Sunday, May 31, 2015
Saturday, May 30, 2015
The Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) has unveiled the interior conceptual drawings for the multi-million dollar expansion project at Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA).
Commenting on the design created by Florida based firm RS&H Group, CIAA’s CEO Albert Anderson said, “The interior design is very impressive and I am confident that once completed the new expanded airport will be a first-class terminal facility
The CI$55 million expansion project should take around three years to complete and will nearly triple the current space at the airport. Construction on the first phase of the project is expected to begin this summer.
Here is the Cayman Islands Government's chance to save money and show their support for alternative energy. Covering the roof and parking lots with solar panels, and using LED lighting would set an example for Caymanians and Caymanian businesses to follow. Editor
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
19 May 2015: Senior officials and negotiators from Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries gathered for a meeting, titled ‘4th Meeting of Chief Climate Change Negotiators of Latin America and the Caribbean,' to discuss the content of a climate change agreement, which is expected to be adopted during the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the UNFCCC in Paris in December 2015.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
LONDON, May 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world's chances of achieving new international development goals will be slim without more ambitious action to curb climate change, researchers said.
|Dr. Ulric 'Neville' Trotz|
Pakistan, for example, is unlikely to be able to end poverty by 2030 if accelerating climate change brings worse weather disasters, water scarcity and other problems, a new report from the UK-based Climate and Development Knowledge Network said.
But if global warming is held to 2 degrees Celsius - the aim of negotiations toward a new U.N. climate deal at the end of the year in Paris - Pakistan would have only a "low" risk of failing to eradicate poverty, the report said.
Planned new sustainable development goals (SDGs) aimed at ending poverty, improving gender equality, and giving access to water and clean power have a much higher chance of being achieved if action to limit climate change is ambitious, the report's authors said.
But if weaker efforts on climate change put the world on track for a 3 to 5 degree Celsius temperature rise, Asia and sub-Saharan Africa could see poverty rates 80 percent to 140 percent higher, the report found.
If the new sustainable development goals, expected to be agreed in New York in September, have strong targets, they could lift ambition in the year-end climate deal, the report said.
"There's a simple message: Climate action is developmental action," said Ulric "Neville" Trotz, a science advisor at the Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change in Belize.
Countries need to fully incorporate climate action into national development plans, he added.
The report, by a team of economic policy and development experts, is one of the first attempts to put rough numbers on how the two new global deals due this year on climate change and sustainable development might interact.
States are negotiating over a proposal for 17 new sustainable development goals, backed by 169 targets, focused on everything from reducing inequality, hunger and climate change to managing forests and oceans better and promoting sustainable economic growth.
At the climate negotiations in December, leaders will aim to put in place an agreement, which would take effect in 2020, to curb carbon emissions and help poorer countries adapt to climate change and adopt a cleaner development path.
ZERO POVERTY, ZERO EMISSIONS
There are huge areas of overlap, experts say, not least because climate change impacts - such as water insecurity and more weather-related disasters - can cut harvests and incomes, and lead to children leaving school, as well as forcing governments to divert development funds to disaster relief.
"There's a simple message: Climate action is developmental action," said Ulric "Neville" Trotz, a science advisor at the Caribbean Community Centre for Climate Change in Belize.
Investing in cleaner, cheaper energy could not only cut climate risks but also improve health and provide the power needed to spur economic growth, the researchers said.
Many Caribbean islands, for example, rely on expensive imported fossil fuels, making their economies uncompetitive.
They are also extremely vulnerable to climate-related impacts, such as sea-level rise and stronger storms, said economist Anil Markandya, one of the report's authors.
"Unless we change the architecture of our energy sector, we might as well forget development under the SDGs," Trotz said.
Funding that change would require international support, such as from the new Green Climate Fund (GCF), he added.
Andrea Ledward, head of climate and environment for Britain's Department of International Development and a GCF board member, told a launch event for the report there is a need to "break down the firewall" between funding for climate and development projects because the two areas are so closely tied.
Rich nations have committed to mobilise by 2020 an annual $100 billion in climate finance that is "new and additional" to existing funding.
Jonathan Reeves of the International Institute for Environment and Development said that while climate and development funding streams could be merged, the accounting must be kept separate to ensure the money is "new and additional".
He warned that the least-developed countries have the most to lose if efforts to address climate change fail.
"If your country is going to be submerged within a couple of generations by sea-level rise, you're not even going to be thinking about achieving the SDGs," he said.
Ilmi Granoff, a researcher with the Overseas Development Institute in London, said public support for an ambitious climate deal and strong sustainable development targets could be won by focusing on a new, understandable aim for all countries: "zero poverty and zero emissions within a generation". (Reporting by Laurie Goering; editing by Megan Rowling) More
Thursday, May 7, 2015
The American engineers who traveled to rural India two years ago believed they were going to help poor villagers get rid of microbes in their drinking water. But soon after their arrival, they began hearing about a different problem: salt.
“People kept talking about the salt in the water,” recalled Natasha Wright, a doctoral candidate who was part of the team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology that made the journey in 2013. “The groundwater beneath the villages was brackish.”
Those complaints inspired new technology that could some day supply water to thirsty villages and drought-stricken farms in other parts of the world. The MIT team developed a solar-powered water desalination system that uses the sun’s energy to turn brackish liquid into contaminant-free water safe for drinking and for crops.
While there are dozens of different desalination systems in use around the world, MIT’s is uniquely designed to be small, relatively cheap and 100-percent solar-powered, making it suitable for remote areas where the electricity supply is unreliable or non-existent, Wright said.
The panel of judges last month deemed the machine’s potential so impressive that they gave the inventors the $140,000 “Desal Prize,” an award sponsored by Securing Water for Food, a joint project of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the governments of Sweden and the Netherlands. Some 68 engineering teams from 29 countries competed in the contest, hosted by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation in Alamogordo, N.M.
“Providing a sustainable water supply is important for the West, the country and the world,” Esteva Lopez, the department’s reclamation commissioner, said after the top prize was awarded to MIT and its research partner, Jain Irrigation Systems.
Wright said she and fellow engineers from MIT’s Global Engineering and Research Laboratory became aware the extent of saltwater intrusion in northern and central Indian aquifers during visits to investigate solutions for widespread water contamination in India. In addition to problems with bacterial contamination, the groundwater in much of rural India is brackish, having a salt content lower than seawater but still high enough to cause problems. In some of the villages visited by the MIT researchers, locals were trying unsuccessfully to remove the salt using filters and chemicals.
“People complained about the salty taste,” Wright said, “and the salt ruined their cooking pots.”
Traditional desalination systems are expensive and require substantial amounts of electricity to operate, making them impractical for India’s remote farming communities. Instead, the MIT researchers designed a system that removes salt through a process called electrodialysis, using a series of electrodes and membranes to remove the salt. They added solar panels and batteries to run the pumps and charge the electrodes. Then, in a final step, they installed ultraviolet light arrays to kill any microbes remaining in the water.
The finished prototype is small enough to fit in a tractor-trailer and includes photovoltaic cells to supply the electricity. The system, when fully operational, can supply the basic water needs of a village of between 2,000 and 5,000 people, MIT officials said. Although the prototype was more expensive, Wright said the team is hopes to lower the costs of a village-sized unit to about $11,000.
Such a lower-power system is useful mainly for treating brackish water and not seawater, which contains far more salt. But the prototype now being tested could handle water that contains salt concentrations of up to 4,000 parts per million, meaning it would work in about 90 percent of India’s wells, Wright said. Seawater’s salt concentration averages about 35,000 parts per million.
“There are places where this kind of system won’t work, but the advantage is, it uses half the energy of other systems,” said Wright. And, thanks to solar cells, “you can be fully off the grid.” More
Record carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere were reported worldwide in March, in what scientists said marked a significant milestone for global warming.
Figures released by the US science agency Noaa on Wednesday show that for the first time since records began, the parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere were over 400 globally for a month.
The measure is the key indicator of the amount of planet-warming gases man is putting into the atmosphere at record rates, and the current concentrations are unprecedented in millions of years.
The new global record follows the breaking of the 400ppm CO2 threshold in some local areas in 2012 and 2013, and comes nearly three decades after what is considered the ‘safe’ level of 350ppm was passed.
“Reaching 400ppm as a global average is a significant milestone,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist on Noaa’s greenhouse gas network.
“This marks the fact that humans burning fossil fuels have caused global carbon dioxide concentrations to rise more than 120ppm since pre-industrial times,” added Tans. “Half of that rise has occurred since 1980.”
World leaders are due to meet in Paris for a UN climate summit later this year in an attempt to reach agreement on cutting countries’ carbon emissions to avoid dangerous global warming.
Dr Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading told the Guardian: “This event is a milestone on a road to unprecedented climate change for the human race. The last time the Earth had this much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was more than a million years ago, when modern humans hadn’t even evolved yet.
“Reaching 400ppm doesn’t mean much in itself, but the steady increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases should serve as a stark reminder of the task facing politicians as they sit down in Paris later this year.”
Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants stalled for the first time last year without the influence of a strict economic recession, according to the International Energy Agency, an influential thinktank.
Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which oversees the international climate negotiations, said: “These numbers underline the urgency of nations delivering a decisive new universal agreement in Paris in December – one that marks a serious and significant departure from the past.
“The agreement and the decisions surrounding it needs to be a long term development plan providing the policies, pathways and finance for triggering a peaking of global emissions in 10 years’ time followed by a deep, decarbonisation of the global economy by the second half of the century.”
But even if manmade emissions were dramatically cut much deeper than most countries are planning, the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere would only stabilise, not fall, scientists said.
James Butler, director of Noaa’s global monitoring division, said: “Elimination of about 80% of fossil fuel emissions would essentially stop the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but concentrations of carbon dioxide would not start decreasing until even further reductions are made and then it would only do so slowly.”
Concentrations of CO2 were at 400.83ppm in March compared to 398.10ppm in March 2014, the preliminary Noaa data showed. They are are expected to stay above 400pm during May, when levels peak because of CO2 being taken up by plants growing in the northern hemisphere.
Noaa used air samples taken from 40 sites worldwide, and analysed them at its centre in Boulder, Colorado. The agency added that the average growth rate in concentrations was 2.25ppm per year from 2012-2014, the highest ever recorded for three consecutive years. More
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Carbon dioxide emissions are invisible, but NASA has just made them all too real.
The space agency has released a video of high-resolution imagery documenting carbon emissions released over an entire year. The result is what looks like the world’s biggest storm stretching the length of the northern hemisphere. The video is the first time scientists have been able to see in fine detail how carbon dioxide moves through the atmosphere, showing the source of greenhouse emissions and their destination.
It’s mesmerizing and scary. The large, swirling, cloud-like plumes grow and spread across the globe over an entire seasonal cycle, showing just how far C02 emissions can spread. As the time-lapsed animation rolls through the year, the differences between spring, summer, fall, and winter are obvious—especially in the northern hemisphere. As the plant-growing season peaks in late spring and summer, the dark red plumes that signify the worst concentrations of carbon dioxide dissipate.
But as plant growth levels off in fall and winter, the dark plumes creep back up as humans spew carbon into the atmosphere from power plants, factories, and cars. Bill Putman, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, narrates the three-minute video and explains what the terrifying dark reds really mean."As summer transitions to fall and plant photosynthesis decreases, carbon dioxide begins to accumulate in the atmosphere," Putman says. "Although this change is expected, we’re seeing higher concentrations of carbon dioxide accumulate in the atmosphere each year." That, in turn, is contributing to the long-term trend of rising global temperatures.
So what else does the map show? For starters, the world’s top three emitters—China, the U.S., and Europe—are easy to spot. Large red-tinged tails swirling above the areas indicate the highest concentrations of carbon. The video also shows how wind plays a key role in pushing carbon around the world, and how emissions levels can change rapidly because of weather patterns.
"The dispersion of carbon dioxide is controlled by the large-scale weather patterns within the global circulation," Putman says. The released video portrays carbon emissions in 2006. Given that emissions have only increased since then, the current situation is even more dire.
In the future, the computer modeling data can help scientists better determine the location of carbon sources and sinks. http://bit.ly/1ORziW9
In the 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.
France will play a leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 will be one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country. The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.
To visit the official COP21 website for more information, click here.
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Friday, May 1, 2015
Why Tesla’s announcement is such a big deal: The coming revolution in energy storage
Tesla CEO Elon Musk presented his new Powerwall solar batteries on April 30, 2015. Musk says the batteries could dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels by replacing use of the power grid. (AP)
Late Thursday, the glitzy electric car company Tesla Motors, run by billionaire Elon Musk, ceased to be just a car company. As was widely expected, Tesla announced that it is offering a home battery product, which people can use to store energy from their solar panels or to backstop their homes against blackouts, and also larger scale versions that could perform similar roles for companies or even parts of the grid.
The anticipation leading up to the announcement has been intense — words like “zeitgeist” are being used — which itself is one reason why the moment for “energy storage,” as energy wonks put it to describe batteries and other technologies that save energy for later use, may finally be arriving. Prices for batteries have already been dropping, but if Tesla adds a “coolness factor” to the equation, people might even be willing to stretch their finances to buy one.
The truth, though, is Tesla isn’t the only company in the battery game, and whatever happens with Tesla, this market is expected to grow. A study by GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association earlier this year found that while storage remains relatively niche — the market was sized at just $128 million in 2014 — it also grew 40 percent last year, and three times as many installations are expected this year.
By 2019, GTM Research forecasts, the overall market will have reached a size of $ 1.5 billion.
“The trend is more and more players being interested in the storage market,” says GTM Research’s Ravi Manghani. Tesla, he says, has two unique advantages — it is building a massive battery-making “gigafactory” which should drive down prices, and it is partnered with solar installer Solar City (Musk is Solar City’s chairman), which “gives Tesla access to a bigger pool of customers, both residential and commercial, who are looking to deploy storage with or without solar.”
The major upshot of more and cheaper batteries and much more widespread energy storage could, in the long term, be a true energy revolution — as well as a much greener planet. Here are just a few ways that storage can dramatically change — and green — the way we get power:
Almost everybody focusing the Tesla story has homed in on home batteries – but in truth, the biggest impact of storage could occur at the level of the electricity grid as a whole. Indeed, GTM Research’s survey of the storage market found that 90 percent of deployments are currently at the utility scale, rather than in homes and businesses.
That’s probably just the beginning: A late 2014 study by the Brattle Group, prepared for mega-Texas utility Oncor, found that energy storage “appears to be on the verge of becoming quite economically attractive” and that the benefits of deploying storage across Texas would “significantly exceed costs” thanks to improved energy grid reliability. Oncor has proposed spending as much as $ 5.2 billion on storage investments in the state. California, too, has directed state utilities to start developing storage capacity – for specifically environmental reasons.
For more power storage doesn’t just hold out the promise of a more reliable grid — it means one that can rely less on fossil fuels and more on renewable energy sources like wind and, especially, solar, which vary based on the time of day or the weather. Or as a 2013 Department of Energy report put it, “storage can ‘smooth’ the delivery of power generated from wind and solar technologies, in effect, increasing the value of renewable power.”
“Storage is a game changer,” said Tom Kimbis, vice president of executive affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a statement. That’s for many reasons, according to Kimbis, but one of them is that “grid-tied storage helps system operators manage shifting peak loads, renewable integration, and grid operations.” (In fairness, the wind industry questions how much storage will be needed to add more wind onto the grid.)
Consider how this might work using the example of California, a state that currently ramps up natural gas plants when power demand increases at peak times, explains Gavin Purchas, head of the Environmental Defense Fund’s California clean energy program.
In California, “renewable energy creates a load of energy in the day, then it drops off in the evening, and that leaves you with a big gap that you need to fill,” says Purchas. “If you had a plenitude of storage devices, way down the road, then you essentially would be able to charge up those storage devices during the day, and then dispatch them during the night, when the sun goes down. Essentially it allows you to defer when the solar power is used.”
This will be appealing to power companies, notes Purchas, because “gas is very quick to respond, but it’s not anywhere near as quick as battery, which can be done in seconds, as opposed to minutes with gas.” The consequences of adding large amounts of storage to the grid, then, could be not only a lot fewer greenhouse gas emissions, but also better performance.
2. Greening suburban homes and, maybe, their electric cars, too.
Shifting away from the grid to the home, batteries or other forms of storage have an equally profound potential, especially when paired with rooftop solar panels.
Currently, rooftop solar users are able to draw power during the day and, under net metering arrangements, return some of it to the grid and thus lower their bills. This has led to a great boom in individual solar installations, but there’s the same problem here as there is with the grid as a whole: Solar tapers off with the sun, but you still need a lot of power throughout the evening and overnight.
But storing excess solar power with batteries, and then switching them on once the solar panels stop drawing from the sun, makes a dramatic difference. Homes could shift even further away from reliance on the grid, while also using much more green power.
Moreover, they’d also be using it at a time of day when its environmental impact is greater. “If you think about solar, when it’s producing in the middle of the day, the environmental footprint is relatively modest,” explains Dartmouth College business professor Erin Mansur. That’s because at this time of day, Mansur explains, solar is more likely to be displacing electricity generated from less carbon intensive natural gas. “But if you can shift some of that to the evening … if you can save some to the middle of the night, it’s more likely to be displacing coal,” says Mansur.
Some day, perhaps, some of the sun-sourced and power could even be widely used to recharge electric vehicles like Teslas — which would solve another problem. According to a much discussed 2012 paper by Mansur and two colleagues, electric vehicles can have a surprisingly high energy footprint despite their lack of tailpipe emissions because they are often charged over night, a time when the power provided to the grid (said to be “on the margin”) often comes from coal.
But if electric vehicles could be charged overnight using stored power from the sun, that problem also goes away.
All of which contributes to a larger vision outlined recently by a team of researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability in which suburban homeowners, who can install rooftop solar combined with batteries and drive electric vehicles, start to dramatically reduce their carbon footprints — which have long tended to be bigger in suburbia, due in part to the need for long commutes — and also their home energy bills.
Granted, it’s still a vision right now, rather than a reality for the overwhelming number of suburbanites — but energy storage is a key part of that vision.
3. Helping adjust to smart energy pricing
And there’s another factor to add into the equation, which shows how energy storage could further help homeowners save money.
For a long time, economists have said that we need “smart” or “dynamic” electricity pricing — that people should be charged more for power at times of high energy demand, such as in the afternoon and early evening, when the actual electricity itself costs more on wholesale markets. This would lead to lower prices overall, but higher prices during peak periods. And slowly, such smart pricing schemes are being introduced to the grid (largely on a voluntary basis).
But if you combine “smart” pricing with solar and energy storage, then homeowners have another potential benefit, explains Ravi Manghani of GTM Research. They could store excess power from their solar panels during the day, and then actually use it in the evening when prices for electricity go up — and avoid the higher cost. “There’s an economic case to store the excess solar generation and use it during evening hours,” explains Manghani by email. (For more explanation, see here.)
Notably, if there are future reductions in how much money solar panel owners can make selling excess power back to the grid — and that’s one thing the current pushback against net metering wants to achieve — then energy storage comes in and gives panel owners a new way for using that power.
“Storage increases the options,” explains Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association. “It’s an enabling technology for solar. It allows customers to meet more scenarios economically.”
So in sum — cheaper, more easily available energy storage helps at the scale of the power grid, and also at the level of our homes, to further advantage cleaner, renewable energy. So if the economics of storage are finally starting to line up — and its business side to ramp up — that can only be good news for the planet. More
"Knowledge Gaps in Making an Economic Case for Investing in Nature Based Solutions for Climate Change".
This report is available both in English and French on the IUCN EBA web page. This preliminary rapid assessment is now being followed up with an in-depth analysis in the Philippines and Peru. We aim to have this study available for the Paris COP 21.
Climate change is having increasingly adverse impacts on people and nature. It exacerbates existing environmental threats, poses new risks and impedes our ability to achieve global conservation and development objectives such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the proposed Sustainable Development Goals. Across the globe, initiatives have been established to help communities implement approaches that enable them to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects.
Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) is one such approach. EbA uses biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of a larger adaptation strategy – an excellent example of a viable nature-based solution. As well as providing climate change adaptation benefits, this approach also contributes to biodiversity conservation and enhances local economies. IUCN has been extensively involved in EbA work, strengthening community resilience and livelihoods in almost 60 countries. This work demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the implementation of nature- based solutions.
The conservation and sustainable development community considers EbA to be a strong method of addressing climate change and its associated challenges. However, there is still a tendency for policy makers to implement traditional engineering solutions for adaptation, rather than investing in EbA. The need for solid data on the cost-effectiveness of this nature-based approach was the driver behind an IUCN study identifying the economic costs and benefits associated with EbA. The lessons learned from this appraisal process will make it easier for policy makers to compare EbA options with engineered solutions. Download English / French