have announced plans to remove all gas- and diesel-powered cars by 2030.

“This is about planning for the long term with a strategy that will reduce greenhouse gases,” transport official Christophe Najdovski told France Info radio, according to a report from Reuters. “Transport is one of the main greenhouse gas producers…so we are planning an exit from combustion engine vehicles, or fossil-energy vehicles, by 2030.”

Paris Climate Agreement
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Diesel-powered vehicles are actually set to be outlawed in Paris before their gas-powered equivalents. The deadline for those cars is 2024, which is when the city will play host to the Olympic games.

In a statement announcing the transition to only electric cars in Paris, officials made sure to clarify that the removal of all other types of cars by 2030 should not be interpreted as a ban but a “trajectory.” However, they did not clarify what, if any, penalties would be faced by those who didn’t meet the goal.

While fossil fuel emissions affect all of France and, indeed, the whole planet, Paris is a hotspot for particle pollution. City officials are often forced to issue temporary bans on gas- and diesel-powered cars in response to particularly bad surges.

Out of Gas

The use of only electric cars in Paris by 2030 is just one of France’s several announced efforts to decrease the use of fossil fuels. By 2040, the country expects to not only have banned the use of petrol- and diesel-powered cars outright, but to have ceased production on all fossil fuels, too.

France is far from the only nation phasing out the use of gas- and diesel-powered cars, though. Germany was actually the first to announce plans for a ban on combustion engines for 2030, while the U.K. aims to dump non-electric vehicles by 2040. China is said to be drawing up a timetable for when the production and usage of non-electric cars will cease, and India expects that all new cars sold in the nation will be electric by 2030.

The U.S. has yet to make any sweeping statements about when similar changes might be made, but the state of California is already well ahead of the curve. Last month, reports surfaced that officials were investigating whether a ban on non-electric cars could help the state reach its lofty goals with regards to climate change.

The days of gas- and diesel-powered cars are seemingly numbered, and many governments appear eager to take a proactive approach to the transition. The real question is which automakers are going to be able to keep up and emerge as leaders in the age of the electric car.

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Scientists Warn That Humanity Must Create “Carbon Sucking” Tech by 2030

Carbon Sucking

There are many who are making tremendous and powerful efforts to combat climate change as its repercussions grow increasingly drastic and life-threatening. But according to scientists at Chatham House, a British think-tank, and the general scientific consensus, the impending potential of surpassing 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times is progressing far enough that we need to begin “carbon sucking” by 2030. Carbon sucking technology, according to these and other scientists, will need to be created in order to effectively combat emissions.

“I don’t think we can have confidence that anything else can do this,” said Bill Hare, a physicist and climate scientist at the science and policy institute called Climate Analytics, to a London climate change conference. While trying to remain under a 1.5-degree rise, we have already had a global average increase of 1 degree. “It’s something you don’t want to talk about very much but it’s an unaccountable truth: we will need geoengineering by the mid-2030s to have a chance at the [1.5-C] goal,” Hare continued.

Negative emissions will be an essential part of battling climate change. Image Credit: JuergenPM / Pixabay
Negative emissions will be an essential part of battling climate change. Image Credit: JuergenPM / Pixabay

Engineering the Future

While it might seem drastic, increasing natural disasters, flooding, and a large host of other consequences of climate change are threatening and taking human lives with increasing ferocity. And if we continue on our current path, even with a wealth of intervention methods in place, geoengineering might very well be necessary as these scientists have predicted.

Can We Come Back from Climate Change’s Brink?
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Of these “carbon sucking” solutions, some suggest the planting of specially-designed carbon-absorbing forests. The trees from these forests would be harvested for wood and energy, the emissions from which would be pumped back underground. Underground carbon storage is just one of the many possible ways that scientists hope to capture and store emissions in our environment, reducing the impact of emissions on climate change.

Hare elaborated, “if you’re really concerned about coral reefs, biodiversity [and] food production in very poor regions, we’re going to have to deploy negative emission technology at scale.”

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New York Is the First City to Require Building Owners to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

NYC’s New Plan

On September 14, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new rules intended to dramatically reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The new mandates will force building owners to upgrade their buildings on an accelerated schedule, with serious penalties for failure to comply.

Fossil fuels used for hot water and heat in buildings are New York City’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, comprising 42 percent of the city’s total emissions. The new mandates require all owners of buildings over 25,000 square feet to meet fossil fuel caps over the next 12 to 17 years.

Paris Climate Agreement
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For most, this will mean improvements to hot water heaters, roofs and windows, boilers, and heat distribution systems. For the worst-performing 14,500 buildings, however, the rules will trigger efficiency upgrades and fossil fuel equipment replacement. These worst-performing buildings currently produce about one-quarter of the City’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

When President Trump announced that the U.S. would exit the Paris Climate Agreement earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio promised that New York City would stick to the treaty and increase its own efforts to reach the 2050 target of an 80 percent reduction in emissions. These mandates are one step in keeping that promise, a point de Blasio noted when announcing them:

Time is not on our side. New York will continue to step up and make critical changes to help protect our city and prevent the worst effects of climate change. We must shed our buildings’ reliance on fossil fuels here and now. To do this, we are mandating upgrades to increase the energy efficiency of our buildings, helping us continue to honor the goals of the Paris Agreement. No matter what happens in Washington, we will not shirk our responsibility to act on climate in our own backyard.

Big Goals, Bigger Impact

Meeting these new mandates will help in the worldwide effort to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change and hold global temperature increases to just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

NYC’s most dramatic emissions reductions are expected to take place in the coming decade, and by 2035, these new targets will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent citywide — that’s equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road. This will be the single biggest action ever taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The benefits of these mandates extend beyond the environment. The air pollution that results from fossil fuel usage can cause bronchitis, asthma, and premature death, especially among seniors and children. The city’s targets will improve air quality enough by 2035 to prevent 40 premature deaths and 100 emergency room visits, all asthma-related, annually.

The city’s residents will also benefit from energy cost savings of up to $300 million annually, and enacting the new mandates will create 17,000 green building retrofitting jobs. Building tenants will enjoy more comfortable and consistent indoors temperatures, as well.

Worldwide, higher greenhouse emissions are closely linked to urban areas. If all U.S. cities with populations over 50,000 followed the Paris plans for C40 cities, they would achieve 36 percent of the total emissions reductions the U.S. would need to meet its original Paris pledge. Since buildings are responsible for most of the emissions in these large cities, programs like New York’s could have a tremendous impact nationwide.

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Norway Makes Unprecedented Pledge to Ban the Use of Oil for Heating by 2020

The Norwegian Oil Ban

In 2020, Norway will become the first country in the world to ban the use of oil and paraffin to heat buildings. Vidar Helgesenlaid, the nation’s Environment Minister, laid it out clearly in a statement: “Those using fossil oil for heating must find other options by 2020.”

Paris Climate Agreement
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The nation recommends citizens look into alternatives such as heat pumps, hydroelectricity, or even special stoves that burn wood chips. Eventually, the legislation could expand to include limitations on using natural gas to heat buildings.

Marius Holm, head of ZERO, a foundation that promotes emissions cuts, shared his enthusiasm about the ban in a statement, saying, “This is a very important climate measure that significantly cuts emissions, sending a powerful signal that we are moving from fossil to renewable energy.”

The Scandinavian Climate Change Charge

The ban marks a radical change in policy for Norway. Despite ratifying the Paris Agreement, the nation showed a 3.3 percent increase in emissions last year compared to 1990, and it was the 15th largest oil exporter worldwide based on 2016 statistics. This new policy could potentially decrease the country’s emissions by 340,000 tons per year.

Perhaps more importantly, Norway’s ban could set a precedent that encourages other countries to decrease their own emissions by targeting the building sector, which accounts for 39 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States. This could make a huge difference in our climate situation when combined with pledges to limit the energy consumption of the transport sector.

Several Scandinavian countries have made exemplary moves toward limiting the pollution that causes climate change. Recently, Sweden announced a bold plan to become carbon neutral by 2045, while Norway announced that it aims to ban gas-powered cars by 2025, a move that was endorsed by Elon Musk.

Successfully fighting climate change and avoiding the destruction of our planet will require a global effort. The Paris Agreement has provided the targeted goal, and despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the country’s support, progress has been made, with some countries already on track to exceed their own predictions.

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A New Trial Is Using Data Servers to Heat Homeowners’ Water Supplies

Rethinking Data Storage

Nerdalize, a Dutch startup, has found a practical use for the huge amount of energy wasted in the cloud storage sector. They’re installing cloud servers in households and using the heat to warm water.

According to the company’s website, “Combined, data centers use up more electricity than India and generate more CO2 emissions than the airline industry.” A significant proportion of this electricity is used to cool servers, so rather than attempt to negate this heat, Nerdalize decided to develop a beneficial way to use it to heat water is people’s homes.

Through this system, Nerdalize will make a profit by selling data space; homeowners will save an estimated €300 ($337) a year in heating costs; and companies will save 50 percent on their data storage expenses. Beyond the financial benefit, the system also reduces the carbon emissions of each house by up to three tons.

While some logistical aspects of the system may prove trickier than others — such as maintaining the security of the servers and fixing them when they break — the idea has proven wildly popular. A second pilot trial will start in 42 homes in August, and the company’s Symbid crowdfunding campaign far exceeded its target with weeks to spare.

The Green Revolution

Renewable Energy Sources Of The Future [Infographic]
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The tech elite have pioneered a number of high-profile systems to combat climate change, from Elon Musk’s electric cars and solar panel roofs to Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures. However, the tech world also has a whacky and innovative underbelly of which Nerdalize is a good example.

Students and startups, researchers and renegades are coming up with wonderful ideas. NET Power, formed by a retired chemist, a lawyer, and a chemical engineer, has found a way to use C02 emissions to produce energystudents from the Université Laval have developed a car that gets 2,713 miles to the gallon, and the creators of the Mashambas Skyscraper plan to use it to grow food tens of stories above the ground.

We clearly need a green energy revolution, and the only way to get there is to incorporate as many revolutionary ideas as possible. The innovative concepts proposed by companies like Nerdalize are vital for the future of our planet.

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A Plant 1,000 Times More Efficient at CO2 Removal Than Photosynthesis Is Now Active

The CO2 Collector

Yesterday, the world’s first commercial carbon capture plant began sucking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air around it. Perched atop a Zurich waste incineration facility, the Climeworks carbon capture plant comprises three stacked shipping containers that hold six CO2 collectors each. Spongey filters absorb CO2 as fans pull air through the collectors until they are fully saturated, a process that takes about two or three hours.

Technological Fixes for Climate Change
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The container then closes, and the process reverses. The collector is heated to 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), and the pure CO2 is released in a form that can be buried underground, made into other products, or sold.

According to Climeworks, the startup that created this carbon capture facility, hundreds of thousands more like it will be needed by midcentury if we want to remain below the limits set by the Paris Agreement. However, to keep the planet’s temperature from increasing by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), we’ll need to do something more than simply lowering global emissions.

“We really only have less than 20 years left at current emission rates to have a good chance of limiting emissions to less than 2°C,” Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment director Chris Field told Fast Company. “So it’s a big challenge to do it simply by decreasing emissions from energy, transportation, and agriculture.”

Reducing Global Emissions

Other innovative efforts to reduce global CO2 levels are already underway all over the world. Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have found a way to turn captured carbon into concrete for building, while scientists from Rice University have found that doping graphene with nitrogen allows it to convert CO2 into environmentally useful fuels. If enacted, various proposals to preserve wetlands, old growth forests, and other areas could also reduce CO2 levels.

Climeworks’ plant is particularly appealing because it can be used repeatedly, produces something commercially useful, and is about 1,000 times more efficient at CO2 removal than photosynthesis.

“You can do this over and over again,” Climeworks director Jan Wurzbacher told Fast Company. “It’s a cyclic process. You saturate with CO2, then you regenerate, saturate, regenerate. You have multiple of these units, and not all of them go in parallel. Some are taking in CO2, some are releasing CO2.”

Even so, Field emphasizes that the possibility of carbon capture should not be seen as a license to emit more CO2. We need to combine the technology with a low-carbon economy to ensure our planet’s survival. “It’s not either/or,” according to Field. “It’s both.”

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China Is Outpacing the U.S. In Reducing Coal and Lowering Emissions

China and Coal

The Center for American Progress (CAP) just released its coal-fired power generation data analysis concerning China and the United States. The research was intended to enhance understanding of trends in coal-fired power in both countries and provide data upon which to base the analysis.

The CAP team shared its key findings in a May 2017 issue brief titled “Everything You Think You Know About Coal in China Is Wrong,” and in it, they reveal that China is taking aggressive steps to address its coal emissions.

Report Confirms China’s Position as a World Leader in the Fight Against Climate Change

In the United States, coal-fired plants can shift to natural gas to lower emissions. However, that’s not really an option in China as natural gas is neither as plentiful nor as accessible. Therefore, China has to take a different path to clean energy.

That path begins with phasing out the worst coal-fired offenders. To that end, the nation is retiring older coal-fired power plants and replacing them with newer ones with lower emissions. It is also increasing transparency, providing citizens with emissions-related data and information, ensuring that the entire country remains invested in its energy efforts.

Aggressive Action

The final conclusion of the report is that China’s coal plan has actually been very aggressive and effective. What’s working for China, however, will not necessarily work for the U.S as the countries are very different.

Could climate change transform Earth into Venus? [Infographic]
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The U.S. has fewer people, different natural resources, and its own infrastructural strengths and weaknesses to contend with. However, as Vox suggests in its analysis of the CAP research, the U.S. should emulate China’s ambition, if not its actual plans.

China has taken massive steps to reduce its coal dependency even as its demand for power continues to grow. In fact, its aggressive stance against climate change has transformed China into one of the world’s leaders in the fight to save the planet. Its ongoing anti-coal position is yielding real results, even if those results may not be instantaneous. The U.S. must do its part to lower emissions and help the planet recover from the devastating effects those emissions have had on it.

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