15 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for June 25: Scotland approves 42% reduction in CO2 by 2020; Sears Tower to generate most of its own power
Businesses in Scotland can expect to face significantly more demanding carbon emissions targets than their counterparts in the rest of the UK, after the Scottish Parliament passed a climate bill that is far more stringent than that adopted by Westminster.
As with the UK bill, the Scottish legislation sets a target of cutting emissions 80 per cent by 2050, but that target includes emissions from international shipping and aviation, while the UK will not formally decide whether international emissions are included until 2012.
Moreover, the Scottish bill sets significantly more demanding medium-term targets, requiring a 42 per cent cut in emissions by 2020. In contrast, the UK’s recently released carbon budgets require emissions to be cut by 34 per cent below 1990 levels by the later date of 2022.
The Sears Tower, that bronze-black monument that forms the 110-story peak of the skyline here and stands as the tallest office building in the Western Hemisphere, will soon have another unique feature: wind turbines sprouting from its recessed rooftops high in the sky.
The building’s owners, leasing agents and architects said Wednesday that they are literally taking environmental sustainability to new heights with a $350 million retrofit of the 1970s-era modernist building “” and the turbines are only the tip of the transformation. The plan, to begin immediately, aims to reduce electricity use in the tower by 80 percent over five years through upgrades in the glass exterior, internal lighting, heating, cooling and elevator systems “” and its own green power generation.
The speed at which the world embraces the electric car rests in its ability to build a better battery.
Several U.S. companies hope to race ahead of foreign rivals by using federal loans and grants to commercialize electric cars and lighter, longer-lasting batteries. But a Canadian company might get there first.
Mississauga, Ontario-based Electrovaya Inc. yesterday unveiled the Maya 300, a plug-in electric car that can get up to 120 miles on a charge of its lithium-ion battery. The Maya 300 charges in about eight hours, plugs into a regular household outlet and will be available to consumers within a year, promised Electrovaya Chairman and CEO Sankar Das Gupta, who unveiled a four-door version of the vehicle at the city’s Inner Harbor.
The UK’s seas could provide enough extra wind energy to power the equivalent of 19m homes, according to an assessment by the government.
The government’s strategic environmental assessment (Sea) confirmed projections that an extra 25GW of electricity generation capacity could be accommodated in UK waters.
This would be in addition to the 8GW of wind power already built or planned offshore, bringing the potential total electricity capacity of offshore wind to 33GW – enough to power every household in the UK.
Proposed wind farms off the coast of New Jersey and Delaware took a major step forward yesterday when U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gave four companies the right to build research towers offshore – the first such leases the agency has issued for the nation’s outer continental shelf.
The leases will allow the companies to gather crucial data on wind speeds and other meteorological information.
Until now, the companies and New Jersey, which has agreed to invest $12 million in three projects, have relied on public data and wind resource experts.
From the outside, the rustic red-brick mill on a bend in Maine’s Penobscot River resembles any other struggling American pulp and paper mill.
But along with its usual business of pulp-making, the century-old mill is doing something unprecedented: Developing technology to produce bio-butanol, a jet fuel, from parts of trees that would otherwise go to waste, one of the world’s first to do so.
Production is still two years away, but the reinvention of Maine’s Old Town Fuel & Fiber mill is already drawing interest as a potential model for a new wave of biofuel companies that could slash dependence on oil, create jobs and reduce the emissions that lead to global warming.
Deep in the Arctic Circle, in the Messoyakha gas field of western Siberia, lies a mystery. Back in 1970, Russian engineers began pumping natural gas from beneath the permafrost and piping it east across the tundra to the Norilsk metal smelter, the biggest industrial enterprise in the Arctic.
By the late 70s, they were on the brink of winding down the operation. According to their surveys, they had sapped nearly all the methane from the deposit. But despite their estimates, the gas just kept on coming. The field continues to power Norilsk today.
Where is this methane coming from? The Soviet geologists initially thought it was leaking from another deposit hidden beneath the first. But their experiments revealed the opposite – the mystery methane is seeping into the well from the icy permafrost above.
Climate could have a direct effect on the speed of “molecular evolution” in mammals, according to a study.
Researchers have found that, among pairs of mammals of the same species, the DNA of those living in warmer climates changes at a faster rate.
These mutations – where one letter of the DNA code is substituted for another – are a first step in evolution.
[JR: Not fast enough to preserve both of the “sapiens” in homo sapiens sapiens, though.]
Does ozone have an impact on the ocean’s role as a “carbon sink”? Yes, according to researchers from three laboratories attached to INSU-CNRS, UPMC, CEA, IRD, MNHN and UVSQ. Using original simulations, they have demonstrated that the hole in the ozone layer reduces atmospheric carbon uptake in the Southern Ocean and contributes to the increase in ocean acidity.
These results, which are published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, should have a considerable impact on future models of the IPCC, which, for the moment, do not take ozone variations into account.
Global warming will likely mean more unpredictable weather, scientists say, and a new study by researchers at the University of Georgia pins down, possibly for the first time, how drought conditions in an area’s fall and winter may effect tornado activity the following spring.
The study, published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, is specific to Georgia and the Southeast, but further study could reveal patterns that might make this more general””including the already tornado-prone Great Plains.
Two million Americans face increased cancer risks of greater than 100 in a million from exposure to toxic air pollution, according to a U.S. EPA report released today.
EPA estimates that all 285 million U.S. residents have an increased cancer risk of greater than 10 in a million from exposure to air toxics. The average cancer risk, based on 2002 pollution levels, is 36 in a million.
The agency has asserted that levels above a 100-in-a-million risk level are generally unacceptable.
The Chinese government yesterday announced it would suspend a project to reforest arable land in order to maximize crop production in the face of expected food shortages.
Lu Xinshe, deputy head of the ministry of land and resources, said the country was struggling to maintain the 120 million hectares of cultivation necessary to maintain food self-sufficiency. Expanding urban areas is cutting into farmland, and Chinese officials are particularly wary of food shortages after famines in the late 1950s and early 1960s killed between 15 million and 40 million people.
Women exposed to air pollution from freeways and congested roads are much more likely to give birth to premature babies and suffer from preeclampsia, according to a study by University of California scientists published Wednesday.
The findings, based on pregnant women in the Long Beach/Orange County region of Southern California, add to the growing evidence that car and truck exhaust can jeopardize the health of babies while they are in the womb.