Tag Archives: carbon

Our carbon sinks are absorbing twice as much carbon dioxide as they used to

The term ‘carbon sink’ is becoming more common as we all gain the scientific education needed to deal with climate change and global warming.

According to Wikipedia, carbon sinks can be both natural and artificial. Both involve the process of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is called carbon sequestration.

The main natural carbon sinks are the oceans and plants, and with our planet covered in so much water, the oceans are the biggest sinks on Earth. The main artificial ones are landfills and the various carbon capture projects.

In those countries that follow the Kyoto Protocol, the use of artificial carbon sinks can serve as a way to offset other carbon use.

Of course, as we are pumping more carbon into the atmosphere our natural carbon sinks are ingesting more carbon dioxide:

Nature has her own way of dealing with excess carbon dioxide. When human activities spew CO2 into the atmosphere, plants absorb more of it than usual, leading to profuse growth. The ocean, too, swallows more than it otherwise would. Many scientists fret that these so-called carbon sinks risk getting clogged up. Some even suggest that this has already started happening. - The Economist

Some even estimate that the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and plants has doubled. Nobody knows what this means, maybe it can continue and alleviate some of our carbon problems, or there could be a backlash effect.

For more on this, check out The Economist article, That Sinking Feeling.

 

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Trees are virtual air conditioners that save millions in electricity, water, carbon

 

An article from The Atlantic focuses on the value of trees:

I was approached by someone from an initiative called San Diego County Trees…(a project) extolling the benefits of urban trees. I just spent time on the website, where the coolest feature is an interactive map of the whole county showing very specific tree locations and information, including quantified benefits…(like) carbon sequestration, water retention, energy saved, and air pollutants reduced.

 

Wow! Look at that image…millions of dollars in savings, water conservation, improved air quality. That is impressive.

Some more facts include, “the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day,” and the energy savings of planting a tree on the sunny side of your house (3% after 5 years, 12% after 15 years).

I love trees.

The world of professional sports is going green

Allen Hershkowitz, from The N.Y. Times, has written up an interesting piece about The Greening of Professional Sports.

Among the many great points he makes, include how every industry will need to participate and public opinion is the most important factor, as well as:

 

Fifteen professional stadiums or arenas have achieved LEED certification for green building design and operations, and 17 have installed on-site solar arrays. Millions of pounds of carbon emissions have been avoided, and millions of pounds of paper products have been shifted toward recycled content or not used at professional sports sites. Recycling and composting programs have been developed or are planned at virtually all professional stadiums and arenas.

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World scientists – we can’t raise the temperature by more than two degrees Celsius

The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius.

Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.)

Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.

We’re not getting any free lunch from the world’s economies, either. With only a single year’s lull in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, we’ve continued to pour record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, year after year. In late May, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures – CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before.

  • America had a warm winter and converted more coal-fired power plants to natural gas, so its emissions fell slightly
  • China kept booming, so its carbon output (which recently surpassed the U.S.) rose 9.3 percent
  • Japanese shut down their fleet of nukes post-Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4 percent.

 

Keep reading: Rolling Stone - Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

 

 

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Microsoft implements “carbon fee” – to push the company into carbon neutrality

Beginning in fiscal year 2013 (which starts this July 1), Microsoft will be carbon neutral across all our direct operations including data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings. We recognize that we are not the first company to commit to carbon neutrality, but we are hopeful that our decision will encourage other companies large and small to look at what they can do to address this important issue.

In addition to our commitment to carbon neutrality, the part I’m most excited about is our plan to infuse carbon awareness into every part of our business around the world. To achieve this goal, we have created an accountability model which will make every Microsoft business unit responsible for the carbon they generate – creating incentives for greater efficiency, increased purchases of renewable energy, better data collection and reporting, and an overall reduction of our environmental impact.

To put this into action, we’re creating a new, internal carbon fee within Microsoft, which will place a price on carbon. The price will be based on market pricing for renewable energy and carbon offsets, and will be applied to our operations in over 100 countries. The goal is to make our business divisions responsible for the cost of offsetting their own carbon emissions.

via – Making Carbon Neutrality Everyone’s Responsibility

 

// Photo – ToddABishop

Soon cars will be ultra-light-weight and made out of carbon-fibre composites

The race is on to replace steel cars with carbon-fibre cars. All of the major automakers have inked deals to make the switch. The reason being that carbon-fibre is:

Interior view of a production line for carbon fiber heavy tow.

“10 times stronger than regular-grade steel and one-quarter of steel’s weight.”

“Using carbon fiber in lieu of conventional steel can lower the weight of a vehicle component by up to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cutting a car’s weight by 10 percent can improve fuel economy by as much as 8 percent.”

via Reuters

Weight is a big deal in cars. The heavier the car, the bigger the engine and, typically, the lower the fuel economy. This is especially true for electric cars who face limited mileage on one charge, reduce that weight by 10% and you can go an extra 50 miles.

Currently, carbon-fibre is expensive to make and only really used in racing cars. BMW, the first company to invest heavily in carbon, has already found ways to cut production costs.

“The carbon fiber fabric is placed in a mold, and resin is injected under high pressure and temperature. The process, which once took 20 minutes per part, now requires less than 10 minutes. Robots cut and handle the material and components, which previously were made by hand.

The robots will help BMW achieved big savings. A pound of carbon fiber now costs only a third as much as a pound used in the M3 CSL coupe’s roof when the limited-edition car was introduced in the 2004 model year.”

via c|net

50K carbon fibers can be shaped and cured to produce spars for wind energy blades, golf shafts, compressed natural gas tanks, and pultruded beams.

 

Much of this production will happen in Germany or China, with both Volkswagon and BMW working with Germany’s SGL Carbon and General Motors signing with Teijin Ltd. But, just last month, Dow Chemicals signed a deal with Ford to begin research and production.

It’s exciting to think what this technology can do, not only for cars, but trucks, planes, boats, etc.

Energy researcher Amory Lovins, in this TED talk, thinks that when we fully start using carbon-fibre vehicles fuel economy in cars will shoot up to 200 miles/gallon. He says that halving the weight of the car creates compound effects: lighter car, requires a lighter engine, which makes the car even lighter.

 

Carbon aircraft brake disc.

 

// Photos – SGL Carbon

The possible Galactic Core of our Universe (photo)

A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars (like our Sun) that orbits a galactic core as a satellite. Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers.

Here is one of those globular clusters:

Messier 9, seen here in a recent image from the Hubble Space Telescope, is twice as old as our Sun, and made up of stars that are among the oldest in our galaxy.

About 8 Billion years old, the more than 250,000 stars of Messier 9 are enriched with far fewer heavier elements than the Sun. Elements crucial to life on Earth, like oxygen and carbon, and the iron at Earth’s core are rare in Messier 9.

via C|Net

 

Thx to Dave Shroeder

Green your stadium – behind-the-scenes tour of Air Canada Center

“…reduce our carbon footprint by 30%, utilities by 30%, and waste by 100%.”

 

More details from the Air Canada Center:

The Air Canada Center…has identified three areas where it can most affect its impact on the environment: Energy, Waste and Water.

Energy
Energy is the largest component of MLSE’s footprint. It is a required commodity, but we do not take its management lightly. We endeavour to minimize our environmental impact through:

  • Deep-lake water cooling which eliminates the need for air conditioning compressors
  • Using steam produced centrally instead of using many boilers
  • Lighting controls on office floors to reduce light levels
  • Overnight temperature set back
  • Variable speed drives on pumps and fans
  • Updating fridges to Energy Star
  • Aggressive plans to upgrade lighting throughout the venue and office tower
  • Proactive internal program aimed at reducing electricity usage and plug load in office tower


Waste

Over a one year period, Air Canada Centre holds on average 180 ticketed events with 2.75 million attendees coming through the building. This amount of traffic combined with the amenities of a sports and entertainment facility, produces a large volume of waste.  MLSE is cognizant of its waste and in 2009 alone will be diverting over 500 metric tonnes of organic material from landfills to farms where it is converted into clean soil (compost). We are also recycling 375 metric tonnes of material per year. Some of our successes are:

Water
MLSE is always looking at ways to reduce water usage and to ensure our business does not contaminate our water system. Some of the ways we have done this are:

  • Utilizing environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and chemicals
  • Installing faucet sensors in our washrooms
  • Installing aerators on taps
  • Filtering the water that makes our ice through reverse osmosis, instead of treating it chemically
  • Treating the water in our ice making plant with “”anode technology”” instead of with chemicals

Largest ever growth in carbon emissions and some unscientific reporting

The global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record, the U.S. Department of Energy calculated, a sign of how feeble the world’s efforts are at slowing man-made global warming.

The world pumped about 564 million more tons (512 million metric tons) of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. That’s an increase of 6 percent. That amount of extra pollution eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries — China, the United States and India, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gases.

Source: Associated Press on Google News

A classic case of unscientific reporting. Counting carbon emission by country doesn’t represent an accurate picture. Comparing the states of the U.S. and to the single country of Germany is wrong.

A little research on the site that created the map above shows that Europe combined has over 1,500 million metric tons, with Western Europe producing 700+. Add in Germany and you’re at over 900 million metric tons.

India doesn’t seem so bad now at 564.

Further, if you start comparing land mass or GDP the story changes even more. For example, here are the countries by land mass:

  • Japan – 820.2 (metric tons/sq km)
  • Germany - 582.6
  • China – 233.2
  • India – 171.6
  • US - 152.4
Of course, the important story here is the rapid growth in emissions, but it’s also important to get our facts straight. Education will play just as big a role as technological advances in solving this global crisis. It’s time to move the discussion forward to a more mature understanding of the situation.