February 24, 2012

GOP = Green Organization Positive?

Seems sometimes like our neighbors down in the U.S. stereotype the Democrats as the ones who care about the environment, and the Republicans just want things to stay the same, but that might not be true.  At least, governor-wise.

There’s a news article that says Republican governors in the States are putting in place policies that promote a “green economy,” and in some cases they’ve even done a better job than their Democratic colleagues.

Here’s the deal:  A report just came out from the National Governors Association which shows that between June 2010 and August 2011, 28 states enacted more than 60 new “clean” economic development policies. Among those states, 16 — more than half of ‘em — have Republican governors. In five of the those states, the policies were started under Democratic governors and were continued by the Republicans who replaced them.  Which means that eleven of those Republican governors were doing it on their own.

“Clean” means aiming to build local supply chains to meet the growing demand for clean power. Policy-wise, that includes tax breaks for renewable energy manufacturers, grants for clean-tech start-ups andprograms that train folks for green jobs.

Installing solar panels in Colorado. Part of a nutritious green economic development policy breakfast. Good job, guys.

Sounds good to me.  You know, a lot of Canadian news focuses on what’s happening with our “downstairs neighbors,” even far up where I am.  So it’s nice to hear a bit of good news that shows people defying their stereotypes — ‘specially with all that political bickering they got going on down there all the time — and doing green stuff that hopefully helps keeps my icebergs right where I want ‘em.


February 8, 2012

It’s a bird, it’s a… green airplane?

I’m partial to ships, but that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to other forms of transportation.  When I was a little one, I went nuts for just about anything that moved people from one place to another:  trucks, trains, cars, ships, and planes.  For some reason the thrill of spotting everything but ships faded.  I guess ’cause they’re just so darn easy to see.  But I’d love to spot these things in the air:

‘The hell is this, you ask?  Why, let me explain:

Science Daily’s reporting on how the good folks at NASA challenged three aeronautics firms — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman — to come up with new designs that’ll help the aircrafts of the future burn 50% less fuel than those that started flying in 1998 (the study’s baseline), AND with 75% fewer harmful emissions, AND will shrink the areas affected by airport noise by 83%.  It’s all part of NASA’s .Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project.  (Who knew?  I guess you and me now.)  The three aircraft you see in the picture represent the three firms’ various efforts to meet the criteria.

“The real challenge is we want to accomplish all these things simultaneously,” “It’s never been done before. We looked at some very difficult metrics and tried to push all those metrics down at the same time… We’ll be digesting the three studies and we’ll be looking into what to do next.”

– Fay Collier, Project Manager

Dare I say this makes me feel rather excited?  It could just be a nice warm belly full of Swanson’s beef pot pie and Sanka talking, but this seems like a really good, absolutely not bad, potentially wonderful thing.  I might just do a jig!

If you wanna read more about the different designs, the whole article is a great read.

Back to the binocs.


February 6, 2012

Here comes the sun, doot-n-doo-doo

OK, so obviously I care about the environment and wanna get people to think about how they live their lives and what kind of impact that makes on the Earth.  I’ve always thought that wind power was an amazing idea, equally as good as solar power.  But now it turns out maybe not, in the long run.

My Earth Science teacher from last year, Mr. Hoekbaard, emailed a bunch of us who run the Environment Club at our school about this article he thought we would find intriguing.  We’ve been, um, discussing it a lot, which is really saying something, ’cause we’re a hyper-opinionated group.  Anyway, it’s from New Scientist, and it’s completely fascinating, and you should absolutely read it.  It basically says that as the global demand for energy grows (’cause of population growth, and more people getting access to energy), nuclear energy is too risky, and large-scale wind power could negatively affect the environment, too.  Strap on your nerd helmet, ’cause this here’s a diagram to show how it works:

This basically shows why solar is going to be the way to go. Copyright New Scientist.

One of the scientists quoted in the article says:

Sagan used to preach to me, and I now preach to my students, that any intelligent civilisation on any planet will eventually have to use the energy of its parent star, exclusively.

If that doesn’t blow your mind, read the last third of the article, about how pulling down cool air from the four jet streams of wind ten kilometers above the Earth could be harnessed to “geoengineer” the temperature of the Earth.  In other words, counteract and even reverse the effects of global warming.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re like, This is all really far in the future.  But it shouldn’t be.  It could start happening more now.

Not sure why? But this article makes me really happy.  Hence, my totally corny title for this post, which is a nod to my mom and dad and their olde-tyme musical tastes.  Also, I’m finally finished with all the stuff I was supposed to do today, so now I can treat myself to the latest episode of “Fringe”.  Don’t worry, I’ll be watching on the lowest-possible brightness level on my computer to save energy.  ; )

 


February 6, 2012

Job creation with a green touch

Way down in Vancouver, they got some good ideas about how to help the environment and create jobs at the same time — an idea which could really help us folks way up here in Northern Canada who watch the ice melt and the polar bears freak out.

One of my buddies there sent me this business editorial from the Vancouver Sun about how retrofitting buildings in British Columbia built before 1984 could cut down on carbon emissions and keep people employed.

A construction worker on a 'green roof' at the 2010 Athletes Village in Vancouver, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)(From The Epoch Times)

Wouldn’t need any of the usual zoning and planning hassles or special equipment — just the usual good-idea stuff:  insulation, high-performance windows and doors, weatherstripping, super-efficient heating and cooling systems:

Retrofitting 100,000 homes a year in B.C. would keep 14,000 to 30,000 tradespeople employed, including electricians, heating/air conditioning installers, carpenters, insulation workers, building inspectors and others.

Saves the homeowner, too.  There ain’t a house up here that don’t have weatherstripping and state of the art insulation, all that stuff, if you can afford it.  Otherwise the heating bills go through the roof, literally.  Here’s their idea:

Retrofitting homes results in energy conservation and can save homeowners thousands of dollars and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A report by the Columbia Foundation shows that at current energy prices, a homeowner can double his or her return — over $12,000 on an average $6,000 investment in energy efficiency over 25 years — by making simple changes like upgrading hot-water tanks and home heating and cooling systems, and improving weatherization and home insulation…

It costs up front, but the writers have some ideas how B.C. (British Columbia) can help out its residents:

[U]pfront retrofit costs can be eliminated through innovative financing arrangements: loans provided to homeowners by municipalities, financial institutions, utilities or other funders can be paid back gradually through small payments on property taxes or utility bills. The financing obligations are included on a property tax bill as a surcharge until completely paid off, even if the property changes owners in the interim.

Sounds good to me.

The icebergs up here like the idea, too.

 

 


January 19, 2012

Simple measures could go a long way

Anyone who follows news about climate change knows that carbon dioxide is the primary cause of trapped heat in the Earth’s atmosphere which causes temperatures to rise.   But a group of our scientific colleagues have published a study which says simple, low-cost ways to cut methane and soot (a.k.a. “black carbon”) emissions could slow rising temperatures, boost crop production, and save lives.

The Washington Post covered the study, which found that

[J]ust 14 interventions — such as eliminating wood-burning stoves, dampening emissions from diesel vehicles and capturing methane released from coal mines — would offer big benefits.

This is, of course, easier said than done, considering that three billion people — nearly half the world’s population relies on stoves that send soot into the air. (We’ve seen these kinds of stoves all over Central and Latin America in our studies; a New York Times article several years ago reported that soot in developing countries is responsible for up to 18% of global warming.

This solar cooker is an inexpensive and wood-saving alternative for preparing food.

Solar cookers, such as the one pictured above, are a great alternative, but are occasionally slow to catch on with traditonally-minded villagers who prefer the familiarity of a fire.

Other practices touted by the study include plowing agricultural waste under in developing nations, instead of burning it, as is customary practice, which would cost next to nothing.

Our colleagues (an international team of 24) ran computer simulations that showed cutting methane and soot in the air would slow global warming by almost one degree Fahrenheit by the mid-2100s.  And better air quality would help prevent lung and cardiovascular diseases, saving “anywhere from 700,000 to 4.7 million lives annually.”  Not to mention ocean, plant, and animal life (ahem).

Even if all these practices were immediately implemented, CO2 would still be the world’s biggest problem, and the majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from China, the U.S., India, and the European Union.

And that may be the most difficult change of all to implement.

 


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    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
     
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