Tag Archives: climate

Fracking: opportunity or danger? Or cute cartoon?

Hydrofrackturing rock formations to extract gas – or fracking, as it’s commonly known – has generated more than a fair share of debate in recent years.

Supporters call it the key to solving our energy needs while moving towards more green energy, while opponents call it the worst idea since the Romans put lead in their aqueducts.

And water is often at the heart of the debate between the two sides, with opponents saying that fracking causes pollution of drinking water and also causes earthquakes. Supporters, on the other hand, say that this isn’t the case and point to the fact that gas extracted through fracking has lowered the use of coal in some countries, meaning that it’s helping reduce the amounts of CO2 humans pump into the atmosphere.

Right or wrong, this is a complex issue. Good thing we have cartoons.

OK, that’s a dig (bad pun, sorry), but this illustration of the pros and cons actually does a pretty good job of explaining the whole thing:

Obama’s plan on the environment – not great, but has infographic

President Obama has revealed his plan to reduce American CO2 emissions and generally improve the state of the environment.

Left and right have already had a swing at it, and if you’re into the environment as a sorta nice place to hang out, you’ll probably be a bit disappointed at its limited scope and level of ambition.

But hey, it comes with an infographic:

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Scientists pick apart US committee chair’s arguments on climate change

Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth have spent more than 70 years between them studying Earth’s climate. And they were both left shaking their heads, when Republican Lamar Smith from Texas recently published an op-ed defending not raising prices on carbon emissions.

“Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science,” Mr. Smith wrote.

A claim that didn’t sit well with Oppenheimer and Trenberth. Especially as Mr. Smith is the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

In a link-o-rama of a rebutal, they asserted that climate change is real, and not surrounded by the uncertainty Mr. Smith alluded to.

“[…] most of the world’s major scientific organizations indicate that by the end of this century, people will be experiencing higher temperatures than any known during human civilization — temperatures that our societies, crops and ecosystems are not adapted to,” they said.

Who to agree with…hmm, I think I’ll go with the 70 years of experience on this one….

Of course, the rebuttal might be more than futile. As one reader commented:

“How quaint, using facts, science and logic to rebut a GOP congressional numbskull. It’s a complete waste of time and effort, of course. You might as well talk to the wall.”

GROVER goes to Greeland to look at ice

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Photo: NASA

NASA have sent GROVER on an autonomous mission to Greenland to look at ice sheet that covers more or less all of the massive island.

GROVER is short for ‘Goddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research’. In simple terms it’s a solar-powered robot car equipped with powerful radar-equipment. The idea is that GROVER will drive around and measure how thick the ice sheet is in various spots. Over time, the data collected will give scientists a clearer picture of the ebbs and flows in the ice sheet, and through that a better understanding on how global warming is affecting the interior of Greenland.

GROVER is currently ambling around Greenland on a trial run.

I haven’t read too much about this project, but I have to admit that the idea of using a solar-powered robot in a region where the sun more or less disappears for six months at a time strikes me as odd….

Electronic-loving ants invade USA

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Photo by: sanchom

An invasive species of ants referred to as ‘Tawny Crazy Ants’ are invading the south-eastern part of the United States, displacing the indigenous fire ants – and showing a strange love for all things electronic that is causing problems throughout the region.

“They nest in electronics and create short circuits, as they create a contact bridge between two points when they get electrocuted they release an alarm pheromone,” says research assistant Edward LeBrun from The University of Texas said.

“The other ants are attracted to the chemicals that other ants give off.”

Together with his colleagues, Edward LeBrun has been mapping the rise of the Tawny Crazy Ants.

“The “ecologically dominant” crazy ants are reducing diversity and abundance across a range of ant and arthropod species,” their report concludes.

This is not only bad news for species such as the fire ants, but also for humans living in the area.

“When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back,” said LeBrun. “Fire ants are in many ways very polite. They live in your yard. They form mounds and stay there, and they only interact with you if you step on their mound.”

LeBrun said that crazy ants, by contrast, “go everywhere.” They invade people’s homes, nest in crawl spaces and walls, become incredibly abundant and damage electrical equipment.

Nokia are reported (not really) to be following the development closely, ready to step in and lend a hand by donating mobile phones to lure the Crazy Ants away from people’s’ electronic equipment.

“It’s not like we were ever going to sell them anyway,” a fictional spokesperson for the company said.

It’s still a good idea, though…

It’s hot in here – Earth’s core hot as the Sun

The core of our planet seems to be a lot warmer than we previously thought. New measurements puts Earth’s core’s temperature (no apostrophe required) at 6,000 degrees Celsius – meaning that it’s about as hot as the surface of the Sun.

Previously, the temperature of Earth’s core was thought to be around 5,0000 degrees Celsius, but new experiments examined how iron reacts under extreme pressure, like that found at the centre of our planet, found that the temperature is likely to be 1,000 degrees higher.

According to the BBC, the new results are crucial for a number of fields study our planet.

“We have to give answers to geophysicists, seismologists, geodynamicists – they need some data to feed their computer models,” Dr Dewaele, co-author of the report on the new research, said.

World’s energy production fails to limit CO2 emissions – in spite of growth in green energy

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Photo by: JanetR3

While the number of wind farms, solar energy powerplants and hybrid cars are growing constantly, the World’s energy production is as ‘dirty’ today as it was 20 years ago.

The depressing statement comes from the International Energy Agency in a new report called Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013, that has looked at how the World is doing, if we are going to live up to the goal of limiting temperatures rising by no more than two degrees.

“Stark messages emerge: progress has not been fast enough; large market failures are preventing clean energy solutions from being taken up; considerable energy-efficiency potential remains untapped; policies need to better address the energy system as a whole; and energy-related research, development and demonstration need to accelerate,” the report states.

The report uses an indicator called Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index that measures how many tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, are emitted per unit of energy supplied. In 1990 that number was 2.39 tonnes CO2, whereas the same number in 2010 was 2.37 tonnes.

Part of the reason for this might be found in the ongoing US shale gas bonanza that has meant lower gas prices in the US. That, in turn, has meant that the price of coal has fallen, leading several European countries to use more coal instead of gas in their powerplants.

Lockheed Martin planning world’s biggest OTEC plant for China

The Lockheed Martin Group has announced that it will be constructing the world’s largest Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) power plant off the coast of southern China.

The planned 10MW power plant will be the biggest of its kind to date, and the goal is that it will supply all the power needed to run a nearby green resort that will be constructed by the Reignwood Group.

A OTEC plant uses the temperature difference between hot surface water and cold deep water to generate electricity. This can be done in a couple of ways, with the planned 10MW using a closed system generator.

In a closed system OTEC generator, a fluid with a low boiling point is heated up by the warm surface water, using a heat exchanger. The process turns the fluid into steam is used to run a turbine tied to a generator producing electricity. After the steam leaves the turbine, it is condensed into liquid form again by exposing it to the cold deep water.

“Unlike other renewable energy technologies, this power is also base load, meaning it can be produced consistently 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Lockheed Martin said at the unveiling of the new plans.

US lawmaker says bicycing is bad for the environment – because of bikers’ breathing

In what can only be described as a bit of 1+1 equals 17½, the Republican member of the Washington House of Representatives, Ed Orcutt, has been putting his foot in his mouth, hopefully slightly limiting the air supply to his brain.

Not that I hope the foot to mouth move would harm him, but because it might be the only (slightly) good reason for Mr. Orcutt’s recent comments about bicycling.

In an email response to a constituent, Ed Orcutt claimed that bicycling isn’t environmentally friendly, because a cyclist ‘has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, cyclists are actually polluting when they ride’.

Yep. He actually said that.

And it’s not a fake.