Bank: Toronto’s Trees Worth $7 Billion

One of Canada’s largest banks has announced that their economic research has concluded that in Toronto alone the tree canopy is worth $7 Billion (CAD). The non-monetary value of trees is obvious to most people and usually that’s enough to justify keeping trees around. However, there are people who only think in monetary terms and to those people we can now use the results of economic research to prove the greatness of trees.

If Toronto’s trees are worth $7 Billion, just imagine what the total value of trees are around the world!

It’s also well known that trees help manage temperature, both by blocking cold winds in winter, but also keeping the city cool in summer. Alexander said the net cooling effect on the city of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-sized air conditioners, running 20 hours a day.

“On their own, these effects might seem small, but over the long term, these benefits make a significant contribution to environmental well-being,” Alexander said.

Beyond mitigating the need to belch out any more air pollution to cool the city, trees also provide an important role in storing pollutants already out there. The total amount of carbon currently stored in Toronto’s urban forest is estimated at 1.1 million tonnes — roughly the amount emitted by 700,000 cars a year.

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Carbon-Negative Energy Generation

All Power Labs sells a device that converts biomass into electric energy. Their machine, which is based on technology over 60 years old, can produce insanely cheap energy while making use of plant matter. They have units that produce 10 kW and 20 kW respectively while the wait for approval for a 100 kW version.

The company even built an experimental unit for a car that ran for quite a distance using only walnut shells. This instantly made me think of the modified Delorean in Back to the Future.

All Power Labs makes machines that use an ancient process called gasification to turn out not only carbon-neutral energy, but also a carbon-rich charcoal by-product that just happens to be a fertilizer so efficient that Tom Price, the company’s director of strategic initiatives, calls it “plant crack.”

Gasification, in which dense biomass smoldering — but not combusting — in a low-oxygen environment is converted to hydrogen gas, is nothing new. Price said that ancient cultures used it to enrich their soils, and during World War II, a million vehicles utilized the technology. But after the war, it more or less vanished from the planet, for reasons unknown. Until Mason needed a way to power his flamethrowers, that is.

All Power Labs has taken gasification and combined it with two of the Bay Area’s most valuable commodities — a rich maker culture and cutting-edge programming skills — to produce what are called PowerPallets. Feed a bunch of walnut shells or wood chips into these $27,000 machines and you get fully clean energy at less than 10 cents a kilowatt hour, a fraction of what other green power sources can cost.

Read more at CNET.

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Do You Make the World Better? There’s an App for That

By now most people have heard what a carbon footprint is, but have you heard about your gloabl ‘handprint‘? The notion is that it’s the opposite of a negative counter of your impacts on the planet. Handprints are recorded online or on your phone as you make little (or big) improvements to the world around you.

You can create a handprint in three ways. First, you simply cut your footprint: say, by cycling to work, rather than driving. Second, you can champion an action suggested on the platform (carpooling, say). Or, third, you can come up with a completely new idea. In each case, Handprinter calculates the benefit and your part in bringing it about. If, for example, you share a link and someone clicks on it, you get credited with that action. Everything is subtracted from your footprint, which you calculate at the beginning.

Read more at co.Exist.

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Organic Farming is Better than Factory Farming for Carbon Capture

It turns out that not only is eating organic food better for you than processed foods, growing organic food is better for everyone. Organic farms (and likely home gardens) are better at capturing and retaining carbon than farms that are focused on mass production.

Last year, researchers reexamined all 74 studies that had looked at organic farming and carbon capture. After crunching the numbers from the results of these studies they concluded that, lo and behold, organic farms are carbon sponges.

Recently, a team of scientists decided to compare the microbes in organic and conventional plots (plus one “low intensity” field that was somewhere between organic and conventional) at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station in Michigan. They noticed that there was a much lower diversity of microbes in the conventionally farmed plot [PDF]. Perhaps the more complex community is better at exchanging the carbon among themselves, rather than releasing it to the atmosphere.

Read more at Grist.

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USA Raises ‘Carbon Price’

Climate change is happening and it’s costing a lot of money to deal with. More floods, tornados, hurricanes, and other natural events are happening with greater frequency thanks to planetary temperature increase. The reason the planet’s temperature is increasing is thanks to the way previous generations have dealt with waste.

One such waste product comes in the form of exhaust from cars and other air pollution from various sources. This much is obvious, but very few countries have acted on this issue (in fact, Canada has gone out it’s way to stop action). In the USA, the Obama administration has quietly passed a new law that raises the cost of releasing pollutants into the air in the hopes it will help slow more climate change.

Buried in a little-noticed rule on microwave ovens is a change in the U.S. government’s accounting for carbon emissions that could have wide-ranging implications for everything from power plants to the Keystone XL pipeline.

The increase of the so-called social cost of carbon, to $38 a metric ton in 2015 from $23.80, adjusts the calculation the government uses to weigh costs and benefits of proposed regulations. The figure is meant to approximate losses from global warming such as flood damage and diminished crops.

Read more at Bloomberg.

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