Posts Tagged ‘Climate Change’
In a rather “environmentally concerned” approach to cut down on the carbon emission from flights, Lufthansa airlines has announced that they will start commercial biofuel flights daily between Hamburg and Frankfurt in a six-month trial from April 2011. The move to operate an aircraft engine with biofuel over a long stretch of six months, is first of its kind in the world.
Energy security issues, hike in petrol prices and climate change from greenhouse gases emitted by airplanes have been troubling the airline industry for quite some time. Virgin Atlantic Airlines, British Airways and Continental Airline have have already tested on biofuel flights in the last two years. However, environmentalists have been constantly warning that production of biofuels can also have adverse effects on environment.
Utilizing biofuel in flight operations can save around 1,500 tonnes (15,00,000 kg) of Carbon dioxide emissions. However, as the airline industry worldwide is calling for an alternative source of energy, there’s a need to check for the sustainability of biofuels against fossil fuels and their effect on aircraft’s engine over a longer term. Plus, environmental concerns are another big issue related to production of biofuels.
According to a report by UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, biofuel plantations are destroying ecosystem of various regions in the world. Palm oil plantations set up for biofuel production in Indonesia and Malaysia, have led to deforestation resulting in more emission of greenhouse gases as the worst consequence.
In such a situation, a sustainable and environment-friendly way to produce biofuels is the need of the hour.
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In these modern times, we can’t deny the fact that technology and science has propelled into probably the highest level of superiority which has indeed made our lives much more comfortable. However, the down side is that it has also caused air pollution, specifically carbon emissions coming from cars, planes, factories, etc. As of now, air pollution is considered to be a big environmental threat in many parts of the world. So how does air pollution affect the environment?
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One of the major contributing factors to climate change is air pollution. Harmful emissions doesn’t just pollute the air we breathe, but are also producing greenhouse effect much more impact, therefore, leading to the increase on the average temperature on our planet. So we can say that more vehicles and more industries would also mean that there would be more negative impact to the global warming problem.
Another major issue on how does air pollution affect the environment is the harmful effect it has in the earth’s ozone layer. Well almost everyone is aware that there are chemicals that shrink our ozone layer, making it thinner and increasing the risk for harmful violet rays that may lead to developing skin cancer.
Acid rain is another negative effect of air pollution. It destroys the habitat of many animals, polluting the water by affecting their acidity and do great damage to the ecosystem as a whole.
Now that we all have the answer on how does air pollution affect the environment, the next logical thing to do is to find a way to reduce, if not totally eliminate the major factors that contributes to air pollution. We can start by using much less of our cars than we used them now and we should also take simple steps to conserve energy.
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Biofuels may be defined as any fuel obtained from biomass. Biomass is material derived from plants and animals. Experts and environmentalists feel that we need to make changes in our manner of living so that we can protect the planet from global warming. Switching to biofuels for the transportation industry can be one such change.
Some of the Biofuels include vegetable oil, biodiesel, biogas and bioalcohol. Vegetable oil is used to manufacture biodiesel which can be used in cars. Biodiesel is generated through a process known as transesterification by using oils and fats. Today, this is the most commonly used biofuel in the world. Bioalcohols like ethanol fuel and butanol are produced by fermentation of sugars and starch. Biodiesel is a source of renewable energy, since it is plant based. It is a green fuel as it does not release toxic gases in the atmosphere.
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine, mixed with the normal diesel. Biobutanol which is also called biogasoline can be used directly in a vehicle as a replacement for gasoline. Biofuels are beneficial to the environment as they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, increase national energy security, increase rural development and provide a sustainable fuel supply for the future.
Many environmental groups are supporting the use of biofuels since they see it as a significant step towards slowing down climate change. Many countries which are beginning to recognise the importance of bioenergy have dedicated facilities for research, development and deployment. There is exchange of information and co-operation among the nations who realize the importance of reaping the benefits of biofuels.
At present there are a few problems associated with the use of biofuels, one of them being the high cost of production. Another point of note is the extensive deforestation due to the use of wood as a source of biomass, and the negative impact it will have on the environment. There are other issues with bio diesel fuel relating to the transport industry, as it does not perform well in cold climates. The wax crystals formed may clog fuel lines of the vehicles. So vehicles may still have to be powered by gasoline in cold climates unless future research can overcome these problems.
In future however, biofuels should become cost effective, affordable, abundant and eco-friendly. This is a challenge for the scientists and hopefully, with the amount of research being done in the field of biotechnology, the world will get an abundant source of alternative energy. Once the stocks of fossil fuels deplete, and the price of oil rises to unprecedented levels, there will be tremendous pressure to look for alternatives. Biofuels can then be used as an alternative source of energy for powering your cars,boilers and engines as also providing heat and electricity to your homes.
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Copyright (c) 2008 Daniel Lafleche
Today’s journals of trade and popular culture are all but awash in the buzzwords ‘sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’. Here, we are obliged to raise the red flag and warn of lurking danger. These diverse and many advocates do a great disservice in more ways than they know.
For in this great sea of ‘sustainability’, which spans business strategies and regimens of weight loss, one all too easily loses sight of the real battle. We know that over-use of a term can have an unintended blunting effect. But the word is so much in vogue, and its employment so overzealous, that it has in many instances become obscured entirely. So, you ask, what is sustainable development? Who are its proponents and antagonists? And, oh yes, why exactly is it to be so desired after all?
Ours is an age in which we have come under the twin pressures of burgeoning population growth and an accompanying intensification of economic development. This development is necessary for the provision of the surging population’s needs and wants. Though rates of population growth show signs of slowing, the number of earth’s inhabitants will continue to expand massively in the foreseeable future. With the added variable of impending climate change, there is a sudden and new awareness of the potentially destructive nature of the human project.
These realities have given immense weight to calls for an oversight which explicitly takes account of the fate of future generations. Many nuanced definitions have been devised, but the most commonly evoked is that sustainable development “meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” General consensus holds that the sustainability project spans three interactive domains; these are (1) environmental sustainability, (2) economic sustainability, and (3) social-political sustainability.
Environmental sustainability is concerned with the preservation of resources and our earth’s natural environment. In the strictest sense, any process which allows natural capital (the net sum of all natural resources and other bounties of the earth) to be depleted faster than it can be replenished threatens its ability to function and to serve us properly and indefinitely. Advocates of environmental protection actively seek solutions which will minimize the present and future burden to our natural environment of industrial and other pursuits. The best solutions are those which find ways to incorporate renewable methods of resource exploitation.
The notion of environmental sustainability is thus inextricably bound to the premise of economic sustainability. Rapid advances in new technologies and production techniques are constantly altering and expanding the boundary of production possibilities. But ultimately, economics is the science of the allocation of a finite resource pool. Promotion of economic sustainability thus seeks to allow for future generations to reach their own optimal allocations free from constraints imposed by our own patterns of exploitation in the here and now.
The sphere of social-political sustainability is interesting in that it expands beyond the simple necessity of economic growth and its effect on the natural environment to more directly include the human element in the equation. Social-political sustainability promotes social harmony and continuity of healthy political institutions so that a mechanism is in place for the enactment of the collective will (presumably a will which is favorable to sustainability).
The project of sustainable development has inevitably encountered resistance. Some are eager to point out that any economic pursuit which entails resource depletion is by that very fact unsustainable. But to make this charge is to reduce the debate to semantics; to contend that the impossibility of an absolute application invalidates the endeavor wholesale is to court the ridiculous.
Another more prominent criticism is slightly more troublesome to counter. Available evidence seems to confirm the wisdom that as nations emerge from poverty and amass wealth they are more willing to dedicate a portion of their incomes to combat pollution and other unpleasantries. The wealthy industrialized nations of the world at one time advanced through dirtier stages analogous to the present progress of developing economies. However at that time there were no monitors or whistle-blowers. This school of critics cries hypocrisy. They uphold “dirty” mediums of economic growth that wealthier nations can now afford to bypass as the only hope to elevate massive populations from abject misery. In so doing, they seek to force arbiters of sustainable development into the unenviable position of choosing between the welfare of the earth’s poor and that of the earth itself.
In the face of these criticisms, proponents of sustainable development strive for the national and international coordination of environmental, economic and sometimes social policies in the advancement of responsible progress. They are mindful that the world more than ever is a system of actors, none of whose actions bear no consequence for others. Their goal is the day-to-day management of policy decisions such that humanity might enjoy the bounty of our natural environment without exhausting it, and without selfishly revoking the privilege of coming generations to do the same.
Without sounding the bells of certain alarmists, sustainability of this color is to be venerated and upheld. Dilution of the term’s strength by those who would seek to hijack its nobility is, on the other hand, to be regretted and indeed resisted.
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Creating real carbon credits comes from the concept of supplementarity within the Kyoto Protocol. Supplementarity means that internal abatement of emissions should take precedence before a country purchases carbon credits. It establishes that countries should develop real, measureable, permanent emissions reductions. There are steps involved in deciding whether or not carbon credits are legitimate. This means making sure that the process through which the carbon credits are submitted are in fact real, measurable, and permanent emissions.
Creating real carbon credits involves the concept of additionality. This refers to a term used by Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism, describing the fact that a carbon dioxide reduction project would not have occurred had it not been for concern for the mitigation of climate change. By proving additionality, it proves the legitimacy of the environmental stewardship claim resulting from the retirement of the carbon credit.
Involved with real carbon credits is personal carbon trading. Personal carbon trading has not yet been approved, but may very well help lower carbon usage as well as create small, localized economies. Personal carbon trading is a concept that is along the same lines as carbon offset credits. The concept of carbon trading refers to emissions trading.
It is hoped that personal carbon trading will help lower the amount of emissions by allotting a certain amount of emissions to individuals on an equal per capita basis. The number would be based on national carbon budgets. The credits would be surrendered later when buying fuel or electricity. Any individual who needs or wants more carbon credits would need to trade or purchase additional credits. Not only does this allow for people to get additional credits, it also makes it possible for those who do not need all of their credits, or are voluntarily lowering their carbon emissions, to sell surplus credits. Individual trading under Personal Carbon Trading is similar to the trading companies under the European Union Emission Trading System.
Personal carbon trading is not the same as carbon offsetting. They are very similar in the sense that they pay for emissions allowances, but carbon trading differs in that it is designed to be mandatory so nations are guaranteed domestic carbon emissions targets. There are various carbon proposals. Included are Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs), Personal Carbon Allowances (PCAs), and Tradable Personal Pollution Allowances.
Depending on the personal carbon trading that is chosen, individuals would most likely use electric accounts to control the carbon credits. The account would allow individuals to surrender credits when purchasing electricity, heating fuel, and petroleum. Personal Carbon credits would also be used for public transportation. Those who sell their extra credit would benefit by lowering their carbon footprint, which is of course, the entire point of personal carbon credits.
Looking At Concrete In A New Light
Concrete has traditionally endured a poor reputation as a fundamental building material due to perceptions concerning its reliance on virgin raw materials and the energy consumption and emissions associated with its production process. Based on recent developments, CEMEX UK’s Technical Director, Steve Crompton, argues that concrete should, instead, be viewed as a sustainable, strong, long-lasting, versatile and economically important construction material that has a vital part to play in the UK’s development of more sustainable communities.
Concrete is the most widely used construction material in the world. It is all around us; from offices to schools, roads to railways and dams to homes. Its powerful economic sway sees over 40,000 people directly employed in its UK manufacture, and it supports a construction industry employing seven per cent of our population. However, when it comes to considering its sustainable credentials, which will ensure that we balance our current rate of development with the resource requirements of future generations, it is important to look at ready-mix concrete from several angles: its environmental and lifecycle aspects, its economic impact and its contribution to our society in general.
Taking the environmental aspect first. There is clear evidence that improvements in environmental performance are underway to minimise the impact of concrete production. These changes include actively reducing the emissions associated with the concrete manufacturing process, and lower the reliance on virgin raw materials by increasing the use of by-products in concrete. Add in better management of waste, the use of more recycled aggregates and alternative fuels, as well as the thermal mass of concrete, which in the face of climate change, can help keep future housing cooler in summer than lightweight houses, whilst also saving heating fuel in winter, it is clear that concrete has a fundamental part to play in helping to deliver the energy efficient buildings of the future.
While total construction industry impact accounts for 10 per cent of total UK CO2 emissions, concrete is responsible for just 2.6 per cent of this. Compared to the 33 per cent generated by transport, this is a relatively small amount, especially considering its importance as a basic construction material. Concrete also comes out favourably when compared to structural steel, where the amount of CO2 generated per tonne is approximately 10 times greater than that of reinforced concrete.
The use of waste products from other industries, such as ground blast furnace slag or fly ash, either as a mixer addition or incorporated in factory-blended cement significantly reduces the overall greenhouse gas emissions, and means that this essential building material is, and will continue to make, a significant contribution to the Government’s UK Climate Change Programme of driving down CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.
In addition to actively consuming waste products from other industries and processes, the industry is working towards improving production plants and compliance with international standards, such as ISO 14001, to prevent pollution and ensure continual improvement through the implementation of environmental management systems (EMS). Use of recycled water at production plants is also on the increase and is increasingly commonplace.
It’s not only the environmental aspects of concrete that should be assessed as sustainable and positive, however, so let’s consider its overall lifecycle.
Like other building materials, concrete has a life span. When compared to other commonly used construction materials it is by far the most durable, with a typical design life of at least 60 years. It essentially has three phases of life. Its creation, its use in buildings and structures, and its reuse through recycling once the building comes to the end of its life.
It is far more likely that a modern concrete building will be deemed obsolete due to no further perceived usage, than the concrete fabric of the structure having failed due to age. With this in mind, and with cost-efficiency and sustainability now to the fore, reuse of concrete buildings is ever more commonplace. The material offers flexibility and seemingly redundant concrete structures can be worked on, redesigned and rebuilt with new up-to-date specifications. However, if demolished, the resulting aggregate can also be used for a number of applications as a ready-made and important recycled material.
Contrary to popular belief, all rubble does not end up in landfill after a building’s demolition. Anything up to 95 per cent of a building’s components can in fact be recycled, including the most heavily reinforced concrete.
Indeed, recycled concrete aggregates (RCA) has proven performance characteristics and is being used in the ongoing production of new concrete – thus completing its life circle. New European Standards have cleared the way for greater use of recycled concrete aggregates in the manufacturing process, supporting UK Government targets of increasingly meeting construction demand with material from secondary and recycled sources.
From an economic point of view, concrete and its sustainable credentials are well matched. To improve their sustainability credentials, products should be consumed as near to the place of production as possible. This country’s self sufficiency in providing the core materials required for concrete production means that inbound raw material transport and import levels are kept to a minimum. More often than not, the concrete industry uses locally sourced materials for local construction projects, thereby minimising transport related impacts. Compare this to timber, which imports over 98 per cent of the total volume used in UK construction.
With increased pressure on conserving fossil fuels, such as coal, for future generations, rising energy costs and changes to our climate, concrete can contribute positively by offsetting the heating up of buildings (especially in summer). Concrete’s high thermal mass can help absorb the heat generated by people, computers, lighting and electrical equipment, and keep internal temperatures lower.
The thermal mass in concrete walls and floors stores energy from the sun and the building’s own heating system, and releases this at night, thereby sustaining warmer overnight temperatures and reducing the need for heating.
Finally, from an economic standpoint, as a self-sufficient producer of this material and a UK net exporter of concrete and component materials, concrete more than holds its own against other important materials.
Concrete offers many virtues to our society as a whole. It produces natural light when used in exposed areas within a structure, and reduces the need for artificial lighting. It is naturally inorganic and inert, and does not need treatment with additional toxic chemicals. It has inbuilt fire resistance and offers secure characteristics due to its strength and robustness, and will last for a minimum of 60 years with little or no maintenance. There is no process of natural decay, which bodes well for future predicted environmental changes, and as a material for buildings is well regarded by designers and the public alike, who according to research, view masonry built houses as having the longest life expectancy of all construction options.
Sustainability is no longer an issue of choice, but must be considered at the very heart of ongoing development for our society. Assessing the sustainable credentials of products is a complex business and must take into consideration their combined environmental, economic and social impact and performance.
As illustrated here, concrete is a fundamental building material which combined environmental, economic and social performance is strong. It therefore has a critical role to play in delivering more sustainable communities, by reducing emissions and providing long-lasting, secure as well as cost and energy efficient buildings for the future.
We in the cement and readymix concrete industries are proud of the essential role we have played in creating Britain’s built environment and are positive that our industry has a lot more to contribute in the future to the further development of sustainable building materials.
Sustainable Development in the words of Brundtland report is “the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations
To meet their own needs “.
In this context nuclear energy as a future energy source has occupied centre stage of
India’s concern. The characteristics of nuclear energy, it’s economic, environmental
and social impact and its link to sustainable development have come under the scanner of economic and political debate in the recent times.
This paper entitled “Sustainable Development and Energy Security” attempts to explore the prospects of adopting nuclear energy as a future energy source to meet the India’s
growing energy needs. Nuclear energy, though requires large capital investment in form of nuclear power plants, is seen as an alternative to fossil fuels. Use of nuclear energy not only meets the growing energy demands, but also minimizes the environment and social burdens.
Nuclear energy does not have environmental effects on global warming, green house effect, climate change and pollution. Hence the central goal of sustainable development i.e.maintainence and development of natural, human and social assets will have been met by use of nuclear energy.
This paper analyses the following aspects:
Various forms and sources of energy.
The role of energy in economic development.
The problems of developing countries vis-à-vis energy security.
Nuclear power and its importance in the light of power shortage in India in the context of sustainable development.
. Keywords: sustainable development, energy security, nuclear energy,
1. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND ENERGY SECURITY
India’s energy resources are mostly available in convenient form. India has a
Significant reserves of coal, its electricity generation is also significant
Today more than 70% of power generation is through burning of coal.
We have 221 billion tones of coal reserves .India has a large hydro potential and only a part of this potential has been exploited .as per department of atomic energy of India ,India as also good uranium deposits supporting growth of “Nuclear Energy”. India is growing giant facing the critical challenge of meeting a rapidly increasing demand for energy .
India ranks 6th in the world in terms of energy demand and our economy is projected to grow 7% to 8% in next two decades .the international energy agency projects indias dependence on oil imports will be more at 91.6% by the year 2020 and India is relatively poor in the oil and gas resources . Even though there are several problems associated with energy in India from 1951 to 2005, it has produced coal 12 times greater then what was available in 1951 crude oil production increased 110 times. And the electricity installed capacity had a growth by over 68 times.
India has to meet two big challenges for a sustainable development .firstly it should meet the increasing demand for energy resources in the country .secondly it should avoid all environmental hazards and its should ensure an energy security by conservation of energy so that the future generation can also meet their wants for energy resources with available stock .this can lead to long term economic development which indicates the “Sustainable Economic Development” on which our attention is much more needed.
The concept of sustainable development was elaborated in the late 1980.
The tern sustainable development was brought into common use by the world commission on Environment and Development in its seminar report called
“Our common Future”. Brundtland Commission defines sustainable development as “Development that needs the needs of the present generation without comprising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs.
We can understand that use of the concept “Needs” in the definition is linked with the distribution of resources through three components of man made capitals, human capital and natural capital & it aims to achieve sustainable development through integration of three dimensions in a balanced way.
According to Professor Barthwal of ‘Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur’ has highlighted some important indicators of sustainable development there are as follows:
1) GDP growth rate.
2) Population Stability.
3) Human Resources Development Index.
4) Clean Air index.
5) Energy intensity.
6) Renewable energy proportion.
7) Material intensity.
8) Water use.
9) Soil degradation.
10) Forest coverage.
11) Re-cycling proportions.
12) Transport intensity.
These indicators show the changing trends of an economy towards Sustainable Development. Let us discuss this concept from the point of view
Of Energy Security and adopting Nuclear Energy as a future Energy Source which is the latest Debate in our country.
2) FORMS OF ENERGY
Energy has several forms which is useful to all human beings:
Mechanical Energy: Like kinetic and potential position against resistance.
Heat Energy: Can cause gases to expand, can melt the metals and convert water into steam.
Radiant Energy: Include light, radio, X-Rays, Laser etc.
Electro-magnetic Energy: Flow of electrons producing an electric current.
Chemical Energy: Stored in molecules of Food or in fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
Nuclear Energy: The force that combines the atomic nucleus together it is obtained through Fusion and Fission.
These energy are inter-convertible but it incurs a economical expenses which may not be profitable also Ex: Electrical Energy into light or heat Energy.
3) SOURCES OF ENERGY
Energy Sources refers to the sources from which energy is obtained to provide heat, light and power.
Renewable and Non-Renewable Energy sources:
Non-Renewable Energy sources are those which are lost in one operation the called depletable or exhaustible sources of energy their availability s always fixed and they are always at a declining stage Ex: Fossil fuel.
Renewable or In exhaustible energy sources are those which are perennial in nature they are regarded as flows rather than as stocks their total supply cannot be more than the available flow and the flow is perennial.
Commercial and Non-Commercial Energy Sources:
Commercial Energy Sources we include all those sources which are supplied through formal and organized Industries and marketing channels.Ex: Coal, Petroleum, natural gas which do not result in production, distribution and consumption or strictly passed through exchange Ex: fire wood, agriculture straw and animal waste etc.
Conventional and Non-conventional Energy Sources:
All those sources which the mankind is used to using are called Conventional Sources which those which are in their sources which those which are in their introductory stage or which can be used in future are called additional, alternative, or Non-Conventional Energy Sources.
Commercial sources of Energy play a vital role in developing country like India for Economic Growth and later in development.
4) TRENDS IN THE PRODUCTION OF COMMERCIAL ENERGY (1950-51 TO 2004-05)
Energy is the a vital resource for the economic development the production of commercial energy has increased steadily after introduction of economic planning and energy sector reforms in
“New Economic Policy” in 19191.from 1951 and 2005 coal
Production has increased by nearly 12 times, crude oil production by
110 times and electricity [installed capacity] by over 68 times.
Growth of Commercial Energy -1951 to 2004-2005.
Coal [in tones]
Oil crude [m.tonnes]
Electricity installed capacity [mw]
Generation [billion kwh]
Source: Economic survey 2005-06 .
Now let us see the consumption trends of commercial energy:
Consumption Trends of Commercial Energy.
Sectoral Trends In Commercial Energy Consumption
House hold sector
Percentage Share of Different Fuels in Commercial Energy Consumption.
Oil and gas
a) The transport sector was the largest consumer of commercial energy but in later stages there is a fall in total energy
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“Global Warming” or “Climate Change” as its called now since the globe hasn’t warmed in more than 10 years now is being set up as a massive global tax on every productive member of society The fact that the globe isn’t warming still hasn’t changed the minds of the politicians who want to play on the science illiteracy of the general public. So they have figured out a way to tax every man, woman, and child for something that isn’t necessary except to maintain their own political power over the rest of us. Thus is invented the “carbon footprint.” The idea of a “carbon footprint” is perhaps political correctness taken to its most absurd extreme.
The carbon cycle is defined by “Wikipedia” as a biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the atmosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and the atmosphere of the earth. This cycle has been going on for as long as the earth has existed. It began before mankind walked the planet and will continue well beyond our existence here. All forms of life on this planet are carbon based. Plants, animals, insects, creatures in the sea are all made of long chain carbon molecules.
It is largely plant life that has formed the massive coal and petroleum reserves we are utilizing today for fuel. As these products are being oxidized (burned), carbon is being released back into the environment.
On one hand, those who advocate the burning of forestland with prescribed burns call what they do as “carbon neutral” because all they are doing is releasing sequestered carbon. The increase of plant growth – both the trees and the understory- are supposed to take in the carbon dioxide being released by burning and “re-sequester” the carbon.
Following this logic, we are already doing that with our carbon-based fuels. It takes energy to produce a car, a house, a building, or a highway. Carbon is used in its many forms to produce these commodities. Arguably, these new ‘forms” of carbon are sequestering carbon better than one could ever hope to do with a forest of trees.
Look around and see what you can find that isn’t some form of carbon. I have played this game with several folks from time to time and they haven’t stopped to realize how much carbon is all around us everyday. The streets we drive on are asphalt – a long chain carbon molecule mixed with crushed limestone (calcium carbonate.) The plastics virtually everywhere are long chain carbon molecules. The steel in our cars, building, metal signs, etc. are iron and carbon. The paint on the cars, roadways, signs, houses, etc. are all carbon-based molecules. You can go on and on and will be hard pressed to find something that doesn’t have some form of carbon in it – from the sheet rock in the wall to the concrete in the curb – to all things living or dead – they all have carbon as one of their elements.
When playing this game, it’s hard to spot something that isn’t carbon based in some way or another. Someone will point to the windshield of the truck, but then I point out that the safety glass has a thin layer of plastic sandwiched between the glass. Base metals such as copper or aluminum are some of the few things in our world that do not contain carbon but carbon was required to develop them into useful items.
The “carbon footprint” guilt trip is laid on most heavily by those most likely to make money – and a lot of it – with something called “carbon credits.” When you hear this term, hold onto your wallet, for someone somewhere is going to figure out a way to relieve you of some of your hard earned dollars (made with cellulose by the way – a long chain carbon molecule.)
Politicians have been swayed into thinking that this is a good way to raise tax revenues and the first plan was called “Cap and Trade.” (Today, it is being called “The Climate Bill” – as if anything we can do will actually change the climate.) The original idea is that the person who can sequester carbon would trade his “carbon credits” to someone who, by necessity, had to produce carbon dioxide as part of their business. This would pay the person sequestering carbon while permitting the creator of carbon dioxide to go about their business as usual while paying a “tax.” The middleman – the broker of carbon credits – reaps the rewards and nothing is actually accomplished in the form of carbon sequestration.
The carbon credit-trading scheme is about as convoluted a process as one might ever expect to find. One of the first originated in Chicago – called the Chicago Climate Exchange. You can go on their website if you think you’d like to delve further into this morass of bad science. The complexities of carbon credit trading make the IRS forms look easy by comparison.
Meanwhile, the environmentalists are pushing the planting of trees to save the planet. Trees are well known carbon sinks and yes, they are a good method of sequestering carbon. Any tree person knows that and it is in our best interest to plant more trees, right? Well, maybe. I realize its heresy to bring this to your attention, but trees are not the most efficient methods of sequestering carbon. A healthy tree can sequester 13 pounds of carbon per year. Assuming 400 trees per acre (roughly a 10 foot x 10 foot plot per tree – that’s a lot of trees per acre), a total of 2.6 tons of carbon can be sequestered per year. (See http://www.coloradotrees.org/benefits.htm#carbon) With each tree occupying a small space, can they actually grow efficiently? In addition, where will this land come from to plant all of these trees?
Now the real kicker is that grass – i.e. pasture or prairie – can sequester 34 tons of carbon per acre. Even more if it is fertilized – as much as 47 tons per acre in a field of fertilized alfalfa. End result? An acre of grass is 13 to 18 times more efficient at carbon sequestration as an acre of trees. (Those who love the sport of golf now have a new argument in the favor of more golf courses.(http://mbforagecouncil.mb.ca/CustomBlox/Files/Live/Blox/859/Carbon_Sequestration_in_Pastures_FINAL_June_26_P.pdf)
I look out in the pasture and see cattle grazing. These carbon-based life forms are taking cellulose (carbon molecules) and turning them into proteins (also long chain carbon molecules). I will be doing my part as I enjoy a grilled (with carbon fuel) steak to complete the carbon cycle.
For now, I don’t think I’ll worry about sequestering carbon. The grass is cycled back to the soil in the form of manure – a similarity closely akin to the carbon credit schemes dreamed up by politicians. If they really wanted to sequester carbon, they would make more plastic. It’s said that the plastic water bottle takes a thousand years (or more) to return to the earth. How many trees do you know that can last a thousand years?