The Wildlife Conservation Society has released initial field observations that indicate that a dramatic rise in the surface temperature in Indonesian waters has resulted in a large-scale bleaching event that has devastated coral populations.
WCS’s Indonesia Program “Rapid Response Unit” of marine biologists was dispatched to investigate coral bleaching reported in May in Aceh — a province of Indonesia located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. The initial survey carried out by the team revealed that over 60 percent of corals were bleached.
“Bleaching” — a whitening of corals that occurs when algae living within coral tissues are expelled — is an indication of stress caused by environmental triggers such as sea surface temperature fluctuations. Depending on many factors, bleached coral may recover over time or die.
Subsequent monitoring conducted by marine ecologists from WCS, James Cook University (Australia), and Syiah Kuala University (Indonesia) were completed in early August and revealed one of the most rapid and severe coral mortality events ever recorded. The scientists found that 80 percent of some species have died since the initial assessment and more colonies are expected to die within the next few months.
The event is the result of a rise in sea surface temperatures in the Andaman Sea — an area that includes the coasts of Myanmar, Thailand, the Andaman and Nicobar Island, and northwestern Indonesia. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Hotspots website, temperatures in the region peaked in late May of 2010, when the temperature reached 34 degrees Celsius — 4 degrees Celsius higher than long term averages for the area….
Similar mass bleaching events in 2010 have now been recorded in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and many parts of Indonesia.
“If a similar degree of mortality is apparent at other sites in the Andaman Sea this will be the worst bleaching event ever recorded in the region,” according to Dr. Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU. “The destruction of these upstream reefs means recovery is likely to take much longer than before.”
“This is a tragedy not only for some of the world’s most biodiverse coral reefs, but also for people in the region, many of whom are extremely impoverished and depend on these reefs for their food and livelihoods,” said WCS Marine Program Director Dr. Caleb McClennen. “Immediate and intensive management will be required to try and help these reefs, their fisheries and the entire ecosystem recover and adapt. However, coral reefs cannot be protected from the warming ocean temperatures brought on by a changing climate by local actions alone. This is another unfortunate reminder that international efforts to curb the causes and effects of climate change must be made if these sensitive ecosystems and the vulnerable human communities around the world that depend on them are to adapt and endure.”
Photo credit: iStockphoto/Lee Chin Yong
Carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are projected to increase by 3.4% in 2010 over the previous year, according to a new report by DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA’s “Short-Term Energy Outlook” (STEO), released on August 10, projects carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal to increase by 6% due to increased use of coal at electric power plants. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning natural gas are projected to increase by 3.9%, due to greater use of natural gas in the industrial and electric power sectors, while emissions from using petroleum are expected to increase by only about 1%. The STEO projects relatively low growth in all three fuels in 2011, leading to a projected growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions of 0.8%. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are the biggest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and are generally a good indicator of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions trends.
Projecting the growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emission is a relatively recent addition to the STEO, which is release monthly. So far this year, the projections have varied widely. For 2010, the January STEO projected a 1.5% increase. That increased to 2.1% in April, dropped to 0.6% in May, bounced back to 2.9% in June, and has trended upward since. Meanwhile, the projected emissions growth for 2011 ranged from a high of 1.7% in the January STEO to a low of 0.8% in this month’s report. See the STEO, the accompanying chart of projected energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, and the STEO archive.
New investment in clean energy technologies, companies, and projects was steady in the second quarter (Q2) of 2010, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. The analysis, released on July 13, show that $33.9 billion flowed into clean energy, led by a “continuing boom” in China and some upward movement from the United States that helped offset a drop in European projects. Overall, Q2 investment fell 1.5% from the first quarter of the year, according to the report.
Asset financing provided the lion’s share””$28.9 billion of the $33.9 billion invested in Q2″”with China getting $11.5 billion in new asset financing during the quarter. Asset financing in the United States rose from $3.5 billion in the first quarter to $4.9 billion in Q2. And while public stock exchanges did not deliver the results some companies sought, Bloomberg said, Tesla Motors’ initial public offering (IPO) in June was an exception. Tesla reported that it priced its IPO on June 28 and closed the offering on July 2, raising approximately $184 million, net of commissions and expenses. Overall, Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasted 2010 total new clean energy investment at $180-$200 billion. See the Bloomberg New Energy Finance press release and the Tesla press release….
China appears to be continuing its massive build-out of new clean energy capacity. The country, which installed 14,000MW of new wind last year, saw $11.5bn in new asset financing in Q2 2010. That represented a 9.6% rise over the prior quarter and a 72.1% jump from Q2 2009. U.S. asset financing also rose to $4.9bn, from $3.5bn in the prior quarter and from $4.3bn in Q2 2009.
HONG KONG “” What do you do if your roads are congested and polluted? Try designing a vehicle that takes up no road space. And make it partly solar powered.
A company in the southern Chinese town of Shenzhen has done just that. To address the country’s problems with traffic and air quality, Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment has developed a decidedly odd-looking, extra-wide and extra-tall vehicle that can carry up to 1,200 passengers.
Though it is called the “straddling bus,” Huashi’s invention resembles a train in many respects “” but it requires neither elevated tracks nor extensive tunneling. Its passenger compartment spans the width of two traffic lanes and sits high above the road surface, on a pair of fencelike stilts that leave the road clear for ordinary cars to pass underneath. It runs along a fixed route.
Huashi Future Parking’s outsize invention “” six meters, or about 20 feet, wide “” is to be powered by a combination of municipal electricity and solar power derived from panels mounted on the roofs of the vehicles and at bus stops.
The glacier on Puncak Jaya in Papua, Indonesia, the Earth’s highest island, is quickly melting away, giving geologists little time to extract ice core samples.
Ice cores extracted in June from one of the last tropical glaciers in the Pacific recently arrived in the United States, where researchers will spend the coming months scrutinizing their every detail.
Glaciologists spent two grueling weeks drilling for the ice cores atop Puncak Jaya in Papua, Indonesia. Puncak Jaya is the Earth’s highest island peak and the tallest mountain between the Andes and the Himalayas at 16,000 feet (4,884 meters).
Reach team member Dwi Susanto of Columbia University said the excursion was “a lifetime achievement for me, as I usually work at sea level.”
The mission may have been a once-in-a-lifetime mission for another reason: The Puncak Jaya glacier is disappearing “” fast. The glaciologists who drilled through the cap, led by Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University, said the ice field could vanish within the next few years.
These invaluable ice cores are like climate time capsules buried thousands of years ago that show successive layers of ice and snow that have been laid down on glaciers. They enclose tiny bubbles that contain samples of the atmosphere trapped when each layer of ice first formed. By unlocking their secrets, scientists will reveal how the climate has changed over thousands of years.
The Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan, a report released by the non-profit group Beyond Zero Emissions in conjunction with the University of Melbourne’s Energy Institute, provides a detailed roadmap to power Australia’s with 100-percent renewable-energy by 2020.
The research was published in July by the University of Melbourne and argues that a renewable energy mix of wind energy and solar power backed up by biomass and hydroelectric power can easily replace Australia’s fossil fuel-based electricity. One of the main tenants of the research shoots down the theory that climate change cannot happen quickly. Promoters of Zero Carbon Australia have called for the Australian government to take a more aggressive approach to climate policy.
Matthew Wright, executive director of Beyond Zero Emissions, was quoted in a June press release, saying, “Australia needs a nation-building climate change project with the scale and vision of a Snowy Mountains Scheme for the 21st century. This approach can win the hearts and minds of Australians and put us on track to restore a safe climate.”
Solar gadgets are everywhere nowadays, but this might be the first time we’ve ever seen a solar powered toothbrush. And the best part? It doesn’t need any toothpaste.
Developed by Dr. Kunio Komiyama at the University of Saskatchewan and manufactured by Japan’s Shiken, the toothbrush is currently in a testing phase. The creators are searching for 120 teens to try out the paste-less brush in order to see if it can do a better job than traditional toothbrushes.
Dubbed the Soladey-J3X, the toothbrush features a solar panel at its base, which sends electrons up to the top via a led wire. These electrons then cause a reaction with chemicals in the mouth that clears away plaque, eliminating the need for any pesky toothpaste. “You see complete destruction of bacterial cells,” Komiyama told Canada.com. The device won’t work in the dark, however, and needs about as much light to work as a solar powered calculator.
The country’s first community-owned solar installation began delivering clean, renewable electricity to the grid in El Jebel, Colorado. The 340-panel solar installation is unique because it is owned by an array of local residents rather than any single person, utility, developer or corporation. The El Jebel “solar garden” represents a budding trend, pioneered in Colorado, toward community solar power. The benefits are many, including lower costs and the distribution of clean electricity from the sun.
Better yet, the El Jebel facility is built on otherwise unusable land in the Roaring Fork Valley. It will produce 77.7 kilowatts of solar power at peak. Year-round and seasonal residents of the valley purchased individual portions of the array, which was developed by Clean Energy Collective and grid-connected in partnership with local electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy. Holy Cross collects the power produced by the solar garden and then directly credits owners’ utility bill each month at a rate of $0.11/kWh, with some owners paying as little as $725 per panel, or $3.15/kW, up front.
“It’s great to get local renewable energy off the ground,” said Del Worley, CEO of Holy Cross Energy. The utility has plans to meet 20 percent of its power through renewable resources by 2015 “” a goal more than twice as aggressive as statewide mandates for utility cooperatives in Colorado.