India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

May 20, 2019 by  
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The Indian government has embarked on many large scale renewable energy projects that are predicted to enable the world’s second most populous country to surpass its commitment to cut carbon emissions. According to a recently released report from Moody’s, 45 percent of all energy produced in India will be from non-fossil fuel sources by 2022. This is impressive, considering India only committed to 40 percent non-fossil fuel sources under the international Paris Agreement in 2015. Although coal remains the largest energy source, the aggressive additions of renewable sources will decrease coal’s overall contribution. Moody’s report, “Power Asia – Climate goals, declining costs of renewables signal decreasing reliance on coal power,” focuses on the role of investors in the energy industry as well as predictions for investments. Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 “There is a realization that renewables are quicker, cleaner, cheaper and also strategically in India’s interest because of energy security; it just makes financial sense to invest in renewables,” Sameer Kwatra, from the Natural Resources Defense Council,  said . The Indian government has invested in large scale wind, power and solar projects, including tripling its solar power capacity in three years. Much of the increase in renewable energy has been due to decreased prices in renewable technology and interest from private investors. If battery production and storage capacity also increase, the report expects that renewable energy sector growth could spike. Similarly, banks and private investors are under increased pressure to withdraw investments in fossil fuel companies and pipeline projects. Despite the fact that investments in renewable energy have been higher than fossil fuel investments for three years in a row, the coal industry is still growing steadily alongside the renewable industry, with Indian populations using more electricity annually. India’s success is a considerable achievement for the entire world. After the U.S. and China, India is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases . Via CleanTechnica Image via DoshiJi

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India will surpass Paris Agreement pledges with renewable energy investment

Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

May 20, 2019 by  
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Our quest to save the world by achieving 100 percent renewable energy will unfortunately also be devastating for the environment . An increase in renewable energy means an increase in the need for batteries to power electric cars and store energy from solar panels and wind turbines. However, batteries are made from unsustainably and unethically sourced metals. A new report , released by the University of Technology in Sydney, estimates that the surge in battery production will increase the demand for metals four times above what is currently available in the earth’s existing mines and reserves. The researchers calculated how the demand for “green batteries” will rise if countries meet their Paris Agreement commitments and transition to 100 percent renewable energy and transportation by 2050. Their findings indicate that the demand will exceed the amount of cobalt that is currently available and will consume 86 percent of the earth’s lithium. What metals are needed? Phones, solar panels, wind turbines and the batteries they use to store energy all use a variety of metals. In addition to lithium, batteries use cobalt, manganese and nickel. Solar panels are made from tellurium, gallium, silver and indium. Other renewable devices also use copper and aluminum. Related: Renewable energy surpasses coal for the first time in U.S. history The impact of metal mining Metal mining is largely unsustainable and there is currently no plan for ensuring a clean transition to renewable energy that reforms the mining industry. The following metals are especially problematic and in high demand: Cobalt 60 percent of all cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the mining process causes large scale heavy metal contamination of the air, water and soil. Moreover, the cobalt industry has widely documented human rights abuses, including employing children and forcing workers to mine in highly dangerous circumstances. After extraction in rural areas of the DRC, the raw metal travels to the capitol for processing and is typically transported to China, which refines 40 percent of all cobalt. Chinese companies then sell the refined cobalt to places such as Vietnam, where batteries are produced and then sold all over the world. In addition to the atrocious impacts at the mining site, the entire industry has a massive carbon footprint . Innovators are desperately trying to design a cobalt-free battery. Elon Musk even tweeted a commitment to discovering a new way to produce batteries, hoping to distance Tesla from the environmental and human rights issues tied to the cobalt industry. Such battery technology is not a likely possibility in the near future and the demand for renewable energy will cause a spike in the need to rely on the existing cobalt market at the expense of nature and thousands of lives. Lithium Lithium is largely extracted from South American countries such as Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The mines have contaminated drinking water reserves and cause conflict with local communities. Leaders from 33 indigenous groups sued mine operators over their right to clean water, however, they are up against a powerful industry that charges everything from our TV remotes to our beloved cellphones. Copper A new technology promises a more environmentally friendly strategy for extracting copper from the ground. It involves injecting an acid solution into the land while leaving the surface relatively undisturbed. However, the technology may still contaminate land and ground water. In Alaska , an indigenous group has been fighting a proposed copper mine on the site of a world’s most highly productive sockeye salmon fishery. Despite the importance of this ecosystem , the indigenous leaders have an uphill battle against powerful corporations, rising demand and limited copper reserves. Solutions: The greening of batteries Despite the negative impact of battery materials, experts still argue that the transition to renewable energy is worth it. Energy professor, Charles Barnhart of Western Washington University, told the media: “I want to be clear that when we talk about environmental impacts, we’re not trying to decide between ‘lesser evils,’” the destructive legacy of fossil fuels is incomparable. Although metal mining may never be clean, there are a few ways to improve the problem: Demand transparency from battery and electronics companies If mining operations and electronics companies know that consumers are paying attention to their supply chains, human rights practices and environmental impacts they are more likely to do the right thing. Respect rights of indigenous communities The sovereignty and voices of dissent from local communities must be recognized and supported both legally and financially in places from the DRC to Alaska. Increase energy efficiency The world’s transition to renewable energy seems to be the path forward, however people can still reduce their need for electricity in their every day lives. For example, homes built to make the most of natural light use less electricity during the daytime. Recycle batteries The lithium and cobalt recycling industry will be worth $23 billion by 2025 and will rise with increasing demand. Major companies like Tesla, Apple and Amazon are developing battery recycling programs for their products. Related: A growing number of states are aiming for clean energy Tips on how to recycle your batteries: Single-Use Batteries Identify a collection program or event in your area by calling your town hall or using Earth911’s Recycling Search program. Store batteries in plastic or cardboard containers and cover the ends with tape to prevent energy drain. Rechargeable batteries Identify a collection program. Many home and office supply stores have recycled battery dropboxes. Remove the battery from your electronics and cover the ends with clear tape. Via Earther Images via Shutterstock

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Green batteries? Renewable energy storage will cost nature

Studio NAB proposes rebuilding Notre Dame with a greenhouse and apiary

May 2, 2019 by  
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After a devastating blaze consumed the Cathedral of Notre Dame’s wooden roof and iconic central spire, architects around the world have been putting forth their visionary ideas for rebuilding the Parisian landmark. One such architectural firm is Paris-based Studio NAB , which has made headlines with its proposal to modernize the 13th-century cathedral with a massive educational greenhouse and apiary. Dubbed “In Green For All of Us,” the design builds on the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s hopes that the cathedral rehabilitation be “adapted to issues of our time.” Rather than simply restore the Cathedral of Notre Dame back to its former state, Studio NAB has suggested recreating the original silhouette with new materials. Instead of timber-frame construction, the new roof and spire would be constructed from gold-painted steel with large glass panels. The rooftop greenhouse would be used to provide professional training for the poor and education for the general public on topics of urban agriculture , horticulture and permaculture. “On this fire and in the period of crisis that the country and the world are currently going through, we are lucky to build a place of reference where conservation, enrichment of an exceptional heritage and taking into account societal challenges in ecology and equal opportunities,” the architects explained. “Protecting the living, reintroducing biodiversity , educating consciences and being social, are all symbols, faithful to the values of France and those of the church, that we could defend and promote for this project.” Related: SUPERFARM design envisions an urban vertical farm that is energy self-sufficient Inspired by the nearly 200,000 honeybees that survived the fire on Notre Dame’s lower roof, Studio NAB wants to transform the central spire into a glass-walled apiary with a larger number of hives capable of producing honey for sale. In homage to the roof’s original framework — nicknamed “the forest” after its many ancient timbers — the architects will also reuse salvaged wood as planters and other structures within the greenhouse. + Studio NAB Renderings via Studio NAB; photos via Wikimedia ( 1 ,  2 )

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Studio NAB proposes rebuilding Notre Dame with a greenhouse and apiary

Tibetan antelope are being decimated to produce opulent shahtoosh scarves

May 2, 2019 by  
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Poachers are taking advantage of a fashion trend to turn Tibetan antelope into expensive scarves. It takes four Tibetan antelopes to make the single opulent wrap known as a shahtoosh, and the hunt is decimating the antelope populations. These scarves, once used as dowry items in India, are seeing an increase in demand by Westerners willing to pay upward of $20,000 a piece. Over the past century, conservationists have measured a 90 percent drop in antelope numbers, mostly due to increasing wool demands . Experts believe there was once a million antelope that roamed the Tibetan landscape, but their numbers fell to around 75,000 in the 1990s. Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife According to National Geographic , population numbers started to recover in the 2000s after China enacted tough laws against trading the antelope wool, but the demand for shahtoosh has increased poaching over the past 10 years. Since 2010, border agents in Switzerland have confiscated 295 scarves, which represent the deaths of more than 1,000 Tibetan antelopes. In light of the alarming numbers, officials are asking for other countries to keep a close eye on shahtoosh trafficking with the hope of curbing some of the fashion demand. It takes a trained eye to identify a shahtoosh. The biggest key in properly locating a shahtoosh is looking for antelope guard hairs. These long pieces of hair are difficult to remove in the manufacturing process and are easy to identify under a microscope. Once it is determined that a scarf is a shahtoosh, the owner is fined a few thousand dollars, and the piece of clothing is confiscated. The shahtoosh trade appears to be less of an issue in the United States, at least on the surface. Since 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not confiscated a single shahtoosh, though it is possible that the material has simply flown under the radar. Either way, experts do not believe Tibetan antelopes will be able to make sustained recoveries until the demand for the luxurious scarf is significantly reduced. Via National Geographic Image via McKay Savage and Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Tibetan antelope are being decimated to produce opulent shahtoosh scarves

Fund managers worth $10.2 trillion urge oil firms to align with Paris Agreement goals

May 1, 2019 by  
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A new survey of leading fund managers reveals a large majority want oil majors to adopt Paris Agreement-compliant strategies.

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Fund managers worth $10.2 trillion urge oil firms to align with Paris Agreement goals

5 B corps companies using business to save our oceans

May 1, 2019 by  
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Through fishing, travel, plastic waste and more, humans are having an outsize impact on the health of our oceans’ ecosystems. Can they reverse it?

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5 B corps companies using business to save our oceans

This calculator tracks the carbon emissions of your travels

December 11, 2018 by  
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The global community has become increasingly smaller in recent decades thanks to affordable travel . But just because distance is no longer a major barrier, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a negative side of traveling — the environmental impact. Now, thanks to Mission Emission by Oblik Studio, there is a new “ emission-free travel calculator ” that can calculate the emissions a vehicle will produce when commuting to specific destinations, and it also suggests sustainable, alternative ways to reach your destination. In addition to providing information on the emissions of a specific trip, the calculator will also tell you the carbon footprint of your trip and the damage your trip can cause to you and the environment. Users can find out the amount of time a tree will need to absorb the CO2 emissions from a specified trip. Related: How to use a carbon footprint calculator to maximize energy savings For example, when using the calculator, you will discover that the 120-mile drive from Los Angeles to San Diego in a small car that uses gasoline has a fuel consumption of 23.1 miles per gallon and CO2 emissions of 13.9 ounces per mile. Plus, it takes a tree 2.17 years to absorb the amount of CO2 emitted during the trip. The website comes from the Mission Emission project, which has a goal to raise awareness of the global pollution problem and the environmental impact of travel while helping users learn how to reduce their environmental waste. Recently, concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have reached their highest level in 800,000 years. CO2 emissions rose a startling 60 percent between 1990 and 2014 before leveling off for three years. However, in 2017, they started to rise again. Since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, heads of state and other world leaders have committed to fight climate change through policy. However, individuals still need to do their part in the fight, and the Mission Emission Project is hoping that the travel calculator will help people do just that. + Mission Emission Images via Mission Emission

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This calculator tracks the carbon emissions of your travels

The costs of not following global climate change agreements are already compounding

December 6, 2018 by  
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The next two years are critical for the Paris climate deal’s survival. Here’s why.

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The costs of not following global climate change agreements are already compounding

Cities around the world lay the groundwork for a zero-waste future

September 18, 2018 by  
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Cities around the world are pledging to reduce waste over the next 12 years in an effort to curb global warming and eventually become zero-waste cities. During the Global Climate Action Summit, the C40 announced a new initiative that encourages cities to eliminate waste production and end the practice of waste burning. So far, 23 cities have agreed to become zero-waste and will work toward that goal by “reducing the amount of municipal solid waste disposed to landfill and incineration by at least 50 percent … and increase the diversion rate away from landfill and incineration to at least 70 percent by 2030,” according to C40 . Each city has agreed to cut down on waste that ends up in landfills by at least half over the next decade. The cities — which include San Francisco, Catalonia, Auckland, Dubai, Copenhagen, London , Montreal, New York City , Milan, Rotterdam, Sydney, Paris , Tokyo, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Washington D.C. and Vancouver — also pledged to reduce waste generation by 15 percent and encourage alternative waste management practices by 2030. Related: 19 mayors, thousands of buildings, zero carbon emissions by 2030 Reducing the amount of waste disposal and incineration is an important step in fighting global warming. Scientists believe that the new initiative could cut global carbon emissions by around 20 percent as cities begin to recycle and compost waste instead of dumping it into landfills or burning it. The 23 cities who signed the zero-waste declarations hope that they will lead by example and encourage other municipalities to do the same. The EPA says that incinerators and landfills significantly increase the amount of greenhouse gases around the globe. These practices also encourage companies to acquire new resources and materials, leading to an endless cycle of waste disposal. In addition to cutting down on waste, increasing recycling and reusing materials also contributes to a better economy. Instead of wasting old materials, recycling and reusing keeps the items in the system for longer periods. This reduces the need to purchase new materials and manage waste. + C40 Image via Patrick Tomasso

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Cities around the world lay the groundwork for a zero-waste future

We love electric scooters but is the Bird trend actually bad for the environment?

September 18, 2018 by  
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The debut of electric scooter programs in cities such as Austin, Washington D.C. and San Diego has been making headlines with promises of cleaner air , but is this really the case? Between LimeBike, Waybots, Spin and Bird, which has been newly introduced to the Los Angeles area, there is a plethora of companies jumping on the trend of promoting eco-friendly scooters to city planners and residents. With public transportation methods significantly improving in environmental efficiency — and the majority of distances traveled by scooter being walkable distances — the carbon footprint might not be as small as scooter-share programs are claiming. “Today, 40 percent of car trips are less than two miles long,” said Travis VanderZanden , founder and chief executive of Bird. “Our goal is to replace as many of those trips as possible, so we can get cars off the road and curb traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.” The scooters are the latest trend to enter the app-based mobility market, which has passengers whimsically racing through city streets at a $1 rental price, plus 15 cents for every minute after. Related: Paris launches electric scooter sharing program with Coup and Gogoro While Bird is assuming that half of its scooter rides are replacing mile-long car trips, Phil Lasley, who has been studying traffic, bicycle and pedestrian issues for the Texas A&M Transportation Institute said , “We honestly don’t know yet.” According to his evaluations, it is possible that the scooters are replacing short drives but with quantities still uncertain. He said there are many other aspects to consider. “Are these trips taking away from other bicycle trips? Are they taking away from transit? Are they taking away from walking?” Lasley asked. For instance, a mile-long trip to the office means that the 15-mph vehicle would charge for a minimum of 4 minutes plus extra for time in traffic. This exceeds the average public transportation fares for cities such as Austin and L.A., where the average full-fare ticket only costs $1.25 to $1.50 and can get you a lot farther. City bike-share programs are available at comparable rates to those of public transportation, as seen with L.A.’s new bicycle advertising campaign . The green transit platform is promoting the city’s carbon-free single rides at the same cost as a bus or metro ticket, while daily users of a monthly plan are seeing fractions of a dollar for their commute cycles. It goes without saying that owners of bikes, non-motorized scooters and skateboards are at a monetary and ecological advantage in comparison to those using electric scooters. Related: Gogoro revs up Smartscooter expansion with $300 million in new funding From an economic standpoint, Bird and LimeBike rides might be behind compared to alternatives such as buses, trains and bikes. But according to a Bird press release on its Austin launch, “Riders were able to prevent 445,334 pounds of carbon emissions.” LimeBike similarly claimed an estimated 8,500-pound reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in Austin in just two weeks. “With the launch of Lime-S, we are expanding the range of affordable, space-efficient and environmentally friendly mobility options available to D.C. residents,” said Jason Starr, a LimeBike executive for the company’s Washington D.C. division, back in March. With competing green vehicles focusing on both affordability and environmental friendliness, many people are looking to “space-efficien[cy]” to account for the hype of electric scooters. The space efficiency feature makes electric scooters fun to ride and easy to park anywhere, but it also means that chargers are driving long distances to pick up the scooters one by one. Each morning, electric scooters are dropped off en-mass at various hubs throughout the city. From there, riders can take the vehicles and drop them off wherever they wish within the city. Scooters now litter random sidewalks, storefronts and restaurant walkways — rarely in a collective group. At night they are “captured” (in the case of Birds) by the company’s chargers, who are individual citizens signed up to make money by collecting, powering and redistributing the scooters to the hubs each morning. Each scooter has a price tag on it, with those more difficult to collect scoring the charger a higher paycheck. The higher valuations on the remote scooters means that chargers are likely to drive farther to and from the stranded scooters, consuming more gas and emitting more carbon dioxide in the process. Similarly, morning commuters who wake up to find an empty dropping pad might eagerly run back to their reliable, personal vehicles instead of public transportation, because they are in a time-crunch. Whether these factors are being taken into account by the companies in their statistics is unclear. Related: Lyft is making all their rides carbon neutral Their popularity is as much their undoing as it is their achievement according to Haje Jan Kamps, portfolio director at venture capital firm Bolt. The entrepreneur recently published a piece on TechCrunch about the business models e-scooter companies would need to adopt in order to succeed. “They are currently in a massive scaling mode and so the only concern they have, really, is to get as many scooters on the roads as possible and as many rides as possible for each individual scooter,” Hamps said. “There is a real risk that some of the things like reusability or recyclability might be first on the chopping block.” The scooters are estimated to have a two-year life span , meaning they could end up in landfills at the end of their short life-cycle. This is something that Lasley agreed with. “It appears that these services are being heavily used,” he said, adding that the more popular they become, the more waste they will create. While we want to love the fun idea of electric scooters , it is clear that some things need to be improved. For these new companies, a learning and improvement process is to be expected. We are eager to see where these companies are headed in terms of creating a more eco-friendly product. Via Austin Monitor , The Washington Post ( 1 , 2 ) and  Chester Energy and Policy Images via Elvert Barnes ( 1 , 2 ), Luis Tamayo and Tim Evanson

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We love electric scooters but is the Bird trend actually bad for the environment?

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