Category Archives: Agriculture

Global Tech Stories (April 12, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

Long distance quantum communications is difficult due to information losses over distance. If there were a way to limit the information loss, one could have a communication system that is nearly impossible to compromise by third parties. Scientists in Australia discovered a way to limit the information loss.

Story Link Here

Microfluidic channels can now be 3-D printed, at least in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Such channels are vital to microfluidic devices and biomedical research on the property of specific compounds and drug testing and the development of new treatments.

Story Link Here

An international research team developed a new way to heal bone fractures using bioprinting paired with gene therapy. While tested on rats, the healing rate was several times greater than by natural healing, with four times greater bone tissue creation and almost four times greater bone coverage.

Story Link Here

Miniature pulse power systems maybe the future of energy storage. Researchers at the University of Houston are studying how to create a miniaturized pulse power system that is a one-tenth of the size of the conventional devices.

Story Link Here

Microbiologists are using bacteria to convert methane into electricity. Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon as a greenhouse gas and often introduced to the atmosphere from agriculture and fossil fuel-based energy use.

Story Link Here

Researchers are developing a renewable alternative to increasingly expensive inorganic phosphates. This will improve fertilizers and agricultural practices.

Story Link Here

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Climate Change, Medicine, Technology and Proto Types

Global Tech Stories (April 5, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world of technology for this Tuesday.

A fungal spray that can fight soil degradation and air pollution has been developed in India.

Story Link Here

Zyxel, a hardware company, has released a patch for the CVE-2022-0342 flaw. The flaw affected VPNs and Firewalls due to an authentication bypass vulnerability in the common gateway interface of a device.

Story Link Here

Twitter and Elon Musk reached a deal to allow Musk onto the board but limited to 14.9% common stock. This deal would prevent a buyout of the company’s stock.

Story Link Here

Darknet site Hydra, the largest cybercrime forum globally, has been shut down by German authorities.

Story Link Here

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there are five things we can do to fight climate change effectively with current technology and tools.

Story Link Here

Deeper dive on the IPCC report.

Story Link Here

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Climate Change, Cybersecurity, News, Technology and Proto Types, Water

Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of March 27, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of March 27, 2022.

Global News

Two state-backed North Korean hacker groups exploited a vulnerability in Chrome to launch a zero-day attack. The vulnerability, CVE-2022-0609, has been patched but the primarily means to actually target people was a complex social engineering operation that involved either compromising legitimate sites or creating fake profiles and sites to lure potential targets in various industries.

Source Link Here

The deep ocean current is impacted by global temperature and carbon, and it’s getting faster with more carbon. This could have a major impact on future sequestration of carbon and on ocean life.

Story Link Here

A new lithium battery that can stretch and flex. This could one day lead to clothing that can recharge and power electronics.

Story Link Here

Americas

Canadian Indigenous delegations will be meeting with Pope Francis this week to ask for a formal apology from the Catholic Church for abuses and crimes against Indigenous communities due to the residential schools that operated between the early 19th Century and 20th Century.

Story Link Here

El Salvador is moving forward with trying to popularize bitcoin as a legal tender, including the release of bitcoin-backed bond for the treasury. While the president and crypto enthusiasts love the idea, many Salvadorans are not using the currency and critics, such as the International Monetary Fund, point to the risks and volatility of the digital currency as threat to the economy.

Story Link Here

Nicaragua’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, Arturo McFields, resigned on Wednesday after accusing president Daniel Ortega and his government of suppressing freedoms and attacking opposition parties.  

Story Link Here

Africa

A court in Uganda issued an arrest warrant for Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, an author and critic of the government who fled the country for Germany after he was allegedly tortured by government agents. He is the second critic to flee the country.

Story Link Here

A ceasefire and truce were have taken hold yesterday in Ethiopia between the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. First initiated unilaterally by the government, the TPLF has agreed to the truce, which could help deliver humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands living in the Tigray region and possibly lead to an end of the conflict.

Story Link Here

The NGO Big Ship is mobilizing communities in Mombasa, Kenya, use plastic waste to fight both marine plastic pollution and deforestation. They accomplish this by using yoghut cups to replant mangrove seedlings. With a survival rate of 95% for the mangrove seedlings, these communities reforest critical swampland in Tudor Creek while taking hundreds of thousands of plastic cups out of the marine and mangrove environment.

Story Link Here

Europe

According to General Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Ministry of Defence’s Intelligence Directorate in Ukraine, Putin is attempting to cut the country into two and install a pro-Kremlin government in Russian-occupied territory.

Story Link Here

Explainer- What is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, why does it exist, and what it’s doing to help Ukraine?

Story Link Here

Russia’s anti-war protestors and activists are still operating despite massive repression by Putin’s government and over 15,000 arrests and sentences of more than 15 years in prison for individuals protesting the Ukrainian war. While opposition to the war keeps some in Russia, others fear being unable to come back should they leave.

Story Link Here

Middle East

The Houthi movement and the Yemeni government agreed to a prisoner swap on Sunday. The swap will be 1,400 Houthi prisoners in return for 823 prisoners, including the brother of the Yemeni president, according to the Houthis’ national committee for prisoner affairs, however the Yemeni government has not reached a final agreement with the Houthis yet.

Story Link Here

Qatar’s state fund for development will be going into a 50-50 partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help farmers adapt to climate change. The total promised investment is 200 million dollars, and will focus on projects to help low-income farmers in Africa adapt agricultural practices and technologies to better prepare for the changes brought on by climate change.

Story Link Here

The LGBTQ+ community in Iraq faces persecution from state-backed authorities such as the police, and disorganized private groups according to a report from Human Rights Watch.

Story Link Here

Asia

North Korea tested new intercontinental ballistic missiles last week. While promising future tests and greater military capabilities, some analysts see this as both part of the typical activity marking the anniversary of the founder of North Korea’s birthday, Kim Il-Sung, on April 15.

Story Link Here

The United States, U.K. and Canada are launching targeted sanctions on the Myanmar military and government and arms dealers.

Story Link Here

Thousands are heading to Islamabad to rally as embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan potentially faces a no-confidence vote.

Story Link Here

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Asia, Climate Change, Cybersecurity, International Conflict, News, Russia, South Asia, Technology and Proto Types

Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of January 30, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Jan. 30, 2022.

Global News

Where we are with the hyped Metaverse, and what challenges companies and governments will need to surmount to actually make the Metaverse work.

Story Link Here

A subvariant of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has been detected. While better at evading the body’s defenses, its unknown how severe or infectious the new subvariant actually is. The subvariant was found mostly in cases Denmark and has spread to the UK and parts of Asia.

Story Link Here

The Asteroid-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), funded by NASA, can now scan the entire night sky every 24 hours. This system can now give up to a full days’ warning for a 20-meter-wide asteroid and up to three weeks’ warning with 100-meter-wide asteroids.

Story Link Here

Americas

The International Monetary Fund is requesting the government of El Salvador remove Bitcoin as legal tender for the country’s bonds and currency due to the high risks and volatility of the currency.

Story Link Here

Taiwan’s vice president, William Lai, is traveling to Honduras to shore up ties with the government following the election of Xiomara Castro. Castro had floated the idea of reestablishing ties with China but recently walked those ideas back.

Story Link Here

 Anti-vaccine protestors marched in Ottawa on Saturday, desecrating the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the process. The Canadian Trucking Alliance believes many of the protestors have no connection to trucking as the majority of the Alliance’s members are already vaccinated.

Story Link Here

Africa

South Africa is building out an indigenous vaccine production site that will produce both foreign and domestically created vaccines for COVID and other pathogens and distribute them throughout the continent within the next few years. Other countries on the continent are in various stages of developing sites for local vaccine production.

Story Link Here

Almost 40% of the population of Tigray is suffering extreme hunger according to the World Food Programme. The Amhara and Afar regions are also suffering from severe hunger.

Story Link Here

Burkina Faso has been suspended from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after a recent coup in the country removed democratically elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore, citing his failure to stem ongoing violence in the country. Delegations will meet with the military coup leaders later next week.

Story Link Here

Europe

Explainer: Ukraine Crisis and NATO.

Story Link Here

U.S. president Joe Biden is sending some troops to Eastern Europe to bolster NATO forces in the region in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Story Link Here

The EU is bringing a case against China to the World Trade Organization. Beijing retaliated economically against Lithuania for the country allowing Taiwan to open a diplomatic outpost in Vilnius.

Story Link Here

Middle East

Thailand and Saudi Arabia reestablished diplomatic ties.

Story Link Here

Iraq could lose 1/3 or arable land and 20% of the nation’s water resources by 2050 due to climate change.

Story Link Here

Lebanon will not disarm Hezbollah but has pledged not to allow the country to be used as a safe haven for groups to launch attacks or activities that harm other Arab states in the region. Neighbors have called on Lebanon to help fight the regional drug trade.

Story Link Here

Asia

Indian company BrahMos Aerospace inks deal with the Philippines government for the sale of BrahMos shore-based anti-ship supersonic missiles. Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand are also in various stages of engagement with the company regarding missile deals.

Story Link Here

Almost a year since the military of Myanmar overthrew the democratically elected government.

Story Link Here

According to an investigation by the New York Times, the Modi Administration purchased Pegasus spyware from the Israeli NSO group in 2017 to spy on civilians.

Story Link Here

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Asia, Climate Change, International Conflict, News, Russia

Global Affairs Weekly Stories (Week of January 23, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of Jan. 23, 2022.

Global News

A tax on pollution aimed at companies might incentivize companies to actually invest in cleaner energy and green production methods according to new research.

Story Link Here

The Catholic Church will now formally recognize women for lay roles of catechist and lector. These roles had long been performed by women informally despite being officially reserved for men, but Pope Francis recently announced they would be formally recognized by the Church.

Story Link Here

How much electricity is produced by renewable energy sources will vary, but this infographic gives some of the latest estimates and helps clarify the challenges the world faces in transitioning to clean electricity.

Story Link Here

Americas

Fish exports from Brazil is making major gains in China, but a lack of regulation in Brazil threatens local communities and risks overfishing. The parts of the fish being exported are normally thrown away, but in China they’re valued for medical uses.

Story Link Here

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, an organization representing truckers across Canada, spoke out against planned protests scheduled for Jan. 29 at the nation’s capital. The protests target the cross-border vaccine travel mandate by Canada and the United States, which requires truckers to be fully vaccinated.

Story Link Here

The Biden Administration introduced new rules to help attract talent from foreign students by introducing rules to help international students spend up to 36 months in academic training. The Department of Homeland Security also introduced 22 new fields to a program that provides three years of training with employers and another initiative aimed at connecting domestic employers with trained international students.

Story Link Here

Africa

An explainer on why the military is in mutiny in Burkina Faso.

Story Link Here

Enset, a traditional staple in the diets of communities in South and Southwest Ethiopia, could provide millions with food security as climate change changes rain patterns and threatens crops.

Story Link Here

COVID vaccines will need a shelf-life of three to six months to be effectively distributed by recipient countries, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of the received vaccines have expired due to logistical challenges and storage requirements.

Story Link Here

Europe

Protestors in Istanbul protest against the hosting of the Olympics in China, citing human rights abuses and allegations of genocide against the Uighur population.

Story Link Here

Ukrainian government officials are treating the claims about Moscow attempting a coup to install a sympathetic government in Kyiv as credible. The claims were made by the U.K. foreign office, allegedly based on US intelligence but have not provided evidence yet.

Story Link Here

A Taliban delegation headed to Norway on Sunday probably to convince The US and Western nations to unfreeze financial assets to the tune of $10 billion. The delegation will meet for three days with delegations from the US, Western government officials, human rights and women’s rights advocates, and members of the Afghan community in Norway.

Story Link Here

Middle East

An Israeli company developed a drone capable of firing sniper rifles or standard rifles while flying. The drone is in advanced stages of development and not yet ready for deployment, but the system is based on existing technology used against Hamas.

Story Link Here

Iran may be voting in the United Nations General Assembly soon after South Korea paid off the country’s outstanding dues. The funds were obtained from frozen Iranian assets in South Korea, and in active coordination with the United Nations Secretariat, US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control and other agencies.

Story Link Here

Due to COVID-19, the League of Arab States will be rescheduling their annual meeting. While no agenda has been set, there are many issues for the group to focus on.

Story Link Here

Asia

Chinese investment causes trouble in Serbia.

Story Link Here

Afghan women graduates of Code to Inspire are turning to crypto currencies to receive aid and money from abroad as Taliban rule has left the economy in ruins. The organization, based in Herat, taught women how to code before the Taliban took over, and these women had taught others how to set up wallets to receive and transact in crypto currencies as a way to get around the frozen financial system and limits on cash withdrawals at local banks.

Story Link Here

Eighty-four percent of the population of Tonga has been affected by ashfall and a tsunami as a result of the recent volcanic eruption. Limited communications and Internet have been restored and aid is coming from New Zealand and Australia, while aid has been promised from Japan, China, The Asian Development Bank and World Bank.

Story Link Here

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Amazon, Asia, Climate Change, Coronavirus, East Asia, International Conflict, News, Russia

How To Start Taking Back Our World From Climate Catastrophe

Our planet is headed for trouble.  Not to understate the severity of the impact of climate change, but according to a recent study in Nature, we might see “abrupt ecological collapse” within the next decade if humanity keeps emissions high to about 4 degrees above normal.   A detailed explanation of the study goes into other variables that could make it worse for humanity, but the takeaways are already grave.  If humanity keeps emitting, we’re going to see climate change destabilize the ecosystem starting within a decade.  While we have time, humanity should be focusing on decarbonizing as quickly as possible.  Despite this, a UN-backed report states that most wealthy nations are failing their young folks by failing to limit climate change.

GHG Pollution- A Breakdown:

Almost 75% of green house gases (GHG) are from energy production, such as the burning and extraction of natural gas and other fossil fuels.  About 12% comes from agriculture, with 6.5% coming from how we use land and forests, and 5.6% from industrial processes, with waste accounting for 3.2%, all as of 2016.  Solving climate change is in everyone’s best long-term economic, societal, and ecological interests.  When it comes to historical emissions of GHGs, Europe produces 33% of the global total at 514 billion tons of CO2, with the EU-28 accounting for 22% of global emissions.  Asia and North America both produce 29%, or 457 billion tons of CO2.  Of the two regions, The USA produces 399 billion tons of CO2, or 25% of the world’s CO2.  That is more than China with 200 billion tons, or 12.7% of the global CO2, all as of 2017.  In terms of global emissions, the US and China alone account for 40%, which China producing more emissions but the US producing more emissions per capita.

Let’s address this problem head-on in the environments of the climate crisis- the air, ocean, earth, and society.  Here are both problems and solutions for each section.  There is no single solution for all problems with climate change, but if solutions are tailored to each environment than a larger effort can succeed and produce virtuous cycles that might help realistically mitigate and even reverse the worst effects of climate change over the long term.  This is a battle for our world and will take decades to solve decisively, and with the right strategies for specific environments, victory is probable.

Air

Problems– CO2 and Methane are in the atmosphere and current carbon capture and filtration technology is inefficient at capturing carbon for the energy and air volume needed to filter a ton of atmospheric carbon.  This is because, per volume of air, there is not much carbon.  Meanwhile the energy requirement to filter atmospheric carbon is immense and cost prohibitive.

Methane is 80 time more powerful than carbon dioxide and a major source of climate change.  While it lasts only 10 years in the atmosphere.  Natural gas, a major fuel source in the USA, is mostly methane, and often comes from leaks at extraction sites.

Solutions– Rainforests produce a chemical that binds with atmospheric methane and brings it down to Earth, where it can be sequestered naturally.  Catching the carbon before it leaves for the atmosphere and reducing or eliminating carbon production also helps eliminate atmospheric carbon.

CO2:

Preventing CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere would be the most effective industry solution to fighting atmospheric CO2.  Applying carbon capture and storage at ground level in sites that produce CO2 in large quantities would not only prevent it from leaving but also provide a potential resource for other production and industries such as construction.  More on this in the Society section, though it involves producing graphene.

One way to stop CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere is to use capture and sequestration technology on the ground.  The University of Waterloo in Canada developed a carbon powder that can capture and bind with CO2 twice as effectively as conventional capture materials.  This powder also has potential for trapping CO2 in water filtration and could connect to decarbonization efforts in cities and the oceans, and potentially provides a foundation for aforementioned graphene production.  The research paper detailing this material can be found here for any potential collaboration.

Methane:

For methane, industry can reduce methane emissions by 45% by installing recovery equipment that captures natural gas before it escapes into the atmosphere with no net cost.  This would be paired up with burning escaped gas to convert it to CO2 or plugging the leaks more effectively.  Improving on distribution, storage, and recovery methods can bring that total up to 65%.  Adding to this would be finding alternatives to flaring natural gas, which can emit methane by burning potentially valuable natural gas.  One solution would be to capture the flared gas and convert it to liquified natural gas (LNG), which is what Galileo Technologies and EDGE LNG do through the Cryobox, with a capacity of 10,000 gallons (or 15 metric tons) per day possible from captured gas.

Nature also produces a tool to fight atmospheric methane in the form of hydroxyl, which oxidize methane and transform it into water soluble compounds.  Rainforests and vegetation produce this compound continuously and in large quantities globally.  While trees can produce methane, they also act as a sink for CO2 and in some cases methane.  The amount of methane they produce is not near the levels produced by human activity though.

The best solution for dealing with air pollution aspect of climate change is really prevention, which looks like capturing CO2 and methane at the site of energy production and agriculture to prevent it from escaping into the atmosphere.  Some of the ways this can work is simply upgrading and repairing older infrastructure, such as pipelines to prevent leaks.  This also means tackling the practice of flaring, or when natural gas is burned away during the extraction of oil.

Ocean

Problems– Maritime carbon and waste are in the oceans and causing rising sea temperatures and hazards for marine life that filter into the food chain.  Currently there are eight million metric tons being dumped yearly into the world’s oceans.  While this problem affects the world, some of most heavily hit areas are in Asia, and thus require greater assistance in combatting plastic waste.  Research in Australia pointed to plastic waste staying mostly close to the shorelines and waterways, either floating close in or being washed ashore and getting trapped in vegetation.  Other countries were part of the survey as comparisons and showed a similar pattern.  If this is a pattern for plastic waste, then most plastics end up back on land and could be captured and utilized for recycling and production as other products.

Another problem is the dying of coral reefs and other habitats for marine life caused by climate change and pollution.  One example is the Great Barrier Reef, which is now in terminal decline.  Coral reefs provide an environment for many different species and are economic goods for the communities that utilize them, such as tourism and natural barriers to tsunami waves.

Solutions– Capture plastic waste before it leaves for the oceans and clean up near shorelines the plastic waste before it can be captured by plant life.  For chemical spills, water filtration and capture of floating waste.  For carbon, reducing carbon emissions and converting to different fuels help in reducing the amount of carbon trapped in the oceans.

Plastics:

The first way to tackle plastic waste is to break it down into component parts.  An enzyme that breaks down plastic can go a long way in fighting plastic waste.  Yet plastic waste can also be upcycled as a building material and ingredient for other goods.  By recycling plastic into industry use, the private sector is effectively subsidized on raw materials and can create both new products and new ways to produce conventional products.  One example are limb prosthetics created from recycled plastic bottles.  By utilizing domestic plastic pollution before it enters waterways, countries end up creating jobs and solving environmental problems in one solution.

The actual recycling can be made mobile and renewable.  One example from Taiwan, Trashpresso, is a mobile recycling plant that is powered by solar and reuses its own waste water.  This is technology will make recycling viable for many types of communities and bring waste products back into economic use.

Coral Reefs:

Living coral reefs are capable of regenerating from damage given time and support.  A living coral reef provides 50% greater protection from tsunamis than heavily damaged or dead coral reefs.

In Florida, scientists from the University of Miami had planted 100 corals  in the reef about 3 miles off from shore almost a year ago.  While these were wild conditions and the coral were left exposed in uncontrolled environmental conditions, 95% of the coral survived and are flourishing.  Some of the techniques they used were sowing two different genotypes of coral together, or using a putty-like combination of micro silicas and cement to bind new coral to existing reefs at far lower cost than traditional methods.  The coral was raised in two underwater nurseries and one land-based nursery, and demonstrate that coral grown in a nursery can be attached to existing coral reefs to help replenish them and grow them.

A scientist for the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida also developed a way to grow coral 40 times faster, by fragmenting the coral and exposing them to warmer and more acidic waters.  The method employed also brings coral to sexual maturity in 3 years rather than 25 to 75 years, making it faster to sow coral and produce them for large scale projects such as restoring the Great Barrier reef.  A method for growing coral in low tech environments has also been developed, effectively lowering the financial cost for implementing a program for coral regrowth.  By bringing down the price tag, other nations can get started on domestic programs at low cost and possibly create new jobs in one go.

Lastly, seaweed aquaculture can produce multiple benefits to tackle problems on both land and sea.  For the ocean, seaweed already provides food and homes for dozens of species.  Yet it also counteracts the acidification and deoxygenation of water, directly addressing the side effects of too much CO2 in oceans.  It also absorbs excess nutrients that can contaminate ocean environments from runoff.  Seaweed as part of livestock feed can also eliminate up to 70% of methane produced from livestock eating and belching, and provide a fertilizer for crops.   Its also a viable biomass fuel that could replace petroleum derived fuels for cars and planes in the near future.  Companies like MacroFuels have demonstrated the potential of seaweed as an energy source, and even the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) is investing resources into seaweed-based biofuel.

Combining the fragmentation process, nursery facilities, and cheaper cement, seaweed aquaculture, and coastal recycling, we can have a method of repairing coral reefs that provide homes to a quarter of all marine life, provide protection from severe storms and tsunamis, and make an economic impact in jobs and industry growth in manufacturing, tourism, and construction.  The use of biofuels derived from seaweed also provides an alternative to land-based biofuel production will provide additional jobs and create a source of power to transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

Land

Problems– Carbon emissions and contaminants in the soil and cities.

The destruction of wetlands, mangroves, and other ecosystems creates greater risk of storms, erosion, and other environmentally damaging events that cost billions and are projected to increase in the coming decades.  Agricultural systems are largely based on industrial methods that are prone to monocropping, damaging to long term soil viability, and reliant on a vicious cycle of fertilizer inputs to improve yield as their methods undermine the soil’s ability to retain nutrients without said inputs.  This also affects food security as monocrop methods are more reliant on chemical additives that can filter into the food supply, and loss of harvest from pests, diseases, and environmental damage such as drought or floods.  It also impacts water supplies as chemical inputs filter into local water supplies, or with greater water demands on aquifers increases due to greater arid conditions.  Massive consolidation of farmlands has entrenched industrial farming practices even as those practices have been demonstrated as counterproductive to the above-mentioned problems such as monocropping and heavy reliance on chemical inputs.  It also reduces the market incentive and ability to change practices.

Lastly, the destruction of soil health and forests curtails the ability of plant life and microbes to sequester CO2, methane, and other GHGs in the soil.  Peat bogs and tropical peat swamps for example are normally carbon sinks that easily match the capacity of forests, but have been heavily devastated by agricultural activities such as farming and clear cutting for palm oil.  This has turned natural carbon sinks into carbon emitters.  Damaged peat forests emit 10% of the global GHG amount, with an equivalent of 5.6% of global human caused emissions at 1.3 gigatons of OC2 annually, just from drained peatlands.  The soil is also home to microbes that can effectively sequester GHGs but are killed by current land use and agricultural practices such as tilling and deforestation.  The soil is not being used to fight climate change despite having some of the best options in curbing climate change.

Solutions– Utilize the natural environment while creating artificial support systems to repair and enhance the protective abilities of the natural environment.  Using natural sources to both create the agricultural inputs such as nitrogen rather than relying on chemicals and petroleum-based additives.  Lastly, improving soil health to improve agricultural techniques and regulations to reduce reliance on larger corporate farms and to ensure better crop production.

Natural Environments:

A hybrid of artificial and natural environment creation that protects and nurtures the natural features such as wetlands and mangroves while providing technological supports.  Wetlands and mangroves are but some of the ecosystems that provide protection from weather damage and soil erosion and other economic benefits, in addition to habitats for wildlife.  They are an economic and societal good and experience in other parts of the world has shown their importance.

Improving Agriculture:

We enlist plants to help produce fuel, fertilizer, and act as carbon sinks.  The Azolla filiculoides, a water fern, has a symbiotic relationship with cyanobacteria capable of producing and fixing nitrogen and making an excellent fertilizer for other plants.  As it’s naturally pest resistant, this fern can be used to augment and enrich depleted soil alongside crops without need for pesticides.  Lastly, this fern is a natural carbon sink, and according to geologists it was a major factor in cooling the planet 50 million years ago.

The aforementioned seaweed aquaculture also provides benefits for the agriculture industry by creating a feed stock that reduces methane in livestock burps by up to 70% and can create fertilizer that reduces the reliance on petroleum-based fertilizers, taking out both a GHG source and reducing the risk to water supplies and runoff contamination.  Mandates for biofuels should shift to include seaweed and kelp, which have a lower carbon footprint to actually grow and would be inline with the production of biofuels.

One of the biggest hurdles is industry norms and business focus.  By focusing on supporting mid-scale farming operations, practices like crop rotation, cover crops, and low till farming can be experimented with and demonstrated as both ecologically sound and economically scalable.  That or require enforcement of regulations to require large scale farms to adopt best practices for climate adaptation.  Changing up regulations might also incentivize larger farms, such as funneling more existing subsidies towards production of fruits, nuts, and other crops besides soy and corn- the two dominant crops in the USA.  While this is an American example, corporate farming can easily follow similar patterns in other nations.

Shift from artificial nitrogen sourced fertilizers to plants that produce nitrogen naturally and limit the use of chemical additives to soil and crops.  Focus on crop rotation and growing more seasonal foods to reduce the need for supports, effectively letting nature set the crop selection.

Soil:

Cultivating better soil health is essential to both agricultural stability and GHG reductions.  Cover cropping, of planting soil improving crops between harvests, can not only enrich the soil for agriculture without reliance on chemical inputs, it also improves water retention.  About 150 studies across the planet on soil improvement showed that practices such as cover cropping, crop rotation, and no till improved the soil’s ability to retain water.  It also reduces runoff as deeper root systems are encouraged in such soil, which has the benefit of reducing flooding and the damage to infrastructure from storms.

Besides the improvement of soil for agriculture, some lands can be set aside to act as methane sinks as part of nature preserves.  A common bacterium, Methylocapsa gorgona, grows naturally in soils globally and is very efficient at metabolizing atmospheric methane.  Creating room for this bacterium to grow would tackle both methane production on land and in the air and can thrive in low methane soil.

Cultivating peat swamps and bogs also improves the land’s ability to store CO2 and other GHGs, being the largest land-based carbon stores in the world.  Reducing or eliminating clear cutting and treating peat swamps as protected forests can also help reduce a country’s climate impact.  In temperate lands, peat is usually covered by moss, while in more tropical areas its on trees.  Reforestation efforts should include peat bogs and swamps where environmentally possible.  When planting trees, slow growing massive and long-lived trees are the best suited for sequestering CO2.  These trees reproduce slowly and often are the foundations of old growth forests, therefore need to be protected from human activities such as clear cutting, agriculture, and logging.

Society

Problems– Wasteful practices that increase consumption and encourage unsustainable economic and social patterns.  Food production alone accounts for 26% of all greenhouse gases (GHGs) like CO2 and methane, globally.  Most of this comes from livestock and fisheries (31%) and crop production (27%), and land use (24%).

Solutions– Conversions of everyday patterns into patterns that feed into upcycling and reduce inefficiencies in technologies and social activities.  Converting to hydrogen-based fuel, biofuels, and renewables are part of a mix for power.  Create an upcycling economic system which takes waste and turns it into economically useful products and services.

Cultured Meat:

Starting with food production, there are several solutions such as cultured meat and alternative methods of agriculture.  In curated meat, the product is produced from cells rather than animals, and grown.  This technology already works and needs only scaling and rebranding, as lab grown meat might come off as unusual to some consumers.  The benefits however may be potential selling points.  For one, there is little environmental impact and due to the nature of the production method there is no risk of antibiotic resistant pathogens being created.  It’s also modifiable so that the meat being produced can be healthier with less fat and cholesterol than conventional meat.  Lastly, its more humane and does not kill animals, which potentially unlocks entire segments of consumers to meat companies that adopt this technology.

Graphene:

While carbon capture may be inefficient in dealing with atmospheric carbon pollution, the carbon captured at ground level can be converted into graphene, and a new process now allows for it to be produced cheaper and more effectively.  Graphene has many potential uses, such as reinforcing concrete or being a new building material in its own right.

Previously, graphene cost anywhere from 67,000 USD to 200,000 USD per ton.  Yet a new production process can create one gram of graphene for 7.2 kilojoules of power.  The cost for the flash graphene process is 100 USD per ton, and could be cheaper in the future as alternative energy sources are used.  For concrete, injecting .1% of graphene into the mix of concrete will decrease its carbon output by a third as it reduces the amount of concrete needed to build and the energy consumed in producing it and transporting it to site.  Any carbon-based material can be converted into graphene, and the process would help with global waste being produced, whether it’s food, plastics, oil, tires, mixed waste, etc., effectively allowing waste to be converted into a building component.  The startup specializing in this technique already has a website and can commercialize this process.

Hydrogen Fuel:

Lastly, hydrogen fuel as a renewable energy source should be considered.  This fuel source can take small amounts of electricity to split water molecules into pure oxygen and hydrogen, which can then be used to power society without producing GHGs or damage the environment.  It can act as a storage of wind and solar energy by using both to power the process of water splitting and storing the energy as the hydrogen fuel.  Hydrogen fuel could one day power large cities and act as an intermediate fuel source while the economy decarbonizes.

To develop hydrogen fuel, governments would probably need to spend 150 billion USD over the next decade, half of what fossil fuel companies already receive in subsidies in the USA.  The electrolyzer technology that splits water into oxygen and hydrogen has fallen in price, about 40% decline in the last 5 years in North America.  In China, electrolyzer technology is 80% cheaper than its Western counterpart.

Singapore is already looking into hydrogen fuel as a path to decarbonization.  Seven companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the feasibility of hydrogen fuel as an alternative to fossil fuels for Singapore.  The companies are mostly from Singapore- Singapore’s PSA Corporation, Jurong Port Pte Ltd, City Gas Pte Ltd, Sembcorp Industries and Singapore LNG Corporation Pte Ltd.  Two companies are from Japan-Chiyoda Corp and Mitsubishi Corp.  Chiyoda will work with the other companies to implement their hydrogen storage, transport, and import technologies, such as SPERA.  If this works for Singapore, a nation of more than 5.8 million and 100% urbanized, it could work for other metropolitan regions of the world to mitigate the carbon foot print of cities.    Companies are already experimenting with hydrogen fuel-based vehicles such as Cummins, a company based in Columbus, Indiana, has created a truck that uses hydrogen fuel cells and can go 150 to 250 miles on one cell or longer with extra cells.  The city of Carmel, also in Indiana, is retrofitting some of their fleet of vehicles with hydrogen fuel creating technology.  The technology, which was produced by Purdue University and prepared for market by AlGoCal, augments energy supply for vehicles by taking aluminum alloy and water and merges them, causing the water molecules to break apart, creating aluminum oxide and hydrogen in the process.  The hydrogen is collected as fuel and the aluminum oxide becomes the catalyst for the next reaction.  This creates a cycle where the waste by products become fuel for the next cycle.  In lab tests, CO2 emissions fell by 20% and gas mileage increased by 15%.

To solve the problems with society, some attention should be paid to the types of renewable energies society decides to invest in.  Hydrogen fuel, along with seaweed-based biofuel, can augment the portfolio of renewable energies to decarbonize the economy and larger society.  The very CO2 that we treat as a waste product can also be utilized for upcycled construction material as graphene.  This not only eliminates CO2 in the atmosphere, it creates jobs for millions both in direct creation of the material and in new material inputs for other industries.  Growing meat alternatives from plants and animal cells can provide a common demand for protein while eliminating many problems with meat production.  For one, it eliminates the need for antibiotics and the related threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria and viruses.  As it would be produced from plants and animal cells, there would be no need for the infrastructure of a corporate slaughterhouse and the pollutants that usually come from the waste of animals.  It’s also more humane to the animals because it only relies on plant matter and animal cells that are grown in a lab, eliminating the need to rear animals for meat production.  Lastly, it opens the possibilities of creating healthier meat varieties, such as steak with little or no fat and cholesterol, or chicken with greater protein per ounce than bison meat.  Meat producers need merely to invest and scale the technology to take advantage of it and at the same time, reduce the GHGs in their operations.

Towards a Unified Solution

Tailoring the solution to specific environments means refining our approach to fighting climate change based on the challenges specific to those environments.  Each solution, however small in relation to the larger problem, is meant to link up as part of a momentum shift that eventually defeats the threat of climate change.  As seen above, fighting climate change forces that affect the atmosphere can largely be done by changing practices on the ground- oil and LNG extraction and sequestering methane.  Yet fighting climate change’s impacts on the oceans requires embracing near shore removal of waste such as plastics, utilizing hybrid natural and artificial supports for maritime ecosystems such as speed growing coral reefs, and using seaweed and other macroalgae as filtration and carbon sinks.  Meanwhile the earth itself is most in need of changes to agricultural practices and efforts that focus on improving the soil.  Lastly, society needs to change from energy intensive practices like meat production and fossil fuel use to more sustainable protein sources and hydrogen fuel as a transitional fuel source in part of a portfolio of energy sources.

There is also an economic benefit to upcycling that maritime and societal solutions should take advantage of, such as biofuels from macroalgae and building materials from recycled plastics and graphene.  Fighting climate change can be profitable as well as sustainable.  Focusing on converting existing pollutants into market goods will energize industries like construction, tourism, agriculture, and technology.  It can also create new industries that develop not only direct solutions to climate change but also pioneer new solutions to older problems as one solution creates multiple possibilities for industry.  Graphene is one example- it can revolutionize construction and manufacturing while developing better metamaterials for clothes and technology, in addition to dealing with the problem of CO2.  Another advantage for these industries is that pollution becomes the material of industry.  The waste product that hundreds of nations dispose of becomes a subsidized resource for these new industries, spurring economic growth that relies on cleaning up the environment.

Lastly, the solutions described can be easily implemented with current technology or scaled up within a few years to a decade, making them actionable quickly to mitigate some of the worst outcomes of near-term climate damage.  They are a beginning point for policy makers, activists, and private enterprise to act on for the next 5 to 15 years from now.

Happy Earth Day everyone!  I hope this gives you all some ideas both at home and abroad.

Leave a comment

Filed under Agriculture, Climate Change, Economics, Technology and Proto Types, Water