Month: September 2015

Renewable energy for all. Is it possible? 

A world powered 100% by renewables seems like a faraway fantasy. But is it actually possible​?
100% renewables!”
It’s a buzz-phrase that loves being thrown around by environmentalists, passionate protesters and science geeks alike. From activists, to companies or start-ups spruiking their latest eco-powered device, renewable anything is a steadily growing industry.

If you’re reading this then you already know the motivation behind this growing trend. Climate change, pollution, increasingly warm oceans, water and food shortages – these are just some of the factors that are driving us towards an energy poor world. If we continue towards this path we could be living in a world reminiscent of Total Recall – an oxygen starved “Waterworld” with only a handful of habitable cities. With fossil fuels being one of the biggest drivers behind climate change we know that if we change our practices now and turn to renewables we can keep within the 2 degrees safety limit that scientists warn us about

But 100% renewable energy? Really? Don’t we need just a little bit of coal/nuclear power to keep the world spinning?
Greenpeace International, in collaboration with the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics, Systems Analysis & Technology Assessment at the German Aerospace Center, have just made the impossible possible. A 100% renewable energy world by 2050, and it could start in as little as three months from now with a binding agreement at the COP 21 conference in Paris. According to the report, what we need is:

“A strong, long-term goal, phasing out fossil fuels and nuclear power by 2050 through a just transition to 100% renewable energy, as well as the protection and restoration of forests.”
What’s more, not only is this transition possible, but it will create jobs and is cost-competitive, with the necessary investment more than covered by savings in future fuel costs. 

The average additional investment needed in renewables until 2050 is about $1 trillion a year. Because renewables don’t require fuel, the savings are $1.07 trillion a year, so they more than meet the costs of the required investment.
In jobs, the solar industry could employ 9.7 million people by 2030, more than 10 times as many as it does today, and equal to the number currently employed in the coal industry.

Already, the seemingly major polluting countries are seeing the investment in renewables. In 2014, for the first time in 40 years, global energy-related CO2 emissions remained stable in spite of continued economic growth, thanks mainly to declining coal consumption in China.
Entrepreneurs – from the university educated to the village Einsteins – are coming up with clever ways to power and profit using nature’s gift; and almost every day there’s a “world first” – from a completely solar powered airport to a country running (almost) completely on renewables.
We also know that renewables have the potential to power up (pun intended) economies, and our “Solarize Greece” crowd-funding campaign is an example of how we’re helping to rid the country of the burden of fossil fuels that are holding it down economically and for Greece to fight its way back out of the crisis.

Slowly but surely the world is waking up to the stark reality that fossil fuels are a finite resource with renewables being an additional economic and employment boost. What’s more is that there are no major economic or technical barriers to moving towards 100% renewable energy by 2050.
So, maybe the fantasy isn’t so far off anymore.
Take action. Join the Energy [R]evolution!
Shuk-Wah Chung is a Content Editor at Greenpeace East Asia.

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Stand With Pope Francis#Auspol Be part of the #Climate solution.

Ahead of Pope Francis’s first visit to the U.S., NextGen Climate today launched a national campaign calling on our leaders to stand with Pope Francis and embrace clean energy solutions that protect our common home and secure our children’s future.

In the coming weeks, NextGen Climate will run TV, print and digital ads highlighting the diverse coalition of Americans who are answering the Pope’s moral call to action on climate change. NextGen Climate will also partner with Nuns on the Bus, a campaign of NETWORK, a National Catholic School Social Justice Lobby, to host rallies and events in Columbus, Ohio and Washington, DC urging our leaders to join the fight to build a clean energy future.
“Pope Francis’ visit to the United States has the power to shift the conversation about climate change in a very real way,” said NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer. “His may be the most important voice in the world. Now, it’s time for Congress to join the growing coalition of military, faith and business leaders answering the Pope’s call to take action on climate change.”
Beginning this week, NextGen Climate will launch a robust national advertising campaign that will reach millions of Americans and amplify the Pope’s powerful message. The new television ad, “Dear World,” which will run in both English and Spanish, features excerpts from the Pope’s climate change encyclical in a powerful call to action. This ad will air in Washington, DC, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Florida and Pennsylvania and on national cable as part of a $2 million ad buy.

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How likely is it that 2015 will be the new warmest year on record? #Auspol

Anthony Arguez1, Scott Applequist1, Michael C. Kruk2, Michael F. Squires1, and Russell S. Vose1
Global surface temperatures have remained at or near record-warm levels throughout 2015, leading many to prognosticate that 2015 will eclipse 2014 as the warmest year on record1-3, perhaps by a relatively large margin.

Based on the latest data from NOAA’s global surface temperature dataset (NOAAGlobalTemp), the 2015 global temperature average through July is running 0.09°C (0.16°F) above the 2014 average and 0.13°C above the January-July 2014 average. That might not seem like a lot, but 2014 eclipsed 2010 as the warmest year on record by an even smaller margin, 0.04°C.

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Migrant Crisis: ‘If We Don’t Stop Climate Change…What We See Right Now Is Just the Beginning’

A Q&A with Frank Biermann, a Dutch researcher who led a controversial 2010 study on climate refugees, who fears crises like Europe’s will only get worse.

By Phil McKenna

Sep 14, 2015

The surge of people fleeing to Europe from the Middle East highlights how quickly mass migrations can occur. It may also offer a glimpse of what’s to come as climate change makes some regions around the world unlivable, according to a leading researcher on the human effects of climate change.

Frank Biermann, a professor of political science and environmental policy sciences at VU University Amsterdam, led researchers in the Netherlands five years ago in a study that warned there may be as many as 200 million climate refugees by 2050. That staggering number first arose out of research in 1995, and it has always been controversial. The study Biermann led in 2010 recommended the creation of an international resettlement fund for climate refugees.
Today’s migrant crisis may be due in part to climate change, Biermann said in an interview with InsideClimate News. Syria, where 7.6 million people are displaced inside the country and another 4 million are seeking asylum elsewhere, a severe drought plagued the country from 2006-09. A recent study pinned the blame for that drought on climate change, and the drought has been cited as a contributing factor to the unrest there. Millions of additional refugees may need to leave their homes in coming decades as a result of a changing climate, Biermann said.
As Biermann discussed the issue, his 9-year-old daughter was preparing a welcome package that included toys, books and a note with her home phone number that will be delivered to an immigrant girl her own age.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
InsideClimate News: The ongoing uprising in Syria was preceded by the region’s most severe drought on record. Are the Syrians now moving into Europe climate refugees?

Frank Biermann: Many of these refugees come from countries that are affected by climate change, there is no doubt about that, even though I would not make necessarily any causal link between climate change and the Syrian or Iraqi crises. Of course, there are many other reasons responsible for the war and civil strife in these countries.
My argument in the paper from 2010 has been that over the following decades and the second half of the century we can expect much more migration to happen due to the impacts of climate change. That is the expectation from many models that have to do with sea level rise, land degradation, desertification, water shortages and a number of other issues that historically have been causes for migration. It’s quite obvious in the case of sea level rise where coastal defenses are technically not feasible or too expensive. In such cases people will have to move and resettle somewhere else.
ICN: How does what we are seeing now compare with what is likely to come?
FB: There are a number of scenarios in the literature that are predicting vast numbers of climate refugees in the future, up to 200 million people by 2050. Many of these projections and scenarios are slightly outdated. The current debate is a bit more careful or optimistic because these newer scenarios are all based on assumptions about the adaptive capacities of these countries and the severities of climate change impacts and also on human behavior. Many people would now argue that the numbers that have been published especially in the 1990s and early 2000s are too pessimistic.  
On other hand, it’s quite obvious that there are certainly areas, especially low-lying coastal areas, that quite likely will be severely affected from sea level rise. You can look at how many people are in low-lying areas in Bangladesh, in Egypt, in Vietnam and the eastern part of China. There are millions of people who are in these kinds of areas, and the same is also true for land degradation, desertification and water shortages. It is likely that a lot of this migration will be internal migration within the country; it’s not necessarily to be expected that everyone will go on a boat to Europe.
ICN: The 200 million figure you cite in your 2010 study has been controversial since Norman Myers of Oxford University first proposed it in 1995. The Biodiversity Institute at Oxford said the figure is “widely viewed as lacking academic credibility,” and Stephen Castles from Oxford’s International Migration Institute said Myers’ objective was to “really scare public opinion and politicians into taking action on climate change.” Does what we are seeing now change things?
FB: I think it’s much more complex than thought originally. If climate change continues to develop the way it is predicted to develop, then there is a high likelihood that more people will be negatively affected in their livelihoods, and it’s likely that more people will have at some point to relocate and resettle.
Climate change has the potential of increasing all refugee crises and of creating new refugee crises. It is never a one-to-one relationship that people are leaving just because of climate change. It is always linked to all kind of other factors—economic factors, social factors, political factors, religious factors—but all these factors that are supporting civil war and migration might be increased by climate change.  
If we don’t stop climate change, then what we see right now is just the beginning. It has the possibility to turn into a major driver of migration movements, and this is one of the many, many arguments of why we have to stop climate change.
ICN: What needs to happen to protect future climate refugees?
FB: We see a direct moral and legal connection between rich countries and the impacts of climate change. The majority of people negatively affected by climate change live in poor countries where they have almost nothing to do with the causation of the problem.  
We came up with a proposal to have a separate fund, the Climate Refugee Protection and Resettlement Fund, to address this particular problem. The bottom line is when you are sitting in Tuvalu and you have to leave your island, and you are certainly not responsible for climate change, then you can have a moral and legal right to request compensation and assistance from rich countries.
ICN: Since your 2010 study, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change launched the Green Climate Fund to do much of what you describe. The initial plan was to have wealthy countries donate $100 billion a year by 2020, but so far only $10.2 billion has been pledged. Is this enough?
FB: The original numbers in the $100 billions are realistic, but I think definitely more investment is needed.

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California Governor Warns of Coming Climate Refugee Crisis

Governor Brown of California states the obvious. A climate refugee crisis is waiting to happen in North America. Joe Romm at Climate Progress: The Syria conflict has triggered the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” explains the European Commission. As Climate Progress has been reporting for years, and as a major 2015 study confirmed, […]

If he wants to win an election, Turnbull should go back to his old self on climate

By Peter Christoff, University of Melbourne No more “stop the boats” or “axe the tax”. In announcing his challenge to Tony Abbott on Monday, Malcolm Turnbull promised to take Australian politics away from the mantrafication of policy by three-word chant. He offered to treat the public intelligently, to engage it with reasoned explanations for policy change, […]

Eight ways to reach 100% renewable in developing countries | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian

Original source: Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian | 1. Celebrate the positives Renewable energy is clearly becoming the cheapest, more scalable and quickest way to provide electricity to the new demand from emerging markets. Currently there is only one key issue, availability of the renewable resource (no sun at night and no-wind days), but new […]

Climate Change No Longer a Distant or Abstract Threat #Auspol

The 2030 Agenda document — containing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets — recognizes that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Its adverse impacts undermine the ability of all countries to achieve sustainable development.
As confirmed by the world’s leading scientists, it is no longer a distant or abstract threat. The world’s poorest and most vulnerable people are already being impacted by water scarcity, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, loss of agricultural lands and ecosystems, forest fires, floods and intensified extreme events such as hurricanes and typhoons. The annual losses from natural disasters now average U.S. $250 billion to U.S. $300billion. If business as usual continues, half of the world’s population could be living in areas of high water stress by 2030 as global temperatures shoot beyond the agreed goal of below 2-degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels). Governments have already agreed that drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions are needed to tackle the 40 percent increase in global emissions since 1990 if we are to avoid the devastation that would result from a 4-degree Celsius world.
Despite the multiple risks and linkages with development, inclusion of a stand-alone goal on climate change proved controversial. Some had argued that climate change should be mainstreamed into the other goals. Others that climate change need not be included in the SDGs at all because the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) already provides a global framework for action and negotiations on a new universal agreement are due for adoption in December 2015 at the Paris Climate Change summit (known as COP 21). A further complication on the scope of a climate SDG was the parallel negotiations on disaster preparedness and response under the now agreed Sendai Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction. In the end, governments agreed that leaving out climate change would imbalance the SDGs and that response to climate change needs to be taken by every institution on Earth.
The final inclusion of Goal 13 specifying the need to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” reflects a welcome and important compromise. And one that over time will help to catalyze action on climate change across all international processes and scales, including buttressing results under other SDGs, such as Goal 7 (ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all).
Due to the expectations for Paris, the climate targets relating to Goal 13 are less specific than those set out under other SDGs. Apart from reiterating the commitment of developed countries to mobilize $100bn by 2020, the targets include strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related impacts and natural disasters and integrating climate-change measures into national policies, strategies and planning. These are important hooks. Too few countries have achieved integration of climate change into economic and development planning in a sustained way — as evidenced by the fact that many countries are struggling to table their first nationally determined plans to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts in time for Paris. Likewise, Target 13.3, to improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate-change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning, may seem vague but it provides welcome recognition that we all need to work harder to promote deeper understanding of how climate change acts as a stress multiplier that could undermine food, energy and national security. If decision-makers in economic, finance and defense ministries begin to understand the benefits of timely climate action, and the costs of delays and inaction, especially on the vulnerable countries such as Small Island Developing States, least-developed countries and vulnerable groups such as women, youth and marginalized communities, then targets 13.3 and 13(b) will have proved their worth.
One numerical target which is missing from the SDGs is the long-term goal of phasing out greenhouse-gas emissions by mid-century. The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN Environment Programme is making it very clear that staying below the global temperature goal of 2-degrees Celsius will require drastic cuts in global emissions to achieve carbon neutrality in the second half of the century. An increasing number of development bodies including the World Bank are recognizing that achieving zero poverty will have to go hand in hand with getting to low- or near-zero emissions. Fortunately, more and more countries are advocating the inclusion of a long-term goal specifying carbon neutrality or decarbonization of the world economy in the second half of the century as evidenced by the recent adoption of this goal by the G7 at their summit in Germany. An increasing number of investors, companies and cities are also committing to cutting emissions by 80-100 percent by 2050 and switching to 100 percent renewable energy. A global goal to decarbonize the world economy could complement Goal 13 and give a clear steer to investors, business and citizens that the only future that is safe, clean and prosperous is a future based on zero emissions, zero poverty and 100 percent access to clean energy for all.

Press link for more: Farhana Yamin |

David Attenborough backs huge Apollo-style clean energy research plan.

Naturalist says 10-year public research and development programme, that would emulate race to put men on the moon, could halt climate change.

An Apollo-style research programme to make renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels has won the backing of Sir David Attenborough, who says this alone would be enough to halt climate change.
The renowned naturalist joins a group of eminent scientists, business executives and politicians backing a 10-year public research and development plan to cut the costs of clean energy and deliver affordable technologies to store and transport solar and wind power.

In a letter to the Guardian, the group argue that the approach, mirroring the intense Apollo programme that put men on the moon, “will not only pay for itself but provide economic benefits to the nations of the world”.
“I have been lucky enough to spend my life exploring the world’s oceans, forests and deserts. But the Earth, with its spectacular variety of creatures and landscapes, is now in danger,” said Attenborough. “Just one thing, however, would be enough to halt climate change. If clean energy became cheaper than coal, gas or oil, fossil fuel would simply stay in the ground.”

Scientists estimate that about 80% of fossil fuel reserves must remain buried if global warming is to be limited to 2C, a rise seen as the safety limit.
“In the 1960s, scientists overcame immense odds to achieve something extraordinary – the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Attenborough said. “Now some of the finest minds must again unite in the face of an even greater challenge.”
“Most of the great advances of the last 100 years have come from publicly-funded research – computers, satellites, the internet, smart phones,” he said.
The letter, whose signatories include oil executive Lord John Browne, former energy secretary Ed Davey and climate scientist Sir Brian Hoskins, says: “The plan requires leading governments to invest a total of $15bn (£10bn) a year in research, development and demonstration of clean energy. That compares to the $100bn currently invested in defence R&D globally each year.”
“Public investment now will save governments huge sums in the future. What is more, a coordinated R&D plan can help bring energy bills down for billions of consumers,” they say, noting that renewable energy currently gets less than 2% of publicly funded R&D.

The backers of the Global Apollo Programme, who also include Unilever CEO Paul Polman, economist Lord Nicholas Stern, MP Zac Goldsmith, former chair of the Financial Services Authority Lord Adair Turner and former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell, urge the world’s nations to back the plan ahead of a crunch climate summit in Paris in December.
The plan has already been discussed by G7 energy ministers and Sir David King, currently the UK’s climate change envoy, has said Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister and solar energy enthusiast, is keen.
Some experts argue that fossil fuels are far more expensive than they appear, when subsidies and the costs of the damage their pollution causes is included. The IMF recently estimated that state support for coal, oil and gas, and the costs to countries of air pollution and climate change was $5.3tn a year.

Press link for more: Damian Carrington |

Electrifying flight

By using electric and hybrid forms of propulsion, very different-looking aircraft may end up taking to the sky
WHEN Didier Esteyne, an Airbus test pilot, flew a small two-seat electrically powered aircraft called the E-Fan across the English Channel in July, the giant European aerospace group was keen to point out the journey was not a gimmick. Indeed, Airbus is serious enough about electric flight to want to put the E-Fan into production as a pilot-training aircraft. It will go on sale towards the end of 2017 to be followed by a four-seat version.
Airbus is not alone in thinking about making much bigger electric and hybrid aircraft to carry passengers. Just as in cars, electrical propulsion offers a number of advantages over piston and jet engines. Modern, digitally controlled electric motors supply lots of torque, a rotational force which is as good at turning propellers and fan blades as it is wheels. Electric power is also quiet, clean and highly reliable, with fewer engine parts to wear or break.

Batteries, it is true, do not provide the range many would like: lithium-ion ones allow the E-Fan to fly for about an hour with a 30-minute reserve. That may be fine for a flying lesson, but not for a passenger airliner. Batteries, though, are steadily improving and, because aircraft have long service lives (the Boeing 747 first flew in 1969), aerospace engineers work on projects set well into the future.

What really excites them about electric propulsion is that it provides the opportunity to build radically different aircraft, like the Airbus E-Thrust concept illustrated above. The idea is that instead of hanging big and heavy jet engines below the wing, a greater number of small and lighter electrically driven fans or propellers could instead be incorporated into other areas of an aircraft. Doing this with lots of small conventional engines would be complicated and would add a lot of weight. But electric motors make the concept, called distributed electric propulsion (DEP), feasible. The advantage of distributing power is that it can be used to increase the airflow over the wings and thus allow an aircraft to fly more efficiently. “DEP enables a fundamental shift in how we design aircraft,” says Mark Moore, a principal investigator into electric flight at NASA’s Langley Research Centre in Virginia.

NASA is testing a DEP wing mounted above a truck and driven at high speed across a dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The wing uses 18 small, electric propellers strung along its leading edge. The next step is a project called Sceptor, which involves replacing the wing on a conventional four-seater light aircraft—in this case, a twin-engined Italian-built Tecnam P2006T—with a DEP wing containing a dozen or so electrically driven propellers (see photo). Sceptor is due to begin test flights in 2017.

Sceptor’s line of small propellers will increase the aircraft’s lift at lower speeds, allowing it to take off and land on shorter runways. It also means the wing could be made more slender, perhaps only a third of the width of the wing on a conventional aircraft, thus saving weight and fuel costs. Typically the wing on a light aircraft is relatively large to prevent it from stalling (which happens at low airspeeds, when the wing cannot provide sufficient lift). But large wings are not very efficient when an aircraft is cruising because they create a lot of drag. Sceptor’s wing will be optimised for cruise, yet still provide enough lift to help prevent stalling on take-off or landing.

The wing will also be capable of other tricks. The speed of each electric propeller can be controlled independently, which provides the ability to change the pattern of airflow over the wing to cope with rapidly changing flying conditions, such as wind gusts. When cruising, the propellers closer to the fuselage could be folded back, leaving those on the wing tips to do the work. If Sceptor’s test flights are a success, the technology could be incorporated into small commuter aircraft within a decade, even with present progress in battery development. These aircraft, says Mr Moore, would have no in-flight emissions, be extremely quiet and reduce operating costs by around 30%.
Airbus’s E-Thrust concept is further from the runway. A collaborative project with Rolls-Royce, a British manufacturer of jet engines, and other research groups, the aircraft, or something like it, is projected to enter service around 2050. By then, the European Union expects the aviation industry to have cut fuel consumption, emissions and noise from passenger aircraft by at least 20-30%, relative to today’s state-of-the-art designs.
The goal of the E-Thrust is to meet such targets and be able to carry around 90 passengers on flights of two hours or more, and still have a generous safety margin from its batteries. This, though, will require a breakthrough in the technology to store electricity—which might well happen over the next few decades. The concept also uses distributed propulsion, but with a twist because it is hybrid.
A traditional jet engine sits in the tail of the E-Thrust. It also has three electrically driven fans on each wing. On take-off, the jet and all six electric fans will be used to provide maximum lift. When the aircraft reaches its cruise altitude, the jet can be throttled back but is powerful enough both to power the fans and to top up the batteries. During descent, both the jet and the fans will be turned off. As the aircraft glides, the oncoming air will turn the fans so that they work like wind turbines to top up the battery some more. The fans will be used to land, with the jet ticking over ready to provide additional thrust should the aircraft need to go around again.
One advantage of the hybrid system is that it provides a massive boost to a jet aircraft’s “bypass” ratio. This is a measure of the amount of air that flows around the hot core of a jet engine compared with that which goes through it to provide oxygen in the combustion chamber. The jet engines on early passenger aircraft had a low bypass ratio, producing a lot of their thrust from the fast-moving air blasting out of the rear of the core. This made them noisy and fuel-hungry. As the blast leaves the core it turns a turbine, which via a shaft turns a fan at the front of the engine to draw in more air. By making the fan larger, it has been possible to move a bigger volume of slower-moving air (the bypass) around the outside of the core. This is more efficient and much quieter. It is also the reason why jet engines have over the years got fatter.
Modern jets have a bypass ratio of up to 12:1 compared with about 5:1 or less in the 1970s. But making the fans even larger is becoming difficult as they take up more and more room under the wing. And bigger engines need stronger wings, which adds to an aircraft’s weight. The hybrid set up in the E-Thrust neatly gets around these problems because only the jet engine in the tail has a fuel-burning core. This means all of the air flowing through the six electrically driven fans contribute to its “effective” bypass ratio of 20:1 or more. This would make the aircraft extremely fuel-efficient and very quiet.

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