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.'”
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.”
Basically, the demand for recycled plastic is growing faster than the supply (not supply of ‘old’ plastic, but the supply of recycled available plastic).
From Bloomberg, quote: “About 8 million tons of plastics are going into the ocean annually,” he said in an interview. “If you look at plastic packaging, around 95% is not being recycled each year which is $100 billion worth of plastic, and that’s valuable for entrepreneurs.”
And the punchline: “An estimated $80 billion-$120 billion of value is lost because of packaging that goes into the environment, said Navneet Chadha, principal operations officer at the World Bank’s International Finance Corp., which helps fund private sector investment in developing countries. “We have to think of used plastic as a resource, not as a waste.”
Quote: “When it comes to water use, the difference between manual and machine practices was even starker: Hand-washers used 34,200 gallons of water to a dishwasher’s 16,300 gallons over 10 years. In short, a dishwasher that’s being used correctly emits 63 percent fewer emissions in its entire lifecycle — including manufacturing and disposal — than a typical sink.
However, there’s a silver lining for resource-savvy hand-washers. If you happen to have a two-basin sink, filling one basin with hot water and the other with cool water, and then soaking and scrubbing your dishes in the first and rinsing them in the second — and then letting them air-dry — was the least energy-intensive method out of all the techniques the researchers tested. The two-basin method only produces 1,610 kilograms of emissions over 10 years. Adopting this technique leads to a 249 percent reduction in emissions for people who wash dishes manually.”
Only if somebody would complete and publish these types of comparisons for all consumer goods / products …
The history of developing country investments especially in power generation space is filled with corruption (bi-directional) and extreme climate and ecosystem impacts and – probably even more disastrous – human health, well being and livelihood impacts.
The recent announcement that GE has a new MOU in DRC is troublesome on so many fronts. I get the point that electricity in DRC (and many other areas of sub-shara Africa) is inconsistent, insufficient and intolerably expensive for those living there. But why are we (and more importantly the Congolese) being forced to make a false choice between modern electricity supply and massive ecological and human disruption (and financial bondage via debt)?
Snippet on The Congo River, quote: “The Congo River is the deepest river in the world and the fifth longest, with a flow rate second only to the Amazon’s. The Congo River is home to at least 700 fish species, with 300 documented fish species in its lower section alone. The river empties water and sediment into the Atlantic Ocean, creating “the Congo Plume” – a natural process which is thought to be one of the largest carbon sinks in the world. The river is unique in that it has large rapids and waterfalls very close to the mouth while most rivers have these features upstream. The rapids and waterfalls give the Congo River huge hydropower potential, hence it has been targeted by hydropower developers since the Belgian colonial period.”
The Inga Dams project is worthy of a Harvard Biz School case study on graft, corruption, ecological and human tragedy. As one who has lived in Africa, the power of these big rivers – Congo, Niger, Senegal, Gambia, Zambezi and the Nile – are truly amazing for their ecosystems and ability to power human civilization. However, these are highly complicated systems that support life and climate at magnitudes poorly understood imho.
Inga is just a VERY big example of good intentions just going so terribly wrong; and sadly, probably mostly avoided IF … corruption and profit were not the stronger characteristics of those involved. Who gets impacted, the ones it was supposed to help in the beginning. Human and ecological tragedy! Environmental and social justice advocates have long fought against unnecessary tragedy – a post from 2013
What can you do? Learn about it and help in any way you can …
From Grist, quote: “The European Union has undergone a pretty dramatic transformation as of late — and we’re not talking about Brexit. The group of member states, which pledged as a collective to become carbon neutral by 2050 as part of Europe’s Green Deal, cut carbon emissions from electricity by a whopping 12 percent in 2019, according to a report compiled by the European thinktanks Agora EnergieWende and Sandbag. Coal use, in particular, plummeted by about 25 percent.
“What surprised us most was the magnitude of the collapse of coal and the accompanying decrease in CO2 emissions,” said report coauthor Fabian Hein. “The speed of it was impressive.”
Seattle parent on plastic – Petition on Change.org
Quote: “When I saw a new film called “The Story of Plastic,” a lightbulb went off for me with regards to how I think we ought to be tackling the plastics issue. Rather than shaming consumers for personal consumption — which I also agree is good to curb — we need to focus on the plastics that get forced on us by the tons.”
And, if that was not enough for you … think thru the implications here: Quote – “Amazon has upped its used of film and bubbled bags in the last year in an effort to fit more packages in freight. Most recycling facilities do not accept these bags or many types of film so the environmental impact is that they either get put permanently in a landfill, incinerated or end up as litter.”
I don’t think either one of us is bashing Amazon, but we (the consumers) should get a voice into environmental costs (and economic) of our purchases.
Request: Give us an option to pay $1.00 (or whatever) more to have recyclable packaging.
From Grist an up-beat positive article on currently available methods to remove carbon – negative emissions! I understood that in order to reach Paris agreement, negative emissions will be required globally and in material fashion. This is the first post I’ve seen on an available method today – just some good ol’ fashioned wherewithal to make it happen is needed.
“A report recently published by the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Getting to Neutral, suggests that power plants across the state could profitably convert wood from forests and orchards into liquid or hydrogen fuels, all while capturing their carbon.
“This isn’t predicated on any technological breakthroughs, said George Peridas, a scientist at the lab and an author of the report. “It’s all available today, it’s just a question of getting it to the cookie-cutter [mass production] phase.”
The idea, which often goes by the awkward acronym BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), relies on the fact that trees soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their tissues. Burn them while capturing their carbon and you’d have an energy source that was removing greenhouse gases: voila, so-called negative emissions. Harvest trees sustainably, so that they are naturally reseeded, or replanted in orchards, and you have what starts to look like a long-term solution.“
I would really like to see the average age or even better – a distribution of plant age by country. What we do when these plants reach EOL is probably an open question … we’ll be dead, so somebody else’s problem?
Bloomberg’s Green newsletter earlier this week (it’s a daily blast) posted an article about cars. This visualization caught my attention and I piled on to the nagging question of “what is truly better for climate, newer EV cars or the older metal ICE cars?”
A snippet quote: “Carmakers are already quite rigorous about becoming cleaner operationally; as Attwood noted, Ford already operates 88 plants that send zero waste to landfills, and Honda has begun designing its vehicles for “end-of-life,” a.k.a. easier materials recovery and re-use. There is an economic rationale for companies behind these cleaner operations. More interesting to me, though, is that there’s now consumer interest in substituting recycled plastics for virgin plastics in mass-market automobiles. That’s cleaner in a way that means more to the consumer than to the manufacturer, and is also difficult or impossible to appreciate in terms of how the vehicle looks and feels.
Attwood also noted that using composite materials allows vehicles to become lighter. Lighter weight materials with similar or better performance will mean that electric vehicles will be able to achieve the same performance with smaller batteries, or perform better with the same batteries. Those lighter-weight materials can also mean lower embedded carbon dioxide emissions per part, too.”
Is there an easy way to compare the climate impact in an objective and valid methodology?
WAPO: Bumblebees are vanishing, and scientists blame climate change
“Bumblebee populations in North America and Europe have plummeted amid rising temperatures and heat extremes, according to new research. A study in Science finds a 46 percent decline in areas inhabited by bees in North America and a 17 percent decline in Europe, a pattern it asserts is linked to increasingly severe heat and other climate extremes. Bumblebees are key pollinators, but their large bodies and preference for cooler climates make them vulnerable to extreme heat.”
This quote is from 2000 NYT and I am not sure we’ve made too many forward steps (if any); quote:
“In trying to illuminate what humans are doing to the natural environment, scientists and conservationists over the years have come up with a number of descriptive images. One of the best known is the metaphor of the rivets. In this formulation, an ecosystem is likened to an airplane: each act of environmental destruction — the extinction of a species of plant or animal, for instance — is akin to removing a rivet from the plane. At first, the losses make little difference, because there are lots of rivets. But if enough are removed or a few are taken away at crucial spots, the plane will crash.”
Climate Models Are Running Red Hot, and Scientists Don’t Know Why
Quote: “Climate models tend to use a pretty stable range of assumptions about future emissions. Hausfather and Peters’s commentary is about which ones best describe the real-world trend. A much bigger question is the ongoing impact of changes caused by warming itself: permafrost melt, wildfires, changes to cloud cover, the release of frozen deep-sea methane. Update the science about how these feedbacks will interact and further accelerate warming, and headaches really start.
Recent updates to several climate models have been turning up surprising—and scary—new results. Models that previously agreed more or less with a 3°C long-term outlook have started putting out climate-sensitivity results higher than 5°C. It’s an emerging worst-case scenario that scientists are still unpacking.“
Any way you slice it, these models are important to help guide us to some better outcome
From Grist, quote: “We need fertilizer to grow the food the world needs to survive. But fertilizer pollution turns lakes into slime pits, kills fish and other marine life, contaminates drinking water, and creates suffocating smog. It’s also a major source of greenhouse gas. You don’t hear about fertilizer’s impact on the environment as much as coal, or oil, perhaps because we haven’t found an adequate replacement. In this series, Grist, the Center for Public Integrity, and The World examine how our dependence on fertilizer harms the climate and endangers the public.”