Energy

Richard Branson Joins Forces With Amory Lovins in Climate Fight

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 16, 2013   View Article

Sir Richard Branson’s climate change-fighting foundation is aligning forces with one of the world’s most heady alternative energy think tanks to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, the two organizations said Tuesday. First up: Helping Caribbean island nations shift away from dependence on diesel fuel.

“Together we can go further, faster,” Branson, the entrepreneur who founded Virgin Atlantic Airways, said in a statement announcing the alliance between his Carbon War Room and Amory Lovins’ Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing market-based solutions to drive global energy use away from fossil fuels.

Executives from both organizations tapped to lead the alliance described it as a marriage between an agile and young entrepreneurial organization full of make-it-happen passion with one that is steeped in analytical rigor, insight and thought leadership.

We’re Kidding Ourselves on 2-Degree Global Warming Limit: Experts

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 28, 2014   View Article

A temperature rise that could cause irreversible and potentially catastrophic damage to human civilization is practically inevitable, according to rising chatter among experts in the lead up to a year of key negotiations on a new climate change global accord.

World leaders have voluntarily committed to limit warming by the end of the century to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level, a threshold beyond which, scientists argue, severe drought, rising seas and supercharged storms as well as food and water security become routine challenges.

Given the world’s historic emissions combined with a continued reliance on fossil fuels to power humanity for the foreseeable future, limiting the increase to 2 degrees Celsius is all but impossible, according to David Victor, a professor of international relations and an expert on climate change policy at the University of California, San Diego.

Hungry Planet: Can Big Data Help Feed 9 Billion Humans?

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 17, 2014   View Article

With a population set to hit 9 billion human beings by 2050, the world needs to grow more food —without cutting down forests and jungles, which are the climate’s huge lungs.

The solution, according to one soil management scientist, is Big Data.

Kenneth Cassman, an agronomist at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, recently unveiled a new interactive mapping tool that shows in fine-grain detail where higher crop yields are possible on current arable land.

“By some estimates, 20 to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with agriculture and of that a large portion is due to conversion of natural systems like rainforests or grassland savannahs to crop production, agriculture,” Cassman told NBC News at a conference in suburban Seattle.

Why is UN Report So Certain Humans Caused Climate Change?

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 3, 2014   View Article

The science laid out in a new U.N. report is clear and stark: Our fossil-fueled economy has irreversibly changed the global climate. Less certain is whether we’ll change lifestyles to confront rising seas and supercharged storms, according to scientists and policy analysts.

‘Clean Coal’ With Carbon Capture Debuts in North America (Not in US)

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 4, 2014   View Article

A first-of-its-kind coal-fired power plant retrofitted with technology to capture and store most of the carbon dioxide produced at one of its boilers officially began operations this week in Saskatchewan, Canada. Meanwhile, a similar project in Illinois to demonstrate a cleaner way to burn the world’s most abundant fossil fuel remains in legal and financial limbo.

Whether the U.S. government-backed project in Meredosia, Ill., will advance so-called carbon capture and storage, or CCS, technology is an open question, but experts deem the technology itself vital if the world hopes to stand any practical chance at staving off catastrophic climate change.

And CCS is being propelled forward by pollution-control measures such as the Obama admnistration’s proposed rules to limit carbon emissions from new and existing power plants.

Climate Hack? How Plastics Could Help Save Us From Greenhouse Gases

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 30, 2014   View Article

What’s the fix for a warming planet? Just one word: Plastics.

As the world grapples with greenhouse gas emissions still rising despite years of political wrangling over how to combat global climate change, a technology to convert carbon dioxide and methane into plastic is emerging as one potential market-driven solution. To boot, the process can be less expensive than producing plastics from petroleum.

“You have a new paradigm where plastics are saving the economy a whole lot of money, they are replacing oil, and in the process we are actually sequestering carbon emissions that would otherwise go into the air,” Mark Herrema, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Newlight Technologies in Irvine, Calif., explained to NBC News.

The market for plastics is massive — and thus the ability to sequester carbon. Plastics are found everywhere from beverage and food containers to toys, furniture and car parts. About 280 million tons of the stuff is produced every year, according to industry statistics.

Burned Birds Become New Environmental Victim of the Energy Quest

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 20, 2014   View Article

Birds singed in midair by a solar thermal power plant in the Mojave Desert — known as “streamers” for the smoke plume they emit — viscerally highlight the reality that the quest for energy almost always causes some form of environmental harm, even through technologies considered green and clean.

The same power plant that’s creating streamers was nearly derailed due to concerns about its potential impact on habitat for rare desert tortoise, for example. Wind power projects routinely kill birds and ruffle residents within their eyesight with concerns about visual blight. Geothermal energy projects have rattled nerves over elevated earthquake risks. Hydroelectric dams drove salmon runs to extinction.

“There are sacrifices that every technology has and the question is how visible those are,” Nathan Lee, a graduate student and researcher with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative who is developing a course on the ethics of energy policy with his adviser Lucas Stanczyk, told NBC News. “In the case of the birds getting singed by giant towers, it’s pretty visible and understandably it is therefore probably more upsetting than the quieter ways in which energy technologies cause a lot of harm.”

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach