Solar outshined all fossil-fuels sources combined in 2017

April 19, 2018 by  
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Last year, the world invested more in solar power than all fossil-fuel sources combined. Investors and governments installed an all-time record of 157 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity, according to a new report from the United Nations (UN). In 2017, the world installed 98 W of solar capacity, nearly half of which was in China. The net new capacity from fossil fuels was only 70W in 2017. “We are at a turning point … from fossil fuels to the renewable world,” UN Environment head Erik Solheim told Reuters . “The markets are there and renewables can take on coal, they can take on oil and gas.” Although renewable energy is clearly the way of the future, fossil fuels remain the dominant source of energy on the planet. Only 12.1 percent of the world’s electricity came from renewable energy sources, an improvement on 5.2 percent in 2007. This boom in renewable energy has been backed by strong investment in recent years. In 2017, global investment in renewable energy rose by two percent. China invested $122.6 billion, 45 percent of global investment and the most of any country, into the industry in the same year. Related: World’s largest solar energy project will be 100 times bigger than any other on the planet Governments and investors have noticed a change in the fundamentals behind renewable energy. “Much lower costs … are the driver of solar investment worldwide,” said report lead author Angus McCrone told Reuters . For example, the cost of energy production through large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) decreased by 15 percent last year to $86 per megawatt hour. Even with an administration hostile to renewable energy in the White House, the drive towards renewable energy continues. “Trump can no more brake this than those who opposed the Industrial Revolution could stop the Industrial Revolution,” said Solheim. President Trump recently signed a government spending bill that retained many of the existing tax credits for renewable energy in the United States . Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Solar outshined all fossil-fuels sources combined in 2017

This is how high NYC’s sea levels will rise if we don’t take climate action

March 26, 2018 by  
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Rising sea levels , precipitated by climate change , threaten to overwhelm the world’s cities if we do nothing — that’s the message Studio Roosegaarde vividly brought last week to the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City . The studio’s light display, Waterlicht New York, showed the height of water levels during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy . Waterlicht, or water light, creates a virtual flood with technology, including  LED lighting , lenses, and software. First installed in the Netherlands in 2015 , Waterlicht has visually demonstrated water levels stemming from climate change around the world. Studio Roosegaarde brought what they call the dream landscape to New York City for World Water Day . Related: Daan Roosegaarde reveals vision for air-purifying Smog Free Drones Waterlicht lit up the North Lawn at UN Headquarters, employing artwork to underscore the idea that climate change could dramatically alter our cities as water levels increase. Studio Roosegaarde quoted Dutch Special Envoy for International Water Affairs Henk Ovink as saying, “The Sandys and Harveys of this world will not stop. On the contrary, they are the new normal, becoming more extreme year by year.” The National Hurricane Center listed Sandy and Harvey among the costliest United States tropical cylones ever ; Harvey is the second costliest storm on record for all US hurricanes with around $125 billion in damage. Sandy clocks in at fourth place with $65 billion in damage. Around 72 people died in the United States because of Hurricane Sandy; Harvey’s death toll was over 80 people . Waterlicht wasn’t meant to be just a warning, but to spark inspiration. Studio Roosegaarde founder and designer Daan Roosegaarde offered possibilities for how humanity might harness water in the studio’s press release: “Can we build floating cities ; how much power can we generate from the movement of water? Experience the vulnerability and the power of living with water.” + Studio Roosegaarde + Studio Roosegaarde Waterlicht Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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This is how high NYC’s sea levels will rise if we don’t take climate action

Winners of the 2018 Architecture at Zero competition announced

March 26, 2018 by  
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Boston-based architecture firm Arrowstreet has been named as the winner of the 2018 Architecture at Zero design competition. The winning design, Bay Area Transect, envisions a four-tiered complex embedded into the surrounding landscape in order to minimize its impact and provide educational experiences for the building’s visitors. The project also has multiple sustainable features, including passive ventilation, green roofs, on-site solar power , and a water counterbalancing funicular. Every year, the Architecture at Zero competition calls on students and professionals to submit a design proposal for a net-zero energy structure at a specific location. The challenge this year was to create a visitor and education center for San Francisco State University’s Center for Estuary and Ocean Science. All of the designs had to include an overall site plan that included two net-zero buildings and accommodated the program’s mission of marine research. Related: Rutz Architekten Wins the Architecture at Zero Competition with Their Zero-Net Energy Building Design The Bay Area Transect concept and design process was a collaboration between Arrowstreet, Copley Wolff Design Group , and HTM Office/Madrid . The team worked together for over two months to create a vibrant, site-sensitive concept that would allow visitors to explore the coastal ecosystem as well as the sustainable technologies that power its preservation. The resulting design incorporates not just buildings that mesh with the surrounding environment, but green roofs that double as walking space for the visitors. A funicular connects the waterfront with facilities at the top of the hillside, reducing vehicle traffic overall. Additionally, the open design would allow visitors to feel close to the function of the building’s research purposes, and the project would incorporate a protected tidal inlet to allow beginning kayakers to explore the local coastal ecosystem. The winning team, made up of Steve Zuber, Lee Robert, Cristina Desloges, and Kate Bubriski, is donating its winnings to Women’s Lunch Place in Boston, a homeless day shelter for women designed by Arrowstreet. + Arrowstreet + Copley Wolff Design Group + HTM Office/Madrid Via Archinect Images via Arrowstreet, Copley Wolff Design Group and HTM Office, as well as Architecture at Zero

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Winners of the 2018 Architecture at Zero competition announced

Orange snow covers the mountains across Eastern Europe

March 26, 2018 by  
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The mountains of Russia , Bulgaria, Romania, and Ukraine have been splashed with color, as the region’s snow has taken on an unusual orange hue. Although the snow may look more like orange sherbet, observers are advised to not eat it. The strange color has been added to the snow by way of the Sahara Desert. While the mountains may present an otherworldly aesthetic, the phenomenon is actually quite normal and occurs every five years, according to meteorologists. Sand turned up by storms in the Sahara Desert flows north and mixes with snow and rain, turning the subsequent precipitation orange. The orange tint has not been confined to the mountains. On its way towards the high-altitude locations of Eastern Europe, the orange dust passed through the Mediterranean, where it added an orange filter to the air in places like the Greek island of Crete. While this is not the first instance in which Saharan sand has affected European weather, it is one of the most intense examples of the phenomenon. The displaced dust can even be seen from space, appearing as a narrow brown streak amidst the usual white and grey clouds. Related: This is one of the hottest places on Earth – and it just snowed there “Looking at satellite imagery from [NASA], it shows a lot of sand and dust in the atmosphere drifting across the Mediterranean,” Steven Keates, a meteorologist with the U.K.’s National Weather Service, told the Washington Post . “When it rains or snows, it drags down whatever is up there, if there is sand in the atmosphere.” Previous incidents involving orange-tinted, dust-induced weird weather in Europe include a 2016 event in which northwest Europe experienced an orange sky. Visible in London, the phenomenon was exacerbated by wildfires raging in Spain and Portugal at the time. Now, those fortunate enough to be in the mountains can enjoy the emulated experience of “skiing on Mars.” Via Washington Post Images via  margarita_alshina/Instagram and  slivi4/Instagram

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Orange snow covers the mountains across Eastern Europe

One in four of world’s largest cities under water stress

February 15, 2018 by  
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Cape Town, South Africa is rapidly approaching what has been called “Day Zero,” the moment when the diverse metropolitan area of nearly 4 million runs out of clean drinking water . While Cape Town has taken drastic measures to conserve water , it is simply not enough to avoid the imminent crisis. And now, as government and residents prepare for the worst, it’s important to understand which other major cities around the world are also at risk. Lack of water is truly a global problem; one in four of the world’s largest cities are currently under “water stress,” with that number expected to rise due to climate change, human activity, and population growth. Water shortages have the potential to aggravate already unstable political and economic conditions, which is of particular concern in cities such as Cairo . Currently confronting violent extremism and managing ongoing political tension, Egypt is also rated by the World Health Organization as ranking high among middle-income countries on the number of deaths related to water pollution. This is tied to increasing pollution in the Nile River. The United Nations estimates that Egypt will suffer critical water shortages by 2025, exacerbating the potential for conflict. Similarly, São Paulo and Moscow are plagued by pollution due to poor public policy decisions. Fortunately, this means that the problem may be fixable, however entrenched it might be. Related: Venice’s canals go dry following weeks without rain Coastal cities like Jakarta and Miami are facing unique water problems as both attempt to pull freshwater from aquifers. Due to lack of public access to piped water, residents of Jakarta have dug illegal wells, draining the underlying aquifer and actually causing the land to sink. As a result, about 40 percent of Jakarta now lies below sea level. While Miami may not be sinking, its freshwater reserves are suffering from seawater contamination as a result of rapid sea level rise and wetland habitat destruction. Even cities like London are facing a water-scarce future, with severe shortages expected by 2040. Governments can make the necessary policy changes to solve this problem, but they must act quickly. The water crisis is already upon us in many cities. Via BBC News Images via Depositphotos (1) (2)

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One in four of world’s largest cities under water stress

24-year-old Yemeni engineer invents mini biogas plants for home use

January 17, 2018 by  
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Some villages in war-torn Yemen still don’t have electricity since the recent conflict started nearly two years ago, according to 24-year-old chemical engineering graduate Omer Badokhon speaking to Reuters . So he invented micro-scale biogas devices to transform trash into cleaner fuel , to combat indoor pollution and slash energy poverty. He was recently among the winners of the Young Champions of the Earth prize from United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and polymer company Covestro , winning $15,000 he plans to use to construct 50 to 80 units. Badokhon could tackle multiple issues Yemen faces with his small biogas devices. The country has faced the biggest cholera epidemic the World Health Organization has recorded, and Badokhon connects cholera with organic waste pollution in the country – which has only worsened during the war. He said in a video organic waste is the primary reason for the cholera, but that garbage could be turned into something useful to help the country with another issue: electricity woes. Related: Off-grid village with game-changing green solutions blooms in the Middle East Badokhon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “In some villages, electricity has not been restored since the conflict began in 2015. In Mukalla City where I now live, I remember how desperate I felt trying to complete university assignments by candlelight when power shuts down for four to six hours every day.” More than three million people still cook over open flames in Yemen, according to UNEP , and Badokhon said in another video women and child die each year because of exposure to smoke. His biogas devices will be built locally with fiberglass or plastic . They “enable the rapid decomposition of domestic organic waste, thereby maximizing the amount of biogas produced,” per UNEP. And the remains of the fermentation process are useful too; Badokhon said in a video they can serve as rich liquid fertilizer . During the upcoming eight months, according to Reuters, the devices will be tested in 1,500 rural houses in Sana’a, Ibb, Aden, Hadhramaut, Shabwa, and Taiz. In addition to the Young Champions of the Earth prize money, Badokhon also received $10,000 for research from Yemeni oil company PetroMasila. Via Reuters and the United Nations Environment Program ( 1 , 2 ) Images via the United Nations Environment Program

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24-year-old Yemeni engineer invents mini biogas plants for home use

French company debuts hydrogen-powered bikes

January 17, 2018 by  
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Pragma Industries is now the first company to begin industrial production of hydrogen-powered bicycles for commercial and municipal purposes. Founded in 2004, Pragma has now turned its fuel-cell expertise to the development of hydrogen fuel-cell powered bikes. Based in Biarritz, France , the company has already secured 60 orders for the hydrogen bikes from French municipalities such as Saint Lo, Cherbourg, Chambery and Bayonne. While the bikes are currently too expensive for the commercial market, costs are expected to eventually drop from 7,500 euros to 5,000 euros; charging stations cost about 30,000 euros. While Pragma is not the only company interested in hydrogen-powered bicycles, they have taken production of such vehicles the farthest — so far. “Many others have made hydrogen bike prototypes, but we are the first to move to series production,” Pragma founder and chief executive Pierre Forte told Reuters . Pragma’s Alpha bike is able to travel a distance of 100 kilometers (62 miles) on a two-liter (0.5 gallon) tank of hydrogen . Although the range is similar to that of a typical electric bike , the recharge time is significantly reduced from hours for a traditional e-bike to merely minutes for the Alpha hydrogen-powered bike. Related: Floating solar rig from Columbia University harvests hydrogen fuel from seawater Pragma offers two types of recharging stations: one that uses hydrolysis of water to generate hydrogen fuel on-site, and another, more affordable station that relies on tanks of already prepared hydrogen fuel. Due to the high cost, Pragma is currently marketing its bikes to larger commercial and municipal operations such as bike-rental operators, delivery companies, and municipal or corporate bicycle fleets. After producing 100 such bikes last year, Pragma hopes to sell 150 this year to organizations in places such as Norway , the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany. In addition to developing a bike that is capable of turning water into fuel without the need of a charging station, the company plans to massively expand into the retail market within the next few years. Via Reuters Images via Pragma Industries

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French company debuts hydrogen-powered bikes

China built the ‘World’s biggest air purifier’ – and it seems to be working

January 17, 2018 by  
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What has been called the world’s largest air purifier by its operators is now up and running in the Chinese city of Xian in Shaanxi province. The 100-meter (328 feet) tall tower has already improved the local air quality, lead scientist Cao Junji told the South China Morning Post , adding that it could prove to be a valuable tool in the country’s fight against urban air pollution . “The tower has no peer in terms of size … the results are quite encouraging,” he said. Greenhouses covering the size of half a soccer field surround the base of the tower, into which polluted air is pulled. The smog is heated in the greenhouse by solar energy, then rises through the tower, passing through several layers of cleaning filters. Because Xian largely relies on coal for heating, smog can become exceptionally thick and harmful during the cold months. Despite the lower level of solar energy available during the winter , a special coating on the tower’s greenhouses allows it to absorb what is available more efficiently and continue to pull smog all year long. To determine the tower’s impact on local air quality, Cao and his team erected over a dozen monitoring stations. The team found that the average reduction in PM2.5, the most harmful particles in smog, was 15 percent during times of heavy pollution. Related: China is planting 6.6 million hectares of new forest — almost the size of Ireland Cao stresses that the results are only initial while further details will be released in the spring. A comprehensive scientific assessment of the tower’s effectiveness is also forthcoming. Nonetheless, what is known is promising. While there have been other similar smog-removing towers, many of which were powered by coal-fueled electricity, the Xian tower is unique in its very limited electricity needs. “It barely requires any power input throughout daylight hours. The idea has worked very well in the test run,” said Cao. While locals have marveled at the tower’s size, it is in fact a miniature version of smog-removing towers that Cao and his team hope to install throughout China’s dense, massive cities . The full-size version could reach as high as 500 meters (1,640 feet) while the surrounding greenhouses could cover nearly 30 square kilometers (11.6 square miles). Via South China Morning Post Images via South China Morning Post and Colin Capelle/Flickr

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China built the ‘World’s biggest air purifier’ – and it seems to be working

Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste

December 7, 2017 by  
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Over 200 countries signed a United Nations resolution in Nairobi, Kenya to eliminate plastic waste in the world’s oceans. The resolution is an important step forward to establishing a legally binding treaty that would deal with the global oceanic plastic pollution problem. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there will be more plastic by weight in the world’s oceans than fish by 2050 if current trends continue. The resolution offers hope for the future. “There is very strong language in this resolution,” said Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister, in an interview with Reuters . “We now have an agreement to explore a legally binding instrument and other measures and that will be done at the international level over the next 18 months.” Although plastic pollution is a global problem, Norway was the country that initiated the UN resolution. “We found micro plastics inside mussels, which is something we like to eat,” said Helgesen. “In January this year, a fairly rare species of whale was stranded on a beach because of exhaustion and they simply had to kill it. In its tummy they found 30 plastic bags.” Even the most remote parts of the globe have not escaped the plastic menace. In the final episode of the acclaimed  Blue Planet II ,  plastic pollution is documented in isolated areas of Antarctica . Related: Scientists discover cheap method to identify “lost” 99% of ocean microplastics China is the world’s largest producer of plastic waste and biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, the world’s most populous country has taken the global lead in addressing these environmental crises. “If there is one nation changing at the moment more than anyone else, it’s China … the speed and determination of the government to change is enormous,” said Erik Solheim, head of UNEP, according to Reuters . Meanwhile, the resolution, which was originally intended to have legally binding targets and timetables, was weakened by the United States , after Trump Administration officials rejected the stronger language. Current American intransigence notwithstanding, Solheim envisions a future in which products and manufacturing systems are redesigned to use as little plastic as possible. “Let’s abolish products that we do not need … if you go to tourist places like Bali, a huge amount of the plastic picked from the oceans are actually straws,” said Solheim. Although there is much work to be done before a treaty is signed, several nations are already moving ahead to protect the environment. To mark the signing of the UN resolutions, 39 countries, including Chile, Oman, Sri Lanka and South Africa, adopted new commitments to reduce plastic pollution . Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos and  Trevor Leyenhorst/Flickr

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Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste

WBCSD President Peter Bakker on the Global Goals

November 20, 2017 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: An intimate look at what the United Nations SDGs mean for business.

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WBCSD President Peter Bakker on the Global Goals

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