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Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

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On the principle that “one and one and 50 make a million,” a better world relies on everybody pitching in. Ordinary people can help scientists and other leaders of worthy initiatives.

Lisa Mullins and Lynn Jolicoeur report at WBUR on one example.

“It’s a cloudy, cool July morning, and we’ve come to the docks at Fairhaven Shipyard, near New Bedford, to meet Chris Parks. She’s a tall, elegant, retired Boston banker in jeans and a sweatshirt.

“Parks is a volunteer with the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Residents formed the group 30 years ago to help the struggling bay.

“She’s got a plastic bottle attached to a long metal pole. She submerges it and fills it with sea water. Then she pulls out her tool box full of vials and chemicals. She mixes and measures.

“Parks determines the water is pretty cool on this day — 67 degrees. … In addition to temperature and clarity, Parks tests the water for how much salt and oxygen are in it. She’s been coming to this dock, fastidiously, one or two mornings a week for 17 years.

” ‘I’m doing it because it’s one of the few things that I can do that is a tangible task towards helping the environment,’ Parks says. ‘It’s a little bit of science that helps tell us what’s going on in Buzzards Bay.’

“What’s going on is that the water is warming — and that may be contributing to long-lasting pollution problems in the bay.”

Buzzards Bay Coalition science director Rachel Jakuba says, ” ‘If you have too much algae in the water, that’s when you get cloudy, murky water, loss of eel grass, low oxygen levels that make it hard for fish and shellfish to survive … Bay scallops are very rare now because part of their life cycle depends on eel grass blades.’

“The Buzzards Bay Coalition is attacking that pollution aggressively. It’s working with homeowners to upgrade their septic systems with technology that reduces nitrogen. …

“Jakuba says as researchers figure out how global warming fits into the bay pollution picture, citizen scientists will be key.

“Mark Sweitzer, 68, is a citizen scientist and lobsterman based at Point Judith in Galilee, Rhode Island. …

“Six times a month while he’s catching lobster, Sweitzer lowers a device to the bottom of the ocean — about 200 feet. It tracks the temperature and other characteristics of the water at every depth, and it syncs the data to an iPad on board. …

” ‘I’m just happy to do it, because I feel like I’m providing some information — even though it might not have immediate effect on my boat, but in long-term trends in the fishery and how it might influence policy or regulations,’ Sweitzer says. …’

” The settlers — the tiny little ones that are four days old that have reached the bottom — there is a temperature at which they will not survive … and there are temperatures at which we have an influx of fish. Black sea bass used to be primarily a mid-Atlantic fish. And now … the black sea bass are down there gobbling up these little lobsters that don’t have much of a chance to make it in the first place.’ ”

Read how other fishermen are noticing ocean changes before scientists do and reporting back, here.

We have a friend who sets lobster pots off New Shoreham, Rhode Island. His catch has gone down steadily over the past few years, so I know there is a problem.

Photo: Mark Degon/WBUR
Lobsterman Mark Sweitzer works out of Point Judith, Rhode Island.

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Photo: Simon Peter Fox 
Deakin University researchers bury the first of 50,000 teabags to be placed in wetlands around the globe as part of a project to monitor which wetlands do best at soaking up the carbon that causes global warming.

It’s reassuring to know that people will keep doing whatever they can for the environment no matter what. The increased carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming will not go away by itself. One approach to breaking it down could come from preserving wetlands.

Melissa Davey writes at the Guardian about Australian scientists who are using Lipton green tea bags and red tea “rooibos” bags to study how wetlands capture carbon and make it harmless.

“Australian scientists have launched a project to bury tens of thousands of teabags in wetlands around the world. …

“Lipton green tea and red tea ‘rooibos’ varieties will be used in the project, which already involves more than 500 scientists in every continent except Antarctica.

“Leader of the project, Peter Macreadie from Deakin University’s Blue Carbon Lab, said wetlands were important for carbon capture and storage, a process known as carbon sequestration, holding up to 50 times as much carbon by area as rainforests.

” ‘But some wetlands are much better at carbon storage than others, and some are in fact carbon emitters, so they’re not all fantastic,’ Macreadie said.

“ ‘We need to find out the best wetland environments for carbon sequestration so we know where we should invest our energy.’

“That’s where scientists have come up against barriers in the past. There are hundreds of thousands of wetlands around the world. A standardised technique for monitoring the carbon is needed for accurate comparison, and monitoring devices can cost thousands of dollars to install.

“But Macreadie had been reading scientific research about teabags being buried and used to measure the rate at which carbon was being released from soil into the atmosphere.

“Fast decay of the tea inside the bag meant more carbon was being released into the atmosphere, while slower decay meant the soil was holding the carbon.

“ ‘I thought, “Jeez this is a bloody good idea. Why aren’t we using it in wetlands?” ‘ Macreadie said.

“ ‘People think of innovation as involving fancy new technology, but sometimes the best ideas are the most simple ones.’ ” More here.

I wonder if this property of tea relates to another thing I’ve noticed. Loose tea seems to absorb the aroma of whatever is around it. I’ve often thought that if you wanted to remove, say, a burned smell from upholstery or clothing, tea (not brewed) could do the trick.

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What is it about Nordic countries that they seem to find more solutions to global challenges than the rest of us? Do they have fewer challenges to worry them, better education, more ability to focus?

Here are some of their successful and replicable tactics for combating global warming.

Christian Bjørnæs writes at Cicero, “By scaling up just 15 proven Nordic solutions, countries all over the world can save 4 [gigatons] of emissions every year by 2030, which is as much as the EU produces today. The costs for this scale-up equal the amount spent in just 9 days on fossil fuel subsidies.

“These results come from the Nordic Green to Scale study which was launched during the UN Climate Conference in Marrakech. …

“ ‘The main concern decision makers have is that it’s either too difficult or too expensive to rapidly reduce emissions,’ says Senior Advisor Oras Tynkkynen, who led the Nordic Green to Scale analysis on behalf of [the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra].

“ ‘Our objective with this study is to highlight what different countries have already achieved on climate action and what other countries can learn from their successes.’ …

“Urban Danes cycle on an average almost 3 km every day. If other countries followed the example of Denmark and promoted cycling in cities, it would reduce emissions by almost as much as Slovakia produces in a year.

“In Finland, most of industrial and district heating is provided with energy efficient combined heat and power production (CHP). If other countries used CHP like this, it would reduce emissions by almost as much as Japan produces in a year.

“Iceland produces almost 30% of its electricity and most of its heat with geothermal energy. If countries with significant geothermal potential started using it like Iceland does, it would reduce emissions by more than Denmark produces in a year.

“Last year, almost every fourth new car sold in Norway was an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle. If other wealthy countries used as many electric vehicles as Norway does, it would reduce emissions by almost as much as Denmark produces in a year.

“Sweden has the world’s highest number of heat pumps per population. Scaling up the solution to selected European countries would cut emissions by as much as Cuba produces every year.

“In addition to direct emission reductions, the 15 solutions also create considerable co-benefits. These include improved air and water quality, higher energy security, more local jobs, lower fuel bills, less traffic jams, and sustained biodiversity.”

More here.

Photo: Cicero
Biking can help reduce global warming.

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As costs come down, solar and wind energy are being embraced in interesting places. Stereotypes about Texas and Big Oil will have to go.

Matthew Rozsa reports at Salon, “The notion that Texas might become a hub for renewable energy innovation isn’t that new. As Forbes noted earlier this month, Texas — which produces 37 percent of America’s crude oil and 28 percent of its natural gas — has more than 10,000 wind turbines, allowing it to produce more power from wind than the combined power produced by 25 other states from all energy sources.

“Similarly, The Wall Street Journal reported [in 2015] that Texas expects more than 10,000 megawatts of solar-generating capacity to be installed across the state by 2029, which is almost the size of all the operational solar farms in the United States today.”

Rozsa quotes Texans who were interviewed by Voice of America in October:

“ ‘A lot of wind companies have evolved to include solar and wind because solar has become so cheap. It is quite competitive with not only wind, but with fossil [fuel] generation,’ said Andy Bowman, chairman of Pioneer Green Energy.

“This point of view was echoed by Jennifer Ronk, a renewable energy expert at the Houston Advanced Research Center. ‘There is a lot of research being done, a lot of development being done,’ she argued. … ‘I think there is a mix of solutions that are going to be the optimal outcome.’ ”

I’m pretty sure that cost factors will ensure the continuation of renewable-energy research — if only at the state level.

Photo: Getty/Spencer Platt
Turbines at a wind farm in Colorado City, Texas, Jan. 21, 2016.

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Small tree farms are now eligible to sell carbon credits, which can supplement or even replace logging income. But to many owners, getting into the market looks pretty daunting. In a recent article in the New York Times, Erica Goode explains how the obstacles can be overcome.

“Lately, [Eve] Lonnquist, 59 and recently retired, has been thinking about the future of her family’s land. Like many small-forest owners, they draw some income from logging and would like to keep doing so. But they would also like to see the forest, with its stands of Douglas fir, alder and cherry, protected from clear-cutting or being sold off to developers.

“ ‘For us, the property is our family’s history,’ she said.

“More than half of the 751 million acres of forestland in the United States are privately owned, most by people like Ms. Lonnquist, with holdings of 1,000 acres or less. These family forests, environmental groups argue, represent a large, untapped resource for combating the effects of climate change.

“Conserving the trees and profiting from them might seem incompatible. But Ms. Lonnquist is hoping to do both by capitalizing on the forest’s ability to clean the air, turning the carbon stored in the forest into credits that can then be sold to polluters who want or need to offset their carbon footprints.

“ ‘Trees are the No. 1 way in which carbon can be removed from the atmosphere and stored in vegetation over the long term,’ said Brian Kittler, the western regional office director for the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, which has a program in Oregon to help the owners of family forests develop potentially profitable carbon projects. …

“The carbon credits from Ms. Lonnquist’s forest could bring an estimated $235,000 over the first six years, and about $6,000 a year after that, said Kyle Holland, the managing director of Ecological Carbon Offset Partners, a California firm that helps small-forest owners enter the carbon markets. …

“Recent developments in forestry may help make the prospect more appealing by lowering the initial costs to landholders. Mr. Holland’s company, for example, has developed a digital tool — a smartphone equipped with a laser to measure distance and an inclinometer to measure height — that he believes will greatly reduce the expense of conducting a forest inventory, which typically costs $40,000 to $100,000 or more, depending about the amount of land.

“With the specialized smartphone, landholders can take an inventory themselves, photographing and measuring the diameters and heights of their trees. The photos and data are sent to the company’s office in California, where an expert forester goes through the images, identifying the species and checking for damage to the branches or crowns, among other things. Probability models are used to calculate the amount of carbon stored in the forest.”

Hmmm. I wonder if this smartphone app could also be used by towns like Arlington, where John and other volunteers are conducting a tree inventory, not for selling carbon credits but for beautification plans.

More at the New York Timeshere.

Photo: American Forest Foundation

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Is it possible for a group of people to collaborate effectively enough to make their quaint English village carbon neutral?

Tatiana Schlossberg has an answer at the New York Times: “Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change. Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

“The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.

“But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.

“As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

‘We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,’ ” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. ‘And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.’

Oh, ye-es! One and one and 50 make a million.

More here.

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A friend from my childhood called Caroline has been following this blog, sometimes making comments related to her field, which is architecture.

Today Caroline sent me a link that she knew would be a perfect fit here. The story is about a design competition to address New York City’s rising seawater.

Kayla Devon wrote about it at Builder Online, “In the next 30 years, roughly 30% of Manhattan is expected to sink below sea level, according to a climate study by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Instead of trying to stop the inevitable, Brazilian architect Walmir Luz focused on embracing it.

“After studying climate predictions from the United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project and the history of Manhattan’s edge, Luz designed a utopian/dystopian future for New York (depending if you’re a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person).

“Luz’s NYC 2050 concept makes flooding a part of city life by taking inspiration from Venice. Luz designed structures as levels that could allow water to move through lower levels as the sea rises. Streets would become permeable so water can wash over the roads instead of flooding them, and more barriers would surround the city’s edges.

“Luz completed the concept as his thesis for his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University, and won a Silver award in the urban planning and urban design category at the A’Design Award & Competition. He now works as an architect for Gensler.” More at Builder Online.

I love it when people who read the blog come upon topics that they know will fit and then send them along. I like being able to share the cool stuff with a wider audience. Thank you, Caroline.

Design: Walmir Luz
Luz won a design award for a concept making the best of rising sea levels in New York City.

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