Improved buildings could make a big dent in climate change

The construction and operation of buildings accounts for approximately 40 percent of all U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. The most-used building material in the world, concrete, is used to construct many of the nation’s homes and office buildings — but a new MIT report says a variety of measures could drastically reduce, and ultimately even eliminate, the carbon footprint of most new concrete buildings, as well as some older ones.

Writing in the journal Annals of Botany, Professor Douglas Kell argues that developing crops that produce roots more deeply in the ground could harvest more carbon from the air, and make crops more drought resistant, while dramatically reducing carbon levels.

 (Re)growing A Wood-Based Economy Could Slash Emissions | Fast Company
Cutting down forests sounds like a bad way to reduce CO2, but new information shows that—if done right—making wood our primary building material (instead of steel or concrete) would be a boon for the environment.

 (Re)growing A Wood-Based Economy Could Slash Emissions | Fast Company

Cutting down forests sounds like a bad way to reduce CO2, but new information shows that—if done right—making wood our primary building material (instead of steel or concrete) would be a boon for the environment.

How Lasers Can Help Save the World’s Forests | Fast Company
The destruction of forests ranks as the second leading cause of climate  change – after the burning of fossil fuels — accounting for up to 20  percent of global carbon pollution.  Recognizing this connection last  December in Cancun, the countries of the world established the ground  rules for a mechanism known as REDD — reducing emissions from  deforestation and forest degradation.REDD works by recognizing  and quantifying one of the great values of standing forests: removing  and storing harmful carbon pollution.  If a country can show that it has  reduced its level of deforestation (and the related carbon pollution),  then it will receive payments.  These payments could come from other  governments or from corporations looking to reach climate goals.  Great  idea, but only if you can accurately draw up a balance sheet of  carbon-in, carbon-out.  No one in their right mind would put money into a  market with a broken ticker. Until recently, measuring carbon has been  too complicated, too costly and altogether inaccurate. An unlikely solution: lasers being shot from planes at 200,000 photons per second.  In a nutshell, that’s LiDAR—Light Detection and Ranging.  It’s  not impossible to collect forest structure data by measuring trees on  the ground.  But anyone who has spent some time on the forest floor in,  say, the Peruvian Amazon, can attest to how tough that is.  It’s not the  venomous snakes, aggressive insects, and oppressive heat that are  necessarily the issue.  Try to put a tape measure around a tree whose  diameter doesn’t even come close to a circle, or one with flaring,  head-high buttresses that ward off even the most accomplished  tree-climbers.  Try and estimate height amidst throngs of choking lianas where each tree disappears into a cacophony of green several hundred  feet up in the air.  It’s not impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy,  fast or cheap.     With LiDAR, we can calibrate aerial images  with a smattering of ground plots administered by scientists.  The  results are calculated to create an algorithm that enables you to use  satellite imagery not just to count the trees, but also the carbon they  contain.  A year and a half ago, we flew with the Stanford University  Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s Greg Asner over those very  impossible-to-measure forests of the Peruvian Amazon and mapped the  structure of 11 million acres in 3 weeks.  That’s a structural analysis  of a forest down to one meter for an area the size of Switzerland—and  completed for just a few cents an acre.

How Lasers Can Help Save the World’s Forests | Fast Company

The destruction of forests ranks as the second leading cause of climate change – after the burning of fossil fuels — accounting for up to 20 percent of global carbon pollution.  Recognizing this connection last December in Cancun, the countries of the world established the ground rules for a mechanism known as REDD — reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

REDD works by recognizing and quantifying one of the great values of standing forests: removing and storing harmful carbon pollution.  If a country can show that it has reduced its level of deforestation (and the related carbon pollution), then it will receive payments.  These payments could come from other governments or from corporations looking to reach climate goals. 

Great idea, but only if you can accurately draw up a balance sheet of carbon-in, carbon-out.  No one in their right mind would put money into a market with a broken ticker. Until recently, measuring carbon has been too complicated, too costly and altogether inaccurate.

An unlikely solution: lasers being shot from planes at 200,000 photons per second.  In a nutshell, that’s LiDAR—Light Detection and Ranging. 

It’s not impossible to collect forest structure data by measuring trees on the ground.  But anyone who has spent some time on the forest floor in, say, the Peruvian Amazon, can attest to how tough that is.  It’s not the venomous snakes, aggressive insects, and oppressive heat that are necessarily the issue.  Try to put a tape measure around a tree whose diameter doesn’t even come close to a circle, or one with flaring, head-high buttresses that ward off even the most accomplished tree-climbers.  Try and estimate height amidst throngs of choking lianas where each tree disappears into a cacophony of green several hundred feet up in the air.  It’s not impossible, but it certainly isn’t easy, fast or cheap.    

With LiDAR, we can calibrate aerial images with a smattering of ground plots administered by scientists.  The results are calculated to create an algorithm that enables you to use satellite imagery not just to count the trees, but also the carbon they contain.  A year and a half ago, we flew with the Stanford University Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s Greg Asner over those very impossible-to-measure forests of the Peruvian Amazon and mapped the structure of 11 million acres in 3 weeks.  That’s a structural analysis of a forest down to one meter for an area the size of Switzerland—and completed for just a few cents an acre.

Sensor network to collect and crunch greenhouse gas data | CNET News
Having tracked traditional weather data for years, Earth Networks is taking on greenhouse gases.

Formerly named AWS Convergence Technologies and operators of the Weather Bug Web application, Earth Networks said today it will invest $25 million over five years to equip about 100 locations worldwide with sensors to measure the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and methane.

The company will collaborate with the Scripps Institute for Oceanography in La Jolla, California to gather and analyze the data and combine it with weather-related data. 

Read more: 

Sensor network to collect and crunch greenhouse gas data | CNET News

Having tracked traditional weather data for years, Earth Networks is taking on greenhouse gases.

Formerly named AWS Convergence Technologies and operators of the Weather Bug Web application, Earth Networks said today it will invest $25 million over five years to equip about 100 locations worldwide with sensors to measure the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and methane.

The company will collaborate with the Scripps Institute for Oceanography in La Jolla, California to gather and analyze the data and combine it with weather-related data. 

Read more: 
 Top five forest stories of 2010 | Grist
In the context of an overall bleak 2010 for the planet, forests offer a bright point for some celebration — showing this sector as the area offering perhaps the best hope for continued progress in fighting climate change. Towards that end, here are the world’s top five forest stories of the year: Global decline in deforestation, showing that REDD+ is working: By far the most important story of the year was the significant decline in deforestation, particularly in the Amazon. According to a report by the Global Carbon Budget in Nature Geoscience, emissions from land use change have declined about 39 percent, a marked contrast to the approximately one quarter increase [PDF] in fossil fuel emissions, driven largely by developing countries like China. Brazil has led the way — cutting deforestation by a whopping two-thirds in five years — by doing things like better enforcing laws against illegal logging, supporting indigenous peoples’ land rights, stopping land conversion to cattle pasture, intensifying existing cattle operations from an average of one head of cattle per hectare to three, and imposing a moratorium on deforestation for soy. They’ve been aided in this work by a generous $1 billion contribution from Norway for Brazil’s Amazon’s Fund — showing the possibility of forest conservation finance (also known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or REDD+) to achieve dramatic positive results.

 Top five forest stories of 2010 | Grist

In the context of an overall bleak 2010 for the planet, forests offer a bright point for some celebration — showing this sector as the area offering perhaps the best hope for continued progress in fighting climate change. Towards that end, here are the world’s top five forest stories of the year: Global decline in deforestation, showing that REDD+ is working: By far the most important story of the year was the significant decline in deforestation, particularly in the Amazon. According to a report by the Global Carbon Budget in Nature Geoscience, emissions from land use change have declined about 39 percent, a marked contrast to the approximately one quarter increase [PDF] in fossil fuel emissions, driven largely by developing countries like China. Brazil has led the way — cutting deforestation by a whopping two-thirds in five years — by doing things like better enforcing laws against illegal logging, supporting indigenous peoples’ land rights, stopping land conversion to cattle pasture, intensifying existing cattle operations from an average of one head of cattle per hectare to three, and imposing a moratorium on deforestation for soy. They’ve been aided in this work by a generous $1 billion contribution from Norway for Brazil’s Amazon’s Fund — showing the possibility of forest conservation finance (also known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation or REDD+) to achieve dramatic positive results.

The many lines of evidence for global warming in a single graphic

I’ve added another pic to the high-rez Climate Graphics. This one is a graphic  summary of just some of the evidence for global warming. When someone tells you global warming isn’t happening, this serves as a visual reminder that you need to consider all the evidence to understand what’s happening to our climate. Signs of warming are being found not only all over the globe but in many different systems. Ice sheets are shrinking. Tree-lines are shifting towards the poles and up mountains (eg - to cooler regions). Glaciers are retreating. Spring is coming earlier. Species are migrating to cooler regions. And so on…

(Read more on skepticalscience.com)

Is Reverse Combustion the Key Alternative Energy Source? - Smarter Technology

A new technology from researchers at Princeton is turning carbon dioxide into a viable fuel source.

These days, everyone from governments to major companies are worried about their carbon footprint and so are turning to alternative energy sources right and left to help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment.

  • What if it were possible, though, to take the carbon dioxide that’s already in the environment and turn it into a viable fuel source? Startup company Liquid Light, along with many other research projects, is making headway into creating just such an energy source.

    Princeton graduate student Emily Barton, following up on the work done in the 1990s by Lin Chao, discovered that by taking an electrochemical cell that uses the same semiconductor photovoltaic solar cells use, it’s possible to transform carbon dioxide into fuel thanks to sunlight.

Forests of genetically altered trees and other plants could sequester several billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year and so help ameliorate global warming, according to estimates published in the October issue of BioScience.

Genetically altered trees, plants could help counter global warming | Physorg.com

The study, by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, outlines a variety of strategies for augmenting the processes that plants use to sequester carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into long-lived forms of carbon, first in vegetation and ultimately in soil.

350.org
What is 350? 350 is the most important number in the world—it’s what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Three years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million. Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350. Read more about the science behind 350. 
On 10/10/10, we will celebrate climate solutions and send our  politicians a clear message: “We’re getting to work—what about you?”

350.org

What is 350? 350 is the most important number in the world—it’s what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Three years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million. Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350. Read more about the science behind 350. 

On 10/10/10, we will celebrate climate solutions and send our politicians a clear message: “We’re getting to work—what about you?”

Listening to Earth breathe through 500 towers | Physorg.com
It takes a global village to monitor and analyze trends in Earth’s “breathing” — or the exchange of carbon dioxide, water vapor and energy between vegetation on the ground and the planet’s atmosphere.

Listening to Earth breathe through 500 towers | Physorg.com

It takes a global village to monitor and analyze trends in Earth’s “breathing” — or the exchange of carbon dioxide, water vapor and energy between vegetation on the ground and the planet’s atmosphere.

wearetheearth:

crookedindifference:

Our Lopsided Energy Subsidies, Visualized

Here’s a look at the various ways in which we subsidize energy (the chart is based on this paper from the Environmental Law Institute). As you can see, the tax breaks for traditional fossil fuels, in the bottom left quadrant, are just massive. The result? The cost of coal and oil are artificially cheap, meaning we use them more, and the companies that extract and sell them reap absurd profits. Is there any neoliberal economic defense for this or is it simply an unfair product of industry lobbying?

My answer? Lobbying.

Agreed.

wearetheearth:

crookedindifference:

Our Lopsided Energy Subsidies, Visualized

Here’s a look at the various ways in which we subsidize energy (the chart is based on this paper from the Environmental Law Institute). As you can see, the tax breaks for traditional fossil fuels, in the bottom left quadrant, are just massive. The result? The cost of coal and oil are artificially cheap, meaning we use them more, and the companies that extract and sell them reap absurd profits. Is there any neoliberal economic defense for this or is it simply an unfair product of industry lobbying?

My answer? Lobbying.

Agreed.