Cattle rancher Bobby Helmers cranes to listen as the blades of his six giant wind turbines slice through the air in the same Texas fields that once echoed with the sounds of oil pumps.
Like JR and Bobby Ewing, lead characters in the hit 1970s and 80s TV series “Dallas,” Helmers hosted oil wells on his land for decades. But with renewable energy increasingly viable even in the petroleum-rich Lone Star State, the 79-year-old is among several ranchers who have plugged their pumps and made the shift to wind power.
He still marvels at how little noise comes from the massive turbines, each of which cuts a 120-meter diameter over the property, and the taste of modernity that they brought three years ago to a traditional cattle ranch owned by his wife Sandra’s family for three generations.
A Nonprofit Promised to Preserve Wildlife. Then It Made Millions Claiming It Could Cut Down Trees.The Massachusetts Audubon Society has managed its land as wildlife habitat for years. Here’s how the carbon credits it sold may have fueled climate change.
The Massachusetts Audubon Society has long managed its land in western Massachusetts as crucial wildlife habitat. Nature lovers flock to these forests to enjoy bird-watching and quiet hikes, with the occasional bobcat or moose sighting.
But in 2015, the conservation nonprofit presented California’s top climate regulator with a startling scenario: It could heavily log 9,700 acres of its preserved forests over the next few years.
The group raised the possibility of chopping down hundreds of thousands of trees as part of its application to take part in California’s forest offset program.
For the world to transition to low-carbon electricity, energy from these sources needs to be cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels dominate the global power supply because until very recently electricity from fossil fuels was far cheaper than electricity from renewables. This has dramatically changed within the last decade. In most places in the world power from new renewables is now cheaper than power from new fossil fuels.
The fundamental driver of this change is that renewable energy technologies follow learning curves, which means that with each doubling of the cumulative installed capacity their price declines by the same fraction. The price of electricity from fossil fuel sources however does not follow learning curves so that we should expect that the price difference between expensive fossil fuels and cheap renewables will become even larger in the future.
October 16, 2020 Update: America’s Largest Solar Panel-Maker Leads the World in Panel Recycling–Recovering 95% of Materials
Solar panel recycling is important for the future of solar. Solar panels have a lifetime of about 30 years. With the increasing number of solar panels being sold and installed in the United States each year, it’s only a matter of time before high volumes of silicon solar panels are at the end of their useful life and have to be disposed of. Solar panel recycling is still at a very early stage, but as the market continues to grow, it will have an important part to play in the solar industry.
Solar energy is inexpensive and environmentally friendly – until your solar panels have reached the end of their lifetime. After about 30 years, many crystalline silicon solar panels will start having significant dips in energy production and it may be time to replace them or dispose of them entirely.
Besides environmental protection, recycling solar panels will be economically impactful as well. Some of the rare elements in photovoltaic (PV) cells like gallium and indium are being depleted from the environment over time. If we were able to recover those elements, we can conserve the limited amount available on earth and continue to use them for solar panels and other products. Furthermore, a 2016 study by the International Renewable Agency (IRENA) estimated that $15 billion could be recovered from recycling solar modules by the year 2050.
What parts of solar panels can be recycled?
Recycling solar panels can only be effective if the materials used to build them are able to be used again, 30 or more years later. Solar panels are made from several components, including:
- Silicon solar cells
- Metal framing
- Glass sheets
Solar panels are good for the environment, and recycling is coming
While solar panel recycling isn’t widely available in the U.S. for all of the components in solar panels, there’s still a little time before the number of panels needing to be recycled gets too high. Groups like SEIA and Recycle PV are doing important groundwork for the industry, but there’s more to do in years to come.
California is in the process of determining how to divert solar panels from landfills, which is where they currently go, at the end of their life. When taking a product back to be recycled, reused or biodegradable it’ll be designed and engineered to accommodate for infrastructure by creating it’s own circular supply-chain infrastructure.
It is better to design and engineer sustainable circular economy solutions than simply create systems that are just another form of indulgence paid for our environmental sins while doing nothing about them. More circular solutions need to be created to counter the criticism of, “If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste?“
With people all across the U.S. spending more time at home during coronavirus quarantines, many Americans are rethinking their habits and trying to live more sustainably. According to a new survey, nearly two-thirds of people have been inspired to pick up more eco-friendly habits during the pandemic — and beyond.
NASA is a world leader in climate studies and Earth science. While its role is not to set climate policy or prescribe particular responses or solutions to climate change, its purview does include providing the robust scientific data needed to understand climate change. NASA then makes this information available to the global community – the public, policy- and decision-makers and scientific and planning agencies around the world.
New data from space is providing the most precise picture yet of Antarctica’s ice, where it is accumulating most quickly and disappearing at the fastest rate, and how the changes could contribute to rising sea levels.
The information, in a paper published on Thursday in the journal Science, will help researchers better understand the largest driver of ice loss in Antarctica, the thinning of floating ice shelves that allows more ice to flow from the interior to the ocean, and how that will contribute to rising sea levels. Researchers have known for a long time that, while the continent is losing mass over all as the climate changes, the change is uneven. It is gaining more ice in some areas, like parts of East Antarctica, and losing it quickly in others, in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Another milestone for the construction equipment industry: the first electric backhoe loader arrives.
CASE Construction Equipment unveiled “Project Zeus” – the all-new, all-electric CASE 580 EV backhoe loader, which turns out to be the first in the industry. We already saw electric excavators, loaders and some cool mining vehicles, but mostly on just a pilot scale.
It’s equipped with a 90 kWh lithium-ion battery and should be able to support an eight-hour workday in most of applications, offering:
- power and performance equivalent to other diesel-powered backhoes
- zero emission
- quiter operation
- expected lower daily operating costs
- reduce maintenance demands
- payback in around five years (the upfront cost is higher than diesel)
Should we pass legislation to end factory farming?
Contrary to common belief, Senator Cory Booker’s best idea wasn’t dropping out of the 2020 presidential race. That was his second-best idea. His best idea was introducing the Farm System Reform Bill of 2019 to the U.S. Senate.
This legislation would curtail concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs), so-called factory farms, in the U.S. Let’s hope it becomes law. Factory farms are an abomination, cruel to animals and a bad deal for humans, too. The sooner we abolish them, the better. Until then, we should take steps to reduce them.
Coal has long been in decline, but with financial giants rethinking oil and gas, and a major proposed oil project folding, is the end in sight for new fossil fuel projects as well?
Around the globe, energy and urgency is growing to limit human-driven climate change as quickly as possible. A youth movement, responding to rising anxiety about a future dominated by climate change and the grim realities climate models foretell, is growing on a daily basis. Their battle? Take on the fossil fuel industry, the single largest contributor to our shared climate crisis.
Finding its future less certain than ever, fossil fuel giants insist they will play a positive role in reining in climate change, while their actions tell a totally different story. Spending millions of dollars on social media ads while pouring money almost exclusively into expanded production of products made from fossil fuels, their public “do-good” message is anything but. It’s just more duplicitous greenwashing. But it appears everyone from youth activists to investment bankers is starting to see through the thin green veneer.
By 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. It’s an
environmental crisis that’s been in the making for nearly 70 years.
Plastic pollution is now considered one of the largest environmental
threats facing humans and animals globally.
“We now have a self-contained system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is using the natural forces of the ocean to passively catch and concentrate plastics,” he added. “This now gives us sufficient confidence in the general concept to keep going on this project.” – Boyan Slat
One of the biggest modern myths about agriculture is that organic farming is inherently sustainable. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. After all, soil erosion from chemical-free tilled fields undermined the Roman Empire and other ancient societies around the world. Other agricultural myths hinder recognizing the potential to restore degraded soils to feed the world using fewer agrochemicals.
A mushroom extract fed to honey bees greatly reduces virus levels, according to a new paper. In field trials, colonies fed mycelium extract showed a 79-fold reduction in deformed wing virus and a 45,000-fold reduction in Lake Sinai virus compared to control colonies. The hope is that the results of this research will help dwindling honey bee colonies fight viruses that are known to play a role in colony collapse disorder.
One of America’s highest Latino-populated cities now has a strategy to address the climate crisis.
Earlier this month, the San Antonio (64% Latino) City Council passed Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) by a 10-1 vote. It outlines objectives that will aim to reduce the city’s greenhouse emissions by 2050 and achieve climate equity for all populations.
This plan follows in suit with many cities across the U.S. that are taking personal responsibility for its role in the climate crisis.
“We declare that we will not be bystanders,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, according to the Rivard Report. “In no simpler terms, here and around the world, we are in a climate emergency.”
Sustainability has always been a game of catch up. The current energy production and construction trends mean that sustainability researchers have to come up with clever ways to lower emissions.
Researchers at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) in Barcelona have found a creative solution to a long-established emissions problem. They discovered how to cleverly build megastructures with a biological concrete that lowers CO2, regulates heat and is totally eye catching. Its surface grows mosses, lich
The fossil fuel sector, from coal mines to gas power plants, employed around 900,000 people in the US in 2015-16, government figures show. But Lucien Georgeson and Mark Maslin at University College London found that over the same period this was vastly outweighed by the green economy, which provided nearly 9.5 million jobs, or 4 per cent of the working age population. The pair defined the green economy broadly, covering everything from renewable energy to environmental consultancy.
Their analysis showed the green economy is worth $1.3 trillion, or about 7 per cent of US GDP.The figures don’t cover the presidency of Donald Trump, who promised to protect coal mining jobs and exploit oil and gas resources. But Maslin says the figures show that Trump’s policy is economically misguided.
How to solve the political paradox of climate change?
While most Americans accept that man-made climate change is real, they are divided about what to do in response to it and how urgently to take action.
Recent polling from the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation found nearly 8 in 10 Americans agree human activity is changing the Earth’s climate. And the majority of Americans — about two-thirds — would like to see the federal government do more to mitigate climate change. In terms of public opinion, this suggests the debate about climate change has been settled.
The real debate is about what to do — and who will bear the responsibility for necessary change. Only half the respondents believed climate change should be urgently addressed over the coming decade — a significant increase compared with just years ago, but still low for something that scientists have repeatedly characterized as an existential threat.
Likewise, half of adults responding to the poll said they would be willing to pay $2 a month more on their electric bills to address climate change, the Post reported. But 75 percent of respondents balked at the idea of paying $10 a month. And while the majority of respondents support fuel-efficiency standards, they also oppose increasing federal and gas taxes, which haven’t been raised in a generation. In short, the vast majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and want something to be done, but many people don’t want to pay for addressing it.
Cognitive biases that ensured our initial survival now make it difficult to address long-term challenges that threaten our existence, like climate change. But they can help us too.
We know that climate change is happening. We also know that it’s the result of increased carbon emissions from human activities like land degradation and the burning of fossil fuels. And we know that it’s urgent.
Capitalism has often been identified as the underlying cause of the climate crisis. A leading voice on the subject is Naomi Klein, one of the climate movements most influential thinkers, whose seminal book on climate change was subtitled Capitalism vs. the Climate. She is one of many voices identifying capitalism as the cause of climate change.
Often central within the capitalism versus the climate framing is the idea that the heart of capitalist ideology—free market fundamentalism—has fueled the climate crisis. But this line of argument often glosses over the fact that energy markets are not free from government intervention. In fact, the fossil fuel industry is deeply and increasingly reliant on government support to survive.