China and US Agree to Cut Emissions

The world’s largest polluters have agreed that they have a problem and they need to stop it. The USA and China have come to terms with the fact that they are the worst polluters and have both decided to take action using various policy tools and joint cooperation. This is important for many reasons, for one not only does this mean the largest economies will become more efficient and less damaging to the plant. Another reason is that smaller economies (looking at you Australia and Canada) copy American policy, so hopefully the climate change denying government elsewhere will wake up and take action.

Better late than never.

According to the plan, the United States will reduce carbon emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, nearly twice the existing target—without imposing new restrictions on power plants or vehicles.

Tuesday’s announcement is equally remarkable for China’s commitment. For the first time, China has set a date at which it expects its emissions will “peak,” or finally begin to taper downward: around 2030. China is currently the world’s biggest emitter of carbon pollution, largely because of its coal-dependent economy, and reining in emissions while continuing to grow has been the paramount challenge for China’s leaders

It involves a series of initiatives to be undertaken in partnership between the two countries, including:

  • Expanding funding for clean energy technology research at the US-China Clean Energy Research Center, a think tank Obama created in 2009 with Xi’s predecessor Hu Jintao.
  • Launching a large-scale pilot project in China to study carbon capture and sequestration.
  • A push to further limit the use of hydroflourocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas found in refrigerants.
  • A federal framework for cities in both countries to share experiences and best practices for low-carbon economic growth and adaptation to the impacts of climate change at the municipal level.
  • A call to boost trade in “green” goods, including energy efficiency technology and resilient infrastructure, kicked off by a tour of China next spring by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Read more at Mother Jones.

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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.

Read more here.

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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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