Sweden passes law to become carbon neutral by 2045

June 22, 2017 by  
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Sweden just took a huge step towards becoming even greener than they already are. A new law passed by the country’s parliament will slash carbon emissions all the way down to zero by 2045. The move makes Sweden the first country to upgrade its carbon goals since the 2015 Paris Agreement . A cross-party committee prepared the law, which then passed with an overwhelming majority, bringing the goal to become carbon neutral from 2050 down to 2045, and puting in place an independent Climate Policy Council. The law calls for an action plan that will be updated every four years. Related: Norway moves up zero emissions target to 2030 According to New Scientist, Sweden already obtains 83 percent of its electricity from hydropower and nuclear energy . They met a goal to obtain 50 percent of energy from renewables eight years before their target. They’ll work to meet this new carbon neutral objective in part by focusing on transportation , such as through increasing use of vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels . Sweden aims to slash domestic emissions by a minimum of 85 percent. And they’ll offset any other emissions by planting trees or investing in sustainable projects in other countries. Femke de Jong, European Union Policy Director at Carbon Market Watch , said Sweden has a high chance of success, and other countries in Europe could follow suit. “With the Trump decision to get out of the Paris Agreement, Europe is more united than ever and wants to show leadership to the world,” de Jong said. Public resistance can be an obstacle to cutting emissions, but according to New Scientist in Sweden there’s an unusually high amount of support for environmentally friendly policies. But de Jong warned the country must also show leadership in forests, not simply emissions. They were recently accused along with France, Finland, and Austria of attempting to weaken rules to obscure emissions from burning wood and deforestation . Via New Scientist Images via Håkan Dahlström on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Sweden passes law to become carbon neutral by 2045

France aims to roll out world’s first autonomous high-speed trains within 7 years

June 16, 2017 by  
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High-speed trains in France could soon be driverless, if the country’s national railway operator SNCF has anything to say about it. They aim to test what they call drone trains in 2019, with the hope the TGV trains could start running around four years after that. SNCF President Guillaume Pepy said if the project is successful, they will be the world’s first operator to run a high-speed autonomous train. Here’s how high-speed autonomous trains would work: sensors would equip the high-speed drone train, which currently travel at up to 320 kmh (200 mph), to run smoothly across tracks in France. The technology would help the trains detect obstacles and brake automatically. The train could also be piloted remotely, although a conductor would still be present at least initially in case of emergency. The onboard drivers would also manage opening and closing of doors. Related: China unveils train that travels on ‘virtual tracks’ SNCF said they’re not working on the technology to reduce their staff. They told French publication FranceInfo there will always be a need for a human onboard. SNCF adjoint director Matthieu Chabanel likened the drone trains to autopilot systems aboard an airplane , telling FranceInfo, “On high-speed, we are aiming for automation in the sense of automatic steering as in aircraft. In aircraft, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system.” Through the drone trains, SNCF hopes to ramp up the frequency and speed of TGV trips, especially around Paris . They think automated trains could increase the number of trips between the country’s capital and Lyon by 25 percent. FranceInfo reported a team of ten people is devoted to the project, and they are collaborating with research institutions and other rail companies like Alstom. The first prototype tests would transport goods, with passengers possibly hopping aboard around 2023. Via The Verge and FranceInfo Images via Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia

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France aims to roll out world’s first autonomous high-speed trains within 7 years

NRG Energy’s VP: Why sustainable innovation makes business sense

June 13, 2017 by  
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Less than a year into his role as vice president of NRG Energy, Bruno Sarda is helping the largest independent power producer in the country transition to sustainable sources of energy. “Part of the evolution to a sustainable energy future is to be at the leading edge of the transition to new technologies,” he said. “We may not invent the next solar cell, but what we’re really good at is bringing proven technology to scale in a commercially economical way.” 

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Bangladesh raises storm danger to highest level as Cyclone Mora batters coastline

May 30, 2017 by  
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Bangladesh was still picking up the pieces after flash floods in April affected millions of people when a cyclone hit. Cyclone Mora just struck the country’s southeastern coast with rain and winds hours ago, and the BBC reports five people have died. Hundreds of homes have been devastated. As Cyclone Mora approached yesterday, the country increased its storm danger signal up to 10, the highest level, with warnings some coastal areas were “likely to inundated by a storm surge of four to five feet” higher than normal. The country’s Disaster Ministry told authorities to evacuate people along the coast. Hours ago the cyclone finally struck and is already damaging a country that grapples with cyclones every year. Related: Aussie surfer designs prefab recycled cyclone-resistant homes Bangladesh is home to around 160 million people, and around 10 million reside in coastal areas. The BBC and Reuters report that one of the areas that’s already been hit the hardest in Bangladesh is Cox’s Bazaar, where hundreds of thousands of refugees reside. Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar came to Bangladesh fleeing violence, but now many of their temporary homes have been destroyed. Community leader Shamsul Alam told Reuters in the Balukhali and Kutupalong camps nearly all the 10,000 thatched huts were flattened. Cyclone Mora started to form after recent monsoon rains which led to landslides and flooding in nearby Sri Lanka . According to authorities around 180 perished as a result. In Sri Lanka, around 75,000 people have had to leave their homes. Reuters described the Sri Lankan floods as the most widespread disaster the country has seen since the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. Bangladeshi weather officials still said the cyclone wasn’t as bad as they anticipated. It’s supposed to weaken and become a tropical storm as it moves towards India, where officials have already warned of heavy rains in five northern states. Via the BBC and Reuters ( 1 , 2 ) Images via SSEC/CIMSS, University of Wisconsin – Madison and screenshot

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Bangladesh raises storm danger to highest level as Cyclone Mora batters coastline

Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

May 22, 2017 by  
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Switzerland just passed a new energy law that promotes renewable energy and bans nuclear power plants. The landmark vote brings the nation closer to meeting its goal of generating 4,400 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable energy by 2020, and 11,400 GWh by 2035. Over the weekend, approximately 42% of the population turned up to vote in the national referendum, which marks the eighth time in recent history Swiss citizens have voted on the issue. Though the Energy Strategy 2050 was approved by Parliament last year, the country’s right wing Swiss People’s Party challenged the reform to the referendum in an attempt prevent the move from taking place. The move to initiate the reform passed easily with a 58.2% vote, however, shutting down any talk of investment in nuclear energy . At a press conference, Swiss Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said “After six years of debate in parliament and at committee level, a new chapter in Switzerland’s energy policy can begin. But there is still a lot of work to do.” Related: Tunnel collapses at America’s most contaminated nuclear waste facility Energy Strategy 2050 mandates that general licenses provided for nuclear power plants (which presently provide 38% of the country’s energy) will no longer be sold, beginning in 2019. Additionally, when existing nuclear power plants reach the end of their lifespan, they will be closed and not replaced. The reform also aims to reduce per capita energy consumption by 16 percent within the next three years, and by 43 percent by 2035. Energy Strategy 2050 intends for electricity consumption to decline by 3 percent in 2020 and 13 percent in 2035. This will be managed by increasing the output of solar , wind, biomass, and geothermal energy. Supporters of the law say that investing in renewables will make Switzerland less dependent on energy imports. At the same time, the country will maintain its highly supply standard. Activists are also celebrating the fact that by phasing out investments in nuclear energy, the environment and future generations will undoubtedly benefit. Via Swiss Info Images via Pixabay

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Switzerland votes to ban nuclear power and invest in renewable energy

Solar prices in India dip below coal

May 19, 2017 by  
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Solar power is soaring in India as prices plummet. A recent auction for 500 megawatts (MW) of capacity at Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan saw a record-low tariff of 2.44 rupees per kilowatt-hour (kWh) – that’s around four cents in dollars. Solar tariffs have fallen by more than 25 percent in the past three months. But this isn’t all good news; some experts worry that as tariffs get so low, many solar projects in India could become unviable. The Government of India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy announced the incredibly low tariff in a May 12 press release , describing the moment as history in the making. The figure beats out coal prices: India’s biggest power company NTPC sells electricity from coal-fired plants at 3.20 rupees per kWh. The country is set to become the world’s third biggest solar market this year as capacity hits 8.8 gigawatts, which is a 76 percent increase over the year before. Consulting firm Ernst & Young said the country has the second best market on Earth for renewable energy investments. Related: India doubles down on solar power with huge park capacity increase But Quartz India said they aren’t all celebrating in the solar sector. The industry is seeing cutthroat competition; around 33 groups participated in an April auction for 750 MW of capacity at Bhadla. Such reverse auction processes – where sellers try to underbid each other for the work – lowers tariffs more. One problem with super low tariffs is at a certain point developers won’t make a profit. Quartz India spoke with Reliance Securities senior analyst Rupesh Sankhe who said if a developer hopes for a return on investment of 14 percent, solar tariffs should be between 4.5 and five rupees per kWh. He told Quartz India if the tariff dips below three rupees per kWh, “the return will be zero. No matter what they do, they won’t make profits.” Some companies may not be taking into account risks like grid curtailment, or times when power-generating units aren’t allowed to send electricity to the grid. And as more renewable energy goes on grid, in line with India’s goals, some companies may not end up making the money they expected. Via Quartz India Images via Wikimedia Commons and Ajay Tallam on Flickr

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Daan Roosegaarde introduces smog-sucking, air-cleaning bikes

May 15, 2017 by  
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Daan Roosegaarde has been touring China with his Smog Free Project , showcasing the Smog Free Tower and encouraging people to find innovative solutions to address air pollution . He’s not out of ideas yet though; he’ll add to his tour with new smog-sucking bicycles . These bikes could work much like his Smog Free Tower does, absorbing dirty air , cleaning it, and pouring it back out as fresh air. Biking in a city polluted by smog isn’t healthy, so people are less inclined to ditch their cars and opt for a bicycle. Roosegaarde envisions an answer to that problem in a bike that can inhale dirty air, clean it, and pump it out around a cyclist. Related: China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower might actually be working In a statement, Roosegaarde said, “ Beijing used to be an iconic bicycle city. We want to bring back the bicycle as a cultural icon of China and as the next step towards smog free cities.” The studio says the concept aligns with growing interest in bike sharing programs in China – like Mobike , which has over a million shareable bicycles in the Beijing area. There’s still a long way to go to slash pollution and traffic in the country’s capital, but the smog-sucking bicycle could offer a creative approach to the problem. The Smog Free Bicycle found its beginnings in a Studio Roosegaarde-hosted workshop at contemporary art museum M Woods in Beijing, featuring Professor Yang of Tsinghua University and artist Matt Hope, who worked on an idea for an air-filtering bike around four years ago . According to Studio Roosegaarde, the new smog-sucking bicycle is “currently in the first stage and is intended to become a medium for smog free cities, generating clean air by pedaling, and creating impact on the larger urban scale.” + Studio Roosegaarde Images via Studio Roosegaarde and Wikimedia Commons

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Daan Roosegaarde introduces smog-sucking, air-cleaning bikes

El Salvador just became the first country to ban metal mining

April 28, 2017 by  
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El Salvador just became the wold’s first country to ban metal mining . In a historic move, the country will no longer allow “prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals.” While the US seems to be moving backwards when it comes to environmental protection, El Salvador has made a landmark step towards protecting its environment from the ravages of metal mining . This law “is necessary in the face of an industry which, far from bringing any benefit to communities, brings serious pollution to water sources and the environment,” said Mauricio Sermeno, president of the Salvadoran Ecological Unit. Lawmakers expect the move to protect not only the environment, but poor rural communities that are often threatened by mining projects. Related: Colombian town turns down $35B gold mine – prefers a clean environment Multiple countries in Latin America are engaged in battles with mining interests. Nicaragua, Peru and Guatemala are fighting against Canadian and US mining firms. Other countries thrive on the money mining brings, but struggle with the toxic and environmental problems caused by it. In banning mining, El Salvador is drawing a line between gold and green. President Salvador Sanchez Ceren signed the bill into law on Thursday. Here’s hoping this inspires other countries to do the same. Via Phys.org Images via Wikimedia and Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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El Salvador just became the first country to ban metal mining

Unique Earth Day Traditions to Start as a Family

April 20, 2017 by  
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When it comes to celebrating Earth Day on April 22, there is no shortage of ways environmentally conscious people choose to honor this day. (Check out the coolest 2017 events around the country here.) When you’re trying to raise young…

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Unique Earth Day Traditions to Start as a Family

Conservation group names America’s most endangered river

April 20, 2017 by  
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The Lower Colorado River is one of the United States’ most vital waterways. Besides providing drinking water to 30 million Americans in cities such as San Diego, Las Vegas, and Tucson, the river also irrigates about 90 percent of the country’s winter-vegetable supply. But it’s in danger of being tapped out, according to American Rivers , an environmental group named it the most “most endangered” river in the nation. The reason is a simple case of demand outpacing supply. Coupled with the trend of intensifying droughts, the Lower Colorado is being depleted faster than it can replenish itself. “The Lower Colorado is the lifeblood of the region and grows food for Americans nationwide, but the river is at a breaking point,” said Matt Rice, Colorado Basin director for American Rivers. “It is critical that the Trump administration and Congress support and fund innovative water management solutions.” Related: The EPA just spilled 1 million gallons of mustard-colored mine waste into a Colorado river Proposed federal cuts , plus Trump’s determination to roll back environmental regulations set by his predecessor, offer no recourse. “Americans must speak up and let their elected officials know that healthy rivers are essential to our families, our communities and our future,” Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers, said. “We must take care of the rivers that take care of us” Other rivers under similar duress include California’s Bear River, Washington’s South Fork Skykomish River, and Alabama’s Mobile Bay Basin. Via U.S.A. Today Photos by Denny Armstrong and Sharon Mollerus

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Conservation group names America’s most endangered river

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