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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.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Launch economic green revolution now

Launch economic green revolution now

Dr J D Bapat

That is the call given by Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. Here is the gist of what he has to say.

As the world faces the worst global financial crisis, since the 1930s, the economic case for tackling the global climate crisis is more compelling than ever. Fortunately, our ability to respond has also increased, as we embark upon a technological revolution that will drive sustainable growth and development of a low-carbon global economy.

The risks and potential costs of climate change are even greater than originally recognised. The global emissions of greenhouse gases are growing more quickly than projected. The ability of the planet to absorb greenhouse gases now appears lower than was assumed. The potential of temperature increase due to rising gas concentrations seem higher and the physical impacts of a warming planet are appearing at a faster rate than expected.

If we are to keep down the risks of potentially catastrophic impacts, which could result from average global temperatures rising by 4 °C or more above pre-industrial levels, the concentration of greenhouse gases should not exceed 500 parts per million.

That means that annual global emissions must peak within the next 15 years, before falling to half of their 1990 level by 2050. In addition, we will need to limit human additions to atmospheric greenhouse gases to under 10 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent per year, compared with the current 45 gigatonnes.

Such reductions present a significant challenge but they are affordable and manageable, costing about 2 per cent of global GDP each year. Indeed, with good policy and increasingly rapid technical progress, the costs may be considerably lower.

The leading industrialised nations are due to meet in December 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the next annual gathering of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. If they agree to cut their emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, compared with 1990, this will be an essential step towards meeting the challenge. That agreement must be effective (on the scale required), efficient (keeping costs down) and equitable (recognising different resources, skills and historical responsibilities).

The key to these major reductions in emissions, whilst maintaining development and growth, is the rapid dissemination and use of low-carbon technologies. Already, innovation is advancing in many areas at a faster pace than anticipated. However such progress needs to be accelerated. We will need a revolution that surpasses the scale and impact of previous world-changing technologies such as railways and personal computers. This requires policies and measures that remove barriers and provide incentives for technological development.

First, action is needed to further spread existing low-carbon technologies, such as "green" household appliances. This can be done by creating carbon markets in which the price of emitting carbon reflects the potential impact of those emissions and by introducing energy-efficiency standards to incentivise innovation.

Second, we need more support for the development and scaling-up of technologies that could become commercially viable within the next 15 years, such as second-generation biofuels, which do not directly affect food production and carbon capture and storage (CCS). The CCS is crucial for countries with fast-expanding economies, such as India and China, which currently rely on coal-fired power stations for growth. We need about 30 CCS demonstration projects, on a commercial scale, carried out in developed and developing countries over the next 10 years. This technology needs to spread through international and public-private collaborations.

Third, more effort is required to stimulate new breakthrough technologies that will lead to major cuts in emissions beyond 2030. A well-functioning global carbon market would drive these but public funding for energy research and development should be doubled now from its present global level of about $10 billion per year, with a medium-term target of around 0.1 per cent of world GDP or about $50 billion per year.

While the global economic downturn could distract us from the bigger task of tackling climate change, it is also an opportunity to bring forward investments in low-carbon technologies while costs are lower. It can provide job opportunities in the short run in key sectors where resources are idle, such as construction. Investments that improve energy efficiency will also yield benefits. In the long term, investments in low-carbon technologies could provide sustainable and well-founded economic growth. The global economic downturn is an opportunity to invest in green tech while costs are lower.

Continued unchecked emissions and high-carbon growth are not sustainable. We have a real chance to set a path towards a low-carbon future. It is the only realistic future for growth and for overcoming world poverty. Number of 'green technologies' aimed at reducing pollution and/or greenhouse gas emission are available today. However it is necessary to show that these technologies are marketable and shall ultimately bring economic benefits to the common man. Launching green economic revolution will do that. So, launch it now !

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Environemental challenges for 2009

Environmental challenges for 2009

Dr J D Bapat

Tackling climate change and its consequences, reforming the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, improving air quality and reducing the environmental impact of biofuels will top the bloc's environmental policy debates in the coming year, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA). Looking at the issues, it appears that they remain same for rest of the world.

The EEA snapshot of key environmental policy debates in 2009 singles out "global diplomacy and the search for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol" as the main topic to be discussed, followed by adapting to climate change and water management issues.

As for upcoming reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it is argued that current distribution of CAP funds is not very effective from the perspective of achieving EU environmental objectives, in particular on nature protection. It suggests that the review should consider widening access to financial support to farmland, particularly rich in habitats and species of conservation concern and particularly to high nature value farmland.

Intensive farms do not support biodiversity and are not all that dependent on CAP payments. Regarding biofuels, it is noted that the switch from oil to bioenergy is not risk free and a move towards large-scale bioenergy production would carry considerable environmental risk, particularly in terms of land-use change.

The EEA thus believes that Europe should progress further by beginning to research advanced second-generation biofuels seriously to account for their effects on soil, water, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.

Other hot topics in 2009 include marine management and international waste imports and exports.

The greenhouse gas emissions are just one symptom of a much deeper issue: our inability to live sustainably.

Source: EurActiv.com, 13 January 2009

Corn to cool the earth

Corn to cool the earth

Dr J D Bapat

A new study finds that increasing the glossiness or reflectivity of crop surfaces could cool earth in the summer. The scientists view it as the most cost-effective geoengineering solution for global warming.

The waxy coating of crops such as corn and barley reflects solar radiation back into space--a property called "albedo." Without crop albedo, estimates suggest that Earth would be approximately a half a degree Celsius warmer than it is now. If researchers increase the crop albedo further, they could help cool our warming world. Increasing crop albedo by 20% could decrease regional temperatures by 1°C in the summer. Over 100 years, the effect would equate to eliminating 195 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, the equivalent of grounding 195 million plane flights from Los Angeles to New York. One way to increase albedo is to selectively breed plants with thicker waxy layers.

Modifying the crop albedo offers advantages not found in other geoengineering proposals, such as practicality and low cost to implement. However it should be noted that making crops more glossy will not solve global warming by itself. It is a simple, small step that we can take to start making a difference.

Researchers propose that one way of temporarily reducing global temperatures would be to replace existing crops with variant strains that reflect more solar radiation back out to space. The overall effect would be the same as making large areas of the planet more mirror-like. Their calculations suggest this could cause average summer temperatures in temperate zones to fall by as much as 1°C.

The politicians have generally adopted the aim of limiting global warming to 2°C above 19th century averages, so a 1°C is not something to be taken lightly.

Plants reflects short wave energy back out to space much like snow and other light surfaces do. As Arctic ice melts and is replaced by dark water, for instance, the region's warming is expected to accelerate . Plants have higher or lower reflectivity depending on things like the shape and size of their leaves and how waxy they are. Different varieties of a same species can have more or less albedo.

The crop yields would not suffer, if farmers preferentially planted high-albedo varieties. Indeed for some crops yields might increase. The farmers would need to be given incentives – most likely financial ones – to buy high-albedo varieties. The researchers say one way of setting up these incentives would be to make high-albedo farms eligible for carbon credits which could be sold on the carbon trading markets.

Source: ScienceNOW Daily News, 15 January 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

Provide more incentives for renewable energy

Provide more incentives for renewable energy
Dr J D Bapat

The world has seen an unprecedented explosion in growth. However majority of the developed world is now officially in recession. The spiralling costs of crude oil and natural gas have come to an end - oil is back below US $40 a barrel.

Overall, it looks as though domestic energy prices will remain higher than previously thought. This is particularly ominous when wholesale gas and oil prices slowly start their rise again when the recession lifts. There is an air of inevitability in the increase of the price of oil and gas, as the finite resource becomes ever rarer and more expensive to extract.

The Solar Photovoltaic (SPV) cells are the perfect way to establish independence from increasing power prices. The only other viable power generation would be a miniature wind turbine. These renewable power devices provide protection from power price increase. The major disadvantages with micro-generation of power using wind turbines are swirling wind direction in urban areas, particularly if not mounted on the tallest building in the vicinity and the obstructive planning laws in some countries.

Renewable technology cannot compete on the free market with fossil fuels unless carbon trading schemes are brought in to represent the global damage being caused by climate change. The UK has introduced Renewable Obligation Credits (ROC's) and one time grant towards the initial capital outlay of microgeneration. For solar photovoltaics this grant currently stands at £2,500 per household and ROC's provide about 5p/kWh of energy produced. Other countries should also follow the same path.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wind energy in China

Wind energy in China

Dr J D Bapat

China more than doubled its wind power capacity in 2008, installing 4.66 GW of additional capacity and surpassing the government's 10GW target two years ahead of schedule. China's wind power industry is dominated by the 'big five' state-owned electric power companies.

The impressive growth, widely projected by observers, was driven by an 88.10% year-on-year increase in capital investment. The increase reflects the success of China's policies to promote renewable energy, which includes the mandated target of 10GW by 2010 and a renewable portfolio standard that requires "non-hydro renewables" to account for 3% of the installed capacity of large power companies by 2010, and 8% by 2020.

China's central economic planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), has also set a target for 30GW of wind power capacity by 2020. But last year's growth has observers projecting the industry outstripping the 2020 mark a decade sooner. The Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association unofficially projects that 25-30GW of wind power capacity will be installed by the end of 2010.

There is some concern by NDRC that wind power is growing too fast, so maybe they will use the "low target" as a way to emphasise the sustainable development of the sector and quality control.

Rapid growth has led to high incidence of wind turbine unreliability and underperforming installations. The industry is addressing the problem by doing more and more innovation and testing before installation. About 20% of installed wind power capacity is not currently connected to the grid.

Source: Environmental Finance magazine, 15 January 2009.
For more news and articles visit www.environmental-finance.com or subcribe to Environmental Finance

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Halt all carbon emissions by 2050

Halt all carbon emissions by 2050

In order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, world
carbon emissions will have to drop to near zero by 2050 and go

after that, the Worldwatch Institute reported on Tuesday. The finding will
have far reaching repercussions

Limiting carbon emissions aims to keep global mean temperature from
rising more than 2 degrees C over what it was before the Industrial
Revolution. The global warming needs to be reduced from peak levels
to 1 degree Celsius, as fast as possible. The Global mean temperature has
already risen by 0.8 C since 1850. Hence drastic cuts in emissions of
climate-warming carbon dioxide are needed.

The global greenhouse gas emissions would need to hit the peak by
2020 and drop 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and keep
dropping after that. The carbon dioxide emissions would have
to "go negative," with more being absorbed than emitted, in the
second half of this century.

The burden of cutting greenhouse emissions should fall more
heavily on industrialised countries than the developing ones,
with industrialized nations reducing emissions by 90 percent by
2050, allowing developing nations to let their economies grow
and develop new technologies that will ultimately reduce
climate-warming gases.

2009: a pivotal year?
Even with these dramatic changes, the world may face an
additional rise of nearly 1 degree C because the impact of past
greenhouse emissions hasn't yet been felt on surface temperatures,
the report said. The year 2009 could be pivotal in the movement
against climate change.

The 2009 is a deadline for a global agreement to craft a successor
pact to the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol. That is set to happen in
December at a meeting in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen meeting
could put in place a new "financial architecture" that discourages
greenhouse emissions and rewards actions that take these emissions
out of the atmosphere. This could take the form of a cap-and-trade
system or a carbon tax, and could also include "the best terms of
trade, investment and credit" for countries that make the transition
to a low-carbon economy.

We still have some precious time to safely manage human-induced
climate change. What is at stake is not just nature as we have always
known it but quite possibly the survival of our civilization.

The strongest message from State of the World 2009 is this: "If
the world does not take action early and in adequate measure, the
impacts of climate change could prove extremely harmful and
overwhelm our capacity to adapt." The Washington-based Worldwatch
Institute is an independent research organization.

Source: Worldwatch, 14 Jan 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Organic farming

Organic farming

Dr J D Bapat

The Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) launched a campaign against the report on organic farming released by the Punjab State Farmers Commission (India) recently. The KVM objects to certain issues raised in the report. The report states that the increased use of organic farming for growing wheat and paddy could prove counter-productive for Punjab.

The Mission organised a discussion on this subject, and another discussion has been scheduled for February. The report has been termed as as baseless. It was mentioned that there are many farmers who opted for organic farming and are cultivating their land with much success. On the contrary there are facts to prove the ill-effects of farming using chemicals. Due to the excessive use of chemicals in farming ground-water in Punjab has become contaminated. The water resources are depleting and productivity level has stagnated. The organic farming increases productivity by more than 50 per cent. At present the returns on agriculture are decreasing.

Source: Indian Express, Jan 11, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sustainable consumption

Cooperation in business and consumers

Although people want to live more sustainably, there are still plenty of barriers keeping them from acting in tune with their thoughts. A sustainable society won't be born out of just consumer choices, but out of business actions as well.

Global consumption patterns are not sustainable, and have already had detrimental impacts on the earth environment. The world is experiencing rapid population growth and more people are consuming more, especially in emerging countries.

While survey after survey shows consumers are, on the whole, concerned about their impacts on the environment and willing to act, they do not always follow through with different behaviors. The reasons for that are numerous: some green choices are not cost effective, it is inconvenient to give up certain things and there is a general lack of understanding or confusion around areas like product labeling.

The role of business in moving the world towards sustainable consumption is to make sustainability commonplace. Companies must make green choices easy to make as well as easy to understand, affordable and comparable to conventional choices.

Businesses also need to innovate new products and service, harness the power of marketing and new forms of communication to influence consumer choices, and eliminate unsustainable products and services.

For many products, like cars, detergent and electronics, the biggest impacts come from their use. A company could have a LEED certified, energy efficient factory, but if the company makes laundry detergent that requires massive amounts of hot water when its used, it's still contributing to unsustainable actions, no matter how green its operations are. Making detergent that works in cold water, though, helps bring down the environmental impact of all end users.

Source: GreenBiz.com, 19 December 2008