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Category: Climate

Bumblebees ‘farm’ flowers to accelerate pollen production

Bumblebees ‘farm’ flowers to accelerate pollen production

Some days, I read somehting and all i can say is ‘WOW’ – incredibly interesting and something that I did not know – one of those ‘blow me away’ factoids. A recent study of bumblebees and how they can influence flowers to accelerate pollen production was one of them … and scientists have yet to figure out how they do it – only that they can, and do! Source

Quote below is the kernel of their findings, “Based on their lab studies, the researchers were able to show that the bumblebees’ propensity to damage leaves has a strong correlation with the amount of pollen they can obtain: Bees damage leaves much more frequently when there is little or no pollen available to them. They also found that damage inflicted on plant leaves had dramatic effects on flowering time in two different plant species. Tomato plants subjected to bumblebee biting flowered up to 30 days earlier than those that hadn’t been targeted, while mustard plants flowered about 14 days earlier when damaged by the bees.”

Grist answers, “What’s the more climate-conscious diet: plant-based or place-based?”

Grist answers, “What’s the more climate-conscious diet: plant-based or place-based?”

It’s a great and often asked question … the full post is here. The answer in a nutshell, quote: “The most effective change you can make to your diet, in terms of greenhouse gas reduction, is to go plant-based and limit meat consumption. That’s it. It’s also certainly lower impact in terms of water usage.”

WOW – Google’s smart energy usage ideas

WOW – Google’s smart energy usage ideas

I can’t even comment on it except, “wish I thought of that”!

quote:

New carbon-intelligent computing platform

Our latest advancement in sustainability, developed by a small team of engineers, is a new carbon-intelligent computing platform. We designed and deployed this first-of-its kind system for our hyperscale (meaning very large) data centers to shift the timing of many compute tasks to when low-carbon power sources, like wind and solar, are most plentiful. This is done without additional computer hardware and without impacting the performance of Google services like Search, Maps and YouTube that people rely on around the clock. Shifting the timing of non-urgent compute tasks—like creating new filter features on Google Photos, YouTube video processing, or adding new words to Google Translate—helps reduce the electrical grid’s carbon footprint, getting us closer to 24×7 carbon-free energy.

Source: https://blog.google/inside-google/infrastructure/data-centers-work-harder-sun-shines-wind-blows

Ecosystem destruction & virus infections

Ecosystem destruction & virus infections

Wow … this was eye opening https://grist.org/climate/these-scientists-saw-a-pandemic-coming-now-theyre-trying-to-stop-the-next-one/

Quote: “Over the past century, the human population has exploded. At the height of the 1918-1919 Spanish flu pandemic, the global population was around 1.8 billion, less than a quarter of what it is today. In the past century, millions of humans have spent years slaughtering wildlife; cutting down trees; placing cows, chickens, and pigs in close contact with wild animals — providing ample opportunity for viruses to make a deadly leap.

Even in the face of enormous environmental changes, Epstein and other scientists are convinced that it wouldn’t take much to make a big difference, whether it’s shuttering wildlife markets or bat-proofing pots for date-palm sap with a small screen. “These are wholly human-made, human-driven events, and knowing that is hopeful, because we can actually focus on changing the way we do things,” Epstein said. “These pandemics are preventable.”

Bike lanes, yes!

Bike lanes, yes!

A recent study on economic impact of adding bike lanes came back with interesting results. Quote, “Researchers studied 14 corridors in 6 cities — Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Memphis, Minneapolis and Indianapolis — and found such improvements had either positive or non-significant impacts on sales and employment. Essentially, adding improvements like bike lanes largely boosted business and employment in the retail and food service sectors.”

Adding bikes is one step to reducing cars … less carbon, less pollution, less noise, generally less bad stuff and all without material impact to business – seems like a fair trade to me!

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200422151318.htm

Cool tech to keep streets safe for non-car people (like me)

Cool tech to keep streets safe for non-car people (like me)

I almost never drive … and if I do, there must be multiple destinations or something to do that is worth the carbon guilt … However, as I walk, run, bike everywhere, I am constantly ‘on alert’ due to people driving cars who seem to just want to make it hard for non-car people

Grist published a spot on a company that is coming up with some help for us …

Quote: “Tara Pham’s company, Numina, generates the granular data that cities require to design bike- and pedestrian-friendly roads and neighborhoods. You could say it all got started by accident — two of them, as a matter of fact. We got both stories recently, after Pham, who has a background in civic technology and engineering, landed on the 2020 Grist 50, our annual list of emerging climate and justice leaders. Our conversation with Pham has been edited and condensed for clarity.”

This is cool … and a good earth day post

2 scientific reports sustainable energy

2 scientific reports sustainable energy

2 recent studies were published that I found interesting and worth the read.

The first is about the solar panel cell chemistry improvements. Even with all my semiconductor design and manufacturing experiences, I found this science complicated but encouraging. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200415133625.htm

The second is complex modeling on the impact of wind turbines and their disruption to the micro weather (air-flow) patterns if capacity was increased. Even the authors’ description of the modeling was complex. Yet again, way encouraging if we can increase wind capacity without increasing unintended consequences, e.g., air flow around the turbines. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200414095737.htm

Disclosure: One of my main investment themes / narratives is sustainable energy, so I have a positive bias here.

Will solar energy push out now – COVID-19 consequence?

Will solar energy push out now – COVID-19 consequence?

From Seeking Alpha editors today, quote:

“Solar stocks (TAN -6.2%) are under notable pressure today, possibly due to disappointment over the U.S. stimulus bill which failed to contain any specific help for the renewable energy industry.

While solar companies can apply for loans just like any other business, the bill does not include the tax credit extensions and direct pay provisions sought by the industry. Solar names trade sharply lower: RUN -16.5%, SPWR -13.6%, JKS -13%, CSIQ -10%, ENPH -7.3%, VSLR -7.2%, SEDG -5.9%, FSLR -2.3%.

New reports from Morgan Stanley, Wood Mackenzie and Rystad Energy foresee sharp cutbacks for wind, solar and battery growth in the U.S. and beyond this year as cities impose lockdowns and economies stagnate. Rystad expects global growth of wind and solar will be wiped out this year as the dollar rises and other currencies fall amid the pandemic, driving up project costs. Morgan Stanley projects American residential solar volumes may plunge 48% Y/Y in Q2, followed by respective declines of 28% and 17% in Q3 and Q4. Wood Mackenzie trims its forecast for behind-the-meter batteries to be installed in the U.S. during 2020 by 31% to 436 MW from 632 MW previously, though the figure is still above the 272 MW installed last year.”

Dem candidates on climate

Dem candidates on climate

Grist put together a really good side-by-side of the two remaining plausible Dem candidates and their climate positions

Closing paragraph quote, “That idealism, which is easy to denigrate as naivete, may be Sanders’ biggest weakness heading into Sunday’s debate. Meanwhile, Biden’s biggest weakness is a different kind of idealism — the hope that technology and market-based solutions, without major changes to the fossil fuel industry, will be enough to confront the scale of the climate crisis. (Both candidates have called it an “existential crisis.”) In a speech Sanders gave on Wednesday about his decision to stay in the race, he said he plans to confront Biden about his energy and climate plans at Sunday’s debate and specifically press him on developing science-based targets. With no one else on stage to interrupt them, will the candidates dare push past their tried-and-true talking points and get more specific about what, exactly, they want to do to prevent catastrophic climate change, and how they plan to do it? We’ll have to tune in to find out.”

A car even i could love …

A car even i could love …

It’s not fast; it does not have a huge range for battery … but

Quote: “The business plan, too, frames the Ami as a scooter replacement when it hits streets this June. You could buy it outright for $6,600, or you could lease it for $22 per month (with about $3,000 down), or rent it for 30 cents a minute with ride-share apps. The monthly lease is on par with current e-scooter subscriptions, though the minute-by-minute rate is about twice what the e-scooter company Bird is charging.”

https://www.fastcompany.com/90469594/this-tiny-electric-car-costs-just-22-a-month

Indicator species – ‘canary in goldmine’ – not good enough

Indicator species – ‘canary in goldmine’ – not good enough

A new research report is out that concludes, quote: “By combing through a public dataset of over 1,000 species and 64 habitats in British Columbia, they were able to compare the surrogacy value of each species — a numerical score based on the association of two species through their use of shared habitats. They found that a mixture of five to 10 game and non-game species offered the best value as surrogates for biodiversity conservation.”

And a bit more, “We discovered what we called an ‘all-star’ team of species for each of the province’s nine wildlife management units, as well as an all-star team for the province as a whole,” says Sarah Falconer, graduate student at Laurentian University and study co-author. “Our findings suggest that if we commit to preserving these collections of species rather than just the charismatic megafauna, we’re likely to achieve much better conservation outcomes.”

This makes sense on so many fronts. I can easily think of a scenario where the change to an ecosystem would impact different species at different times and if the ‘canary’ was not one of the earliest impacted, the signal will be late … as well as the overall interdependence of the different species.

Grist advice – “avoid jargon!”

Grist advice – “avoid jargon!”

A corporate president I interfaced with often one time said to our team, “you have completely failed to understand the power of the English language.” How we use language has tremendous impact on what we can accomplish with other humans. Grist has some great advice!

Key words and their ‘non jargon’ explanation … which would you prefer to hear? (quoted below)

  • Carbon footprint: How much carbon-dioxide emissions can you attribute to a country, company, or maybe your neighbor? The answer is their carbon footprint.
  • Circular economy: A system where nothing really gets thrown away. In other words, your old smartphone gets broken up into its different parts and recycled — or more likely, you’re repairing it.
  • Climate adaptation: Improving our ability to cope with climate change. Think building sea walls, breeding crops that can tolerate droughts, and restoring the natural course of rivers. (See “resilience” below.)
  • Environmental justice: A phrase underscoring the broad idea that the people who did the least to cause climate change and pollution are the often the most at risk from the consequences.
  • Just transition: Shifting to an economy that runs on solar and wind energy without killing jobs.
  • Geoengineering: Using technology to try to counteract some of the warming caused by burning coal, oil, and gas. Like spraying tiny particles in the air to reflect the sunlight back into space so it doesn’t heat up the planet.
  • Net-zero: Canceling out the carbon dioxide we emit by making sure that the same amount gets sucked up by trees, plants, machines, or other things. (See: Offset.)
  • Offset: Something you buy that promises to cancel some or all of the carbon dioxide produced by, say, your next cross-country flight.
  • Resilience: Our ability to deal with climate change’s effects. Simply put, a more resilient New York City will be better able to withstand another Superstorm Sandy.
  • Sustainable: Using a resource in a way that won’t deplete it. Example: Making sure a forest has a bunch of new trees growing before you cut down an old one.
Upside to wind power?

Upside to wind power?

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200224183457.htm

Quote – no comment needed

The United States could generate 20% of its electricity from wind within 10 years, without requiring any additional land, according to Cornell University research published in Nature Scientific Reports.

“The United States currently produces about 7% of its electricity from wind energy,” said Sara Pryor, professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “This research shows that a quadrupling of the installed capacity of wind turbines from 2014 levels will allow us to attain the goal of 20% of electricity from the wind, without requiring additional land, or negative impacts on systemwide efficiency or local climates.”

wow! Possible solar technology breakthrough

wow! Possible solar technology breakthrough

Quote: “Researchers have set a world record for the conversion of solar energy to electricity via the use of tiny nanoparticles called ‘quantum dots’. The technology has a huge range of potential applications, including the possibility to use it as a flexible, transparent skin to power cars, planes, homes and wearable technology.”

This is really cool if it pans out and is commercially viable; no surprise that the research does NOT come from US (seems we spend all our research $ on guns and bombs).

A bit more detail, quote: “Professor Wang’s team set the world record for quantum dot solar cell efficiency by developing a unique surface engineering strategy. Overcoming previous challenges around the fact that the surface of quantum dots tend to be rough and unstable — making them less efficient at converting solar into electrical current. “This new generation of quantum dots is compatible with more affordable and large-scale printable technologies,” said Professor Wang. “The near 25 per cent improvement in efficiency we have achieved over the previous world record is important. It is effectively the difference between quantum dot solar cell technology being an exciting ‘prospect’ and being commercially viable.'”

Source https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200218182208.htm

Cobalt study – a flawed conclusion

Cobalt study – a flawed conclusion

I disagree and find this almost inflammatory in its complete disregard for environmental impact.

Article: Cobalt supply can meet demand for electric vehicle and electronics batteries (reference)

Here is there summary, quote: “Greater use of electric vehicles might be good for the environment, but further growth hinges on continued availability of critical battery components such as cobalt. Cell phones and other electronics also depend on the element’s availability. Supplies of the metal are adequate in the short term, but shortages could develop down the road if refining and recycling aren’t ramped up or made more efficient, according to new research.”

The bold is my emphasis. Why not advocate a different technology completely?

To add fuel to the fire, (no pun intended) think about cobalt’s source, quote: “Roughly 60% of mined cobalt is sourced from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The element is often recovered as a byproduct from mining copper and nickel, meaning that demand and pricing for those other metals affects the availability of cobalt. Half of the current supply of cobalt is incorporated into cathodes for lithium-ion batteries, and many of those batteries are used in consumer electronics and electric vehicles.”

The authors seem more concerned about meeting the cobalt needs based on today’s technology and usage models without any regard to the impact of DRC environmentally and / or socially. Just a sad, sad perspective to omit those potential impacts and conclude, quote: “the researchers concluded that cobalt supply is adequate in the short-term. They estimate supply will reach 320-460 thousand metric tons by 2030, while demand will reach 235-430 thousand metric tons. The team recommends that the industry invest in additional efficient refining and recycling capacity, so it can continue to meet demand.”