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Asia’s Water War: the power of China over the important Mekong River
Water is the reason for several imminent huge conflicts in our world. We have already paid attention to t he major water conflict between India and Pakistan and the approaching water war over the dam in the Nile between Egypt and Ethiopia . But the greatest threat of war over water is just around the corner: the rising hostility over the resources of the Mekong River can affect millions of people through natural disasters, famine and regional instability. This concerns China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In this article you can read more about Asia's Water War. The Mekong River: the throbbing lifeline of Asia The Mekong River is incredibly important for millions of people in China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The river rises in the Tibetan Highlands of China, traverses the country, continues in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally flows into Vietnam: the Mekong Delta. The Mekong River is the vital lifeline for drinking water, electricity and food. Jeremy Luedi writes in his article for Under the Radar : 'Mekong is one of the world’s most productive inland fisheries, with an annual catch of some 2.6 million tonnes, valued at between $3.9 – 7 billion. 71% of rural Laotian households rely on subsistence fishing on the Mekong, and 1.2 million Cambodians are almost entirely dependent on Tonle Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake that connects to the mighty river'. You probably already knew that Vietnam is one of the largest rice producers in the world: this position is also due to the river. The Mekong Delta, the area in southern Vietnam where the river flows into the South China Sea, helps feed millions of people and put Vietnam on the map as an important rice exporter. China, the biggest threat for the downstream countries So there is no doubt about the importance of the Mekong River for the different countries through which it flows. And where water is important, there is also a fuss about ownership: every country complains about the use of the Mekong River by their upstream neighbours. There is a reason for this, because Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have all built dams on the Mekong River - also to stimulate the progress of industrialization, which is of course very important for the countries. The more industry, the more the countries are bickering about the Mekong River. Vietnam seems to have the most reason to worry as the last country and the place where the Mekong River flows into the South China Sea, Vietnam also has the most cause for concern. But the country where everyone should be most concerned is China, according to Under the Radar ‘the biggest threat to them all’. China has the most power over the Mekong River: the river rises in the Tibetan highlands. And power over the Mekong means power over the downstream countries. The Mekong River is also of great importance for China: it has accelerated China's industrialization and helps China realize its ambition for clean energy. Hydropower is one of the largest energy sources in this country - and even more hydroelectric potential can be gained. Under the Radar sorted it out and writes: 'the estimated energy potential of the Upper Mekong Basin is almost 29,000 MW – more than the world’s largest power station, the Three Gorges Dam: the Lower Basin’s potential exceeds 30,000 MW'. Chinese construction projects The various dams that China has built to use the Mekong River to their advantage are of concern to the undercurrent countries. The water levels are falling, and China has the possibility to store up to 28% of the annual flow of the Mekong on the Chinese border. However, an even bigger problem is the major ecological problems that China and the other countries are facing because of the construction projects for the dams that the countries are building - just like not switching to renewable energy. The problems are piling up: Vietnam suffers from both droughts and floods: Under the Radar investigated that by 2100 it is expected that half of the Mekong Delta in this country will be submerged, which has enormous consequences for the country. China does help Vietnam in this situation, after petitioning to release water to combat droughts, China opened the Jinghong hydroelectric power plant for a month, but Being attributes the water shortage to natural causes only. “In order to help those countries cope with the drought, the Chinese government decided to surmount the difficulties it faces and do its utmost to help,” says foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang to Under the Radar. That all seems good, but it is true that Chinese construction projects are one of the main causes of the problems. The Mekong Delta could disappear China needs sand: according to the shocking figures of Under the Rader, China has used more concrete in the last five years than the United States in the entire twentieth century. The only question is: where should the sand come from? Sand extraction along the Yangtze River is already prohibited, but illegal sand extraction is a serious problem. The enormous damage to the Yangtze is not a warning enough, because certain parts of the Mekong river can still be used. The downstream countries are also concerned with unsustainable sand extraction, which only complicates the problem. Less and less sediment is reaching the end of the Mekong in Vietnam, which will ultimately mean that the Mekong Delta will disappear in the face of oceanic erosion. Overlapping organizations The biggest danger for the most downstream countries is the Chinese uncertainty about water. As a result of population growth and industrialization, freshwater availability per person is far below the global average. If there is a threat of water shortage, China can increasingly drain water to save its own population, endangering people from other countries. And these countries cannot do much about it. Under the Rader writes: 'said countries would also not have any means of recourse should China increasingly monopolize the Mekong’s water, save for international arbitration. China’s dismissive attitude towards international bodies it disagrees with – such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – effectively leaves regional organizations as the last available forum.'. t's just that China has a lot of influence because many organizations overlap - the Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism (LMCM) is heavily sponsored by the country, for example. Also, there is less American aid in Cambodia, for example, by the Trump government and China nowadays has more influence than Vietnam in Laos, to name a few issues. A hard time for Beijng China seems to have all the power over the Mekong River, yet Beijng is not having an easy time: local NGOs and citizens are protesting against the establishment of the shipping route One Belt, One Road. Operation Mekong, about the Mekong River Massacre, where thirteen crew members were brutally murdered, raised $ 173 million. All kinds of nasty events have taken place, such as the death of Chinese civilians during an alleged bomb explosion and the shooting of a Chinese worker in Laos. Something must be done to keep the peace around the Mekong River. The question is: will China intervene before it is too late?
Water is the reason for several imminent huge conflicts in our world. We have already paid attention to t he major water conflict between India and Pakistan and the approaching water war over the dam in the Nile between Egypt and Ethiopia . But the greatest threat of war over water is just around the corner: the rising hostility over the resources of the Mekong River can affect millions of people through natural disasters, famine and regional instability. This concerns China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In this article you can read more about Asia's Water War. The Mekong River: the throbbing lifeline of Asia The Mekong River is incredibly important for millions of people in China, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The river rises in the Tibetan Highlands of China, traverses the country, continues in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally flows into Vietnam: the Mekong Delta. The Mekong River is the vital lifeline for drinking water, electricity and food. Jeremy Luedi writes in his article for Under the Radar : 'Mekong is one of the world’s most productive inland fisheries, with an annual catch of some 2.6 million tonnes, valued at between $3.9 – 7 billion. 71% of rural Laotian households rely on subsistence fishing on the Mekong, and 1.2 million Cambodians are almost entirely dependent on Tonle Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake that connects to the mighty river'. You probably already knew that Vietnam is one of the largest rice producers in the world: this position is also due to the river. The Mekong Delta, the area in southern Vietnam where the river flows into the South China Sea, helps feed millions of people and put Vietnam on the map as an important rice exporter. China, the biggest threat for the downstream countries So there is no doubt about the importance of the Mekong River for the different countries through which it flows. And where water is important, there is also a fuss about ownership: every country complains about the use of the Mekong River by their upstream neighbours. There is a reason for this, because Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have all built dams on the Mekong River - also to stimulate the progress of industrialization, which is of course very important for the countries. The more industry, the more the countries are bickering about the Mekong River. Vietnam seems to have the most reason to worry as the last country and the place where the Mekong River flows into the South China Sea, Vietnam also has the most cause for concern. But the country where everyone should be most concerned is China, according to Under the Radar ‘the biggest threat to them all’. China has the most power over the Mekong River: the river rises in the Tibetan highlands. And power over the Mekong means power over the downstream countries. The Mekong River is also of great importance for China: it has accelerated China's industrialization and helps China realize its ambition for clean energy. Hydropower is one of the largest energy sources in this country - and even more hydroelectric potential can be gained. Under the Radar sorted it out and writes: 'the estimated energy potential of the Upper Mekong Basin is almost 29,000 MW – more than the world’s largest power station, the Three Gorges Dam: the Lower Basin’s potential exceeds 30,000 MW'. Chinese construction projects The various dams that China has built to use the Mekong River to their advantage are of concern to the undercurrent countries. The water levels are falling, and China has the possibility to store up to 28% of the annual flow of the Mekong on the Chinese border. However, an even bigger problem is the major ecological problems that China and the other countries are facing because of the construction projects for the dams that the countries are building - just like not switching to renewable energy. The problems are piling up: Vietnam suffers from both droughts and floods: Under the Radar investigated that by 2100 it is expected that half of the Mekong Delta in this country will be submerged, which has enormous consequences for the country. China does help Vietnam in this situation, after petitioning to release water to combat droughts, China opened the Jinghong hydroelectric power plant for a month, but Being attributes the water shortage to natural causes only. “In order to help those countries cope with the drought, the Chinese government decided to surmount the difficulties it faces and do its utmost to help,” says foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang to Under the Radar. That all seems good, but it is true that Chinese construction projects are one of the main causes of the problems. The Mekong Delta could disappear China needs sand: according to the shocking figures of Under the Rader, China has used more concrete in the last five years than the United States in the entire twentieth century. The only question is: where should the sand come from? Sand extraction along the Yangtze River is already prohibited, but illegal sand extraction is a serious problem. The enormous damage to the Yangtze is not a warning enough, because certain parts of the Mekong river can still be used. The downstream countries are also concerned with unsustainable sand extraction, which only complicates the problem. Less and less sediment is reaching the end of the Mekong in Vietnam, which will ultimately mean that the Mekong Delta will disappear in the face of oceanic erosion. Overlapping organizations The biggest danger for the most downstream countries is the Chinese uncertainty about water. As a result of population growth and industrialization, freshwater availability per person is far below the global average. If there is a threat of water shortage, China can increasingly drain water to save its own population, endangering people from other countries. And these countries cannot do much about it. Under the Rader writes: 'said countries would also not have any means of recourse should China increasingly monopolize the Mekong’s water, save for international arbitration. China’s dismissive attitude towards international bodies it disagrees with – such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – effectively leaves regional organizations as the last available forum.'. t's just that China has a lot of influence because many organizations overlap - the Lancang-Mekong cooperation mechanism (LMCM) is heavily sponsored by the country, for example. Also, there is less American aid in Cambodia, for example, by the Trump government and China nowadays has more influence than Vietnam in Laos, to name a few issues. A hard time for Beijng China seems to have all the power over the Mekong River, yet Beijng is not having an easy time: local NGOs and citizens are protesting against the establishment of the shipping route One Belt, One Road. Operation Mekong, about the Mekong River Massacre, where thirteen crew members were brutally murdered, raised $ 173 million. All kinds of nasty events have taken place, such as the death of Chinese civilians during an alleged bomb explosion and the shooting of a Chinese worker in Laos. Something must be done to keep the peace around the Mekong River. The question is: will China intervene before it is too late?
Asia’s Water War: the power of China over the important Mekong River
Asia’s Water War: the power of China over the important Mekong River
Regenerative Agriculture: Its Full Potential (Part 3 of 3)
Once upon a time, the majority of land on our planet was covered with trees and forests. Undoubtedly a gorgeous view - and a perfect habitat for many of the plant and animal species that live on our planet. Unfortunately the number of forests have dwindled significantly over the past decades, most notably as the result of the ever increasing use of forestland for agricultural purposes. After having served its purpose, the land will once again be abandoned and quite literally left to waste. Agriculture our food source Back in the pre-industrial age, estimates were that some 5.9 billion hectares of our planet’s surface was covered by forest. This number has decreased significantly, down to a mere 4 billion hectare (still making up 31% of the world’s land surface) in recent years. And the rate with which it is declining is alarming: an area roughly the size of Greece goes to waste every year, putting more and more treasured land at risk.   Especially now that the world population seems to be booming, we need more space - both for living and for growing our food - and the forest seems the most logical place to take it away from. Only now are we starting to realise that this logical choice has definitely not been the cleverest one: trees have rightfully earned their spot as ‘lungs of the world’, capable of absorbing CO2 and emitting oxygen. At this time, they are the best medicine against global warming that we’ve got. Simultaneously, we have resorted to using land as a disposable product. Once it has been plundered for its use in agriculture, we leave it to be and move on to the next piece. Eventually, this will exhaust our most important food source, passing on an enormous problem to future mankind. Regenerative agriculture, agrofostry, biodiversity Enter agroforestry, another example of regenerative agriculture; a topic that I already dedicated two articles to. Regenerative agriculture is a set of systems that focus on providing plants with the proper micro-climatic conditions and ecosystem to thrive, rather than just with water, soil and fertiliser for the duration of the activities. It combines both food and non-food plants, along with the right micro-organisms and animals needed to let an ecosystem suitable for this particular environment and climate thrive. Such a biodiverse system has a lot of benefits: as it has proven to be more productive, versatile and weather-resistant. Each species of plants that is planted brings its own unique benefits to the table. Some provide nitrogen-fixing for higher fertility; others soil carbon to feed micro-organisms and prevent erosion and retain water; fruit and vegetable plants are used to generate revenue and lure animals, who are capable of pollinating and cycling nutrients. Taller, leafier plant species are great at providing much needed shade. Each species has its own role to play in the ‘larger whole’. This system forms the backbone of regenerative agriculture, where agriculture does not directly interfere with the quality of land - or if it does, only serves to improve the quality of the land. And although agriculture will always remain a man-managed process, the principles of ecological succession can be ‘planned’, just to use another management term.   Through careful analysis of similar ecosystems, the sequence of plant species could be duplicated - the same way that the ecosystem would restore itself after a wildfire, if left to its own devices. Only after truly ‘understanding’ Mother Nature’s ways will it be possible to mimic her ways of creating fertile land; particularly when it comes to land that has previously been exhausted and consequently abandoned. One of the most important activities in regenerative agriculture is constant pruning. It may seem redundant, but the importance of frequently grooming the plants cannot be overstated. Through pruning, the amount of soil carbon will increase; while more sun will be able to reach lower plants. Sometimes it really is as simple as listening to the nature and taking good care of her. In order to do so, a crucial element is needed: freshwater, unfortunately a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce. It currently makes up some 2.5% of the total water supply on our planet; while we - and in particular, the agricultural sector - need more and more of it. As this seems inherently incongruent, it would be valuable to explore ways of, indeed, regenerating water. What if we could use, say, sea water for agricultural purposes instead? It would guarantee sufficient water for agriculture while not depleting the freshwater supply. This too is a part of regenerative agriculture, finding ways of growing crops using alternative sources of water. With the world’s population projected to increase exponentially in decades to come, even the most conservative estimates foresee an uptake in food demand of up to 60% compared to the current day. We simply cannot figure this out without discounting the need for new water sources. There are actually some plant and animal species that really do well in a saltwater environment. Now it could be as simple as creating specialised (shell)fish or saltwater crops farms in coastal areas. Although it can also be taken to a whole new level, for instance by using it in a desert area. Take Carl Hodges, a physicist who turned a large area of Eritrean desert into a thriving oasis. He focused on various activities that did well using seawater, and figured out the optimal flow of water - to ensure that each activity would get the most suitable water. Long story short, the seawater was first used for his shrimp and prawn-growing farms; after which that water was re-used for a tilapia farm (where the tilapia would partially serve as feed for the shrimp, talking about the circle of life). After that, water would flow to a salicornia plantation and run through a mangrove forest. Eventually it would flow to a wetland. Each of those stages came with specific species that would thrive using such water in such an environment - which explains why Hodges’ farm was a success.   Eventually, that is always what it is about. Success, preferably measured in money or time saved. The more industrialised approach has been adequate in the past, enabling neat monoculture rows powered by chemicals to produce plenty of food in as little time as possible. Yet the number of chemicals needed to sustain the increasing demand is rising sharply, just as we are fully starting to recognise the damage that those materials are causing to the environment, degrading ecosystems and - with it - the fertility and diversity of land.   Regenerative agriculture does also promise similarly high yields in an equally short time; but without those negative side effects. This focus on both profit and planet gives it a tremendous potential for not only transforming, but also revolutionising the agricultural industry. There are numerous examples of farmers who have already successfully employed this set of techniques to come out on top, with yields and profits searing.   Yet the other benefits should not be discounted either. After all, it is a systemic solution that will boost ecosystems, increase resilience, and help fight climate change . And while some may argue that it will be inherently harder to implement such a radical idea, the fact that it tackles so many issues at once should just about make it worth it. I will not try to pretend that it will be easy to implement on a larger scale, in order to let it reach its full potential. Regenerative agriculture thrives on natural processes, and these can be somewhat tedious. In order to help the soil contain a sufficient amount of microbes, one will have to wait several seasons for it to evolve. It may even take up to (several) decades before the land is truly ready to live up to its full potential. At the same time, this process will require not only a radically different style of working - mindset, if you wish -; it may also require new equipment and devices, as well as an in-depth knowledge of the new processes. This is where the government and financial industry comes in. Through their support, some of the risks associated with this transformation can be mitigated. This includes the offering of subsidies, special insurances, training and other incentives that will make the switch more appealing. Simultaneously, new monitoring systems and checks will have to be installed that are capable of gauging the current status of the process. It is important to verify whether a farm is indeed on the right track, or needs more adjusting in order to fully ‘tune in’ to its surrounding ecosystem. At the same time, this can be looked upon as another major opportunity for the market, as more tools will have to be developed that are suitable for regenerative agriculture. There is a huge ‘blue ocean’ out there in the market, that may be easy to jump into. One simply has to understand the importance - and be ingrained with a deep appreciation of - the proven connection between growing healthy food in a healthy ecosystem, clean air and clean water, overall human well-being, and more resilience in surrounding communities that depend on those farms for their livelihood. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/agri-gardening
Once upon a time, the majority of land on our planet was covered with trees and forests. Undoubtedly a gorgeous view - and a perfect habitat for many of the plant and animal species that live on our planet. Unfortunately the number of forests have dwindled significantly over the past decades, most notably as the result of the ever increasing use of forestland for agricultural purposes. After having served its purpose, the land will once again be abandoned and quite literally left to waste. Agriculture our food source Back in the pre-industrial age, estimates were that some 5.9 billion hectares of our planet’s surface was covered by forest. This number has decreased significantly, down to a mere 4 billion hectare (still making up 31% of the world’s land surface) in recent years. And the rate with which it is declining is alarming: an area roughly the size of Greece goes to waste every year, putting more and more treasured land at risk.   Especially now that the world population seems to be booming, we need more space - both for living and for growing our food - and the forest seems the most logical place to take it away from. Only now are we starting to realise that this logical choice has definitely not been the cleverest one: trees have rightfully earned their spot as ‘lungs of the world’, capable of absorbing CO2 and emitting oxygen. At this time, they are the best medicine against global warming that we’ve got. Simultaneously, we have resorted to using land as a disposable product. Once it has been plundered for its use in agriculture, we leave it to be and move on to the next piece. Eventually, this will exhaust our most important food source, passing on an enormous problem to future mankind. Regenerative agriculture, agrofostry, biodiversity Enter agroforestry, another example of regenerative agriculture; a topic that I already dedicated two articles to. Regenerative agriculture is a set of systems that focus on providing plants with the proper micro-climatic conditions and ecosystem to thrive, rather than just with water, soil and fertiliser for the duration of the activities. It combines both food and non-food plants, along with the right micro-organisms and animals needed to let an ecosystem suitable for this particular environment and climate thrive. Such a biodiverse system has a lot of benefits: as it has proven to be more productive, versatile and weather-resistant. Each species of plants that is planted brings its own unique benefits to the table. Some provide nitrogen-fixing for higher fertility; others soil carbon to feed micro-organisms and prevent erosion and retain water; fruit and vegetable plants are used to generate revenue and lure animals, who are capable of pollinating and cycling nutrients. Taller, leafier plant species are great at providing much needed shade. Each species has its own role to play in the ‘larger whole’. This system forms the backbone of regenerative agriculture, where agriculture does not directly interfere with the quality of land - or if it does, only serves to improve the quality of the land. And although agriculture will always remain a man-managed process, the principles of ecological succession can be ‘planned’, just to use another management term.   Through careful analysis of similar ecosystems, the sequence of plant species could be duplicated - the same way that the ecosystem would restore itself after a wildfire, if left to its own devices. Only after truly ‘understanding’ Mother Nature’s ways will it be possible to mimic her ways of creating fertile land; particularly when it comes to land that has previously been exhausted and consequently abandoned. One of the most important activities in regenerative agriculture is constant pruning. It may seem redundant, but the importance of frequently grooming the plants cannot be overstated. Through pruning, the amount of soil carbon will increase; while more sun will be able to reach lower plants. Sometimes it really is as simple as listening to the nature and taking good care of her. In order to do so, a crucial element is needed: freshwater, unfortunately a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce. It currently makes up some 2.5% of the total water supply on our planet; while we - and in particular, the agricultural sector - need more and more of it. As this seems inherently incongruent, it would be valuable to explore ways of, indeed, regenerating water. What if we could use, say, sea water for agricultural purposes instead? It would guarantee sufficient water for agriculture while not depleting the freshwater supply. This too is a part of regenerative agriculture, finding ways of growing crops using alternative sources of water. With the world’s population projected to increase exponentially in decades to come, even the most conservative estimates foresee an uptake in food demand of up to 60% compared to the current day. We simply cannot figure this out without discounting the need for new water sources. There are actually some plant and animal species that really do well in a saltwater environment. Now it could be as simple as creating specialised (shell)fish or saltwater crops farms in coastal areas. Although it can also be taken to a whole new level, for instance by using it in a desert area. Take Carl Hodges, a physicist who turned a large area of Eritrean desert into a thriving oasis. He focused on various activities that did well using seawater, and figured out the optimal flow of water - to ensure that each activity would get the most suitable water. Long story short, the seawater was first used for his shrimp and prawn-growing farms; after which that water was re-used for a tilapia farm (where the tilapia would partially serve as feed for the shrimp, talking about the circle of life). After that, water would flow to a salicornia plantation and run through a mangrove forest. Eventually it would flow to a wetland. Each of those stages came with specific species that would thrive using such water in such an environment - which explains why Hodges’ farm was a success.   Eventually, that is always what it is about. Success, preferably measured in money or time saved. The more industrialised approach has been adequate in the past, enabling neat monoculture rows powered by chemicals to produce plenty of food in as little time as possible. Yet the number of chemicals needed to sustain the increasing demand is rising sharply, just as we are fully starting to recognise the damage that those materials are causing to the environment, degrading ecosystems and - with it - the fertility and diversity of land.   Regenerative agriculture does also promise similarly high yields in an equally short time; but without those negative side effects. This focus on both profit and planet gives it a tremendous potential for not only transforming, but also revolutionising the agricultural industry. There are numerous examples of farmers who have already successfully employed this set of techniques to come out on top, with yields and profits searing.   Yet the other benefits should not be discounted either. After all, it is a systemic solution that will boost ecosystems, increase resilience, and help fight climate change . And while some may argue that it will be inherently harder to implement such a radical idea, the fact that it tackles so many issues at once should just about make it worth it. I will not try to pretend that it will be easy to implement on a larger scale, in order to let it reach its full potential. Regenerative agriculture thrives on natural processes, and these can be somewhat tedious. In order to help the soil contain a sufficient amount of microbes, one will have to wait several seasons for it to evolve. It may even take up to (several) decades before the land is truly ready to live up to its full potential. At the same time, this process will require not only a radically different style of working - mindset, if you wish -; it may also require new equipment and devices, as well as an in-depth knowledge of the new processes. This is where the government and financial industry comes in. Through their support, some of the risks associated with this transformation can be mitigated. This includes the offering of subsidies, special insurances, training and other incentives that will make the switch more appealing. Simultaneously, new monitoring systems and checks will have to be installed that are capable of gauging the current status of the process. It is important to verify whether a farm is indeed on the right track, or needs more adjusting in order to fully ‘tune in’ to its surrounding ecosystem. At the same time, this can be looked upon as another major opportunity for the market, as more tools will have to be developed that are suitable for regenerative agriculture. There is a huge ‘blue ocean’ out there in the market, that may be easy to jump into. One simply has to understand the importance - and be ingrained with a deep appreciation of - the proven connection between growing healthy food in a healthy ecosystem, clean air and clean water, overall human well-being, and more resilience in surrounding communities that depend on those farms for their livelihood. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/agri-gardening
Regenerative Agriculture: Its Full Potential (Part 3 of 3)
Regenerative Agriculture: Its Full Potential (Part 3 of 3)
Solar Collector Produces Bio Fuels And Saves The Planet: MIT
The brainchild of Harvard biochemist Daniel Nocera, the ‘bionic leaf’ is a small man-made solar collector that takes sunlight and water and turns it into any of a variety of usable fuels or fertilizers. Nocera’s first iteration, the so-called ‘artificial leaf’, was developed in 2011 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and could split water into oxygen and hydrogen when exposed to sunlight in a process similar to (and inspired by) Mother Nature’s photosynthesis. Bionic Leaves and the Environment . Can they save the planet? Nocera soon thereafter moved his lab to Harvard and teamed up with Pamela Silver there to create the 'bionic' version which takes the concept further. There they fed the resulting hydrogen to an on-board catalyst, resulting in the generation of immediately useable downstream liquid ‘fuels’ such as fertilizer for farms, isobutanol to run generators and engines, and PHB, a precursor for bio-plastic. The team’s first version of the ‘bionic’ leaf was about as efficient as natural photosynthesis, which is about one percent of the solar energy flowing in came out as biomass dense enough to use as fuel. But their most recent version ups the ante considerably, clocking in at 10 times more efficient than Mother Nature’s fastest growing plants. Graph by: BlueRingMedia. Photosynthesis, carbon dioxide and water are transformed into sugars and oxygen. Sunlight powers this chemical reaction “If you think about it, photosynthesis is amazing,” Nocera tells the Harvard Gazette. “It takes sunlight, water, and air, and then look at a tree. That’s exactly what we did, but we do it significantly better because we turn all that energy into a fuel.” When mass-produced, these tiny solar ‘carbon-negative’ fuel factories could be inexpensive enough for everyday people to use to power their vehicles and run their lights and appliances. Maybe you also like: Geothermal Power Accessible As Wind And Solar Energy: Climeon Farmers with a small on-site array of bionic leaves could create enough fertilizer for their own needs instead of buying container-loads of synthetic fertilizer produced at sprawling CO2-spewing factories and shipped for thousands of miles. The widespread application of bionic leaves could be especially advantageous in developing countries (and remote areas in general) where access to conventional fuels and fertilizers is limited and expensive or non-existent. Nocera hopes his work can bring the poor of the world their ‘first 100 watts’ of energy through one form or another of the technologies he is developing. A Harvard-funded pilot program putting bionic leaves to use in India is just getting off the ground and Nocera hopes to expand globally within the near future. The vision is for retiring every fossil fuel out there and replacing them with solar fuels from your own ‘bionic’ garden. Imagine a world with no more utility bills or lining up at the gas pump? “You can use just sunlight, air, and water,” concludes Nocera, “and you can do it in your backyard.” https://www.whatsorb.com/category/energy
The brainchild of Harvard biochemist Daniel Nocera, the ‘bionic leaf’ is a small man-made solar collector that takes sunlight and water and turns it into any of a variety of usable fuels or fertilizers. Nocera’s first iteration, the so-called ‘artificial leaf’, was developed in 2011 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and could split water into oxygen and hydrogen when exposed to sunlight in a process similar to (and inspired by) Mother Nature’s photosynthesis. Bionic Leaves and the Environment . Can they save the planet? Nocera soon thereafter moved his lab to Harvard and teamed up with Pamela Silver there to create the 'bionic' version which takes the concept further. There they fed the resulting hydrogen to an on-board catalyst, resulting in the generation of immediately useable downstream liquid ‘fuels’ such as fertilizer for farms, isobutanol to run generators and engines, and PHB, a precursor for bio-plastic. The team’s first version of the ‘bionic’ leaf was about as efficient as natural photosynthesis, which is about one percent of the solar energy flowing in came out as biomass dense enough to use as fuel. But their most recent version ups the ante considerably, clocking in at 10 times more efficient than Mother Nature’s fastest growing plants. Graph by: BlueRingMedia. Photosynthesis, carbon dioxide and water are transformed into sugars and oxygen. Sunlight powers this chemical reaction “If you think about it, photosynthesis is amazing,” Nocera tells the Harvard Gazette. “It takes sunlight, water, and air, and then look at a tree. That’s exactly what we did, but we do it significantly better because we turn all that energy into a fuel.” When mass-produced, these tiny solar ‘carbon-negative’ fuel factories could be inexpensive enough for everyday people to use to power their vehicles and run their lights and appliances. Maybe you also like: Geothermal Power Accessible As Wind And Solar Energy: Climeon Farmers with a small on-site array of bionic leaves could create enough fertilizer for their own needs instead of buying container-loads of synthetic fertilizer produced at sprawling CO2-spewing factories and shipped for thousands of miles. The widespread application of bionic leaves could be especially advantageous in developing countries (and remote areas in general) where access to conventional fuels and fertilizers is limited and expensive or non-existent. Nocera hopes his work can bring the poor of the world their ‘first 100 watts’ of energy through one form or another of the technologies he is developing. A Harvard-funded pilot program putting bionic leaves to use in India is just getting off the ground and Nocera hopes to expand globally within the near future. The vision is for retiring every fossil fuel out there and replacing them with solar fuels from your own ‘bionic’ garden. Imagine a world with no more utility bills or lining up at the gas pump? “You can use just sunlight, air, and water,” concludes Nocera, “and you can do it in your backyard.” https://www.whatsorb.com/category/energy
Solar Collector Produces Bio Fuels And Saves The Planet: MIT
Fossil Fuel Will Dominate Energy Use Through 2050: Globally
Very few topics are garnering as much attention in the context of initiatives to combat global warming as clean energy. And the signs are definitely promising. Renewable energy initiatives are popping up left and right, using pretty much all of the ‘clean’ elements that our earth has to offer - from wind, water and sun to the breeze generated by the London Underground. Some Scandinavian countries are ambitiously agreeing on targets to have all of their country’s energy use be derived from renewable sources, while corporations and institutions left and right are pledging to reduce their fossil fuel production and/or use drastically, in favour of more sustainable alternatives. Climate neutral countries Although those who take the time to read the ‘finer print’ on those pledges will be quick to find out that this is far from straightforward. In fact, Sweden - the first nation to become fossil-fuel free, if all goes well - has given itself a somewhat lengthy timeline: the goal is to be climate neutral by 2045, and fossil-fuel free by the time 2050 rolls around. Let’s digest that for a second. That is still more than 3 decades away - decades that are, if we are to believe the scientists, decisive for the future of mankind and, by extension, our planet. And this is one of the world’s most progressive, innovative countries talking, who already rely heavily on renewable energy sources.   If they, who already generate more than half of their energy needs from renewable sources today, need thirty-something years to ‘turn the tide’, so to speak… Well, one can only guess how much time other nations, still heavily dependant upon their coal and other ‘dirty’ energy sources, will need to do the same. Multi-faceted problem Admittedly, the problem at hand is complicated. This is not something that is ‘easily solved’, nor is there a ‘quick fix’. Actually, we’ve gotten to this stage because of two undeniable trends.   First, the global demand for energy continues to grow - albeit at a slightly lower rate than before, for reasons I’ll get into later. Fact remains that the world’s population is still growing and welfare is on the rise, meaning that more people will be connected to power than ever before. This growing demand puts an enormous strain on producers to deliver more energy, preferably at a lower cost. At a first glance, it sounds like good news that the growth in demand is slowing somewhat. The slowing population growth and economic growth are a large part of this trend - combined with more digitisation and a greater energy efficiency. People tend to be more conscious about the use of energy, while digitisation can replace certain travel or production needs.   Rise of renewable sources So far, so good - while we still require more energy year after year, the slower growth is allowing production to catch up with it in the next decades. Secondly, there’s a significant difference in the growth rate between demand for electricity and demand for transport - which has historically been the largest energy user. Instead, the need for electricity will be making up a quarter of the total energy demand of the world by 2050, compared to 18 percent today. This means that new renewable sources will have to be used more, mainly wind and solar - alongside the wide range of renewable fuel options like hydrogen used for transport purposes. The share of wind and solar power is, in fact, expected to grow up to five times faster than any other source of power. Non-hydro renewables will, by 2050, make up more than a third of the global power generated. Once again, a positive trend, pointing at a growing reliance on renewable sources instead of fossil fuels. 2050 on the horizon There is a painful little side note, though. ‘2050’ keeps on popping up, as a far-away target that most of us will be happy to work towards; yet that is far away enough to be brushed off when deemed inconvenient. Because the main issue seems obvious: the world needs more energy. And for the time being, demand still far exceeds sustainable supply, meaning that something - in this case fossil fuels - is required to bridge the gap.   This leads to another undeniable conclusion, being that fossil fuels are likely to dominate the global energy market for decades to come - at least until we get to 2050. Producers and corporations are quick to reason it away, by stating that massive investments have already been made. And because of the reliability of and heavy dependance upon this energy source, the market is hesitant to abruptly move away to much newer sources. Time is running out Yet the world needs more than ‘we will get rid of fossil fuels around 2050’. The cold hard truth is that the emission of energy-related greenhouse gasses will continue to rise over the next decades, up to a growth of some 14 percent by 2040. This is definitely not helping us in limiting the warming of our planet to two degrees; the critical threshold as set by experts.   And yes, eventually those emissions will level off and drop - projections say this will be around 2035. Not only will this serve as the turning point of renewable energy overtaking fossil fuels, it also marks the start of an era of greater energy efficiency.   The road ahead seems obvious. We will, eventually, be able to get rid of fossil fuels for our energy needs altogether. The figurative finger, however, must be kept on the pulse at all times: the growing world population and corresponding growing demand for energy will have to be managed carefully; and balanced with technological development and a relentless focus on renewable energy to keep our focus clear: minimising the effects of global warming . We will have to keep on walking the talk, so to speak, if we are to cut out fossil fuels for good and discourage any new investments in this polluting industry. Sweden goes first, but other countries should be quick to jump the bandwagon and make similar pledges sooner rather than later. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/energy
Very few topics are garnering as much attention in the context of initiatives to combat global warming as clean energy. And the signs are definitely promising. Renewable energy initiatives are popping up left and right, using pretty much all of the ‘clean’ elements that our earth has to offer - from wind, water and sun to the breeze generated by the London Underground. Some Scandinavian countries are ambitiously agreeing on targets to have all of their country’s energy use be derived from renewable sources, while corporations and institutions left and right are pledging to reduce their fossil fuel production and/or use drastically, in favour of more sustainable alternatives. Climate neutral countries Although those who take the time to read the ‘finer print’ on those pledges will be quick to find out that this is far from straightforward. In fact, Sweden - the first nation to become fossil-fuel free, if all goes well - has given itself a somewhat lengthy timeline: the goal is to be climate neutral by 2045, and fossil-fuel free by the time 2050 rolls around. Let’s digest that for a second. That is still more than 3 decades away - decades that are, if we are to believe the scientists, decisive for the future of mankind and, by extension, our planet. And this is one of the world’s most progressive, innovative countries talking, who already rely heavily on renewable energy sources.   If they, who already generate more than half of their energy needs from renewable sources today, need thirty-something years to ‘turn the tide’, so to speak… Well, one can only guess how much time other nations, still heavily dependant upon their coal and other ‘dirty’ energy sources, will need to do the same. Multi-faceted problem Admittedly, the problem at hand is complicated. This is not something that is ‘easily solved’, nor is there a ‘quick fix’. Actually, we’ve gotten to this stage because of two undeniable trends.   First, the global demand for energy continues to grow - albeit at a slightly lower rate than before, for reasons I’ll get into later. Fact remains that the world’s population is still growing and welfare is on the rise, meaning that more people will be connected to power than ever before. This growing demand puts an enormous strain on producers to deliver more energy, preferably at a lower cost. At a first glance, it sounds like good news that the growth in demand is slowing somewhat. The slowing population growth and economic growth are a large part of this trend - combined with more digitisation and a greater energy efficiency. People tend to be more conscious about the use of energy, while digitisation can replace certain travel or production needs.   Rise of renewable sources So far, so good - while we still require more energy year after year, the slower growth is allowing production to catch up with it in the next decades. Secondly, there’s a significant difference in the growth rate between demand for electricity and demand for transport - which has historically been the largest energy user. Instead, the need for electricity will be making up a quarter of the total energy demand of the world by 2050, compared to 18 percent today. This means that new renewable sources will have to be used more, mainly wind and solar - alongside the wide range of renewable fuel options like hydrogen used for transport purposes. The share of wind and solar power is, in fact, expected to grow up to five times faster than any other source of power. Non-hydro renewables will, by 2050, make up more than a third of the global power generated. Once again, a positive trend, pointing at a growing reliance on renewable sources instead of fossil fuels. 2050 on the horizon There is a painful little side note, though. ‘2050’ keeps on popping up, as a far-away target that most of us will be happy to work towards; yet that is far away enough to be brushed off when deemed inconvenient. Because the main issue seems obvious: the world needs more energy. And for the time being, demand still far exceeds sustainable supply, meaning that something - in this case fossil fuels - is required to bridge the gap.   This leads to another undeniable conclusion, being that fossil fuels are likely to dominate the global energy market for decades to come - at least until we get to 2050. Producers and corporations are quick to reason it away, by stating that massive investments have already been made. And because of the reliability of and heavy dependance upon this energy source, the market is hesitant to abruptly move away to much newer sources. Time is running out Yet the world needs more than ‘we will get rid of fossil fuels around 2050’. The cold hard truth is that the emission of energy-related greenhouse gasses will continue to rise over the next decades, up to a growth of some 14 percent by 2040. This is definitely not helping us in limiting the warming of our planet to two degrees; the critical threshold as set by experts.   And yes, eventually those emissions will level off and drop - projections say this will be around 2035. Not only will this serve as the turning point of renewable energy overtaking fossil fuels, it also marks the start of an era of greater energy efficiency.   The road ahead seems obvious. We will, eventually, be able to get rid of fossil fuels for our energy needs altogether. The figurative finger, however, must be kept on the pulse at all times: the growing world population and corresponding growing demand for energy will have to be managed carefully; and balanced with technological development and a relentless focus on renewable energy to keep our focus clear: minimising the effects of global warming . We will have to keep on walking the talk, so to speak, if we are to cut out fossil fuels for good and discourage any new investments in this polluting industry. Sweden goes first, but other countries should be quick to jump the bandwagon and make similar pledges sooner rather than later. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/energy
Fossil Fuel Will Dominate Energy Use Through 2050: Globally
Fossil Fuel Will Dominate Energy Use Through 2050: Globally
Smarter Technology In Agriculture Will Feed The Planet
Starvation and malnutrition affect approximately 821 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization's data. Every year, 1.6 trillion tons of food are wasted or thrown away. Food loss costs $1.2 trillion a year. One-third of global food production is thrown away. The technological revolution in agriculture leads to higher yields and less waste Why is so much food wasted? Poor or outdated production techniques are the leading causes. Already 500 million tons of food are wasted per year or lost in the production stage. The increasing climate change does not help either, nor does the growing world population. This could eventually lead to a food crisis, and it is crucial to act upon this. New agricultural techniques offer a solution, as this is the road to a better future. A future in which farmers can both improve their yields, increase their drive and reduce waste. Artificial intelligence, data analysis and even drones are among the solutions that will shape the future of agriculture. This will be smarter, more efficient and better for the planet. Precision agriculture Agriculture is often associated with a rural way of life, but the vision on this topic seems to be shifting. Companies such as Google help farmers improve their yields and optimise production through artificial intelligence. A new type of agriculture is on the rise. Precise agriculture emerged in the 1990s, but now precision agriculture wants to use ultramodern technologies to make the production of crops more accurate and to control it. By using GIS (Geographic Information System), farmers can, for example, view their crops through heat maps, in which red indicates dead fields and green indicates healthy ones. Green fields require more fertilisation and insecticides, and on red areas, farmers do not have to waste their products any more. Since the 1990s, precision agriculture has grown exponentially. Hundreds of precision farms have developed and use drones and other robots. Farmers now have insight into where each seed is planted. This allows them to fertilise their crops with almost perfect accuracy, which was not possible when precision farming was just born. The future of agriculture lies in real-time responses, as more and more agriculture tech companies compete to provide all-in-one platforms with insights and prescriptions on the go. By using smart technologies, such as loT sensors (which measure light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture, etc.), agriculture will be able to overcome some of its most urgent challenges. For example, they can meet the needs of the world's population to cope with a changing climate, all while reducing destructive food wastage. Improved aerial imaging As precision agriculture expands, the demand for drones will increase. It is no surprise that drones will play a significant role in making agriculture more efficient and cost-effective. Drones in agriculture can do so much, like the drone-based planting system. Thanks to their remarkable accuracy, planting costs can be reduced by 85 per cent, according to PwC. Using GPS, the drones can water plants with unparalleled precision, reducing pesticide use by as much as 30 per cent. Satellite images were once seen as game-changing technology but faded with the qualities of a drone. Drones have a higher resolution than satellite images . Drones offer more results when we look at a sustainable future for agriculture. New Business Models The shift towards precision agriculture will bring necessary changes to supply chains. A new type of retailer focused on innovative technologies will emerge. A new kind of e-commerce focused on agriculture, will also change the way crops are grown, making it easier for farmers to buy much at once online. The shift to this digital era still brings some challenges. Trust will be key, as farmers strive to purchase products from suppliers with years of expertise in this sector. Traditional agricultural retailers can significantly benefit from entering this commercial market. With their deep-rooted knowledge and experience in this sector, they are unique to the digital transition of agriculture. Although the demand for digital solutions is high and still rising, there are many steps to be taken before precision agriculture is widely used and can have its most significant impact. The steps depend on farmers, technology development and the retail chain. However, these challenges are pale compared to the severe consequences of not applying the technology, severe implications for the well-being of both agriculture and the planet. It may sound incongruous: farming and high-tech, but together they provide better yields, less waste and greater ecological sustainability. https://www.whatsorb.com/solution/waste/general  
Starvation and malnutrition affect approximately 821 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization's data. Every year, 1.6 trillion tons of food are wasted or thrown away. Food loss costs $1.2 trillion a year. One-third of global food production is thrown away. The technological revolution in agriculture leads to higher yields and less waste Why is so much food wasted? Poor or outdated production techniques are the leading causes. Already 500 million tons of food are wasted per year or lost in the production stage. The increasing climate change does not help either, nor does the growing world population. This could eventually lead to a food crisis, and it is crucial to act upon this. New agricultural techniques offer a solution, as this is the road to a better future. A future in which farmers can both improve their yields, increase their drive and reduce waste. Artificial intelligence, data analysis and even drones are among the solutions that will shape the future of agriculture. This will be smarter, more efficient and better for the planet. Precision agriculture Agriculture is often associated with a rural way of life, but the vision on this topic seems to be shifting. Companies such as Google help farmers improve their yields and optimise production through artificial intelligence. A new type of agriculture is on the rise. Precise agriculture emerged in the 1990s, but now precision agriculture wants to use ultramodern technologies to make the production of crops more accurate and to control it. By using GIS (Geographic Information System), farmers can, for example, view their crops through heat maps, in which red indicates dead fields and green indicates healthy ones. Green fields require more fertilisation and insecticides, and on red areas, farmers do not have to waste their products any more. Since the 1990s, precision agriculture has grown exponentially. Hundreds of precision farms have developed and use drones and other robots. Farmers now have insight into where each seed is planted. This allows them to fertilise their crops with almost perfect accuracy, which was not possible when precision farming was just born. The future of agriculture lies in real-time responses, as more and more agriculture tech companies compete to provide all-in-one platforms with insights and prescriptions on the go. By using smart technologies, such as loT sensors (which measure light, humidity, temperature, soil moisture, etc.), agriculture will be able to overcome some of its most urgent challenges. For example, they can meet the needs of the world's population to cope with a changing climate, all while reducing destructive food wastage. Improved aerial imaging As precision agriculture expands, the demand for drones will increase. It is no surprise that drones will play a significant role in making agriculture more efficient and cost-effective. Drones in agriculture can do so much, like the drone-based planting system. Thanks to their remarkable accuracy, planting costs can be reduced by 85 per cent, according to PwC. Using GPS, the drones can water plants with unparalleled precision, reducing pesticide use by as much as 30 per cent. Satellite images were once seen as game-changing technology but faded with the qualities of a drone. Drones have a higher resolution than satellite images . Drones offer more results when we look at a sustainable future for agriculture. New Business Models The shift towards precision agriculture will bring necessary changes to supply chains. A new type of retailer focused on innovative technologies will emerge. A new kind of e-commerce focused on agriculture, will also change the way crops are grown, making it easier for farmers to buy much at once online. The shift to this digital era still brings some challenges. Trust will be key, as farmers strive to purchase products from suppliers with years of expertise in this sector. Traditional agricultural retailers can significantly benefit from entering this commercial market. With their deep-rooted knowledge and experience in this sector, they are unique to the digital transition of agriculture. Although the demand for digital solutions is high and still rising, there are many steps to be taken before precision agriculture is widely used and can have its most significant impact. The steps depend on farmers, technology development and the retail chain. However, these challenges are pale compared to the severe consequences of not applying the technology, severe implications for the well-being of both agriculture and the planet. It may sound incongruous: farming and high-tech, but together they provide better yields, less waste and greater ecological sustainability. https://www.whatsorb.com/solution/waste/general  
Smarter Technology In Agriculture Will Feed The Planet
Smarter Technology In Agriculture Will Feed The Planet
Trump State Visit 2019 Emits 2.619 Tonnes Of CO2: London, UK
Donald Trump’s state visit ‘to emit 2,619 tonnes of carbon dioxide’. That is the same amount of greenhouse gases emitted by an average UK home over 970 years. Donald Trump’s state visit will produce as much carbon dioxide as an average British home does in 970 years. That’s the verdict from renewable energy supplier Pure Planet, which has calculated the US President’s trip to the UK will emit 2,619 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The President, the First Lady, family members and officials arrived on two Boeing 747 jets, which together will emit 979 tonnes of extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere on their journeys between London and Washington DC. The transport while President Trump is in the UK will also have a significant impact – two identical seven-seat armoured limousines dubbed The Beasts have a fuel economy of just four miles per gallon, meaning they will emit 1.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide while they are here. The study suggests the rest of the 30-car motorcade will pump out an additional 4.3 tonnes of greenhouse gases from driving around – however, the big chunk of emissions the fleet is responsible for happened when it was transported over to the UK in an estimated four cargo planes, sending out 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. Many of the 1,000-person entourage, which includes secret service agents, staff, military aides and members of the press, also use helicopters to get around, emitting an estimated total of 35 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The dietary requirements of such a large volume of people and the related carbon footprint is also likely to have a significant effect on emissions. Steven Day, Co-Founder of Pure Planet, said: "President Trump’s state visit is equivalent to almost a millennium’s worth of emissions from a typical home. It is a staggering large amount. “ Trump has said climate change is a Chinese hoax but this is no joke. The emissions from this state visit are vast." Donald Trump believes the US has a 'clean climate'. He had informed Prince Charles in a 90-minute conversation that the US right now has among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics, and it’s even getting better because I agree with that we want the best water, the cleanest water. Well, let's debunk these believes with some facts: Greenhouse gas emissions The US is still the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, having been overtaken by China more than a decade ago. In per capita terms, however, the US far outstrips China, though it comes below some Middle Eastern states with tiny populations and vast fossil fuel industries. While carbon emissions have been falling, in part because of the switch from coal to gas, Climate Tracker estimates that the US will fail to meet its carbon reduction targets set by Barack Obama, to cut emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Fracking The US is now one of the world’s biggest gas producers, thanks to fracking, and about half of its oil now comes from the production method, which requires the blasting of dense shale rock with water, sand and chemicals to release the tiny bubbles of fossil fuel trapped inside. This boom has come at a cost, as the vast water requirements are draining some areas dry, and pollutants found near fracking sites include heavy metals, chemicals that disrupt hormones, and particulates. The effects range from memory, learning and IQ deficits to behavioural problems. Leaks of 'fugitive' methane are an additional contributor to climate change. Fossil fuel exploration Not content with the US’s existing conventional oil reserves, and the expansion of the oil and gas industries through fracking, the US fossil fuel industry is seeking new grounds for exploration – among them, the pristine Alaskan wilderness. Drilling in the Alaskan wildlife reserve is a key Trump policy. {youtube} Fuel efficiency standards The Trump administration has moved to loosen regulations on fuel efficiency for cars and vans, which were already less stringent than in many other countries. Opponents fear this will increase greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. International cooperation Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement of 2015 cannot legally take effect until after the next presidential election, in an irony of timing. However, the effect can already be seen, in the emboldening of other nations considering a withdrawal, such as Brazil, formerly a strong proponent of action at the UN talks, and the increasing influence of fossil fuel lobbyists. Climate denial With the president claiming climate change to be a 'Chinese hoax', it is perhaps not surprising that the US has some of the highest rates of climate denial in the world. Despite this, a sizeable majority of the US public – nearly six in 10 people – still agree with the science on climate change, and support action to stave off the worst consequences. Water Despite Trump’s claim that 'we want the best water, the cleanest water' – it’s crystal clean, has to be crystal clean clear, his recent actions on water have been an attempt to roll back decades of progress on cleaning up the US water supply. Last December, he announced plans to undo or weaken federal rules that protect millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams from pesticide run-off and other pollutants. Air By rolling back Obama-era measures intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the Trump administration is also threatening to increase air pollution, as coal-fired power stations will be able to spew out toxins once more, according to 14 states who last year opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans. This is in contrast with China and India, cited by Trump – along with Russia – as having polluted air. Those nations are trying to clean up their pollution with stricter limits on what power plants https://www.whatsorb.com/category/climate
Donald Trump’s state visit ‘to emit 2,619 tonnes of carbon dioxide’. That is the same amount of greenhouse gases emitted by an average UK home over 970 years. Donald Trump’s state visit will produce as much carbon dioxide as an average British home does in 970 years. That’s the verdict from renewable energy supplier Pure Planet, which has calculated the US President’s trip to the UK will emit 2,619 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The President, the First Lady, family members and officials arrived on two Boeing 747 jets, which together will emit 979 tonnes of extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere on their journeys between London and Washington DC. The transport while President Trump is in the UK will also have a significant impact – two identical seven-seat armoured limousines dubbed The Beasts have a fuel economy of just four miles per gallon, meaning they will emit 1.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide while they are here. The study suggests the rest of the 30-car motorcade will pump out an additional 4.3 tonnes of greenhouse gases from driving around – however, the big chunk of emissions the fleet is responsible for happened when it was transported over to the UK in an estimated four cargo planes, sending out 1,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air. Many of the 1,000-person entourage, which includes secret service agents, staff, military aides and members of the press, also use helicopters to get around, emitting an estimated total of 35 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The dietary requirements of such a large volume of people and the related carbon footprint is also likely to have a significant effect on emissions. Steven Day, Co-Founder of Pure Planet, said: "President Trump’s state visit is equivalent to almost a millennium’s worth of emissions from a typical home. It is a staggering large amount. “ Trump has said climate change is a Chinese hoax but this is no joke. The emissions from this state visit are vast." Donald Trump believes the US has a 'clean climate'. He had informed Prince Charles in a 90-minute conversation that the US right now has among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics, and it’s even getting better because I agree with that we want the best water, the cleanest water. Well, let's debunk these believes with some facts: Greenhouse gas emissions The US is still the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, having been overtaken by China more than a decade ago. In per capita terms, however, the US far outstrips China, though it comes below some Middle Eastern states with tiny populations and vast fossil fuel industries. While carbon emissions have been falling, in part because of the switch from coal to gas, Climate Tracker estimates that the US will fail to meet its carbon reduction targets set by Barack Obama, to cut emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Fracking The US is now one of the world’s biggest gas producers, thanks to fracking, and about half of its oil now comes from the production method, which requires the blasting of dense shale rock with water, sand and chemicals to release the tiny bubbles of fossil fuel trapped inside. This boom has come at a cost, as the vast water requirements are draining some areas dry, and pollutants found near fracking sites include heavy metals, chemicals that disrupt hormones, and particulates. The effects range from memory, learning and IQ deficits to behavioural problems. Leaks of 'fugitive' methane are an additional contributor to climate change. Fossil fuel exploration Not content with the US’s existing conventional oil reserves, and the expansion of the oil and gas industries through fracking, the US fossil fuel industry is seeking new grounds for exploration – among them, the pristine Alaskan wilderness. Drilling in the Alaskan wildlife reserve is a key Trump policy. {youtube} Fuel efficiency standards The Trump administration has moved to loosen regulations on fuel efficiency for cars and vans, which were already less stringent than in many other countries. Opponents fear this will increase greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. International cooperation Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement of 2015 cannot legally take effect until after the next presidential election, in an irony of timing. However, the effect can already be seen, in the emboldening of other nations considering a withdrawal, such as Brazil, formerly a strong proponent of action at the UN talks, and the increasing influence of fossil fuel lobbyists. Climate denial With the president claiming climate change to be a 'Chinese hoax', it is perhaps not surprising that the US has some of the highest rates of climate denial in the world. Despite this, a sizeable majority of the US public – nearly six in 10 people – still agree with the science on climate change, and support action to stave off the worst consequences. Water Despite Trump’s claim that 'we want the best water, the cleanest water' – it’s crystal clean, has to be crystal clean clear, his recent actions on water have been an attempt to roll back decades of progress on cleaning up the US water supply. Last December, he announced plans to undo or weaken federal rules that protect millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams from pesticide run-off and other pollutants. Air By rolling back Obama-era measures intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the Trump administration is also threatening to increase air pollution, as coal-fired power stations will be able to spew out toxins once more, according to 14 states who last year opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans. This is in contrast with China and India, cited by Trump – along with Russia – as having polluted air. Those nations are trying to clean up their pollution with stricter limits on what power plants https://www.whatsorb.com/category/climate
Trump State Visit 2019 Emits 2.619 Tonnes Of CO2: London, UK
Digital Ecosystem For The Environment: Big Data Worldwide
Big Data is a term reserved for technological advances in IT-related industries. This claim is often heard when discussing the topic of massive heaps of data collected from all kind of devices and sensors. Big Data is allegedly great in running algorithms and recognising patters, perhaps even predicting to some extent - but that is mostly beneficial to consumer- and financial industries. Right? Well, no. Completely wrong, in fact. Big Data is a player that should never be underestimated in any context. Regardless of whether you understand the benefits of collecting data that allows you to quickly act on it - the reality is that there are a whole lot of them. This also applies to the environment. Much can be said for incorporating Big Data in some kind of digital ecosystem, meant to advocate promising initiatives and analysing and predicting trends. Knowledge is key, and this is exactly what such a digital ecosystem would provide. Having environmental insights and patterns at your fingertips will make it that much easier to really act upon it - and hold others accountable if they are not. Global environment data Unfortunately, as nice as it sounds, we are still quite a way off from actually achieving something like this. This is often related to the very nature of our field: much of what we do and how we act is based on assumptions, anecdotal evidence, and largely incomplete data sets. If this is the basis for much of our financial investments and physical efforts, it is not hard to see why we are often hesitant to really push through. Yet it is important to be aware of how much there already could be for us to use. We could quite easily get access to a wealth of data on the global environment. Using the technologies, techniques and tools available for dealing with this data, we could quite easily ‘assimilate’ what we are looking for. Using those valuable insights and patterns, we can find ourselves equipped with a powerful means of creating a sustainable future and actually changing the way that we interact with our planet. Environmental history Using data, we can make informed decisions. This goes for everything that we do in our lives. When we are buying a new TV, we will browse the internet for user reviews and product videos. Through our phones, we can check the weather forecast in the morning to decide what to wear. For the environment, you will find that data has much of the same analysing and forecasting power.   The one problem? We are increasingly finding that a significant portion of the information that would be required for making such an informed decision is not readily available. For now, we are mostly piecing together snippets and tidbits of information, collected using vastly different methods and time periods - making them inherently flawed for actual use. As such, we have no steady basis that we can base our decisions on, effectively erasing the ‘informed’ from informed decision. Recent reports from the UN are alarming. They showed that out of the 93 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a staggering 64 cannot yet be measured using reliable and meaningful indicators showing its progress. This is the result of a chronic lack of data, crippling our ability to get a good report card of how we are doing thus far. It should not be hard to see why this is worrying.   This is why it is so important to start looking at ways of incorporating Big Data and related technologies in all that we do. The possibilities for monitoring the environment are endless, ranging from the use of satellites and drones to cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain and a plethora of (mobile) apps. Through all of these technologies, we can measure and protect our environment much more efficiently than ever before. Another hard truth is that none of the efforts taken thus far to reduce our strain on the world around us has actually worked. Especially now that the click is ticking - scientists have estimated that we only have about 10 years left to radically alter our ways -, it seems like an obvious solution that will, if invested in properly, pay off near-instantly.   Granted, ten years is not a lot of time; especially considering that a bunch of different systems will have to be aligned in order to be able to take definitive action. Our social, political and economic systems must work together with the technology to be able to drastically change our ways. This might seem daunting, but it is something that has to be done.   We largely created this mess and we will leave it to our children and grandchildren if we do nothing. There really is no alternative: we’ve got to get our act together, preferably today rather than tomorrow. Creating a digital ecosystem for the environment will definitely help us in getting things done. Connecting environmental governance with public-private partnerships through big data, groundbreaking technologies and analytics will allow us to foster expert communities - and ultimately receive much better environmental insights. Global digital ecosystem for the environment A few months ago, a group of companies, academics, UN member states, intergovernmental organisations and civil society actors came together to discuss how to move forward with Big Data, Analytics and Artificial Intelligence. Their main task was to envision some kind of global digital ecosystem for the environment. What would it look like, what partnerships would it benefit from? What are the benefits and potential pitfalls? Who is accountable and how to ensure that everyone cooperates to keep it as transparant as possible? Those and many other questions were answered in the first discussion paper of this working group, that was issued in March 2019. The writers were enthusiastic and passionate about the prospect of a fully digital ecosystem, although they recognised that, if it is to become a global standard by 2020, it requires a great deal of action, leadership and trust.   Below, I will highlight a number of particularly interesting elements that, according to this paper, should be considered before working on digital ecosystem harnessing Big Data of the environment. Artificial intelligence , big data and algorithms we need First of all, we must get a better grip on the problems we are dealing with. This can only be done by measuring them properly. Through Big Data and related technologies, we can be better informed and set ourselves up to be able to properly track and assess environmental trends and innovations. In the past, the limited availability of such data left a big gaping hole in the development and modelling of environmental policy options - something that can now be remedied. After making an inventory of what data is already readily available, we will quickly find out what information is missing - and how we can go about generating this. Big Data and algorithms, generated and run using modern technologies, will most likely help us doing so - especially if data is clearly, uniformly and articulately collected by companies and governments alike.   This kind of data can include information generated by open data cubes, providing spatial data on climate change parameters; which will help us to determine areas for growth and improvement on initiatives. This will make it easier to guarantee funding and investments for all kind of innovations. Additionally, more data and insights regarding supply chains and raw resource usage will allow investors to recognise opportunities and dangers ahead of time, getting them more involved in sustainability practices and highlighting polluting and/or damaging activities . Blockchain, for instance, is slated to be a major help in this, as it allows for the creation of a transparant, traceable database showing all the steps or resources used.   Finally, through the use of artificial intelligence, big data and all kinds of machine learning algorithms, consumers can be encouraged to think more about the environmental footprints of products they are considering. By tracing the supply chain and consumption patterns, it will be possible to find a way of changing consumer behaviour and, using gamification, reward programs and apps, encourage consumers to up their sustainability efforts. People and companies Another powerful element of a digital ecosystem is the actual people and companies that are making use of it. Social media in particular hugely influences the way that we interact with the world around us. It shapes our attitudes, perceptions, and invariably determines our actions. The recent commotion surrounding election influencing through social media should be enough to highlight how impactful this could potentially be. However, while many people are looking at the dangers of this, it can be flipped around and used to our benefit as well - such as the mobilising of people, encouraging them to not only let their voices be heard in a meaningful manner, but also actively recruiting them to collect data on our ecosystem, global warming, biodiversity and other sustainability matters. Crowdsourcing and citizen science have never been more relevant than today. Even the simple act of making people and companies aware of the issues and pointing out the impact it will have on their own lives will make a difference. Understanding the implications of the problems the world is facing today will help them to take action locally. Perhaps a minor change, but if those are added up, it can become a massive movement.   Getting people aware of the problem, foregoing any ‘fake news’ probability but focussing on the matter at hand in an objective, scientific manner will get them on board and set in motion a sequence of micro-actions that can turn into something great. Markets can be influenced, just like consumer behaviour and actions - but only if they have access to the digital ecosystem that points the way forward. Making environmental data a global public good will make it easily accessible, open and available for analysis. Satellites, drones, sensors and mobile applications. What are the risks? Some of the ways in which we can generate the environmental data mentioned include satellites, drones, sensors and mobile apps that continuously measure a certain object, area of phenomenon. Therefore, those who are in control of those kinds of technologies, will find themselves a willing target for governments and international organisations hoping to get better insights. The tech companies that are now holding those cards will find themselves faced with an interesting dilemma. Historically, they have been developing and acting upon their valuable data in a private manner, using it to outwit competition and make bigger profits. Their motivation is therefore largely based on the creation of profitable business models. The ultimate idea, as proven by companies as Google, Apple and Microsoft, is to find a way of locking in customers - making sure that they only benefit if they exclusively use their (affiliated) products and services. As a result, much of the data and proprietary know-how available regarding digital infrastructures and cutting-edge data generating technologies is held close to the chest. They alone have access to the majority of this data, shifting decision-making power to a handful instead of the many. Often, valuable data is sold to another lucky few instead of shared with a larger group. An issue that has inevitably come up in this regard is that of privacy.   After all, who owns the data? The party that collected it? The party that paid handsomely to receive it? Or the party who finds himself the subject of the data? If the plan is to release an armada of satellites, drones and sensors on our planet, the issue of data governance is bound to come up. How to respect the privacy of people and private companies, while still getting meaningful intel? As cliched as it may sound, information is power - and people are understandably afraid of anything or anyone that yields great power. As no single party can or will be able to be ‘in charge’ of this data, it will likely be a scattered field of tech companies, parts manufacturers, digital gurus, infrastructure experts, scientists, governments, private persons and environmental groups. Which is great - what we need is the combined effort of all those stakeholders in order to move forward and create this global digital ecosystem where environmental data is available at a moment’s notice. Yet this makes the issue of who is in control more pressing. In an ideal world, data in this digital ecosystem would be a public good. Yet in practice, there will be some pitfalls regarding individual privacy, intellectual property, data security, data quality assurance, transparency and purposely fake or malicious data entries. A watchdog will have to be appointed, while countries around the world will have to agree on certain guidelines and restrictions - these two preventive measures will be critical in validating and running this massive undertaking. Harness the power of data, AI and mobile apps. How do we get there? The basic idea is simple. If we can harness the power of Big Data, AI and mobile apps in a responsible and sensitive manner, we will find ourselves in a position where we are able to clearly see what is happening and therefore hold governments and institutions accountable. We will finally be able to track our progress on a large number of environmental indicators that have previously gone untracked. Simultaneously, we can analyse the trends and insights to make even more meaningful changes in the ‘way we do’, the ‘way we are’, and the ‘way we should be’. Now that most of the technologies are widely available, this is the time to take action. We must move ahead of the game and look at the ten-year-deadline given to us as a challenge instead of a threat. Through the power of data, we can influence consumers on a microlevel, changing their own behaviour, awareness and actions when it comes to global warming and other pressing environmental issues. We can challenge long-held beliefs and, through millions of micro-actions and micro-changes, bring about significant change.   Companies and governments can be held accountable for what they are (not) doing, while alternatives and solutions can be analysed and optimised to ensure we keep on making the right choices, every time we find ourselves at another crossroad. We can do so by making data sets as open as possible and involving companies, encouraging them to share their expertise, infrastructure and technologies on data science, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.   Environmental data as a public good should be the norm, not the exception. Data that should be streamlined for transparency, accuracy, quality and comparability. Governments play an instrumental role in setting forth guidelines and deciding on standards and norms; while also keeping in mind the issues outlined in this article, including individual privacy, data protection and intellectual property. A global, independent watchdog organisation could be in charge of constantly verifying and purifying the generated data sets and checking the performed analyses. The end result? A digital ecosystem that thrives, is openly accessible and contributed to by many. That allows for quick, accurate analyses and insights. That sets about a revolution: which companies and communities are doing well and leading the way to a better future; and which are seemingly undermining any progress, irreversibly harming our planet and undermining our actions in doing so?   This can turn the tide for global warming and other environmental issues. Accountability is a powerful tool. Let’s use it to our benefit. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/community
Big Data is a term reserved for technological advances in IT-related industries. This claim is often heard when discussing the topic of massive heaps of data collected from all kind of devices and sensors. Big Data is allegedly great in running algorithms and recognising patters, perhaps even predicting to some extent - but that is mostly beneficial to consumer- and financial industries. Right? Well, no. Completely wrong, in fact. Big Data is a player that should never be underestimated in any context. Regardless of whether you understand the benefits of collecting data that allows you to quickly act on it - the reality is that there are a whole lot of them. This also applies to the environment. Much can be said for incorporating Big Data in some kind of digital ecosystem, meant to advocate promising initiatives and analysing and predicting trends. Knowledge is key, and this is exactly what such a digital ecosystem would provide. Having environmental insights and patterns at your fingertips will make it that much easier to really act upon it - and hold others accountable if they are not. Global environment data Unfortunately, as nice as it sounds, we are still quite a way off from actually achieving something like this. This is often related to the very nature of our field: much of what we do and how we act is based on assumptions, anecdotal evidence, and largely incomplete data sets. If this is the basis for much of our financial investments and physical efforts, it is not hard to see why we are often hesitant to really push through. Yet it is important to be aware of how much there already could be for us to use. We could quite easily get access to a wealth of data on the global environment. Using the technologies, techniques and tools available for dealing with this data, we could quite easily ‘assimilate’ what we are looking for. Using those valuable insights and patterns, we can find ourselves equipped with a powerful means of creating a sustainable future and actually changing the way that we interact with our planet. Environmental history Using data, we can make informed decisions. This goes for everything that we do in our lives. When we are buying a new TV, we will browse the internet for user reviews and product videos. Through our phones, we can check the weather forecast in the morning to decide what to wear. For the environment, you will find that data has much of the same analysing and forecasting power.   The one problem? We are increasingly finding that a significant portion of the information that would be required for making such an informed decision is not readily available. For now, we are mostly piecing together snippets and tidbits of information, collected using vastly different methods and time periods - making them inherently flawed for actual use. As such, we have no steady basis that we can base our decisions on, effectively erasing the ‘informed’ from informed decision. Recent reports from the UN are alarming. They showed that out of the 93 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a staggering 64 cannot yet be measured using reliable and meaningful indicators showing its progress. This is the result of a chronic lack of data, crippling our ability to get a good report card of how we are doing thus far. It should not be hard to see why this is worrying.   This is why it is so important to start looking at ways of incorporating Big Data and related technologies in all that we do. The possibilities for monitoring the environment are endless, ranging from the use of satellites and drones to cloud computing, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, blockchain and a plethora of (mobile) apps. Through all of these technologies, we can measure and protect our environment much more efficiently than ever before. Another hard truth is that none of the efforts taken thus far to reduce our strain on the world around us has actually worked. Especially now that the click is ticking - scientists have estimated that we only have about 10 years left to radically alter our ways -, it seems like an obvious solution that will, if invested in properly, pay off near-instantly.   Granted, ten years is not a lot of time; especially considering that a bunch of different systems will have to be aligned in order to be able to take definitive action. Our social, political and economic systems must work together with the technology to be able to drastically change our ways. This might seem daunting, but it is something that has to be done.   We largely created this mess and we will leave it to our children and grandchildren if we do nothing. There really is no alternative: we’ve got to get our act together, preferably today rather than tomorrow. Creating a digital ecosystem for the environment will definitely help us in getting things done. Connecting environmental governance with public-private partnerships through big data, groundbreaking technologies and analytics will allow us to foster expert communities - and ultimately receive much better environmental insights. Global digital ecosystem for the environment A few months ago, a group of companies, academics, UN member states, intergovernmental organisations and civil society actors came together to discuss how to move forward with Big Data, Analytics and Artificial Intelligence. Their main task was to envision some kind of global digital ecosystem for the environment. What would it look like, what partnerships would it benefit from? What are the benefits and potential pitfalls? Who is accountable and how to ensure that everyone cooperates to keep it as transparant as possible? Those and many other questions were answered in the first discussion paper of this working group, that was issued in March 2019. The writers were enthusiastic and passionate about the prospect of a fully digital ecosystem, although they recognised that, if it is to become a global standard by 2020, it requires a great deal of action, leadership and trust.   Below, I will highlight a number of particularly interesting elements that, according to this paper, should be considered before working on digital ecosystem harnessing Big Data of the environment. Artificial intelligence , big data and algorithms we need First of all, we must get a better grip on the problems we are dealing with. This can only be done by measuring them properly. Through Big Data and related technologies, we can be better informed and set ourselves up to be able to properly track and assess environmental trends and innovations. In the past, the limited availability of such data left a big gaping hole in the development and modelling of environmental policy options - something that can now be remedied. After making an inventory of what data is already readily available, we will quickly find out what information is missing - and how we can go about generating this. Big Data and algorithms, generated and run using modern technologies, will most likely help us doing so - especially if data is clearly, uniformly and articulately collected by companies and governments alike.   This kind of data can include information generated by open data cubes, providing spatial data on climate change parameters; which will help us to determine areas for growth and improvement on initiatives. This will make it easier to guarantee funding and investments for all kind of innovations. Additionally, more data and insights regarding supply chains and raw resource usage will allow investors to recognise opportunities and dangers ahead of time, getting them more involved in sustainability practices and highlighting polluting and/or damaging activities . Blockchain, for instance, is slated to be a major help in this, as it allows for the creation of a transparant, traceable database showing all the steps or resources used.   Finally, through the use of artificial intelligence, big data and all kinds of machine learning algorithms, consumers can be encouraged to think more about the environmental footprints of products they are considering. By tracing the supply chain and consumption patterns, it will be possible to find a way of changing consumer behaviour and, using gamification, reward programs and apps, encourage consumers to up their sustainability efforts. People and companies Another powerful element of a digital ecosystem is the actual people and companies that are making use of it. Social media in particular hugely influences the way that we interact with the world around us. It shapes our attitudes, perceptions, and invariably determines our actions. The recent commotion surrounding election influencing through social media should be enough to highlight how impactful this could potentially be. However, while many people are looking at the dangers of this, it can be flipped around and used to our benefit as well - such as the mobilising of people, encouraging them to not only let their voices be heard in a meaningful manner, but also actively recruiting them to collect data on our ecosystem, global warming, biodiversity and other sustainability matters. Crowdsourcing and citizen science have never been more relevant than today. Even the simple act of making people and companies aware of the issues and pointing out the impact it will have on their own lives will make a difference. Understanding the implications of the problems the world is facing today will help them to take action locally. Perhaps a minor change, but if those are added up, it can become a massive movement.   Getting people aware of the problem, foregoing any ‘fake news’ probability but focussing on the matter at hand in an objective, scientific manner will get them on board and set in motion a sequence of micro-actions that can turn into something great. Markets can be influenced, just like consumer behaviour and actions - but only if they have access to the digital ecosystem that points the way forward. Making environmental data a global public good will make it easily accessible, open and available for analysis. Satellites, drones, sensors and mobile applications. What are the risks? Some of the ways in which we can generate the environmental data mentioned include satellites, drones, sensors and mobile apps that continuously measure a certain object, area of phenomenon. Therefore, those who are in control of those kinds of technologies, will find themselves a willing target for governments and international organisations hoping to get better insights. The tech companies that are now holding those cards will find themselves faced with an interesting dilemma. Historically, they have been developing and acting upon their valuable data in a private manner, using it to outwit competition and make bigger profits. Their motivation is therefore largely based on the creation of profitable business models. The ultimate idea, as proven by companies as Google, Apple and Microsoft, is to find a way of locking in customers - making sure that they only benefit if they exclusively use their (affiliated) products and services. As a result, much of the data and proprietary know-how available regarding digital infrastructures and cutting-edge data generating technologies is held close to the chest. They alone have access to the majority of this data, shifting decision-making power to a handful instead of the many. Often, valuable data is sold to another lucky few instead of shared with a larger group. An issue that has inevitably come up in this regard is that of privacy.   After all, who owns the data? The party that collected it? The party that paid handsomely to receive it? Or the party who finds himself the subject of the data? If the plan is to release an armada of satellites, drones and sensors on our planet, the issue of data governance is bound to come up. How to respect the privacy of people and private companies, while still getting meaningful intel? As cliched as it may sound, information is power - and people are understandably afraid of anything or anyone that yields great power. As no single party can or will be able to be ‘in charge’ of this data, it will likely be a scattered field of tech companies, parts manufacturers, digital gurus, infrastructure experts, scientists, governments, private persons and environmental groups. Which is great - what we need is the combined effort of all those stakeholders in order to move forward and create this global digital ecosystem where environmental data is available at a moment’s notice. Yet this makes the issue of who is in control more pressing. In an ideal world, data in this digital ecosystem would be a public good. Yet in practice, there will be some pitfalls regarding individual privacy, intellectual property, data security, data quality assurance, transparency and purposely fake or malicious data entries. A watchdog will have to be appointed, while countries around the world will have to agree on certain guidelines and restrictions - these two preventive measures will be critical in validating and running this massive undertaking. Harness the power of data, AI and mobile apps. How do we get there? The basic idea is simple. If we can harness the power of Big Data, AI and mobile apps in a responsible and sensitive manner, we will find ourselves in a position where we are able to clearly see what is happening and therefore hold governments and institutions accountable. We will finally be able to track our progress on a large number of environmental indicators that have previously gone untracked. Simultaneously, we can analyse the trends and insights to make even more meaningful changes in the ‘way we do’, the ‘way we are’, and the ‘way we should be’. Now that most of the technologies are widely available, this is the time to take action. We must move ahead of the game and look at the ten-year-deadline given to us as a challenge instead of a threat. Through the power of data, we can influence consumers on a microlevel, changing their own behaviour, awareness and actions when it comes to global warming and other pressing environmental issues. We can challenge long-held beliefs and, through millions of micro-actions and micro-changes, bring about significant change.   Companies and governments can be held accountable for what they are (not) doing, while alternatives and solutions can be analysed and optimised to ensure we keep on making the right choices, every time we find ourselves at another crossroad. We can do so by making data sets as open as possible and involving companies, encouraging them to share their expertise, infrastructure and technologies on data science, cloud computing and artificial intelligence.   Environmental data as a public good should be the norm, not the exception. Data that should be streamlined for transparency, accuracy, quality and comparability. Governments play an instrumental role in setting forth guidelines and deciding on standards and norms; while also keeping in mind the issues outlined in this article, including individual privacy, data protection and intellectual property. A global, independent watchdog organisation could be in charge of constantly verifying and purifying the generated data sets and checking the performed analyses. The end result? A digital ecosystem that thrives, is openly accessible and contributed to by many. That allows for quick, accurate analyses and insights. That sets about a revolution: which companies and communities are doing well and leading the way to a better future; and which are seemingly undermining any progress, irreversibly harming our planet and undermining our actions in doing so?   This can turn the tide for global warming and other environmental issues. Accountability is a powerful tool. Let’s use it to our benefit. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/community
Digital Ecosystem For The Environment: Big Data Worldwide
Digital Ecosystem For The Environment: Big Data Worldwide
Smartphones Not Sustainable: Designed To
What do you use your phone for the most? Is it checking emails, speaking to people on social media, watching YouTube? Regardless of how you use your device, many people are in agreement that they spend too much time glued to their phones. New research by Google has shown that 79 per cent of people in the UK want to find a better balance with their smartphone usage.  Of the 3,000 British adults surveyed, nearly half (47 per cent) believe that their phone affects their work, saying they would be more efficient if they could master control over their device. Over a quarter, 27 per cent, said they would be more present in their relationships if they had better control. On top of that, one in five (23 per cent) said they think they would find more time to be creative in the kitchen if they spent less time on their phone.  Smartphones causing human downgrading Addiction to our smartphones is causing 'human downgrading'. The result of technology caught in a race to capture human attention, in this race to the bottom of the brain stem. Who can go lower into your outrage, your vanity, getting you addicted to attention from other people?  The pull of our devices is too strong for us to overcome alone. That’s not because humans are necessarily weak, it’s more that the way things like social media have been designed is completely overwhelming. “The technology we’ve built is smart enough that it can manipulate its creators, the humans who theoretically should be in control.  Take Instagram, for example. The photo-sharing app has pulled on the self-esteem puppet strings of hundreds of millions of kids. And it’s just tugging those strings all the way to go left towards depression, self-harm, isolation. That is what Instagram inadvertently, not intended, has done. We are creating an unsustainable society w hile there is a strong need for a sustainable environment. This is at odds with reality. Time to prevent human downgrading It's not all doom and gloom. Tech companies can approach designing their products in order to prevent tech’s addictive nature?  Android users can set app time limits so as not to spend too long in one particular app Google Pixel phone owners can use the Wind Down feature to reduce the screen's blue light before going to bed. Apple offers similar functions with its Screen Time feature in iOS 12.  These settings work: Google’s research demonstrated that 78 per cent of people felt happier about their phone usage since using a digital wellbeing app. They reported finding more time to meditate, as well as improved sleep. Screen time graphs are a step in the right direction, and that it’s good to see Apple and Google competing against one another to protect their users. For these features to have a lasting impact, though, the companies need to ensure they go beyond just a graph.  {youtube} We need to move the goal posts from who can provide the better, cool chart of how many hours you spend per day, to how do we completely reverse the human downgrading , the downgrading of attention spans, reverse the downgrading of critical thinking.  There are a few simple things such as: turning off all notifications except for when it involves another human, so calls and text messages Removing apps from your home screen is another one.  This forces you to make a conscious choice to open an app, rather than an unconscious choice. Just changing the relationship with your phone in the sense that make it not a consumption device, but really just a tool. The Centre for Humane Technology will be researching other ways that human-focused design can enforce this positive use of tech, instead of the negative.  It may seem scary that our phones and social media profiles are controlling us in ways we can’t imagine. But now is the time to do something before it becomes too overwhelming.  Right now, our minds are inhabiting a Las Vegas-like digital environment . Adding a meditation app here or there is like making sure there’s a meditation store in Las Vegas, when your mind is still surrounded by Las Vegas. So, let’s flip Las Vegas into the most human, habitable, rejuvenating urban space that we can possibly build. That’s the goal.  Cover photo by: Barbara Provenzano / Unsplash https://www.whatsorb.com/solution/community/society
What do you use your phone for the most? Is it checking emails, speaking to people on social media, watching YouTube? Regardless of how you use your device, many people are in agreement that they spend too much time glued to their phones. New research by Google has shown that 79 per cent of people in the UK want to find a better balance with their smartphone usage.  Of the 3,000 British adults surveyed, nearly half (47 per cent) believe that their phone affects their work, saying they would be more efficient if they could master control over their device. Over a quarter, 27 per cent, said they would be more present in their relationships if they had better control. On top of that, one in five (23 per cent) said they think they would find more time to be creative in the kitchen if they spent less time on their phone.  Smartphones causing human downgrading Addiction to our smartphones is causing 'human downgrading'. The result of technology caught in a race to capture human attention, in this race to the bottom of the brain stem. Who can go lower into your outrage, your vanity, getting you addicted to attention from other people?  The pull of our devices is too strong for us to overcome alone. That’s not because humans are necessarily weak, it’s more that the way things like social media have been designed is completely overwhelming. “The technology we’ve built is smart enough that it can manipulate its creators, the humans who theoretically should be in control.  Take Instagram, for example. The photo-sharing app has pulled on the self-esteem puppet strings of hundreds of millions of kids. And it’s just tugging those strings all the way to go left towards depression, self-harm, isolation. That is what Instagram inadvertently, not intended, has done. We are creating an unsustainable society w hile there is a strong need for a sustainable environment. This is at odds with reality. Time to prevent human downgrading It's not all doom and gloom. Tech companies can approach designing their products in order to prevent tech’s addictive nature?  Android users can set app time limits so as not to spend too long in one particular app Google Pixel phone owners can use the Wind Down feature to reduce the screen's blue light before going to bed. Apple offers similar functions with its Screen Time feature in iOS 12.  These settings work: Google’s research demonstrated that 78 per cent of people felt happier about their phone usage since using a digital wellbeing app. They reported finding more time to meditate, as well as improved sleep. Screen time graphs are a step in the right direction, and that it’s good to see Apple and Google competing against one another to protect their users. For these features to have a lasting impact, though, the companies need to ensure they go beyond just a graph.  {youtube} We need to move the goal posts from who can provide the better, cool chart of how many hours you spend per day, to how do we completely reverse the human downgrading , the downgrading of attention spans, reverse the downgrading of critical thinking.  There are a few simple things such as: turning off all notifications except for when it involves another human, so calls and text messages Removing apps from your home screen is another one.  This forces you to make a conscious choice to open an app, rather than an unconscious choice. Just changing the relationship with your phone in the sense that make it not a consumption device, but really just a tool. The Centre for Humane Technology will be researching other ways that human-focused design can enforce this positive use of tech, instead of the negative.  It may seem scary that our phones and social media profiles are controlling us in ways we can’t imagine. But now is the time to do something before it becomes too overwhelming.  Right now, our minds are inhabiting a Las Vegas-like digital environment . Adding a meditation app here or there is like making sure there’s a meditation store in Las Vegas, when your mind is still surrounded by Las Vegas. So, let’s flip Las Vegas into the most human, habitable, rejuvenating urban space that we can possibly build. That’s the goal.  Cover photo by: Barbara Provenzano / Unsplash https://www.whatsorb.com/solution/community/society
Smartphones Not Sustainable: Designed To 'Downgrade Humans'
Water War Brewing Over New River Nile Dam: Egypt, Ethiopia
There is no doubt that water can be the cause of terrible, violent combats. Earlier we wrote about the imminent water conflict between India and Pakistan . If the Indus Water Treaty is dissolved by India, this means enormous problems for water supplies for Pakistan. But Asia is not the only country with the threat of a water war: the Nile River also causes great tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia. The cause is the construction of an Ethiopian dam in the Blue Nile. The Nile as the throbbing lifeline  The Nile can be seen as the throbbing lifeline of Egypt. The Egyptian calendar is based on the river, and the fertile mud from the Nile is reflected in many divine stories from ancient Egypt. There is a reason that the Nile has always played a prominent role - the river offers extremely fertile soil, up to five kilometres from the shore. The agriculture of the land is almost completely dependent on the river. About 94 percent of the Egyptian population lives on the Nile today. The Nile is therefore a source of civilization, but now also a source of a major conflict with Ethiopia, who wants to build a dam in the Blue Nile. Extremely important The course of the Nile Egypt is namely not the only country that needs the river as a source of life. The White Nile starts in Uganda, flows through South Sudan and Sudan and makes a leap to Ethiopia as the Blue Nile. In this country, the Blue Nile flows into Lake Tana. The rest of the river traverses Egypt as the 'complete' Nile, ending at the Mediterranean see. The five thousand kilometres long Nile is one of the longest rivers in the world and is extremely important for water supply in every country it traverses.                                                                                                 Maybe you also like this article: Water War Between India, Pakistan: Kashmir and Jammu Ethiopia is currently undergoing major development: it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. In the ambition to transform into a middle-income country, the Nile is an important pawn. This ambition requires electricity: that is why Ethiopia has been building The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Blue Nile since 2011, so that the country can develop even further. The dam will allow more than six thousand megawatts of electricity to be supplied . Photo by: Gioia Forster. Grand Renaissance Dam would be seventh-largest in the world and Africa's largest hydroelectric power plant Benefit for downstream countries At this moment, Egypt has great political influence over the Nile. This has been the case for thousands of years, with the recent help of British colonialism. But the construction of the Ethiopian dam can change all this - and Egypt is not happy. Egypt is concerned that rival Ethiopia will control the flow of the river. Egypt and Ethiopia have a big disagreement, Sudan is in the middle, and a big geopolitical shift is being played out along the world's longest river. "It's one of the most important flagship projects for Ethiopia," says Seleshi Bekele, the country's Minister for Water, Irrigation and Electricity. "It's not about control of the flow but about providing opportunity for us to develop ourselves through energy development. It has a lot of benefit for the downstream countries." Sudan agrees - the dam will promote the flow of the Nile through the country. Now the difference between high and low water in Sudan is eight meters, because of the dam this difference will only be two meters. "For Sudan it's wonderful," says Osama Daoud Abdellatif, the owner of the Dal Group which runs farms and irrigation projects. "It's the best thing that's happened for a long time and I think the combination of energy and regular water levels is a great blessing. An international security issue What then is the problem for Egypt? Alastair Leithead writes that any threat to the waters of Egypt is considered a threat to his sovereignty. She spoke with Egypt's minister of water resources and irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Aty, who is very concerned. "We are responsible for a nation of about 100 million," he says. "If the water is coming to Egypt reduced by 2% we would lose about 200,000 acres of land. One acre at least makes one family survive. A family in Egypt is average family size about five persons. So this means about one million will be jobless. It is an international security issue. " Diplomacy and cooperation Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are not going well. The conversations do not come to the point of assessing the impact. Egypt can do nothing about the dam of the Etiopian dam, which is almost finished - apart from taking extreme military action. To avoid a water war, the only solution, according to Alastair Leithead, is that Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt resolve this conflict with diplomacy and cooperation. ‘But when issues like nationalism and the relative strength and importance of countries is concerned, it muddies the water’. {youtube} https://www.whatsorb.com/category/community
There is no doubt that water can be the cause of terrible, violent combats. Earlier we wrote about the imminent water conflict between India and Pakistan . If the Indus Water Treaty is dissolved by India, this means enormous problems for water supplies for Pakistan. But Asia is not the only country with the threat of a water war: the Nile River also causes great tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia. The cause is the construction of an Ethiopian dam in the Blue Nile. The Nile as the throbbing lifeline  The Nile can be seen as the throbbing lifeline of Egypt. The Egyptian calendar is based on the river, and the fertile mud from the Nile is reflected in many divine stories from ancient Egypt. There is a reason that the Nile has always played a prominent role - the river offers extremely fertile soil, up to five kilometres from the shore. The agriculture of the land is almost completely dependent on the river. About 94 percent of the Egyptian population lives on the Nile today. The Nile is therefore a source of civilization, but now also a source of a major conflict with Ethiopia, who wants to build a dam in the Blue Nile. Extremely important The course of the Nile Egypt is namely not the only country that needs the river as a source of life. The White Nile starts in Uganda, flows through South Sudan and Sudan and makes a leap to Ethiopia as the Blue Nile. In this country, the Blue Nile flows into Lake Tana. The rest of the river traverses Egypt as the 'complete' Nile, ending at the Mediterranean see. The five thousand kilometres long Nile is one of the longest rivers in the world and is extremely important for water supply in every country it traverses.                                                                                                 Maybe you also like this article: Water War Between India, Pakistan: Kashmir and Jammu Ethiopia is currently undergoing major development: it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. In the ambition to transform into a middle-income country, the Nile is an important pawn. This ambition requires electricity: that is why Ethiopia has been building The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Blue Nile since 2011, so that the country can develop even further. The dam will allow more than six thousand megawatts of electricity to be supplied . Photo by: Gioia Forster. Grand Renaissance Dam would be seventh-largest in the world and Africa's largest hydroelectric power plant Benefit for downstream countries At this moment, Egypt has great political influence over the Nile. This has been the case for thousands of years, with the recent help of British colonialism. But the construction of the Ethiopian dam can change all this - and Egypt is not happy. Egypt is concerned that rival Ethiopia will control the flow of the river. Egypt and Ethiopia have a big disagreement, Sudan is in the middle, and a big geopolitical shift is being played out along the world's longest river. "It's one of the most important flagship projects for Ethiopia," says Seleshi Bekele, the country's Minister for Water, Irrigation and Electricity. "It's not about control of the flow but about providing opportunity for us to develop ourselves through energy development. It has a lot of benefit for the downstream countries." Sudan agrees - the dam will promote the flow of the Nile through the country. Now the difference between high and low water in Sudan is eight meters, because of the dam this difference will only be two meters. "For Sudan it's wonderful," says Osama Daoud Abdellatif, the owner of the Dal Group which runs farms and irrigation projects. "It's the best thing that's happened for a long time and I think the combination of energy and regular water levels is a great blessing. An international security issue What then is the problem for Egypt? Alastair Leithead writes that any threat to the waters of Egypt is considered a threat to his sovereignty. She spoke with Egypt's minister of water resources and irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Aty, who is very concerned. "We are responsible for a nation of about 100 million," he says. "If the water is coming to Egypt reduced by 2% we would lose about 200,000 acres of land. One acre at least makes one family survive. A family in Egypt is average family size about five persons. So this means about one million will be jobless. It is an international security issue. " Diplomacy and cooperation Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are not going well. The conversations do not come to the point of assessing the impact. Egypt can do nothing about the dam of the Etiopian dam, which is almost finished - apart from taking extreme military action. To avoid a water war, the only solution, according to Alastair Leithead, is that Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt resolve this conflict with diplomacy and cooperation. ‘But when issues like nationalism and the relative strength and importance of countries is concerned, it muddies the water’. {youtube} https://www.whatsorb.com/category/community
Water War Brewing Over New River Nile Dam: Egypt, Ethiopia
Water War Brewing Over New River Nile Dam: Egypt, Ethiopia
Electric Cars: Green Innovative, Made locally, Sold Globally
Electric cars were once regarded as hopeless, tasteless, and incapable of replacing the fossil fuel-powered vehicles. In 2006, the award-winning documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” illustrated the impending obsolescence of electric car after a series of failed experiments by the automotive industry. The predicted doom didn’t stop environmentalists from pressing for the industry to make better electric car, however. Over the course of the next decade, the industry responded to these requests by rolling out electric car like Tesla Model 3 and Nissan Leaf as frontline products. These electric car fuelled a new wave of strategies to combat the effects of climate change, and today, these vehicles strongly foreshadow the imminent end of fossil fuel-powered vehicles. The worldwide projection of electric car as mechanical messiahs begs us to ask the question: are electric car really as environmentally friendly as they seem? Embodied energy emissions of electric car Although electric cars are purported to be energy efficient, the energy required to produce these vehicles is actually relatively high. electric car seem eco-friendly if we only consider their operating energy emissions, or the emissions produced while driving the car. For example, the fact that electric car have zero carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions during operation suggests that these vehicles are very eco-friendly. However, achieving zero CO 2  emissions while driving electric car does not necessarily make them environmentally friendly because this metric does not account for embodied energy emissions. Embodied energy is the sum of all the energy required to produce a product (including raw materials extraction, assembly, and transportation of the product), treating that energy as though it was incorporated or ’embodied’ in the product itself (Figure 1). The production of batteries and other EV components contributes to the majority of embodied energy emissions for these cars, as noted  in this 2011 study . In fact, CO 2  emissions related specifically to materials and EV assembly are higher than that of a traditional car. In the end, electric car do have lower total energy (embodied + operating) emissions as compared to traditional cars, making them more environmentally friendly overall. Being better, though, is not the same as being the best. These vehicles could be significantly more eco-friendly if we innovate to lower their unexpectedly high embodied energy emissions. Figure 1. Embodied energy emissions during electric car production. (i) Burning coal and natural gas to provide energy for mining, drilling, processing and transportation of materials for battery and other vehicle components leads to CO2 emissions embodied in a typical electric car. (ii) Multiple factors contribute to the embodied energy emissions of a typical EV; as depicted, materials contribute significantly to this emission profile. Innovative light weighting of electric car One of the reasons that the embodied energy emissions of electric car is higher than expected is because the materials required to make them are quite heavy, and thus their acquisition, processing, and transport leads to relatively high CO2 emissions . To render electric car as environmentally friendly as they are purported to be, we must devise novel methods to lower the amount of heavy materials required to produce EV components. One method is light weighting: a process that makes products lighter by reducing the amount of materials used to make them. Using fewer materials reduces embodied energy emissions in the stages of material extraction, transportation, and assembly. As part of their EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed to lightweight electric car by 2022, specifically reducing 35% of the weight of a car’s body structure, 25% of its base frame supporting the rest of the car, and 5% of its interior. Various approaches to light weighting electric car include transitioning to lighter materials (e.g. substituting strong but lightweight organic materials for heavier, more traditional materials like iron) and redesigning battery components with less heavy metals. Additionally, a breakthrough method of light weighting is being devised by Volvo  with the goal of integrating battery components into the vehicle body. According to Volvo, the future EV body (made of reinforced carbon fibers) would sandwich the battery components. These battery components would be moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame, such as its door panels, trunk door and wheel bowl (Figure 2). Figure 2: Light weighting electric car reduces the amount of materials and lowers total embodied energy emissions. (i) Heavy battery packs and electric drive components compose tradition electric car and contribute to high embodied energy emissions. (ii) One approach to reducing these emissions is to lightweight batteries and vehicle components. (iii) Another, innovative approach is to integrate batteries into the vehicle body. All of these light weighting techniques will require the use of novel, sturdy, lightweight materials. A recent material science study presents a proof of concept of using cellulose and carbon-fiber composites as materials that are strong enough but also light enough to achieve these light weighting goals. However, these novel materials still need to be demonstrated at a commercial scale. According to the same study, organizations such as the Centre for Bio composites and Biomaterials Processing (a materials science research center at University of Toronto) are actively working to achieve success on this front. They have demonstrated that using cellulose and carbon-fiber composites instead of traditional materials like steel could reduce the weight of a vehicle by 15 to 30%. Such innovation at a commercial scale would make light weighting a logical game-changer in the reduction of embodied energy emissions of electric car. Electric car without light weighting: More raw material extraction In addition to lowering the embodied energy emissions of electric car, light weighting will also have an impact on the sustainability of electric cars production. Specifically, many of the materials used to achieve light weighting are polymers that can be synthesized in laboratories. Some examples are polypropylene, polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride (these three can be used for approximately 66% of electric car parts). This is in stark contrast to the traditional, heavier materials used to make electric car, such as lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel. These raw materials must be mined and extracted from the earth prior to use, making them a less sustainable option than light weighting materials. Until our goals of light weighting are achieved at a commercial scale, electric car will continue to depend on these heavy materials, thereby maintaining the need for continual raw material extraction. According to a study by U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. already imports many of these rare earth minerals from other countries each year, adding to the increasing mining dependency for electric car. As electric car demand increases in the future, existing mining locations may become overexploited . Mining areas in Argentina (with 9 million tons of lithium resources), India (for manganese), Japan (for nickel), China (for carbon), and conflict zones of Democratic Republic of Congo (for cobalt) could face more pressure of resource extraction to meet these demands. Notably, these lands are natural habitats rich in flora and fauna, and mining these areas could harm their habitats. If mining practices in these lands are left unregulated, there could be a high environmental price to pay. The Gigafactory approach: Source globally, produce locally Besides light weighting, embodied energy emissions can also be lowered by transitioning from shipping batteries and other electric cars components over long distances to producing them locally, closer to where the electric car is assembled. The United States International Trade Commission reported that the U.S. was the second highest importer of lithium-ion batteries (the batteries used in electric car) from 2013 to 2017, with $2.5 billion worth of lithium-ion batteries imported in 2017 itself. There is a hidden environmental cost here, associated mainly with emissions from commercial container ships. Thus, producing batteries and electric car components locally at electric cars factories could help reduce these emissions. The good news for the U.S. is that Tesla’s Gigafactory, a massive electric car assembly factory, will also produce lithium-ion batteries. The novel factory aims to account for 60% of global lithium-ion battery production by 2020. The Nevada Gigafactory produced over 20 gigawatt hours (GWh) worth of batteries in 2018 (in collaboration with Panasonic) while hoping to generate 35 GWh once fully operational. Once this is achieved, the U.S. would no longer need to import batteries but only source raw materials from existing global trade ties, thus decreasing energy expenditure on heavy battery transport (Figure 3). Figure 3: World map of production and U.S. trade connections for battery and vehicle components (i) The Tesla Gigafactory is located in Nevada (ii) Major materials like cobalt (Co), manganese (Mn), lithium (Li), nickel (N), and carbon (C) required for electric car must be imported from around the world to produce batteries and other vehicle components at the Gigafactory. Future opportunities for making electric car truly ‘green’ Reducing embodied energy emissions requires government support in establishing a framework of rules and regulations to ensure cost-effective, energy-efficient, and environmentally-friendly practices of raw material extraction and global transportation for EV components. Research investment in light weighting electric car and environmentally-friendly manufacturing of electric car can be promoted through appropriate policy measures. Reducing embodied energy emissions from electric car, coupled with expanding our use of public transit systems and eco-friendly living decisions (like choosing to walk rather than drive), can accelerate humanity towards the bigger goal of a fully low-carbon civilization. By Ankur Podder and Rhea Grover. F igures by Jovana Andrejevic https://www.whatsorb.com/category/transportation
Electric cars were once regarded as hopeless, tasteless, and incapable of replacing the fossil fuel-powered vehicles. In 2006, the award-winning documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” illustrated the impending obsolescence of electric car after a series of failed experiments by the automotive industry. The predicted doom didn’t stop environmentalists from pressing for the industry to make better electric car, however. Over the course of the next decade, the industry responded to these requests by rolling out electric car like Tesla Model 3 and Nissan Leaf as frontline products. These electric car fuelled a new wave of strategies to combat the effects of climate change, and today, these vehicles strongly foreshadow the imminent end of fossil fuel-powered vehicles. The worldwide projection of electric car as mechanical messiahs begs us to ask the question: are electric car really as environmentally friendly as they seem? Embodied energy emissions of electric car Although electric cars are purported to be energy efficient, the energy required to produce these vehicles is actually relatively high. electric car seem eco-friendly if we only consider their operating energy emissions, or the emissions produced while driving the car. For example, the fact that electric car have zero carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions during operation suggests that these vehicles are very eco-friendly. However, achieving zero CO 2  emissions while driving electric car does not necessarily make them environmentally friendly because this metric does not account for embodied energy emissions. Embodied energy is the sum of all the energy required to produce a product (including raw materials extraction, assembly, and transportation of the product), treating that energy as though it was incorporated or ’embodied’ in the product itself (Figure 1). The production of batteries and other EV components contributes to the majority of embodied energy emissions for these cars, as noted  in this 2011 study . In fact, CO 2  emissions related specifically to materials and EV assembly are higher than that of a traditional car. In the end, electric car do have lower total energy (embodied + operating) emissions as compared to traditional cars, making them more environmentally friendly overall. Being better, though, is not the same as being the best. These vehicles could be significantly more eco-friendly if we innovate to lower their unexpectedly high embodied energy emissions. Figure 1. Embodied energy emissions during electric car production. (i) Burning coal and natural gas to provide energy for mining, drilling, processing and transportation of materials for battery and other vehicle components leads to CO2 emissions embodied in a typical electric car. (ii) Multiple factors contribute to the embodied energy emissions of a typical EV; as depicted, materials contribute significantly to this emission profile. Innovative light weighting of electric car One of the reasons that the embodied energy emissions of electric car is higher than expected is because the materials required to make them are quite heavy, and thus their acquisition, processing, and transport leads to relatively high CO2 emissions . To render electric car as environmentally friendly as they are purported to be, we must devise novel methods to lower the amount of heavy materials required to produce EV components. One method is light weighting: a process that makes products lighter by reducing the amount of materials used to make them. Using fewer materials reduces embodied energy emissions in the stages of material extraction, transportation, and assembly. As part of their EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed to lightweight electric car by 2022, specifically reducing 35% of the weight of a car’s body structure, 25% of its base frame supporting the rest of the car, and 5% of its interior. Various approaches to light weighting electric car include transitioning to lighter materials (e.g. substituting strong but lightweight organic materials for heavier, more traditional materials like iron) and redesigning battery components with less heavy metals. Additionally, a breakthrough method of light weighting is being devised by Volvo  with the goal of integrating battery components into the vehicle body. According to Volvo, the future EV body (made of reinforced carbon fibers) would sandwich the battery components. These battery components would be moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame, such as its door panels, trunk door and wheel bowl (Figure 2). Figure 2: Light weighting electric car reduces the amount of materials and lowers total embodied energy emissions. (i) Heavy battery packs and electric drive components compose tradition electric car and contribute to high embodied energy emissions. (ii) One approach to reducing these emissions is to lightweight batteries and vehicle components. (iii) Another, innovative approach is to integrate batteries into the vehicle body. All of these light weighting techniques will require the use of novel, sturdy, lightweight materials. A recent material science study presents a proof of concept of using cellulose and carbon-fiber composites as materials that are strong enough but also light enough to achieve these light weighting goals. However, these novel materials still need to be demonstrated at a commercial scale. According to the same study, organizations such as the Centre for Bio composites and Biomaterials Processing (a materials science research center at University of Toronto) are actively working to achieve success on this front. They have demonstrated that using cellulose and carbon-fiber composites instead of traditional materials like steel could reduce the weight of a vehicle by 15 to 30%. Such innovation at a commercial scale would make light weighting a logical game-changer in the reduction of embodied energy emissions of electric car. Electric car without light weighting: More raw material extraction In addition to lowering the embodied energy emissions of electric car, light weighting will also have an impact on the sustainability of electric cars production. Specifically, many of the materials used to achieve light weighting are polymers that can be synthesized in laboratories. Some examples are polypropylene, polyurethane and polyvinyl chloride (these three can be used for approximately 66% of electric car parts). This is in stark contrast to the traditional, heavier materials used to make electric car, such as lithium, cobalt, manganese, and nickel. These raw materials must be mined and extracted from the earth prior to use, making them a less sustainable option than light weighting materials. Until our goals of light weighting are achieved at a commercial scale, electric car will continue to depend on these heavy materials, thereby maintaining the need for continual raw material extraction. According to a study by U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. already imports many of these rare earth minerals from other countries each year, adding to the increasing mining dependency for electric car. As electric car demand increases in the future, existing mining locations may become overexploited . Mining areas in Argentina (with 9 million tons of lithium resources), India (for manganese), Japan (for nickel), China (for carbon), and conflict zones of Democratic Republic of Congo (for cobalt) could face more pressure of resource extraction to meet these demands. Notably, these lands are natural habitats rich in flora and fauna, and mining these areas could harm their habitats. If mining practices in these lands are left unregulated, there could be a high environmental price to pay. The Gigafactory approach: Source globally, produce locally Besides light weighting, embodied energy emissions can also be lowered by transitioning from shipping batteries and other electric cars components over long distances to producing them locally, closer to where the electric car is assembled. The United States International Trade Commission reported that the U.S. was the second highest importer of lithium-ion batteries (the batteries used in electric car) from 2013 to 2017, with $2.5 billion worth of lithium-ion batteries imported in 2017 itself. There is a hidden environmental cost here, associated mainly with emissions from commercial container ships. Thus, producing batteries and electric car components locally at electric cars factories could help reduce these emissions. The good news for the U.S. is that Tesla’s Gigafactory, a massive electric car assembly factory, will also produce lithium-ion batteries. The novel factory aims to account for 60% of global lithium-ion battery production by 2020. The Nevada Gigafactory produced over 20 gigawatt hours (GWh) worth of batteries in 2018 (in collaboration with Panasonic) while hoping to generate 35 GWh once fully operational. Once this is achieved, the U.S. would no longer need to import batteries but only source raw materials from existing global trade ties, thus decreasing energy expenditure on heavy battery transport (Figure 3). Figure 3: World map of production and U.S. trade connections for battery and vehicle components (i) The Tesla Gigafactory is located in Nevada (ii) Major materials like cobalt (Co), manganese (Mn), lithium (Li), nickel (N), and carbon (C) required for electric car must be imported from around the world to produce batteries and other vehicle components at the Gigafactory. Future opportunities for making electric car truly ‘green’ Reducing embodied energy emissions requires government support in establishing a framework of rules and regulations to ensure cost-effective, energy-efficient, and environmentally-friendly practices of raw material extraction and global transportation for EV components. Research investment in light weighting electric car and environmentally-friendly manufacturing of electric car can be promoted through appropriate policy measures. Reducing embodied energy emissions from electric car, coupled with expanding our use of public transit systems and eco-friendly living decisions (like choosing to walk rather than drive), can accelerate humanity towards the bigger goal of a fully low-carbon civilization. By Ankur Podder and Rhea Grover. F igures by Jovana Andrejevic https://www.whatsorb.com/category/transportation
Electric Cars: Green Innovative, Made locally, Sold Globally
Electric Cars: Green Innovative, Made locally, Sold Globally
EU Elections: Is The EU United To Fight Climate Change?
Populist parties look set to make big gains in the European elections – but think twice about voting for them if you care about climate and the environment Brexit This week, the people of 28 countries will vote to elect their representatives in the European Parliament for the next five years. One of them, the UK, has been brought to the ballot box kicking and screaming, having voted to leave the European Union and its directly elected assembly almost three years ago. EU elections and Climate Change trouble This is the world’s second biggest democratic vote – coincidentally, results from the biggest, the Indian general election, are also expected this week. Current opinion polls suggest a wave of anger will propel populist, anti-establishment parties to victory across swathes of Europe. Right-wing populists may even become the largest bloc in the parliament. That is a problem for the planet. Some of these parties hold views on climate change that make Donald Trump look like a well-informed moderate, as a report published earlier this year by German environmental think-tank Adelphi makes plain. France’s National Rally, for example, supports solar and wind energy fabriqué en France as a way of reducing foreign energy imports, but rejects international action on climate change, denouncing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as a “communist project”. Germany’s AfD says governments suppress the truth that carbon dioxide is a fertiliser, not a pollutant. A UKIP MEP wrote a European Parliament opinion paper blaming climate change on cosmic rays, while Austria’s FPÖ says “solar flares and the warming of the sun” are responsible. Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit party currently riding high in UK polls, has repeatedly questioned the basis of climate science. Voters may have many reasons for voting for these parties – but those who care about the planet should take pause.  EU needs to be united on climate The measures needed to combat climate change affect competition in a single market, so much of what European countries are doing – creating the world’s biggest carbon trading scheme, setting binding new targets for energy efficiency – is coordinated at EU level. To meet Paris climate-change agreement targets , the European Commission, which proposes EU legislation, has more ambitious plans: carbon neutrality by 2050 and measures taking up to 40 per cent of the new EU budget. All these need the European Parliament’s approval. With two out of three current populist MEPs regularly voting against climate and energy resolutions, votes for populists in the new parliament could significantly dilute the EU’s efforts to mitigate climate change. Populists have gained traction in recent years by appealing emotionally to people who feel disregarded by remote, powerful elites. They are thriving now because liberal elites have ignored alarm over threats to identity and the stability of established communities from immigration, globalisation, economic injustice and changing social norms. Extinction Rebellion and the Remote elite Climate scientists and protest movements such as Extinction Rebellion may still feel they are fighting the good fight against an elite that has until recently been reluctant to hear their concerns. But this is not how they are perceived by a large chunk of their fellow citizens. Scientists are a remote elite if ever there was one, with allegiance to their own strange facts rather than common identities. Activists’ advocacy of higher environmental taxes and restrictions on consumption is viewed as harmful for ordinary people: witness France’s gilets jaunes protests, originally spawned by opposition to higher fuel taxes. {youtube} Climate change is a threat worldwide  Climate change is a threat to stability for everyone, and arguments for action should emphasise just that. These should acknowledge the power not just of facts, but emotions, and focus not just on economic costs and burdens, but on less tangible impacts on shared identity and heritage – the threat to much-loved landscapes, for example. Crucially, they need to show how international efforts to limit emissions can have positive effects on communities, preserving cherished traditions as well as bringing change. There is no umbilical link between populism and anti-climate positions. Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz, for example, is one of three Euro-populist parties to fully accept climate science. Fanned by other winds in society, populism is not going to burn out soon – but we can work together to ensure it doesn’t consume climate action , too. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/climate
Populist parties look set to make big gains in the European elections – but think twice about voting for them if you care about climate and the environment Brexit This week, the people of 28 countries will vote to elect their representatives in the European Parliament for the next five years. One of them, the UK, has been brought to the ballot box kicking and screaming, having voted to leave the European Union and its directly elected assembly almost three years ago. EU elections and Climate Change trouble This is the world’s second biggest democratic vote – coincidentally, results from the biggest, the Indian general election, are also expected this week. Current opinion polls suggest a wave of anger will propel populist, anti-establishment parties to victory across swathes of Europe. Right-wing populists may even become the largest bloc in the parliament. That is a problem for the planet. Some of these parties hold views on climate change that make Donald Trump look like a well-informed moderate, as a report published earlier this year by German environmental think-tank Adelphi makes plain. France’s National Rally, for example, supports solar and wind energy fabriqué en France as a way of reducing foreign energy imports, but rejects international action on climate change, denouncing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as a “communist project”. Germany’s AfD says governments suppress the truth that carbon dioxide is a fertiliser, not a pollutant. A UKIP MEP wrote a European Parliament opinion paper blaming climate change on cosmic rays, while Austria’s FPÖ says “solar flares and the warming of the sun” are responsible. Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit party currently riding high in UK polls, has repeatedly questioned the basis of climate science. Voters may have many reasons for voting for these parties – but those who care about the planet should take pause.  EU needs to be united on climate The measures needed to combat climate change affect competition in a single market, so much of what European countries are doing – creating the world’s biggest carbon trading scheme, setting binding new targets for energy efficiency – is coordinated at EU level. To meet Paris climate-change agreement targets , the European Commission, which proposes EU legislation, has more ambitious plans: carbon neutrality by 2050 and measures taking up to 40 per cent of the new EU budget. All these need the European Parliament’s approval. With two out of three current populist MEPs regularly voting against climate and energy resolutions, votes for populists in the new parliament could significantly dilute the EU’s efforts to mitigate climate change. Populists have gained traction in recent years by appealing emotionally to people who feel disregarded by remote, powerful elites. They are thriving now because liberal elites have ignored alarm over threats to identity and the stability of established communities from immigration, globalisation, economic injustice and changing social norms. Extinction Rebellion and the Remote elite Climate scientists and protest movements such as Extinction Rebellion may still feel they are fighting the good fight against an elite that has until recently been reluctant to hear their concerns. But this is not how they are perceived by a large chunk of their fellow citizens. Scientists are a remote elite if ever there was one, with allegiance to their own strange facts rather than common identities. Activists’ advocacy of higher environmental taxes and restrictions on consumption is viewed as harmful for ordinary people: witness France’s gilets jaunes protests, originally spawned by opposition to higher fuel taxes. {youtube} Climate change is a threat worldwide  Climate change is a threat to stability for everyone, and arguments for action should emphasise just that. These should acknowledge the power not just of facts, but emotions, and focus not just on economic costs and burdens, but on less tangible impacts on shared identity and heritage – the threat to much-loved landscapes, for example. Crucially, they need to show how international efforts to limit emissions can have positive effects on communities, preserving cherished traditions as well as bringing change. There is no umbilical link between populism and anti-climate positions. Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz, for example, is one of three Euro-populist parties to fully accept climate science. Fanned by other winds in society, populism is not going to burn out soon – but we can work together to ensure it doesn’t consume climate action , too. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/climate
EU Elections: Is The EU United To Fight Climate Change?
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