Keeping Cool While the Planet Warms

Berlin

Air conditioning demand is expected to triple by 2030 which means that the energy demand from cooling is to rise sharply. As the planet warms the need for air conditioners for survival will (ironically and understandably) increase globally. Obviously we need to switch to 100% renewable energy as quickly as possible to limit the ongoing harm from AC units. We can also produce more efficient and environmentally friendly AC units, and that’s exactly what some organizations are trying to do.

If we could make the most commonly sold, entry-level RACs four to five times more energy efficient and use low or no global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants, we could mitigate the need for an additional 2,000 GW of power generation capacity – a figure equivalent to the total global coal-powered plant capacity in operation today. 

The Global Cooling Prize – which was launched by RMI, the Government of India and Mission Innovation in 2018 – set out to do just that. The prize invited innovators from across the globe to submit their ideas for an affordable breakthrough cooling solution that had at least five-times less climate impact than the most commonly sold RAC on the Indian market today. More than 2,100 teams from 95 countries registered for the prize. Out of 139 detailed technical applications submitted by teams from 31 countries, the top eight solutions were shortlisted as finalists by the prize coalition in November 2019. Collectively, the finalists comprise around 25% of the total market share of RACs globally and have the potential to drive massive transformation in the industry.

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Swearing is F*^%ing Good

Before you judge someone for cursing think about why they’re cursing and listen. Researchers have found out that swearing can be a good thing for people in rather surprising ways. I’m sure you’ve yelled a curse word after hurting yourself, and that act actually increases your pain tolerance in the moment. That use of swearing is pretty easy to understand, other benefits of cursing aren’t as obvious. It turns out you should trust people who pepper their speech with the occasional swear.

Damn Honest 

Beyond swearing’s impacts on the body and mind, research has shown that cursing can influence our social dynamics, too. A 2012 study found that swearing can enhance the effectiveness and persuasiveness of an argument. In addition, cursing can also convey an emotional reaction to something without us resorting to physical violence. 

And while many might consider swearing less than savory, a recent study revealed that people who curse often actually lie less and have a higher degree of integrity. 

After the scientists surveyed how often participants use profanity, they conducted a series of tests to determine how truthful an individual was. The research team found a positive link between profanity and honesty. Cursing was associated with less deception on an interpersonal level, and higher levels of integrity overall.

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Countries can Greatly Reduce Carbon Emissions by Improving Transmission

Solar panels on grass

In order to avert climate catastrophe we’re going to have to make boring changes to our built infrastructure. Politicians find it hard to argue for these sorts of enhancements because voters don’t get to see a ribbon cutting ceremony; however changes to infrastructure can make a massive difference. In the USA alone enhancing electrical transmission over power lines can reduce carbon emissions comparable to the entire chemical industry. And power lines are boring. As we find ways to use power lines (and other existing infrastructure) we need to encourage and reward politicians who want to improve them to save our planet.

Technical losses are the simplest to address through the deployment of more advanced technologies and by upgrading existing infrastructure, both for long-distance transmission of power and distribution at the local level. Improvements in transmission can be made, for example, by replacing inefficient wires, using superconductors that reduce resistance in wires, and thus lost energy, and controlling power flow and high-voltage direct current.

Similarly, improvements in distribution can be achieved by better managing the load and distribution of power, as well as how distribution lines are configured. Innovation, such as adopting digital technologies for routing power flows, can also play a role.

Solutions for nontechnical losses are more challenging and may only partially cut associated emissions. The causes of high losses are diverse and can originate in, for example, extreme events, such as the hurricanes that struck Haiti and Puerto Rico in recent years, or war, or a combination of weak governance, corruption and poverty, as seen in India. For either type of losses, countries with large shares of fossil fuel generation and the most inefficient grid infrastructure can cut the greatest emissions and reap the largest environmental benefits from reducing transmission and distribution losses.

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What Cities can do Right Now to be More Sustainable

bus

People can make changes in their everyday lives to help the environment, like reusing items or simply by buying fewer things. If a bunch of people make positive changes together the impact is bigger. This is what you can do in your city today.

Cities the world over are changing tiny aspects of how they do things to make a big impact. Many of these changes are inexpensive and relatively easy to implement. If you have a moment today you ought to send your local politician a quick email asking for one of these changes.

Local governments are also consumers, and the day-to-day tasks of running a city require supplies and services. Purchasing policies can be written to ensure city purchasing is less harmful for the environment. For example, the city of Boulder, Colorado, has an Environmental Purchasing Policy that guides the city’s procurement towards environmentally friendly products, even requiring certain items like stationery and toilet paper to be made of recycled material.

Though on a larger scale, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts found that its Environmentally Preferable Products Procurement Policy saved more than US$18 million in fiscal year 2017 and more than US$12 million in fiscal year 2018. “Organizations are already having a huge impact through purchasing. If they can leverage that influence to support other goals of the government or organization, that’s a win-win,” says Sarah O’Brien, acting CEO of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.

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This Knowledge Tree Cold Help us Avert Climate Catastrophe

tree with climate knowledge

The ongoing global climate crisis is still denied by some people (like the Australian Prime Minister) despite all the evidence. The predictions made by climate scientists decades ago are coming true: from crop failures to massive wildfires. Why then are we ignoring their predictions about what’s going to happen next? This question is tough since it can get people thinking about things they find uncomfortable. To help us talk with people who don’t understand the threat of ignoring the climate crisis Summer Praetorius created this helpful knowledge tree. The tree helps us find what people are thinking and how they reached their conclusion.

The thing about alarms is that they turn out to be useful. The canary in the coalmine, smoke detectors, tornado sirens, cell phone alerts; we generally agree that instruments to detect and convey impending threats are a step in the right direction. In fact, we require them in most buildings. The inconvenience of an occasional false alarm is far outweighed by the benefit of not dying in your sleep by a raging fire.

So while catastrophists may get the eye-roll of hyperbole, gradualists warrant an occasional head-slap of naivete. Their apparent inability to conceive a fundamentally different world leads them into a default mode of complacency, one that ironically makes it much more likely to provoke the thing they aren’t expecting. On the flip side, catastrophists are more prone to expect disaster, and might be more motivated to prevent the potential threats. So each will unwittingly prove the other one right, if they have their way of things.

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