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Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change

Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change

Posted By Scientific Foresight (STOA) is this article asking “What If We Could Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change?” It is a Science And Technology Podcast as well.

The picture above is for illustration ans of The New Yorker.

What If We Could Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change?

Written by Lieve Van Woensel

Engineer The Planet To Help Fight Climate Change
©phonlamaiphoto AdobeStock

Efforts to curb carbon emissions are falling short. As climate change impacts become all too clear, geoengineering is again in the spotlight. Some see it as a last-resort option to fight climate change. Detractors highlight the risks and uncertainties. Will governments end up ‘tinkering with Earth’s thermostat’?

In the summer of 2018, a succession of heatwaves struck the EU. Record-breaking temperatures were reported, and wildfires ravaged the continent. Sweden suffered the worst forest fires in modern history. In Greece, blazes swept through Attica and left 102 dead. For many citizens, wildfires threw the reality of climate change into sharp relief.

Under the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries pledged to keep global warming well below 2°C. But progress in curbing carbon emissions is not on track. If the current trend is not reversed, extreme weather events like the 2018 heatwave will become more and more frequent.

Large-scale tree planting and direct air capture (DAC) are being considered to boost these efforts. While these are steps in the right direction – and could end up playing a significant role in tackling climate change – DAC is currently very costly and energy intensive, and planting trees can only help so much.

Geoengineering refers to large-scale interventions in the global climate system, intended to counteract climate change. In 2008, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity called for a moratorium on geoengineering ‘until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities’. Only a decade later, scientists and policy-makers are again looking for last-ditch solutions to buy some extra time. Geoengineering is again in the spotlight.

Potential impacts and developments

Geoengineering includes a number of techniques of varying complexity, risk, and cost. In policy-making, the debate revolves almost entirely around ‘solar geoengineering‘. This describes a set of methods aimed at cooling the planet by reflecting a portion of solar energy back into space, or increasing the amount of solar radiation that escapes the Earth.

Cirrus clouds are known to have a warming effect on Earth. Seeding the atmosphere with innocuous Sahara dust would prevent the formation of cirrus clouds, and reduce global temperatures. Stratospheric aerosol injection entails creating an artificial sunshade by injecting reflective particles in the stratosphere. Its working principle is based in nature. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 pumped around 15 million tons of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere; in the two years that followed, global temperatures decreased by about 1°C.

Solar geoengineering would be inexpensive, and scientists agree on its potential. Without actions to reduce emissions, the concentration of CO2 is likely to be double pre-industrial levels by 2060. In theory, getting rid of all cirrus clouds would balance the doubling of CO2; so would using stratospheric particle injection to reflect 2 % of the incoming solar radiation.

But there is no simple solution. For a start, solar geoengineering does not target the root of the problem; it only mitigates its effects. Solar geoengineering has never been tried before. If done incorrectly, it could cause even more global warming; and there could be other unintended consequences. The real challenge, however, may not be technological but rather one of governance. Climate politics is slow and complex; agreeing on using untested technology on a planetary scale could prove impossible. Who decides to use solar geoengineering? Who benefits from it? Who is affected?

Solar geoengineering is a geopolitical issue. The atmosphere has no borders, and the actions of some countries could affect the climate of others. To make matters worse, the science is not always conclusive. Some climate models suggest that almost every region in the world would benefit from solar geoengineering. Other scientists claim that since heat-trapping gases would still operate, temperatures would be more evenly distributed. This would reduce precipitation. Such a geoengineered world would be cooler, but also drier.

Many stakeholders see a moral hazard in solar geoengineering. All efforts are now focused on reducing emissions. With new tools in their climatic toolbox, governments could become complacent. Scientists insist that geoengineering is a supplement and not a substitute for mitigation. For example, solar geoengineering will not solve ocean acidification, and its impact on the water cycle is uncertain. Eventually, part or all the carbon released into the atmosphere will need to be recaptured, regardless of whether geoengineering is used or not.

To some citizens, meddling with the climate may sound like playing god. But across the world, about 40 % of the population live within 100 kilometres of the coast. Rising sea levels will threaten these coastal communities. Many regions will see more intense and frequent summer droughtsextreme weather events, and heavy rainfall. This could strain the fragile agricultural systems in the global South, sparking an exodus of climate refugees. As the consequences of climate change accumulate, the public’s opinion on solar geoengineering could shift rapidly.

Perceptions could be as important as the science. In 1962, the US started a programme to weaken hurricanes through seeding. In 1963, Hurricane Flora caused thousands of deaths in Cuba. The Cuban government accused the US of waging weather warfare. Similarly, any country suffering from extreme weather could blame geoengineers. In addition, geoengineering would be deployed progressively. Its effects would be initially difficult to decouple from natural fluctuations and climate change. Detractors would be quick to discard it as a failed idea.

There is a bigger problem, however. Once started, solar geoengineering cannot be stopped. Assuming that carbon emissions continued, the artificial sunshade would mask increasing amounts of extra warming. If geoengineering ceased abruptly – due to sabotage, technical, or political reasons – temperatures would shoot up rapidly. This termination shock would be catastrophic for humans and ecosystems.

Anticipatory policy-making

Solar geoengineering should only be considered as a last-resort solution. There is ample consensus that cutting emissions is the safestmost economical route to tackling climate change. The world needs a climate champion to accelerate these efforts, and the EU could lead the way.

Ultimately, the debate surrounding solar geoengineering could come down to balancing the risks and benefits. Solar geoengineering is not without risks. However, failing to mitigate climate change will also bring major new risks, disrupt ecosystems across the world, and hit the most vulnerable regions particularly hard.

Ironically, one reason that solar geoengineering may become necessary is the slow pace of international climate negotiations. Yet discussions on geoengineering are following the same path. Should solar geoengineering become necessary, governments need to be ready. The EU could help advance preparedness in this area; for example, by throwing its diplomatic weight behind multilateral initiatives moving in this direction.

The EU and its partners could promote an international governance framework for solar geoengineering. However, all parties must be on board. There are real risks that some of the countries worst affected by climate change could act unilaterally. Even if well-intentioned, this could create geopolitical tension. An international regulation system would ensure that no country ‘goes rogue’, and that geoengineering is not done for some at the expense of others.

The EU could also support research on solar geoengineering. Studies and trials may have been hampered by fears of promoting a quick ‘technofix’. But if geoengineering became necessary to avert disaster, its full effects must be known. Current techniques are criticised for posing a risk to biodiversity, precipitation patterns, and the ozone layer. A better understanding of these problems is the first step towards tackling them. Research could also help governance. For example, counter-geoengineering tools could serve as a deterrent against unilateral action.


Read this ‘at a glance’ on ‘What if we could engineer the planet to help fight climate change?‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Listen to Science and Technology podcast ‘What if we could engineer the planet to help fight climate change?’ on YouTube.


Little Knowledge of Energy Transition

Little Knowledge of Energy Transition

Posted on  by elizabethperry493 is this essay on a Survey of oil and gas workers shows little knowledge of energy transition. Here it is.

The picture above that is for illustrative purpose is of The impact of the global energy transition on MENA oil and gas producers written by Jade on 08/09/2019.

A report commissioned by international union coalition Industrial examines the geopolitics of fossil fuel producing countries (mainly, the United States, China, Europe and Russia) and the investments and performance of the Oil Majors (Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Total, as well as nationally-owned PetroChina, Gazprom and Equinor).  Energy transition, national strategies, and oil companies: what are the impacts for workers? was published in November 2020, with the research updated to reflect the impacts of Covid-19. 

In addition to a thorough examination of state and corporate actions, the report asked union representatives from four oil companies about how workers understand the energy transformation and its impact on their own jobs, and whether the concept of Just Transition has become part of their union’s agenda.     

Some highlights of the responses:

  • “the union members interviewed showed little knowledge about either the risks that the current transition process can generate for the industrial employee, or about the union discussion that seeks to equate the concern with the decarbonisation of the economy with the notions of equity and social justice. In some cases, even the term “Just Transition” was not known to respondents.”
  • Their lack of knowledge regarding the Just Transition can be justified by the fact that they do not believe that there will be any significant change in the energy mix of these companies.
  • Regarding information about energy transitions within the companies, “Managers are included, but the bottom of the work chain is not”
  • Lacking corporate policies or support, some  employees feel compelled to take responsibility for their own re-training

Echoing results of a similar survey of North Sea oil workers in the summer of 2020, published in Offshore: Oil and gas workers’ views on industry conditions and the energy transition, one European respondent is quoted saying: “In the end, everyone is looking for job security, good wages and healthy conditions. It doesn’t matter so much if the job is in another area, as long as it is in good working conditions”.

The researchers conclude that: “Far from being just a statement of how disconnected workers are from environmental issues, these researches reveal a window of opportunity for union movements to act in a better communication strategy with their union members, drawing their attention to the climate issue and transforming their hopes for job stability and better working conditions into an ecologically sustainable political agenda.”

The report was commissioned by Industrial and conducted by the Institute of Strategic Studies of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (Ineep), a research organization created by Brazil’s United Federation of Oil and Gas Workers (FUP). 

Address water scarcity ‘immediately and boldly’

Address water scarcity ‘immediately and boldly’

SDGs of the United Nations – Address water scarcity ‘immediately and boldly’, urges UN agriculture agency chief. Water scarcity not reserved to the MENA region only, the UN addresses in the current circumstances the whole world, i.e. all areas in all continents with a desperate call for action such as Address water scarcity ‘immediately and boldly’.

More than three billion people live in agricultural areas with high levels of water shortages and scarcity, the UN agriculture agency said in a new report launched on Wednesday. 

The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) flagship report, noted that available freshwater resources have declined globally by more than 20 per cent per person over the past two decades, underscoring the importance of producing more with less, especially in the agriculture sector – the world’s largest user of water. 

“With this report, FAO is sending a strong message: Water shortages and scarcity in agriculture must be addressed immediately and boldly if our pledge to achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] is to be taken seriously”, emphasized FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in the foreword of the report. 

Paths for action  

From investing in water-harvesting and conservation in rainfed areas to rehabilitating and modernizing sustainable irrigation systems in irrigated areas, actions must be combined with best agronomic practices, the report stressed. 

These could involve adopting drought-tolerant crop varieties and improving water management tools – including effective water pricing and allocation, such as water rights and quotas – to ensure equitable and sustainable access.  

However, effective management strategy must start with water accounting and auditing.  

Mapping the SDG target 

Achieving the internationally agreed SDG pledges, including the zero hunger, “is still achievable”, maintains the SOFA report, but only by ensuring more productive and sustainable use of freshwater and rainwater in agriculture, which accounts for more than 70 per cent of global water withdrawals. 

Against the backdrop that FAO oversees the SDG indicator that measures human activities on natural freshwater resources, the report offers the first spatially disaggregated representation of how things stand today. Meshed with historical drought frequency data, this provides a more holistic assessment of water constraints in food production.  

SOFA reveals that some 11 per cent of the world’s rainfed cropland faces frequent drought, as does about 14 per cent of pastureland. 

Meanwhile, more than 60 per cent of irrigated cropland is water-stressed and 11 countries, all in Northern Africa and Asia, need to urgently adopt sound water accounting, clear allocation, modern technologies and to shift to less thirsty crops.  

Did you know?  

  • Total water withdrawals per capita are highest in Central Asia.  
  • In least developed countries, 74 per cent of rural people do not have access to safe drinking water. 
  • While 91 countries have national rural drinking water plans, only nine have implementation funds. 
  • Around 41 per cent of global irrigation impacts the environmental flow requirements that are essential for life-supporting ecosystems. 
  • Biofuels require 70 to 400 times more water than do the fossil fuels they replace. 
  • As important sources of water vapor for downwind areas, forests such as in the Amazon, Congo and Yangtze river basins are crucial to rainfed agriculture.  

Water math 

Although “the inherent characteristics of water make it difficult to manage”, the SOFA report upholds that it “be recognized as an economic good that has a value and a price”. 

“At the same time, policy and governance support to ensure efficient, equitable and sustainable access for all is essential”. 

Noting that the rural poor can benefit substantially from irrigation, the report recommends that water management plans be “problem-focused and dynamic”. 

Despite that water markets selling water rights are relatively rare, SOFA says that when water accounting is well performed, rights well established and beneficiaries and managing institutions participating, regulated water markets can provide equitable allotments while promoting conservation. 

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Address water scarcity ‘immediately and boldly’
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Agricultural areas by production system.
Regreening the Desert

Regreening the Desert

Regreening the Desert would be the ultimate call for action from John D. Liu. Could it be addressed to the MENA region leaders, as part of seeming to be a universal appeal to try and redress the planet’s sad situation?

Can we in the meantime think of a “reforestation campaign” amid a coronavirus crisis? Yes, we can think of everything, since life carries on despite all that is going on.
It would be the height of giving up life on the pretext that we are fighting death! Isn’t the tree life?
Is there a relationship between reforestation and Covid-19? Certainly not, otherwise, it could be felt like a high contortion. But there is undoubtedly a relationship between the tree and life. It’s even excellent that one. There is oxygen, and there is wood, there is chlorophyll, there is shade, there is the fruit, there are colours and certainly other things that ordinary people cannot know.
But do we have the heart to plant plane trees, carob trees and Aleppo pines when the “atmosphere” is to the maddening figures of contamination, the disturbing ambient nonchalance and the not very reassuring news that come to us from the hospitals? Yes, you can plant trees all the time, anywhere. Anyway here is John’s .


“Deserts are advancing and water is becoming scarce. It all seems hopeless… But one man has discovered how to make deserts green and our planet healthy again.”

“It is possible to rehabilitate large scale damaged ecosystems… Why don’t we do that?”

– John D. Liu

John D. Liu filmed Hope in a Changing Climate, following the Loess-plateau in China where local people redeveloped the land from a terribly damaged area into a functioning ecosystem. This documentary follows Liu explain what he’s learned and what he thinks we should do to revitalize ecosystems.

The process looks something like this:

  • Setting aside land for natural vegetation to return
  • Exclude grazing in the first 3 years.
  • Wait for native plants to return to the land.
  • Allow the microbial communities to grow within the habitat.
  • Encourage more organic matter, more biomass and more biodiversity.

“We need to redefine and revalue our belief systems. Money is a belief system. There’s nothing wrong with money, as it turns out. The problem is – what is money based on? If money is based on functional ecosystems, then the future will be beautiful. If money continues to be based on the production and consumption of goods and services we’ll turn everything into a desert.”

.


Updated on Sunday 22 November 2020

Fossil fuel-based vehicle bans across the world

Fossil fuel-based vehicle bans across the world

Reuters’ Factbox: Fossil fuel-based vehicle bans across the world is a snapshot of what will happen in the major economies of the world by the near future. Could the same be decided upon in the MENA region countries, hence the feature picture above, that is of typical daily road congestion in Cairo. It is for illustrative purposes.



Fossil fuel-based vehicle bans across the world
Vehicles on the M56 near Daresbury, as Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030, five years earlier than previously planned, in Cheshire, Britain, November 18, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff

Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030, five years earlier than previously planned, as part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson is casting as a “green revolution” to cut emissions to net-zero by 2050.

Britain last year became the first G7 country to set in law a net-zero emission target by 2050, which will require wholesale changes in the way Britons travel, use energy and eat.

Other countries or regions that have pitched the idea of banning fossil-fuel based vehicles include:

United States:

California will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks starting in 2035, Governor Gavin Newsom said in September.

Canada:

The Canadian province of Quebec said this week it would ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars from 2035.

European Union:

EU environment ministers struck a deal on Oct 23 to make the bloc’s 2050 net zero emissions target legally binding, but left a decision on a 2030 emissions-cutting target for leaders to discuss in December.

Germany:

German cities started to introduce bans on older diesel vehicles that emit higher amounts of pollutants than from late 2018. (reut.rs/38UFw6L)

Norway:

Norway, which relies heavily on oil and gas revenues, aims to become the world’s first country to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars, setting a 2025 deadline. Fully electric vehicles now make up about 60% of monthly sales in Norway.

China:

In 2017 China begun studying when to ban the production and sale of cars using traditional fuels but did not specify when it might be introduced.

Sales of new energy vehicles (NEV) will make up 50% of overall new car sales in China, the world’s biggest auto market, by 2035, an industry official said last month.

India:

Last year, India’s central think-tank asked scooter and motorbike manufacturers to draw up a plan to switch to electric vehicles. The think-tank also recommended that only electric models of scooters and motorbikes with engine capacity of more than 150cc must be sold from 2025, sources told Reuters.

Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu and Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones

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