Tag: featured

Looking Back At California Governor Newsom’s Decision To Phase Out Gas-Powered Cars by 2035

by the incentive

In late September, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will phase out gasoline-powered cars in order to reduce fossil fuel demand. By this executive order, all sales of passenger vehicles must be zero-emission by the year 2035. This move came with the intention of shifting the state away from being fossil fuel dependent and exposed to renewable energy.

Though the ruling seems extreme, it appears to be proportionally justified. In California, the transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all carbon pollution, 80 percent of smog pollution, and 95 percent of toxic diesel emissions (Source: gov.ca.gov). Banning the sale of these pollution-causing vehicles is a surefire way to reduce what is responsible for half of California’s pollution.

In wake of this ruling and with the rising share of electric vehicle (EV) companies, many car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, among others, are embracing this change and are involved in the design and production of electric vehicles to meet the new market. With the regulation set in place for 15 years from now, it gives companies plenty of time to master and mass produce these electric vehicles to make them both convenient and affordable.

It is key to note, however, the fine print of this ruling. The ruling bans the sale of passenger cars, but not the use of cars. Cars purchased after 2035 must be electric, though existing cars can remain. With the extended lifetime of cars with the help of modern technology and maintenance, it will be a while until we truly see a zero-emission landscape.

It is ambitious, though Governor Newsom states that it “is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change.” In addition to providing support from the effect climate change has been having on California in the wake of the wildfires that have devastated the state and surrounding regions, Governor Newsom states that “cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

Through this order, California joins the 15 other countries that have committed to phasing out gasoline-powered cars that pollute their nations. The regulations set rules and standards that other states can follow to address climate change on a large scale. With incentivizing and promoting renewable energy instead of fossil fuels, Governor Newsom shows his commitment to the environment among recent events that have devastated areas of California.

Image: https://wallpaperaccess.com/tesla-4k

REVISITED: The Hidden Carbon Footprint Behind Cryptocurrency

by Suraj Gangaram

With the astronomical rise of cryptocurrency, we would like to revisit one of our earliest articles: The Hidden Carbon Footprint behind Cryptocurrency.

Due to the market meltdown in early March, the price of a cryptocurrency referred to as Bitcoin dropped by $1000 within less than a day. As a result of Bitcoin’s extensive power consumption and carbon footprint, people adhering to the ESG (environmental, social, and governance) criteria have sparked debate over the practicality of it in today’s day and age. The presence of the coronavirus situation especially begs the question:

How are cryptocurrencies in general going to move forward?

Believe it or not, Bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency which operates independently of a central bank, has a giant carbon footprint associated with producing it. The digital currency offers relative anonymity, does not charge sales tax and is free from bank and government interferences. Transactions are digitally stored as “blocks” in a chain as opposed to a traditional centralized location as in banks; the “winner” is given the right to add another block of data to the chain, and is rewarded with a new Bitcoin. Bitcoin, currently sitting at a value of around $7000, is infamous for its energy consumption, demanding a plethora of tailor-made computers to carry out its arduous mining process which requires complex mathematical computing. As part of an attempt to save on their expenditures, mining companies have relocated their computers, known as ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits), to warehouses with access to cheap electricity. Currently, over 50% of all mining occurs in China’s Sichuan province, which has a superabundant capacity for hydropower. Seemingly just another financial trading tool, it consumes as much electricity as the country Chile, with nearly 19 million inhabitants. Researchers calculated that the Bitcoin network consumed 31.3 Terawatt-hours (1 TWh = 3.6*10^15 J) of electricity and 17.3 megatons (17.3 million tons of TNT) of CO2 in 2018 alone.

Companies are cognizant of the impact of crypto-currency production on climate change as it works its way into becoming the currency of the future. A Canadian company, Upstream Data, has invented a method of diminishing the amount of methane vented into the atmosphere from oil wells through utilizing the fuels as a generator for mining computers. Steve Barbour, the company’s founder, has described the venture as one of “a low capital…for an oil company.” Looking to set the path forward for ESG-minded individuals, mining companies are looking to reconfigure the processes of producing crypto-currency, before climate change demands them to do so.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/bitcoin-price-latest-cryptocurrency-coronavirus-a9386957.html

Texas Storm Reveals How Energy Grid is Unprepared for Climate Change

by Arun

Over the course of the past few weeks, a severe and devastating winter storm has thrown Texas into an energy crisis. Many families are left without power, heat, and necessities to carry out their daily lives. As the Biden administration aims to pioneer a future that is reliant on sustainable energy, it brings about the equal necessity to prepare for extreme weather, which renewable energy is exceptionally susceptible to.

According to ground research by CNN, “the center of a wave of outages across the Southern and central parts of the U.S. the primary electric grid suffered a one-two punch wrought by the deep freeze: off-the-charts demand for power as Texans tried to heat their homes and power plants that simply failed to produce power when people needed it the most.”

Given that renewable energy sources like wind and solar don’t make up a large part of the state’s energy sources, utility officials say that they played a minimal role in the power shortage.

What’s more concerning, though, is what these crisis reveals. It shows how the U.S. electric infrastructure may not be fully suited and prepared to combat sharp demands for power. As the United States shifts towards more renewable energy which are more inconsistent as they are largely dependent on whether conditions (i.e. wind and solar energy), it brings about the need for sustainable energy storage to prevent crises like these from recurring in the future.

Utility officials in Texas were caught off-guard as “the surge in demand during the storm outpaced the grid operator’s highest estimate of just over 67,000 megawatts needed for. an extreme peak load. And 34,000 megawatts were kicked offline, diminishing supply.”

Predictions like these are extremely variable and unpredictable – and preparing for such events with large deviation may be unreasonable. But as technology and energy storage improves, scientists agree that events like these should reduce in the future.

Image link: https://www.dallasnews.com/business/2021/02/18/this-years-winter-storm-could-become-the-costliest-weather-event-in-texas-history/

New Study Shows That Air Pollution is Linked to Risk of Sight Loss

by Arun

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of College London found that an increase in air pollution can be linked to a risk of irreversible sight loss. They found that air pollution exposure, even at low levels, impacts age-related macular degeneration, which causes sight to naturally deteriorate over time.

What is AMD?

AMD is one of the leading causes of blindness and is linked to the loss of central vision, necessary for common tasks like facial recognition and reading. AMD is most commonly associated with aging and most experience some form of AMD in their later stages of life. However, these researchers found that people living in areas of pollution had a 8% higher chance of having the condition not as a result of old age, as pollution has now been linked to worsening eyesight.

The paper, which was published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, studied data from over 115,000 people aged between 40 and 70. ‘ They used eye measurements and data from questionnaires and compared the results to the amount of pollutants in their surrounding areas.

Paul Foster, professor of glaucoma studies and ophthalmic epidemiology at UCL told CNN that “people who live in a more polluted area report macular degeneration more frequently.” He also said that this is as a result of pollutants entering the body through the lungs, which causes particular damage to the eyes because of the blood flow into the eye wall. He claims that “there’s definitely a relationship between the more disadvantaged members of society and higher risk of getting this condition.

However, there seem to be more adverse affects of air pollution besides just AMD – air pollution is also associated with more instances of conjunctivitis and nitrogen dioxide in the air can also cause severe eye irritation.

What this study reveals is a bigger picture of how air pollution – and climate change – is affecting our daily lives in so many ways that aren’t obvious. Beyond the health of our planet, climate change is affecting our lives in more ways than we see.

Image link: https://www.pexels.com/search/air%20pollution/

Snowy Owl Spotted After More Than A Century in New York Central Park – However, Climate Change Could Significantly Harm this Species

by Nakul

Being native to the Arctic Tundra, the snowy owl is an extremely rare sight to humans today. In fact, in New York City’s Central Park, the city’s largest urban park and popular destination for bird enthusiasts, the majestic creature had not been seen for a while, to say the least. In fact, the last documented appearance of this bird was over 130 years ago, when an unusually large flock was spotted in December of 1890 passing by the park en route to the East Coast of the United States. Unfortunately, the absence of high-speed cameras in the 19th century meant that the owl’s appearance would be limited to an eyewitness description. However, on Wednesday, January 27, this “owl drought” would cease, thanks to the arrival of one of these rare birds on a chilly morning, with plenty of quality photos to validate the beautiful bird’s presence.

Manhattan Bird Alert, a self-explanatory Twitter page with over 40,000 followers, tweeted about the appearance of the snowy owl, drawing significant interest from bird watchers and intrigued citizens alike. Hundreds flocked to the park – and continue to do so – in an attempt to catch a glimpse of this scarce creature. Celebrities such as Grammy-winning actor and renowned comedian Steve Martin even arrived at the symbolic park.

While the long-awaited arrival of the snowy owl in Central Park is definitely a marvelous sight, there is unfortunately more somber news that must be addressed with regards to this species. Namely that this family of owls faces a diminishing population, with evidence suggesting that climate change is playing a role in this detrimental phenomenon. In December of 2017, the The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN Red List) categorized the snowy owl as “vulnerable” for the first time, citing population decrease from 300,000 in 2013 to as low as 28,000 today. As the Arctic ice continues to thin, the snowy owl’s prey (small creatures like mice, rabbits, etc.) suffer, and as a result, the snowy owl suffers – this domino effect in a food chain is known as ecological collapse. Pulitzer-prize winning naturalist Scott Weidensaul supports the idea that climate change is at the forefront of the owls’ demise. He explained, “”Many of us who work with snowy owls would argue that they are one of the three or four species at most immediate and direct threat from climate change”.

Ultimately, if we want to continue flocking to parks and other public spaces to cherish nature’s creatures, we must take proper action to ensure that our actions do not continue to harm and destroy ecosystems regularly.

Image credits: https://wallpaperaccess.com/snowy-owl

Elon Musk Pledges $100 Million Prize to Encourage Environmental Innovation

by Nakul

As a supporter of eco-friendly technology, tech tycoon Elon Musk released an announcement on his Twitter page today to stimulate environmental innovation in society. The Tesla CEO tweeted, “Am donating $100M towards a prize for best carbon capture technology,” followed by “Details next week”.  

This isn’t the first time that Musk has publicly announced his support for efforts to combat climate change. A quick web search will lead you to a plethora of speeches and statements that he has made in regards to the environmental crisis. For instance, in 2013, he explained, “We’re running the most dangerous experiment in history right now, which is to see how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere can handle before there is an environmental catastrophe.” His actions are in accordance with his words: as the CEO of the world’s largest electric-powered vehicle company, he leads Tesla in continuing to produce green automobiles with minimal CO2 emissions.

Now, back to the main subject. What exactly is carbon capture, and why is Musk pledging such a colossal fortune to support it? 

To boil it down, carbon capture is the process of passively collecting CO2 from the atmosphere and either sequestering it securely or utilizing it to produce useful resources, such as various plastic products. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) originally first appeared in the 1970s; today, scientists and entrepreneurs continue to refine and develop relevant technology in hopes of making significant impacts in this niche sector. There also has been increasing support for this process, with over a 316% increase in carbon capture projects since just 2012. As CEO of the Global CCS Institute Brad Page said in mid-2019, “There are now 51 CCS facilities globally – 19 in operation, four under construction, and 28 in various stages of development with an estimated combined capture capacity of 96 million tonnes of CO2 per annum.” 

It is evident that there is increasing encouragement and (naturally gradual) success in the creation of effective carbon capture technology. Musk’s announcement highlights yet another example of such support for this unique process. Such massive support from a world-renowned businessman is valuable for the environmental industry and the environment itself. Hopefully, Musk’s incentive will steer more entrepreneurs and scientists to focus on eco-friendly technology and accelerate the developments and breakthroughs in carbon capture technology.

MIT Engineers Create Concept Hybrid-Electric Plane to Address Aviation Pollution

by Arun

According to MIT news, engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have recently come up with “a concept for airplane propulsion that they estimate would eliminate 95 percent of aviation’s NOx emissions, and thereby reduce the number of associated early deaths by 92 percent.”

The aviation industry has had a strong history of pollution, with the rise only slated to continue. Scientists estimate that aviation, left unchecked,  will generate approximately 43 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2050. Furthermore, according to WorldWildLife, if air pollution was a nation, it would be one of the top 10 carbon-pollution nations on the planet. With the world shifting to renewable and alternative forms of energy in other methods of transportation such as automobiles, scooters, and even trains, it was inevitable a shift would soon come to the ever-growing aviation industry. 

So what have the researchers come up with?

The researchers have developed a unique hybrid-electric design where a plane’s conventional gas turbine would be integrated within the plane’s cargo hold. This would allow it so that “rather than directly powering propellers or fans, the gas turbine would drive a generator also in the hold, to produce electricity, which would then electrically power the plane’s wing-mounted, electrically driven propellers or fans.” As a result, the gas-produced emissions would clean the exhaust before ejecting it into the atmosphere. In this regard, the plane would be able to be more fuel efficient and be more eco-friendly.

Steven Barrett, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT cautions that “this would still be a tremendous engineering challenge,” yet still is very optimistic about the viability of the project. Assuming the system will be widely accepted, the engineers estimate that about 92 percent of pollution-related aviation deaths would be effectively eliminated.

As technology advances and renewable energy becomes more widespread, economized, and accepted, the future looks bright as industries start shifting towards greener alternatives, with the possibilities growing endlessly.

Image link: https://www.popularmechanics.com/flight/news/a28540/boeing-backed-electric-plane-fly-2020s/

Jeff Bezos Made the Largest Charitable Donation of 2020, All Towards Climate Change

by Arun

Jeff Bezos is largely known as the leader of Amazon who revolutionized the way we go about shopping and for spurning the wave of e-commerce. Yet little know that Bezos also leads several philanthropic efforts, one being his startup Blue Origin, dedicated to “making access to space cheaper and more reliable through reusable launch vehicles.” Most recently, Bezos revealed perhaps his most ambitious initiative, claiming the title as one of the largest contributors towards funding the fight against the climate crisis. He has led a $10 billion dollar climate fund to which he will distribute to 16 organizations. The significance of this investment is that the $10 billion Bezos is committing is 10 times as much combined as all philanthropic foundations dedicated towards efforts to combat climate change in 2018.

So far, Bezos has paid out $790 million to 16 different groups, with the number growing as Bezos continues to seek organizations to support monetarily.

On the heels of Elon Musk now becoming the richest man in the world, a trend of technological companies and leaders shifting towards fighting climate change has a strong showing. Venture Capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya supported this idea, stating in October 2019 that “the world’s first trillionaire will be made in climate change.” More recently, Palihapitiya supplemented his comment in congratulations of Musk, stating that “the world’s richest person should be somebody who’s fighting climate change.” Other tech billionaires have joined the effort, including Bill Gates, who has recently unveiled a plan revealing how US Leadership could effectively fight climate, noted in a plan that involves a $25 billion boost in spending, creating over 370,000 new jobs in the process as well.

With more joining in the fight against climate change – from current to former technology CEOS and influential members in the financial community – the future of support looks strong as many seek to fight out any way in which they can contribute. 

Image link: https://wallpapercave.com/jeff-bezos-wallpapers

Online Shopping: Bad for the Environment?

by Arun

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping as a means to buy goods has been on the rise. E-commerce sales have exploded as a result, with companies like Amazon, JD.com, Alibaba, Etsy, Shopify, and related companies reaping the benefit of the “modern” consumer spending means and habits.

This peaks on November 11th each year, as China, the world’s biggest consumer market, has the black friday equivalent overseas, called “Singles’ Day.” E-commerce giants have experienced huge sales on that day, with over $76 billion dollars in total sales with over 583,000 sales made in one single second (aljazeera.com). Yet, a consideration that is almost never thought of is the carbon footprint that comes as a result of online shopping. Online shopping has received praise over the years as being green, eco-friendly, and convenient, though recent findings may prove otherwise.

As a result of all the order, 675 million packages had to be delivered, with over 9.4 million tons of packaging, with that number expected to increase to about 41 million tons by the year 2025. A study by Greenpeace estimates that on Singles’ day, the resulting purchases generated about 52,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping in 2017. To put that into perspective with the trend of online shopping, this figure is expected to 5x by the year 2025. This brings about the concern that online shopping perhaps makes it too easy to buy products at the click of a few buttons.

China’s President Xi Jinping has recognized this issue and has been pushing these larger corporations to support more environmentally-friendly options. Some larger corporations have tried to adapt to new regulations by implementing zipper boxes and sorts of tape, though it is harder for smaller businesses as these adaptations are often more expensive than simple, common packaging.

As online shopping and package-use will inevitably increase in the future, it brings about the need for stricter regulations and more societal support for these issues. With the impact of consumer spending and the related carbon footprint set to increase over the next decade, it warrants immediate action from all ends of society to make a difference.

Image Link: https://www.monsterinsights.com/50-breathtaking-online-shopping-statistics-you-never-knew/

Over 50 Countries Commit to Protection of 30% of Land and Ocean on Earth

by Arun

This past week, over 50 countries committed to a project to protect over 30% of the land and ocean on the plan by the year 2020 in an effort to slow down the effects of the climate crisis.

The organization behind this pact, The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, agreed to the terms shortly before the One Planet summit in Paris on Monday.

According to The Guardian, “the HAC said protecting at least 30% of the planet for nature by the end of the decade was crucial to preventing mass extinctions of plants and animals, and ensuring the natural production of clean air and water.” Additionally, there are hopes that other countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Pakistan, Japan, and Canada would also join the agreement to set stage for a larger world movement.

Over the course of the One Planet summit, several countries additionally committed to investing billions of government funding into environmental projects such as the Great Green Wall in Africa. Independently, the UK government has also committed over $3 billion USD to support nature and biodiversity over the next five years.

In fact, biodiversity was a hot topic at the conference. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “we are destroying the species and habitat at an absolutely unconscionable rate. Of all the mammals in the world, I think I am right in saying that 96% of mammals are now human beings or livestock that human beings rely upon.” Johnson points out how humans have reduced biodiversity and as an established “dominant species” are disproportionately affecting the natural cycles of wildlife and diversity.

The steps taken at the summit may have been large, but they stand for far more than that. The future looks bright as politicians get behind efforts to mitigate the climate crisis and unite towards creating change that will last generations and create a cleaner world for humans and wildlife alike.

Image Link: https://www.oneplanetsummit.fr/en