Princeton study shows possibility for a carbon-neutral US

December 21, 2020 by  
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It’s hard to imagine everybody making the necessary sacrifices for the U.S. to be carbon-neutral in 30 years, even if it does mean the difference between an inhabitable or uninhabitable planet. But an optimistic new study from Princeton claims that yes, it is possible. The 345-page Princeton University report , published last Tuesday, explains several ways that the U.S. could attain the goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050. The report’s six pillars are efficiency and electrification; clean electricity; zero-carbon fuels; carbon capture and storage; non-CO2 emissions; and enhanced land sinks. The keys to success are quick government action and money upfront. Related: New Zealand targets carbon neutrality by 2025 amidst climate emergency The clean electricity pillar relies on a dramatic increase in wind and solar power. This would provide many new jobs, and it would require a massive scaling up of production of turbines and photovoltaic systems. According to the study, we’d need up to 120 times as much capacity to produce the photovoltaics for solar power and 45 times our current capacity for wind turbines. Obviously, this is would require a huge commitment from the top. Individuals trading their Keurig for sun tea isn’t going to cut it. The efficiency and electrification approach focuses on improving our end-use energy productivity. This means more efficient lighting and heating in businesses and homes, such as expanded use of heat pumps. However, some researchers have posited that this approach could have a rebound effect, as people save money on energy costs only to spend it on some other goods or services that use energy and release emissions. This approach also requires widespread use of electric vehicles . The Princeton report also examines ideas like biogas or biomass collection and regenerating forests and other land sinks. What will all this take? Princeton estimates we can get to net-zero by 2050 with a $2.5 trillion investment, plus seriously committed and motivated leadership. But we need to start now. + Princeton University Via Grist Image via Angie Warren

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Princeton study shows possibility for a carbon-neutral US

Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential

November 11, 2020 by  
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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential Katie Lebling Wed, 11/11/2020 – 00:30 To meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius 2.7 degrees F), greenhouse gas emissions must reach net-zero by mid-century. Achieving this not only will require reducing existing emissions, but also removing carbon dioxide already in the air. How much carbon to remove from the atmosphere will depend on emissions in the coming years, but estimates point to around 10 billion-20 billion tons of CO 2 per year through 2100, globally. This is a tremendous amount, considering that the United States emitted 5.4 billion tons of CO 2 in 2018. As the need for climate action becomes more urgent, the ocean is gaining attention as a potential part of the solution . Approaches such as investing in offshore energy production, conserving coastal ecosystems and increasing consumption of sustainable ocean-based protein offer opportunities to reduce emissions. In addition to these opportunities, a range of ocean-based carbon removal approaches could help capture and store billions of tons of carbon. Importantly, these approaches would not increase ocean acidification. The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO 2 emissions, which is contributing to a rise in ocean acidification and making it more difficult for organisms such as oysters and corals to build shells. The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, contributing to a rise in ocean acidification. A few options for increasing the ocean’s capacity to store carbon also may provide co-benefits, such as increasing biodiversity and reducing acidification. However, many approaches remain contentious due to uncertainties around potential ecological impacts, governance and other risks. If research efforts increase to improve understanding in these areas, a combination of approaches could help address the global climate crisis. Ocean-based ways to remove CO 2 from the atmosphere Proposed methods for increasing the ocean’s ability to remove and store carbon dioxide — including biological, chemical and electrochemical concepts — vary in technical maturity, permanence, public acceptance and risk. Note: This graphic represents the general types of proposed approaches, but may not reflect every proposal. 1. Biological approaches Biological approaches, which leverage the power of photosynthesis to capture CO 2 , offer a few approaches for carbon removal. Ecosystem restoration Restoring coastal blue carbon ecosystems , including salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses, can increase the amount of carbon stored in coastal sediments. Globally, the carbon removal potential of coastal blue carbon ecosystem restoration is around a few hundred million tons of CO 2 per year by 2050, which is relatively small compared to the need. However, ample co-benefits — such as reducing coastal erosion and flooding, improving water quality and supporting livelihoods and tourism — make it worth pursuing. Restoring coastal blue carbon ecosystems, including salt marshes such as this one, can help store carbon in addition to other restoration benefits. Photo by Bre Smith/Unsplash Large-scale seaweed cultivation Another proposed approach is large-scale seaweed cultivation , as seaweed captures carbon through photosynthesis. While there is evidence that wild seaweed already contributes to carbon removal, there is potential to cultivate and harvest seaweed for use in a range of products, including food (human and animal), fuel and fertilizer. The full extent of carbon removal potential from these applications is uncertain, as many of these products would return carbon within the seaweed to the environment during consumption. Yet, these applications could lower emission intensity compared to conventional production processes. Seaweed cultivation also can provide an economic return that could support near-term industry growth. One interesting application is adding certain seaweeds to feed for ruminant farm animals, which significantly could reduce their methane emissions. Methane has especially high climate warming potential, and methane emissions from ruminants contribute roughly 120 MtCO1e per year in the United States. Emerging research shows that certain types of red seaweeds can reduce ruminant emissions by more than 50 percent, although more research is necessary to show consistent long-term reductions and understand whether large-scale cultivation efforts are successful. In addition to reducing emissions, seaweed cultivation also may reduce ocean acidification. In some places, this application is already in use for shellfish aquaculture to reduce acidification and improve shellfish growth. Understanding potential ecosystem risks is critical to implementing this approach at scale. Potential risks include changes to water movement patterns; changes to light, nutrient and oxygen availability; altered pH levels; impacts from manmade structures for growing; and impacts of monoculture cultivation, which can affect existing marine flora and fauna. Continued small-scale pilot testing is necessary to understand these ecosystem impacts and bring down costs for cultivation, harvesting and transport. Iron fertilization A more controversial and divisive idea is iron fertilization , which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. The phytoplankton would take in atmospheric CO 2 as they grow, with a portion expected to eventually sink to the ocean floor, resulting in permanent storage of that carbon in ocean sediments About a dozen experiments indicate varying levels of carbon sequestration efficacy, but the approach remains compelling to some due to its low cost. Although iron fertilization theoretically could store large amounts of carbon for a comparatively low cost, it also could cause significant negative ecological impacts, such as toxic algal blooms that can reduce oxygen levels, block sunlight and harm sea life. Additionally, researchers are hesitant to pursue this method due to a fraught history, including one experiment that potentially violated international law. Iron fertilization, which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. Because of the relatively low cost, there is also the risk of a single actor’s conducting large-scale fertilization and potentially causing large-scale ecological damage. Given that this method remains contentious, a critical first step is creating a clear international governance structure to continue research. Iron fertilization continues to face scientific uncertainties about its efficacy and ecosystem impacts that, if pursued, would require at-sea testing to resolve. 2. Chemical approaches Chemical approaches, namely alkalinity enhancement, involve adding different types of minerals to the ocean to react with dissolved carbon dioxide and turn it into dissolved bicarbonates. As dissolved carbon dioxide converts into dissolved bicarbonates, the concentration of dissolved CO 2 lowers relative to the air, allowing the ocean to absorb more CO 2 from the air at the ocean-air boundary. Although mineral sources are abundant, accessing them would require significant energy to extract, grind down and transport. While alkalinity enhancement is in use at small scales to improve water quality for calcifying creatures such as oysters and other shellfish, large scale applications would require pilot testing to understand ecosystem impacts. Additional research also will help map accessible and suitable sources of alkalinity and determine how to most effectively apply it. 3. Electrochemical approaches A handful of electrochemical concepts also store carbon as dissolved bicarbonate. Unlike chemical approaches, electrochemical approaches do so by running electric currents through seawater. Variations of electrochemical approaches also could produce valuable hydrogen or concentrated CO 2 for industrial use or storage. Scaling up this approach would depend on the availability of low-carbon energy sources in suitable locations. Additional research will help map such sources and analyze potential benefits, such as hydrogen production. Governance and social considerations of ocean-based carbon removal Ensuring appropriate governance frameworks — both national and international — for ocean-based carbon removal approaches will be a critical pre-condition before many are ready to scale. International legal frameworks for the ocean, such as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and the London Convention and Protocol, predate the concept of ocean carbon dioxide removal. As a result, these frameworks are retroactively applied to these approaches, leading to differing interpretations and a lack of clarity in some cases. Some legal scholars suggest amending existing legal instruments to more directly govern ocean carbon removal, including carbon removal in ongoing negotiations for new international agreements or shifting governance to another international body entirely. Robust environmental safeguards, including transparent monitoring and reporting, also must be in place. Lastly, ocean carbon removal approaches should not move forward without first considering the impacts on local communities and indigenous populations. Community acceptance of potential pilot testing and impacts on coastal communities also must be a pre-condition to moving forward at scale. Climate action must include the ocean As the world seeks effective tools for the climate action toolbox, employing approaches on land and at sea would prevent over-reliance on any one approach and spread the carbon removal burden over larger systems. However, before any large-scale application, ocean-based carbon removal approaches require continued research to better understand their effectiveness, cost, capacity and ancillary impacts. Such research will ensure a strong scientific foundation from which to pursue these concepts, while minimizing unintended impacts on ocean ecosystems. If understood and effectively developed and implemented, ocean-based carbon removal approaches could prove valuable to reaching net-zero and avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Pull Quote The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, contributing to a rise in ocean acidification. Iron fertilization, which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. Contributors Eliza Northrop Topics Oceans & Fisheries Carbon Removal World Resources Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz collage via Unsplash Close Authorship

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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential

Researchers test seawater air conditioning as a renewable cooling alternative

October 20, 2020 by  
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A new study led by the International Institute of Applied System Analysis (IIASA) indicates that using seawater air conditioning is a greener alternative to conventional AC and could reduce cooling costs significantly. The study, which was published in the journal Energy Efficiency , was conducted to determine the pros and cons of seawater air conditioning (SWAC). The researchers behind the study say that there is a need to find renewable air conditioning alternatives to conventional options as global warming worsens . The study looks at the possibility of pumping deep seawater from 700-1,200 meters deep at the temperature of 3° to 5° Celsius to the coast, where it exchanges heat within a cooling system. The study now shows that just one cubic meter of seawater could provide cooling energy equivalent to that provided by 21 wind turbines. To better understand the pros and cons of SWAC systems, the researchers developed a computational model used to estimate the cost of cooling around the world. The model was also used in determining the possibility of using this approach in all parts of the world. Related: Cool ways to skip the air conditioning and still keep your home chill The results showed that while it is possible to use SWAC systems in many parts of the world, they would require heavy initial investments. But in comparison to conventional air conditioning, the research determined that SWAC would offer lower operational costs. Further, the study found that in some coastal cities and islands, the cooling costs would drop as much as 77% of the normal cooling costs via conventional AC. According to the study, the primary consumers of this technology would be airports, hotels and resorts among other establishments that consume high quantities of power. According to Julian Hunt, lead author of the study, SWAC systems have the potential of increasing efficiency over time. “We call this approach ‘High-Velocity Seawater Air-conditioning’,” Hunt explained. “This design configuration allows such projects to be built with an initial cooling load and expand the cooling load modularly through smaller additional capital costs.” While the study has established many positives of using seawater air conditioning, there are challenges that were identified. The systems would need to be handled and monitored carefully to preserve marine life and not disrupt the ecosystems. Hunt said, “While it does have its challenges, seawater air-conditioning is an innovative and sustainable technology that has great potential for expanding into a benchmark system for cooling in tropical locations close to the deep sea and will help fulfill our cooling needs in a warming world.” + IIASA Image via Dean Moriarty

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Applying rock dust to farms could boost carbon sequestration

July 10, 2020 by  
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A report in the journal Nature has revealed that enhanced rock weathering (ERW) could help slow climate change by sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This process involves spreading rock dust on farmland to help absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. When rocks, such as basalt and other silicates, are crushed and added to the soil, they dissolve and react with carbon dioxide, forming carbonates and lock carbon dioxide. Although this is the first time that scientists are proposing this approach in dealing with carbon dioxide, it is not a new concept. Normally, farmers use limestone dust on the soil to reduce acidification. The use of limestone in agriculture helps enhance yield. If the proposed enhanced rock weathering technique is adopted, farmers could incorporate other types of rock dust on their land. Related: Eos Bioreactor uses AI and algae to combat climate change According to the study, this approach could help capture up to 2 billion metric tons of CO2 each year. This is equal to the combined emissions of Germany and Japan. Interestingly, this technique is much cheaper than conventional methods of carbon capturing. The scientists behind the study say that the cost of capturing a ton of CO2 could be as low as $55 in countries such as India, China, Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil. For the U.S., Canada and Europe, the cost of capturing one metric ton of CO2 with ERW would be about $160. The scientists propose using basalt as the optimal rock for ERW. Given that basalt is already produced in most mines as a byproduct, adding it to farmland soils can easily be instituted. Further, the countries that contribute the highest amounts of carbon dioxide are the best candidates for the ERW technique. Countries such as China, India and the U.S. have large farmlands that can be used to capture excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Given that carbon emissions are a big problem for the entire world, this technique might just be the light at the end of the tunnel. The enhanced rock weathering technique is affordable and practical, making it a win-win. + Nature Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Kyle Rudzinski, director of sustainability strategy at Levi Strauss & Co. on cutting fashion’s emissions

November 5, 2018 by  
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Levi Strauss & Co. recently announced its big push to cut emissions and improve material reuse. Redesigning clothing and a large global company for a more positive environmental impact at the same time aren’t easy tasks. But Kyle Rudzinski, director of sustainability strategy at Levi Strauss & Co., is optimistic. He sat down with John Davies, senior vice president at GreenBiz, to discuss his approach.

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Kyle Rudzinski, director of sustainability strategy at Levi Strauss & Co. on cutting fashion’s emissions

The case for pursuing clean energy through systems thinking

June 22, 2018 by  
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The executive director of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens reflects on how this approach has helped his organization reduce CO2 emissions twice as much and twice as fast as the Paris Agreement.

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The case for pursuing clean energy through systems thinking

A ‘persuasion strategy’ to race to 100 percent renewable energy

August 3, 2017 by  
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This approach helped people in Hawaii agree to a grand renewable energy goal. Now it can help them get there.

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A ‘persuasion strategy’ to race to 100 percent renewable energy

Creating the Humane Economy

February 23, 2017 by  
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Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle shares his approach to “animal protection 2.0,” the role of corporate and consumer in tranforming the lives of animals worldwide, and how this disruption can actually be a driver of business value.

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Creating the Humane Economy

The Elektron is the worlds most compact folding electric bike

August 15, 2016 by  
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Most electric bicycles on the market are heavy and difficult to carry around. But the Elektron from Tern and Bosch is a new kind of e-bike : light, compact, and able to fold up small enough to fit in a car trunk. The Elektron is capable of driving 31-62 miles on a single charge, making it perfect for most daily commutes. It runs on a 400Wh Bosch battery and can fold up in just ten seconds. The bike is engineered to resist extreme temperatures, so it’s usable year-round. Unfortunately, the bike isn’t for sale just yet, but the company plans to open for preorders in October through Kickstarter. They claim this approach will yield valuable public feedback before the product goes to market. + Tern Bicycles Via Acquire  

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The Elektron is the worlds most compact folding electric bike

Domtar’s collaborative approach to sustainable forestry

March 3, 2016 by  
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Sponsored story: Protecting the world’s forests has become a business imperative. That’s why sustainable forestry principles guide this approach.

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Domtar’s collaborative approach to sustainable forestry

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