Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise World Wide

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Worldwide, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 2.3% in 2013, scientists have said. Meaning the world will not meet any of its environmental targets for reduction of these emissions and we are in a worst situation regarding greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than in previous years.

 
Although the growth is lower than in previous years (it was 2.5% in 2012) the increase is still significant.

In the US, contributions to greenhouse gas emissions were higher than the worldwide average at a rate of 2.9%. We may not know for several more years if China has turned a corner in its greenhouse gas emission growth and managed to level it off or start to reduce it.

According to the Global Carbon Project it took approximately 240 years for the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) to increase by 100% but it has increase by a further 36% in just the 25 years since 1990. The AGGI is a very accurate measure of the influence our way of life has already had on climate change.

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Drax Power Station North Yorkshire

 

Figures from 2014 show that over 80% of greenhouse gases constitute carbon dioxide so it is the major contributor to emissions both by qantity but also by the amount with which it is increasing.

In 2014 the atmosphere constitued 397ppm of carbin dioxide and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) if this quantity rises to a constant 550 ppm then that would lead to a rise in termperature across the whole of the Earth of 3 degrees centigrade. Such an increase in average tempertaures would disrupt agriculture, water supply, transportation, low-lying coastal regions and ecosystems.

 

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Environmentally Friendly Investments for Rockefeller Family

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The heirs to the Rockefeller fortune have stated that they are no longer going to be investing in coal and oil and are dumping all their fossil fuel investments, according to an article in the Guardian. Instead they will be opting for environmentally friendly investments.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and other philanthropists are pledging to divest themselves of over $50 billion (ÂŁ31 billion) in fossil fuel assets. Over 650 wealthy investors are planning on joining them in a green investment coalition. This all seems to be part of a new trend that started with students and community-driven groups selling off their fossil fuel investments and instead investing in green initiatives. Student bodies, local authorities, pension funds, foundations, faith-based institutions and health-based groups are among many others who are now seriously taking an interest in how environmentally friendly their investments are and aiming to invest for both a good return but also for the public good particularly when it comes to considering the environment.

Without oil, of course, there would be no Rockefeller fortune to pull out of fossil fuel investments and re-invest in more eco-friendly initiatives. The life of John D. Rockefeller was a truly remarkable rags to riches story. He built his first oil refinery near Cleveland on the proceeds of a successful business he started at the age of only 20, and in 1870 incorporated the Standard Oil Company. By 1882 he had a near-monopoly of the oil business in the States but the business practices he used, such as buying up land to prevent competitors from laying oil supply pipelines, eventually led to the passing of antitrust laws in the US.

Once retired Rockefeller embarked on various charitable endeavours and became a highly respected philanthropist helping to fund the University of Chicago to which he gave more than $80 million during his lifetime. He also founded what is now known as the Rockefeller University in New York and the Rockefeller Foundation. In total he donated over $530 million to various good causes so maybe investing in environmentally friendly assets is not such a surprise for the Rockefeller investors.

Whether others follow the Rockefeller lead and invest in green industries like this Solar Panel installation company in Swindon, remains to be seen, although at $50bn this is more than just a symbolic gesture.

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Renewable Energy from Molten Metal Batteries

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In the USA a battery has been invented by engineers, which is made from three molten metals and could help the roll out of green energy production. Battery designs before this new development cost too much to be created in a way that could store excess renewable energy and then release it to the grid.

The difference with this new battery is that it is liquid based, made of lead and antimony, which are both cheap and readily available.

It is likely that this attempt at effective energy storage will be commercially viable.

The problem has previously been that when the wind is blowing and wind turbines are producing green electricity, the need for that energy may not be there at that specific time; the same problem occurs with solar panels, when the sun does not shine, you don’t get energy. Which is a problem if you want to charge your smartphone at night.

The challenge with renewable energy

This  dependence  of renewable energy on current weather conditions has, until now, meant that energy can only be collected when it is sunny or windy and could not be stored. The challenge has been finding a way of storing the energy created for use at times when the weather conditions are not favourable.

However, it has now been demonstrated that the battery made of molten metal may be the solution to effectively storing renewable energy. The company behind this innovation, Ambri, is continuing to improve its liquid metal technology to make it more commercially viable and researchers say the introduction of lead in place of the magnesium as used in the original batteries is producing better results.

The trick behind the battery is to have three layers of very hot liquids which can react in such a way as to store electrical energy and then release it when needed.

The first test sites will be a Cape Cod and in Hawaii.

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How big is UK Solar power?

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Currently the UK in the midst of a solar boom. This may not come as a surprise to people who regularly see rooftops of their neighbours being turned into solar power stations and indeed their own homes covered in solar panels, generating clean, renewable energy, but of course only when the sun shines.

Some people are very surprised that solar panel adoption has taken off in the UK, given that our climate is hardly Mediterranean. In fact you could think, wouldn’t it be better if we simply built all these solar farms in a sun drenched place like Morocco and offset the carbon saved. indeed it would free up the agricultural land in the UK for growing food, that is currently being used to build a solar panel farm.

But that’s an argument for another time. Although at the end we will share some interesting news from Morocco.

Let’s talk about the current solar panel industry in the UK.

The UK solar power adoption has increased from 12.5 MWp in 2006 to 2.5GW in 2013, the UK government is currently targeting 20GW of photovoltaic energy production by 2020 and of that 2.5 GW, solar farms produce 0.6 GW, the most being in the SW of the UK, being the sunniest. There are around 70 solar panel farms in the SW and this is only increasing.

One of the South West’s first solar farms was the Wheal Jane farm, near Truro. It is on the site of a disused tin mine and is 1.4 MW. It has 5,680 solar panels and generates enough electricity for 430 homes, and all together saves 737 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

The largest planned is in Lincolnshire on the site of an old airfield. Faldingworth in Lincolnshire will host a solar farm generating 50MW of electricity, it will have 196,000 panels and will be able to power 12,000 homes.

A similar sized farm is already in operation in Wymeswold, Leicestershire, having 130,000 panels, although it is soon to be getting extra panels this year.

However, according to solarserver.com in September, 2014 reported that the largest operating solar panel farm is the Crundale Solar Farm, in Pembrokeshire which went online September 14th, 2014 and generates 37.8 MWp. It was 147,672 solar panels, enough to power more than 11,000 homes and saving 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

But now the technology has gone one step further and taken to water. The UK’s first ever floating solar panel farm has been built in Berkshire. It has 800 solar panels, generating 200 kW and floats on a reservoir near the 300-acre Sheeplands Farm near Wargrave. This is a very interesting move as it does not reduce the earnings from lucrative agricultural farm land.

A report from Imperial College states that the UK could get 40% of it’s electricity from solar panels on 10 million homes by 2020. A third of all UK households could be producing 6% of the annual need for electricity, with 40% on sunny days in Summer. This can happen if the cost of installing solar panels comes down further and that by 2030 the cost of generating solar power will be the same as coal and gas, said Ajay Gambhir of Imperial College London.

With the cost of solar technology continuing downwards and the cost of fossil fuel increasing upwards we see the take up of solar power in the UK only increasing.

Meanwhile in Morocco, the World Bank is lending the country $519 million to build 350 MegaWatts of solar power, which is the 2nd phase of a 500 MegaWatt project. The initiative is to produce 2 gigawatts of solar power by 2020, which will be around 38% of the total Moroccan generation capacity.

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Green Technology vs Fossil Fuel Investments

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According to an article on the Guardian website the Bank of England Governor has warned that fossil fuel companies will not be able to burn all of the oil in their reserves if we are to avoid a catastrophic climate change.

The article goes on to say that Mark Carney told a World Bank seminar that, “the vast majority of reserves are unburnable” if global temperature rises are to be limited to below 2 deg. C.”

A number of high profile people have also highlighted this “carbon bubble” theory, which warns of the future depreciation of fossil fuel assets. If a realistic carbon reduction target is to be met, then any company that bases it’s worth on the fossil fuel industry could be seeing a dramatic drop in the value of its assets.

Indeed as this blog has previously reported, US philanthropists including the Rockefeller foundation and others have recently sold all of their holdings in fossil fuel investments.

Glasgow University announced that it would become the first university in the UK to sell off all of its shares in companies that produce fossil fuels.

Carney’s stark warning outlines the lack of long term thinking by governments and businesses with respect to this issue, and is a warning that a “tragedy of horizons” may lead to market failure.

The conclusion is that fossil fuel investments will be losing their value, and it will only take a few significant improvements in the technology of renewable energy to see a rapid reduction in the need for fossil fuels. And as sentiment in the market devalues the worth of these investments it will have a self fulfilling effect.

Conversely, the investment into green technology is only increasing with time and investment in renewables is likely to amount to $1.7 trillion worlwide by 2020.

I think I know where I will be putting my money.

 

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