Saturday, November 19, 2016

Coal and Crude Oil On the Way Out?

Given the revelations at the annual UN’s COP22 meeting in Marrakech, are coal and crude oil on the way out to be replaced by renewable energy sources? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Maybe the American president-elect Donald J. Trump should pay close attention to the “revelations” of this year’s COP22 climate conference held in Marrakech which shows that renewable are increasingly getting more economically viable and coal is on the way out because more and more developing countries are rejecting its use due to the harm it can do to the environment offsets any profit gained. Maybe president-elect Trump should offer America’s coal industry alternative jobs instead. 

International Energy Agency representatives and industry analysts during this year’s COP22 Conference in Marrakech have shown figures that, if current trends continue, in the subsequent decades, renewable could become more economically viable than coal and crude oil due to China and scores of African states choosing to adopt renewable energy infrastructures for power generation. The only fossil fuel that could remain economically viable in the subsequent decades is natural gas – that is if the environmental downsides of fracking are solved. 

Ever since China has adopted renewable energy sources big time since 2005 and the country’s increased impetus to adopt renewable energy sources in the wake of the air pollution threatening to spoil the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the current economies of scale has driven coal and crude oil less economically viable in comparison to large-scale wind turbine and solar power installations. Look like environmentalists around the world could get the most of what they want and, sadly, America’s coal industry could die an ignominious death from an environmentalists’ perspective.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kigali Climate Conference: Monumental Deal to Save the Planet?

Even though many see it as a “complicated addendum” to the Montreal Protocol, will the recent Kigali climate conference save our planet from global warming HFCs?

By: Ringo Bones 

Delegates meeting in Kigali, Rwanda resulted in more than 150 countries reaching a deal described as “monumental” to phase out refrigerant gases that are making global warming worse. The delegates accepted a complex amendment to the Montreal protocol that will see richer countries cut back their HFC use from 2019. Some developing countries like China, nations in Latin America and island states will freeze their use of HFCs from 2024. Other developing countries, specifically India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states will not freeze their use until 2028 while China, the world’s largest producer of HFCs, will not actually start to cut their production or use until 2029. But given that HFCs is a thousand times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide generated from power plants that exacerbate global warming – why the delay in curbing their commercial use in order to limit global temperature rise? 

The Montreal Protocol was originally an international treaty designed to protect the environment against the impact of harmful substances – specifically CFC based refrigerant that causes ozone layer depletion. It was created back in 1987 following the discovery of a large hole in the Earth’s ozone layer over Antarctica during the 1970s. The Montreal protocol came into force in 1989 with the main aim of ending the use of chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. During the 1990s, CFCs were rapidly replaced by a less ozone depleting class of chemical refrigerants called hydrofluorocarbons of HFCs. A new amendment of the Montreal Protocol was proposed around 1998 after scientists discovered that, while HFCs pose no threat to the ozone layer, HFCs contribute to global warming by trapping heat radiating off the Earth into space. The Montreal Protocol has undergone a number of revisions since it was introduced and has been successful in eliminating more than 100 fluorinated gases. 

If realized, the latest Montreal Protocol amendment reached in the recent Kigali Climate Conference on a staged HFC phase out would eventually result in reducing projected global temperature rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius before the end of the 21st Century while the Paris Climate Agreement signed by over 190 countries last December would serve the bulk of reducing carbon dioxide emissions that would ultimately reduce global temperature rise below 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st Century. If realized, it would also reduce catastrophic sea level rise that would affect low-lying island states near the end of the 21st Century.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Plastic Bank: Reducing Poverty While Saving The Environment?

Despite of the conservative right-wing’s pessimism when it comes to saving the environment and reducing extreme poverty, can a “mere” social enterprise manage to do both? 
By: Ringo Bones 

Given their inability to provide a workable solution, the world’s conservative right-wing had been resorting to politics, religion and even sham science to deny the world’s most pressing environmental problems – i.e. climate change – since the mid 1990s by adopting the position that these problems are a “hoax” perpetuated by “bleeding-heart liberals”. Sadly, this also made it easy for right-wing conservatives to adopt the position that helping the world’s poorest citizens is a “Marxist-Leninist Socialist idea”. Fortunately, there are still sensible folks out there that are working hard to formulate a sensible solution to solve the pressing problems of extreme poverty and environmental degradation. 

Fortunately, David Katz, founder of The Plastic Bank has established a social enterprise whereby recycling plastic wastes is monetized to reduce poverty and halt any additional plastic that gets dumped in the world’s ocean that contributes to the ocean gyre plastic pollution. The scheme is fully compatible with established capitalism and free enterprise by establishing a system where impoverished people that collects plastic wastes can trade them to The Plastic Bank for goods and services. 

As a so-called social enterprise, The Plastic Bank makes money from discarded plastic wastes by recycling them and then selling them for a profit to their various customers. The Plastic Bank started in Haiti and, according to David Katz, it was a perfect place to test the concept because Haiti’s solid waste infrastructure is largely nonexistent and because of this, most current operations of The Plastic Bank are primarily located in countries and territories where solid waste collecting infrastructure is largely nonexistent. The idea for The Plastic Bank got started when David Katz got gravely concerned on the increasing amounts of plastic wastes that find their way into the world’s oceans. At present, about 8-million tons of plastic wastes find their way into our oceans every year. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Astronaut Piers Sellers’ Climate Change Awareness Campaign: An Uphill Battle?

Given that he has already dedicated his life to spreading awareness to the dangers of climate change, does the former NASA astronaut and climatologist Piers Sellers face an uphill battle?

By: Ringo Bones 

After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the prognosis showing that he might have only 500 days left to live, former NASA astronaut and climatologist Piers Sellers has thus dedicated his life to spreading awareness of the dangers of climate change. Given that pancreatic cancer survival rate is less than 1-percent, Sellers has indeed dedicated himself to such a noble endeavor despite of his terminal illness and, indeed, he has a lot to be very optimistic about because back in 2015, new energy generated from renewable sources like wind and solar power has reached 90-percent. But he also faces an uphill battle because religious conservatives, especially in the United States, has harbored the belief since 1996 that all this climate change and global warming brouhaha is a scientific hoax and all climate change mitigation measures formulated so far to protect the poorest 90-percent of the world that will be mostly affected by climate change are nothing more than a “21st Century Communist Plot”.

Especially in the U.S. Republican Party camp where none of the prospective candidates for the 2016 U.S. presidential elections even raised concerns over climate change and man-made greenhouse gas emissions. And one of the former U.S. Republican Party presidential candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio, even adopted a staunchly climate change denial stance by comparing the current science of climate change, however sound it is, to a religious cult. Despite of the wide acceptance of scientists around the world, a significant number of the powers that be in Capitol Hill still view climate change data as sham science and thus makes Piers Sellers’ climate change awareness cause face an uphill battle. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

March 21 International Day of Forests: Environmentalism’s Watershed Moment?

Even though we already have a lot of days commemorating our embattled environment, is the March 21 International Day of Forests the most important of them all?

By: Ringo Bones 

While Earth Hour may have succeeded in its intended environmental mission – i.e. crude oil prices had fallen 70-percent since 2014 – it seems that deforestation seems still like the most ignored issue of our embattled environment. South East Asian palm oil farms had been slashing and burning primeval forests / old-growth forests as if they’re growing out of fashion since the last decade of the 20th Century, it only has been relatively recently that the powers-that-be at the United Nations finally established a resolution to combat the increasing rate of global deforestation.  

The 21st day of March which was designated as The International Day of Forests was established by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on November 28, 2014. Each year since then, various events celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees outside forests for the benefit of current and future generations. Countries are encouraged to undertake efforts to organize local, national and international activities involving forests and trees such as tree planting campaigns on March 21 – the International Day of Forests. The Secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization, facilitates the implementation of such events in collaboration with governments, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and international, regional and subregional organizations. International Day of Forests was observed for the very first time on March 21, 2013.
The catalyst for a “Forest Day” that lead to the establishment of the International Year of Forests started as a casual conversation between two scientists in Oxford, England back in February 2007 who felt that world at large was underestimating the importance of forests in mitigating carbon dioxide emissions and saw a growing need for the latest forestry research and thinking to inform global policy makers and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties negotiators. The two Oxford scientists did not foresee the conference would become one of the most influential global events on forests and climate change today.
Each year since the 1970s, more than 13 million hectares or 32 million acres of forests are lost – an area roughly the size of England. As the forests vanishes so too are the plant and animal species that they embrace which make up 80 percent of all terrestrial biodiversity. Most importantly, forests play a critical role in mitigating the worst effects of climate change including global warming. Deforestation results in 12 to 18 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions – almost equal to the carbon dioxide emissions of the entire global transportation sector. Equally crucial, healthy forests are one of the world’s primary carbon sinks. Today, forests cover more than 30 percent of the world’s land and contain more than 60,000 tree species many of them as yet unidentified and yet to be catalogued by the world’s botanical science community. Forests also provide food, fiber, clean drinking water and medicines for approximately 1.6 billion of the world’s poorest people who earn less than 1 US dollars a day – including indigenous peoples with unique cultures.