Category Archives: Water

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 April 3, 2022)

Here’s what’s going on in the world for the week of April 3, 2022.

Global News

U.S. Federal Reserve is mulling another interest rate bump after positive news on job growth. The federal interest rate affects global financial assets denominated in the U.S. dollar, such as treasury bonds or debts denominated in dollars.

Story Link Here

The United Nations is appointing a 16-member panel to investigate climate change projects and efforts by private sector actors to determine their effectiveness and how to improve corporate efforts to fight climate change. The announcement comes after environmental groups accuse some large corporations of ‘greenwashing’- when a climate damaging activity is rebranded as fighting climate change.

Story Link Here

The Middle East and North Africa are experiencing more frequent and damaging climate disasters and higher temperatures than anywhere else in the world.

Story Link Here

Only 2 million Bitcoin left untapped globally.

Story Link Here

Americas

Amazon workers in Staten Island, New York, now have a unionized warehouse after successfully voting for one. This comes after more than 25 years of Amazon preventing unionization company-wide and may inspire other Amazon warehouses.

Story Link Here

Workers for Brazil’s central bank have voted on an indefinite strike starting April 1, while the president of the central bank, Roberto Campos Neto, vacations in Miami. This threatens the Pix payment system that 67% of Brazil’s adult population use.

Story Link Here

The Biden Administration may end Title 42 by May 23, though this has not been finalized. The administration is seeking to address “root causes” for migration in a shift in immigration policy.

Story Link Here

Africa

The duct fiber foundations of a smart city are being laid out in Lagos. Another smart city project, the Eko Atlantic, also in Lagos, held a ground breaking ceremony for a new U.S. consulate.

Story Link Here

Aid is reaching Tigrayans for the first time since December 15, 2021 after a truce was called last week. More then 90% of the Tigrayan population need food after the 16-month long civil war between the Ethiopian government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front left the thousands dead and brought hundreds of thousands to starvation since November.

Story Link Here

The United Nations voted unanimously to endorse an African Union force fighting armed groups like al-Shabab and Daesh. The new force will transition responsibility for Somalia’s domestic security to the Somali transitional government over time as the government gains strength.

Story Link Here

Europe

Putin’s war is not a sign of genius, and has been a disaster.

Story Link Here

Ukrainian officials and civilians accuse Russian military personnel and the Russian government of atrocities and massacres across the Kyiv region.

Story Link Here

Lithuania stopped importing Russian gas at the beginning of April, the first European nation to stop buying Russian gas.

Story Link Here

Middle East

In Jordan, Prince Hamza bin al-Hussein has renounced his title and claim on the throne.

Story Link Here

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is working with nations in West Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East to develop water conservation and use strategies to promote stability and cooperation. Known as the Blue Peace Strategy, the SDC believe this could be a tool to promote peace in the Middle East and beyond as water scarcity becomes a greater threat.

Story Link Here

Yemen’s 7-year long war might be seeing peace as all warring factions agreed to a two-month truce for the month of Ramadan.

Story Link Here

Asia

Pakistan is headed for early elections after president Imran Khan avoided a no-confidence vote and dissolved Parliament.

Story Link Here

 Several cryptocurrency mining companies took advantage of tax cuts and exemptions not meant for them specifically, according to auditors in Kazakhstan. While not actually breaking any laws, these companies were an example used by the Accounts Committee to claim the Digital Kazakhstan program was not working as intended.

Story Link Here

The President and prime minister of Sri Lanka lost all 26 ministers in the government in protest over the nation’s woes- national debt, rising cost of living, shortages of food, medicine and fuel.

Story Link Here

Leave a comment

Filed under Amazon, Climate Change, International Conflict, News, Russia, South Asia, Water

Global Tech Stories (March 1, 2022)

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

Nanobots will one day remove heavy metal pollutants from the water ways and oceans. Scientists in Prague developed nanobots that can attract and retain pollutants and be fabricated at large scale with environmentally sustainable components.

Story Link Here

NASA has new ideas for the future of space exploration. The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program selected 12 Phase I projects and 5 Phase II projects for further funding, including a project on extended radiation shielding for astronauts, 3-D printed microbots and the development of artificial gravity through rotating structures.

Story Link Here

Researchers at MIT are tackling bias in machine-learning models by teaching machines to different similarity attributes besides a sensitive one. This method is Partial Attribute Decorrelation, and could make technologies like facial recognition fairer.

Story Link Here

For manufacturers, downtime from broken or stalled equipment can be a drain on resources and time, often without the help of experienced employees to help fix the problem. A recently created self-learning assistance system could change that.

Story Link Here

A newly developed wrap blocks both bacteria and viruses.

Story Link Here

The future of bullet resistant armor looks a lot thinner and could one day be warn in hot and cold climates. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a nano-fibrous material that performs better at resisting impact than steel plates and Kevlar fabric.

Story Link Here

Imagine harvesting electricity from radio waves. Researchers in the University of South Florida have developed a metasurface-based antenna that could harvest 100 microwatts- enough to power a simple device.

Story Link Here

Earthworms play a more active role in the health of soil and the nitrogen cycle by secreting nitrogen in their mucus when active, enriching the soil and contributing to crop health.

Story Link Here

Scientists developed a way to turn on dormant genes using a combination of AI and CRISPR technologies. This could help doctors activate genes for fighting illnesses through personalized medicine and general medical treatments.

Story Link Here

Stonehenge may have been a solar calendar.

Story Link Here

Leave a comment

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

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

Water Problems and the world

I just finished reading several articles dealing with water crises and problems all over the world.  It seems like we’re headed for a megadrought here in the United States, the worst in a thousand years.  According to the scientists making this claim, if carbon emissions are not curtailed by 2050, we’re going to have more extreme weather like the megadroughts, and it will be compounded by extremes in climate being the new norm.  Extreme heat, extreme dryness, and freak storms, all mixed together.

Its not just the United States that will have these disasters, other nations are already facing water problems.  Pakistan and Brazil are also in the news over water issues, and China and India will be facing water issues on a scale unimaginable in the United States based on demand.

So from the articles, here are the problems with water that Pakistan will face or is currently facing.

-Water storage, they have inadequate facilities to store water, at 9% being stored in reservoirs while India has about 1/3 of water stored in reservoirs.  This makes the task of storing water more difficult since rainfall is erratic, a few monsoon storms but those few monsoon storms bring massive amounts of rain that end up being destructive and wasteful.  Think of it as having a flash flood in the desert, a lot of water, but little ability to harness it and store it, assuming it doesn’t wipe out your settlement.

-Mismanagement of water, the country suffers chronic problems of infrastructure.  In addition to the problem with reservoirs, the country also suffers inefficient grids and power production, which hampers the north of the country where hydroelectric power is part of the power production system.  This mismanagement also harms the agricultural needs of the country, which means a potential food crisis is looming should the problems with water continue.

-Political problems abound.  The government is more content to pick fights internally and rumble over power than to unite and focus on issues like the energy and water crises.  This political infighting is not unique, and while the government fights amongst itself, religious conservatives and Islamists have blamed India for “water terrorism”, or intentionally limiting the access to water to Pakistan.  The Indus Water Treaty of 1960 I think bans this behavior and according to the article, the minister of water and energy, Mr. Khawaja Muhammad Asif, denies the claims.

Now for Brazil, one of the BRICS nations, this one is about the largest city in the country Sao Paulo.  The city of Sao Paulo is the largest in Brazil, the metropolitan area alone has over 20 million people.  The city is reliant on two main reservoirs- the Cantareira and Alto Tiete, and both are near dry.  The estimates are that the city will run out of water in the next six months.

The causes of this shortage are:

-Climate change, the weather patterns are changing and droughts, lower rainfall, and higher temperatures all hamper water collection and storage.

-Political will, or there lack of such will, is one cited problem as politicians knew this was going to happen as far back as 1980s, and despite efforts by the government to clean up the rivers that feed into the Tiete river, they are still faced with a crisis.

-Neglect of water resources and polluting local water resources, a cultural practice it seems in the article.

-Unregulated use of water by the impoverished population.  The poorer population use the water in ways the authorities can’t monitor, but I suspect this is also due to a vicious cycle between government neglect of water resources and the poor being forced into relying on unmonitored water sources due to higher costs of water under monitored or even privatized systems.

So common themes here are that water management is vital, political will and unity are important for implementing changes, and climate changes are happening that harm the future of these countries as part of larger environmental problems.  In the case of Pakistan, the problems with energy, politics, and infrastructure are connected to water- they either are caused by water problems or they hamper solutions to the problems the country faces with water resources.

Brazil faces problems with water that stem from what appears to be a general neglect of water resources possibly created by the assumption that water was an infinite resource.

In the United States, it’s the lack of political will to embrace climate change as real and adopting new technologies to deal with it combined with changing climate and rain fall.

Now here are some of my suggestions:

Cultural- in all three cases, water seems to be treated as an infinite resource even if its recognized as scarce or precious.  If you have the tap on daily and like having a green lawn in the deserts out in Arizona or Texas (I’ve seen a few), you’re wasting water as if you lived in a water rich area.  There is also the assumption that rain forests are supposed to have lots of water, but this ignores the problem of clean water versus water not fit for consumption.  While Pakistan has deserts, the country also has forests and the Indus River.  Traditional views of water need to be shed, with an emphasis on clean drinking water being the goal and not just having water in general.

Economic- there is an argument to be made about the importance of economic development, both in clean energy and in the market.  The poor anywhere may lack education about water conservation, but they try to conserve water to the best of their technological and economic abilities.  Water filtration systems, wells, and access to clean water are vital and without economic improvements and wealth being more evenly distributed, the poor will have no choice but to continue using methods that pollute and waste water.  An improved economy also allows countries to afford better infrastructure and technology that can halt pollution of water resources and the environment.

Technological- there are new technologies being developed that could cut down on waste water dramatically, such as solar purification and better water retention infrastructure.  These new tools are limited to the more wealthy or those businesses and aid organizations that invest in developing countries.  Expanding technological innovation to other parts of the world will help all countries by attacking the water problem in countries as well as globally.

Political- all of this is impossible without the unity and political will of a government.  The people can demand better from their governments and companies, but without the political will to act, these calls by civil society fall on a brick wall.  Here in the United States the debate about climate change being real or not and being natural or anthrogenic misses the point.  Climate change is real and the problems it poses to each country and to the world are real.  In other countries they are working to address this eventuality with mixed success.

The articles I read are here,
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-02-12/worst-megadrought-in-1-000-years-in-u-s-due-to-global-warming?cmpid=yhoo
United States of America and the Megadrought

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/world/asia/pakistan-braces-for-major-water-shortages.html?_r=1

Pakistan getting braced for water crisis

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2015/02/12/Brazil-faces-water-disaster-scientists-warned-it-was-coming/8121423766388/

Sao Paulo to run out of water soon

Leave a comment

Filed under Water