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UK Guardian - Environmental News
Reducing Europe's carbon: set bold targets and aim for the impossible
Setting ambitious targets will take business away from the ordinary and force it to search for new alternatives
There has been much discussion and debate since the EU Commission recently unveiled its proposed 2030 carbon targets. While the energy lobbies argue the targets are too ambitious, the green lobbies assert they're not ambitious enough.
I was recently among a delegation of business leaders from the Prince of Wales's EU Corporate Leaders Group in Brussels. The purpose of the meeting was to impress on the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, our support for the proposed 40% target to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, as a minimum.
Unlike other continents, Europe does not have the conventional energy resources needed to power our economy. We have traditionally relied on other regions for our supply and have been subject to their price policies. With massive shifts in the energy supply occurring around us, it is critical for Europe to take control of its future and unlock its low-carbon economic potential. What we need is for Europe to step up – to take radical action and drive the market changes we need to transform our economy towards a more sustainable path. We need to do this not just for the wellbeing of our markets, but for our people and the planet.
An ambitious low-carbon target is achievable and can dramatically increase profitability and productivity. Interface Europe has surpassed the proposed 40% reduction and is now operating at a 90% reduction rate. The ultimate target is for Interface to have zero impact on the environment by 2020.
When Mission Zero was conceived in 1994 by Interface's founder and CEO, the late Ray Anderson, the goal seemed outrageous and unattainable, but two important strategies have helped Interface forge ahead: increasing efficiencies and switching to alternative energy sources. Faster production lines, recycling products and developing innovative technologies have reduced emissions by 60%. The remaining 30% of reductions have come from converting to green electricity and, more recently, to biogas.
Other companies in other industries are also showing that meaningful change is within reach. Toyota Motor Europe has reduced its production energy and water use per vehicle by 70% since 1993. Japanese construction and mining equipment manufacturer Komatsu has reduced its transport and logistics GHG emissions (a proxy for transport energy use) by 35% in five years (PDF). These examples show significant progress can be made if organisations set themselves the challenge to make tangible differences swiftly.
These examples are to be applauded, but greater commitment and drive will be needed if industry as a whole is to move to a zero-carbon model. Setting modest percentage targets generates results, but it is unlikely to create the conditions and provide the impetus that will lead to a step change.
Objectives, environmental or otherwise, are often set on the basis of what is technically achievable, but that limits vision to what is feasible now. The only way to push the boundaries is to set seemingly impossible targets. It takes you away from the ordinary and challenges you to widen the scope and look for alternatives that you didn't know were possible. Increasing efficiency forced Interface to venture into the unknown and search for technologies it never dreamt could exist. By applying NASA technology it developed an ultrasonic cutting machine that doubled output and reduced waste by 80%. By becoming more energy efficient, continuously replacing raw materials with bio-based or recycled alternatives, and switching to renewable energy, Interface has reduced costs by €7.6m per annum since 1996.
Former UK prime minister David Lloyd George once said: "Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated; you can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." Now is the time for the EU Commission, parliament, industry and society at large to rise to the challenge of the sustainability targets laid out by the EU Commission. We must be able to unlock a low-carbon economy in Europe. It is just as essential for the environment as it is to stimulate innovation, jobs and growth; and for Europe to remain competitive.
Rob Boogaard is acting CEO and president EMEA of Interface and a member of the Prince of Wales's EU Corporate Leaders Group
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There's a great white shark heading for Britain – but don't panic
A member of the scariest shark species, known as Lydia, has been spotted swimming east across the Atlantic ocean. Will she kill anyone in Britain who goes swimming?
Appearance: Huge and terrifying.
That's very unkind. I don't think Lydia will care.
Why not? Because she's a great white shark, which means she's meant to be huge and terrifying. And also that she doesn't know how to read.
Good. Best not to annoy a great white, eh? Definitely. Especially not when she's heading right for us.
Us being the inhabitants of the British Isles? Yes. Lydia was tagged by a group of marine biologists a year ago off the coast of Florida. Since then she's been to Bermuda, pootled up the eastern seaboard, mucked around in Newfoundland, and then – around Christmas – begun the long journey across the Atlantic in our direction.
Help! We're all going to be eaten alive! No we're not, for a number of reasons.
Tell me them quickly! Reason one: sharks do pretty much all of their devouring in the sea. Are you in the sea?
No. I'm at home, and I'm locking the door. Reason two: even in their habitual waters it is incredibly rare for a shark to attack a person. Take 2010, which was the worst year in a decade for unprovoked attacks. How many confirmed incidents do you think there were of someone being attacked by a shark of any species?
I don't know. Just tell me! Seventy-nine. In the whole world. In a bad year. The vast majority not fatal. On average just one person dies from a shark attack in the US every two years.
I see. Reason three: there's never been a confirmed sighting of a great white shark in British waters, and Lydia is still about a thousand miles away. Plus in the past 24 hours she's sort of turned round.
Oh. The expedition leader, Chris Fischer, thinks Lydia might be pregnant, and perhaps heading east to give birth. "If you forced me to guess where," he says. "I'd say it was over in the Mediterranean, near Turkey …"
Help! I'm going to Turkey on holiday! I refer you to reason two.
Do say: "It's never going to happen ..."
Don't say: "... On the other hand, she might be eating for between three and 11."theguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Chabazite comes to the aid of pig farmers in Italy and France
'Miracle' mineral traps ammonium to lessen odour of pig slurry and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Chabazite is a remarkable mineral. It saved Parma ham a few years ago and may provide a way to combat the proliferation of green algae along the coast of Brittany, France. A pilot scheme is due to start soon near Cap Fréhel, focusing on the drainage basin of the river Frémur.
Chabazite belongs to the zeolite group and is found in volcanic tuff. Traditionally it has been used for construction work in L'Aquila province, Abruzzo, in central Italy. But some years ago Elio Passaglia, a researcher at the University of Modena, discovered that it had unsuspected virtues. It can trap NH4+, or ammonium, which gives rise to the nitrates responsible for the proliferation of toxic algae along coastlines.
The rock, which exists in a very pure state in Italy, is also found in Arizona in the United States and has attracted the attention of Nasa scientists. Passaglia was, however, the first to demonstrate its powers publicly during the hot summer of 1998 when it was feared that the stench from pig farms in Tuscany might discourage tourism.
Yielding to local pressure the head of the town council at Pavullo nel Frignano, south-west of Bologna, demanded the closure of some farms. At a meeting called to resolve the crisis, Passaglia performed his "magic" trick. He got some particularly fragrant pig manure and poured powdered chabazite into it; the stench was gone. A pilot scheme was launched, in great secrecy, and the complaints stopped.
In 1999 Giovanni Battista Pasini, head of the Union of Emilia Romagna Mountain Communities, published a decree encouraging pig farmers to include chabazite in their feed. About half the members now add chabazite.
Verdi, a small company based between Modena and Parma, now mines the mineral, at Sorano, Tuscany. "It's the biggest concentration in the world," claims Pietro Azzolini, the head of the company. Potential reserves are estimated at 6.5m cubic metres. In 10 years, 300,000 cubic metres of this rock – which is the same yellow-ochre colour as nearby villages – has been quarried. The rock is crushed and dried to obtain a powder "with no trace of any water or organic substances", Azzolini adds. He maintains that reserves would be sufficient to meet the needs of Italian and even Breton farmers for a century.
Thanks to cavities in its structure, the rock traps ammonium. A kilo of chabazite can absorb 18g of it. On pig farms the powder is added to pig feed, at a 3% concentration. This reduces the amount of ammonium in the slurry by about a third and cuts atmospheric emissions by one-fifth.
Further research in France has confirmed the substance's ability to eliminate smells. "Up to 40% cuts in peak odour can be achieved," says Eric Poincelet, a green technology specialist and joint head of Nitracure, a company set up in Montpellier in 2012, with backing from Verdi. The phosphorus content of pig slurry can be cut by 40%, with a roughly 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. "In simpler terms," Poincelet explains, "the pigs produce less gas because they digest and assimilate nutrients more easily." Chabazite granules can also be sprinkled on the ground, at concentrations of six cubic metres a hectare. An EU funded pilot scheme to test this is taking place in Italy.
"It's not the philosopher's stone," says Nitracure head Jacques Bouyer. "But in 2011 these impressive results convinced Michel Cadot, then prefect of Brittany, and Claudy Lebreton, leader of the Côtes d'Armor regional council, to launch a series of studies and experiments." These confirmed the Italian findings.
Chabazite is being tested at Kerguéhennec Farm, Morbihan, an experimental unit operated by the regional chamber of agriculture. Monique Le Clézio, deputy-leader of the Côtes d'Armor council, who took part in a study visit to Italy, cautions: "It's too soon to get excited and several experiments will be needed to find solutions which will certainly have an effect but also come at a cost."
"The chabazite will cost €700 [$950] a tonne, delivered in Brittany," Poincelet says. "And half of that is for transport." "The business model is certainly viable," Bouyer adds. At a cost of €4 for each 100kg pig, with the average consumer buying 35kg of pork a year, it would represent an additional annual cost of €1.30 per person. "We're only just beginning to get the financial picture, but you can be sure of one thing: with the massive amounts central and local government are about to spend on cleaning up water and soil pollution in Brittany, it must be worth trying chabazite," Bouyer affirms.
Lebreton hopes it will have a positive impact in terms of jobs, but above all for public health and farming. It is an opportunity to be seized, he believes, in view of the criticism recently heaped on the area's intensive farming model.
But it is still not clear how the cost of importing the wonder mineral will be financed. The extra cost may seem insignificant but neither the pig-feed suppliers nor the farmers have any desire to foot the bill.
This article appeared in Guardian Weekly, which incorporates material from Le Mondetheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Climate change and sensitivity: not all Watts are equal | John Abraham
A new paper by Drew Shindell of NASA provides more evidence to support relatively high climate sensitivity estimates
We hear a lot of talk these days about climate sensitivity. It is often considered the most important measure for predicting how much the Earth's temperature will increase as we emit heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide.
But, the term sensitivity has to be used carefully because it can mean different things in different contexts. For instance, there is a long-term (equilibrium) sensitivity to doubling carbon dioxide which refers to the ultimate temperature reached by the planet if we were to double carbon dioxide. There are also shorter term (transient) sensitivities which relate to temperature changes as heat trapping gases increase at some specified rate.
Values for climate sensitivity in general can be obtained many ways. My favorite way is by looking at deep history. If we can measure how sensitive the climate was in the past, perhaps we can infer its sensitivity now. A second way is through the use of modern temperature records and recent greenhouse gas levels. A third way is through the use of climate models (computer programs that replicate the Earth climate system). Regardless of the method used, there is general agreement that if we were to double carbon dioxide, the Earth's surface temperature would eventually increase by 1.5–4.5°C (2.7–8.1°F). Obviously, if the Earth sensitivity is at the upper end of the range, we are in trouble.
Recently, there have been some studies which suggest that maybe the climate sensitivity is at the lower end of this range. Most of these studies have only used the second method to calculate sensitivity, a fact that will soon become important. In addition to real science studies, there have been policy organizations that have promoted these low-sensitivity results. But my question is, what does the science say? Fortunately, a paper just published in Nature Climate Change provides some guidance on this question. The study was completed by Dr. Drew Shindell from NASA, and what he found was exciting. It turns out, not all Watts are equal. Energy changes to the Earth system from changes of sun-reflecting particulates or from ozone have a different impact than energy changes from carbon dioxide.
The Earth has a greater sensitivity to particulates and ozone than to carbon. The reason for this seemingly strange behavior is that aerosols are largely located near industrialized areas in the Northern Hemisphere. This hemisphere also happens to contain much more land area than the south – and land regions are more sensitive to changes in energy, at least in the near term. In short, particulates and ozone impact more sensitive parts of the planet. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, spreads out uniformly across the globe – it doesn't accumulate in one hemisphere or another.
However, let's not get too excited about particulates saving us from global warming. Dr. Shindell also showed that while in the short run, the cooling effect from particulates matters a lot, in the long run, it doesn't make much of a difference. The impact can be seen in this figure which shows the prior expectations of the climate (dashed line) alongside the revised prediction (solid). By 2050, there really is little difference.
What does this have to do with climate sensitivity? Well, it means that studies based on observed warming (such as the recent low climate sensitivity studies) have underestimated the sensitivity because they did not account for the greater response to aerosol forcing. Multiple lines of evidence are now consistent showing that the climate sensitivity is very unlikely to be at the low end of the range. The consequences of climate change are thus likely to be towards the more damaging end of the estimates, unless we take action to quickly reduce our emissions.
As Dr. Shindell aptly states,
"I wish we could take some solace from the slowdown in the rate of warming, but all the evidence now agrees that future warming is likely to be towards the high end of our estimates so it's more clear than ever that we need large, rapid emissions reductions to avoid the worst damages from climate change."
Fortunately for us, the technologies are available for us to reduce emissions, we just need the will.