Planet Earth Weekly

Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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Cities Accept the Challenge of Climate Change

“It seems clear now that political organizations other than national governments are going to lead in taking actions to reducing climate change.”

Sustainable living

It’s our responsibility to change.

By Dr. John J. Hidore

November 19, 2018—–Earth’s climate has been changing from the time the planet came into being. It has gone through times when it was much warmer than today and others when it was colder. The climate of today is one that is inseparable from the growth of the human population. The industrial revolution began about 1770 AD and is synonymous with the advent of the steam engine. Steam engines burned fossil fuels, primarily wood or coal.

Planet earth is a single system in which nothing or no process exists in isolation. The burning of fossil fuels began to change the composition of the atmosphere. The temperature of Earth began to warm above what might be expected from natural causes and the term global warming started to appear in literature. Professional conferences by groups of scientists and others began to occur.

In 2015 an international conference on climate change was convened in Paris, France to discuss the problems associated with a changing climate. What is known as the Paris Agreement was ultimately approved by representatives of nearly 200 countries. However, the Agreement does not dictate any actions to be taken by the signatories. Many have done little or nothing concrete to stem climate change

Sierra Club

Sierra Club for Clean Air

Cities, Provinces and Other Regional Governments Take Charge

Many homogeneous political units such as cities, states or provinces began to respond to climate change because governments of these units began dealing with problems of flooding, unhealthy air to breath, increasing heat, etc.

Cities and towns are home to the majority of people now living on the planet. The number living in cities is growing by more than a million each week. By mid-century the percentage of people living in urban areas is estimated to reach 70%.

Groups of cities are now actively working together to reduce greenhouse emissions. As of June 6, 2018, approximately 250 mayors of American cities have officially adopted the Paris agreement. These cities contain about 60 million people. They are part of a group called Mayors National Climate Action Agenda. Among the cities that have agreed to support the Paris Agreement is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is the very city where U.S. President Trump stated he did not represent Paris and might withdraw the United States from the agreement.

building green

Cities, states and individuals must do their part in preventing climate change.

Reducing Carbon Emissions

Perhaps the most concerted effort being made is to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary gas in the absorption of energy in the atmosphere. Cities account for about 70% of carbon dioxide emissions. A major part of the effort to reduce emissions is reducing carbon emissions from motor vehicles. Another is switching to renewable fuels for generating electricity. This means eliminating power plants using fossil fuels.

The Sierra Club recently estimated that encouraged by their Beyond Coal campaign, coal-fired power plants have been closing at times at the rate of one every 16 days. This month representatives from more than 70 countries are gathering in Edmonton, Canada, to explore how to develop cities that can create and maintain a climate that adds a minimal of carbon to the atmosphere.

While some national governments, such as that of the United States, refute the whole concept of climate change and do not want to take any action, the people are taking combined action through more localized governments. It seems clear now that political organizations other than national governments are going to lead in taking actions to reducing climate change.

Planning Sustainably

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Trump Rolls Back Clean Air Act

Following are recent changes announced by the Trump administration for rolling back the Clean Air Act. This article was copied from the EPA’s website:

EPA Administrator Pruitt: GHG Emissions Standards for Cars and Light Trucks Should Be Revised
04/02/2018

WASHINGTON (April 2, 2018) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is announcing the completion of the Midterm Evaluation (MTE) process for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2022-2025, and his final determination that, in light of recent data, the current standards are not appropriate and should be revised. Administrator Pruitt is also announcing the start of a joint process with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a notice and comment rulemaking to set more appropriate GHG emissions standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
“The Obama Administration’s determination was wrong,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “Obama’s EPA cut the Midterm Evaluation process short with politically charged expediency, made assumptions about the standards that didn’t comport with reality, and set the standards too high.”
Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA sets national standards for vehicle tailpipe emissions of certain pollutants. Through a CAA waiver granted by EPA, California can impose stricter standards for vehicle emissions of certain pollutants than federal requirements. The California waiver is still being reexamined by EPA under Administrator Pruitt’s leadership.
“Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country. EPA will set a national standard for greenhouse gas emissions that allows auto manufacturers to make cars that people both want and can afford — while still expanding environmental and safety benefits of newer cars. It is in America’s best interest to have a national standard, and we look forward to partnering with all states, including California, as we work to finalize that standard,” said Administrator Pruitt.
Additional Background
As part of the 2012 rulemaking establishing the model year 2017-2025 light-duty vehicle GHG standards, EPA made a regulatory commitment to conduct a MTE of the standards for MY 2022-2025 no later than April 1, 2018. This evaluation would determine whether the standards remain appropriate or should be made more, or less stringent.
In November 2016, the Obama Administration short-circuited the MTE process and rushed out their final determination on January 12, 2017, just days before leaving office. Since then, the auto industry and other stakeholders sought a reinstatement of the original MTE timeline, so that the Agency could review the latest information.
EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a reestablishment of the MTE process in March 2017. And, in August 2017, EPA reopened the regulatory docket and asked for additional information and data relevant to assessing whether the GHG emissions standards remain appropriate, including information on: consumer behavior, feedback on modeling approaches, and assessing advanced fuels technologies. EPA also held a public hearing on this topic.

For more information: https://www.epa.gov/regulations-emissions-vehicles-and-engines/midterm-evaluation-light-duty-vehicle-greenhouse-gas

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-04/documents/mte-final-determination-notice-2018-04-02.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Jostein Gaarder on Climate Change

“Human activity is draining resources and destroying natural habitats.”

By Linn Smith

February 6, 2018—–Besides being a successful author, Jotstein Gaarder works to support both human rights and a sustainable environment. Gaarder clearly states our current world condition concerning the cause and effect of climate change in the following article, which is the foreword to his 20th addition of Sophie’s World. Sophie’s World is a novel he wrote in 1995 which became a best seller around the world. 

This exerpt is from the article, “Sophie’s World in Danger: Living as though everything centres on our time is just as naïve as thinking the Earth is flat” from http://www.independent.co.uk:

“Two decades ago, a history of philosophy by an unknown Norwegian teacher became a most unlikely phenomenon. But how has time changed the writer? And how might he change his book now, if he could? Jostein Gaarder takes up his own story. However, by far the most important philosophical question of our time must be this: how are we going to save our civilization and the basis of our existence?

From time to time I am asked a question. If I had written Sophie’s World today, is there something important I would have added? Is there something I would have placed more emphasis on? The answer is a resounding yes! If I were to write a philosophical novel today, I would have focused a lot more on how we treat our planet.

It is strange to look back after only 20 years and realize that Sophie’s World doesn’t really address this question. The reason may be that over the course of these 20 years we have gained an entirely new awareness of climate change and the importance of biological diversity. An all-important principle in the study of ethics has been the golden rule, otherwise known as the reciprocity principle: do to others what you would like them to do to you. Over time, we have learnt to apply this rule more widely. In the Sixties and Seventies, people came to realize that the reciprocity principle must apply across national borders, both to the north and to the south.

But the golden rule can no longer just apply across space. We have begun to realize that the reciprocity principle applies across time, too: do to the next generation what you would like them to have done to you, had they lived on the planet before us.

It’s that simple. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Obviously, this rule must apply to the next generation and to everyone who lives on the planet after us. They are human beings, too. Therefore, we should not leave behind a planet which is less valuable than the one we have enjoyed. A planet with fewer fish in the sea. Less drinking water. Less food. Fewer rainforests. Fewer coral reefs. Fewer species of animals and plants… Less beauty. Less wonder. Less splendor and happiness.

Jostein Gaarder

Climate change and responsibility

The 20th century has taught us that people need conventions and obligations which go beyond national boundaries. 

The question we are left with at the beginning of the 21st century is: for how long can we claim human rights without accepting they come with fundamental obligations. The time is ripe for a Universal Declaration of Human Obligations. It no longer makes sense to think about an individual’s rights and freedoms without also thinking about the responsibility of individuals and individual states – not least our responsibility to safeguard the rights of future generations.

At this very moment we are experiencing the consequences of man-made climate change. They are dramatic. However, opinion polls indicate that the people of this world are not particularly concerned. One day in the future, global-warming denial may be considered one of the greatest conspiracies of all time.
The era we live in is exceptional in every way. On one hand, we belong to a triumphant generation, which can explore the universe and map the human genome. On the other, we are the first generation seriously to lay waste to the environment. Human activity is draining resources and destroying natural habitats. We are changing our surroundings to such an extent that people think of our time as an entirely new geological era.

Climate change and sustainable living

Jostein Gaarder

Huge volumes of carbon are contained in plants, animals, the sea, oil, coal and gas. The carbon is just itching to be oxidized and released into the air. The atmosphere on dead planets such as Venus and Mars is mostly CO2, and that would also be the case here if the Earth’s processes didn’t hold the carbon at bay. But from the end of the 18th century, fossil fuels have tempted us like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp. “Release us,” they whispered. And we gave into that temptation. Now we are trying to force the genie back inside the lamp.

If all the remaining oil, coal and gas on this planet is extracted and burnt, our civilization will not survive. But many people and many countries see this as their divine right. Why shouldn’t they use the fossil fuels on their land? Why shouldn’t countries with rainforests chop them down? What’s the difference? What difference will it make to CO2 levels or to biodiversity if one country stops while the rest carry on?

Over the past few centuries, most people here in Norway have been lifted out of poverty. The same is true in many regions of the world. We should not forget that. But this prosperity has come at a high price, a debt we are only now beginning to pay off. Before the Industrial Revolution, the atmosphere contained 275 CO2 parts per million. At the moment of writing, that figure is 400 ppm and it is still rising. Devastating climate change is unavoidable at this rate. Sooner or later we must attempt to return to pre-industrial CO2 levels. 

According to Dr James Hansen, considered by many to be one of the world’s leading climate researchers, we must – initially at least – get this level down to 350 ppm. Only then can we feel reasonably secure that we will escape the worst catastrophes for this planet and for our civilization. But the figure is not going down. It is going up.

If we are to save biodiversity, we need to revolutionize our thinking. Living as though everything centers on our time is just as naive as thinking the Earth is flat. Our time is no more significant than future times. It is only natural that our time is the most significant to us. But we cannot live as though our time is also the most important one for those who come after us. We must respect future times as we respect our own time.
In relationships between individuals and between nations, we have emerged from our “natural state”, characterized by the survival of the fittest. But when it comes to the relationship between generations, unbridled lawlessness still reigns.

Everyone has the right to practice their beliefs, and everyone has the right to hope that our planet can be saved. But that does not guarantee that there will be a new heaven and a new earth awaiting us. It is unlikely that supernatural forces will bring about a Judgement Day. But it is inevitable that we will be judged by our descendants.

Climate change comes down to greed. The destruction of biodiversity comes down to greed. But greed does not trouble the greedy. History is our witness. 

The ethical question is not difficult to answer – what is difficult is living by the answer. But if we forget our descendants, they will never be able to forget us. The question of how widely we should apply the reciprocity principle comes down to identity. What is a human being? Who am I? If I were merely myself – that is, the body sitting here writing – I would be a creature without hope. But my identity goes deeper than my own body and my own short time on Earth. I am a part of – and I take part in – something which is bigger and greater than myself. Humans tend to have a local and short-term sense of who they are. We used to have to scan our surroundings, wary of dangers and prey. That gives us a natural tendency to defend ourselves and protect our own. But we do not have the same natural tendency to protect our descendants, not to mention species other than our own.

Favoring our own genes lies deep within our nature. But we don’t have the same instinct to protect our genes four or eight generations down the line. That is something we must learn – just as we had to learn to respect human rights. Ever since our species emerged in Africa, we have fought a determined battle to prevent our branch of the evolutionary tree from being cut off. That battle has been successful, for we are still here. But we have become so prosperous that we are threatening the basis of our own survival. We have become so prosperous that we are threatening the basis of every species’ survival.
As clever, vain and inventive as we are, it is easy to forget that we are simply primates. But are we really so clever if we put our cleverness and inventiveness ahead of our responsibility for the future of the planet?

No longer can we think only about one another. The planet we live on is an essential part of our identity. Even if our species is destined to die out, we still carry an important responsibility for this unique planet and for the nature we leave behind. Modern humans think we are almost entirely shaped by our cultural and social history, by the civilization which produced us. But we are also shaped by our planet’s biological history. There is a genetic heritage as well as a cultural one. We are primates. We are vertebrates.

It took billions of years to create us. Billions of years to create a human being! But are we going to survive the next millennium?

What is time? First we have the horizon of the individual, then of the family, of culture and of literary culture, but there is also geological time – we come from tetrapods that crawled out of the sea 350 million years ago – and finally, there is cosmic time. Our universe is almost 13.7 billion years old.

But in reality, these periods of time are not as distant from one another as they may seem. We have reason to feel at home in the universe. The planet we live on is precisely one third of the age of the universe, and the class of animals to which we belong, the vertebrates, has existed for a mere 10 per cent of the time our solar system and life on Earth have existed. The universe is no more infinite than that. Or conversely: our roots and our kinship are intricately and deeply woven into the universal soil.

Human beings may be the only living creatures in the entire universe who have a universal consciousness. We have a staggering sense of the immense and mysterious cosmos we are part of. Therefore, not only do we have a global responsibility to save our planet. We have a cosmic responsibility.”

This is the foreword to the 20th anniversary edition of ‘Sophie’s World’ (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £8.99) published 8th October 2015. Translation © Paul Russell Garrett 2015 is published 8th October 2015.

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 Agrivoltaics: Growing Food for the Future

Agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics: Food and Solar

“Agrivoltaics combines agriculture with energy efficiency while growing plants beneath solar panels.”

By Linn Smith

January 28, 2018—- Co-location means two or more groups, sharing the same place. Agrivoltaics, also known as Agrophotovoltaics, means using the same piece of land for solar power plus agriculture. Agrivoltaics, or solar farming, is a new way of growing plants, combining agriculture with energy efficiency while growing plants beneath solar panels.

Agrivoltaics: Dual Use of Land

In 1981, Adolf Goetzberger and Armin Zastrow developed the idea to improve overall production of crops. Dr. Goetzberger founded the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany. His work involved making solar an alternative to fossil fuels. In 1981, he published a paper titled, “Potatoes under the Collector,” which proposed a setup for solar energy systems in combination with agricultural land use.

agrivoltaics

Growing food with solar

Dr. Eicke Weber, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute stated, “In view of the dynamic worldwide growth of solar installations of the last decade and the increase in land usage resulting from solar installation systems, innovative concepts, like agrophotovoltaics (agrivoltaics) which facilitates the dual usage of agricultural land, help to further and accelerate the transformation of the global energy system.”

Dr. Goetzberger used the term Agrophotovoltaics or APV, as a method of harvesting the sun for both power and production of crops. APV is currently an ongoing project in Germany which demonstrates that land for both growing crops and solar electricity are compatible. Dual use of the land is resource efficient, reduces competition for land and opens up a new source of income for farmers.

The APV System

The APV system was installed on organic farmland in Germany in 2015. Approximately seven acres were used to produce crops under the ground-mounted solar panels, which were built about 5 yards off the ground. Four different crops were planted. The land in use not only generates electricity from the solar panels but is also growing food. The solar panels provide a uniform light distribution on the crops using reflection. To prove their theory, they also planted a control plot nearby using the same 4 crops, excluding the solar panels. The scientists wanted to determine which crops would grow best. Result: The crops under the APV system produced about 80% of that of the control crop. This experiment is ongoing and data will be analyzed in 2018.

agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics: Growing food to feed the planet.

Agrivoltaics and Biosphere2

A similar experiment was being conducted at Biosphere2 when I visited several weeks ago. This research, headed by Barron-Gafford, Assistant Professor, revealed that the solar system above the crops created a warmer environment than normal when no plants were beneath , similar to the heat-island effect that happens in cities surrounded by cement and asphalt. He stated, “So think about it, if you get rid of all the plants when you put in renewables energy, you’ve gotten rid of that cooling potential… plants under the panels would allow the air to circulate and would take up carbon for photosynthesis by opening up their pores, or stomata, while letting water escape from their leaves and you get a warmer environment. We wanted to see if you put the cooling effect back into the system by growing plants beneath the solar panels, you can actually cool those panels back down and mitigate that heat island effect.”

When solar panels get too warm they start to lose their efficiency. By growing plants beneath the panels they can cool down and retain that efficiency, which makes for more renewable energy per parcel of land. The panels also shade the plants, reduce evaporation and the crops require less water to grow underneath.

agrivoltaics

Agrivoltaics

In the future, as world population grows, solar and land for food must not be in competition. The world population today is approximately 7.6 billion. Two hundred years ago it was 1 billion. At the close of the 21st century the population will be more than 11 billion. The question remains…will we be able to feed our planet’s population and meet the demand for clean energy?

Agrivoltaics and Clean Energy

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Puerto Rico: Rebuilding Sustainably

Renewable Resources

 

“Building sustainably in Puerto Rico can take many different forms.” 

By Linn Smith

October 19, 2017—Even though Puerto Rico is going through a devastating time after the hurricane, it is essential that we not only meet the current needs of the people, but also think about its future….rebuilding sustainably. Areas devastated by wind and flooding must not only think about immediate needs, but consider the future way climate change may threaten vulnerable coastal areas. 

There is an agreement among scientists that our warming climate is producing larger, more aggressive hurricanes, and rising oceans are leading to stronger storm surges, destroying and flooding inland areas.

Puerto Rico: Sources of Energy

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Puerto Rico has some renewable solar, wind, hydropower and biomass resources, but relies primarily on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy needs, importing mostly from the U.S.

In 2016, Puerto Ricans paid more for their power than people in any other state except Hawaii, with 47% of electricity coming from petroleum, 34% from natural gas, 17% from coal and only 2% from renewable energy.

The Future of Energy in Puerto Rico

Now is the time to make decisions about Puerto Rico’s future energy needs. How will Puerto Rico get its power in the future? PREPA, the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Company, Puerto Rico’s only utility company, is mismanaged and highly in need of upgrading according to some sources. According to http://www.commondreams.org, it would be a waste to pour more money into this system. Instead, we need to invest funds into local renewables and energy efficient transportation, such as streetcars and light rail trains. 

Richard Heinberg in the article “Disaster in Puerto Rico” stated, “This is a chance to build back sustainably. People tend to maintain their status quo as long as it’s viable, but when in dire straits, they’re more likely to listen and when denial is no longer possible, people are more likely to face reality.”

Eigg renewables

Eigg uses 99% Renewable Energy

Eigg, Scottland: 99% Renewable

According to an article by David Nield, March 2017, http://www.sciencealert.com, researchers from around our planet are visiting the tiny, Scottish island of Eigg, which is using wind, solar and hydo to obtain the island’s power. This system, owned and operated by the island’s residents, has been using sustainable energy since 2009. Eigg Electric uses a combination of sustainable resources to ensure there is always energy. When back-up energy is needed, it’s supplied by several diesel generators with cables linking all the sources of energy together. Renewable energy is used 95% of the time and excess energy is stored in a bank of 100 batteries. When these batteries are full, electric heaters automatically switch on in the church and community hall so nothing is wasted. Eigg’s population has doubled since this system has been in place, but the system is still meeting the needs of the residents. The drawback is that citizens are limited to the amount of power they can use daily from the public utilities
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Ta’u, a small island in Samoa, is also changing from diesel to renewables. Today it’s powered by 5,000 Solar City solar panels and 60 Tesla Powerpack battery storage units. The Powerpack is a massive battery, 16 Powerwall battery pods encased in a weatherproof box, that can store electricity during the day when supply is abundant and discharge it when demand goes up after the sun goes down. This system provides the island with about 99% of its needs.

Tesla solar project in Hawaii.

Tesla and the Powerpack Battery

Tesla has also built a huge solar energy plant on the island of Kauai, one of Hawaii’s main islands. This project will reduce fossil fuel by 1.6 million gallons per year. The island signed a 20 year contract with Tesla to buy solar generated electricity from solar panels installed on the island for 13.9 cents per kilowatt hour. The average price of electricity in Hawaii is 37.34 cents per kwh, the highest rate in the nation. Kauai is the first major solar/storage project for Tesla. Tesla states, “We will work with energy providers around the world seeking to overcome barriers in the way of building a sustainable, renewable energy grid of their own.”

Tesla is also in the process of shipping battery packs to Puerto Rico, but details of the project have not yet been made available. Building sustainably in Puerto Rico can take many different forms and accepting help from Tesla could be a starter.

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Puerto Rico: Build Sustainably


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History of the United State’s Effort to Lead the War on Climate Change

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

The President’s Decision Will Have Major Effects on People, the Environment, and the International Status of our Country.

By Dr. John J. Hidore
June 2, 2017—-The United States has been a world leader for decades in the effort to take action to slow or stop the warming of planet Earth. In 1992 a United Nations conference know as the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At that conference the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adapted. The United States played a key role in that conference, where the to reduction of emissions from greenhouse gases was initiated.

Negotiations were held in Kyoto, Japan in the fall of 1997. Opposition to the Protocol by the corporate world was so great that the negotiations nearly collapsed. Representatives of the United States pleaded for adaption. Then vice President Al Gore led the fight for adoption. The supporter of the document won. The treaty finally came into full force in 2005 when enough countries satisfied the criteria necessary for adaptation.

Melting of the Arctic

The Arctic sea ice is melting at a record rate.

The United States became a leading proponent of the Paris Climate agreement of 2015. The agreement will greatly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases in the years ahead. It was agreed to by almost every country in the world.

Shredding America’s Leadership on Climate Change

America’s leadership in taking action on climate change may be shredded. The GOP now controls the federal government and most state governments. Their position is that profits are more important than people. Greed is the primary ethic driving this policy.

The newly elected president has laid out extensive plans that will essentially prevent any action from being taken to reduce the risk of climate change if it will affect corporate profits. First and foremost the president has repeatedly stated that he would withdraw the United States participation in the Paris Climate agreement. As a major producer of these gases the decision to withdraw from the agreement spits in the face of every other country and every individual living on the planet. His stance on the agreement was a major topic at the Group of Seven (G7) meetings in Taormina, Italy this past month. The group of seven includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and japan in addition to the United States.

Fossil Fuels

Coal and Oil Formation

Since the United States is the second leading country in the production of greenhouse gases, it would severely reduce the importance of the agreement. It is second only to China which has signed onto the agreement. Many very important persons on the international scene have encouraged President Trump to keep this country in the agreement. The first on the current trip to admonish Trump on the environment was the Pope, who gave Trump a copy of his encyclical on the environment. Others that made a strong case for the US staying in the agreement were major players in the European Union.

Effects on People, the Environment, and the International Status of our Country

What the United States does on this issue is of global importance since we are such a large consumer of energy and source of greenhouse gas emissions. At the time of this writing it is unclear what decision the President will make. He can stay with his plan to withdraw us from the world agreement in favor of profits, he can keep us in the agreement and lower our goals for cutting greenhouse gases, or he can decide to keep this country in tune with the rest of the world and honor our pledge to do something about global warming and climate change. If he decides on the latter it will at least do two things. One, announce to the world that profits for American corporations are the number one goal of his administration, and two, decide to further tarnish our image and trust by the rest of the world!

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Urban Heat Islands: Their Effects and Solutions

the heat island effect

Heat Island prevent heat from escaping cities.

“As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green.”

By Linn Smith

April 20, 2017—–If you live in a city you probably have noticed how much cooler it is in the summertime when you take a drive in the country. Drive back toward the city, with its concrete buildings, and you feel the great intensiveness of a hot summer day. There’s a name for this city heat….the urban heat island effect.

What is a Heat Island?

An urban heat island describes a large area of buildings and concrete (cities) that has temperatures which are higher than the countryside surrounding them. According to http://www.epa.gov, “The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C).” With global warming the temperatures of the heat islands will continue to increase.

Urban heat profile

Urban areas hold heat.

What Causes the Build Up of Heat?

As you enter a city you may notice concrete and asphalt surrounding you—-buildings, parking lots, streets and side walks. The concrete and asphalt absorb the sun’s heat rather than reflecting it, causing surface temperatures to rise. The rise in temperature also causes a depletion of vegetation resulting in less shade and moisture in the air. The resulting heat requires an increase in energy consumption—air conditioning which results in greater electrical use. This  cycle  keeps revolving—a catch 22 in which there is no escape from the merry-go-round of negative conditions from heat build-up.

Smog and Heat Islands

Cities can also cause “hotspots” of pollution. This smog can trap heat over a city, holding in the gases from coal burning facilities and vehicle emissions, not allowing them to escape into the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect). In addition, the closely built structures resist air flow, keeping the air trapped in the city, unlike the countryside which cools off as the air flows more freely.

Health Effects of Heat Islands

Some of the more obvious effects of heat islands are discomfort, breathing problems, heat stroke and exhaustion. But they can also be related to cardiovascular disease, sleep deprivation, depression and many more!

urban heat island

Build Green

Minimizing the Heat Island Effect

New technologies for minimizing heat islands are rapidly being developed. Several techniques currently in use for developing green urban areas are:

*Cut down on heat absorbing materials, such as asphalt and cement, by using more reflective surfaces for paved areas.The pavement can be enhanced by using reflective aggregate, a reflective or clear binder or a reflective surface coating.
*Plant trees that shade streets and paved areas.
*Use white roof membranes instead of black.
*Create a green roof–rooftop gardens.
*Create rooftop decks made from wood.
*Increase shade around buildings.
*Use energy efficient appliances and equipment which cut down on electrical use.

As National Geographic summarized, “Urban heat islands can have worse air and water quality than their rural neighbors. They often have lower air quality because there are more pollutants (waste products from vehicles, industry, and people) being pumped into the air. These pollutants are blocked from scattering and becoming less toxic by the urban landscape: buildings, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

As urban areas grow a person’s health will be connected to the build up of heat and pollution in the city…..it will become essential to build green. The planning stage for this is now!

Urban Heat Islands

building green

build green


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The Indian Subcontinent Again Sets Record Temperatures

India Droiught

Record breaking temperatures and little rain.

“As the planet warms it can be expected that there will be more severe heat waves and they will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and occur in more varied places.”

Dr. John Hidore

July 22, 2016—Global warming is occurring over the entire planet and record high temperatures have become common. The Indian subcontinent is no exception. Early written history documents heat waves and droughts.While temperature records were not available prior to the late 19th century, written descriptions indicate the severity of some earlier events.

Drought and Famine in 1768-1770

In the mid-eighteenth century the people of India were largely subsistence farmers. It was primitive crop agriculture subject to the vagaries of the monsoon. The country was under the control of the British East India Company, which kept the farmers on the verge of starvation under the best of conditions. Because of the general poverty of the mass of the population, and the marginal food supply, only a small shortfall in rain produced scattered starvation.

India is a large country, and at the time only a ponderous transportation system existed. There was no means of moving large quantities of food, or of moving people to more productive areas. Therefore, when drought set in, the alternatives were few. The beginnings of a prolonged drought and massive famine began in India in the fall months of l768. Rainfall was below normal and the crops were poor in December. The summer monsoons did not produce the usual rain in l769 and again the crop yields were scanty. By April of l770, over 30 million people in West Bengal and Bihar were directly affected. Estimates of deaths ranged upward to l0 million. The deaths were due to a combination of starvation and disease. Smallpox became epidemic in association with the drought. The death toll was exacerbated by the flood of people that fled the countryside and moved into the cities looking for sustenance. There was little to be found.

Drought in India

Indian drought causes famine.

Drought and Famine in Asia, 1875-1879

It was just a little more than a century later that drought and famine struck India with even more lethal results. The atmospheric circulation began to shift as early as 1873 in central Asia. Summer monsoons weakened for a number of years. By August 1877 the Indian government was well aware that a major famine was in progress and was going to get worse. Since rainfall was low there was insufficient feed for livestock. Wells, ponds and streams dried up. The lack of feed and water resulted in extensive loss of animals. Rainfall was so low that there was no measurable summer crop harvested in many districts. Human mortality was high.

Following the poor summer harvest, dysentery, smallpox, and cholera flared up into epidemic proportions taking a heavy toll of the population. In Bombay Presidency (Providence), the excess mortality from the famine of 1876-1877 reached 800,000 lives over the normal death rate. The Famine Commission estimated that by the end of 1878 the loss of life in the Providence totaled 3.5 million.

Indian drought

Global warming raises temperatures around the world.

The Asian Heat Wave of 2015

In May 2015, a heat wave in India claimed at least 2,500 lives. Extremely high temperatures were reached in cities scattered over the country. Power outages were wide spread. The city of Khammam recorded the highest temperature ever recorded there at 48 degrees C (118.4 degrees F). Other high temperatures were:Allahabad 47.8 degrees C (118.0 degrees F) Delhi 45.5 degrees C (113.9 degrees F)Hyderabad 46 degrees C (115 degrees F) Jharsuguda 45.4 degrees C (113.7 degrees F).

In June 2015, the deadliest heat wave known to have occurred in Pakistan took place in the southern part of the country near Karachi. The death toll is unknown for certain but may have reached more than 1000. It was followed by several weeks of the most severe heat wave to strike India. The heat wave struck during the month of Ramadan which made the impact of the event more severe than it might have been. Unfortunately, city services could not cope with the heat.

Indian drought

Millions effected by the drought

The Indian Heat Wave of 2016

India experienced even higher temperatures this year than in 2015. Temperatures were above normal most of the spring. Normally, the hottest months of the year are April, May, and June, before the summer monsoon rains begin. In May a severe heat wave alert was issued for several states. A severe heat wave is one in which temperatures of at least 117°F (47.2°C) occur. In the city of Philodi, in western India, unofficial temperatures reached 124°F (51°C). This is the highest temperature on record in India. Temperatures averaged above 104 degrees F (40°C) over large areas. Some urban high temperatures were New Delhi 47 °C (117 degrees F) Churu 50 °C (122 ºF)Philodi 51.°(124 degrees F).

The impact in India was immense. More than 300 million people have been been adversely affected. Crops failed or were below average in 13 states in the last growing season. Thousands of farmers abandoned their farms. In places the asphalt on the streets partially melted. At Bikaner, the streets were being sprinkled with water to reduce the heat. 17,000 villages had, or were facing water shortages. Several Indian states shut down schools to reduce risk to students. Heatstroke was a widespread problem and many deaths were reported across the region.

Fortunately, the government responded in a variety of ways to reduce the suffering and mortality. Forecasts for the summer monsoons are far above average precipitation. The first monsoon rains began in the south in the second week of June. Only time will tell if the monsoons will be enough to break the drought.

As the planet warms it can be expected that: (1) there will be more severe heat waves and they will become hotter, more frequent, last longer, and occur in more varied places. As cities grow larger in area and population, they will experience increasing heat waves. (2) new record high temperatures will be set across the planet.


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From Coal Mining to Renewables

Loss of jobs in underground mining

Underground Mining

By Linn Smith

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolow Machiavelli (1532)

June 18, 2016—-Much has been publicized in the past year concerning the loss of coal mining jobs, often blaming the loss on the move toward renewable energy. Recently on NPR, coal mining families stated this transition would lead to losing a “tradition,” saying the coal mining culture has been part of their families for generations.

Change is a Fact of Life

It’s true that for generations coal mining has been the only job available in many parts of the U.S., such as West Virginia. But change is a fact of life, as farmers in the Midwest experienced, losing many of the small family farms to giant agribusinesses.

I grew up on one of these small family farms, baling hay and milking cows. “Gone, for the most part, are the times when farmers would work together with wives and kids to feed the cows or harvest the year’s crop.” And that’s how it was for our family. If we were still short handed my dad would hire a cousin or two.

Ranchers on the BLM land in the west are also being forced to change. They have grazed on BLM land for generations, often claiming the land as their own, but in fact, it’s land that belongs to the citizens of the U.S. I have had many discussions about the BLM land with people in the Southwest and I have ridden horseback among the grazing cattle, which sometimes look healthy, but often look so thin you can count their ribs, and often riding past fresh carcasses of the not so fortunate cattle.

Underground mining

Today mountaintop mining is replacing underground mining.

Maintaining Traditions: At What Cost?

My point? People don’t always get what they want just because it’s been the tradition of their families for generations! Their way of life can attempt to be saved, as Willie did with the Farm Aid concerts, but often change will happen in spite of our hard work to keep things as they always have been. Today, for the most part, the small farmers are gone and ranchers are sometimes getting challenged by environmentalists and the Bureau of Land Management.

The same is happening to the coal miners! When change happens we all have to be flexible, it’s part of life. And our planet needs everyone to pitch in!

Mountaintop mining

Mountaintop mining blasts away the mountains!

The move toward renewable resources is not the only reason for the decline in underground coal mining. According to http://www.greenbiz.com, coal jobs have been trending down for decades partially because of mountaintop mining (see Planet Earth Weekly article “Mountaintop Coal Mining: The Destruction of Appalachia” http://www.planetearth5.com). Mountaintop mining has taken the place of underground mining and it requires fewer workers, cutting jobs by the thousands.

Mountain top mining in itself is an abuse to our environment, using dynamite to blast the top of the mountains to get to the coal seams–explosives and heavy machinery replacing jobs! In Kentucky, mountaintop mining has caused the decline in over 60% of coal mine workers from 1979 to 2006—over 60,000 workers! Mountain top mining has not only caused the loss of jobs, but it has destroyed the environment, causing erosion and leakage of metals and byproducts into nearby streams which provide drinking water for the local communities. Even mitigation isn’t addressing the environmental problems!.

The Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce Grants

In 2014 the U.S. Dept of Labor began giving grants to help train coal miners for clean economy jobs. The following year $35 million went to the POWER program (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization Initiative). These grants included retraining workers on down the coal production chain, from manufacturing to transportation. In 2016, the coal communities were provided with $55 million more in grants to “assist communities that were negatively affected by changes in the coal industry and help communities plan their economic future and develop a workforce based on plans.” Their goal is to “diversify economies, create jobs in new and existing industries, attract new sources of jobs, create investments and provide a range of workforce services and skills training, resulting in training for high quality, in demand jobs.”

Now is the time to accept change and meet the needs of the planet!

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” Niccolow Machiavelli (1532)