Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes

September 16, 2020 by  
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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes Myisha Majumder Wed, 09/16/2020 – 01:30 Skyven Technologies, founded in 2013, is a company with a unique proposition for companies in the industrial sector — a way to save money through decarbonizing. Skyven CEO Arun Gupta said the idea came when he applied the thinking behind his Ph.D. dissertation in microelectronics to an entirely different field: climate change. “I was able to figure out how to apply the technological concepts of the work that I was doing for Texas Instruments for a partial solution for climate change, and that inspired me to start working on is basically a technology that captures heat from the sun and uses that heat to reduce fuel consumption,” he said. The component of the industry sector emissions Skyven seeks to decarbonize is process heat — such as the creation of steam — which accounts for a large component of the emissions from the industry sector. In order to manufacture products, companies in the industry sector must burn fuel, typically natural gas, to create heat. Technologies such as geothermal, biomass and solar, which Skyven initially focused on, can provide an alternative to natural gas to generate heat for industrial processes. This is particularly relevant in the sectors Skyven works in: the food and beverage manufacturing industry; pulp and paper; chemicals; pharmaceutical manufacturing; textiles; and primary metals and lumbers. Rather than trying to fit one technology or one solution into every plant, we found that the plants are all unique and they have unique needs. In 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the three largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions were transportation (28 percent), electricity (27 percent), and industry (22 percent). Even with decarbonizing the electric and transportation sector, to reach long-term goals of the Paris Agreement, the United States would need an 80 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide emissions by 2050. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions found five core imperatives to reaching climate neutrality, including electrifying or switching to low-carbon fuels in the industry sector. While providing an alternative using solar technology was the original technological goal for Skyven, the company has evolved significantly, adapting to the individual needs of different companies in the industrial sector, Gupta said. Rather than focusing solely on deploying the company’s initial in-house solar technology, Skyven transformed quickly into a company offering a multipronged approach for decarbonizing the industrial sector. “The need for decarbonization in the industrial sector spans far beyond solar. Rather than trying to fit one technology or one solution into every plant, we found that the plants are all unique and they have unique needs,” Gupta said. “It makes a lot more sense to meet those unique needs with unique solutions.” Typically, in order to determine these needs and gauge applicable solutions, Skyven employs a four-step procedure: initial plant analysis; addressing and mitigating concerns about potential solutions; deployment and implementation of solution; and operations and maintenance (O&M). This highly customizable procedure allows Skyven to determine the best fit solution company-to-company, and within that company, plant-to-plant, rather than deploying a general technology. As part of this process, Skyven’s team completes a thorough initial analysis using its custom platform, asking the customer specific questions and collecting data about where in the plant thermal energy is consumed. From there, Skyven identifies where there are opportunities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reduce fuel consumption and save money. Interacting with the customer is especially important for the manufacturing industry, where production is profit, Gupta said. Using that analysis, Skyven implements the technologies best suited for the plant, which can include Skyven’s solar technology, but does not always. Because of this, Skyven frequently partners with other startups and technology manufacturers. When the new system is in place, Skyven hires a third-party maintenance contractor with extensive experience with industrial hardware. Typically, Skyven pays for everything involved in the process — from initial analysis to equipment and to O&M, Gupta said. The only cost to the customer is a newly lowered fuel cost amount, he said. These payments cover more cost-efficient and sustainable thermal energy at a cost that is less than the customer otherwise would have paid for fossil fuel, according to the company. While Gupta did not communicate the names of Skyven’s current customers, citing sensitivity around publicly disclosing information about manufacturers, he discussed recent press coverage around the Copses Dairy Farms in New York state.

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Startup tackles decarbonizing industrial heat processes

Mealworms can serve as protein source, research says

September 10, 2020 by  
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A new study published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed has revealed that yellow mealworms can serve as an alternative protein source for animals and, possibly, humans. The study comes at a time when global food demands keep rising. Spontaneous population growth in developing countries has led to a shortage of protein sources, prompting researchers to look for alternative options. The new research, conducted by Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), proposes yellow mealworms as a food source. Christine Picard, associate professor of biology and the director of the Forensic Investigative Sciences Program at IUPUI School of Science, led the research. The study focused on analyzing the genome of a mealworm species known as tenebrio molitor. “Human populations are continuing to increase, and the stress on protein production is increasing at an unsustainable rate, not even considering climate change ,” Picard said. Findings explain that the yellow mealworm can offer several agricultural benefits. Fish and domestic birds can use the worms as an alternative source of protein. The worms can also help produce organic fertilizer, with their nutrient-rich waste. The mealworm genome research employed a 10X Chromium linked-read technology. Researchers now say that this information is available for use by those seeking to utilize DNA to optimize mealworms for mass production. According to Picard, IUPUI’s research has dealt with the challenging part, opening doors for interested stakeholders. “ Insect genomes are challenging, and the longer sequence of DNA you can generate, the better genome you can assemble. Mealworms, being insects, are a part of the natural diet of many organisms,” Picard said. Since fish enjoy mealworms as food , the researchers propose adopting these worms for fish farming. Researchers also say that pet food industries can use the worms as a supplemental protein source. In the future, mealworms could also serve as food for humans. “Fish enjoy mealworms, for example. They could also be really useful in the pet food industry as an alternative protein source, chickens like insects — and maybe one day humans, too, because it’s an alternative source of protein,” Picard said. To facilitate the yellow mealworm’s commercialization, the IUPUI team continues researching the worm’s biological processes. + Journal of Insects as Food and Feed Via Newswise Image via Pixabay

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Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year

September 10, 2020 by  
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Over 2 million acres of land have burned in California this year alone, according to the U.S Forest Service. Unfortunately, fires are still breaking out and more destruction is expected. The state is bracing for the worst as summer comes to an end. Normally, the period preceding fall is the most dangerous in terms of fire outbreaks, and California has already witnessed more acres burned so far this year than ever recorded in a similar period. Currently, two of the state’s largest fires in history are still underway in the San Francisco Bay Area. More than 14,000 firefighters are deployed to handle these fires and others around the state. During the Labor Day weekend, a three-day heatwave aggravated the situation. Triple-digit temperatures and dry winds are making it hard for firefighters to control the flames. Related: Redwoods, condor sanctuary are damaged in California wildfires The continued increase in temperatures and forest fires is affecting services for the residents of the state. Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest utility company in the state, said it might cut power to 158,000 customers this week. According to the company, this move would be taken to reduce the risk of its powerlines and other equipment starting more wildfires . According to Randy Moore, regional forester for the U.S Forest Service in the Pacific Southwest Region, the state will close all eight national forests in southern California to prevent further damage. He said that the closures will be re-evaluated each day, based on the available risks. The service is monitoring daily temperatures and other weather aspects that are likely to lead to fire outbreaks. This decision consequently means that all campgrounds within national forests remain closed. “The wildfire situation throughout California is dangerous and must be taken seriously,” Moore said. “Existing fires are displaying extreme fire behavior, new fire starts are likely, weather conditions are worsening, and we simply do not have enough resources to fully fight and contain every fire.” Via Huffington Post Image via Steve Nelson / Bureau of Land Management

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Wildfires have burned 2.3M acres across California this year

30 new marine species found in Galapagos’ deep seas

September 9, 2020 by  
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The  Galapagos  Islands are famous for several endemic species that evolved to fit the exact niche required to live on rocky islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Now, marine scientists have found 30 new species deep beneath the ocean’s surface around the Galapagos.  Using cutting-edge remote operated vehicles (ROV), expedition crews from the  Charles Darwin Foundation , the  Galapagos National Park Directorate and the  Ocean Exploration Trust  explored seamounts as far down as 3,400 meters. Seamounts are extinct underwater  mountains  entirely covered by seawater. Until now, the Galapagos seamounts were largely unexplored. Related: Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years The 30 newly identified species include 10 bamboo corals, 11 sponges, four squat lobsters and a brittle star. Scientists also found four new octocorals. Commonly known as sea fans, octocorals are polyp-bearing  corals . One of the four new octocorals is the first giant solitary soft coral found in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. These new research findings come from a 10-day cruise on the 64-meter research vessel the E/V Nautilus. Scientists manipulated arms on the ship’s two ROVs to collect biological and geological specimens. After the expedition, the team sent these samples to deep-sea experts for identification and analysis. “The many discoveries made on this expedition showcase the importance of deep-sea exploration to developing an understanding of our oceans and the power of telepresence to build a diverse team of experts,” Dr. Nicole Raineault, chief scientist of the Ocean Exploration Trust, said in a press release. “Since we never know what we’re going to find, we utilize land-based scientists who watch the ROV dives from home and communicate directly with the shipboard team in real time, to help determine what is truly new and worthy of further investigation or sampling. Scientists studying the resulting video, data, and specimens make an astonishing number of discoveries, reminding us how little we know about the deep  sea .” The new deep-sea dwelling creatures will never become as familiar to visitors as more visible endemic species, such as the Galapagos penguin, giant  tortoises and marine iguanas. Still, these species hint at the many mysteries dwelling in Earth’s oceans. + Charles Darwin Foundation Via EcoWatch Images via Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live and Pexels

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30 new marine species found in Galapagos’ deep seas

30 new marine species found in Galapagos’ deep seas

September 9, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

The  Galapagos  Islands are famous for several endemic species that evolved to fit the exact niche required to live on rocky islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. Now, marine scientists have found 30 new species deep beneath the ocean’s surface around the Galapagos.  Using cutting-edge remote operated vehicles (ROV), expedition crews from the  Charles Darwin Foundation , the  Galapagos National Park Directorate and the  Ocean Exploration Trust  explored seamounts as far down as 3,400 meters. Seamounts are extinct underwater  mountains  entirely covered by seawater. Until now, the Galapagos seamounts were largely unexplored. Related: Iguanas reintroduced to island after 200 years The 30 newly identified species include 10 bamboo corals, 11 sponges, four squat lobsters and a brittle star. Scientists also found four new octocorals. Commonly known as sea fans, octocorals are polyp-bearing  corals . One of the four new octocorals is the first giant solitary soft coral found in the Tropical Eastern Pacific. These new research findings come from a 10-day cruise on the 64-meter research vessel the E/V Nautilus. Scientists manipulated arms on the ship’s two ROVs to collect biological and geological specimens. After the expedition, the team sent these samples to deep-sea experts for identification and analysis. “The many discoveries made on this expedition showcase the importance of deep-sea exploration to developing an understanding of our oceans and the power of telepresence to build a diverse team of experts,” Dr. Nicole Raineault, chief scientist of the Ocean Exploration Trust, said in a press release. “Since we never know what we’re going to find, we utilize land-based scientists who watch the ROV dives from home and communicate directly with the shipboard team in real time, to help determine what is truly new and worthy of further investigation or sampling. Scientists studying the resulting video, data, and specimens make an astonishing number of discoveries, reminding us how little we know about the deep  sea .” The new deep-sea dwelling creatures will never become as familiar to visitors as more visible endemic species, such as the Galapagos penguin, giant  tortoises and marine iguanas. Still, these species hint at the many mysteries dwelling in Earth’s oceans. + Charles Darwin Foundation Via EcoWatch Images via Ocean Exploration Trust/Nautilus Live and Pexels

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30 new marine species found in Galapagos’ deep seas

Financial models that will get you that on-site microgrid

September 4, 2020 by  
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Financial models that will get you that on-site microgrid Sarah Golden Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:30 I’ve written about my high hopes for microgrids and my disappointment at the speed of deployment (due in part to COVID-related slowdowns that stalled construction).  But don’t be confused. Like a swimming duck, a lot has been happening with microgrids under the surface. New third-party financing options for microgrids in which the energy offtaker does not own or maintain the asset — known as energy-as-a-service (EaaS) or microgrids-as-a-service (MaaS) — are making microgrids accessible to small businesses with small energy loads, according to a new report from Wood Mackenzie . While not a new structure (EaaS has been around for the better part of a decade), the research shows the market is maturing. Increasingly, financers are investing in small-scale microgrids that are less than 5 megawatts, a size better suited for on-site power generation for, say, medium to large commercial buildings or a mid-sized industrial facility.  This is kind of a big deal, as financial innovations are as important as technological innovations for clean energy technologies to proliferate. Solar is the classic example; it took off once people could get it without upfront costs.  Here are three forces that, together, finally could get you that microgrid you’ve been eyeing.  1. Microgrid portfolios are opening up new financing models Once upon a time, microgrids were bespoke and built on a project-by-project basis. That required legwork by financers to assess the technology risk and business models, which only made sense if the projects were bigger — say, 10-20 MW minimum.  Increasingly, microgrid service providers are selling a portfolio of microgrids — that is, deploying multiple microgrids with similar (if not identical) components at different locations. The homogenization of the microgrid technologies allows investors to streamline due diligence and finance the portfolio in aggregate. Examples include projects at Stop & Shop , which recently announced it will install microgrids at 40 of its grocery stores in Massachusetts using Bloom Energy fuel cells, and H-E-B , which plans to install microgrids at 45 locations in Texas through Enchanted Rock . We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally. “The financer is basically betting that that set of controls and that technology is the same or similar across the portfolio, so they’re able to quantify and manage technology risk,” said Isaac Maze-Rothstein, microgrid analyst at Wood Mackenzie and author of the report, in a phone conversation. Just as beneficial to financers, providers can replicate their microgrid-as-a-service business model for different customers, as Enchanted Rock has done in Texas.  “For the financer, they’re evaluating a single business model across a portfolio of diverse customers,” Maze Rothstein said.  2. Standardization is driving down costs — and increasing investors’ appetite The predictability of the microgrid technologies in a portfolio makes them cheaper to site and install. While bespoke microgrids required on-site construction, the modular microgrids are essentially prefab, ready to be installed when they arrive on site.  As a result, the distributed energy resources (be they renewable, energy storage or fossil-based) are becoming the lion’s share of the capital costs for microgrids. The cost of renewable technologies has fallen precipitously in the last decade and is expected to get cheaper.  The aggregated portfolio of microgrids and lower costs are piquing investors’ interest — and not just the usual suspects, such as utilities.  “You also have infrastructure investors who have historically focused on oil and gas and midstream investments who are looking for above-market returns with the reliability of an infrastructure investment,” Maze-Rothstein said. Because the mass potential size of the new market (companies that want energy reliability, need less than 5 MW and don’t want to pay upfront costs), microgrid supermajors are partnering with investors to roll out projects. Earlier this month, for example, Schneider Electric announced a partnership with Huck Capital to serve commercial buildings. 3. Energy resilience is driving more customers to microgrid as a service model  No PR campaign could have better educated companies on the need for energy resilience than recent extreme weather events. From floods to hurricanes and wildfires, businesses are starting to understand the cost of inaction.  Enter MaaS, which promises resilience without upfront or ongoing costs, a much cheaper option than buying or renting backup generators or interrupting operations. In addition, on-site microgrids can save customers money on electric bills.  “We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally,” Maze-Rothstein said. “Many people, if you’ve lived in California in particular and you’ve had regular power outages of various types, you start looking at resilience options.”  A study from Rocky Mountain Institute shows that businesses affected by last year’s planned power shutoffs in California would have saved money if they had bought solar plus storage outright. With microgrid-as-a-service, customers can get the resilience benefits and not even fork over the cash.  And as more companies hear about these financing options through press releases and news articles (hi!), the more common they will become.  This is in contrast to microgrids owned by the offtaker (such as utilities), which are more often driven by economics and renewable integration.  Pull Quote We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally. Topics Energy & Climate Microgrids Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An aerial view of an Enchanted Rock microgrid site. Courtesy of Enchanted Rock Close Authorship

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The U.S. Plastics Pact launches new initiative to redesign the plastics value chain at Circularity 20

September 2, 2020 by  
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The U.S. Plastics Pact launches new initiative to redesign the plastics value chain at Circularity 20 Holly Secon Wed, 09/02/2020 – 00:45 The U.S. recycling market has been in free fall since 2018, when China, Malaysia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries announced that they would no longer import many types of recyclable material scraps. Of course, the U.S. recycling system had been a mess for far longer — seeing as the country never fully developed the infrastructure to recycle anywhere near the amount of plastic waste it produces. Indeed, only 8.4 percent of all the plastic produced in 2017 eventually got recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency .  But a new agreement announced last week at Circularity 20, GreenBiz Group’s virtual conference on the circular economy, has the potential to change that: The U.S. Plastics Pact. This new initiative is a collaborative project launched by the Recycling Partnership and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that aims to redesign the way the United States uses plastics so that they don’t become waste in the first place. The effort is part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network: The think tank has helped organize key public and private stakeholders to push towards a circular economy for plastic in countries around the world, from the United Kingdom to Chile to South Africa. Redesigning the way we use one of the most ubiquitous and convenient materials on the planet won’t be easy. But the initiative is setting distinct targets and deadlines for meeting them. Shooting for 2025, its main goals are: Make sure all plastic packaging is 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable  Take action to ensure that 50 percent of plastic packaging is recycled or composted Have the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging be 30 percent The U.S. Plastics Pact has gathered more than 60 prominent partners, which will provide research and funding. They include local governments from Arizona to Texas to California; NGOs such as the Ocean Conservancy and The United States Composting Council; and companies ranging from Eastman to Target. All of these stakeholders have to agree to work in a pre-competitive environment towards the Pact’s targets. So what will this new collaboration look like? Stephanie Kersten-Johnston, director of innovation at the Recycling Partnership, told GreenBiz that she expects it to be not just a network, but “a network on fire” — with all partners engaged to take the most effective action and make the most impact on the targets. In some ways it’s a support group for organizations to meet these targets, but we can’t just expect some representatives talking — we need the full value chain in there acting. “In some ways it’s a support group for organizations to meet these targets, but we can’t just expect some representatives talking — we need the full value chain in there acting,” she added. A recycling facility for PET bottles, which can be transformed to make new products including carpeting and sneakers. Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship Alba_alioth Close Authorship Hitting the target: How the U.S. Plastics Pact aims to achieve its ambitious goals 2025 isn’t too far off, so the U.S. Plastics Pact is getting started right away, according to Kersten-Johnston. In the first six months to one year, developing a roadmap will be the top priority for the project. “So we set these targets, these aspirations — but what are the practical steps we need to get there?” she said. “In the first year, this will look like network meetings,” she explained. “In practice, groups [of partner organizations] will be convening that will be called ‘workstreams.’ They focus on smaller, specific topics that can’t be solved by a singular organization … where the work is done, where the research is undertaken, and the formulation of the practical steps will take place.” For example, workstreams include deciding on the data that will be used. “How do we agree to tight definitions that we haven’t agreed on before?” Kersten-Johnston added. “What does that look like in the U.S. in practice? What cadence are we measuring on? What data sources will we be using?” If certain types of plastic are too hard to recycle or reuse, meaning they don’t have an end-of-life, they can’t have any place in a circular economy for plastics. Another workstream will decide which plastic materials are too problematic and unnecessary, and need simply to be eliminated from production. If certain types of plastic are too hard to recycle or reuse, meaning they don’t have an end of life, they can’t have any place in a circular economy for plastics.  After that, the organizations along the plastics value chain — from chemical companies to product designers to plastic recycling facilities and municipalities to materials recovery groups — will rework their operations in line with the targets.  That’s where the power of having corporate partners from several sectors comes in. Large companies and governments have been saying for years that they want to work to eliminate single-use plastics. In the past few years, there have been a flurry of plastics-related commitments. McDonald’s , for example, set a commitment in 2018 that its 36,000 restaurants would use only packaging from renewable, recycled or certified sustainable sources by 2025. Coca-Cola also announced it would help collect and recycle “the equivalent” of 100 percent of its packaging and make bottles with an average of 50 percent recycled content by 2030. Nestle , Disney , Starbucks , IKEA and others also have pledged to cut down on single-use plastics over that time. For all these companies, working together to make a better plastics value chain, from producing more recyclable plastics to creating more chemical recycling facilities, will enable them to meet both their targets and the targets of the entire U.S. Plastics Pact more easily. “We can start to address the plastic waste issue by taking fast and transformative action at every point in the plastic cycle,” said Viviana Alvarez, head of sustainability, North America, at Unilever, in a statement. “Recycling alone can’t solve the circular economy, but the circular economy can help solve the problem on waste and recycling. Keeping plastic in the economy and out of the environment will require everyone to work together — whether that’s product designers, governments, consumers or the waste management industry.” A history of the Global Plastics Pact The Ellen MacArthur Foundation first created its Global Plastic Pact as part of its New Plastics Economy Global Commitment in 2016. The circular economy powerhouse got over 20 percent of all global plastic packaging companies to pledge to address plastic waste and pollution at its source. (In total, more than 450 organizations have joined their global pacts around the world, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.) These Global Plastics Pact are networks of plastic waste initiatives in different countries, which the Ellen MacArthur Foundation organizes.  They include the UK Plastics Pact , the Pacte National sur les emballages plastiques in France, Circula El Plástico in Chile, the Plastic Pact NL  (Dutch) in the Netherlands, the South African Plastics Pact , and the Pacto Português para os Plásticos  (Portuguese) in Portugal. Each country’s goals are slightly different, based on the infrastructure of the location, and the U.S. is the latest initiative. “There was an unspoken question in the U.S. about how we were going to meet these targets, particularly how we were going to achieve particularly closing the gaps between supply and demand so everyone viewed it as a topic that needed to be tackled but it was never addressed,” Kersten-Johnston described. So the Recycling Partnership stepped up to meet the massive opportunity in the U.S.: transforming the waste management system of the biggest economy in the world to foster sustainability on a massive scale. Pull Quote In some ways it’s a support group for organizations to meet these targets, but we can’t just expect some representatives talking — we need the full value chain in there acting. If certain types of plastic are too hard to recycle or reuse, meaning they don’t have an end-of-life, they can’t have any place in a circular economy for plastics. Topics Circular Economy Waste Management Plastic Plastic Waste Circularity 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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The U.S. Plastics Pact launches new initiative to redesign the plastics value chain at Circularity 20

Cod are disappearing due to global warming

August 12, 2020 by  
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Cod lovers might have to change their preferences soon. According to new research published in the  Journal of Applied Ecology , global warming may cause a decline in cod populations. Cod thrive in cool water, and global warming pushes the species to the brink of extinction. A group of scientists from the University of Bristol and the University of Exter, in collaboration with the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquatic Science (Cefas) conducted this research. The researchers used computer models to predict how fish populations may change by 2090.  Research now indicates that cod may need to be replaced by species more resistant to climate change . Cod serves as a favorite for fish and chips, but as cod populations decline, new species may need to step up. Species such as the red mullet, John Dory, and lemon sole rank as possible candidates to replace cod on menus. These species thrive in warm water and are starting to appear more frequently in catches, in contrast to decreasing numbers of cod. “Our results show that climate change will continue to affect fish stocks within this sea region into the future, presenting both potential risks but some opportunities that fishers will likely have to adapt to. Consumers can help fishers take advantage of these fishing opportunities by seeking out other fish species to eat and enjoy,” Dr. Katherine Maltby, marine climate change scientist at Cefas and the study’s lead author, said. Earlier research from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory warned that larger North Sea fish populations may fall by up to 60%. This decline comes alongside reports of the North Sea heating at a rate double that of average world oceans . Last year, the North Sea hit a new record of heating by 1.67 degrees Celsius over the past 45 years.  Reducing global warming’s impacts on the fish in these waters will require new fish management techniques. As Louise Rutterford, co-author of the Cefas study and a postgraduate researcher at the University of Exeter, explained, “We know from working with fishers that warmer water species are appearing in catches more. Bringing together their ‘on-the-ground’ experiences with studies like ours will help inform future management decisions that enable sustainable exploitation while supporting fishers’ adaptation.” + Journal of Applied Ecology Via Independent and The Ecologist Image via Per Harald Olsen

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Sustainable fleets are at an inflection point

August 12, 2020 by  
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Sustainable fleets are at an inflection point Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 08/12/2020 – 00:15 Companies and cities are increasingly adopting lower-carbon fleets — including trucks and buses that run off electricity, renewable diesel and renewable natural gas — according to a new report from the research team at Gladstein, Neandross and Associates (GNA).  It’s still early days for many of these markets, and sustainability goals remain one of the top drivers for fleets to buy these vehicles. But the metrics that fleet managers care about —  total cost of ownership  — are becoming more competitive for these lower-carbon vehicles, the GNA report found. I read the analysis, which also covers diesel efficiency, natural gas and propane, and picked out these points that I thought were particularly interesting: Renewable diesel is winning fans:  Fleet managers report satisfaction with the performance of renewable diesel, which can be dropped into diesel trucks and buses and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65 percent. The amount of renewable diesel used in California tripled between 2015 to 2019 to 620 million gallons. However, fleet managers say the market is constrained by supply outside of California and Oregon. Diesel still dominates:  GNA predicts diesel vehicles will continue to dominate fleets for at least a decade, especially in heavy-duty applications such as long-haul trucking. Thus efficiency tools — such as aerodynamic packages, anti-idling and driver education — are still important. Natural gas trucks are big but slowing:  There are already 53,000 registered natural gas vehicles in the U.S., and 85 percent are used for heavy-duty applications such as garbage collection, transit and utility trucks. But natural gas trucks only reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel trucks by 11 percent, and regulators such as the California Air Resources Board have pushed the state’s fleets to adopt zero-emission vehicle options, such as electric. Renewable natural gas is growing fast:  Renewable natural gas (RNG) can lower greenhouse gas emissions from fleets compared to diesel by between 60 and 300 percent depending on the source (yes, that’s carbon negative). Between 2015 and 2018, the consumption of renewable natural gas by natural gas fleets grew by 475 percent, and in 2019 in California, 80 percent of the natural gas used for transportation was renewable. But RNG constraints are real:  Because the costs are high to capture and process renewable natural gas, the market essentially has been created by California’s low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). States that want to create a similar market need to create their own LCFS. Don’t overlook propane:  Propane is being used to power school buses that carry 1.2 million students in the U.S., although propane only reduces greenhouse gas emissions over diesel by 20 percent. The industry has been developing renewable propane, which is really only available in California. Electric trucks are moving forward:  Thanks to big commitments by companies such as Amazon, FedEx and PepsiCo, U.S. deliveries and deployment of electric trucks are supposed to double between 2021 and 2022. Today, more than 20 automakers produce over 90 electric truck and bus models. But EV infrastructure challenges remain: Early market challenges include expensive upfront costs for vehicles, complicated and a lack of charging infrastructure and limited range. Fleets also can face both higher or lower costs of electricity in comparison to diesel, so most need to work with partners and use smart charging tools to make sure they’re charging during low cost times of day. I’ll be highlighting zero- and low-carbon fleets during our upcoming VERGE 20 (virtual) conference , which will run the entire last week in October (Oct. 26-30). This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A UPS compressed natural gas fueling station fills up a UPS natural gas-powered truck. Courtesy of UPS Close Authorship

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Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable

August 10, 2020 by  
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Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable Stephanie Hanes Mon, 08/10/2020 – 00:15 This story originally appeared in Mongabay and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. In the latter part of 2016, Ethan Steinberg and two of his friends planned a driving tour across the United States to interview farmers. Their goal was to solve a riddle that had been bothering each of them for some time. Why was it, they wondered, that American agriculture basically ignored trees? This was no esoteric inquiry. According to a growing body of scientific research, incorporating trees into farmland benefits everything from soil health to crop production to the climate. Steinberg and his friends, Jeremy Kaufman and Harrison Greene, also suspected it might yield something else: money. “We had noticed there was a lot of discussion and movement of capital into holistic grazing, no till, cover cropping,” Steinberg recalls, referencing some land- and climate-friendly agricultural practices that have been garnering environmental and business attention recently. “We thought, what about trees? That’s when a lightbulb went off.” The trio created Propagate Ventures , a company that offers farmers software-based economic analysis, on-the-ground project management and investor financing to help add trees and tree crops to agricultural models. One of Propagate’s key goals, Steinberg explained, was to get capital from interested investors to the farmers who need it — something he saw as a longtime barrier to such tree-based agriculture. Propagate quickly started attracting attention. Over the past two years, the group, based in New York and Colorado, has expanded into eight states, primarily in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. It is working with 20 farms. In late May, it announced that it had received $1.5 million in seed funding from Boston-based Neglected Climate Opportunities, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust. Fruit nut alley cropping in New York. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Propagate Ventures Close Authorship “My hope is that they can help farmers diversify their production systems and sequester carbon,” says Eric Smith, investment officer for the trust. “In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry.” For the past few years, private sector interest in “sustainable” and “climate-friendly” efforts has skyrocketed. Haim Israel, Bank of America’s head of thematic investment, suggested at the World Economic Forum earlier this year that the climate solutions market could double from $1 trillion today to $2 trillion by 2025. Flows to sustainable funds in the U.S. have been increasing dramatically, setting records even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the financial services firm Morningstar. While agriculture investment is only a small subset of these numbers, there are signs that investments in “regenerative agriculture,” practices that improve rather degrade than the earth, are also increasing rapidly. In a 2019 report , the Croatan Institute, a research institute based in Durham, North Carolina, found some $47.5 billion worth of investment assets in the U.S. with regenerative agriculture criteria. “The capital landscape in the U.S. and globally is really shifting,” says David LeZaks, senior fellow at the Croatan Institute. “People are beginning to ask more questions about how their money is working for them as it relates to financial returns, or how it might be working against them in the creation of extractive economies, climate change or labor issues.” Agroforestry , the ancient practice of incorporating trees into farming, is just one subset of regenerative agriculture, which itself is a subset of the much larger ESG, or Environmental, Social and Governance, investment world. But according to Smith and Steinberg, along with a small but growing number of financiers, entrepreneurs and company executives, it is one particularly ripe for investment. Although relatively rare in the U.S., agroforestry is a widespread agricultural practice across the globe. Project Drawdown, a climate change mitigation think tank that ranks climate solutions, estimates that some 1.6 billion acres of land are in agroforestry systems; other groups put the number even higher. And the estimates for returns on those systems are also significant, according to proponents. Ernst Götsch, a leader in the regenerative agriculture world, estimates that agroforestry systems can create eight times more profit than conventional agriculture. Harry Assenmacher, founder of the German company Forest Finance, which connects investors to sustainable forestry and agroforestry projects, said in a 2019 interview that he expects between 4 percent and 7 percent return on investments at least; his company already had paid out $7.5 million in gains to investors, with more income expected to be generated later. This has led to a wide variety of for-profit interest in agroforestry. There are small startups, such as Propagate, and small farmers, such as Martin Anderton and Jono Neiger, who raise chickens alongside new chestnut trees on a swath of land in western Massachusetts. In Mexico, Ronnie Cummins, co-founder and international director of the Organic Consumers Association, is courting investors for funds to support a new agave agroforestry project. Small coffee companies, such as Dean’s Beans , are using the farming method, as are larger farms, such as former U.S. vice president Al Gore’s Caney Fork Farms. Some of the largest chocolate companies in the world are investing in agroforestry. “We are indeed seeing a growing interest from the private sector,” says Dietmar Stoian, lead scientist for value chains, private sector engagement and investments with the research group World Agroforestry (ICRAF). “And for some of them, the idea of agroforestry is quite new.” Part of this, he and others say, is growing awareness about agroforestry’s climate benefits. Gains for the climate, too According to Project Drawdown, agroforestry practices are some of the best natural methods to pull carbon out of the air. The group ranked silvopasture , a method that incorporates trees and livestock together, as the ninth most impactful climate change solution in the world, above rooftop solar power, electric vehicles and geothermal energy. If farmers increased silvopasture acreage from 1.36 billion acres to 1.9 billion acres by 2050, Drawdown estimated carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced over those 30 years by up to 42 gigatons — more than enough to offset all carbon dioxide emitted by humans globally in 2015, according to NOAA  — and could return $206 billion to $273 billion on investment. Part of the reason that agroforestry practices are so climate friendly (systems without livestock, or “normal” agroforestry such as shade grown coffee, for example, are also estimated by Drawdown to return well on investment, while sequestering 4.45 tons of carbon per hectare per year) is because of what they replace. Photo of silvopasture system by Sid Brantley. Image via U.S.  National Agroforestry Center . Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Sid Brantley/U.S. National Agroforestry Center Close Authorship Traditional livestock farming, for instance, is carbon intensive. Trees are cut down for pasture, fossil fuels are used as fertilizer for feed, and that feed is transported across borders, and sometimes the world, using even more fossil fuels. Livestock raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), produce more methane than cows that graze on grass. A silvopasture system, on the other hand, involves planting trees in pastures — or at least not cutting them down. Farmers rotate livestock from place to place, allowing soil to hold onto more carbon. There are similar benefits to other types of agroforestry practices. Forest farming, for instance, involves growing a variety of crops under a forest canopy — a process that can improve biodiversity and soil quality, and also support the root systems and carbon sequestration potential of farms. A changing debate Etelle Higonnet, senior campaign director at campaign group Mighty Earth, says a growing number of chocolate companies have expressed interest in incorporating agroforestry practices — a marked shift from when she first started advocating for that approach. “When we first started talking to chocolate companies and traders about agroforestry, pretty much everybody thought I was a nutter,” she says. “But fast forward three years on and pretty much every major chocolate company and cocoa trader is developing an agroforestry plan.” What that means on the ground, though, can vary widely, she says. Most of the time a company’s sustainability department is pushing for agroforestry investment, not the C-suite. Some companies have committed to sourcing 100 percent of their cacao from agroforestry systems. Others are content with 5 percent of their cacao coming from farms that use agroforestry. In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry. What a company considers “agroforestry” also can be squishy, she points out — a situation that makes her and other climate advocates worry about companies using the term to “greenwash,” or essentially pretend to be environmentally friendly without making substantive change. “What is agroforestry?” says Simon Konig, executive director of Climate Focus North America. “There is no clear definition. There’s an academic, philosophical definition, but there’s not a practical definition, nothing that says, ‘It includes this many species.’ Basically, agroforestry is anything you want it to be, and anything you want to write on your brochure.” He says he has seen cases in South America where people have worked to transform degraded cattle ranches into cocoa plantations. They have planted banana trees alongside cocoa, which needs shade when young. But when the cocoa is five years old and requires more sun, the farmers take out the bananas. “They say, ‘it’s agroforestry,’” Konig says. “So there are misunderstandings — there are different objectives and standards.” He has been working to produce a practical agroforestry guide for cocoa and chocolate companies. One of the guide’s main takeaways, he says, is that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to agroforestry. It depends on climate, objectives, markets and all sorts of other variables. This is one of the reasons that agroforestry has been slow to gain investor attention, says LeZaks of the Croatan Institute. “There really aren’t the technical resources — the infrastructure, the products — that work to support an agroforestry sector at the moment,” LeZaks says. While agroforestry is seen as having significant potential for the carbon offset market, its variability makes it a more complicated agricultural investment. Another challenge to agroforestry investment is time. Tree crops take years to produce nuts, berries or timber. This can be a barrier for farmers, who often do not have extra capital to tie up for years. It also can turn off investors. “People are bogged down by business as usual,” says Stoian from World Agroforestry. “They have to report to shareholders. Give regular reports. It’s almost contradictory to the long-term nature of agroforestry.” This is where Steinberg and Propagate Ventures come in. The first part of the company’s work is to fully analyze a farmer’s operation, Steinberg says. It evaluates business goals, uses geographic information system (GIS) components to map out land, and determines the trees most appropriate for the particular agricultural system. With software analytics, Propagate predicts long-term cost-to-revenue and yields, key information for both farmers and possible private investors. After the analysis phase, Propagate helps implement the agroforestry system. It also works to connect third-party investors with farmers, using a revenue-sharing model in which the investor takes a percentage of the profit from harvested tree crops and timber. Additionally, Propagate works to arrange commercial contracts with buyers who are interested in adding agroforestry-sourced products to their supply chains. “Here’s an opportunity to work with farmers to increase profitability by incorporating tree crops into their operations in a way that’s context specific,” Steinberg says. “And it also starts addressing the ecological challenge that we face in agriculture and beyond.” This report is part of Mongabay’s ongoing coverage of trends in global agroforestry. View the full series here . Pull Quote In a perfect world, we’d have 10 to 20 percent of U.S. land production in agroforestry. Topics Food & Agriculture Forestry Forestry Reforestation Regenerative Agriculture Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of National Agroforestry Center Close Authorship

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Investors say agroforestry isn’t just climate friendly — it’s profitable

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