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Independent Professional: Experienced educator and management consultant for engineering educational institutions, researcher, trainer, technical consultant on sustainable technologies, related to cement manufacturing and characterisation, using industrial and agricultural wastes in cement and concrete, durability of concrete and fuel cell power.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

German climate scientist sounds alarm

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chair of the German government’s Advisory Council on Global Change says:

“The window of opportunity to avert the most serious impacts of climate change is closing rapidly,”

The climate system has clearly started to drift away from the familiar domain where historic experiences apply. Outside that domain, the risk of highly nonlinear changes in environmental conditions, jeopardizing the livelihoods of billions of people worldwide, is sharply increasing. The Current atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide of around 387 parts per million (ppm) is already exceeding the ‘safe’ boundary of 350 ppm recently proposed by researchers in the journal Nature. The concentration is much higher than the preindustrial concentration of around 280 ppm and probably higher than ever within the last millions of years.

The global warming of more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels is regarded as a “dangerous interference” that should be avoided. The temperature increase of more than two degrees Celsius is likely to push components of the Earth’s climate system past critical thresholds, so that these components may “tip” into qualitatively different modes of operation. The climate scientists regard Arctic sea‐ice and the Greenland Ice Sheet as the most sensitive tipping elements, but others, like the Amazon rain forest, monsoon systems and the El Niño phenomenon are candidates for surprising society by exhibiting a nearby tipping point.

To limit the risk of disrupting elemental processes in the Earth system and to stop global warming at 2° C, humans could release no more than 750 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by burning oil, coal, gas and cutting down forests in between 2010 to 2050. Since large amounts of greenhouse gases have already been emitted by industrialized countries, only a small budget of carbon dioxide is left, pointing to the need for large reductions within the near future. The German government’s Advisory Council on Global Change has proposed to move this global budget to the forefront of considerations in creating a new global climate treaty, which is due to be negotiated at COP 15 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in December.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Nanomedicine

Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnoloy to medicine. It includes medical imaging, lab-on-a-chip, quantum dots and other novel diagnostic tools, biosensors, regenerative medicine, advanced and “smart” medical materials, drug targeting and delivery systems, nano-bio-electronic interfaces and novel devices. The study of nanomedicine also includes the associated risk, ethical and regulatory issues.

Greatly increased knowledge of how the human body and disease pathologies work at the molecular level is combining with the ability to manipulate materials at the nanoscale to provide much earlier and more accurate diagnoses, far less invasive procedures, targeting of smaller doses of more effective drugs to desired delivery sites and new paradigms of treatment where damaged tissues or even organs can be regenerated using the patient’s own cells.

Nanomedicine has a great future and a long way to go

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PEV: plug-in electric vehicles

Plug-in electric vehicles reduce overall carbon emissions by up to 70 percent (100 percent if charged by zero-carbon, renewable energy sources) and lower fuel costs by about 80 percent.

The vehicles running on renewables (like solar and wind) and electric vehicles don’t give a smooth ride. They come with hitches. One of the common problems they all share is the range. Solar power is only produced during daytime. Wind provides power when the wind is blowing. The plug-ins that come with vehicles have their range as well. It’s as far as the vehicle can travel between lengthy recharging.

If we pay close attention we can get rid of the common “range” problem of electric vehicles and intermittent renewables. This problem can be tackled by the two working together. Plug-in vehicles contain a battery pack for energy storage. There is no storage of energy for renewables. It is possible use electric cars and trucks to store energy from renewables. Another logical step can be to install enough renewably powered, high-voltage, fast-charge charging stations. It will ease off the tensions from vehicle owners and make charging more frequent so that long charging periods would not be necessary.

How green are the zero emission vehicles ?: Read and participate in a discussion on the subject


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Carbon budget

The carbon budget can be defined as the amount of tolerable global emissions over a period of time to limit the average global temperature increase to 2 deg C. The budget is from 1990 to 2050. Till 2008, we used up approximately 40 percent of the budget of 1990-2050. If we keep on doing what we're doing now, including the increase of emissions, we have wasted, not only time but we shall spend our budget by about 2025.

The report by Dutch energy consultancy Ecofys, commissioned by WWF, says:

* Rich nations must cut emissions by 80 pct by 2050

* Rich countries must help poorer ones to curb emissions

* Countries must adopt flexible carbon accounting system

Monday, October 5, 2009

Earth too has limits

Out of the nine biophysical thresholds that must be observed in order to prevent disastrous consequences for humanity, we've already surpassed three, according to a feature article published in Nature (see Ref.). The report looked at nine different metrics including climate change, ocean acidification, and global freshwater use and estimated for each the degree to which we have approached or surpassed the critical threshold. Loss of biodiversity and alterations to the nitrogen cycle have progressed far past the point of safety, with climate change also exceeding its limit.

During the Holocene state, environmental change occurred naturally and Earth's regulatory capacity maintained the conditions that enabled human development. Regular temperatures, freshwater availability and bio-geo-chemical flows all stayed within a relatively narrow range. Now, largely because of a rapidly growing reliance on fossil fuels and industrialized forms of agriculture, human activities have reached a level that could damage the systems that keep earth in the desirable Holocene state. The result could be irreversible and, in some cases, abrupt environmental change, leading to a state less conducive to human development. Without pressure from humans, the Holocene is expected to continue for at least several thousands of years.

The authors tried to identify the Earth-system processes and associated thresholds which, if crossed, could generate unacceptable environmental change. They found nine such processes for which we believe it is necessary to define planetary boundaries, namely climate change; rate of biodiversity loss (terrestrial and marine); interference with the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification; global freshwater use; change in land use; chemical pollution; and atmospheric aerosol loading.

Ref: Johan Rockström et. al., "A safe operating space for humanity", Nature, Vol. 461, September 2009, pp 472 -475 | doi:10.1038/461472a


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Five steps to sustainability

The five steps to sustainability, as outlined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD):

  • Establish clear and transparent price signals that reflect the external environmental cost of greenhouse gas emissions

  • Incorporate life-cycle energy costs into all government and private-sector strategic plans

  • Remove regulatory barriers and provide incentives for innovation

  • Protect intellectual property rights, which are critical to private-sector investment and innovation

  • Educate and train citizens to develop and deploy cutting-edge sustainable energy solutions.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Brazil launches first fuel cell bus, with hydrogen station

The Brazilian hydrogen-fueled bus project reached a major milestone recently in São Paulo, with the unveiling of the country's first fuel cell bus, as well as its first service station capable of supplying hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

The Brazilian hydrogen bus initiative is being deployed by a consortium formed by Petrobras Distribuidora, AES Eletropaulo, Ballard Power Systems, EPRI International, Hydrogenics, Marcopolo, NuCellSys, and Tuttotrasporti. The project was created in partnership with the Brazilian ministry of mines & energy, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the FINEP investment program of Brazil's science & technology ministry.

The project involves the acquisition, operation and maintenance of up to five fuel cell/battery hybrid buses; the fueling station, which will produce hydrogen by electrolysis; and the monitoring and performance verification of these vehicles.

The bus uses a hybrid power system that combines hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. This strategy can increase fuel economy, because the batteries are recharged by the fuel cell system while the vehicle is stopped, and through regeneration of braking energy. The power required is obtained by using two fuel cell systems in parallel, each rated at 64 kW, and which significantly reduces the bus production costs.

The station can generate up to 120 kg of hydrogen per day at a pressure of 440 bar (6400 psi), enough to supply up to three buses for a range of 300 km (190 miles). In the first stage, it will store enough hydrogen to fuel one bus, but when more vehicles go into operation, this capacity will be boosted.

Ref: Fuel Cells Bulletin, Vol. 2009, Iss. 9, Sept 2009, p2

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Canadian roadmap for electric vehicles

A roadmap containing a series of recommendations and strategic initiatives to help in the evolution of electric vehicles (EV) in Canada was formally presented to Natural Resources Canada Minister Lisa Raitt, on 28 September 2009. It calls for the combined efforts of governments and industry to achieve the timely and effective commercialization of electric vehicles. The report adds that consideration should be given to the supplementing of federal and provincial mechanisms to promote the development, public acceptance and procurement of personal and commercial EVs, and also the installation of charging infrastructure.

As per the estimates there will be at least 500,000 personal and commercial vehicles that rely exclusively or primarily on electric traction on Canadian roads by 2018.

The roadmap outlines 21 strategic initiatives, which touch on the areas of technology, standards and regulations, studies and assessments, education and outreach. One of the proposed technology initiatives calls on governments and the private sector to demonstrate vehicle use in real-world operation to assess the reliability and durability of energy storage and other components in Canadian settings. Educationally, the report proposes assessing the resource requirements for training, education and certification in skills related to the emerging EV industry.

As with all new technologies, the cost at the beginning is higher and because of the environmental and economic benefits of these vehicles, it makes sense for governments to offer financial incentives in the early stages. Once the sale volumes reach larger numbers, the unit costs will go down. There are no such incentives at the federal government level in Canada at this time as compared to other developed industrialized nations.

It is equally important to provide support to the battery industry to further research, develop more rapid manufacturing techniques and to generally advance the state of the art of batteries. The new battery technology - lithium ion, for example - is evolving and has not yet been demonstrated over long periods of time.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Climate negotiating position of the world's top emitters

The following are the negotiating positions of the world's top five greenhouse gas emitters with regard to the new U.N. pact for combating climate change to be agreed in Copenhagen in December 2009:

CHINA (GHG Emissions: 6.8 billion t/a, 5.5 t per capita)

The "carbon intensity" goal is the first measurable curb on national emissions for China. China would try to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 15 percent by 2020. China wants developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and to give far more aid and green technologies to developing nations.

UNITED STATES (6.4 billion t/a, 21.2 t per capita)

US President Barack Obama wants to cut U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. For 2020, that means a 14 percent cut from 2007 levels.

The bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009 would require large companies, inluding utilities, oil refiners and others, to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 perrcent by 2050, from 2005 levels. The US feels we cannot meet the challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together.

EUROPEAN UNION (5.03 billion tonnes, 10.2 tonnes per capita)

The EU leaders agreed in December 2008 to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 30 percent if other developed nations follow suit.

They agreed that developing nations will need about 100 billion euros ($146.8 billion) a year by 2020 to help them curb emissions and adapt to changes such as floods or heatwaves. As an advance payment, they suggest 5-7 billion a year between 2010 and 2012.

The EU wants developing nations to curb the rise of their emissions by 15 to 30 percent below a trajectory of "business as usual" by 2020.

RUSSIA (1.7 billion t/a, 11.9 t per capita)

Russia's emissions would be around 10 to 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. That means a rise from now -- emissions were 34 percent below 1990 levels in 2007.

Russia would reject any new climate pact that imposed restrictions on Russia but did not bind other big polluters such as the United States or China.

INDIA (1.4 billion t/a, 1.2 t per capita)

India is prepared to quantify the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it could cut with domestic actions to fight climate change, but will not accept internationally binding targets. India has said its per capita emissions will never rise to match those of developed nations.

Like China, India wants developed nations to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020, saying they are most responsible for emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

JAPAN (1.4 billion t/a, 11.0 t per capita)

The New Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama wants to cut Japan's emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Japan is prepared to offer more financial and technical assistance than in the past, in accordance with the progress of the international negotiations.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Carbon nanotubes: How safe ?

Carbon nanotubes are increasingly being used in everyday products such as sporting equipment, biomedical devices and aeroplanes. They also have promising applications in fuel cells. The questions remain as to how safe these nanotubes really are.

The main factor in nanotube toxicity are the metal contaminants that remain from manufacture, which are typically one to ten per cent by weight, say Martin Pumera and Yuji Miyahara at the National Institute for Materials Science, Ibaraki, Japan. The carbon nanotubes are often viewed as homogenous materials, which is incorrect. They often contain impurities which are not even listed by the manufacturers. The pair have used an electrochemical (biomarker) method to assess the effect metals have on nanotube toxicity. They say that their method is quicker and cheaper than laborious and expensive biomedical tests and could be more useful for initial assessments of carbon nanotube toxicity.

They found that just 100 ppm of iron was needed to dominate the reduction ability and therefore the toxicity. Pumera says this is very disturbing, as this value is significantly lower than the detection limits of the methods routinely used to assess nanotube purity. There is an imperative need for well-characterised and reproducible standardised carbon nanotube properties.

Ref:
What amount of metallic impurities in carbon nanotubes is small enough not to dominate their redox properties?

Martin Pumera and Yuji Miyahara, Nanoscale, 2009
DOI:
10.1039/b9nr00071b

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hundred most promosing global clean trechnology companies

The Guardian and Cleantech Group recently announced the Global Cleantech 100. This is the first ever list of this scale highlighting the most promising private clean technology companies around the world. The Global Cleantech 100 recognizes companies at the forefront of cleantech innovation offering solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. The final list represents the collective opinion of hundreds of leading experts from cleantech innovation and venture capital companies in EMEA, North America, India and China, combined with the specific input of an expert panel of 35, drawn from well-respected organizations such as Altira Group, Crossover Advisors, Deloitte, Emerald Technology Ventures, Google, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, New York Stock Exchange, NGEN Partners, Nth Power, New Enterprise Associates, Sterling Communications, Tsing Capital and Vantage Point Venture Partners.

The panel decided on companies that are currently regarded as having the potential and likelihood to achieve high growth and high market impact. Their thoughts were then combined with insights from the Cleantech Network™, the de facto industry association of international clean technology investors, entrepreneurs, large corporations and other industry insiders. Some 3,500 companies were nominated/considered.


Gene therapy for colour blindness

Researchers have used gene therapy to restore colour vision in two adult monkeys that have been unable to distinguish between red and green hues since birth — raising the hope of curing colour blindness and other visual disorders in humans.

About 1 in 12 men lack either the red- or the green-sensitive photoreceptor proteins that are normally present in the colour-sensing cells or cones of the retina and so have red–green colour blindness. If we can target gene expression specifically to cones, in humans, then this has a tremendous implication.

Three human gene therapy trials are currently under way for loss of sight due to serious degeneration of the retina. These phase I safety studies injected a similar type of virus vector (but carrying a different gene) behind the retina as in the monkeys, and people treated have shown no serious adverse effects more than a year after, with some participants reporting marked improvements in vision

References

(1) Mancuso, K.
et al. Nature advanced online publication, doi:10.1038/nature08401 (2009).

(2) Cideciyan, A. V.
et al. N. Engl. J. Med. 361, 725-727 (2009).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Facebook UN Sustainable Development Group

Basic Info

Name:
United Nations Sustainable Development
Category:
Description:
A group on Sustainable Development for sharing information on policy debates, publications and new initiatives, as well as on the latest sustainable development related issues and events.

Contact Info

Email:
Website:
Office:
2 UN Plaza
Location:
New York, NY

This is an open group. Anyone can join and invite others to join.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New GM electric vehicle

Larry Greenemeier, Scientific American, Aug 11, 2009, reports. The General Motors today announced that its Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle, set to begin production in late 2010.

The Volt will have two modes of operation. In "electric" mode, the Volt will not use gas (petrol) or produce tailpipe emissions because the car will be powered by electrical energy stored in its 16-kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery pack. When the battery charge gets too low, the Volt is designed to automatically switch to "extended-range" mode and use a gas-powered engine-generator to produce electricity to power the vehicle. The energy stored in the battery supplements the engine-generator when additional power is needed during heavy accelerations or on steep inclines.

The EPA's plug-in electric vehicle federal fuel economy methodology assumes plug-in electric vehicles will travel more city miles than highway miles solely on electricity. At low speeds and short distances, the Volt is expected to operate solely on battery power, without touching the reserves in the petrol tank.

The Volt's actual gas-free mileage will vary depending on a number of factors, including how far the car travels, the weight of the cargo and passengers and whether the air conditioning is used. Based on the results of unofficial development testing of pre-production prototypes, GM reports the Volt can achieve 40 miles of electric-only, petroleum-free driving in both EPA city and highway test cycles, before needing a recharge, which can be achieved at a household outlet.

GM claims that the new vehicle shall achieve city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon (mpg), based on a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formula. See discussion on the subject

Governments should support low-carbon initiatives:

The governments must maintain and improve the research and development tax credit scheme, which encourages investment in low-carbon innovation. Participate in the discussion .. ...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Groundwater depletion in India

Groundwater is a primary source of fresh water in many parts of the world. Some regions are becoming overly dependent on it, consuming groundwater faster than it is naturally replenished and causing water tables to decline unremittingly, as reported in the recent findings published in Nature (see ref.).

Indirect evidence suggests that this is the case in northwest India, but there has been no regional assessment of the rate of groundwater depletion. The authors used terrestrial water storage-change observations from the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment satellites and simulated soil-water variations from a data-integrating hydrological modelling system to show that groundwater is being depleted at the rate of 3-5 cm/year equivalent height of water (or 13.2 - 22.2 cubic km/year) over the Indian states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana (including Delhi).

During the study period of August 2002 to October 2008, groundwater depletion was equivalent to a net loss of 109 cubic km of water, which is double the capacity of India's largest surface-water reservoir. Annual rainfall was close to normal throughout the period and it was demonstrated that the other terrestrial water storage components (soil moisture, surface waters, snow, glaciers and biomass) did not contribute significantly to the observed decline in total water levels.

Although the observational record is brief, the available evidence suggests that unsustainable consumption of groundwater for irrigation and other anthropogenic uses is likely to be the cause. If measures are not taken soon to ensure sustainable groundwater usage, the consequences for the 114 million residents of the region may include a reduction of agricultural output and shortages of potable water, leading to extensive socio-economic stresses.

Ref: Matthew Rodell, Isabella Velicogna & James S. Famiglietti, "Satellite-based estimates of groundwater depletion in India", Nature advance online publication 12 August 2009 | doi:10.1038/nature08238

Watch Nature video:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Africa's biggest wind farm

Alternative Energy reports the some of the African regions experience extremes of temperature. The extreme temperatures also generate extreme winds and therefore wind farms have great potential in Africa. Although blessed with one of the highest wind velocities in the world and fiercest exposures to sun, most African countries have been slow on getting on to the alternative power band wagon.

Morocco and Egypt have been making some strides towards harnessing wind power on commercial scales. Saharan countries Kenya and Ethiopia too are trying to bridge the enormous gap between demand and supply by tapping into wind energy. Ethiopia has commissioned a £190m, 120MW farm in Tigray region, representing 15% of the current electricity capacity. It intends to build several more projects like this. Tanzania has announced plans to generate at least 100MW of power from two projects in the central Singida region, more than 10% of the country’s current supply. To encourage wind power generate and reduce its dependence on coal-generated energy, South Africa has announce a feed-in tariff for wind power: people contributing to the grid by generating wind energy get paid. It is the first African country to do so.

Now some 365 giant wind turbines will be installed in desert around Lake Turkana in northern Kenya to create the biggest wind farm in Africa. Once completed — tentatively in 2012 — the £533 million project, backed by the African Development Bank, will have a capacity of 300 MW, a quarter of Kenya’s current installed power and one of the highest proportions of wind energy to be fed in a national grid anywhere in the world. For the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, the German consortium working on it has leased 66,000 hectares of the world’s largest permanent desert lake. The hot wind here consistently blows throughout the year through the channel between the Kenyan and Ethiopian highlands.

A good thing about such projects is that after the setup cost the energy is almost free.

The project of course has its share of problems. Transporting turbines to the remote site of Loiyangalani is going to take time and effort. The site is nearly 480 km north of Nairobi. In order to make trucks ply the roads and bridges will need to be mended. Then there are security issues: even the local tribesmen casually carry Kalashnikovs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Global warming: why multiplicity of opinions

Here is one of the confusing issues regarding global warming :There are variety in outlooks on the subject, why ?

Mark Maslin, director of the Environment Institute at the University College London and his colleague John Adams proposed one theory. They believe that human opinion can be explained by how we respond to risk and uncertainty.

In reference to global warming beliefs, they combine four possible beliefs or opinions with four characteristic traits of human nature

Here they are:

1) Nature is benign: Earth is predictable and robust, able to withstand or bounce back from any damage. This view corresponds with what they call individualists, entrepreneurial types, who don’t necessarily believe in control or intervention from others. Maslin uses the example of self-made oil barons.

2) Nature is ephemeral: Earth is fragile and it is in danger of collapse.This view is held by egalitarians, people who have strong democratic group loyalties but do not respect externally imposed rules. Radical environmentalists might also fall into this category.

3) Nature is tolerant: Earth can handle some changes, but major excesses will send it reeling. This is a view held by hierarchists, people who know their place, and adhere to strong social structures. Scientists or soldiers might be examples.

4) Nature is capricious: Earth’s reactions are so unpredictable that we cannot predict nor accurately plan our future. This is the view of fatalists, those who feel they have little control over their lives.

From this framework, Maslin says we can tell which person is likely to believe which view of nature. This is one way to look at why there are so many responses to the threat of global warming, despite us all having access to the same information.

—Christie Nicholson in Scientific American

Please note: these theories were explained with graphics in a book by Mark Maslin called, Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Consumerism is unsustainable

Andy Coghlan, in New Scientist, 07 August 2009, reports. Many of us think that there's nothing we can do personally about global warming or that the human race is over-running the planet like a plague. However according to leading ecologists, few of us realise that the main cause of the current environmental crisis is human nature.

More specifically, all we're doing is what all other creatures have ever done to survive, expanding into whatever territory is available and using up whatever resources are available, just like a bacterial culture growing in a Petri dish till all the nutrients are used up. What happens then, of course, is that the bugs then die in a sea of their own waste.

Like the accelerated growth of a cancer, the human population has quadrupled in the past 100 years and at this rate will reach a size in 2025 that leads to global collapse and catastrophe.

But there is worse. Not only are we simply doing what all creatures do, we do it better. In recent times we are doing it even faster because of changes in society that encourage and celebrate conspicuous and excessive consumption.

According to the biologists, natural tendency of living creatures is to fill up all available habitat and use up all available resources. That underlies the Darwinian evolution and species that do it best are the ones that survive, but humans do it better than any other species.

Although we think of ourselves as civilised, subconsciously we are driven by three basic animal instincts of survival, domination and expansion. These instincts find expression in the idea that inexorable economic growth will redress all the world's existing inequalities.

However we fail to recognise that the physical resources to fuel this growth are finite. We are driven by growing and expanding, so we will use up all the oil, we will use up all the coal and we will keep going till we fill the Petri dish and pollute ourselves out of existence.

The economists and the governments of the day decided to revive economic activity by creating a culture in which people were encouraged to accumulate and show off material wealth, to the point where it defined their status in society and their self-image.

The economist Victor Lebow said in 1955: "Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate". We define ourselves by what we consume. We have turned consumption into a necessity and how we define ourselves. The result is a world in which rampant consumption in rich countries is rapidly outstripping the resources in the world needed to satisfy demand.

Globally, we have already overshot the limit, consuming 30 per cent more material than is sustainable from the world's resources. At present, 85 countries exceed their domestic "bio-capacities", compensating for their lack of local materials by depleting stocks elsewhere, in countries that have 'surplus' because they're not consuming as much. The world can only supply 2.1 global average hectares per person. Some developed societies already consume four times what the earth can sustainably supply. therefore steps must be taken to free up the 'ecological space' for justifiable growth in the developing world.

There is hope, however slim, both from the top down and the bottom up. The hope from above is that governments will finally realise that never-ending economic growth is incompatible with the finite material resources Earth has to offer and begin to manage those resources more fairly and equitably through some kind of world government. Without global management, destruction will continue, producing food and energy "crunches" that make the credit crunch look like a tea party.

We need to learn to live within the means of nature. That means sharing and redistribution of wealth and for that we need leadership at the highest level to understand that the competitive instinct and the drive for power and more resources is mutually destructive, so governments must act in our collective interest.

We need a counter-advertising campaign to make conspicuous consumption or consumerism shameful.

Making our lifestyle sustainable:

We live in an imperfect world. Poverty, disease, lack of education, environmental destruction – the problems are all too obvious. Many people don't have clean water, let alone enough food and the unsustainable lifestyle of the wealthy few is storing up catastrophic climate change.

Can we do anything about it? Yes we can !!. Technology is a double-edged sword, but science and reason have made our lives immeasurably better overall – and only through science and reason can we hope to make a real difference in the future. Read more .. ..

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Other good links:


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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cellulosic biofuels mix well with biodiversity

Brendan Borrel, Scientific American, Aug 5, 2009, reports, cellulosic biofuels—extracted from native switchgrass—could lend a helping hand to imperiled birds that depend on vanishing prairies in the Midwest.

With palm oil plantations overrunning Indonesian rainforests and corn-based ethanol in the U.S. spurring new deforestation abroad, it may seem like biofuels and biodiversity don't mix. That's why ecologist Bruce Robertson at Michigan State University's W. K. Kellogg Biological Station and his colleagues wanted to know how birds and bugs would fare if the U.S. switches from corn-based ethanol production to cellulosic biofuels based on grasses.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pushing these biofuels to help achieve further reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Switchgrass has been singled out for biofuel production because of its low water requirements and high nutrient efficiency, along with the fact that it is native to the U.S.

Robertson and his team went bird-watching in native prairie, switchgrass plantations and cornfields in Michigan. In the latter, bird diversity was limited to horned larks, killdeer and cowbirds. Large plots of switchgrass, on the other hand, supported 19 of the 20 bird species found on native prairie, including the Henslow's sparrow and the bobolink and were used as a stopover by migratory birds. The team also found more insect species on switchgrass than on corn—although they still fared worse than those in the native prairie.

According to Robertson, switchgrass production is going to have some measurable biodiversity benefits both for insects and grassland bird populations. The switchgrass harvest could occur in the fall, after the birds' breeding season, which would reduce its ecological impact. Switchgrass will definitely be better than corn. He suggests that interspersing native broadleaf vegetation in switchgrass monocultures could boost bird numbers even further.

Watch Video:

Cellulosic biofuels

Biodiversity (3D)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Comparison of US and China climate efforts

Some in the United States argue Washington should not commit itself to specific reductions in the GHG emissions, which could boost energy prices, until China does so as well.

Here is a birds eye view of climate change moves by both countries:


CHINA:

(a) China's latest five-year plan calls for a 20 percent cut in energy intensity by the end of 2010, from 2005 levels. Chinese authorities estimate this would cut the country's carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 1 billion tons. However, the effort has fallen behind schedule.

(b) Beijing also has set a goal for about 15 percent of the electricity it generates to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

(c)China's fuel economy standards for its rapidly growing passenger vehicle fleet are more stringent than those in Australia, Canada. Average fuel economy for new vehicles was projected at 36.7 mpg (miles per gallon) in 2008.

(d) Some energy-intensive products for export no longer qualify for special tax breaks in an attempt to encourage energy efficiency.

(e) At a summit in Italy, China joined rich and poor countries acknowledging that global temperature increases should be limited to 2 Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels, a goal that would force deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

(f) However China would not commit to a goal of cutting world carbon emissions in half by 2050.

(g) Environmentalists also worry that China plans to significantly expand the number of coal-fired power plants that contribute to global warming.

UNITED STATES:

(a) No national carbon-reduction goals have yet been set but the House of Representatives has narrowly passed legislation calling for industrial greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced 17 percent by 2020, from 2005 levels, and 83 percent by 2050.

(b) Senate leaders say they are considering similar legislation. While a bill might be debated in October 2009, the measure has not been introduced yet and a difficult fight is expected.

(c) If Congress fails to finish a bill, the Obama administration has indicated it will go ahead with regulations to control climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency, early next year, has the power to move ahead.

(d) Some states, such as California, have set their own goals for reducing emissions. Quite commendable !

(e) An economic stimulus measure enacted in February 2009 included $30 billion for investments in renewable energy technology and improved energy transmission.

(f) With no agreement among policymakers over whether to expand non-polluting nuclear power, mostly because of waste storage problems and high construction costs, many fear that continued use of dirty coal will hobble climate change efforts until alternative methods can be developed.

(g) The fuel efficiency standard in the US is 27 mpg now and will be 32 mpg in 2011. Progressive reform !!


There are around 28 billion metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted into the atmosphere in 2005 (US EIA), only 50% of them will be absorbed by ocean and land. Therefore it is clear that 14 billions metric tons of CO2 equivalent goes to the atmosphere in each year since 2005. The upward trend of concentration will not change unless the emissions reduction reaches a level, which is higher than 50% of current emissions. The reduction target for a nation has to be based on its economic condition.

True cost of energy:

China is racing ahead of the Unites States in Solar. But that is to only look at it on a superficial basis. The Chinese have 1.3 Billion people. Other than the Southeast part of the Country, they live in exceptionally poor conditions (or a very low standard of living). So they have a huge untapped labor force that is willing to work at 1/100th the cost of a worker in the West. Read and participate in the discussion .....


California takes a lead in climate change initiatives:

California became the national leader in Climate Change with the adoption of Assembly Bill 32. It establishes a GHG emission limit for 2020 at a level equivalent to the state’s 1990 emissions. Provides the means to achieve the Governor’s GHG emission reduction targets. Cleantech projects examined: NanoSolar Thin Film Solar Cells, Konarka Technologies, Inc. Organic Solar Cells, Greenvolts, Inc. Two Axis Carousel Solar Tracker, Brayton Energy, LLC Solar Energy Compressed Air Storage. Read more .. ..


Friday, August 7, 2009

Global warming: is two degress target realistic ?

John Wihbey | August 4, 2009, reports in Yele Forum . The G-8, eight Northern Hemisphere industrialized countries, last month produced its first firm target for curbing rising global temperatures: no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), above pre-industrial levels.
The “2 degrees” has now been semi-enshrined as the consensus “magic number” for avoiding dangerous climate change. The idea of this two-degree limit Celsius has a long scientific history stretching back to the 1980s. It started to be cemented in policy circles after the European Union (EU) adopted the target in 1996.

Through 2008, the global average temperature had already warmed roughly 0.7 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels, meaning that by some measures we are already one third of the way toward hitting the 2 degree ceiling.The temperature is now rising faster than in earlier decades in the 20th century.

The meaning of that simple number is quite complex. It involves some subjective analysis. A Delicate Compromise and a Value Judgment. It is a delicate compromise between what is desirable and what may be feasible. The IPCC chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, has said that the whole issue of 2 degrees versus 1 degree or 1.5 degree is something based on a value judgment that essentially relates to what is dangerous, in terms of making it almost impossible for some people on this planet not being able to live in those locations. In other words, the temperature target may be too high for some people in the developing world, who are already vulnerable. Any number much above 1 degree involves a gamble, and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.

The IPCC’s 2007 report states that even 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is likely to have serious impacts, especially in terms of stressing water supplies and creating more malnutrition, disease, and drought. The climate scientists believe that even a ‘moderate’ warming of 2 degrees C stands a strong chance of provoking drought and storm responses that could challenge civilized society, leading potentially to the conflict and suffering that go with failed states and mass migrations.

The tipping point idea has been debated in the media and in scientific circles, with no precise number or scenario agreed upon. But there are real worries.

James McCarthy, professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University and the current President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that the closer the planet comes to a global average rise of 2 degrees Celsius, the less likely we are to be able to avoid climbing to even higher temperatures. Models suggest that feedback cycles could afflict both the tundra - where scientists fear a massive carbon release - and the Amazon forest ecosystem, which could rapidly dry up, McCarthy noted.

Some observers point out that the debate over 2 degrees involves two interrelated questions that are often blurred. First, how does the temperature goal stand up scientifically - i.e., would it still prevent perilous ocean level rise, large-scale drought, loss of ecosystems, dangerous weather, etc.?

Second, how does the target operate as a policy tool and as a piece of rhetoric in global negotiations?

We should be talking about emissions targets, and the right emission target is zero. We are going to solve the carbon-climate problem when we create an understanding that it is no longer acceptable to use the atmosphere as a waste dump. There should no discussion about targets, it should be a discussion about which kinds of objects people should be allowed to build.

There is indeed a vigorous debate between the developing world and the G-8 over this very question. The industrialized countries tend to talk about “common” goals in terms of reducing emissions. By contrast, developing countries focus on “differentiated” responsibilities - namely the need for the big industrial nations to take the deeper emissions cuts. The developing countries see the 2 degrees goal as a vague notion that does not put pressure on individual countries, since no one nation can control global temperature.

Author
John Wihbey, a regular contributor to The Yale Forum, is a producer for an NPR show. He previously reported on environmental issues for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. (E-mail: jpwihb@yahoo.com)

IPCC Report on Climate Change

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Municipal waste: reduce-reuse-recycle-recover


Kumar Manish, TNN , 25 July 2009 reports, tonnes of solid waste that lie unattended in large landfill sites in the Indian city of Ahmedabad will soon turn into a goldmine for Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). The civic body has signed a contract with Creative Co Ltd, a Japanese integrated waste management company, for a INR 500 million project to convert waste into green fuel pellets to fire captive power plants around the city.

The project will also help AMC gain carbon credits which the latter plans to share equally with the partnering agency. Carbon credits are given to enterprises in the developing world that shift to cleaner technologies, cutting energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The project will focus on the reduce-reuse-recycle-recover' standard in waste management and recycling industries. AMC will be providing 800 tonnes of solid waste per day for the project, of which 90 per cent will be recycled to produce an eco-friendly fuel for industry which can be used instead of conventional fuels.

Initially, pellets will be made as fuel. In the next phase, AMC will be generating electricity. The city produces 2,300 metric tonnes of solid waste a day which, at present, is dumped in Pirana dumping ground. The project will be coming up at Gyaspur where AMC has allocated 25 acres of land for solid waste management (SWM) projects.

The project will ensure a hygienic way of disposing solid waste and earning profits on it.

Watch a video:

Solid waste management in cities

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tax tobacco for good

Despite expectations following the increased taxation on tobacco announced in the state finance budgets of Maharashtra and New Delhi, India, the central government has made no changes whatsoever in the taxation on tobacco and tobacco products in the Union Budget for 2009 ­ 2010. This effectively means that the tobacco companies ­ already inducing a growing tobacco epidemic in the country ­ can continue to sell their products at their current prices ­which make these products easily available for the masses. This simply contributes to the continuing tobacco problem in India, and hampers public health to a great extent.

Speaking on the unchanged tax rates on tobacco products, be it cigarettes, bidis or gutka, tobacco control associations in India have voiced their protests. The tobacco analyst is wrong. The cigarette production is increasing in India and given the low elasticity of demand, the revenue collection is not going to go down for a long time" said Dr P C Gupta, director, Healis Sekhsaria Institute for Public Health . No country has yet reported that by increasing cigarette taxes, their revenue has gone down.

Increasing taxes on tobacco products could have benefited both the exchequer and public health. Increasing taxes on tobacco products has been shown to be the most cost effective tool for tobacco control and saves lives of people, especially protecting the youth and the poor. In India, 40 per cent of all diseases are due to tobacco use and the expenditure on its treatment, prevention and control costs around INR 400,000 million annually. Approximately 5500 adolescents start using tobacco every day, joining the 7.7 million young people under the age of 15, who already regularly use tobacco.

In the light of this, with an increase in taxes, a substantial increase in government revenue can be achieved. A 33 per cent increase in tax on bidis (rural version of cigarettes in India) and a 10 per cent increase in tax on cigarettes would result in 24.75 per cent and seven per cent increase in government revenue, respectively.

An increase in bidi taxation would also mean an increase in the part of the excise duty on bidis that goes to Bidi Workers Welfare Cess (BWWC), which aims to provide medical care, housing, social security, education and recreation facilities for bidi workers. The government should, therefore, make provisions for a substantial increase in taxation on all tobacco products across the country and take a step forward towards better public health.

Ref: Sakal Times, Pune, India, 31 July 2009

Ill effects of tobacco

Killer tobacco

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Smart grid: prone to cyber attacks

Brian Krebs from Washington Post , reports Tuesday, July 28, 2009. Electric utilities vying for $3.9 billion in new federal "smart grid" grants will need to prove US Energy Department that they are taking steps to prevent cyber attacks as they move to link nearly all elements of the U.S. power grid to the public internet.

The security experts express concern that many existing smart-grid efforts do not have sufficient built-in protections against computer hacking, such as new 'smart meters' that put information about consumers' power use onto the internet, grid-management software and other equipment.

The smart-grid spending in the federal stimulus package is intended to create jobs and improve the efficiency and reliability of the electricity grid by lowering peak demand, reducing energy consumption, integrating more renewable energy sources and easing the pressure to build new coal-fired power plants.

Many of those efficiency gains will be made possible by new technology being built on top of the existing power grid, such as smart meters, which provide real-time feedback on power consumption patterns and levels. An estimated 8 million smart meters are used in the United States today and more than 50 million more could be installed in at least two dozen states over the next five years, according to the Edison Foundation's Institute for Electric Efficiency

The security researchers have found that these devices often are the weakest link in the smart-grid chain. Smart meters give consumers direct access to information about their power usage and the ability to manage that usage over the Web, but that two-way communication also opens up the possibility that the grid could be attacked from the outside. Many such systems require little authentication to carry out key functions, such as disconnecting customers from the power grid.

Indeed, at this week's Black Hat , the world's largest cybersecurity conference held annually in Las Vegas, researchers from IOActive of Seattle shall demonstrate a computer worm that spreads by taking advantage of the software update feature built into a prevalent brand of smart meters. The worm could in theory give the attackers who launched it the ability to very quickly sever tens of thousands of homes from the smart grid.

Watch a video:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

E-cigarettes: US FDA caution

Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post , Wednesday, July 22, 2009 reports the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that an analysis of leading brands of electronic cigarettes (new type of "smokeless" nicotine product) showed carcinogens and a chemical used in antifreeze that are toxic to humans.

Electronic cigarettes, also called "e-cigarettes," are battery-operated devices that generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. The electronic cigarette turns nicotine, which is highly addictive, and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. Since they produce no smoke, they can be used in workplaces, restaurants and airports. The products are relatively new and began appearing on the market about five years ago, sold over the internet, in mall kiosks and in stores. They often come in candy and fruit flavors.

The FDA and other public health experts cautioned consumers against using the products, saying that the health effects of electronic cigarettes are unknown.

The FDA studied the ingredients in the sample cartridges of electronic cigarettes. In one sample, it detected diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. Other samples turned up carcinogens, including nitrosamines.

The FDA considers e-cigarettes to be drug devices and says that manufacturers must first get federal approval to market them. It has refused to allow imports of e-cigarettes

Watch FDA video on e-cigarettes:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sustainable power makes a world of difference

AFP , 13 July 2009, reports twelve European companies launched a 400-billion-euro (560-billion-dollar) initiative to set up huge solar farms in Africa and the Middle East to produce energy for Europe.

The massive project could provide up to 15 percent of Europe's electricity needs by 2050. The electricity could begin flowing to Europe within 10 years.

Engineering giants ABB and Siemens, energy groups E.ON and RWE and financial institutions Deutsche Bank and Munich Re are among the companies which signed a protocol in Munich.

The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) would build solar-power generators from Morocco to Saudi Arabia and pump electricity to Europe via underwater cables. It would also provide a substantial portion of the power needs of the producer countries, transform sea water into drinking and irrigation water for local populations. Many details must still be worked out however, including where to install the plants, when the power would come on and how much it would cost, potential profits, political stability in some areas and the financing. Under the protocol, a Desertec study office to be established by October will have three years to elaborate plans to create the network of solar farms.

Other companies invoved are the Spanish firm ABENGOA Solar and the Algerian conglomerate Cevital along with several German banks and engineering companies.

The Siemens estimate that the solar farms could generate up to 100 gigawatts of electricity, the equivalent of 100 power plants.

The German Social Democratic deputy Hermann Scheer opined that it was not necessary to go to North Africa to collect the sun's rays. We could invest the 400 billion euros in the recession-hit eurozone. He also preferred a network of decentralised operators that produced renewable energy from many sources rather than having one key project in the hands of major corporations. Others doubt that producer countries would fully benefit from a plan designed with Europe in mind,and warn of potential "eco-colonialism."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lighting revolution

ScienceDaily, July 22, 2009, reports development of a new substance, which emits brilliant light. The discovery could lead to a revolution in lighting for the home and office in five years, as claimed by a leading UK materials scientist, Professor Colin Humphreys of Cambridge University. The new substance, gallium nitride (GaN), is already used for some lighting applications such as camera flashes, bicycle lights, mobile phones and interior lighting for buses, trains and planes.

The new lighting material can reduce the typical electricity consumption for lighting of a developed country by around 75%, while delivering major cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and preserving fossil fuel reserves.

The GaN LEDs are incredibly long lasting. A GaN LED can burn for 100,000 hours, one hundred times longer than a conventional light bulb. In practice this means it only needs replacing after 60 years of normal household use. Also, unlike the energy-saving compact fluorescent lights now in use, GaN LEDs don't contain mercury so disposal is not such an environmental headache.

However to unlock these benefits, important barriers need to be tackled by scientists. The GaN LEDs are too expensive to manufacture for wide scale deployment in homes and workplaces. The harsh quality of the light produced is another limiting factor.

At the Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitride where Professor Humphreys leads the research, a detailed new theory that explains the mystery of why GaN emits light so strongly has recently been developed in collaboration with Professor Phil Dawson of Manchester University. The understanding is vital to improving GaN lighting's quality and efficiency. The centre is also working on an innovative technique for growing GaN on six-inch diameter silicon wafers, rather than the sapphire wafers used to date. That will result in a tenfold reduction in manufacturing costs and so help GaN lighting penetrate new market. Another of the centre's projects is investigating how GaN lighting could be made to mimic sunlight which could have important benefits for sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The GaN lighting should start making its mark in homes and offices within about five years. It will also benefit consumers in terms of convenience, electricity bills and quality of life.

Looking further ahead, the possibilities for GaN light appear wide-ranging. Currently, GaN LEDs are phosphor -coated to transform the light from blue into white. There could be scope to remove the coating and incorporate mini LEDs, each producing a different colour, in the overall ‘light bulb'. Together the mini LEDs would produce white light but people in the home or office could alter the precise balance, for example to a bluish light, to suit their mood. This and other applications, for example in healthcare for detecting tumours, and water treatment for developing countries, might be achievable in 10 years, says Professor Humphreys.

More on LED

What is LED ? Watch a video

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bamboo bikes

Jim Cornfield in the Scientific American , June 2009 Special Editions, reports
about the growing popularity of Bamboo Bikes. The versatile bamboo provides a green and renewable alternative to traditional bike metals

In the cycling world, the name “Calfee” evokes images of upscale, featherweight carbon-fiber road bikes, produced by California designer-manufacturer Craig Calfee. The bamboo now constitutes one leading edge of his portfolio, because the bikes have the lowest carbon footprint on the planet.

Bamboo’s versatility is no secret. Certain varieties are fast growing yet extremely rugged. There are bamboo bridges, dams, boats, even airplanes, thanks to its shape and remarkable vibration damping.

Today about a third of the 400 bikes that Calfee’s Santa Cruz factory makes are bamboo and getting strong reviews. At four pounds, the bamboo frames are heavier than Calfee’s signature carbon-fiber models but lighter than standard metal.

After he visited the West African nation of Ghana, Calfee established an outreach program and micro-industry there to manufacture bamboo bicycles for local sale. With his training and logistical support, Ghanaians have begun to produce serviceable cargo bikes, using their local bamboo, which sell at very modest prices. Calfee plans to expand such operations beyond Ghana.He has brought some jobs and optimism to the country’s poor. He thinks the project will become a self-sustaining.

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Bamboo Bikes Grow."

Watch video on Bamboo Bike
Know more about Bamboo

Bike infrastructure:
It's no secret that bicycling is the most eco-friendly, inexpensive and efficient means of going about daily business in your dense community. Read more ....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Solar lantern

Alternative Energy reports, a Kansas State University student is combining engineering and nature to design a more affordable and more sustainable lighting source, solar lantern, for those living without electricity. Tai-Wen Ko, Kansas State senior in electrical engineering, is working in collaboration with Justin Curry. Ko is aiming this product for people living in Sub-Saharan Africa. If one waits for providing them electricity in conventional manner then it will take considerable amount of time to light up this part of the earth. Solar lamps are greener and cleaner option than kerosene lamps. Solar lanterns are safe too because they don’t start a fire.

The new solar lantern consists of three main components: a solar panel, battery and a white light-emitting diode. It is is about 30 percent cheaper than the average market value. The usual florescent tubes are not used in these lanterns, because they consume lots of power. Ko is trying to find an alternative to lead-acid battery out of environmental concerns. He is researching on a recycling plan that could be implemented in the Sub-Saharan African region.

Solar panel roads:

Roads with glass solar cell panels capable of generating enough power to support local communities. Under the scheme, a US firm is currently working on a prototype panel that could be embedded into existing roads. The company has received $100,000 grant from the US Department of Transportation. Read more .. ..


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Eco-towns

Lowcarboneconomy reports that four sites have been approved by the UK government for the construction of low-carbon eco-towns. They will serve as a platform from which to pioneer and launch the energy-efficient design and infrastructure necessary for lower carbon emissions.

From 2016 all new residential buildings are to be built to zero-carbon specifications as part of plans to reduce the quarter of all UK emissions that come from housing. More than a quarter of CO2 emissions come from houses.

The eco-developments will be fully equipped with smart meters to measure electricity consumption, community heat sources and electric car charging points. Homes will also feature renewable energy technologies to draw power from the sun, wind and earth. All schools, shops, restaurants and public buildings in the eco-towns will also be designed to emit zero carbon. The government aims to have ten eco-towns under development by 2020.

They will be expected to deliver outcomes against the following criteria

* zero carbon and environmental standards
* sustainable transport
* design quality
* community involvement
* employment
* health
* use of land.

FAQ on eco-towns

Publications on eco-towns

Friday, July 17, 2009

Biofuel standards are needed

ScienceDaily , October 9, 2008, reports that the policies needed to ensure that cellulosic biofuel production will not cause environmental harm. The paper, published in the October 3rd issue of the journal Science, urges decision makers to adopt standards and incentives that will help ensure that future production efforts are sustainable, both energetically and environmentally.

Cellulose-based biofuels hold promise, but we need to proceed cautiously and with an eye toward minimizing long-term ecological impacts. Without a sound plan, we could wind up doing more environmental harm than good. Grain-based ethanol has already served as a lesson in the perils of embracing energy solutions before their environmental effects are understood.

If cellulosic ethanol is to emerge as a feasible source of renewable energy, a vast amount of land will need to be used for its production. This land conversion, estimated to be as large as the amount of land in row-crops today, will change the face of the global landscape. Production standards and incentive programs could help minimize negative impacts and, in many cases, help farmers choose crops that provide valuable ecosystem services. There is the real potential for science to inform sustainable cellulosic crop strategies. It is about picking the right plant or assemblage of plants, for a given landscape and managing crops in a minimally invasive way.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sustainable development: training future leaders

Congratulations MacArthur Foundation for taking up sustainable development as a mission. In my opinion the sustainable development, besides other aspects, involves the following:

(a) Conservation of the natural resources

(b) Process developments, standards and controls to minimise the industrial and anthropogenic pollution and greenhouse gas emission

(c) Techniques of recapturing and recycling the pollutants and green house gases

In the first place there is a need to create an awareness about these aspects in the general public.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reduce calories, live longer

Cutting daily calorie intake by 30 percent may slow down the aging process, have beneficial effects on the brain and result in a longer life span, according to a new 20-year study on rhesus monkeys published in the journal Science. The findings of the study may well be applicable to the humans.

The calorie-restricted monkeys preserved volume in areas of their brain that have been linked to motor control, memory, and problem-solving.

Recent studies show that lighter diets can also keep memory intact in the old age

Delaney is an advocate of calorie-restricted diet. He says he is not starving, despite his low-calorie lifestyle.

He eats a hearty breakfast which includes a large bowl of low-fat granola and fruit, soy milk, nonfat yogurt and a cup of coffee. Delaney admits his 900 calorie breakfast is more than most people consume in the morning, but he then skips lunch, works for 8-9 hours day, eats a high-fiber, vegetarian dinner, keeping his total intake under 2,000 calories a day. An average adult male consumes about 2600 calories a day. As a result, Delaney may live a longer and healthier life than his peers, who consume more calories. The studies in mice, worms and flies have confirmed this finding. The calorie-restricted diet also results in lower risk of some cancers, heart disease and other illnesses associated with aging.

How a calorie-restricted diet helps stave off age-related diseases and extend lifespan is unknown, but controlling calories can help people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for many diseases. Eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods can also produce important physiological changes in the body, which may lower disease risk.

However everyone does not agree with these findings. Some experts argue that it can lead to a lot of problems such as dizziness and fatigue in the short term. In the long term, there can be nutritional deficiencies, decreases in bone mineral density that can lead to osteoporosis and menstrual irregularities that can lead to infertility. Perhaps a milder version of 5 percent calorie restriction could be tried.

The first step is to get rid of high fat, high sugar foods in the diet and then move on to the quality of diet and make sure there are adequate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy in the diet