Scientists Are Closer To Making Solar Powered Jets A Reality

Swiss scientists are closer to making solar-powered jets a reality. They now know how to make jet fuel out of air, sunlight and water.

With a high temperature solar reactor fashioned from a helpful ceramic, they split carbon dioxide and water to make carbon monoxide and hydrogen, known as syngas or synthetic natural gas, with oxygen as the only exhaust.

They then handed the compressed syngas to chemists in Amsterdam who used a standard industrial process to turn the syngas into kerosene, the fuel that flies jumbo jets around the world.

Aviation is estimated to be responsible for only 2 percent of the emissions that drive potentially dangerous global warming. But while wheeled traffic can function on electricity or hydrogen as fuel, only flight-quality hydrocarbon fuel refined from crude oil can deliver the engine thrust to lift continental and intercontinental commercial flights.
And the latest experiments offer for the first time the chance of a carbon-neutral high-octane aviation spirit.

Modest Start
The initial quantities of syngas from the first trial run are hardly likely to change the world of commercial airlines: 700 liters were shipped from Zurich to Shell Global Solutions in the Netherlands to be turned into kerosene by the Fischer-Tropsch process.
But the trial is yet further evidence of the optimism and ingenuity generated in the world's research laboratories, in search of energy from renewable, or at least neutral, resources.

Scientists have already reported work on vegetable and bacterial agents to deliver a biochemical variant of rocket fuel: this, too, is some way from the launch pad.
But the aviation industry is under pressure to respond to the greenhouse consequences of fossil fuel combustion on a prodigal scale and has been looking for ways to curb emissions from jet engine exhausts.

Phillipp Furler of the Swiss technology institute known as ETH Zurich reports in the journal Energy and Environmental Science that he and colleagues used solar thermochemistry to split water and carbon dioxide at a temperature of 1,500°C.
This technology effectively concentrates sunlight to create great heat which can then be used to generate electricity. In this case, it generated flows of syngas and oxygen from a reactor based on ceria, an oxide of the rare earth cerium.
"Ceria is state of the art material. It has the ability to release a certain amount of its oxygen and then, in the reduced state, it has the capability of splitting water and CO2," Dr. Furler said.

"Our long-term vision, and what we are following, is that we will be extracting the CO2 from the atmosphere. This way, we are able to close the carbon cycle and produce CO2-neutral fuels. The technology is expensive, but commercially available."
The research offers the possibility that tomorrow's air journeys could be driven essentially by sunlight, captured carbon dioxide and water. However, the synthesis process is not likely to be competitive for a while: The researchers hope to triple the efficiency of the process.
But even then, it requires the reflected energy of 3,000 times the power of the sun to achieve the necessary temperatures. Until governments start imposing higher carbon taxes on fossil fuels to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it is unlikely to compete with kerosene from the oil refineries. But even so, solar-derived jet fuel could be here to stay.
"Oil is a limited resource; at some point you will run out," Dr. Furler said. "What we propose is another route to the same chemical, using solar energy."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.


Electric vehicles (EVs) continue to gain momentum on the world market.
Global sales of electric and hybrid cars are 63 percent higher than the same quarter last year, and up 23 percent from the second quarter, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report.
China is the top market for EVs, accounting for roughly half of global sales in the third quarter. Europe and North American were the second- and third-biggest markets, respectively.

China offers incentives to help increase the number of low-emission cars on the road.
“The Chinese government is very focused on pushing up EV sales," said Aleksandra O'Donovan, BNEF advanced transport analyst and one of the authors of the report. “One reason for that is the local pollution levels in the cities, and a second is for China to build domestic heroes to compete internationally in this market."
Electric vehicle sales are poised to surge worldwide as an increasing number of countries such as China, Scotland, France and India announced intentions to ban diesel and gasoline cars in order to cut emissions.

Notably, global EV sales are expected to exceed one million units this year for the first time, BNEF said in its report.
Many major car brands have hopped onto the electric bandwagon. Volvo Cars announced in July that every car it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor, marking a "historic end" to the internal combustion engine. Then in September, Volkswagen Group, the world's biggest automaker, announced plans to offer an electric version across the company's 300 models by 2030, and to roll out 80 new electric cars under its multiple brands by 2025. The German company, which is trying to rebound after its emissions-cheating scandal, is investing more than 20 billion euros ($24 billion) in zero-emission vehicles to challenge Tesla.
In an earlier analysis, BNEF predicted that electric cars will outsell fossil-fuel powered vehicles within two decades largely due to plunging battery prices.
The growth of clean transportation is great news for the environment, as the Environmental Defense Fund wrote in a blog post:

"Cars, buses and trucks are the second biggest source of pollution in the U.S. after electricity production. They are responsible for more than 26 percent of emissions that adversely affect the health and well-being of the population, and put communities located close to highways and other major thoroughfares at risk. These communities, typically low-income, are often plagued by elevated asthma rates and other pollution-induced health conditions."

When thinking about ways to reduce pollution, EVs can make a world of difference. And, when charged usingrenewable energy sources, they produce no emissions and can be much cheaper to operate than traditional, internal combustion vehicles.


Air Pollution Linked To Osteoporosis

Exposure to air pollution is known to cause a vast array of respiratory health problems, but in a new study, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health have determined that air pollution can also weaken bones.

The paper, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, is the first to document high rates of hospital admissions for bone fractures in communities with elevated levels of ambient particulate matter (PM2.5).
Unfortunately, as a press release for the study noted, risk of bone fracture admissions is greatest in low-income communities. In the U.S., air pollution is especially high in poorer communities.

For the study, researchers analyzed osteoporosis-related fracture hospital admissions among 9.2 million people between 2003 and 2010 and found that even a small increase in PM2.5 concentrations would lead to an increase in bone fractures in older adults.
A further eight-year followup of 692 middle-aged, low-income adults found that participants living in areas with higher levels of PM2.5 and black carbon (the soot that comes from gas and diesel engines, coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel sources) had lower levels of parathyroid hormone (a key calcium and bone-related hormone) as well as greater decreases in bone mineral density than those exposed to lower levels of the two pollutants.
The study's authors pointed out that the World Health Organization considers osteoporosis the second leading cause of disability globally after cardiovascular disease.

The researchers noted that particulate matter can cause systemic oxidative damage and inflammation, which could accelerate bone loss and increase risk of bone fractures in older individuals. Just think of smoking cigarettes as an example. Smoking contains several particulate matter components and has been identified as a risk factor for osteoporosis and bone fracture.

“Decades of careful research has documented the health risks of air pollution, from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases to cancer, and impaired cognition, and now osteoporosis," said Andrea Baccarelli, MD, Ph.D., chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School and the study's senior author.
Baccarelli said that the best way to prevent air-pollution-related diseases is through policies to improve air quality.
"Among the many benefits of clean air, our research suggests, are improved bone health and a way to prevent bone fractures," he said.
Since genetic factors are not a major determinant of osteoporosis, the authors suggested that research on the disease should be broadened to examine the impact of environmental factors.

In recent weeks, the Indian capital of New Delhi has been blanketed by a thick cloud of smog. As EcoWatch reported, the air in New Deli has remained "hazardous" for days. Illegal crop burning, vehicle emissions, industrial pollution and dust from sprawling construction sites have contributed to the pollution emergency. By 11 am on Friday, the U.S. embassy air quality data for PM 2.5 showed levels had reached 550, while the safe limit is 50, according to U.S. embassy standards.

Scientists Warn Fossil Fuel Burning Set To Hit Record High In 2017

The burning of fossil fuels around the world is set to hit a record high in 2017, climate scientists have warned, following three years of flat growth that raised hopes that a peak in global emissions had been reached.
The expected jump in the carbon emissions that drive global warming is a “giant leap backwards for humankind”, according to some scientists. However, other experts said they were not alarmed, saying fluctuations in emissions are to be expected and that big polluters such as China are acting to cut emissions.
Global emissions need to reach their peak by 2020 and then start falling quickly in order to have a realistic chance of keeping global warming below the 2C danger limit, according to leading scientists. Whether the anticipated increase in CO2 emissions in 2017 is just a blip that is followed by a falling trend or is the start of a worrying upward trend, remains to be seen.
Much will depend on the fast implementation of the global climate deal sealed in Paris in 2015 and this is the focus of the UN summit of the world’s countries in Bonn, Germany this week. The nations must make significant progress in turning the aspirations of the Paris deal into reality, as the action pledged to date would see at least 3C of warming and increasing extreme weather impacts around the world.

Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels set to jump by 2% in 2017

The 12th annual Global Carbon Budget report published on Monday is produced by 76 of the world’s leading emissions experts from 57 research institutions and estimates that global carbon emissions from fossil fuels will have risen by 2% by the end of 2017, a significant rise.

“Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again after a three-year stable period. This is very disappointing,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the UK’s University of East Anglia and who led the new research. “The urgency for reducing emissions means they should really be already decreasing now.”
“There was a big push to sign the Paris agreement on climate change but there is a feeling that not very much has happened since, a bit of slackening,” she said. “What happens after 2017 is very open and depends on how much effort countries are going to make. It is time to take really seriously the implementation of the Paris agreement.” She said the hurricanes and floods seen in 2017 were “a window into the future”.
The new analysis is based on the available energy use data for 2017 and projections for the latter part of the year. It estimates that 37bn tonnes of CO2 will be emitted from burning fossil fuels, the highest total ever.
The main reason for the rise is an expected 3.5% increase in emissions in China, the world’s biggest polluter, where low rains have reduced low-carbon hydroelectric output and industrial activity has increased. India’s rise in emissions was modest compared to previous years at 2%, while the US and EU are both on track for small falls.
2017 is likely to be the hottest year ever recorded in which there was no El Niño event, a natural global cycle that temporarily nudges up global temperature. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere also saw a record jump in 2016, and other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture and industry are also rising.
“The news that emissions are rising after the three-year hiatus is a giant leap backwards for humankind,” said Amy Luers, executive director of Future Earth, a global research initiative. “Pushing the Earth closer to tipping points is deeply concerning. Emissions need to peak soon and approach zero by 2050.”

However, climate economist Prof Nicholas Stern, at the UK’s London School of Economics, said: “I would not be alarmed. There will be some fluctuations, for example around poor rains and hydro. We should also remember that the methods used to calculate emissions will have their own errors.”
He said there is strong climate action in China: “It has a very clear strategy, particularly on coal and energy efficiency and they are getting, and will get, results.” But Stern said it remains vital that all countries ramp up the ambition of their emissions pledges and that richer countries support action across the world.
Climate scientist Prof Michael Mann, at Penn State University in the US, said the research was authoritative but also urged caution, noting that the 2% projected rise in emissions is small relative to the overall uncertainties in the data. “It seems to me they are over-interpreting the 2017 numbers and jumping the gun a bit. Can’t we wait until the actual numbers are in to do a post-mortem?”
The ability to monitor emissions quickly and accurately is of growing importance. The Paris agreement is based on voluntary cuts by nations, and without verification that pledges have been fulfilled, the trust that underpins the deal could be eroded. “This puts immense pressure on the scientific community to develop methods that can truly verify changes in emissions,” said Le Quéré.
source:the guardian

99% of Scotland Electricity Last Month Came From Wind Turbines

Another month, another renewable energy record for Scotland.
Scottish wind turbines, propelled by Hurricane Ophelia's strong winds, sent more than 1.7 million megawatt hours of electricity to the National Grid in October, according to WWF Scotland, citing data collected from WeatherEnergy.
Scotland's total electricity consumption for homes, business and industry was around 1.75 million megawatt hours in October, meaning wind turbines alone generated 99 percent of the country's electricity needs.

If we were just to look at households, wind power generated enough electricity for 4.5 million homes last month—that's almost twice the number of actual households in Scotland.
"No one will be surprised that October proved to be a spectacular month for wind energy, with some high winds, including the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia," WWF Scotland's acting head of policy Gina Hanrahan told the press Association.
"Fortunately our infrastructure coped well with the windy weather which provided enough to power nearly twice the number of households in Scotland and almost all of our electricity demand."

Just this past Oct. 2, wind generated enough electricity to power 7.116 million homes, or about three times the number of Scottish households.

"We're blown away by these figures but they are part of a pattern of increasingly green power production made possible thanks to many years of political support in Scotland. Across the year, renewables now contribute over half of our electricity needs," WWF Scotland's Director Sam Gardner said at the time.

But as Huffington Post UK pointed out, while these figures are impressive, the problem with so much wind energy is that all of it needs to be distributed so it does not go to waste. To solve this problem, perhaps Scotland can take a page from Germany, whose grid operators sometimes have to pay customers to take electricity off the grid because its renewable energy mix is generating so much power.

Another method would be ramping up the nascent grid-scale storage industry. The Scottish government is already trying this with its Hywind Scotland—the world's first floating wind farm, which officially switched on last month. The farm is integrated with Statoil's Batwind, a lithium battery that can store one megawatt-hour of power to help mitigate intermittency and optimize output.

While one megawatt-hour is not a lot—about the capacity of over 2 million iPhones—"it is the first step in a larger-scale rollout of battery solutions for renewable energy," HuffPo UK noted.

As Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy said, "October was an extraordinary month and provides more evidence that greater investment in both renewables and storage is the way forward."
source:eco watch

How Climate Change Affects Our Health

new report released this week by the Lancet medical journal details "unequivocal and potentially irreversible" growing threats to public health from climate change. The report found that the delayed action on climate change worldwide has jeopardized human life and livelihoods over the past 25 years, with harms "far worse than previously understood."
A related briefing, produced by the American Public Health Association for U.S. policymakers, highlighted worrisome trends that are affecting Americans' health right now.
Exposure to dangerous heat is increasing.

The briefing noted that between 2000 and 2016, Americans, on average, saw temperatures rise by around 1 degree C. Today, an additional 14.5 million Americans suffer through heat waves each year. The 1995 Chicago heat wave offers a case study in the impact of severe heat on human health. When temperatures exceed 100 degrees F, deaths spike. In that heat wave, more than 500 people died in a single day.

Allergy season is becoming longer.
Rising temperatures are extending the number of days in which ragweed pollen is prevalent, especially in the northern states. Americans faced significantly longer exposure to ragweed pollen in 2016 compared to 1990. In parts of the country, allergy season is three weeks longer than it was a little more than two decades ago. Allergies and asthma are a growing challenge for health professionals.

Disease-carrying insects are covering more ground.

Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the U.S. Warmer temperatures, milder winters and changes in seasonal patterns are causing ticks to arrive sooner and linger for longer. They are also reaching larger swaths of the U.S., and it's taking a toll on Americans' health. The number of reported Lyme disease cases tripled between 1995 and 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

While many people see climate change as a distant threat, its impacts are being felt today. The Lancet report found that human-caused climate change "threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health." But it also noted that cutting pollution by shifting to clean sources of energy, like wind and solar, could be "the great health opportunity of the 21st century."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.