by Keith Peterman
Friday November 18, 2022
Greetings once again from Sharm El-Sheikh,
Headline today: UN Secretary General and COP27 President urge Parties to restore trust and deliver through much-needed agreements.
All here at COP27 recognize the existential threat of climate change. All accept the science and the need for action now – not kicking the can down the road yet another year as has been the case for 30 years since signing the global climate treaty in Rio. However, contentious negotiations continue. No one was happy with the cover draft I sent you yesterday. Parties worked through the night and released a draft text today. Some had softened positions. In particular, the EU supported Loss and Damage and brought others along. Language on fossil fuels is still weak. Those most adversely impacted by climate disruption remain furious that the text does not include “phaseout of fossil fuels”. Too much to write here, but for those of you interested in process, click this link for the latest text – still being negotiated.
Toward a better world.
Thursday, Nov. 11, 2022
For those of you who are following COP27, I will give you my on-site assessment as the COP nears conclusion. First, a statement from the UN Secretary General, “We are at crunch time in the negotiations…The Parties remain divided on a number of significant issues. There is clearly a breakdown in trust between North and South, and between developed and emerging economies.”
A draft cover text was released today Few are happy with what is included and what is missing.
Loss and Damage
In brief, “loss and damage” does not appear in the text. Those suffering the most from climate disasters have contributed the least to its causes. Vulnerable states demand financial help from the countries who became wealthy through consumption of fossil fuels – the root cause of the climate emergency.
The wealthy G-20 nations produced 81% of the greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. By contrast, all of Africa produced 4%.
Led by the G-77, the global south demands inclusion of loss and damage. G-77 was founded by 77 developing nations in 1964. It currently has 134 members. The global north is expected to pony up the funds.
Of note, China and India are both G-20 and G-77 members.
I’ve attended multiple press briefing throughout the day by stakeholders including CAN (a network of over 1300 NGOs), the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, and WWF. These stakeholders demand establishing a Loss and Damage fund at COP28.
Of course, the vulnerable nations also demand a “phase out” of all fossil fuels. The wealthy nations want to “phase down unabated coal” and “phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. From the vulnerable countries’ perspective, this gives a ticket to continue using fossil fuels. It is impossible to stay below a 1.5 deg C increase if we continue to use fossil fuels and generate greenhouse gases. We’ve already used up most of the planetary budget.
It's interesting to be here, but frustrating. I’ve participated in every COP since the 2009 COP15 in Copenhagen. We had the grand Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015. But it primarily laid out goals to be achieved – stay below +2 deg C with ambition for +1.5 deg C. However, action has not yet matched ambition.
To conclude, I maintain hope. Everyone here understands the crisis and accepts the need to act. All here recognize that we are out of time. The challenge is to arrive at global cooperation with meaningful action.
by Brady Hill
~COP27 Day 2 & 3~
Let's talk methane!
First of all, I'm no methane expert. It's been an incredible experience to learn more here at COP27 about the criticality and urgency of methane emissions, tracking technologies, and policies necessary to curb methane emissions in support of limiting overall global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Methane is key to limiting global warming; as such, it's been at the heart of many discussions here at COP27.
According to UNEP, methane is 80 times more potent (with regards to global warming ability) than carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. Methane is responsible for 0.5°C of the 1.2°C of global warming we've experienced so far since the dawn of the industrial era. Per the United Nations, curbing methane emissions is the quickest way that we can limit global warming in our lifetime, and aggressive methane emissions action is projected to enable a 0.3°C reduction in global warming by 2040. Methane is therefore a key focus for humanity in our fight to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Here are some notes regarding methane and COP27 discussions:
- Methane reduction is primarily focused on 3 sectors: oil & gas, agriculture, and waste
- Given recent advances in methane emission measurement capabilities, we have learned that we are likely underestimating total methane emissions by about 60% in the U.S.
- Many solutions to provide more accurate global methane monitoring are not yet operational; as such, the urgency of methane emissions reduction relies on utilizing currently available data to estimate methane emissions to manage and cut emissions in the near-term
- Since methane is invisible, measurements from ground, air, and space-based sensors are critical to obtain accurate knowledge of methane emissions sources to inform policies and management efforts
- The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S. is imposing the usage of empirical data to generate a realistic methane fee program
- Standardized, international methane emission reporting is crucial to address emissions globally
- Real-time methane emission monitoring, reporting, and transparency is critical such that the public can monitor the progress of countries around the world and keep them accountable
Here's a not-so-shameless plug for my company regarding methane and satellite remote-sensing...MethaneSAT (which Ball Aerospace designed and built the sensor for) was just recently named one of Time Magazines top inventions of 2022!
Here's some other timely links regarding methane and COP27:
Biden announces restrictions on methane emissions at COP27:
United Nations announces that it will launch a public database of global methane leaks detected from space:
by Brady Hill
~ COP27 Day 1 ~
Today I attended my first day at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, which was the beginning of the second and final week of the conference. Such an incredible, overwhelming, and humbling feeling to be surrounded by world leaders, scientists, industry experts, academics, and other organizations focused on the issues surrounding climate change.
Some quick thoughts, highlights, and lessons learned from some of the panels I attended today:
- The African Multi-Hazard Advisory Centre was recently inaugurated, which provides early warning systems at the local level for climate-related disasters, trends, and impacts
- The non-profit Climate Central just launched their "Climate Shift Index Tool", aimed at enabling the general public to visualize the measurable influence that climate change has on current global climate conditions: csi.climatecentral.org
- Novel methods for estimating natural carbon sequestration capabilities of African forests from space are central to Africa leading the global charge in ecological restoration
- Considerations and challenges associated with utilizing water for energy supply are just as critical as those associated with utilizing energy for water supply
- Antarctic ice sheet melting can be more attributed to warmer waters flowing underneath the ice sheets than from warmer air in the atmosphere
- Since 2010, satellites have been critical to estimate the population of Emperor Penguins and number of colonies through imagery of feces left at the colonies' previous locations (yes, it is visible from space!)
- My favorite quote of the day, from a minister at the African Pavilion: "We already possess the technology necessary to address climate change. We are not here at COP27 to develop the wheel – we are here to drive the wheel. Now is the time for action.”
By: Emma Kocik
The bells charm from my alarm and I quickly turn it off. I wish for a few more hours of sleep but my excitement for the day gets me out of bed. I eat a quick breakfast of yogurt and fruit from the local grocery store and proceed to get dressed and ready for the day. My fellow students and I head out for the day, hopping on the shuttle bus that takes us to COP.
We all arrive at the venue, go through security, scan our badges, and set out on our days. I split from the group to attend a talk at the Cryosphere Pavilion about the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a topic quite relevant to my research topic on the COP coverage of science and policy in the cryosphere. After the talk finishes, I decide to wander around the pavilions, essentially enlarged booths ran by either specific nations or interest groups. I stopped inside the Indigenous People’s Pavilion, where a group of South American indigenous women were speaking about climate justice in their communities. I decided to opt out of the translator and utilize my rudimentary Spanish skills, which was a great decision because the talk became more emotional hearing the passion in their voices. During the talk, it just so happened that I looked to my right and saw U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry walk by, which was an exciting surprise.
The COP tires you out, and after a few hours I was ready for a break. I relaxed for a bit at the U.S. Pavilion, eating my snacks and chatting with those around me. The next event there happened to be a NASA Hyperwall Presentation, so I decided to stick around as I had heard good things. I got to see beautiful satellite images on a large screen and the visuals were interpreted by a scientist presenting. I was lucky to be sitting up front, so I was provided a free NASA book on nighttime satellite imagery. Next, I headed over to one of the main presentation rooms, where I met up with the rest of the ACS crew to watch the Gap Report, which essentially summarizes the successes and failures of the parties in achieving their 2030 climate goals. While it was tough hearing the shortcomings of the year, it was motivating to see U.S. emissions dropping in particular.
Part of the group and I decided to head over to the Green Zone for the afternoon. The Green Zone is the area of the COP open to the public and is filled with art to browse and many booths from industry, academia, and other sectors. We spent some time engaging with the booths as well as buying local artwork from some artisans. After, we walked through the Biosphere exhibit, which contained dark rooms filled with protections representing different biological systems on Earth. Finally, we grabbed a bite and headed out on the buses after a long day.
We arrive at our AirBnB. For the next couple of hours, we hung out and worked on updating various channels of social media. I am taking over the Instagram of my undergraduate college, Chapman University’s Schmid College of Science & Technology, this week, so I edited some photos of the day to publish. Finally, I planned out my schedule for the following day, and exhaustedly climbed in bed.
by Anna Lisa
My goal for COP27 is specifically to study the effects on Indigenous communities of mining different battery materials, the findings of which I will present at the American Chemical Society conference in the Spring. That being said, there’s no reason not to explore some unique events while I’m attending this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On November 14, I visited the Korean Pavilion to attend a talk on the unique role of K-Pop (Korean popular music) in climate action. Watching this panel of young women present on the problems and potential associated with the cultural phenomenon, I saw the future of climate conversations. While K-Pop is distinct, it presents the same modern elements that are emerging in several industries.
For one, there is a sharp conflict between the labels’ promotion of mass consumerism and youth’s demands for climate action. The companies promoting K-Pop artists encourage mass consumerism by releasing special edition albums, ranking artists by album sales, encouraging physical album sales through raffles, etc. The music streaming time spent by K-Pop fans is about twice as long as that spent by the average user. At the same time, this generation regards climate change as a top priority, and, as one panelist pointed out, they don’t want to feel guilty listening to the music they love.
Generation Z and Millennials hold high standards of moral accountability to the companies they patronize. Whether it’s the record label that signs their idols, the streaming platform through which they play their music, or some other business in the music industry, many young consumers demand that the money they spend doesn’t contradict the issues they care about. As one panelist said, the K-Pop fandoms are “not a follower, but an active partner” with the companies that they patronize.
Finally, greenwashing. For example, although the K-Pop group Dreamcatcher and others sing to the existential fears of their young fanbase, they do not follow this up with strong action in their merchandising. Most K-Pop albums are often physical and packaged in non-recyclable plastic. By giving customers the facade of action, companies are able to dodge accountability. Interestingly, often within the K-Pop industry, the intentions of the singers and those of their record labels are entirely different. Many K-pop idols express genuine concern for climate catastrophe, typically spurring action from their respective fandoms, while their signing labels keep the interest of profits first and foremost.
While K-Pop is distinct, it presents the same modern elements that are emerging in several industries, like the conflict of mass consumerism and climate concerns, high ethical accountability of labels to consumers, and greenwashing. In discussing climate solutions in the K-Pop industry, the panelists were envisioning the future.
By: Spencer Smith
Recently among other controversial Supreme Court decisions, the West Virginia vs EPA case set a new precedent for the future of the EPA’s role in climate change mitigation. On June 30th, the Supreme Court voted in a 6-3 majority to limit the level of authority of the EPA to regulate under a specific provision of the Clean Air Act. This specific provision is in regard to emissions caps from the power sector. Now due to this decision, the EPA must look to Congress for approval and specific documentation to set out specific caps. There is a lot to unpack regarding this decision so it would be advantageous to discuss a bit of background on the Supreme Court and the EPA.
Massachusetts v. EPA
The first climate-centered case that brought the EPA to the Supreme Court was Massachusetts v. EPA. This case, which was decided in April of 2007, found in a 5-4 decision that the EPA is given authority to regulate several greenhouse gases as per the Clean Air Act. The specific concern of the EPA and the final decision was the regulation of tailpipe emissions from various automobiles. It is important to note that the Clean Air Act defines an air pollutant as “any pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive (including source material, special nuclear material, and byproduct material) substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters ambient air,” (Clean Air Act 42 W.S.C § 7602(g)). After this case, the EPA found that six greenhouse gases “in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare,” (Massachusetts v EPA). In response to this, three states, Alabama, Texas, and Virginia appeal this decision in 2010. After making it through court again, the U.S. Court of Appeals sided with the EPA upholding the findings that greenhouse gases endanger human health and are likely the culprit behind global warming. This opinion on the dangers of greenhouse gases on human health would stand until 2015.
Michigan v. EPA
The second major court case centered on climate and the EPA was Michigan v. EPA. This case, which was decided in June of 2015, found that the EPA was not being considerate of cost when interpreting the words of the Clean Air Act. Changes to the Clean Air Act enacted in the 1990s directed the EPA to investigate the effects of the emission of hazardous pollutants on public health. The emissions of these pollutants were specifically checked in the power sector. The 1990 changes also stated that the EPA had the authority to regulate the power sector if “regulation is appropriate and necessary after considering the results of the study,” (Michigan v EPA 42 U.S.C. § 7412(n)(1)(A)). The opinion of the court in 2015 stated that this interpretation of the Clean Air Act had “strayed far beyond [the] bounds of reasonable interpretation” (Michigan v EPA) and would cost too much. The main body of this decision was not one of climate concerns but rather the extent of government regulations. The EPA’s greenhouse gas monitoring did not end, but its authority over regulation diminished as a result of this ruling. That remaining amount of authority would stand until the most recent ruling in West Virginia v EPA.
What The Ruling Means for ClimateWhile limitations on the EPA are never positive for climate change mitigation, this decision is extremely limited in its scope. The only aspect to which the EPA is limited in this regard is when it comes to the power sector. Greenhouse gas emissions can come from practically anywhere, so the EPA still has authority over regulations in many other cases. The key takeaway is that regulations can still be set out by the U.S. government, however, this decision puts that responsibility on Congress rather than the EPA. Additionally, this means that all future regulations must have very specific wording when addressing greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector. The main concern of this distribution of power is what it expects of the U.S. Congress. Congress has not passed any major legislation in regard to climate change since 2008. Since Biden’s inauguration, the U.S. has signed back onto the Paris Agreement, signed the Methane Pledge, and created a Carbon Neutrality Executive Order. Although there is positive work being done by the Biden Administration in favor of climate change mitigation, many lack permanency. Like the back and forth the EPA has seen since the Clean Air Act’s creation, the future of authority over greenhouse gas emissions is uncertain. Without stability, it is unlikely that there will be much work done in the actual mitigation of greenhouse gases.
“42 U.S. Code § 7602 - Definitions.” Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/7602#g.
“Findlaw's United States DC Circuit Case and Opinions.” Findlaw, https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-dc-circuit/1604469.html.
by: Celina Harris
“Leave it better than you found it”
That was the phrase my parents constantly repeated during my adolescence.
Staying at a friend’s house? Leave it better than you found it. Going on a hike? Leave it better than you found it. Visiting the beach? Leave it better than you found it. House sitting for family friends? Well, you get the gist. The theme was always the same. Don’t make a mess. Clean up after yourself, and then go a bit beyond that. Be courteous of shared spaces and always strive to leave them better than they were when you first got there.
As I got older, this philosophy started to stretch more into my day-to-day life. Sharing an apartment with a roommate? Leave it better than you found it. Working in a lab space with my peers? Leave it better than you found it. Existing on our planet?
Truthfully, that last one is the biggest and a bit more abstract than the others. But it is also one that I think about a lot and struggle with the most. I love the idea of leaving the Earth in a better shape for future generations. I know I’m not alone in that; the idea of leaving behind a legacy for the future to enjoy is a big motivator for a lot of people in cultivating parks and green spaces and you can tell when you see dedicated benches or bricks to people who helped found those spaces. But it’s not just green spaces that I want to leave better than I found it. What if I want to leave the whole planet better than I found it?
That question, and the motivation it implies, is the concept behind a carbon footprint. If you’re unfamiliar, a carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide or methane, which our individual actions generate. Ideally, we’d want this footprint to be as small as possible. This would indicate that we’re leaving a minimal impact on the environment around us. In a way, you can think of it as the metric for how well you’re leaving the planet. Can you leave it better than you found it though? Not really, because on an individual level, all of our activities have some form of emission.
Let me explain with an example like: “Where will I shop for clothes?”. I prefer not to buy new clothes – I grew up in hand-me-downs from older cousins and siblings so secondhand clothing is always my go-to. It’s cheaper, which is nice for a student budget, and it tends to already have that “worn-in” comfort. Plus, I don’t mind pulling out my sewing kit from time to time to fix up a seam or patch a worn knee. While I’m not generating any emission from buying new clothes, there was still some emission from the initial production and it’s now spread over multiple people’s footprints in smaller amounts. Additionally, depending on what kind of fabric I’m wearing, there will be some emissions as it gets worn down and releases fibers, synthetic plastic based or otherwise, into the environment.
Now say I do need to shop, when I do, I try to find affordable companies that are transparent about their material sourcing and manufacturing processes: are the fabric sources sustainable or recycled? Are employees paid fair wages to produce the garments? Are the supply chains carbon conscious? Finding answers to those questions from most retailers is not easy. Add in the need to find them from affordable retailers, because I am on a graduate student budget, and it can become next to impossible. How do I know what my carbon footprint looks like when if I need to buy a new pair of jeans for work? And while this may seem like a trivial question, fashion as an industry makes up 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater, which means it’s up there with flying in terms of things that make a large negative environmental impact. Suddenly my desire to buy those jeans becomes contrary to my desire to minimize my environmental impact.
As a consumer, it can feel like a Sisyphean task to try and care about your carbon footprint. Knowing that you can’t break even is one thing, but it’s also hard to just find the necessary information to know if you’re even being minimal. It becomes overwhelming. As students, how are we supposed to have time for our degrees if we also need to make time to research the companies where we want to shop? And this example is just for clothing. Add in other retailers like restaurants, grocery stores, bookstore, pet food stores, cosmetics, prescriptions and I’m sure you can understand how it can spiral. Suddenly, it goes from wanting to help the Earth to struggling with misplaced consumer guilt. This, coupled with the fact that most of the global emissions are coming from corporations and not individuals has lead to a decent bit of push back against the idea of a carbon footprint all together.
So what do we do? In short, the simplest answer is try our best. I may not be able to always source my jeans from the best retailer with my budget constrictions or time restraints, but I can make small efforts like minimizing meat consumption and using public transportation. These things are nontrivial for having a positive overall impact on the environment. At the end of the day, we as individuals can’t realistically achieve a net-zero carbon footprint, but we can do our best. Backing our attitudes to do our best when shopping is necessary to help companies cut their emissions too. Leaving the world better than we found it, can never be a one person task even though our individual efforts do make an impact. It’s ultimately more of an “everybody do your share” approach.
Luckily, a lot of countries want to do their share. A lot of countries are pledging to go net-zero on their carbon emissions by 2050. Coupling our desires to lower emissions at home with consumer action and pushes to policymakers at the local, national, and international levels are really what’s needed to see a massive improvement in climate change predictions over the next couple years. While 2050 may seem like a very near deadline, it may be too late by more recent predictions of overall climate warming.
Leaving things better than we found them can’t wait until the ends of our lifetimes. The Earth isn’t a party that we have to clean up before we leave. It’s everyday effort to minimize our impact and regular efforts to push companies and policymakers to make the larger strides that we as individuals can’t make. At the end of the day, it’s not an either/or choice, but a both. Leave it better than you found it isn’t a one person job, it’s a community effort and we’re all part of that community.
Zero-Carbon on the High Seas: The International Shipping Debate at COP26 Will Be Worth Close Attention
By Amar Bhardwaj
When world governments meet in Glasgow this November for the United Nations’ COP26, a lengthy lineup of agenda items will be on the docket. One of these items in particular has potentially far-reaching consequences but has received relatively little attention: international shipping. At COP26, nations will discuss whether the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN agency that regulates the shipping industry, has made sufficient progress in decarbonizing the sector. The decision they make could have outsized implications for shipping sector regulation and global decarbonization.
The State of Play for International Shipping and COP26
In a globalized world interconnected by international trade, shipping is a mammoth industry. Approximately 80% of all goods are carried by sea, amounting to billions of tons of cargo per year. The sheer scale of the industry has important climate effects as well—shipping alone accounts for roughly 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, the industry uses highly carbon-intensive fuels such as bunker fuels to power its ships. And finding a cleaner alternative is not as simple as switching the engine out for a battery, as in the case of electric vehicles. A transoceanic voyage requires large amounts of energy, and a battery of such a size would be too heavy for a vessel to stay afloat. The ships’ reliance on energy-dense fuels makes shipping one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize.
A further roadblock to cleaner shipping is that the industry is difficult to regulate. Given shipping’s international nature and overlapping jurisdictions between a vessel’s country of registration, owner, and crew, individual nations tend not to regulate shipping. For similar reasons, shipping was not included in the emissions targets of the Paris Agreement established at COP21. The responsibility for overseeing the decarbonization of the industry instead fell to the IMO. The IMO, however, has been heavily influenced by industry interests who have watered down the body’s climate policy to protect industry profits, as documented in a recent New York Times investigation. As a result, the IMO has passed rules that could potentially allow shipping emissions to rise in the coming decades, as opposed to the global target of net zero emissions by midcentury that is supported by the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. One strategy used by the regulator to avoid stringent emissions rules is to set targets for the carbon intensity of shipping, without limiting the total emissions of the industry. A carbon intensity target approved by the IMO in 2020 is expected to reduce shipping emissions by just 1% by 2050.
Against the backdrop of a reluctant regulator, the discussions to be had at COP26 on shipping will be particularly important for the future decarbonization of the industry. COP26 negotiators have the latitude to decide that IMO is not taking sufficient action and push the regulator to pursue certain emissions reduction policies. This debate at COP26 will revolve around a few key groups of nations. Middle-income countries that receive large revenues from the shipping industry, particularly China, Brazil, and India, argue that rash decarbonization policies could cause economic damage to the industry, and will support the IMO’s moderate approach to regulation. Nations that are more vulnerable to climate change, such as the low-lying Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands, will advocate for more urgent action, including a proposal for a carbon tax to shipping that the countries have been promoting. The European Union may similarly propose to add shipping to the EU carbon market, applying a cost to carbon emissions. Still other nations, including the US, Denmark, and Norway, agree that the IMO must raise its ambition, but will prefer to fund the research and development of zero-carbon technologies for shipping. When the countries come to the negotiating table with these various proposals at COP26, the outcome will have a major influence on a highly emitting global sector.
The Broader Impacts of Shipping Decarbonization
In fact, it’s not just shipping at play. the COP26 negotiations on the IMO may even have more widespread ramifications for the decarbonization of other sectors. Any resolution to ramp up IMO regulations—be it a carbon tax, emissions targets, or zero-carbon technologies—will likely require zero-carbon shipping fuels to decarbonize the industry. Since ships cannot easily be electrified, these zero-carbon fuels are the most viable avenue to reduce emissions. Zero-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen or ammonia, do not contain carbon and can be used in ships without CO2 emissions. In order to ensure the carbon neutrality of these fuels, they must be produced through clean chemical pathways such as water electrolysis powered by renewable energy. These clean pathways are currently costly and at an intermediate stage of technological development. If the technology is improved and becomes more cost-effective, however, zero-carbon fuels could be a linchpin of decarbonization across numerous contexts that are currently difficult to clean up. The fuels could be used for high temperature heat in heavy industry, for aviation and other transportation, as a feedstock for the chemical sector, or as energy storage in the electricity sector. If the shipping industry were to adopt zero-carbon fuels, it would create a large source of demand to incentivize technological innovation of zero-carbon fuels production and provide a robust market in which the fuels can achieve scale and bring down costs. The industry could then serve as a springboard for the newly cheap zero-carbon fuels to grow into the many other sectors where they are needed.
To understand how shipping could jumpstart a broader zero-carbon fuels market in this way, it is helpful to take a look at the analogous history of the solar photovoltaics (PV) industry. By 1960, the silicon solar cell existed more or less in the form it does today, but it was prohibitively expensive. Though the cost was unsuitable for the wider electricity sector, solar PV found early demand in particular markets that were crucial to the technology’s rise. Niche markets such as solar-powered consumer electronics and the space industry were willing to pay a premium for the convenience and simplicity of solar power on a relatively small scale. In addition, feed-in tariffs in the U.S., Japan, Germany, and others provided a guaranteed higher purchase price for solar electricity, bolstering solar in these economies. This demand provided a starting place where the technology could enjoy economies of scale and learning-by-doing, by which manufacturing processes became more efficient and cheaper by virtue of industry growth. The cost of solar began to drop as the fledgling industry grew into its limited starting markets, until the cost was low enough for the technology to enter the broad electricity market competitively.
A shipping industry committed to using zero-carbon fuels would create an incubating starting place for the nascent fuels to grow, just as niche markets did for solar PV. The reliable demand for zero-carbon fuels from shipping would encourage zero-carbon fuels suppliers to invest in developing and improving their production processes. In turn, mechanisms such as learning-by-doing and economies of scale would help drive down the costs of producing zero-carbon fuels. This would facilitate the expansion of the zero-carbon fuels industry into the wide range of sectors where they could be useful, enabling previously intractable emissions reductions across these sectors. Considering these pivotal impacts on the shipping industry and the wider energy system, the oft-underreported discussions on international shipping at COP26 will certainly be worth following closely.
By: Spencer Smith
Travel is a sustainability topic frequently discussed. Throughout not just the U.S. but also the world, transportation is a large producer of Carbon Emissions. Cars designed to cut carbon emissions are nothing new. Toyota has had hybrids on the markets for over a decade, and BMW has been working with Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars for years. In this article, I’d like to put those other ventures aside in favor of discussing Electric Vehicles more in-depth. Electric Vehicles have become the new car fad. Companies like Tesla are making huge strides in mass adoption of passenger cars, and Ford is introducing one of the first All-Electric trucks with the F-150 Lightning. So, now that electric vehicles are more accessible to the average consumer, will they truly benefit the environment? This post will examine emissions and end-of-life issues, leaving performance to the car aficionados.
The best place to start would be the creation of the two cars. While an electric car weighs much less (which would make them more efficient) and use fewer materials than a traditional gas car, the creation of Lithium Batteries comes with a large carbon cost. The Swedish Environmental Institute found that production of a smaller battery (30 kWh) released 1-5 tonnes of and a larger battery (100 kWh) released 6-17.5 tonnes of . For reference, most cars produce 10 tonnes of to make the other components of the vehicle. This may seem high, especially when compared to Lead-Acid Batteries. For a traditional Lead Acid battery, the EPA estimates that up to 80% of the battery can be recycled. We will discuss the important issue of battery recycling in a future blog post. But the battery is only half of the story with a vehicle.
The largest benefit of an electric car is the fact that the car itself produces no emissions, as it runs off a battery. This is where an Electric Vehicle becomes more sustainable, as long as the creation of that electricity doesn’t create more carbon emissions than burning gasoline. Every year our electric grid improves. According to UCSUSA “sustained lower natural gas prices have led to a declining share of coal-fired power and a rising share of electricity generated from natural gas,” (UCSUSA 9). This means that even though most electric cars are charged via the grid, they still produce much less than traditional gas vehicles. This varies based on the state you reside in. If you want to see the viability of an electric vehicle in your state, use the US Department of Energy’s Car Emission tracker. The link to this website is linked in the footer of this post. And, if the cars are recharged from solar power on the owners’ houses, the situation improves even further.
So, what is the conclusion? Although it may be dissatisfying, our best solution out of the climate crisis is moderation. There is simply no way we can consume our way out of the climate crisis, rather we must focus on reducing our usage. If you do decide to purchase an electric vehicle, make sure to buy a car based on your needs. Most drivers have short commutes and could live with a smaller battery in their car. This would make your car even greener. If you do have a gas car, take shorter trips, or plan out your routes to travel a shorter distance. A great way to find out more about your current car is by reading its Moroni sticker.
By reading this post you are helping yourself be more informed, keep it up! There is much more to the conversation of electric vehicles, and I would encourage you to continue learning. Everyone can help the planet, Sustainability is Universal!
Department of Energy Link: Alternative Fuels Data Center: Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles (energy.gov)
By: Yasmin Ajirniar
At COP21, 196 parties signed the Paris Agreement. Considering it is the first legally binding act against climate change, the international treaty is monumental. It sets a goal: keep global warming temperature change below 2 degrees Celsius. In order to do so, countries must commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Individual plans to cut back GHGs are called nationally determined contributions (NDCs). However, collaboration is encouraged to help countries meet their goals.
This is where carbon accounting, a process to quantify carbon dioxide equivalents of emissions, plays a role. The effectiveness of climate action relies on effective carbon accounting measures, especially to avoid double counting (when two countries report the same emissions reductions). Understanding these acronym helps understand how the numbers are crunched and how they stack up:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate (IPCC) is a United Nations body. Although it doesn't perform its own research, it complies and revises reports (e.g. Special Reports, Method Reports). Based on these reports, it objectively determines the current state of climate change. For its most recent report, check out its sixth assessment, AR6.
Internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) are a form of trading that is allowed under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. Since cooperation between nation states is allowed, it is important to avoid double-counting emissions reductions.
The global warming potential (GWP) is a metric to calculate emission. It does so by using the amount of heat absorbed by greenhouse gases to quantify emissions. While gases each absorb heat differently and have different atmospheric lifetimes, the effects of different gas on global warming can be compared using the GWP. For these calculations, carbon dioxide is a reference with a value of one; other values are then calculated (and tabulated in the EPA’s Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks).
Since its adoption in 1997, modifications have afforded more accurate standards (e.g. GWP* and GTP). Although similar, the differences between carbon accounting methods demonstrates the importance of data science. Combatting the climate crisis demands collaboration between policy makers, scientists, and researchers.