Renewable Energy Trends

From the website:

Investments In The Alternative Energy Industry Surged By 59% In 2009

Investments in the alternative energy market saw a 59% increase in deal value, reporting $678.1 billion in 2009, compared to $425.5 billion in 2008. The move towards greener sources of energy has gained momentum, driven by environmental necessity, coupled and the recovery in the economy in the last quarter of 2009. This resulted in the announcement and completion of major deals with high deal values in 2009. Further, the number of deals witnessed a marginal decrease from 3,494 deals in 2008 to 3,122 deals in 2009.

GlobalData expects that the market will improve further as industry players will begin to seek opportunities for consolidation, and many companies are looking to larger potential economies like China and India in light of the expected economic recovery boost. Going forward, the ease of financing and government grants will also uplift the alternative energy industry.

Climate Change and the Philippines

Technical Primer on Climate Change in the Philippines

This report discusses what is expected to happen in the Philippines as

climate change progresses, and what appropriate courses of action must

be taken to address its adverse effects. In the context of the

Philippines, the report addresses: (i) the direct effects of climate

change, such as sea level rise, rainfall, public health; and (ii)

responding to climate change, including adaptation, responsibility,

strategic roles.

Technical Primer on Climate Change in the Philippines, Manila

Observatory for the Congressional Commission on Science & Technology and

Engineering (COMSTE), COMSTE Conference Engineering Resilience,

Confronting Risk Beyond Adaptation, Manila, Philippines, March 2010

[1.24 MB, PDF]

Another Geoengineering Approach: Air Capture

For instructors including a module on climate geoengineering, an interesting reading choice would be an article by Klaus Lackner at The Earth Institute of Columbia University, K.S. Lackner, Capture of Carbon Dioxide from Ambient Air, 176 European Physical Journal Special Topics 93-106 (2009) (subscription required). Lackner’s piece focuses on a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) geoengineering scheme that hasn’t been discussed in this blog yet, air capture of carbon dioxide. Air capture schemes are viewed by proponents as one of the potentially most desirable forms of climate geoengineering because they might avoid some of the most serious possible side effects of other schemes, e.g. alteration of precipitation patterns or depletion of the ozone layer (potential side effects of stratospheric sulfur dioxide injection) or potentially serious ocean ecosystem impacts in the case of ocean iron fertilization. The article is pretty technical, however, so probably not appropriate for undergraduate students or law students.

Among the key take-aways of the piece:

  1. Sorbent-based air capture would use a sorbent, a material used to capture gas or liquids, to capture carbon dioxide from the air; given the dilution of carbon dioxide in air, this is the only practical air capture scheme. The system would consist of a large filter standing in an airflow covered with carbon dioxide-selective sorbents;
  2. The primary cost consideration in a carbon dioxide air capture system will be sorbent recycling;
  3. The study concluded that a successful sorbent candidate could be a resin material similar to Marathon A, produced by Dow Chemical. It’s anticipated that future research will improve the efficiency of such systems;
  4. Ten million units of the nature discussed in the study (most likely deployed in large “capture parks”) would collect 3.6 Gt/yr of CO2 if the unit size stays constant. With potential increased collection capacity, ten million units could remove 10 to 20Gt of CO2 on an annual basis. Annual carbon dioxide emissions are currently about 29 Gt annually;
    • An alternative to deploying so many units would be to scale up the size of the units;
    • Some air capture could also be effectuated by portable collector units that could be deployed in areas of high emissions. However, the optimal approach is effectuate air capture where the carbon dioxide might be used (e.g. for enhanced oil recovery, the author suggests) or stored;
  5. While the first generation air capture units might cost $200 per ton of carbon captured, this could drop to $30 per ton through further advances in technology, adding 7 cents to a liter of gasoline;
  6. Air capture could also foster the development of large-scale renewable energy.  H2O and CO2 can be used feedstock to produce synthetic hydrocarbon fuels like methanol, dimethyl-ether or long chained alkanes like gasoline or diesel

Many commentators believe that Lackner’s estimates for the cost of air capture are wildly optimistic, even assuming the effectiveness of the approach, so this could lead to an interesting discussion about the opportunity costs of pursuing research and deployment of this technology. Moreover, many of the questions associated with carbon capture and sequestration (potential danger of accidental releases of sequestered carbon dioxide, the need for a very large transportation network, and NIMBY issues associated with finding venues for storage) apply in this context also.

CC & Lizards

Global Warming May Kill Off Fifth of Global Lizard Species

by Celia Cole, Guardian

One–fifth of lizard species globally will become extinct by 2080 due to global warming, according to a study using data from more than 1,200 populations worldwide.

The research found that more than a 10th of Mexico’s Sceloporus lizard populations have been driven to extinction in the last 35 years, with the figure projected to increase to almost 40% by 2080. The scientists projected their findings globally using data from other lizard populations around the world.

The findings come in the wake of immense criticism over the failure of world leaders to live up to a commitment to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010. Professor Barry Sinervo at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the study, said he believes “we have now entered the era of climate change extinctions”.

Although we may not be accustomed to considering lizards as important players within our ecosystems in the UK, he warns that the reptiles occupy diverse ecological roles in ecosystems across the globe and their reduced numbers will have important implications for ecosystems and maintaining species diversity. “Their loss could cause a collapse at higher levels of the food webs,” he said.

“Many people appreciate that climate warming may lead to extinction in the future,” said Prof Raymond Huey an evolutionary physiologist at the University of Washington, who was not directly involved in the study. “But this paper shows that climate-induced extinction has already arrived and that more is coming. What is especially concerning is that lizards – a group of animals that tolerate heat and should be well buffered against warming – are the victims.”

Scientists made the initial discovery by distributing an electronic device across 200 sites in Mexico where the lizards were both thriving and had already gone extinct. They found that rapid warming was causing the animals to spend more time in cooler retreats, preventing them from finding food and reproducing at a level able to maintain a stable population size. The reptiles do no produce their own heat internally and so are dependent on the sun.

When the researchers plotted the thermal biological data from the Sceloporus lizards, and more than 1,200 other populations found worldwide, against projected temperature rises they discovered that global warming will drive 39% of all global lizard populations and one fifth of all lizard species to extinction by 2080.

A drastic cut in CO2 production which limited temperature rise might enable losses to be limited to 6% of species, the study predicts. However, given the time lag required for current levels of CO2 to decline in the atmosphere and the projected rise in temperatures that we have already observed, Sinervo believes it is unlikely that more extinctions could be avoided.

Huey said the paper was a call to arms for scientists and policymakers. “This is a mission critical paper that sends urgent messages to two groups. First, it should prompt government officials to draft regulatory changes that may slow the growth of greenhouse gasses. Second, it sends a strong message to biologists – we need to get busy and start studying extinctions [their extent and causes] rather than just predicting future extinctions.”

(Republished with permission of The Guardian.)

Geoengineering: Marine Cloud Albedo Enhancement Study

With the report this week that Bill Gates has disbursed the first tranche ($300,000) of an estimated $5 million he’s allocated to climate geoengineering to a project that seeks to enhance cloud albedo through sea spray injections, the focus is front and center on this potential geoengineering scheme. Several researchers, most prominently John Latham and Stephen Salter, have hypothesized that emitting sea water droplets into maritime clouds will result in a fraction of such particles be transported to cloud altitude, where they will act as cloud condensation nuclei, increasing cloud droplet number concentration and increasing cloud albedo, thus exerting a negative forcing effect large enough to compensate for positive forcing expected to be associated with a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Salter has proposed deploying remote-controlled, wind-powered vessels capable of generating (via turbines dragged through the water) the electricity required to create a mist of seawater and loft it 1,000 meters into the atmosphere.

However, a recent study in the journal Atmospheric, Chemistry, and Physics (open access) demonstrates the technological challenges that lie ahead with this solar radiation management approach, H. Korhonen, et al., Enhancement of Marine Cloud Albedo via Controlled Sea Spray Injections: A Global Model Study of the Influence of Emission Rates, Microphysics and Transport, 10 Atmospheric, Chemistry & Physics 735-761 (2010). The study used a global aerosol model to simulate the potential impacts of artificial sea spray injection on cloud albedo.

The key findings from the study are as follows:

  1. It would prove “extremely challenging” to spray particles homogeneously without deploying a very large number of vessels; inhomogenous spraying would produce localized high concentrations of sea spray particles and cloud drops, leading to a different microphysical evolution that wouldn’t substantially increase cloud albedo. Many factors could thwart homogeneous dispersion, including wind speed, atmospheric transport and particle loss as a consequence of deposition and precipitation scavenging;
  2. In the study’s simulation, there is a relatively small increase of cloud drop number concentration, and even a decrease in some areas;
  3. The spatial resolution of the global scale models that have been used to study the effectiveness of sea spray engineering to date is poor; thus they are incapable of resolving criterial factors, including aerosol emissions, transport and activation activation on the scale of individual stratocumulus clouds. This dictates further study, including the use of large eddy cloud resolving models.

Geoengineering schemes clearly remain in their infancy, and as this study indicates, one would rely on them as a silver bullet to address climate change at the Earth’s peril.

The limits of human tolerance to climate change

A sobering new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences emphasizes the incredibly high risks of a business as usual scenario in terms of fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, Sherwood & Huber, An Adaptability Limit to Climate Change Due to Heat Stress, PNAS, Early Edition (2010) (subscription required).

Among the findings in the study:

  1. While the middle-range estimate of temperature increases associated with a doubling of carbon dioxide is 1.9-4.5 degrees C of warming at equilibrium, a new study concludes that there is a 5% change of exceeding 7.1C. Moreover, because combustion of all available fossil fuel supplies could produce 2.75 doublings of carbon dioxide, temperatures could soar 12 degrees C, even with a 4.5 degrees C sensitivity;
    • If one factors in potential releases of natural stores of methane and carbon dioxide in a warmer climate, temperature increases by 2100 could be between 10-20 degrees C
  2. While many studies assessing climatic impacts have focused on ecosystem, social and economic costs, the direct impact on humans and other mammals in the form of heat stress may also be extremely serious. A key consideration is peak heat stress, including humidity. While humans can tolerate, and adapt, a wide range of climates, peak heat stress may reach “intolerable levels;”
    • Humans maintain a core body temperature at 37 degrees C; sustained temperatures above 35 degrees C can cause hyperthermia, reaching lethal values (42-43 degrees C) for skin temperatures of 37-38 degrees C
    • Under future warming scenarios, a large majority of locations reach 30 degrees C at some point during a typical year, with a few regions reaching closer to 50 degrees C, with peak heat stress surprisingly similar across many regions;
    • A global-mean warming of 7 degrees C would create small zones where metabolic heat dissipation would provide “impossible;” at 11-12 degrees C warming, these zones would expand to encompass most human populations. While air conditioning is a potential compensatory response, it would remain cost-prohibitive for billions, and wouldn’t help other species, e.g. livestock.;
    • If warmings of 10 degrees C occurred in three centuries, the area of land that would be habitable would be reduced by half, dwarfing humans affected by rising sea level

Some interesting class discussion could ensue from this piece, including the levels of risk that we’re willing to tolerate as a society (does a 5% risk of extremely high temperatures mandate massive interventions?) and the implications of severe impacts that would no longer be restricted to certain regions (could this mobilize more support for addressing climate change in developed countries?).

Reflections on Teaching the Course “Curriculum Reform in an Era of Global Warming”

Reflections on Teaching the Course “Curriculum Reform in an Era of Global Warming”

By Chet Bowers,

In the summer of 2009 I taught a course for students who were in the last stage of their masters program. I titled it “Curriculum Reform in an Era of Global Warming”, which should have left no doubts as to what the focus would be. Twenty-four students representing different subject areas signed up for the five week course. Years of listening to students and faculty in teacher education programs discuss the ideas of prominent thinkers in the field led me to conclude that the survey approach fails to provide an in-depth understanding of the importance and limitations of the ideas of educational theorists and the issues they addressed. The survey courses too often leave students with little more than a few phrases and concepts of such theorists such as John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Peter McLaren, and Nel Noddings, but little understanding of the cultural/ecological issues they did not address. I was determined to avoid turning the course on curriculum reform in an era of global warming into a survey that would leave students with little more than the sound bites of progressive and, now, “sustainability” thinking.

The following overview of the course, as well as the list of readings that were the focus of class discussions, clearly indicated that we were going to engage in an in-depth examination of the different ways in which the teacher, in a variety of subject areas, could introduce reforms that would support the efforts of grass roots community groups as well as political leaders who are attempting to reduce the human impact on natural systems. The following is the syllabus that served as the conceptual roadmap for the course.

[The article is to long to post here. Follow the link, it well worth it.]

Climate Governance Workshop

TI Climate Governance Workshop: Mapping governance risks, stakeholder interventions, and future actions

Transparency International (TI) announces a call for participation at its Climate Governance Workshop: Mapping governance risks, stakeholder interventions, and future actions, to be held 12-14 June 2010 in Berlin, Germany. The workshop organised in coordination with the World Resources Institute (WRI) aims to bring together a wide representation of experts to address transparency, accountability, anticorruption, public participation and public oversight issues in the governance of climate change funding mechanisms, carbon markets and MRV processes.  The workshop concept, objectives, TI’s climate governance approaches and a draft programme are elaborated in the attachment to this communication.

To encourage a wide multi-stakeholder participation, we have opened registration for up to 15 additional participants with considerable expertise regarding climate governance and/or representing organisations active in this developing area.  Workshop participation is free of cost however persons wishing to participate in response to this open call are requested to support their own travel and accommodation costs.  Interested participants are requested to fill out the attached workshop registration form and send it to David van der Zwaag () by no later than 18 May 2010.  Successful applicants will be notified of their confirmed participation by 20th May 2010.

TI / InWEnt Climate Governance Conference

In conjunction with the abovementioned workshop, TI in cooperation with InWEnt GmbH will also host an international conference entitled “Addressing Climate Governance Risks in a new Climate Regime: Knowledge, Economy and Equity Paradigms” in Berlin.  The Conference Programme and Registration Form are herewith attached. Participation is free of charge but strictly limited due to seating availability.  Interested persons should register with InWEnt early to ensure participation.

We thank you for your consideration and look forward to your participation.


Lisa Elges

Climate Governance,

Programme Manager

David van der Zwaag


Advocacy Programme

Tel:  +49-30-343820-18

Fax: +49-30-347039-12

Alt-Moabit 96, 10559 Berlin, Germany


Tel:  +49-30-343820-668

Fax: +49-30-347039-12

Alt-Moabit 96, 10559 Berlin, Germany


TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL                            Visit:

Post-Copenhagen: The Road Forward?

A new report by Australian-based Climate Institute puts a hopeful spin on the result of Copenhagen Accord, Erwin Jackson & Will McGoldrick, Global Climate Policy post-Copenhagen: Problems and Prospects, The Climate Institute, Discussion Paper (April 2010). The report’s advocacy of a “new multilateralism” could generate some excellent discussion in classes. While the report contains a lot of discussion of Australian policy, this might be an interesting perspective for students in other countries given Australia’s interesting position in climate negotiations (recent ratifier of Kyoto, very high per capita emissions, major dependence on coal, complicated internal politics in seeking to reduce its emissions).

Among the report’s take-aways:

  1. While not establishing a legally binding agreement, the Copenhagen helped to establish the key components of a potential political consensus;
  2. One of the most significant developments of Copenhagen was the commitment for the first time of emerging economies (e.g. China, India, South Africa) to economy wide  reductions in emissions or a commitment to slow down the rate of the growth of emissions. Over 80% of the world’s emissions are covered by the Accord vs. only 25% under the Kyoto Protocol. Most importantly, it breaks through a critical political barrier, as many developed countries had conditioned future commitments on participation by major developing country emitters;
  3. Since October 2009, at least 154 new policy announcements to meet targets and mandates have been enacted, the largest number ever recorded. This includes investments in renewable energy that have substantially exceeded fossil fuel investments, including substantial investments in developing countries. Global investments in clean energy is projected to reach $200 billion in 2010. These investments are helping to build political constituencies that could drive long-term business decision-making;
  4. On the other hand, the primary purpose of international negotiations are to facilitate national decision making, and based on this criteria, the Copenhagen Accord was not a success because the pledges made by UNFCCC parties to date are inadequate to prevent an overshoot of the 2C target, a target which the parties have also acknowledged may prove to be too high, especially regionally;
  5. The two potential future responses to climate change at the international level are an extension of the Kyoto Protocol or a new treaty, or a pledge and review system, whereby countries make voluntary pledges that are reviewed by the international community. While a treaty would provide for more international accountability, the voluntary approach has been critical to engendering voluntary commitments by developing countries
  6. The issue of long-term targets remains a difficult challenge in terms of the relations of developed and developing countries; for example, even if developed countries were to reduce their emissions by 80% by 2050, many developing countries would still view this as inequitable since developed countries per capita emissions levels would still be 2-6x above that of developing countries;
  7. Unless developed countries meet their financial commitments under Copenhagen, international climate negotiations would unravel. While the U.S. has begun to seek to meet its pledge through the appropriations process, many other industrialized countries have yet to make announcements about short-term financing. It is hoped that the new High Level Advisory Group will help to galvanize the process;
  8. It’s important that negotiations continue to occur through the UNFCCC, the only forum that provides a voice for the world’s most climate vulnerable States. However, one of the reasons that the Copenhagen process faltered was that it attempted to do much. Thus, agreements on specific issues, e.g. REDD and techn0logical transfer, may take place in alternative, and smaller, fora. Issues associated with emissions commitments should also take place in other fora, e.g. the G20 or the Major Emitters Forum;
  9. The threat of border tax adjustments means that the WTO will probably have an important role to play in future climate policy making. The challenge of the Air Transport Association of America to the UK’s extension of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme also demonstrates the potential role of other regimes;
  10. A technical review of the compatibility of commitments made to date and the goal of limiting temperature increases to 2C above pre-industrial levels would be advisable, at a minimum, to ensure that we don’t pass critical thresholds, which could happen soon.