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ecology news

 

article archives at abelard's news and comment zoneecology archives 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
III-2004: 17 18 19 22 30 IV-2004: 19 20 25 27 V-2004: 01 09 VI-2004: 07 28
VIII-2004: 13 30 IX-2004: 05 07 22 29 X-2004: 07 13 20 21

New translation, the Magna Carta


K 'Y

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ecology

wwf world ecology report 2004 [44-page PDF]
with data tables, charts and graphs.

Marker on ecolàogy news at abelard.org

Warning: in my view, while this report has its uses, I regard it as driven by a political agenda at least as much as it is driven by science. Therefore, I cannot convince myself that this report is very reliable.

You will see that a vast amount of the growth in ecological footprint is notionally allocated to land dedicated to absorbing the over-burden of human-produced carbon in the atmosphere. This is hardly convincing reasoning. (See carbon in the atmosphere.) The authors have even allocated an 'equivalent' footprint for nuclear power generation, after admitting that nuclear power has no such footprint.

On the other hand, the authors appear to have made no allowance for the probable large increases in land area required for energy generation.

Further, in this report are unrealistic proposals to selectively shrink standards of living, but no realistic calculations relevant to the current steadily rising standards of living.

Marker on ecolàogy news at abelard.org

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has just released their “Living Planet Report 2004”.

In it, the WWF say that the global ecological footprint is now 2.2 hectares [5.4 acres] per person, whereas the world can only provide an ecological footprint of 1.8 hectares [4.6 acres] per person. [2]

This is at present standards of living. As we run out of fossil fuels, particularly oil, we will need more land to produce substitute energies [3]. Meanwhile, billions have aspirations to higher living standards.

Advanced nations increasingly are exporting their pollution, as primary production, to more backward countries. At the same time, the advanced countries concern themselves with lower-polluting advanced technology.

end notes

  1. An “Ecological Footprint measures people’s natural resource consumption. The footprint can be compared with nature’s ability to renew these resources. A country’s footprint is the total area required to produce the food and fibre that it consumes, absorb the waste from its energy consumption, and provide space for its infrastructure. People consume resources and ecological services from all over the world, so their footprint is the sum of these areas, wherever they are on the planet.”

  2. This is calculated by sharing 11.3 billion hectares [27.91 billion acres] of productive land and sea between a population of 6.1 billion people.

  3. See also figure 39 in the WWF report.

  4. Primary production:
    Heavy industrial production, such as cars, ships.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#wwf_report

 


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large-scale reducing carbon output: 15 routes

The article suggests 15 ways of reducing carbon each by 1 billion tonnes per year, and suggests aiming at seven such tranches to stabilise world emissions.

“So far we have vested interests weighing very heavily in this debate who think they are going to lose by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
What we need now are vested interests on the other side to add their voices. For me the smorgasbord of wedges has a number of advantages: it has the virtue of pragmatism, it has the virtue of lowest cost, and it has the virtue that it brings together the largest possible coalition.”

The 15 are as follows:

  • Doubling fuel efficiency of 2 billion cars from 30 to 60 mpg
  • Decreasing the number of car miles travelled by half
  • Using best efficiency practices in all residential and commercial buildings
  • Producing current coal-based electricity with twice today’s efficiency
  • Replacing 1400 coal electric plants with natural gas-powered facilities
  • Capturing and storing emissions from 800 coal electric plants
  • Producing hydrogen from coal at six times today's rate and storing the captured CO2
  • Capturing carbon from 180 coal-to-synfuels plants and storing the CO2
  • Adding double the current global nuclear capacity to replace coal-based electricity
  • Increasing wind electricity capacity by 50 times relative to today, for a total of 2 million large windmills
  • Installing 700 times the current capacity of solar electricity
  • Using 40,000 square kilometers of solar panels (or 4 million windmills) to produce hydrogen for fuel cell cars
  • Increasing ethanol production 50 times by creating biomass plantations with area equal to 1/6th of world cropland
  • Eliminating tropical deforestation and creating new plantations on non-forested land to quintuple current plantation area
  • Adopting conservation tillage in all agricultural soils worldwide”

Like so many, the author avoids dealing with nuclear by using unconvincing arguments.

marker at abelard.org

now we have a suggestion there is another hidden downside:

“Industry has dramatically cut its emissions of pollutants, called volatile organic compounds. But those cuts have been more than offset by the amount of VOCs churned out by trees.

“The revelation challenges the notion that planting trees is a good way to clean up the atmosphere.” [quoted from New Scientist.com]

As you should be aware, much of the carbon output is being absorbed be reforestation and similar....this is a sink that will eventually fill up. See where is the missing carbon?

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#carbon_output

italy wants to tax suvs - maybe

Which comes first, efficiency and environment or German industrial interests?

This PlanetArk article is recommended for scanning:

“ Environment Minister Altero Matteoli said taxes on the gas-guzzlers could be used to fund incentives for people to scrap old cars and buy more environmentally friendly ones.”

“ Earlier this year, France proposed raising taxes on them but put the plan on hold when Germany argued the move protected French companies that make smaller cars, as does Fiat.”

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#italy_suvs

trawl ocean destruction continues

Crab on sponge at the Davidson Seamount off the coast of California . Image courtesy of NOAA and MBARI

Before:
Crab on sponge at the Davidson Seamount off the coast of California

Image courtesy of NOAA and MBARI

trawl marks left after deep sea trawling of Norway. Photo credit: Jan Helge Fossaa, IMR

After:
Trawl marks left after deep sea trawling on on Lophelia reef, Norway

Photo credit: Jan Helge Fossaa, IMR

“95% of the material caught in deep sea bottom trawlers’ steel nets that are dragged along the seabed, are [sic.] thrown back overboard, dead, destroyed or dying. “These trawls really do devastate the seabed, destroying everything in their paths,”confirmed marine biologist Alex Rogers from the British Antarctic Survey.”[1]

marker at ecology news on abelard.org news and comment

“Kelly Rigg of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) said deep sea bottom trawling destroyed whole marine communities for the sake of catching a few fish which fetched premium prices in the world's top restaurants. "We are advocating a moratorium on all bottom trawling on the high seas," she told a news conference.

“ "One 15 minute trawl can lay a deep seabed habitat to waste, destroying cold water corals which have taken millennia to grow," she added. "It is fisheries piracy." ”[2]

marker at ecology news on abelard.org news and comment

From a previous press conference at the UNO:

“ [...] the number of countries involved in deep -sea trawling was relatively small, at about 11 countries, but those took 90 per cent of the catch in 2001, with the European Union countries responsible for approximately 60 per cent, and one country, Spain, responsible for about 40 per cent. So, it was mostly developed countries out on the high seas destroying the biodiversity deemed in 1969 to be the common heritage. And, only a small number were reaping the economic benefit.

“While the actual number of vessels involved was relatively small -- approximately 200 -- the damage those caused was potentially huge [...] ”

A short Greenpeace webcast showing how the destruction is being wreaked is available (in three formats) at the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition press release.

end notes

  1. From the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.
  2. From a PlanetArk article, but also see the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition press release.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#trawlers

lowering environmental cost of building construction, wood, steel or concrete?

A considerable piece of work, well presented in 13 pages with charts and graphs. Four GoldenYak (tm) award

“Assessments of material flows and their environmental consequences are increasingly needed to address an expanding list of environmental performance issues. An analysis of the flow of mass, energy, and carbon from resources (such as a forest or mine pit) to products, and ultimately to disposal in a landfill or by recycling, is a complex undertaking. Any attempt to identify the environmental consequences of the life-cycle of houses constructed from alternative materials is burdened by enormous data requirements in order to characterize each stage of a product’s life-cycle. The complexity of modern house construction exacerbates the analysis, because many products made from different materials are used. In addition, the time element associated with the growth of forests, the manufacturing of the wood products, and the duration of the useful life of a house and its many components adds another layer of complexity.”

“ [...] the steel-framed house utilized 17 percent more total primary fuels than the wood-framed house. In Atlanta, the concrete-framed house utilized about 15 percent more energy than the wood-framed house.“

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#construction_costs

step by slow step, the awful truth must penetrate the heads of dumb pseudo-greens

My belief is that, despite the great seriousness of ‘climate change’, this term is being used to force the even more serious problems of oil depletion and the need for nuclear power onto the agenda.

Conservation of energy continues to be underplayed in any article where vested interest lobbies can insert their interest, like in this article from Nature.com:

“ Blair is not wrong to see opportunities in climate change: the goal of reducing fossil-fuel emissions could be a tremendous stimulus for technology. We want cheaper, more efficient photovoltaic cells, better thermoelectric materials for harvesting geothermal energy, artificial photosynthesis and photocatalytic splitting of water, and more compact and convenient fuel cells. We need better insulators and we need ways to capture carbon from its gaseous forms.”

“ That is surely a coy way to skirt around what may be the key issue. One can argue endlessly about the cost and efficacy of wind turbines and other renewable sources, and about the savings achievable by better efficiencies in energy use, but it's incredibly difficult to see how the numbers will ever add up to a 60% carbon dioxide cut in 45 years. Moreover, wind and solar energy are hampered by being intermittent: their 'capacity factor' (the ratio of total annual power output to potential output if operating always at full power) is typically around 25%, compared with 90% for nuclear power.”

See also:

Green Alliance is promoting the case for micro-generation - small, affordable, roof mounted wind turbines, solar panels and heating systems that can generate renewable, low carbon heat and power at home.

“Micro-generation produces zero or low-carbon heat and power. New micro-wind turbines, no bigger than a TV aerial or satellite dish that can be mounted on a roof will be available within the year. They can supply energy for domestic needs and feed any surplus back into the national grid. To buy one can cost as little as £990.

“Ground source heat pumps are another form of micro-generation. They extract stored solar energy from the ground (the sun's heat is absorbed and stored in the earth) and run the central heating. These can now cost the same as an oil-fired boiler to install for those 4.5 million households not connected to the gas network, and mean much lower bills.”

This press release above is either sloppy or self-serving. Micro-generation does not produce zero carbon. Such devices must be manufactured, which invariably means carbon use in the present situation.

Then there are payback costs which go unmentioned in this release. Nor is it much use to lower heating bills if the capital cost (and/or manufacturing costs) outweigh the advantages of micro-generation. (See also energy economics - extraction efficiency and costs, depletion of fossil fuels.)

A press release promoting micro-generation is either meaningless or misleading if it does not mention these issues in detail. Further, feeding back wind-generated electricity, which often will not be stored, is not convincing, given the following claim in the release:

“According to Fuel Cells UK, it costs $10 million to build new wires to ship 1MWof power one mile. The costs associated with centralised power generation also come from electricity being lost as heat from the grid. Ofgem estimate that nearly $1 billion of power is leaked from the UK grid each year.

Nor would it be highly efficient to transmit surplus power and re-transmit it to other users, when there are efficiency losses at every stage of the process.

But then Green Alliance seem to be trying to sell micro-generation an alternative to central power stations, not a complimentary option. Or at least they were until they reached the muddle of this last comment.

I am unimpressed by this press release and will not be sending off £20 for the ‘report’.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#greens

some utter nonsense from spain

“ The government hopes the energy-intensive desalination plants could be powered, at least in part, by renewable energy. After consultation with the private sector, Narbona said this could require additional research which could be funded by the government.”

With ever increasing pressure on energy resources, Spain proposes to use energy intensive desalination to produce 3% of Spain’s current water supply, and hopes to squeeze much of the cost from other European Union nations:

“The new program will cost an estimated 3.8 billion euros. Spain's proposals received a warm welcome from EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and Madrid hopes the European Union will cover up to 1.26 billion euros of its cost.”

I’ll bet they do!

A great part of the cause of Spain’s water problems is intensive under-plastic production. Presently, Spain’s electricity production from wind (outside their parliament) is well under 1% of Spain’s energy production. Every Western nation is going to have to vastly increase electricity production just in order to stand still. Spain will have to invest every year most of $US10 billion dollars just to hope to keep up.

Spain would be far better looking to conserve water rather than to waste more energy.

“The first water under the new scheme is expected to flow in 2005, the minister said. To accompany the plan, the government will launch a campaign to educate Spaniards on the importance of conserving water.

“It will also attempt to classify more accurately how water is used in Spain [...].”

Interesting to see they don’t even know, yet are seeking this ridiculous and expensive project.
Who on earth is passing projects like this?

related material
replacements for fossil fuels—what can be done about it?

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#spain

very useful against erosion, and it even smells great!

“Native to India, vetiver is taking root in a growing number of tropical countries, where it is used as an engineering tool to solve problems from soil erosion to pollution cleanup.

“Key to the plant's performance: It grows a thick and seemingly impenetrable tangle of roots that plunge 13 feet (4 meters) straight into the ground. The roots essentially form a wall of steel that prevents erosion-prone slopes from slipping away.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#vetiver

alaska burning - well, some of it

“ In a typical summer, 500,000 to 1.5 million Alaska acres burn, according to statistics from past years. And usually, fire is part of the natural cycle that clears black spruce and white spruce, slender, fast-growing conifers with high levels of flammable resin, out of the way for slower-growing hardwood trees like birch and aspen.”

And it ain't over yet, but as so often Reuters have their figures wrong.

“Six hundred fires have burned during the summer, topping the 4.94 million acres charred in 1957, the previous record Alaska wildfire season.”

Better figures are available from the National Interagency Fire Center, which indicate that Reuters appear to have confused figures for all of the United States with Alaskan figures. As you will see, at over 6 million acres, this year’s United States burn is currently running at twice the ten-year average.

Here is a god-like view of the fires in Alaska.

smoke and fires across Alaska- image credit: NASA
Image courtesy of MODIS Rapid
Response Project at NASA/GSFC

And here is a false-colour image showing the result of burning around the Yukon River in Central Alaska.

false-colour image of Alskan fores - image credit: NASA
Image courtesy of MODIS Rapid
Response Project at NASA/GSFC

“The image is a false-color image, which means that vegetation is bright green and burn scars are reddish brown. We did this to make the burn scars stand out more distinctly. In this color combination, clouds are light blue and snow is dark blue. The blue wedge in the image is probably cloud.”

Go here for similar image, marked with place-names, together with additional information about the fires that caused the burn scars.

 

This item developed with assistance from NASA’s Earth Observatory.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#alaska

indicator frogs show careless humans using the world for a rubbish tip

Indicator species act as mine canaries did in the past.

“ In their paper, Johnson and Chase show the links between phosphorus, snail biomass, the number of amphibians with the parasite, the number of parasites and how likely it is that the frogs will be deformed. They combined data from their studies of ponds in several Midwestern and Western States. In an ongoing experiment started in the spring of 2004, Chase thinks they'll nab the 'smoking gun.'

“He and Johnson poured phosphorus and nitrogen into experimental ponds in Wisconsin and will see if they get a higher incidence of ramshorn snails, the parasites, and deformed frogs, compared to experimental ponds without those nutrients.

“Johnson and Chase's finding adds to the growing list of wrongs human activities have visited upon frogs.

  1. Studies have shown that certain pesticides cause frogs and toads to become hermaphrodites, impairing reproduction.
  2. Others have shown that the depletion of the ozone layer, caused by industrial pollutants, exposes frogs and frog eggs to excessive ultraviolet radiation, which can slow growth rates, damage the immune system and create other bodily malformations.
  3. "We're showing that humans have probably created more deformed frogs through eutrophication by way of a series of complex interactions in the pond food web," Chase said.
  4. "Add habitat destruction to all of these other concerns and there's no question that humans are messing up frogs left and right."

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2004.php#frogs

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