Energy and Global Warming News for June 4th: Clean energy funding trumps fossil fuels for first time, Climate change threatens Mideast stability

Clean Energy Funding Trumps Fossil Fuels

Global investors spent about $250 billion building new power capacity in 2008, and for the first time the lion’s share of that money went to renewable sources, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

Renewable sources accounted for 56 percent of investment dollars, worth $140 billion, while investment in fossil fuel technologies was $110 billion, the U.N. program said in a report, Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment 2009, released on Wednesday and produced in collaboration with New Energy Finance, a research company based in London.

Here is the full study, “Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment.”

The U.N. report highlighted how investment in developing countries in 2008 had surged forward by 27 percent to $36.6 billion, and now accounted for nearly one third of global investments. “Bright points” last year included the growth of wind power in China and a rise in spending on geothermal energy in countries including Australia, Japan and Kenya, according to Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United National Environment Program.

Brazil, Chile, Peru and the Philippines had brought in, or were poised to introduce, policies and laws fostering clean energy, he said. China led new investment in Asia while Brazil accounted for almost all renewable energy investment in that region.

Climate change threatens Mideast stability: study

Climate change could spark “environmental wars” in the Middle East over already scarce water supplies and dissuade Israel from any pullout from occupied Arab land, an international report said on Tuesday.

Almost 10 years of failed peace talks between Syria and Israel have focused on water in and around the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The vital resource is also a point of conflict between Israel and Palestinians seeking a state.

Regarding the Syria-Israel dispute, the report said Israeli concerns about “food security and reduced agricultural productivity could shift the strategic calculation on whether to withdraw” from the Golan Heights, occupied in a 1967 war.

“The expectation of coming environmental wars might imply that the way to deal with shrinking resources is to increase military control over them,” said the Danish-funded study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, an independent organization headquartered in Canada.

The Golan supplies 30 percent of the water for the Lake of Galilee, Israel’s main water reservoir.

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the report said sea-level rises as a result of climate change threatened to contaminate Gaza’s sole aquifer supplying 1.5 million Palestinians in the territory.

Student invents solar tower storage system

Claus Volkening, 23, of the University of Portsmouth, has designed and laboratory-tested a solar updraft tower that uses water storage tanks to solve the problem of existing solar power plants which only generate electricity when the sun shines.

Existing solar updraft towers work by collecting heat energy from the sun and sending the warm air up through a tower which houses a turbine. Volkening’s model siphons off some of this energy and uses it to heat water – energy which is later released to keep the turbine turning at night.

Best practice for biochar

The nascent biochar industry”¦ plans to sequester vast quantities of carbon in soil using an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice and to sell the latent emissions as credits on a global carbon market.

The concept is simple: if terra preta “” or charcoal-enriched soil “” was re-created globally, as much as 6 billion tonnes of CO2 could be prevented from entering the atmosphere annually, a substantial fraction of the 8-10 billion tonnes emitted each year by humans. Proponents, who include no small number of world-class climate scientists, say that burying biochar not only would slow the rate of warming, it would enhance soil fertility “” and the charcoal-making process could produce sustainable biofuels to boot.

Small islands win UN vote on climate change security

Small Pacific islands vulnerable to rising sea levels won a symbolic victory at the United Nations on Wednesday with the passage of a resolution recognizing climate change as a possible threat to security.

The non-binding resolution, passed by consensus by the General Assembly, may help put climate change on the agenda of the more powerful U.N. Security Council, which deals with threats to international peace and security.

Climate Bill Earmarks $500M for Clean Coal ‘Admin Expenses’

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) has been trying for the past year to get Congress to set up an independent corporation dedicated to clean coal development. He introduced the Carbon Capture and Storage Early Deployment Act (HR 6258), which provoked some hearings in 2008, but it went nowhere and died. So this spring he reintroduced the bill, virtually unchanged (HR 1689).

What happened next is further proof of the enormous leverage Boucher wields as a coal state Democrat in shaping national climate legislation.

His bill was incorporated wholesale as pages 52-75 into the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES), the climate bill Reps. Henry Waxman and Ed Markey are shepherding through the House.

Changing Climate Likely To Make ‘Super Weed’ Even More Powerful

Researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered a new reason why the tall, tasseled reed Phragmites australis is one of the most invasive plants in the United States.

The UD research team found that Phragmites delivers a one-two chemical knock-out punch to snuff out its victims, and the poison becomes even more toxic in the presence of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Forest carbon market already shows cracks

A forest carbon market is emerging in anticipation of a global, U.N. climate deal in December in Copenhagen, expected to allow rich countries to pay to protect rainforests as a cheap alternative to cutting their own greenhouse gases.

Officials in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have underlined how things may go awry.

Reuters has uncovered evidence of a multi-million-dollar offer of assistance from carbon brokers to a government agency, and confusion over whether offset sales were from valid projects.

“¦But development and environment groups have long warned that suddenly placing a big value on rainforests could spur friction and even conflict in some developing nations, because of uncertain tenure rights, corruption and inadequate policing.

Compiled by Austin Davis

10 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 4th: Clean energy funding trumps fossil fuels for first time, Climate change threatens Mideast stability

  1. Alex J says:

    Um, regarding the biochar story: They seem to suggest it could take up 60-75% of annual anthropogenic emissions, but they’re saying humans emit 8-10 gigatons of CO2 annually. Is it me, or are they confusing CO2 total mass with carbon equivalent? If memory serves, the former is closer to 30 gigatons. If we’re comparing apples to apples, the POTENTIAL would be 20%, assuming they’re accurately gauging how much long-term sequestration can occur, including in temperate region soils.

  2. Rick Covert says:

    Good news on renewables but to every yin there’s a yang. It looks like the tar sands project is coming back.

  3. Lou Grinzo says:

    Alex J: You’re right, worldwide CO2 emissions are right around 30GT/yr.

  4. Biochar detail suggestion:

    Step 1. Outlaw the burning of leaves
    Step 2. Collect the leaves and make them into charcoal. Be sure the gasses driven off are completely burned. Partly burned pyro-proteins are the cause of huge allergy problems.
    You now have a lot of that biochar you wanted and not a lot of smoke we didn’t want.

    Nature takes a lot of CO2 out of the air for us and most of us put it right back by burning the leaves. Proposals have been made to mechanically remove CO2 from the air and sequester it. That would be very expensive. It would be much cheaper to outlaw leaf burning and also healthier because leaf smoke causes respiratory problems and cancer. Collecting leaves is something that cities do anyway, but they do it half-heartedly. A really activist leaf collection program along with local charcoal making and careful complete burning of the gasses driven off kills 3 birds with one stone: It ends health problems, it improves air quality and it removes CO2 permanently from the air.

  5. Leland Palmer says:

    Testing, testing.

  6. Leland Palmer says:

    OK, looks like I’m getting through.

    Hi ecostew-

    Good link, your Science Daily link, and an interesting result – all the carbon counts. Their combined model that includes most of the major factors including economic decisions seems like a really good way to approach this complex problem.

    I don’t think that any of the current modeling except that done by a few investigators like Read and his collaborators and the Norwegian/Russian Bellona Foundation includes carbon negative bioenergy, though, combining biomass with carbon sequestration.

    Those models that do include carbon negative bioenergy ideas show much more rapid declines in CO2 than do other models, though.

    Biochar might be what saves us, but more likely the abiliy of CCS to sequester carbon for thousands or millions of years will be more decisive than the ability of biochar to sequester carbon for tens or hundreds of years.

    If every coal fired power plant on the planet were converted to biocarbon plus sequestration, and all other power sources were converted to near carbon neutrality, we could put about 6 billion tons of carbon- not CO2- per year back underground.

    And yes, there is enough biomass. ORNL estimates biomass yearly energy productivity as 6 times more than our entire worldwide energy production, including coal, oil, natural gas and hydropower energy production.