Categories
All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Sustainability News

5 categories of change in climate

What ARE the major changes in GLOBAL climate?


Earth, Horizon Earth, From Space, Climate ChangeClimate change is adversely affecting all parts of the earth. There have been dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) globally since the industrial revolution of the 19th century. The planet warms faster as more GHGs are added to the earth’s atmosphere.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, expressing the global scientific consensus on the matter, warns that “global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air…The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future.”

With GHGs (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, other gases – see epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases) continually added to the earth’s atmosphere, the planet continues to warm at an increasing rate. Unfortunately, much larger changes to the earth’s climate are projected despite the current pace of global climate change mitigation.

Thus, an increase in the pace of climate change mitigation (such as increased global investment in, and implementation of, clean and sustainable energy technologies) is imperative to slow the pace of climate change. In this article, the focus is on just a few (of many) categories of climate change, all of which represent significant adverse impacts to people and ecosystems.

Adverse climate feedback loops will lead to ‘tipping points‘ that might cause ‘runaway climate change‘. The way to avoid this scenario is for governments, industries, and the private sector throughout the world to increase investments exponentially in climate mitigation technologies.


Adverse Climate Feedback Loops

As the planet’s temperature rises, ocean temperature also rises in some regions globally, while simultaneously droughts and wildfires increase in other regions, and adverse climate feedback loops occur globally. For example, as the earth’s temperature and ocean temperature rise, there is also an increase in the size and frequency of intense storms and flooding. The increase in extreme storms leads again to an increase in the very factors that lead to more extreme wet weather in the first place (evidence of an increase in adverse climate feedback loops).

At the same time that extreme storms pummel some regions, global warming leads to extreme drought in other parts of the planet, and severe wildfires result. The larger wildfires and drought dry out land and make way for more adverse climate feedback loops (higher average temperatures, more extreme drought, more extreme wildfires, etc…). An increase in severe drought globally also has knock-on effects, such as devastation to agricultural food crops throughout entire regions of the planet.

From the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization: “The percentage of the planet affected by drought has more than doubled in the last 40 years and in the same timespan droughts have affected more people worldwide than any other natural hazard. Climate change is indeed exacerbating drought in many parts of the world, increasing its frequency, severity and duration. Severe drought episodes have a dire impact on the socio-economic sector and the environment and can lead to massive famines and migration, natural resource degradation, and weak economic performance.”    FROM  –    fao.org/land-water/droughtandag


Atmospheric Changes/ Global Warming

Graphs of Global Warming Scenarios with More GHGs and with Less GHGs

Global warming presently is primarily due to human-caused GHGs from the combustion of fossil fuels. Essentially, rises in GHGs will continue to increase average global temperatures at a continuously higher rate.

The impacts and pace of global warming simultaneously accelerate adverse feedback loops, which have the effect of increasing the pace of global temperature rise.

Thus, the hope to reduce the consequences of climate change is tied to the successful global effort to reduce GHGs.

Consequences of global warming and related adverse climate feedback loops include increases in extreme weather events of all kinds, such as:

  • increased severity of hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones
  • disruption of global weather patterns, such as jet stream disturbances that send colder weather further south (i.e. ‘polar vortex‘)
  • chaotic increases in rainfall and flooding in parts of the world, while simultaneously other parts of the world experience –
  • drought, heatwaves, wildfires, and devastation to agriculture 
  • increases in toxic algal blooms; especially in freshwater ecosystems such as lakes, but also in coastal marine habitats
  • extinction of wildlife species and ecosystems; degradation of wildlife habitats and biodiversity globally
  • ocean acidification

Read more about global warming here


Arctic Warming/ Sea Level Rise

Hundreds of billions of tons of melting glaciers and sea ice occur continuously year-round due to Arctic warming. The consequences of melting glaciers and sea ice have worldwide implications including rising ocean water levels. Icebergs and other smaller ice formations throughout the sea are melting due to global warming, in addition to glaciers in Greenland, and throughout the world and Arctic.

Sea level rise is already threatening some regions of the planet, especially during extreme high tide and flooding events, and especially for low-lying communities on coasts and islands. Melting ice of all sizes, and warming oceans, adversely affects the lives of marine wildlife species and ecosystems. Read more about the adverse effects on marine wildlife from global warming below.


Adverse Marine Changes

Changes to global ocean habitats are making life difficult for vast amounts of marine species. Fish and marine wildlife species’ diversity ranges and distribution are changing significantly due to global warming. These adverse effects on marine species correspond to climate changes to the planet; rising sea levels due to melting glaciers & polar ice melt, and composition changes in oceans such as increasing ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification has led to mass die-offs of coral reefs, home to a diverse set of marine species. Compounding adverse marine changes have affected coastal ecosystems, island-nations, and communities, causing them to face increasing exposure to storms, floods, as well as the aforementioned marine ecosystem issues. All of these factors have led once-thriving marine ecosystems and coastal communities to be in a state of distress, struggling for survival.


Increase in Wildfires

Wildfires are forecast to continue to increase in frequency, duration, and range. Increasing global temperatures will continue to increase the number and level of wildfires worldwide. The increasing number of wildfires will, in turn, cause a continued increase in global temperatures. This is a diabolical adverse feedback loop of increased atmospheric GHGs and adverse effects of global warming; a continuous cycle of global environmental devastation.

Despite the seemingly unusual high frequency of the raging wildfires that took place recently, it is alarming that there are many more large wildfires predicted over the coming couple of years. In California and Australia, as well as throughout the entire planet; warmer temperatures, drier land conditions, and extreme dry gusty wind are expected to expand the length and increase the intensity of wildfires.


Thawing Permafrost

Thawing permafrost will release large amounts of potent GHGs, such as methane, increasing global warming. Thawing ground (for example, in Siberia) is also likely to disrupt municipal building sectors and other infrastructure on a regional basis; for regions where human activity and permafrost are both present. The recent Arctic fires are an example of an adverse climate feedback loop; the fires set loose significantly high amounts of the potent GHG methane that had been locked in permafrost; increasing global warming and the potential for more severe Arctic fires.

GHGs continue to increase on a global basis, accelerating global warming. However, concerned people, countries, and cities, can help limit the effects of climate change, as seen in the cases of Green City Times’ featured sustainable cities.



Please also see:

GCT’s Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

See Also: climate.nasa.gov/effects


Categories
All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Net Zero

The Global Fight Against Climate Change; NDCs and Net Zero Targets Worldwide

GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION |


Nationally Determined Contributions

As part of the ongoing global battle against climate change, almost 200 countries have set greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reductions targets, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs). They’re fairly self-explanatory; by a specified year, a nation aims to reduce its carbon emissions by a certain amount (compared to a previous, specific year). 

Every 5 years, member nations of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) are required to submit revised NDCs, which are encouraged to progressively be greater GHG reduction targets, reflecting higher levels of ambition. Some national commitments are made more frequently, and more quickly than others. The latest round of NDCs came before COP26 in Glasgow Oct 31-Nov 12, many made well before in the case of more ambitious nations. Most members of the UNFCCC managed to make their improved NDCs public before COP 26. 

For example, the EU group of nations have committed to a collective target of 55% carbon emissions reduction by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) – known as ‘Fit for 55‘. Countries worldwide have upped their original carbon reduction pledges made in the run-up to the Paris Climate Accord to new pledges reflecting greater climate ambition (described below). Many countries have taken the even more ambitious step of also setting a net zero emissions (carbon neutrality) national target (usually of 2050, but some nations have set different net zero target dates, described below).

Greater climate ambition worldwide reflects the growing international urgency to address the global climate crisis, and to reduce countries’ and communities’ carbon footprints. Recently, the global climate fight has received international notoriety fueled by young people worldwide engaging in a variety of climate strikes and climate actions. Read more about youth movements for global action on climate here>>> unicef.org/environment-and-climate-change/youth-action

As climate science has evolved over the last few years, GHG reduction targets have become more ambitious. For example, the EU now promises to cut carbon emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030 ( up from 40%) on its way to net zero by 2050. President Biden has pledged that the US will have carbon neutral energy on its electric grids by 2035, on its path to net zero by 2050 (up from 28% under Obama at the Paris Climate Accord). The “net zero” facet of national climate ambitions is a fairly new concept, kicked off by the relatively tiny nation of Bhutan in 2015.


Paris Climate Accord and Net Zero Targets

At the Paris Climate Accord, almost 200 world nations pledged GHG emission reduction targets. Based on the latest scientific guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), many nations’ NDCs have evolved over the last few years. NDCs have become more ambitious, and now many nations have net zero targets as well. Nations such as the EU group of countries, the UK, other European nations, & Japan, have set targets to reach net zero carbon emissions (carbon neutrality) by 2050. A few European nations have even more ambitious net zero targets. Germany and Sweden, for example, have both set their net zero targets for 2045. Finland aims for net zero by 2035>

The Paris Climate Accord is not legally binding, so actual binding NDCs must originate from national, state, and regional governments. (When not put forward by a national government, but rather by state or regional governments; these commitments are simply referred to as GHG reduction pledges). In the case of the EU, NDC targets and the 2050 net zero target are codified into law by legislation that is passed by the European Commission – the European Climate Law (effective July 2021).

The United States federal government has the executive commitment of President Biden to bold climate pledges (as of 2021) – net zero by 2050, carbon neutral energy on US grids by 2035, and at least a 50% reduction in GHGs by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). The United States Congress hasn’t yet passed legislation committing to NDCs or a net zero target (like the EU has as well as several European nations independently). American states (such as California and several others) have passed GHG reduction targets and net zero targets for their individual states; through State Congresses as binding legislation. 

Many European nations (& California) had legally binding net zero targets, as well as ambitious GHG reduction pledges, in place well before China or the US. (Historically, China & the US are the 2 biggest emitters of GHGs in the world). China has set their net zero target for 2060 (in September 2020); while the United States has committed to net zero by 2050 (with President Biden taking office, in January 2021). It is expected that NDC and net zero commitments that the Chinese national government makes, will be codified into legally binding law in China. The US Congress would need to pass legislation, much as the European Commission has, in order for its NDC and net zero targets to become legally binding.

Net zero pledges made by governments around the world represent ambitious goals to keep global warming below 2°C (that’s 2°C rise above pre-industrial temperature averages), and ideally to 1.5°C this century; making good on the latest IPCC climate targets. Here is a map with countries’ various degrees of progress to net zero:

Map of Net-zero progress from BloombergNEF

[Compare developed nations of the EU and Japan (best – top quartile, in green), and US as well as a few other nations in blue (2nd quartile), to 3rd & 4th quartile nations on the above map. Many governments (a few G-20 nations, and nations not in the G-20) have yet to even make net zero pledges for their nations. Most of these are developing nations that believe that using fossil fuel energy is necessary to help alleviate poor socioeconomic conditions.

Historically, fossil fuels have brought developed nations a higher standard of living, however, renewables will effectively raise the standard of living for developing nations with cleaner, cheaper, abundant energy. Climate change will disproportionately affect developing nations, which have done the least to cause the problem. The solution is for all world nations, developed and developing, to simultaneously make the clean energy transition, and enjoy the benefits of clean energy development.]



NDCs and Net Zero targets

CAT Consortium’s ‘Climate Action Tracker’ – ‘Governments still showing little sign of acting on climate crisis’

Almost 200 countries have pledged NDCs to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), but are any of them doing enough? Analysis by the CAT Consortium’s ‘Climate Action Tracker‘ suggests that of the world’s great powers, only European nations (and California, as well as several other states) are truly leading the way in achieving GHG reduction targets. Nations in Northern Europe especially stand out as climate action leaders with regard to successfully reaching ambitious GHG reduction targets.

EU and US

The European Union (initially at Paris) pledged at least a 40% cut in GHGs below 1990 levels by 2030, and since then, in April 2021, has committed to 55% carbon reduction by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). This is not merely an aim either; it’s legally binding. The EU Climate Law set the net zero by 2050 target into law in June 2021.

First of all, let’s take a look at the promises made by various major developed nations and states. In March 2015, President Obama initially pledged ahead of the Paris Climate Accord that the United States aims to cut its emissions by 26-28% by 2025 (in comparison to 2005 levels). President Biden has since set an even more ambitious NDC of at least 50% GHG reduction by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). Biden has also pledged 100% carbon free energy on electric grids in the United States by 2035; and net zero GHG emissions for the US by 2050.

The US Congress would need to act on NDCs, net zero targets, and other ambitious climate actions, in order to pass legislation, and make these commitments binding. The EU, as well as states in the US (like California), have passed laws for their ambitious climate targets. Although the US as a whole is behind Europe, California is still a global leader as far as GHG reduction targets (as states are responsible for their own GHG reduction goals). California plans to reach the target of 100% clean and renewable energy statewide by 2045


Other World Nations

The UK government has set a very ambitious NDC68% GHG reduction by 2035 (compared to 1990 levels). Likewise, Sweden has a very ambitious NDCat least 63% GHG reduction by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) in “EU Effort Sharing Regulation” sectors, and even higher levels of ambition in other sectors. The Swedes also started to set their net zero by 2045 target into national law all the way back in 2017. Other world nations, from Switzerland to Costa Rica also have ambitious NDCs.

In April 2021, Canada ramped up their NDC to at least 40% GHG reduction by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). Shortly after, the Canadian government passed legislation committing to a national net zero by 2050 target. Canada also has been implementing progressive carbon pricing nationwide, with the aim of getting to net zero.

Australia differs from Canada and the EU in that the country has not legislated ramped-up targets. The Australian government has officially announced that the initial NDC set in the Paris Climate Accord is “…a floor…” (at least 26% GHG reduction by 2030 compared to 2005 levels), and that the country is on course to “…overachieve on this target…”; as well as a national goal to achieve net zero “…as soon as possible”. Australia has committed to net zero by 2050 just ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, however, the commitment hasn’t been legislated, so it isn’t legally binding. 

Ahead of the Paris Climate Accord, China initially announced it would be lowering carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level. China is currently the world’s largest emitter of GHGs, and its attempts to meet its carbon intensity targets are rated ‘inadequate’ by the Climate Action Tracker. Despite this, China now aims to hit the target of net zero by 2060; and is trying to stay on course to reach its original NDC target.

India initially pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its national GDP by 33-35% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. India also intends to produce a significant amount of additional forest and tree cover (for carbon sequestration, in order to achieve carbon neutrality). India also intends to invest a substantial amount in renewable energy and energy efficiency; but on this and indeed their overall emissions targets, India can be vague on how it plans to achieve them. India has yet to make a net zero commitment, despite the over 100 other nations that made net zero commitments before COP26 in Glasgow. 

Until recently, Japan had been slow to reduce its national GHG emissions, despite an ambitious pledge of 80% emissions reduction by 2050. However, in November 2020, Japan made an even more ambitious pledge of net zero by 2050 (or…”as close as possible to 2050″). Like China, Japan has been dependent on coal (especially after increasing coal energy on the national grid following the Fukushima nuclear disaster). However, Japan now says it is committed to shutting down its coal-fired power plants; and developing more renewable energy in its place. The Japanese government says that “Japan will strive to achieve a decarbonized society by as close as possible to 2050“. Japan has an interim NDC of 26% GHG reduction by 2030 (compared to 2013 levels).


Here is a summary of the most recent nationally determined contributions from nations discussed in this article, heading into COP26 in Glasgow: 

EU’s NDCreduce GHGs by 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 

UK’s NDCreduce economy-wide GHGs by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels 

USA’s NDC: at least a 50% reduction in GHGs by 2030 compared to 2005 levels

China’s NDC: to achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and to lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level

India’s NDCreduce the emissions intensity of its national GDP by 33-35% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels

Germany’s NDCpreliminary targets of cutting emissions by at least 65% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and 88% by 2040 

Sweden’s NDC: at least 63% GHG reduction by 2030 compared to 1990 levels

Japan’s NDCreduce GHGs by 46% by 2030 from its fiscal year 2013 levels 

Australia’s NDCan economy-wide target to reduce GHGs by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030 

Canada’s NDCreduce emissions by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030 


COP and CAT (Conference of the Parties and Climate Action Tracker)

Countries set interim targets (mostly targetting 2030), and now largely many major world nations are en route to net zero. Upon setting an initial interim target in the Paris Climate Accord, countries are supposed to ramp up their interim 2030 NDC targets on a 5-year basis (or ideally, more frequently), and with the latest IPCC guidance; strongly encouraged to set net zero targets. Every 5 years, all UNFCCC member nations are required to submit new NDCs. Due to COVID-19, the year 2020 was just a low-profile virtual meeting; and the formal UNFCCC COP (in which all new NDCs from all UNFCCC member nations is due) will be COP26 in Glasgow.

The CAT Consortium runs the Climate Action Tracker, which grades each nation on how useful its promises actually are. Each nation’s NDC shapes to ‘current policy’ scenario in the CAT chart below. The ideal ‘optimistic’ scenarios are based on the most ambitious net zero emissions by 2050 targets being fully realized. How are current climate policies worldwide (NDCs) going to actually reduce global greenhouse gas emissions as world nations try to achieve net zero GHGs (carbon neutrality) in order to stop global warming? This chart, from Climate Action Tracker (CAT), models current climate policy outcomes, as well as optimistic net zero targets, to 2100>>>

Current climate policies vs. optimistic net zero targets – CAT


carbon farming carbon footprint carbon neutral carbon neutrality carbon pricing carbon tax clean energy Clean Power Plan climate change climate solutions cogeneration Conference of the Parties cover crops e-bikes electric vehicles energy energy efficiency energy star Freiburg global warming green building greenhouse gas emissions hydrogen hydrogen fuel cells Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change LEED nationally determined contributions net zero greenhouse gas emissions nuclear energy Paris Climate Accord recycling renewable energy reverse osmosis smart grid smart meter solar sources of renewable energy sustainability sustainable agriculture sustainable mass transit United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change urban planning waste-to-energy waste management zero-waste

Categories
All Posts Climate Change Energy Efficiency GCT featured articles Green City Times green city Sustainability News

California – Current Progress of a Climate Champion

California – A Climate Leader


Learning From California’s Struggle to Balance Decarbonization With Energy Resilience

Since California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, marking its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), the state has continued to align itself with ongoing climate change initiatives and policies.

After the first decade of the initial policy’s implementation, California boosted its economy while diminishing carbon pollution with clean energy and new green technologies. However, more work needs to be done for California to reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Despite a few shortcomings, California’s success in combating climate change can teach other states a critical lesson in applying similar climate action measures.


California: A Work in Progress

California is no stranger to the effects of climate change. In 2021, California Fire and the U.S. Forest Service responded to 8,786 wildfires spanning 2,568,941 acres. The consequences of these frequent fires include lower air quality, reduced soil quality, and the destruction of the state’s ecosystems, homes, and livelihoods.

In other parts of the state, like the Sierra Nevada, hotter temperatures are melting the snow and releasing about 15 million acre-feet of water all at once. With this event occurring more frequently and earlier in the year, the state’s water storage facilities face increased pressure and generate fear of worsening floods and water shortages.

California has recognized the importance of securing its precious resources, including its energy. More fires and extreme temperatures are unavoidable due to climate change in the years to come.

The energy sector has changed dramatically over the years, from depending on natural sunlight to electrical grids to investments in renewable energy technologies. Populations and heavy industry have increased worldwide, and the demand for greener initiatives has, as well.

California has done the following in its effort to become more energy-efficient:

Powerful storms, strong winds, fires, tornadoes, and other natural events can knock out electricity grids for days, weeks, and even months on end. However, it’s essential to create substantial emissions-reducing legislation that tackles the climate crisis and allows for a more resilient power source.

What else can be done to progress the decarbonization of California and other states across the nation?


The Next Step: Decarbonizing Buildings

Buildings are responsible for generating nearly 40% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, a majority of which are produced by operations and materials. California recently launched the Building Decarbonization Coalition (BDC) to continue balancing energy resilience with decarbonization.

Residential and commercial properties account for 25% (roughly) of California’s GHGs, including on-site fossil fuels and refrigerants for space cooling.

The BDC aims to cut 40% of structural emissions and adopt zero-emissions building codes by 2030. It has gathered experts in the energy sector, public interest advocates, building contractors, construction workers, local government officials, real estate agents, and investors for their input and industry knowledge.

The BDC released a guide that details set goals, philosophies, policies, and strategies that California intends to meet in its path toward building decarbonization. Highlights and recommendations from the report include:

  • Adopt an emissions-free building code for all new construction, removing the reliance on fossil fuels and shifting toward renewables instead.
  • Replace heat and hot water appliances in existing buildings with zero-emission alternatives over time.
  • Help increase the market share of clean, electric appliances by replacing all fossil fuel-burning appliances.
  • Ensure that building decarbonization is conducted in a cost-effective, equitable way to prevent burdening disadvantaged communities with excess costs.
  • Guarantee that efforts to decarbonize buildings aid the grid by incorporating renewable energy into the state’s power supply.

Barriers to Building Decarbonization

While California’s building decarbonization pursuits could be applied to emissions-reducing objectives in other states, the BDC and stakeholders recognize that several barriers need to be addressed for the state to reach its goals by 2030:

  • Government officials, industry experts, and the public currently lack interest in and understanding of building decarbonization technologies.
  • Gas utility companies and various labor unions are likely to deliver political resistance, particularly to decarbonizing commercial buildings.
  • A lack of coordination exists between like-minded emissions-reducing organizations throughout the state.
  • Customers and contractors are faced with higher upfront costs and little financial assistance or incentives to back renewable technologies for building decarbonization.
  • Many building decarbonization technologies aren’t available yet, requiring more states to manufacture green technologies, as well.
  • Existing energy policies and building codes need to be updated to meet the newer emissions-reducing goals of decarbonization initiatives.
  • Businesses and organizations don’t understand how they could realize energy savings through decarbonization.

The state needs to seek solutions to these obstacles for the next phase of California’s decarbonization actions to work.


A Model of Success

Climate change will continue to worsen and affect states differently. However, California continues to lead in its approach to decarbonization and energy resilience.

California’s climate policies’ collective political, economic, and social foundation serves as a model of its success. Other states can learn from it and replicate parts of its action plans.



Article by Jane Marsh

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

Environment.co

Categories
All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Sustainability News

Climate Solution- Sustainable Ag.

Modern Farming


Benefits of Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable agriculture turns farms into thriving ecological lands that produce food crops, in addition to using plants that increase farms’ biodiversity while sequestering atmospheric carbon. The health of ecosystems, including soil nutrition, on the farm, is a top priority when agriculture is managed sustainably

In most traditional farming of the past, a significant amount of nutrients are removed from the soil without being replaced. Major contributing factors to the depletion of healthy soil on farms globally are:

  • over-tilling the land
  • monoculture (just growing one type of crop on sections of farmland, not implementing crop rotation and planting a variety of crops)
  • synthetic fertilizers and pesticides

From processes like these, there is constant degradation of soil nutrients, leading to poor fertilization from year to year. On farms that use these unsustainable farming practices, there is an increase in weeds, bugs, and vermin. Basically, the farmer slowly loses control of the farm as a whole when the quality of the soil is not managed over time.

The solution to these ecological problems is sustainable agriculture. Sustainable ag. involves land-use practices that restore, protect, and maintain ecosystems and biodiversity on farms. Conventional farmlands are thus transformed into ecologically thriving carbon sinks.


Sustainable Ag. Techniques; Cover Crops, Polyculture, and more

It is important for the farmer implementing sustainable agriculture techniques to understand the relationship between all of the farm’s organisms and the farm’s environment. This understanding is needed in order to create biodiversity on the farm optimally. The sustainable farmer must focus efforts on maintaining nutrients within the farm’s soil, water, and air.

A few sustainable agriculture practices that increase soil health are:

  • seasonal use of cover crops
  • concerted efforts to maintain proper soil nutrition
  • no-till or low-till farming
  • crop rotation
  • polyculture (vs. monoculture)

Cover crops refer to a variety of crops grown on farmland during off-seasons in order to maintain soil health. Examples of cover crops include legumes like alfalfa, various grasses, and cereal crops like rye, oats, and barley, brassicas like turnips and radishes, and turnips and non-legume broadleaves like flax and spinach.

Polyculture is also a practice of introducing a variety of crops on farmland, including multiple species of plants. In the case of polyculture, crops and plants are rotated to different sections on the farmland year-round. Even if polyculture is implemented on a farm, crop rotation and low/ no-till farming should be continually practiced year-round in order to ensure the health of a farm’s ecosystems and soil.

Biodiversity of a farm’s crops, plants on the farm, and other ecosystems on the farm, as well as proper soil nutrition – deter pests. Polyculture also helps maintain a farmland’s healthy ecosystems; also reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.


Creating Carbon Sinks

Real-world examples of sustainable agriculture predominantly include farms that work to satisfy human food demand; while maintaining biodiversity and healthy ecosystems on the farmland. Sustainable agriculture transforms otherwise conventional farmland into environmentally-friendly carbon sinks.

Sustainable farms enhance environmental quality and agricultural economy through the enhancement of the health of a farmland’s 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 permaculture (see the section on permaculture below, and please see Green City Times’ article on Regenerative Agriculture). 


Project Drawdown recognizes these sustainable practices as top climate solutions – all of which serve to create agricultural carbon sinks:

  • “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
  • “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

Shropshire Agroforestry Project – Shropshire, England



Soil Nutrition
The degradation of agricultural natural resources is the leading issue in depleting a farm’s soil nutrient levels and the health of farmland ecosystems. Sustainable agriculture makes efficient use of non-renewable natural resources. Synthetic pesticides, excessive tilling of the soil, and monoculture (re-planting the same crop, or same type of crop, on the same land season after season, lack of crop rotation) lead to degradation of a farm’s soil health.
A successful sustainable farm must focus a substantial amount of time year-round on healthy soil nutrition to help maintain long-term quality crop and plant growth.
Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, phosphates, and other soil nutrients, are necessary proper for good soil nutrition. A healthy soil PH level, and healthy salt content in soils, as well as proper soil nutrients; all can be enhanced in farm soil simply by optimally reusing crop leftovers, farm plant debris, or even some ‘green’ livestock manure for natural fertilization.
Other important techniques to improve soil health on farms include the implementation of polyculture, cover crops (to keep the land productive vs. barren during off-seasons), and no-till or low-till farming. These sustainable agriculture techniques not only improve the health of a farm’s ecosystems but help fight climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere; creating both healthy farmland and a healthy planet.

What are easy ways to reduce a farm’s carbon footprint?
In focusing on possible, easily overlooked, improvements in farms trying to successfully implement sustainable agriculture – issues with poor irrigation, and other water quality issues can always reduce the quality of agriculture. The use of treated, reclaimed rainwater and greywater, on a farm, are easily implemented sustainable agriculture practices; that also serve to save water resources. 
Another example of sustainable farming is the independent production of nitrogen through the Haber process; which uses hydrogen produced from natural gas or possibly created with electricity (ideally from renewable energy) via an electrolyzerThese farming techniques are a part of the emerging regenerative agriculture process.
In sustainable agriculture, it’s important to manage long-term crop rotations to improve soil nutrition. Sustainable farming still entails improving the farmer’s carbon footprint and the quality of ecosystems in their farmland. Natural fertilizer processes help with creating healthy soil. Natural resources are also an important consideration.
Farmers must manage natural resources (crops, plants, trees, rainwater, etc…), and manage the level of non-renewable energy resources used on the farm. With added efficiency on the farm, certain crops, plant and animal waste, tree, and plant croppings, etc… can also be used as sources for biomass/ biofuel production.

For information on how agricultural renewable resources (i.e. biomass) can be developed and optimally produced on farms, please see the following Green City Times’ articles: 

Cellulosic biofuel – fuel solutions

Anaerobic digestion – a proven solution to our waste problem

Renewable energy: biomass and biofuel


Besides increasing biodiversity on farms (through polyculture and agroforestry techniques, for example), maintaining healthy farm ecosystems, and a focus on soil nutrition; other critical considerations in sustainable agriculture are:

  • Managing water wisely
  • Minimizing air, water, and climate pollution
  • Rotating crops and embracing diversity. Planting a variety of crops can have many benefits, including healthier soil and improved pest control. Crop diversity practices include intercropping (growing a mix of crops in the same area) and complex multi-year crop rotations.
  • Planting cover crops. Cover crops, like clover or hairy vetch, are planted during off-season times when soils might otherwise be left bare. These crops protect and build soil health by preventing erosion, replenishing soil nutrients, and keeping weeds in check, reducing the need for herbicides.
  • Reducing or eliminating tillage.  Traditional plowing (tillage) prepares fields for planting and prevents weed problems, but can cause a lot of soil loss. No-till or reduced till methods, which involve inserting seeds directly into undisturbed soil, can reduce erosion and improve soil health.
  • Applying integrated pest management (IPM). A range of methods, including mechanical and biological controls, can be applied systematically to keep pest populations under control while minimizing use of chemical pesticides.
  • Integrating livestock and crops. Industrial agriculture tends to keep plant and animal production separate, with animals living far from the areas where their feed is produced, and crops growing far away from abundant manure fertilizers. A growing body of evidence shows that a smart integration of crop and animal production can be a recipe for more efficient, profitable farms.  [BULLET POINTS FROM  – ucsusa.org/what-sustainable-agriculture]


[As noted above, regenerative agriculture techniques and sustainable agriculture practices are key to reversing the global effects and negative trends of unsustainable ag. practices. Sustainable agriculture practices include increasing the use of permaculture; as well as urban and community gardening.]


Permaculture



The simulation of natural ecosystems, both in agriculture and green urban planning, has the potential to help reduce man’s carbon footprint on the earth.

Some fields of permaculture and urban gardening include Ecological Design, Ecological Engineering, Environmental Design, Integrated Water Resource Management, and Sustainable Architecture. All of these professions work with nature rather than against; working toward the goal of sustaining both nature and society for future generations.

The depletion of the earth’s resources due to the processes of mass production and consumption, inefficient waste management, and the destruction wrought on nature due to fossil fuel infrastructure development are reasons for the need for permaculture and urban gardening techniques in agriculture.

The need to work with existing resources in order to save the environment, and people alike, is a goal that has many nations working toward carbon neutrality in agriculture, as well as eco-conscious techniques in agriculture to preserve biodiversity. Chemical fertilizers and other environmentally hazardous methods like pesticides are the way of the past in agriculture. The future of gardening/ agriculture lies in sustainable methods like urban gardening (techniques that can easily be applied to larger-scale agriculture/ farms).


Urban gardening

Urban gardening, or urban agriculture, includes elements of the following practices:

  • Gardening for your residence
  • Rain gardening
  • Community, school, and rooftop gardens
  • Indoor gardening
  • Vertical farming

Here is a handy guide to urban gardening:

“City gardens need not be limited to growing just a few plants on the windowsill. Whether it’s an apartment balcony garden or a rooftop garden, you can still enjoy growing all your favorite plants and veggies. In this Beginner’s Guide to Urban Gardening, you will find the basics of city gardening for beginners and tips for handling any issues you may come across along the way.”

Read more at Gardening Know How: Urban Gardening: The Ultimate Guide To City Gardening


Other sustainable solutions for the global conservationist community; carbon offsets

In addition to sustainable agriculture practices by farmers, steps that can be taken by individuals to help with environmental sustainability include: going paperless, going vegetarian (or at least eating less red meat), recycling and buying recycled products, and using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood products.

Other personal lifestyle solutions to help with global sustainability efforts include using more cloth and alternative products (like bamboo products for sustainable lifestyles), eating less fast food, and eating vegan meals as often as possible instead of meat.

Going with a more sustainable diet is a way of supporting the use of agricultural land for regenerative farming ultimately used in diet and manufacturing of consumer products. Regenerative ag. produces organic foods sold at farmer’s markets. Another easy way to support sustainability efforts is by shopping at, and supporting, farmer’s markets.

Paper products were once trees, so reducing your use of paper products in your daily life will really translate into saving trees. Additionally, meat, and fast-food restaurants, contribute to deforestation because deforested land is often land used for cattle grazing.

In many cases, carbon offsets are purchased by international companies in industries running polluting factories, using carbon-intensive fuel for energy, and manufacturing fossil fuel-intensive products; and this often includes companies involved in deforestation. However, carbon offsets can also be purchased by individuals – online, at retail outlets, gas stations, etc…


Categories
All Posts Climate Change Energy Efficiency GCT featured articles Green City Times green city Net Zero Sustainability News

Clean Hydrogen Power

Clean and GREEN H2 |


Hydrogen and the Clean Energy Transition

Hydrogen is one of the most promising emerging energy technologies to fill the rising global demand for clean low carbon and emission-free energy sources. The recent global societal shift towards environmental sustainability, and the global imperative for climate action, have significantly altered energy consumption patterns.

Clean and renewable energy companies are booming. Solar companies experienced their highest production and distribution rates in 2020, enhancing the national use of renewable power. In addition to solar, other renewable energies and emerging next-generation clean energy technologies (such as hydrogen and carbon capture) are also having breakthrough years. President Biden has influenced alternative energy sourcing by establishing ambitious sustainability standards in the U.S. – such as net zero by 2050, and a carbon-neutral electricity grid by 2035. The Biden administration also seeks to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 50-52% by 2030 (from 2005 levels).

Biden generated the Build Back Better (BBB) plan, seeking to invest in American society and the American clean energy sector. The proposed program allocates trillions of funding dollars for United States’ infrastructure (as well as other programs that benefit society), including funding for the clean energy industry, promoting technological advancements and system alterations.

The Build Back Better plan includes funding for hydrogen and carbon capture technological RD&D (as well as a variety of other next-generation clean energy technologies). Various parts of the BBB climate-related plan also include funding for clean energy infrastructure, EV charging infrastructure, financial incentives such as tax credits for renewable energy, and modernizing the US electrical grid (in addition to more clean energy programs). When the US diversifies production and use of clean energy (including clean hydrogen and carbon capture), national greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are effectively reduced.

Fortunately, Congress did end up passing a part of the original BBB plan – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The IIJA does have some investment for technological measures described in this article and was signed into law by President Biden in November 2021. Unfortunately, it does not look like the rest of the original BBB will pass Congress during Biden’s first term. Still, both the development of hydrogen technologies and carbon capture technologies, have bipartisan support. The technological developments discussed in this article are set to continue advancing this decade (a bit more slowly than if the full BBB passed.)


Domestic Energy Production Challenges

Nearly 80% of America’s energy production and consumption (with the transportation sector included) is derived from fossil fuels. These finite natural resources (coal, oil, and gas) create atmospheric pollution during combustion (GHGs and other pollution). GHGs alter the planet’s natural temperature control process, degrading the global ecosystem. On the other hand, hydrogen represents clean energy; as hydrogen, itself, doesn’t release carbon or contribute to atmospheric pollution. 

The Earth absorbs sunlight, generating heat and warming the surface. The planet is capable of reabsorbing a finite amount of additional solar radiation or emitting it back to space. When GHGs invade the environment from the combustion of fossil fuels, they alter the atmosphere’s natural composition and change the process. GHGs have a higher sunlight-to-heat conversion rate and trap energy rather than sending it to space.

Over time, the entrapment and overproduction of heat raise Earth’s temperature. As the planet warms, the evaporation rate rises, oceans heat up, and global weather patterns are changed; resulting in extreme flooding in some global regions (from increasingly extreme storms), and elongated drought periods (causing wildfires, damage to agriculture, etc…) in others. Global warming also degrades aquatic ecosystems, causes rising sea levels, and adversely affects biodiversity worldwide (among other global adverse effects of climate change).

Hydrogen is a clean energy solution for energy storage and transportation to replace climate-change-causing fossil fuels. Right now, hydrogen can be used as a fuel source for cars and buses – and in the future, for long-haul shipping, heavy-duty trucks, and, hopefully, long-haul aviation.

Hydrogen can be used for energy storage. Hydrogen also represents a potential zero or low carbon emissions fuel source for HVAC in buildings; a zero carbon emissions solution for building heating. Hydrogen potentially performs all of these functions without contributing to global warming, air pollution, or climate change (zero carbon in the case of green hydrogen – whereas blue hydrogen represents a low carbon solution – see below for a description of the hydrogen production color spectrum).


What is Carbon Capture?

As the demand for zero and low carbon emissions energy sources rises, environmental engineers and scientists develop new clean production technologies. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) decreases GHGs in the process of producing hydrogen in natural gas power plants (as well as in energy generation from other fossil fuels, and other industrial processes). CCS + H2 production generates reliable low carbon power – hydrogen. After capturing the carbon emissions from methane reforming (in the blue hydrogen production process, described below), partial oxidation restructures the elements as they flow through a catalyst bed, creating clean hydrogen. The actual use of hydrogen for energy generates zero pollution and no carbon emissions.

Though carbon capture cannot directly generate hydrogen for sustainable energy uses, methane reforming in natural gas power plants can. Methane reforming in natural gas power plants combines Fahrenheit steam, combined with a catalyst. The process produces hydrogen and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide (smaller than the natural gas energy-generating process). Carbon capture can be used to capture CO2 from the natural gas combustion, as well as the methane reforming cycle – a low carbon process to create clean hydrogen.

Environmental scientists and engineers develop carbon capture technology to reduce atmospheric pollution from manufacturing facilities and power plants. The technology can absorb 90% of carbon emissions, significantly decreasing GHGs.

Pre-combustion carbon capture turns fuel sources into a gas rather than burning them. Post-combustion capturing separates carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion emissions. The collection of CO2 travels to an alternate processing facility where individuals repurpose or store it, decreasing adverse ecological effects.


Hydrogen Production – the 3 Colors

Engineers have developed various methods of hydrogen production and differentiated them on a color spectrum. When companies create H2 from methane reformation without collecting carbon outputs, they generate grey hydrogen. This process releases 9.3 kilograms of GHGs for every kilogram of hydrogen. In order to create a sustainable, low carbon solution for future hydrogen production, the world must transition away from grey hydrogen to environmentally-friendly hydrogen production methods (grey hydrogen currently represents a vast majority of global hydrogen production).

Companies can capture carbon emissions in the methane reformation process, storing them to preserve the atmosphere, producing blue hydrogen. The CCS process can collect up to 90% of the CO2 emissions and place them underground for climate change prevention. The process is significantly more sustainable than grey hydrogen production.

The zero carbon emissions hydrogen production process uses renewable energy, electrolyzers, and water, generating green hydrogen. Advanced technological devices (electrolyzers) separate hydrogen (H2) from H2O using electrolysis. Solar panels and wind turbines power the systems, creating zero emissions throughout the practice.

Green hydrogen is the most sustainable version of the energy source. Industries can power their production using a 100% clean energy source (green H2), eliminating atmospheric pollution from the process.

The process of producing green H2 is much cleaner than the conventional, ecologically degrading hydrogen development practice of methane reforming. Traditionally, energy professionals generate H2 from fossil fuel sources, generating 830 million tons of GHGs annually. Producing green hydrogen from zero-emission sustainable sources can enhance its efficiency while reducing atmospheric degradation. Producing blue hydrogen still uses methane reforming, but by also using CCS technology, a cleaner method of producing hydrogen is being used.


Hydrogen Fuel Cell Energy

hydrogen fuel cell

The process of producing hydrogen can supply fuel for hydrogen-powered fuel cells, creating an alternate clean energy source for energy storage and transportation. The cells work like batteries, running off of the hydrogen inside of them. They contain one positive and one negative electrode, generating the cathode and anode.

The two electrodes contain an electrolyte. Hydrogen fuels the anode, and air powers the cathode, separating molecules into protons and electrons. The free electrons travel through a designated circuit, creating electricity. Excess protons move to the cathode, combining with oxygen and generating water as the output. Pure water is a sustainable alternative to other GHGs, and water is the only emission in hydrogen power generation.

hydrogen fuel cell bus – Berlin, Germany

Hydrogen fuel cells are used in energy storage, and hydrogen buses, as clean energy battery solutions. Read more about Europe’s extensive effort to expand the hydrogen bus presence on the continent here. The only emissions from hydrogen buses run by fuel cells are water.

Homeowners can also potentially utilize hydrogen fuel cells, shrinking their carbon footprints. Hopefully, hydrogen will be used in large home appliances in the future, such as electric HVAC units, electric furnaces, electric boilers, and other applications. Adopting electric home appliances can aid the transition away from fossil fuel-derived power sources. 

You can compare your carbon footprint and utility savings by first receiving an energy consultation. A professional energy consultant can unveil your property’s compatibility with hydrogen fuel cell power sources. They can also recommend energy efficiency practices, reducing your carbon footprint over time.


Benefits of CCS, Electricity, and Hydrogen Fuel Sourcing

President Biden set a national carbon-neutrality goal upon entering office. Meeting the objective requires a restructuring of the energy sector. Both hydrogen and carbon capture represent solutions to accelerate the low-carbon, clean energy transition. Biden plans on developing a carbon-neutral electric grid, sourcing 100% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources.

Although still fairly expensive, clean hydrogen represents a highly efficient low-carbon power alternative. “Hydrogen can be re-electrified in fuel cells with efficiencies up to 50%, or alternatively burned in combined cycle gas power plants (efficiencies as high as 60%).”  [Quote from  –  energystorage.org/technologies/hydrogen-energy-storage]. We can effectively develop a carbon-neutral nation by diversifying our electricity sources.

Green and blue hydrogen development can provide sustainable support for the electric grid, be used in the transportation sector or energy storage (in hydrogen fuel cells), and even as a low carbon solution for HVAC units and other major appliances in buildings. CCS with hydrogen development (producing blue hydrogen) represents a low carbon source of clean hydrogen, while green hydrogen production represents a zero carbon source.

We can generate clean energy while eliminating further atmospheric degradation when we target significant pollution producers and replace dirty energy with clean energy sources like electricity and hydrogen. Both electric and hydrogen buses represent clean energy solutions. Utilizing electric vehicles (EVs) can increase society’s access to emission-less power. If you want to drive with zero emissions, you also have the option of choosing a hydrogen fuel cell car (although, currently, an EV represents the less expensive zero emissions option). With both electricity and hydrogen, ultimately the process of generating the energy must come from a low carbon or zero-emissions source in order to truly be a clean energy solution.

The process of using electricity and/ or hydrogen in buildings and transportation also reduces the enhanced greenhouse effect by decreasing atmospheric emissions. When we capture the elements before they reach the environment, we prevent the overproduction and entrapment of heat (as in blue hydrogen). Green hydrogen, or electricity powered by renewables, shrinks the carbon footprint of energy production closer to zero.


Enhancing Urban Sustainability

Many cities have recently increased their sustainability standards, regulating carbon emissions and pollution production processes. They are electrifying transportation, and buildings, requiring cleaner energy (as in renewable portfolio standards and clean energy standards). CCS used in combination with hydrogen power (blue hydrogen) production can support urban transformations towards clean, low-carbon energy. Green hydrogen power production can support the urban energy transition completely away from fossil fuel reliance towards zero-emission energy.


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



 

Categories
All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Net Zero Sustainability News

Nuclear – necessary energy

Clean Energy


Both nuclear and renewable energy are needed in the global energy mix to help fight climate change

In order to cut down on the share of fossil fuels in the world energy mix, nuclear is necessary. A total of WELL OVER 40% of the world’s energy mix for renewable and nuclear energies combined is needed to reach significant greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Over 40% is not a final goal, but represents a realistic initial goal on the path towards the target of over 70% clean, zero-emission global energy generation.

To achieve a significant GHG emissions reduction target for the planet, the world needs nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is going to have to augment truly environmentally-friendly, renewable energy in the effort to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use.


How much of the world’s energy is nuclear?

Nuclear reactors provided 10% of the world’s total energy sources, on average annually, during the last decade. 13 countries get at least 1/4 of their energy from nuclear, including France (which gets around 3/4 from nuclear), Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland.

Nuclear energy is also put to great use in the US, France, China, Russia, and South Korea, among other countries. Now is probably as good of a time as any in this article to mention a couple of major drawbacks (to put it mildly) of nuclear energy.

Namely the danger- catastrophic disasters due to large-scale accidents like the one at Fukushima, Japan, enrichment of uranium in order to create nuclear weapons, and the difficult, expensive process of securely managing the disposal of nuclear waste.

The former major problems mentioned (and less waste generated by the nuclear process – Gen IV theoretically can just run on spent uranium) are resolved in the 4th generation nuclear reactor designs, discussed below.

Current reactors, mostly Gen I & II nuclear plants, along with several operational Gen III plants, rely on uranium and water (to cool the plants). Therefore, these nuclear plants still deplete water supplies, create nuclear waste, use a fuel source that can be enriched to convert the material into a bomb, and represent a source of potential danger.

The largest nuclear disaster in history was the Chernobyl disaster (although the risk of nuclear disaster is dramatically minimized in a Gen III plant, and eliminated in Gen IV nuclear. Some Gen IV designs dramatically cut the need for water to cool plants, as well).

Here’s a brief snippet from the World Nuclear Association summarizing nuclear energy’s current role in the global energy mix:

  • The first commercial nuclear power stations started operation in the 1950s.
  • Nuclear energy now provides about 10% of the world’s electricity from about 440 power reactors.
  • Nuclear is the world’s second largest source of low-carbon power (29% of the total in 2018). 
  • Over 50 countries utilise nuclear energy in about 220 research reactors. In addition to research, these reactors are used for the production of medical and industrial isotopes, as well as for training.  FROM  –  https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/nuclear-power-in-the-world-today.aspx

Advanced nuclear reactors

Safer, cheaper, still energy abundant and emissions-free designs that use relatively benign energy sources (thorium or depleted uranium), and much less water for cooling the reactor than previous designs and current operational nuclear plants, are being envisioned in 4th generation nuclear, and are currently available in a few 3rd generation nuclear power plant designs.

Using a small fraction of the water as previous designs, Gen IV nuclear plant designs, are safe, cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and still offer tremendous potential for energy production. Molten salt reactors using depleted uranium, nuclear waste from other plants, or thorium as a complete replacement of uranium, are being planned in Gen IV nuclear plant designs. 4th generation designs (and many 3rd generation plants, both planned and operational) are autonomous, smart plants, with heightened safety measures.

Thorium is being looked at as a fuel source for new nuclear reactors, as it is abundant, much less radioactive than uranium, and creates by-products from burning the fuel source that can be used again in the reactor. There is a higher level of thorium than uranium on the planet.

Thorium, as well as depleted uranium, are being designed with relatively lower up-front capital costs. Little manpower is needed to run and maintain future, advanced 4th generation nuclear plants, due to the autonomous computer technology set to be deployed in the plants.


Summation of the benefits of advanced nuclear reactors

Nuclear reactors designed to run on thorium, and depleted uranium, have a very low chance of being used to develop nuclear weapons, produce less radioactive waste, are abundant fuel sources; and are safer, more cost-efficient in addition to being energy-efficient, and cleaner vis-a-vis energy generation compared to current widely deployed nuclear reactors.

Thorium, in particular, is being looked at by developing nations like China and India because of the relatively low cost, increased safety, an abundance of the material, and tremendous energy potential of this energy source. The U.S. has huge amounts of thorium, in places like Kentucky and Idaho (as well as depleted uranium); and there are large quantities in countries like India, Australia, and Brazil.

The U.S., Europe, and even some of the aforementioned developing countries, also have large stockpiles of depleted uranium. More depleted uranium is being produced every day, which would work in many of the 4th generation designs. A few 3rd generation nuclear plants are already operating, and some more are projected to be developed and ready for operation by 2025. 4th Gen nuclear promises to produce abundant, low-cost energy safely, and with little environmental impact.

In order to meet increased demand for low-emission, safer, lower up-front capital investment, high-efficiency energy sources, there has also been an increased global interest in light water small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). Benefits of nuclear SMRs include-

Small modular reactors offer a lower initial capital investment, greater scalability, and siting flexibility for locations unable to accommodate more traditional larger reactors.  They also have the potential for enhanced safety and security compared to earlier designs. Deployment of advanced SMRs can help drive economic growth. From- USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy

One other “good” thing about nuclear energy production is that there are fairly low marginal costs. There are little to no negative externalities with regard to the actual energy production (i.e. little to no GHG emissions); however current nuclear power plants do generate toxic waste. Ongoing costs are fuel and maintenance of nuclear plants; the uranium to fuel the plants, and water to cool the plants, and toxic waste disposal facilities.

Large toxic waste disposal locations are necessary to bury the radioactive waste so people aren’t exposed to potentially cancer-causing radiation. Nuclear power plants do also carry high up-front capital costs.

The US Energy Information Administration estimated that for new nuclear plants in 2019 capital costs will make up 75% of the levelized cost of energy.

Even when looking at the downsides of current technologies for nuclear energy production, 4th generation nuclear promises to be safe, cost-efficient (cost of new nuclear fuel is low), and environmentally friendly, with a very high energy production capacity given a relatively small quantity of nuclear fuel need for energy production (whenever 4th-gen nuclear gets built).

New reactors can (theoretically) run on spent uranium and even thorium. 4th generation nuclear has entirely safe, cost-efficient designs. Actually, the levelized cost of energy production from new, advanced nuclear reactors that are already available, deployed, and generating nuclear energy, is looking viable.



For a comprehensive guide on public policy that increases nuclear energy globally, in order to help fight anthropogenic climate change, please see: Public policy proposal to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions


Please also see:

Renewable energy overview

 


Categories
All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Net Zero Sustainability News

COP21 – good news for the planet

Paris Climate Accord, and New Net Zero Targets |


NDCs and Net Zero Pledges

At COP21, commonly referred to as the Paris Climate Accord, nations sent representatives to pledge greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reduction targets (also known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs). At the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), national dignitaries & diplomats from every UNFCCC member nation convene to assess and calibrate their NDCs.

The first concrete NDCs by UNFCCC member nations were made at the COP21 in Paris 2015, and have since evolved with the latest scientific guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); ideally to the most ambitious GHG reduction pledge a nation can possibly make – a carbon neutrality pledge (net zero GHGs).

In order to FULLY participate in the Paris Climate Accord, EVERY member nation to the UNFCCC must submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of GHG reduction pledges for their country;. These pledges must be approved by the UNFCCC, and then pledges turn into official Nationally Determined Contributions.

NDCs are encouraged by the UN to get increasingly ambitious each time they are submitted; and especially every 5 years, when every UNFCCC member is required to submit revised NDCs. Based on the latest scientific guidance from the IPCC, now many nations have net zero (carbon neutrality) targets in addition to their NDC.

As climate science has evolved over the last few years, GHG reduction targets have become more ambitious; and this is reflected in ambitious targets such as the European Union’s pledge to cut carbon emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030; on its way to net zero by 2050. President Biden has pledged that the United States will have 100% carbon free energy on its electric grids by 2035; on its path to net zero.

Many developed nations, including the EU group of countries, the US, the UK, other European nations & Japan, have set ambitious targets to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050; China has set their net zero target date at 2060.

The Paris Climate Accord is not legally binding, so actual binding NDCs must originate from national, state, and regional, governments (when not put forward by a national government, but rather by state or regional governments; these commitments are simply referred to as GHG reduction pledges, or carbon reduction pledges).

In the case of the EU,  NDC targets and net zero targets are codified into law by legislation that is passed by the European Commission. Several European governments have also independently passed ambitious climate legislation including NDCs and net zero targets.

The United States federal government has the executive commitment of President Biden to ambitious climate pledges (as of 2021), but Congress hasn’t yet passed legislation committing to NDCs or a net zero target like the EU (as well as several European nations independently).

However, individual states (such as California and several others) have passed GHG reduction targets and net zero targets state-wide; through State Congresses as binding legislation. It is expected that all NDC and net zero commitments that the Chinese national government makes, will be codified into legally binding law in China. In fact, over 100 countries worldwide have joined an alliance aiming for net zero emissions by 2050

China has set its net zero target for 2060; and soon thereafter, the US committed to net zero by 2050 (historically, China & the US are the 2 biggest emitters of GHGs); and both of these net zero commitments followed the earlier European carbon neutrality pledges. China set their net zero target in September 2020; while the US net zero pledge was made by President Biden upon taking office, in January 2021.

These net zero pledges represent ambitious goals to keep global warming well below 2°C (that’s 2°C rise above pre-industrial global temperature averages), and ideally to 1.5°C this century; making good on the latest IPCC climate targets. Here is a map from BloombergNEF with countries’ various degrees of progress to net zero:

Map of Global Net-Zero Progress from BloombergNEF


COP21 – The Paris Climate Accord

On December 12, 2015, high-level representatives from 197 nations, including many presidents and prime ministers, agreed to try to hold global warming “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. Clean and renewable energy targets, energy efficiency technologies for nations and industries, concerted efforts in green building, and sustainable mass transit; are among many means the UNFCC advises nations to invest in to help create a more sustainable planet. On November 4, 2016, the agreement took full effect (once nations representing a majority of the planet’s GHG emissions signed the agreement).

Unfortunately, the truth is that, even if the original Paris Climate Accord is carried out by every nation, and to the letter, global temperatures will still be on course to rise by around 2.7-3.1°C by the end of the century. Thus, the need for more ambitious GHG reduction pledges; ideally national commitments to net zero emissions, are necessary. Every world nation (with a few exceptions), UNFCC members, originally signed the agreement, and 190 have ratified and pledged NDCs.



The Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Breakthrough – The Paris Climate Accord did produce lasting positive momentum for global action on climate change. Arguably, the best news of the entire COP21 came on Day 1 of COP21, with the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (breakthroughenergy.com). The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, known as Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), is a group of more than 20 billionaires started by Bill Gates (including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg {CEO of Facebook}, and others), who have organized to invest substantial sums in innovative clean energy.

The Coalition wouldn’t be able to fund and meet all of its goals without the most important international commitment by governments to invest in clean energy to date; Mission Innovation. Mission Innovation (mission-innovation.net) is a group of 20 countries including the U.S., Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea; who have pledged to double government investment in clean energy innovation and to be transparent about its clean energy research and development efforts. In a statement from BEV, the importance of both groups is highlighted –

“THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.”   – quote from The Breakthrough Energy Coalition


The High Ambition Coalition

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) is a group of over 40 developing countries formed by UNFCCC members determined to create an equitable distribution of responsibility for ambitious climate action, and a fair distribution of UN clean energy resources; fairer distribution among poorer nations and richer, developed, industrialized nations. The HAC initially included smaller, poorer nations such as the Marshall Islands, the nation that originally formed the HAC.

“The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) formed the High Ambition Coalition in run-up negotiations at the UNFCCC to the Paris Agreement in 2015, helping to secure key elements of the deal, including the 1.5°C temperature goal, the net zero global emissions pathway by the second half of the century, and a five-year cycle for updating mitigation contributions.

Since then, the HAC has worked to realize the promises of the Paris Agreement it came together to deliver. The work has accelerated and expanded in scope, driving forward ambitious global climate action. And the science has only become clearer since Paris, underscoring the imperative of keeping global temperature increase to 1.5°C if we are to avert the most severe impacts of climate change.”   quote from – highambitioncoalition.org/work

Main contributions by the HAC include the ambitious target of 1.5°C, and the 5-year cycle for UNFCC members to submit revised pledges. COP26 in Glasgow is the first such mandatory revision of nationally determined contributions to GHG reduction, as 2015 was a low-profile virtual meeting due to COVID-19.

The European Union is the highest-profile, and richest, group of nations to join the HAC. The HAC consists mostly of developing nations; such as Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia; and smaller, developing island-nations such as Jamaica and Fiji. With Canada joining the HAC in September 2020, the HAC is comprised of over 40 nations; but the focus of the coalition remains equity for developing nations in the Paris Climate Accord’s future dealings.

Historically, since larger, richer nations have profited from industrialization at the expense of the global climate; the responsibility for climate change is greater for developed nations, and these nations should bear more of the financial burden stemming from the global transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.



Current Climate Policies Projection

How are current climate policies worldwide, current GHG reduction targets (nationally determined contributions), going to actually reduce global GHGs as world nations try to achieve net zero GHGs (carbon neutrality) in order to stop global warming? This chart, from Climate Action Tracker (CAT), models current climate policy outcomes, as well as optimistic net zero targets, to 2100>>>

Current climate policies vs. optimistic net zero targets – CAT

Below are some major resources for more information on the COP21:

COP21 Paris – breakdown of the event

Categories
All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Sustainability News

How Safe & Clean is Nuclear ☢️ Energy?

CLEAN Energy: NUCLEAR


When looking at climate solutions for clean energy generation, it is prudent to look at all clean energy sources. Nuclear power also has the highest capacity factor of any energy source and is the most reliable, and efficient, source of energy. Clean energy solutions include both renewable energy (the obvious choice); as well as nuclear energy (which is non-renewable, and a not-so-obvious choice).


Nuclear Energy – A Potential Bipartisan Climate Solution

For the initial capital costs, nuclear is the most expensive form of energy. However, nuclear fuel (up to now – uranium, burned as fuel in current nuclear reactors) is an exponentially more dense fuel source than any other. Nuclear power represents by far, by a factor of a million – based on a similar quantity of nuclear fuel vs. coal (and coal is more energy-dense than renewable energy, but uranium is exponentially more energy-dense than other fuel sources) – the most energy-dense energy source on the planet.

The Power of Nuclear and Politics

Even with the high up-front costs to develop nuclear power plants, Republicans tend to back nuclear energy, and so do most Democrats in Congress. Thus, nuclear energy is a potential area of bipartisanship for Congress and the new U.S. Executive Administration.

Nuclear is a global incumbent energy source and is associated with a great deal of money and political influence worldwide. Therefore nuclear energy continues to have support from most politicians in the United States. The “good” thing about nuclear energy production is that there are little to no GHG emissions (no GHGs associated with the actual energy production from nuclear fuel).

However, it’s necessary to find suitable locations to safely secure the radioactive waste produced from the combustion of nuclear fuel. Next-generation nuclear fuels promise to burn fuel significantly cleaner. One other major consideration with current nuclear reactors is that we have to hope that there’s not a Fukushima-type catastrophe. Gen IV nuclear promises to be safer, as well as cleaner, than current nuclear reactors. However, this is only theoretical at this point, as Gen IV nuclear is still in this design phase.


Gen IV Nuclear

4th generation nuclear promises to be safe, clean; and a source of cost-competitive and efficient energy. New reactors being planned in advanced nuclear designs can run on spent uranium and even thorium. 4th generation nuclear has entirely safe, cost efficient designs. These reactors just need to get through R&D and demonstration phases, and become commercial viable alternatives in global mixes for countries.

Actually, the levelized cost of energy production from new, advanced nuclear reactors is looking viable. Nuclear is already a clean, efficient energy source – and future generations of nuclear energy production might prove to be perfectly safe, as well.


The major problems with the current generation of nuclear plants are: the potential for another Fukushima-type disaster, nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear waste disposal, and the very high up-front capital cost of building nuclear plants. The US Energy Information Administration estimated that for new nuclear plants in 2019, capital costs made up 75% of the LCOE.

Economies of scale (ideally) will drive down costs of building the next generation of new nuclear plants – eventually over time. The remaining costs of developing and running a new generation of nuclear plants are projected to be cost-competitive with other “base-load” forms of energy generation, e.g. combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT). The probable, hopeful future cost-competitiveness of nuclear is another point that makes nuclear energy a viable energy solution for the future.



How Much Better Are Nuclear & Renewable Energy Than Fossil Fuels?

The reason that economic arguments tend to trump environmental arguments when finding solutions to anthropogenic climate change, is because many Senators are more likely to respond to economic arguments. You could simply say, “renewable energy is better than fossil fuels, because renewable energy is better for the environment, and is a more efficient energy source overall”.

However, odds are Senators won’t care until you also point out that the LCOE* (see below for LCOE definition) of renewable energy is less than the cost of fossil fuels. Many Senators already do want to support clean energy transition strategies. Finding ways to convince all senators to support clean energy investment is important. Republican Senators will also be needed to pass environmental regulatory laws – laws that support clean energy, and hopefully a majority of Senators soon support a federal carbon pricing system – that also supports clean energy.

Senators don’t necessarily have to want to protect the environment, or “give in” to the science behind anthropogenic climate change. Senators can simply vote for energy policies that represent a cost savings; which tend to be clean energy investments. That includes supporting both renewable and nuclear energy.

The cost of producing energy with a renewable fuel vs. fossil fuels is dramatically lower when just the cost of producing electricity (marginal cost) is considered. 4th generation nuclear promises to have a relatively low up-front capital cost, and a low marginal cost. Fuel for Gen IV nuclear designs promise to potentially run on spent uranium or thorium; which are cheap, abundant fuels that produces little waste,

When the costs of the negative externalities (damage to public health & the environment) associated with fossil fuel production are added in with the LCOE*, the relative cost of renewable energy sources (as well as Gen IV nuclear) vs. fossil fuels is lower still. In fact, producing energy from coal is no longer cheaper than renewables or gas, and is very harmful to both the environment and public health (negative externalities).

Overall, the lowest cost of energy production are wind and solar (which also have zero negative externalities) This is followed by natural gas (which carries the cost of negative externalities). Natural gas is followed by more renewable energy sources, most significantly solar thermal and offshore wind.

Other than solar and wind, nuclear and hydroelectricity represent the past, present, and future of global clean energy on a large-scale basis. In fact, historically, nuclear and hydroelectricity have been the largest sources of global clean energy. Hydroelectricity also represents a relatively low cost source of domestic energy for the United States. 

The following are snippets from articles listing reasons nuclear and renewable energy are the best options for future global energy sources:

“Nuclear power and hydropower form the backbone of low-carbon electricity generation. Together, they provide three-quarters of global low-carbon generation. Over the past 50 years, the use of nuclear power has reduced CO2 emissions by over 60 gigatonnes – nearly two years’ worth of global energy-related emissions.”   FROM  –  iea.org/nuclear-power-in-a-clean-energy-system


Renewable power is increasingly cheaper than any new electricity capacity based on fossil fuels, a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) published today finds. Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2019 shows that more than half of the renewable capacity added in 2019 achieved lower power costs than the cheapest new coal plants. 

“We have reached an important turning point in the energy transition. The case for new and much of the existing coal power generation, is both environmentally and economically unjustifiable,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA. “Renewable energy is increasingly the cheapest source of new electricity, offering tremendous potential to stimulate the global economy and get people back to work. Renewable investments are stable, cost-effective and attractive offering consistent and predictable returns while delivering benefits to the wider economy.   FROM –  irena.org//Renewables-Increasingly-Beat-Even-Cheapest-Coal-Competitors


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.

* 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)
  • 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…

Gen IV nuclear promises to have reasonable capital costs, and low marginal costs. Until Gen IV gets developed and deployed, we just have to hope the costs really are going to be low as advertised. So, other than a  relatively higher up-front capital cost than renewables, hopefully the rest of Gen IV’s LCOE data points should look roughly similar to renewable energy.


Please see:

Nuclear Energy- One Necessary Energy Source to Fight Climate Change

..for more on how nuclear energy can be a climate solution, providing a clean, efficient, viable source of energy to power the modern, sustainable world.


 

Categories
All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Net Zero Sustainability News

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



Categories
All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Net Zero Sustainability News

Permanent ban on new coal mines and other sustainability priorities

Climate Priority Pathways & Policies |


Strategies for mitigating climate change

What are the best strategies for mitigating global warming? How is the United States going to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions? Carbon pricing? The Green New Deal? Here’s a brief list of sustainability priorities that the United States should implement in order to avoid contributing to the most catastrophic consequences of anthropogenic climate change:


Priority Climate Actions for the US government

The United States federal government under Biden; all relevant Climate, Energy, and Environment executive administrative agencies must implement the following priorities. Also, ideally Congress and/ or state legislatures & governors must focus on priorities outlined in GCT’s Climate Public Policies article.   


Regulations

  • The EPA under Biden needs to work on ensuring environmental regulations are put back in place; including air, water, and land pollution and GHGs regulatory rollbacks, now that the Trump administration is gone. “Most of these [environmental protection] rollbacks can be reversed by the Biden administration, but it will take some concerted effort. [Berkeley Law] has compiled nearly 200 rollbacks, listed here“.   FROM  –  law.berkeley.edu/research/clee/reversing-environmental-rollbacks
  • A permanent moratorium on new coal plants legislated and mandated by the U.S. federal government, or at least by a majority of U.S. states. Pursue a just transition for coal country (e.g. retraining coal miners, other coal industry employees, in clean energy jobs. Just transition assistance with clean energy job placement; financial assistance to coal communities as local coal industry-dependent economies transition to clean energy economies). Existing coal mines are phased out completely by 2040 at the latest during the energy transition to clean energy in the U.S.
  • Permanent ban on all drilling for oil & gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Moratorium on all mining in ANWR & in all public lands and waters of the United States. Ban on oil & gas drilling on federal lands & waters in the U.S. (Biden has effectively done most of the current moratoriums on drilling/ mining on federal lands/ waters with executive actions – now these bans must be made permanent with legislation through Congress).
  • Ban all Canadian tar sands oil imports and close tar sands oil pipelines – so that means ban all trains and pipelines that transport tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S., and stop the development of the Keystone XL pipeline – which Biden now has issued an executive order to do. The development of the Dakota Access pipeline should have effectively been stopped by the order of a federal judge in 2020. However, the case is still being bandied about the courts, pending ‘environmental review’, among other legal issues. Biden and Congress could shut the Dakota Access pipeline down, along with ensuring similar dirty tar sand oil pipelines are shut-down; especially the Line 3 pipeline.

Paris; UN Sustainability Goals; Climate & Land-use Targets

  • Rejoin the international community on climate. The United States must make good on commitments made at the 2015 Paris Climate Accord before trying to put into U.S. law (through Congress) parts of new policies like sections of the Green New Deal (GND). This is true for even less dramatic policies than the GND, like the various federal carbon pricing proposals circulating Congress. Now that the Biden administration has rejoined Paris, the U.S. must try and achieve the more ambitious Carbon Neutrality Coalition (CNC) goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and join the CNC. Even if any part of The Green New Deal does get passed by Congress and signed into law by Biden, the U.S. must still try to achieve goals set at the Paris Climate Accord. The U.S. must maintain its commitments to vital measures; such as ambitious GHG reduction goals.
  • The U.S. will try to pull its own weight on climate, energy, the environment, and other sustainability goals.
  • The sustainability and clean energy measures listed above in this article should be implemented by the U.S. government; even if the efforts fall short of the ambitious climate, energy, environment, and social justice targets outlined in The Green New Deal. It is recommended that the US federal government, or just individual states, consider passing carbon pricing legislation; similar to California’s emissions trading system (ETS); or an ETS similar to the one conducted by 10 Northeastern states (11 with Virginia joining in 2021) – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).   
  • The United States must ensure (through the EPA); or ideally pass legislation through Congress – setting GHG reduction, decarbonization targets for the U.S. in order to meet all ambitious goals to meet the climate targets set by the United States at the Paris Climate Accord. Biden has pledged to decarbonize the energy generation sector (for electricity generation) by 2035, and to achieve net zero emissions (carbon neutrality targets) by 2050 – these represent significantly ambitious climate targets.
  • All regulations for fossil fuel developments that were mandated under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which mirror GHG reduction targets initially set at the 2015 Paris Climate Accord must be enforced at a minimum. Based on the new, more ambitious direction of the international community on climate change mitigation; even more ambitious targets than were originally set up by Obama’s CPP should be new targets for the Biden administration. Greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants will need to meet the most ambitious standards set by the Paris Climate Accord; and continue to evolve with new guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – and which now are GHG reduction targets aligned with carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Expand, protect, restore, and maintain U.S. protected public wilderness, parks, nature reserves, natural monuments, and all U.S. public lands.
  • Tax incentives/ direct government subsidies for sustainable agriculture (encourage farms to adopt practices such as cover crops, agroforestry, other common sustainable agriculture practices.


There were a few significant events which showed strong signs of global progress, with the United States as an occasional global leader on climate action; in terms of addressing anthropogenic climate change in 2014-2015, leading to the Paris Climate Accord:

  1. the Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change
  2. Obama’s CPP
  3. Paris Climate Accord

These events represented true progress. We must get back to this momentum.

The new climate envoy and related staff, John Kerry and his staff, for the new executive climate department of the U.S. government; and the new Biden Administration picks for EPA, Energy, Interior, and other climate related cabinet positions – should get the U.S. back on track as far as ambitious climate policies based on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidance. The COP26 in Glasgow should provide a beacon of hope for the global clean energy transition.

On day one of his presidency, Biden rejoined the Paris climate accord, and canceled further U.S. development of the Keystone pipeline, as well as discontinuing any further U.S. investment in the Keystone pipeline (stopping any use of the pipeline for Canadian tar sands oil). Now Biden and Congress just need to tackle the above priorities (including stopping at least 2 more major Canadian tar sands oil pipelines). Relevant parts of the Biden administration (EPA, the new Climate executive department, Energy, Interior) need to start issuing incremental policies (such as those listed above) to address sustainable climate solutions to meet new IPCC guidance. Public policies that are recommended for the United States to pursue as far as climate, energy, and the environment, please see: GCT’s CLIMATE PUBLIC POLICIES article.


The United States federal government (through Congress), or individual states (through state legislatures), should at least consider passing legislation from the various carbon pricing proposals circulating Congress. Please see: GCT’s EU and US climate progress, carbon pricing, and carbon tax articles; for more insight on the range of carbon pricing legislation measures proposed and in effect globally.


Big Oil (and gas) and Big Coal, in the United States as in much of the rest of the world, finance the campaigns of many politicians and have successfully been able to slow down progress on some major climate goals. How much of the Clean Power Plan had the Trump administration, Congressional Republicans, and the EPA under Trump been able to stop?  The EPA under the Trump administration had been able to stop or reverse the ambitious goals of the CPP and Paris Climate Accord in some, Republican-controlled, states.

However, many states and cities in the United States have stayed on track to meet the initial requirements of the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Accord; as individual states (like California, many states in the Northeast, several other states) have remained committed to the ambitious climate goals of the CPP and Paris Climate Accord; and remain committed to achieving the latest climate targets set by the IPCC. Please see: greencitytimes.blogspot.com/elements-of-clean-power-plan-still-move and: greencitytimes.blogspot.com/was-clean-power-plan-just-wiped-out.


Some U.S. states have even more ambitious strategies to reduce GHGs and fight climate change than put forth in the CPP, or at Paris in 2015; closer to the carbon neutrality targets set by the latest IPCC guidance.

Examples of states with ambitious climate mitigation plans include: states like California, Hawaii, Washington, New Mexico, as well as several states in the Northeast U.S., a few other states (all are states which have passed bills through their states’ legislatures that mandate 100% renewable energy within the next 3 decades for their entire state; or at least 100% clean energy ). New York City is even planning a congestion levy for cars in the city center of NYC); and is investing substantial support for electric vehicles – like the development of extensive EV charging stations, as well as other EV infrastructure.


Carbon pricing, fiscal incentives for clean energy technologies, and incentives for clean energy job growth are among public policies that would benefit the environmental health of the planet by increasing investment in clean and renewable energy; helping in the fight against climate change by reducing GHGs from energy production.

Policies supporting clean energy job growth would also help the economy. Here is an article by Green City Times – a guide to needed public policies for environmental (as well as economic) sustainability, including our complete take on the Green New Deal – greencitytimes.com/stabilize-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2