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Renewable Energy Jobs are UP, and RE cost is down

The Shining Future of the GREEN Economy


Employment in the clean energy sector features, first and foremost, jobs in energy efficiency (of the over 3 million U.S. clean energy jobs total). These include jobs in companies that feature EnergyStar products, as well as jobs in producing energy efficient technologies such as LED and CFL lighting and manufacturing electric vehicles (EVs). Jobs in smart grid, maintaining smart meters, clean energy storage, renewable energy, and in sustainable mass transit, are also included in the over 3 million clean energy jobs in the United States figure (cited below).

With regard to sustainable transportation, jobs in EV, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicle production, in addition to jobs in sustainable mass transit, and in biofuel production, are also included in the U.S. clean energy jobs figures below. Clean energy jobs are also jobs in solar, wind, and other jobs in renewable energy (RE) production, managing RE, and distribution of RE.

California, Washington, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Washington DC have all committed to the goal of 100% renewable energy (100RE). A few other states plan to follow suit, and 26 states have passed Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (which includes RE, nuclear, and potentially highly efficient fossil fuel production with carbon capture).


Renewable Energy JOBS are UP

The wind/ solar/ clean energy industries provide Americans with over 3 MILLION jobs. So, purely from a standpoint of looking at renewable energy vs. fossil fuels from how the United States’ economy is grown by focusing more on a certain type of energy; especially regarding employment opportunities, renewable energy is quite a bit better than fossil fuels.

For example, coal provides Americans with less than 80,000 jobs; but only about half that number of jobs in the United States are in actual coal mining, the rest of the jobs in U.S. coal are in associated jobs. Jobs in transporting the coal and maintaining the coal mines, or in maintaining coal-fired power plants, could be transitioned to clean energy jobs.


It should be emphasized that there are more jobs in renewable energy than fossil fuels, but renewable energy is also more cost-efficient than fossil fuels, even in the Midwest United States.


The following is a snippet from E2.org on the clean energy job market in the U.S.-

“At the start of 2020, clean energy employment increased for the fifth straight year since this annual report was first released—growing beyond 3.3 million workers nationwide.

While California remained the nation’s undisputed leader in clean energy jobs, states as diverse in size and structure as Texas and Massachusetts also are in the top ten for clean energy jobs. Florida, North Carolina and Georgia continued to lead the South, while Michigan, Illinois and Ohio led the Midwest. On a per capita basis of statewide total employment, the Northeast claimed the top five spots with Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Delaware employing the largest share of clean energy jobs per capita in the country.”  FROM –  e2.org/reports/clean-jobs-america


Quote on how clean energy jobs pay more on average than the median wage for other job sectors in the U.S.-

“Overall, median wages in clean energy are significantly higher than median wages in sectors such as retail, services, recreation and accommodations, especially when it comes to entry-level wages.”   FROM –  solarpowerworldonline.com/clean-energy-job-wages-higher-than-national-median-report-finds


Clean Energy JOBS

Clean energy jobs continue to provide the most job opportunity; even in the middle of the country; the Plains states, the Midwest, and the Southern states.

Overall, when you add the rest of the clean energy jobs to jobs directly in renewable energy, there are over 3 million jobs in clean energy in the United States. This figure includes energy efficiency-related jobs, clean energy storage jobs, and clean transportation jobs. Employment that is directly in renewable energy in the U.S. features jobs in solar and wind; although jobs in hydroelectricity, biomass, and geothermal energy are also included.

Wind turbine technician is the single fastest-growing job in the United States. “Wind [and solar] farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest [and Southwest U.S.], where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished.” Quote from – motherjones.com/wind-iowa-energy-coal

Solar energy also has impressive employment growth statistics, with about 1 in 50 new jobs created in the United States coming from the solar industry. The fastest-growing job in solar is solar panel installer. Sustainability professionals, sustainable builders, and clean car engineers are also among the fastest-growing jobs in clean energy, and the United States as a whole.


 Clean Energy Jobs in the United States via Cleantechnica

To see recent clean jobs statistics, please see: eesi.org/files/FactSheet_Climate_Jobs


Green JOBS = Fast-Growing JOBS

There are 3 times more jobs in the clean energy sector than in fossil fuels. There are over 2 million Americans who have energy efficiency jobs; energy efficiency is the fastest-growing employment opportunity sector of the U.S. economy. The majority of jobs in energy efficiency are in construction and manufacturing, although many jobs in the energy efficiency sector are in Energy Star, smart grid, and energy storage. 1 in every 6 American construction jobs is in energy efficiency. The future of employment in the energy sector is in clean energy, energy efficiency, and renewable energy, not in fossil fuels.

This article in Mother Jones sums it up perfectly: 

Wind [and solar] farms—and the new jobs that come with them—have swept across the Midwest [and Southwest U.S.], where coal and traditional manufacturing gigs have vanished

In the “wind belt” between Texas and North Dakota, the price of wind energy is finally equal to and in some cases cheaper than that of fossil fuels. Thanks to investments in transmission lines, better computer controls, and more efficient turbines, the cost to US consumers fell two-thirds in just six years, according to the American Wind Energy Association.  

Still, not all windy states have a turbine-friendly climate. In Wyoming, for example, coal-loving legislators passed a tax on wind energy in 2010 and are also considering penalizing utilities for including renewables in their portfolios.  

The next few years will see a showdown between “rural Republicans who really want to get the economic boost [wind & solar, other renewables] offers to their district, versus Republican ideologues who don’t like renewables because they like fossil fuels”—and whose campaign contributions depend on protecting them.  

So farmers—and voters —will have to fight for wind [and other renewables] which, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency,  offer the greatest potential for growth in US renewable power generation. 

(Article by Maddie Oatman – Maddie Oatman is a story editor at Mother Jones. Read more of her stories here.)



The global growth in the employment market in renewable energy, especially solar, but also wind, biomass/ biofuel, and hydro, is impressive, as depicted in this chart-


Global job creation in renewable energy by RE source via IRENA (statistics published 2018)

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy sector is adding over 1/2 million jobs annually worldwide, for a growth rate of over 5%, far eclipsing the potential for growth and employment potential in fossil fuels.


Renewable energy sources vs. fossil fuels

Forbes says that by switching from coal to renewable energy, the United States’ economy will save billions of dollars, in part by taking advantage of the lower levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of renewable energy sources vs. fossil fuels; and by avoiding the cost of negative externalities of fossil fuels (the cost of damage to public health and damage to the environment of fossil fuels).

The cost savings to the United States economy by transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy include, most significantly, reducing the cost of mitigation and adaptation to anthropogenic climate change by investing in sustainable technologies such as renewable energy and energy efficiency vs. fossil fuels. 

The renewable energy industry employs over 500,000 people in the United States. The coal industry is responsible for under 120,000 jobs in the U.S. (see: nytimes.com/interactive/climate/todays-energy-jobs-are-in-solar-not-coal). There is already billions of dollars invested in installed renewable energy capacity in the United States, including over $12 billion of private investment in 2018 US wind energy alone.

Individual states that are leaders in solar & hydroelectricity include coastal and southwest states, especially west and northeast coastal states for hydroelectricity, and southwest states for solar.  Wind energy production is dominated by states in the Plains and Midwest.


EIA expects wind’s share of electricity generation to increase.

[Please note that states like California create a lot of solar energy, but even more hydroelectricity. Hydroelectricity is produced in higher quantities as far as overall energy production in California (over 20% of the state’s energy is from hydroelectric sources), and that makes hydroelectricity the dominant form of renewable energy in the state. However, California produces a substantial amount of solar energy (over 11% statewide). California, Washington, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Washington DC have all committed to the goal of 100% renewable energy. A few other states plan to follow suit.]



For a set of policies focused on increasing the momentum of clean job growth in the United States, please see GCT’s Guide to Green Energy Public Policies



Renewable Energy costs are down

For your reference, here is Lazard‘s 2020 levelized cost of energy (LCOE) chart>> On the 2020 LCOE chart, it’s renewable energy sources (especially onshore wind farms and utility-scale solar) with the best overall price of all energy sources; and wind energy and utility-scale PV are now priced lower than coal; onshore wind and utility-scale PV are now even cheaper than gas combined cycle (when the full LCOE is taken into account)>>> 

Lazard‘s 2020 levelized cost of energy (LCOE)


Cost of renewable energy vs. fossil fuels

The cost of producing energy with renewable energy vs. fossil fuels is dramatically lower when just the cost of producing electricity (marginal cost) is considered. When the costs of the negative externalities (negative externalities of fossil fuels– damage/ cost to the environment and public health, climate change) associated with fossil fuel production are added in with the LCOE*, the relative cost of renewable energy sources vs. the cost of fossil fuels is lower still.

The negative externalities associated with coal are particularly dire; not only black lung in coal miners, also a general public health hazard in fine particulates, and other toxins, emitted into the air during the energy production process with coal. Those public health issues are in addition to coal’s significant contribution to anthropogenic climate change, and other forms of air, land, and water pollution associated with coal.

Overall, the lowest cost of energy production is onshore wind (which also has minimal negative externalities), followed by utility-scale solar, and natural gas (which carries the cost of negative externalities). Producing energy from coal is no longer cheaper than renewables or gas, and is damaging to public health and the environment.

[*Examples of levelized costs of energy include: up-front capital costs/ costs of initial investment (which are much higher for renewable energy than fossil fuel energy), the marginal cost of the fuel source (which is much higher for fossil fuels, and almost nothing for free, abundant sources of renewable energy like solar and wind energy, and very low cost for hydro, geothermal, and biomass), cost of maintenance for the power plant/ energy farm/ dam, etc…, cost of transporting the fuel (again, zero for most renewable energy), costs associated with transmitting/ distributing the energy, insurance costs for the energy-producing facility, etc…]

“Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competitiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-MWh cost (in discounted real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. 4 Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant.” – quote from the EIA.

 

In this chart, you can clearly see how much more expensive nuclear and coal are projected to remain in comparison to renewables-


Projected LCOE of US energy sources via Energy Innovation (statistics published 2018)


For the initial capital costs, nuclear is the most expensive form of energy. The “good” thing about nuclear energy production is that there are low marginal costs, and there are little to no negative externalities with regard to the actual energy production, i.e. little to no GHG emissions. 

With nuclear, it’s necessary to find secure locations to safely store the radioactive waste. Nuclear power plants must evolve to the point where there’s no chance for another Fukushima-type catastrophe.  However, future planned 4th generation nuclear power plants will be safe, autonomous, more sustainable than current nuclear plants, and more cost-efficient.

For the future the first half of this century, nuclear energy is going to remain an unlikely ally to clean energy in the fight against anthropogenic climate change. Coal is out for the reasons stated above; coal is no longer a viable, cost-efficient energy fuel source. Petroleum is mostly used to fuel vehicles around the world (although hopefully, the world population will continue to move toward electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and hybrid cars). It’s safe to assume diesel generators will still be used to produce energy, largely for third world countries, island nations, remote locations, and energy backup.

Renewable energy and natural gas are the future of energy production, as seen in this recent study by the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute. Overall, renewable energy (and natural gas) are both cheaper sources of fuel for energy production AND better, larger sources of employment; thus, renewable energy is better for the environment AND the economy.



For more information on these, and similar topics, please see: 

greencitytimes.com/coal-vs-natural-gas


greencitytimes.com/what-makes-a-city-sustainable  


greencitytimes.com/economic-growth-vs-the-environment


greencitytimes.com/nuclear-one-necessary-energy-supply-to-fight-climate-change



 

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Reforestation

Climate Solution – Forests


Deforestation and solutions; including reforestation

Deforestation of our planet, for centuries, has led to issues such as – loss of wildlife habitat; as well as land, water, and air pollution. Clearing forests results in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the practice of deforestation itself (leading to an unmitigated increase in global warming). Deforestation is also responsible for the loss of trees to help absorb GHGs and create a healthy planet; and degradation of land quality.

Humans have taken for granted products originating from forests (a vast quantity of the world’s products of mass consumption come from forests). A significant quantity of beef, soy, palm oil, and wood products either originated, or were developed as a consequence of, now degraded or deforested land. Deforestation is a consequence of the exploitation of Earth’s natural resources for mass production and consumption.


What are some of the major problems caused by deforestation?

Deforestation has been a major contributor to the current global ecological crisis of climate change. The reckless manner in which forests are cleared has resulted in the degradation of large swaths of the planet’s land. Within the past decade and to the present day, it has been calculated that global deforestation occurs at a rate of at least 18 million acres annually.

Deforestation is a top global contributor to climate change. This is partly due to the polluting fossil fuel-intensive machines used to clear forests that spew GHGs and pollution. This is also due to ‘controlled’ fires to advance the deforestation process.

Deforestation is mostly done for the mass production of carbon-intensive goods manufactured from natural resources. A big climate problem that deforestation is to blame for is land cleared simply for cattle grazing. Methane emissions from cattle grazing are the #1 source of agricultural GHGs worldwide

Project Drawdown recognizes reforestation as a top climate solution. This is due to the biodiversity and thriving ecosystems forests provide; and because forests provide needed carbon sequestration from the atmosphere in order to create Earth’s healthy biome.


Where Does Most Deforestation Happen?

The top 10 countries that hold the majority of the forest coverage of the earth; and also have among the highest global shares of deforestation, include large nations like – China, Russia, Canada, and the United States.

The greatest percentage levels of national deforestation are in countries that contain portions of the Amazon Rainforest, most notably – Brazil. The Amazon has the greatest deforestation rate of any large forest in the world. Some highly forested countries, like the Philippines and Indonesia, used to be almost completely forested; and as of today, have had over half of their forests removed; yet still – the Amazon represents the most egregious rate of deforestation.

Forests have been destroyed at an incredible rate for hundreds of years, both in the Amazon, and across the globe. Stopping deforestation is the obvious solution to the problem. Serious organizations committed to stopping deforestation in various global regions include the Canadian Forestry Association, The Rainforest Alliance, Amazon Watch, and Conservation International.


The global significance of reforestation

Reforestation represents a holistic, practical climate solution to help create a healthy biome on the planet. Reforestation has been seriously engaged in by concerned private philanthropic organizations, as well as governments, throughout the world; from individual donors to non-profit organizations, to NGOs, to sustainable corporations. One example of successful reforestation efforts is a forest started in Ontario; supported by the Canadian government, as well as private donors, called the 50 Million Tree program.

Countries, states, and provinces, around the world, should make a concerted effort to invest more in planting forests, planting trees in planned urban green spaces, and setting aside land for nature reserves. “Under the Paris Climate Agreement, India has pledged to increase its forests by a massive 95 million hectares by 2030. In 2017 around 1.5 million volunteers planted more than 66 million trees in a record-breaking 12 hours in the state of Madhya Pradesh.”  FROM – bbc.com/news

Another successful reforestation effort is forest being planted for ecological, social, and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa, just at the southern border of the Sahara, organized by Greenpop.; and supported mostly by private donors and philanthropic non-profit organizations. Greenpop’s mission is to plant trees, restore degraded forest areas, increase biodiversity, help communities across Africa meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and expand ecosystem services across Africa.

An example of an organization dedicated to reforestation, supported by philanthropic non-profits run by some of the world’s best-known corporations; including Google and Amazon – is Trees for the Future. Trees for the Future is an agroforestry organization working with local populations to improve livelihoods and restore degraded lands to sustainable productivity through tree planting; in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Trees for the Future’s efforts are aimed at stopping deforestation, engaging local communities in reforestation and sustainable agriculture; and aiding the mitigation of climate change through investments to help restore, maintain, and protect ecosystems.

Please see more information from Project Drawdown on Protecting Forests.

“Project Drawdown defines forest protection as: the legal protection of forest lands, leading to reduced deforestation rates and the safeguarding of carbon sinks. This solution replaces non-protected forest land. It is assumed that forest protection primarily happens at the government and non-governmental organization (NGO) level.

Mature, healthy forests have spent decades or centuries accumulating carbon through photosynthesis. They represent massive storehouses of carbon in soils and biomass. Yet, forests are being cleared and degraded at a rapid rate, causing carbon loss as well as negative impacts on ecosystem services like habitat, erosion control, soil-building, water regulation, water supply, and air pollution removal.

Forest protection reduces these emissions from deforestation. Emissions from tropical deforestation and forest degradation alone are estimated at 5.1-8.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year. This accounts for 14-21 percent of anthropogenic emissions…”     FROM –  drawdown.org/solutions/forest-protection


♥♥For great ideas on environmental sustainability♥♥, conservation of wildlife & their habitats, as well as global ecological conservation solutions, please see>> MONGABAY.COM. Mongabay.com also has current, worldwide examples of innovative measures implemented by non-profit organizations, NGOs, and governments. These innovative sustainability measures are put in place to protect, restore, and maintain ecosystems, global wildlife, and natural biodiversity.


The Global importance of protecting, maintaining, and restoring Ecosystems; Sustainable Ag. Techniques including Agroforestry

Forests are natural carbon sinks, sequestering carbon from Earth’s atmosphere, and providing oxygen to create healthy ecosystems on the planet; as well as creating sustainable habitats for plants, wildlife, and the biodiversity of the forest itself. Sustainable agriculture also creates carbon sinks, in the form of farmland with vibrant ecosystems and biodiversity.

In addition to reforestation, Project Drawdown also recognizes these sustainable practices, as top climate solutions:

  • Land is a critical component of the climate system, actively engaged in the flows of carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen—essential building blocks for life. Carbon is the core of trees and grasses, mammals and birds, lichens and microbes. Linking one atom to the next, and to other elements, it’s the fundamental material of all living organisms. FROM  –  drawdown.org/sectors/land-sinks
  • Plants and healthy ecosystems have an unparalleled capacity to absorb carbon through photosynthesis and store it in living biomass. In addition, soils are, in large part, organic matter—once-living organisms, now decomposing—making them an enormous storehouse of carbon. Land can therefore be a powerful carbon sink, returning atmospheric carbon to living vegetation and soils. While the majority of heat-trapping emissions remain in the atmosphere, land sinks currently return a quarter of human-caused emissions to Earth—literally.   FROM  –  drawdown.org/sectors/land-sinks
  • In their biomass and soil, forests are powerful carbon storehouses. [Forest] protection prevents emissions from deforestation, shields that carbon, and enables ongoing carbon sequestration.   FROM  –  drawdown.org/solutions/forest-protection
  • Multistrata agroforestry systems mimic natural forests in structure. Multiple layers of trees and crops achieve high rates of both carbon sequestration and food production.    FROM  –  drawdown.org/solutions/multistrata-agroforestry
  • An agroforestry practice, silvopasture integrates trees, pasture, and forage, into a single system. Incorporating trees improves land health and significantly increases carbon sequestration.    FROM  –  drawdown.org/solutions/silvopasture
  • Pumping and distributing water is energy intensive. Drip and sprinkler irrigation, among other practices and technologies, make farm water use more precise and efficient.  FROM  –  drawdown.org/solutions/farm-irrigation-efficiency
  • Building on conservation agriculture with additional practices, regenerative annual cropping can include compost application, green manure, and organic production. It reduces emissions, increases soil organic matter, and sequesters carbon.  FROM  –  drawdown.org/solutions/regenerative-annual-cropping


Red Meat and Carbon Offsets

Red meat from cows makes its way to fast food restaurants (but not before millions of acres of once-pristine forest are degraded or destroyed); in addition to the waste streams of paper products fast food restaurants create (also major contributors to forest degradation). 

Fast food restaurants, globally, can help stop deforestation; as numerous corporations in different segments of the manufacturing industry have started joining global conservation efforts recently. Fast food companies, as with other companies concerned about lowering their carbon footprint, can purchase carbon offsets.

Carbon offsets help balance out global GHGs and other environmental degradation; for instance, damage to the environment wrought by companies that commit deforestation, and companies that are reliant on fossil fuels, are a partial solution to the deforestation problem.

Some offsets often formally offered in emission trading schemes (ETS) globally include: forestry projects (like planting and caring for trees; restoring, maintaining, and protecting forests and their ecosystems), as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency projects worldwide. These types of carbon offsets are also available for purchase by companies and individuals.

The amount of carbon offsets required for a company to purchase in an emission trading system (ETS) is proportional to the amount of pollution, GHGs, released by the company involved in the ETS. These offsets should also be measured by the deforestation that a company commits, and the subsequent effect of that behavior by the company on the environment. However, individuals and companies can purchase offsets to lower their carbon footprint – the more carbon offsets purchased, the greater the good.

In addition to reforestation measures taken by private companies, and concerned individuals, and lifestyle changes by individuals taken to help address the problem, governments can help.

Governments like Brazil, and around the world, have the ability to enact carbon emission trading systems, forcing companies, and the major industries involved in deforestation, to purchase offsets to their destructive behavior. Carbon offsets can be purchased by individuals, non-profit organizations, and private businesses of every size, from small businesses to large international companies, and even governments; in order to lower their net carbon footprint and/ or in order to support sustainability efforts worldwide

However, as of now, most ETS around the world only use the amount GHGs released by companies, not deforestation, as a metric to assess a companies’ responsibility for purchasing carbon offets. ETS, and other carbon pricing mechanisms (such as a carbon tax), can be mandated by states, provinces, and entire countries.

For more on this topic, please see Green City Times article on:

Sustainable agriculture

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Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative GREEN Land-Use


The United Nations (UN) has advised that a global shift towards plant-based food will counteract the worst effects of climate change. Is going vegan really going to help in global climate action, and help the world meet net zero emissions targets?

Well, actually…the UN says that land-use practices that favor plant growth vs. a focus on animal grazing, as well as sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices, are among top climate change mitigation solutions. Regenerative agriculture creates environmentally-friendly carbon sinks; turning farms into thriving ecosystems that sequester atmospheric carbon, while also producing crops for food.  



Sustainable and regenerative agriculture

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with a report in August 2019, about how the global community must switch now to sustainable land use in food production. All countries and farm industries globally must adopt sustainable agriculture practices, as the world begins transitioning to more sustainable food consumption habits.

Effective global climate action depends on sustainable land-use practices as the foundation for successful action.


For more information about sustainable agriculture practices, permaculture, and reforestation, please see>>>

Sustainable agriculture

Reforestation

[A quick note about the terms in this article; all regenerative agriculture is sustainable agriculture, but not all sustainable agriculture techniques and practices are considered the same as specific practices of regenerative agriculture]


What exactly is regenerative agriculture?

A major component of regenerative agriculture is a focus on proper soil nutrition. Crop rotation of a variety of perennial crops, and no-till farming, for example, are designed to increase soil health. Conventional animal grazing is a much less sustainable land-use practice and has almost no considerations for proper soil health, versus farmland used for regenerative agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture doesn’t necessarily mean that absolutely no animals are raised on farms for food (as an immediate global dietary shift seems to be highly unlikely).

Rather, sustainable land-use simply means that farms focus on “well-managed grazing practices [that] stimulate improved plant growth, and increased soil [health]“. However, the primary focus of regenerative agriculture remains diverse food crops, and land use dedicated to plant growth, biodiversity, and healthy ecosystems.


Regenerative agriculture focuses on farming done with the implementation of specific sustainable farming methods. Here are some key points in defining regenerative agriculture>>>

Strict regenerative agricultural practices include:

no-tillage

diverse cover crops

in-farm fertility (no external nutrients)

no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers

multiple crop rotations

polyculture

organic soil fertility


Cover crops, no-till or low-till farming, crop rotation, organic soil fertility, and polyculture (vs. monoculture) – are a few sustainable agriculture practices that increase soil health. Cover crops refer to a variety of crops grown on farmland during off-seasons in order to maintain soil health.

Polyculture is also a practice of introducing and maintaining multiple species of crops and plants on farmland. Polyculture involves the consistent year-round farming practice of creating diverse crop and farmland plant species.

Biodiversity of a farm’s crops and other ecosystems on the farm improve soil health, deter pests, and help to maintain healthy ecosystems.


Carbon farming and cover crops to improve soil health

Sustainable farms enhance environmental quality and agricultural economy through the enhancement of natural resources. For example, carbon farming is a sustainable agriculture practice that maintains healthy soils and is common practice in most organic farming.

Practices to maintain soil health are found in regenerative agriculture, as well as in permaculture. A sustainable farm must focus a substantial amount of time year-round on healthy soil nutrition to help maintain long-term soil quality.

the cover crop buckwheat shown juxtaposed to the same land without cover crops

One solution to help create more sustainable farms is for governments to simply subsidize farmers to implement sustainable farming practices.

Governments should consider legislating agricultural subsidies through increasing financial incentives, tax breaks, or direct payments, for farmers that practice sustainable ag. techniques; with the easiest practice to implement being cover cropping.

These financial incentives would be for farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices such as carbon farming and implementation of cover crops during off-seasons. Some governments worldwide already have legislation to support farmers that use sustainable agriculture practices, but more is needed.

After all, farmers that adopt sustainable agriculture practices are helping reduce global GHGs and fight climate change. Sustainable farms are carbon sinks; sequestering carbon and transforming conventional farmland into thriving, climate-saving, ecosystems.

Typically after farmland crops are harvested, and especially during wintertime, farmland just lays fallow. A few months later, when it’s time to sow seeds for a new harvest – weeds, pests, and unhealthy soil fill the land. Tillage, and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers only make the problem worse. The simple remedy for this problem is cover cropping. Cover crops keep weeds and pests at bay, and maintain soil health during the off-season.

Solutions, in order to encourage farmers to implement the widespread use of cover cropping, include: providing government subsidies to farmers that practice cover cropping, proving guaranteed investment of markets for the crops, or at least making sure farmers get detailed information about cover crops.

Cover crops not only maintain farmland health but provide a source of potential income, providing useful crops to the community. Examples of cover crops include buckwheat, alfalfa, annual cereals (rye, wheat, barley, oats), clovers, winter peas, cowpeas, turnips, radish, forage grasses such as ryegrass, and warm-season grasses such as sorghum-sudan grass.

Here’s a brief snippet from an article by The Union of Concerned Scientists on sustainable agriculture:

Environmental sustainability in agriculture means good stewardship of the natural systems and resources that farms rely on. Among other things, this involves:

  • building and maintaining healthy soil with low till or no till farming
  • crop rotation
  • use of cover crops during off-seasons
  • polyculture vs. monoculture
  • managing water wisely
  • minimizing air, water, and climate pollution
  • promoting biodiversity

There’s a whole field of research devoted to achieving these goals: agroecology, the science of managing farms as ecosystems. By working with nature rather than against it, farms managed using agroecological principles can avoid damaging impacts without sacrificing productivity or profitability.”     FROM  –    ucsusa.org/what-sustainable-agriculture


Land-use solutions; how to reduce GHGs from agriculture

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN believes that raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” This problem is largely due to deforestation to clear land; a significant amount of which is either directly or indirectly for the global meat industry. Another major contributor to the problem is land-use designated for grazing. Land used for grazing is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) than all of the world’s transport systems combined.

The world should stop the unsustainable practice of deforestation, but an immediate global climate solution is simply improving practices on existing farms. A realistic solution is for the global agriculture community to be encouraged to maintain focused efforts on regenerative farming practices.

The global transition to sustainable agriculture would be expedited if the global farming community was simply catering to a majority organic plant-based diet in the consumer food market. However, this ideal sustainable circumstance is far from realistic.

One solution that will remain politically unpopular for obvious reasons (as the vast majority of the world’s population have meat and dairy-intensive diets) – is a carbon tax on meat. It takes on average 11 times more fossil fuels to produce a calorie of animal protein than to produce a calorie of grain protein. That’s a considerable amount of GHGs released per calorie.

So much so that Chatham House, otherwise known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, has called for a carbon tax on meat to help combat climate change. In fact, globally, raising cows for food ranks only behind the United States and China as a GHG contributing segment of the global economy. Raising cattle for food is the #1 source of GHGs from agriculture globally.

Going vegan, vegetarian, or at least eating less meat, helps reduce global GHGs by helping in the global transition to sustainable, plant-based agriculture. It helps fill the demand for a plant-based consumer diet as the global fight against climate change gains steam. It also helps to reduce your carbon footprint.


Meat & GHGs

An Oxford study published in the journal Climate Change found that the diets of meat-eaters who ate more than 3.5 ounces of meat a day – roughly the size of a pack of cards – contribute to GHGs significantly. These heavy meat eaters generate 15.8 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent each day; compared to vegetarians – 8.4 pounds, and vegans – 6.4 pounds. This is because the process of raising livestock for food on farms itself is carbon-intensive. Also, the majority of global deforestation is just to create land for cattle to graze.

The average meat-eater has a much higher carbon footprint than people who adopt a plant-based diet – 50-54% higher than vegetarians, and between 99-102% higher than vegans. Of course, there are other ways for individuals in society to contribute to lower emissions, but veganism may be a top solution. Research shows that, as Dr. Fredrik Hedenus of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden said, “reducing meat and dairy consumption is key to bringing agricultural pollution down to safe levels.” 

Raising cattle for meat and dairy ranks close to the top of the list as a segment of the global economy contributing to GHGs (mostly in the form of methane emitted from grazing cattle). There are a variety of innovative ways to reduce methane emissions from grazing cattle.

However, transitioning to a plant-based diet now is considered one of the best ways to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, and to reduce one’s personal contribution to the problem of GHGs. A study from the University of Chicago posits that eating less meat (or none at all) is more effective at reducing one’s personal responsibility for GHGs than changing from a conventional car to a hybrid.  

According to PETA – “…the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shown that animal agriculture is globally the single largest source of methane emissions and that, pound for pound, methane is more than 28 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in our atmosphere. The use of manure storage and of manure being used as fertilizer for crops and feed, which then generates substantial amounts of nitrous oxide, contributes greatly to the greenhouse gases affecting the global warming crisis.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The three most critical GHGs responsible for climate change are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – and together they cause the majority of climate change issues.

Methane is a gas that can be produced from stockpiling of animal and human sewage, manure used as fertilizer, as well animal’s personal “gas emissions [for ex. cow burps and farts]”.  Methane is a potent GHG released from livestock in dangerous quantities exacerbating climate change, and is closely followed in significance by nitrous oxide in unsustainable agriculture practices.

Nitrous oxide is roughly 300 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and methane is roughly 40 times more potent than CO2. CO2 is the most well-known GHG because it’s the longest-lasting, and most significant GHG in terms of quantity of CO2 released in the common industries tracked for GHG emissions (energy generation, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, buildings).

Agriculture is the largest man-made source of nitrous oxide, with meat, dairy, and other animal-based food industries – contributing to 65% of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide emissions are primarily direct emissions from fertilized agricultural stock, and manure, as well as indirect emissions from leaching of fertilizers and pesticides; which is when rainwater causes part of the nitrogen in fertilizers and pesticides to leach into groundwater and eventually into rivers. 

In basic terms, societies should begin to try and transition from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet today; and the global farming community absolutely must switch now to sustainable agriculture practices, in order for the global fight against climate change to be truly effective.

Food consumption habits greatly affect land-use/ agricultural practices. Project Drawdown ranks having the global community transition to a plant-based diet as one of the most effective climate mitigation strategies, albeit one that has gained very little global momentum (as eating meat and dairy remains very popular worldwide).

For reference, around 3% of the population in the United States is vegetarian or vegan, and the agriculture sector is responsible for 9% of GHGs from the United States. The U.K. is a lot better than the U.S. as far as the vegetarian portion of the population, with estimates that as much as a quarter of the population of the United Kingdom will be vegetarian by 2025

Dietary consumer choices directly influence land use and agriculture. One solution to the global climate crisis is to focus on changing cultural dietary choices and, in turn, help foster the transition to sustainable global land-use/ agriculture practices to effectively fight climate change.

Project Drawdown estimates that transitioning the global agriculture systems to sustainable practices can reduce global CO2 emissions by over 20 gigatons, stating that “bringing that carbon back home through regenerative agriculture is one of the greatest opportunities to address human and climate health, along with the financial well-being of farmers.”

Additionally, Project Drawdown ranks implementing sustainable agriculture practices, such as regenerative annual cropping, and transitioning the global community to sustainable land use turning farmland into land sinks, as top solutions in their list of most effective ways to fight climate change. Project Drawdown also ranks managed grazing as a top climate solution; offering the following key points-

Managed grazing imitates herbivores, addressing two key variables: how long livestock grazes a specific area and how long the land rests before animals return. There are three managed-grazing techniques that improve soil health, carbon sequestration, water retention, and forage productivity:

  1. Improved continuous grazing adjusts standard grazing practices and decreases the number of animals per acre.
  2. Rotational grazing moves livestock to fresh paddocks or pastures, allowing those already grazed to recover.
  3. Adaptive multi-paddock grazing shifts animals through smaller paddocks in quick succession, after which the land is given time to recover.

FROM – https://drawdown.org/solutions/managed-grazing

And here’s a snippet from World Resources Institute on governments subsidizing sustainable agriculture for farmers willing to adopt practices that actively sequester carbon on farmland (through carbon farming, cover crops, and/ or another sustainable farming practice discussed above) –

“To both feed the world and solve climate change, the world needs to produce 50% more food in 2050 compared to 2010 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds. While government funding has an important role to play, a new World Bank report found that agricultural subsidies are currently doing little to achieve these goals, but have great potential for reform.

What is needed to mitigate the 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions contributed by global agriculture, including emissions from land use change? The good news is that many opportunities exist to boost agricultural productivity to provide more food on existing agricultural land while reducing emissions.

Opportunity one is to increase natural resource efficiency by producing more food per hectare, per animal and per kilogram of fertilizer and other chemicals used. Opportunity two is to put in place measures to link these productivity gains to protection of forests and other native habitats. Opportunity three is to pursue innovations, because reaching climate goals for agriculture — just like for energy use — requires new technologies and approaches.

Overall, governments around the world should redirect more agricultural funding to focus on mitigation and the synergies between reducing emissions and producing more food. A first step toward a sustainable food future is to make better use of the large financial support governments are already providing.”   FROM – wri.org/redirecting-agricultural-subsidies-sustainable-food-future



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Using Technology to Provide Clean Water to Cities

Clean Water Technologies


How Technology Can Help Cities Avoid Another Flint Water Crisis

Article by Jane Marsh |

The green movement is influencing natural resource protection. As the global temperature rises, adverse effects limit individuals’ access to freshwater sources. In answer, ecologists are developing technologies that improve urban water supplies.

Many engineers and scientists evaluate the Flint Water Crisis while designing their purification devices. The systems assess ways to improve public health and well-being by minimizing contamination. Before individuals consider the different filtration technologies, they must examine the effects of the Flint Water Crisis.


What Is the Flint Water Crisis?

Flint River

In 2014, residents of Flint, Michigan, began noticing changes in their water supply. Before individuals experienced the differences, the city changed its water supply from the Detroit system to the Flint River in order to save money. Flint is a working-class community with a lower-than-average income.

The government saw the community’s health as less of a priority than more developed regions. Officials failed to monitor the new water supply’s safety, which led to adverse effects. After consuming the water, residents began feeling sick and reported rashes, hair loss, and itchy skin.

Even after multiple claims, the local government continued supplying Flint with contaminated water. Residents consumed the water supply for years and some eventually developed Legionnaires’ disease. The effects killed 12 individuals and left 87 with severe illnesses.

Environmental scientists explored Flint’s challenges to create preventive technologies. Engineers and ecologists are applying the systems to protect all communities equally. There are six technologies purifying water sources to avoid a recurrence of the Flint Crisis.


AI Water Monitors

Scientists are using artificial intelligence (AI) to support filtration systems in the digital age. After the Flint Water Crisis, the University of Michigan and Google teamed up and created advanced purification technology. The AI system determines which of Flint’s 55,000 houses have lead pipes.

The technology is 97% accurate at preventing lead poisoning. Switching the water supply and replacing lead pipes can effectively protect Flint’s citizens from adverse health effects. The AI system explores the residual effects of the contaminated water source on residents’ lines.

The Flint Action and Sustainability Team (FAST) received $100 million from the government to apply the technology and replace lead-containing pipes. When corporations like Google advocate for underserved communities and advance AI technology, the government understands the severity of the ecological issue.

Other scientists are developing systems to detect and remove bacteria, further protecting residents.


Bacteria Detection System

Scientists are using membrane concentration technologies to identify specific pathogens and contaminants in water sources. Professionals sample water supplies using hollow-fiber and ultra-filtration methods. Individuals may identify bacteria and viruses in the samples using the detection technology. They can also use the system to identify and remove harsh bacteria from local supplies.

Sampling professionals may use detection technology to locate Escherichia coli (E. coli) in water sources. This bacteria may cause mass illnesses which cause cramping, vomiting, and fever.

Another bacterium the technology can detect to increase health and safety is heterotrophic bacteria. Heterotrophic bacteria are less harmful than E. coli. Scientists assess heterotrophic bacteria levels to identify the potential for other contaminants to reproduce.

Environmental engineers create purification systems using reverse osmosis to remove bacteria and other impurities from water sources.


Reverse Osmosis

Filtration professionals use reverse osmosis to convert ocean water, wastewater, and other sources into drinkable resources. The technology uses a semipermeable membrane to capture and store solutes. Reverse osmosis systems effectively purify water sources and protect individuals’ health.

The technology can also increase a community’s access to safe drinking water. In areas like Flint, where freshwater sources carry contaminants, individuals can use reverse osmosis to convert ocean water into a potable resource. Freshwater only makes up about 1% of Earth’s water supply.

The remaining water resides in the oceans and icecaps. Using the advanced technology helps prevent adverse health effects and communities’ reliance on contaminated water sources. Scientists are also utilizing ultraviolet (UV) rays to avoid another Flint Water Crisis.


UV Water Treatment

Purification professionals are using the germicidal properties of ultraviolet (UV) light to kill microorganisms. The wavelengths ranging from 200 to 300 nanometers eliminate nearly all contaminants. UV light eliminates a microorganism’s ability to reproduce, protecting the current and future water supply.

Professionals could utilize UV filtration technology at water treatment plants to prevent mass contamination. Flint’s plant can install a light system and protect its citizens from adverse health effects. Many green city developers are utilizing such purification technologies to support sustainable systems.


Supporting Green Cities With Purification Technology

Green cities support modern urbanization while minimizing adverse ecological effects. Developers are implementing water purification technologies to eliminate surface-level pollution. Some professionals are even utilizing the systems to convert contaminated water into energy.

Generating power from wastewater decreases a community’s reliance on fossil fuels. The technologies can lower surface and atmospheric degradation over time. Regions may also pair their AI filtration technology with smart city systems to safeguard a community’s health and well-being.


Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co