Get to Know the World, and Stay Informed

How much do you know about the world? Hans Rosling, with his famous charts of global population, health and income data (and an extra-extra-long pointer), demonstrates that you have a high statistical chance of being quite wrong about what you think you know. Play along with his audience quiz — then, from Hans’ son Ola, learn 4 ways to quickly get less ignorant.

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London Lowered Speed Limits to Save Lives

Cars kill. Or is it like the gun debate – cars don’t kill people drivers kill people? Regardless of fault the results of car use as a primary means of transportation causes health problems and needless death. Cities around the world are taking steps to try and hold back cars (or is it drivers?) from killing people. One sure-fire way that works is to lower the speed limit.

The City of London lowered their local speed limits and found that it made for safer streets. Other cities are finding the same strategy equally effective, yet here in Toronto will we ever see this? Our local councillors and crack-consuming mayor went out of their way to spend $300,000 to ensure cars can move faster at the expense of cyclists. The mayor himself has stated multiple times that the lives of non-drivers are worth less than taxpaying drivers. Torontotist looks into the issue while sharing the success of smarter cities than Toronto.

The move to reduce driving speeds in cities is based on some convincing statistics. Greater London contains roughly 400 zones with 20 mph speed limits, and these are credited with reducing traffic fatalities by 42 per cent. In London, Barcelona, Brussels, and a handful of other European cities, low-speed zones have resulted in significantly increased bike and foot traffic, according to a 2013 study, as people have begun to feel safer on city streets.

The U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in 2011 found that decreasing average driving speeds by just one mile per hour would reduce the accident rate by about 5 per cent. There has even been academic research on the success of lowered-speed zones in the U.K.

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Look at This Landscaping Called Xeriscaping

California is suffering a huge drought due to horrible water use policies and climate change. For some reason people love to have lawns where they naturally shouldn’t exist, this itself leads to massive water wastage and arguably microclimate issues. Thankfully, perhaps people are beginning to understand that their landscaping is a sad attempt to modify their built environment.
A better solution than an artificial environment is a natural one. Xeriscaping may be a good solution to reduce water waste. Check out how it can replace lawns with aesthetic and naturally pleasing solutions.

Til the Well Runs Dry: How Xeriscaping Helps Conserve Water

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Renewable Energy Capacity Comparable to Nuclear

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The future is looking better and better for renewable energy production and recently the capacity for renewable energy is comparable to nuclear. Nuclear energy saw great progress and governmental support to get it where it is today; without such extensive help renewable energy production is now catching up.

Seeing the success of renewables will hopefully inspire more governments to create policies to support ongoing growth. The logistical issues of storage are still being figured out by utilities and as we’ve recently seen, investors are more interested in this sector than ever before.

Following a rapid rise from its beginnings in the mid-1950s, global nuclear power generating capacity peaked at 375.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Capacity has since declined to 371.8 GW in 2013, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Adverse economics, concern about reactor safety and proliferation, and the unresolved question of what to do with nuclear waste have put the brakes on the industry.

In stark contrast, wind and solar power generating capacities are now on the same soaring trajectory that nuclear power was on in the 1970s and 1980s. Wind capacity of 320 GW in 2013 is equivalent to nuclear capacity in 1990. The 140 GW in solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is still considerably smaller, but growing rapidly.

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Investors: Good Economics is Taking Action on Climate Change

It’s no secret that carbon trade, carbon caps, and various other policy tools improve economies and diminish negative environmental impacts caused by economic activity. Yet, the myth that having a sustainable economy isn’t possible with a growing economy.

Environmentalists have been arguing for better policy and enforcement for decades, and now global investors are also arguing for the same thing. Hopefully with this announcement and others from the recent UN Summit on Climate Change we will see good movement on improving our economy and planet.

“The international investor community has today made it clear that the status quo on climate policy is not acceptable,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. “Investors are taking action on climate change, from direct investment in renewables to company engagement and reducing exposure to carbon risk.”

“But to invest in low carbon energy at the scale we need requires stronger policies.”

The world’s total renewable energy capacity grew at its fastest pace ever in 2013, but global investment in renewable energy still only amounted to $254 billion in 2013. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that global investment in renewables much reach $1 trillion every year from now until 2050 if the global temperatures are to be kept from rising more than 2°C — the threshold beyond which scientists think climate change will get truly catastrophic. But the IEA anticipates global investment will instead plateau around $230 billion annually through 2020. Bloomberg New Energy Finance thinks two-thirds of the $7.7 trillion the world will likely invest in power plants between now and 2030 could go to renewables — but that still falls well short of the mark.

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