Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
This week we look at how the environment continues to get battered and how we seem to be closing in on finger pointing when impacts are felt more dramatically, we also look at some science behind global warming, and have a look at the “Internet of Things” in its early stages.
The Guardian reports on how the City of Toledo in Ohio woke up to find no drinking water. The cause being an algae that is thriving on excessive phosphorus in the lake. The main culprits are identified as the users of phosphate fertilisers. Previously phosphate in detergents was banned for causing the same effect. Now farmers have to undergo training before they can use the fertilisers. Is this a warning bell sounding from faraway for New Zealand agriculture?
Coral Davenport writes about business and politics in a resource conflict as coal and oyster farming are on opposite sides of bringing climate change law. Tom Seyer is funding a political candidate who is pushing for a pro-climate policy while locals mourn the “buying” of local elections by outside money. Is this the drift towards climate change related litigation?
On a somewhat similar concept, Australia is planning to dam rivers in the North and use the water for irrigation. The New Scientist has an article discussing how damming rivers in the north would affect the regional water balance at the peril of downstream users and how irrigation would displace indigenous people. There are examples of failed dam irrigation projects and nothing says this may not be one more.
If local people were left alone they would manage land better than governments, says Fred Pearce. We are not sure if “leaving them alone” implies leaving them out of the main stream economy? What the paper doesn’t say is how the local people would be using the forest as a resource. Deforestation is often due to supply of goods and services from the forest to commercial urban markets. Local people if economically marginalized can turn to the environment with unsustainable harvesting methods.
Nishad Karim writes about ten Public Relations Companies who are no-longer willing to take on contracts that are negative about climate change. Others preferred to remain neutral, but having some of the major PR companies making the commitment is a major achievement. It’s literally like reducing the voice of hypocrisy.
Our next two articles look at some of the science of Climate change. Are forest fires the product of rising temperatures, or do they add to the creation of a warmer climate? Scientists are now looking at the smoke particles themselves, and have found that in smoke there are “brown carbon” particles that absorb sunlight and could well be playing a role in the warming of the planet. Previously it was thought that the warming properties of soot and the cooling properties of carbon aerosols would cancel each other out, but “brown carbon” particles were not factored into this equation. Despite being convinced that human activity is influencing climate change we learn more about the science each day.
Caryl Richards and Chemistry World tell us clouds may actually wash greenhouse gases. The reaction of Ozone with the surface of clouds generates larger than previously realised quantities of hydroxyl radicals which are the main “cleaners” of the atmosphere, oxidising greenhouse gases like methane. But only if the radicals can get to where the methane is. More work is being done on this.
We again talk about the Internet of Things. Perhaps the old energy efficiency algorithms (Total Value = old operating cost – new operating cost) could need to be changed to “Total Value = old operating cost – new operating cost + new opportunity value” due to the impact of better information flow. Why hasn't there been a flood of things yet? Matt Asay in 'Why the Internet of Things is still road blocked' tries to explain. The article raises 6 possible reasons as to why.
University of Washington seems to have an answer to one of the reasons for the Internet of Things roadblock. They are trying to power internet devices from radio waves that are already around (existing WIFI signals) and modifying them rather than generating these themselves.
One thing the Internet of Things can help us do is changing our behavior as in the article, 'Energy Culture'. This means not doing without but changing how and when we use 'stuff'. An example of that would be turning off non-essential devices during peak times. As they say, information is power, and the more information we can gather and use the more “power” we have.
Finally, we may have a possible solution to road lighting: “glow in the dark road markings”. In the Netherlands they are trying out 'photo-luminising' paint that absorbs daylight and glows during the night. It can even detect cold weather and alert drivers of possible bad road conditions.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.