Archive for ‘Environment’

04/01/2017

India’s double first in climate battle – BBC News

Two world-leading clean energy projects have opened in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

A £3m industrial plant is capturing the CO2 emissions from a coal boiler and using the CO2 to make valuable chemicals. It is a world first.

And just 100km away is the world’s biggest solar farm, making power for 150,000 homes on a 10 sq km site.

The industrial plant appears especially significant as it offers a breakthrough by capturing CO2 without subsidy.

Built at a chemical plant in the port city of Tuticorin, it is projected to save 60,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year by incorporating them into the recipes for baking soda and other chemicals.

Here’s how it works:

The plant operates a coal-fired boiler to make steam for its chemical operations.CO2 emissions from the boiler’s chimney are stripped out by a fine mist of a new patented chemical.

A stream of CO2 is fed into the chemicals plant as an ingredient for baking soda and other compounds with many uses, including the manufacturing of glass, detergents and sweeteners.

Zero emissions

The owner of the chemicals plant, Ramachadran Gopalan, told a BBC Radio 4 documentary: “I am a businessman. I never thought about saving the planet. I needed a reliable stream of CO2, and this was the best way of getting it.”

He says his operation has now almost zero emissions. He hopes soon to install a second coal boiler to make more CO2 to synthesise fertiliser.

The chemical used in stripping the CO2 from the flue gas was invented by two young Indian chemists. They failed to raise Indian finance to develop it, but their firm, Carbonclean Solutions, working with the Institute of Chemical Technology at Mumbai and Imperial College in London, got backing from the UK’s entrepreneur support scheme.

Their technique uses a form of salt to bond with CO2 molecules in the boiler chimney. The firm says it is more efficient than typical amine compounds used for the purpose.

The plant is projected to save 60,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year

They say it also needs less energy, produces less alkaline waste and allows the use of a cheaper form of steel – all radically reducing the cost of the whole operation.

The firm admits its technology of Carbon Capture and Utilisation won’t cure climate change, but says it may provide a useful contribution by gobbling up perhaps 5-10% of the world’s emissions from coal.

Lord Oxburgh, former chairman of Shell, and now director and head of the UK government’s carbon capture advisory group, told the BBC: “We have to do everything we can to reduce the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels and it is great news that more ways are being found of turning at least some of the CO2 into useful products.”

Solar farm

Meanwhile, the nearby giant Kamuthi solar plant offers a marker for India’s ambition for a rapid expansion in renewables.

The world’s largest solar farm at Kamuthi in southern IndiaIt is truly enormous; from the tall observation tower, the ranks of black panels stretch almost to the horizon.Prime Minister Modi is offering subsidies for a plan to power 60 million homes with solar by 2022 and aims for 40% of its energy from renewables by 2030.

For large-scale projects, the cost of new solar power in India is now cheaper than coal. But solar doesn’t generate 24/7 on an industrial scale, so India has adopted a “more of everything” approach to energy.

The firm behind the solar plant, Adani, is also looking to create Australia’s biggest coal mine, which it says will provide power for up to 100 million people in India. Renewables, it says, can’t answer India’s vast appetite for power to lift people out of poverty.

Will India stick to its renewables promises with Donald Trump as US president?And questions have been raised recently as to whether India will stick to its renewables promises now President-elect Donald Trump may be about to scrap climate targets for the US.

At the recent Marrakech climate conference, China, the EU and many developing countries pledged to forge ahead with emissions-cutting plans regardless of US involvement. But India offered no such guarantee.

Some environmentalists are not too worried: they think economics may drive India’s clean energy revolution.

Source: India’s double first in climate battle – BBC News

22/12/2016

China Sends Carbon Fight Into Orbit – China Real Time Report – WSJ

As the climate-change community watches whether President-elect Donald Trump will retreat from U.S. greenhouse-gas commitments, China signaled it is charging ahead, launching a satellite to monitor rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

The move comes after a week when a thick blanket of smog hung over much of northern China, forcing the government to shut schools and businesses.

The launch of the satellite known as TanSat, reported early Thursday by state media, marks a renewed effort by the world’s biggest emitter to better understand and track the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. It also reflects the bigger role China aims to play in shaping the global response to climate change at a time the incoming U.S. administration voices skepticism about the Paris accord enacted this year to control and reduce carbon emissions.

“It’s a significant step in terms of being an indicator of China investing large amounts of resources and energy to understand the science behind climate change and carbon emissions,” said Ranping Song, a climate expert at the World Resources Institute in Washington.

The 1,400 pound satellite will orbit more than 400 miles above the earth for the next three years, said Yin Zengshan, the TanSat project’s chief designer, according to Xinhua News Agency, and follows similar projects by the U.S. and Japan to track global carbon levels from monitoring in space.

The satellite—in development for nearly six years—collects independent carbon data. Loaded with sensitive equipment that reads changes in atmospheric CO2 levels to within 1%, TanSat will take carbon readings every 16 days.

As a result, it could help “double check” emissions data reported by countries world-wide, said Mr. Song. Emissions accounting today still largely relies on estimates from energy-consumption statistics. The satellite readings would be a source of independent data for Chinese policy makers.

China has been trying to raise its image in the global climate-change debate, wanting to appear active in aiding global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, rather than serving as an obstacle. It has already pledged to peak and begin reducing its carbon emissions by 2030 as part of a deal reached with the U.S. in 2014. Yet it also comes against a more complicated backdrop today, with Mr. Trump’s incoming administration promising to boost production of polluting fossil fuels including coal.

Mr. Trump’s pledge ahead of the election to “cancel” the U.S. commitment to the global climate pact that entered force this year has worried Chinese officials. Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate-change affairs, has urged Mr. Trump to adhere to what China views as a global trend toward cutting emissions.

Under Mr. Trump, many in the U.S. environmental community fear funding for climate-change research could be hacked. In California, Gov. Jerry Brown has even vowed to launch the state’s own monitoring satellite if budgets get chopped.

“If Trump turns off the satellite,” Mr. Brown said this month, “California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re going to collect the data.”

In effect, the Chinese satellite could help add more “eyes in the sky” for monitoring carbon levels in the atmosphere, and serve as a complement to the existing data already being collected by the U.S. and Japan. Xinhua quoted officials as saying China was prepared to share its new data with researchers world-wide.

“Since only the United States and Japan have carbon-monitoring satellites, it is hard for us to see firsthand data,” Xinhua quoted Zhang Peng, vice director of China’s National Satellite Meteorological Center, as saying. “The satellite has world-wide scope and will improve data collection.”

Source: China Sends Carbon Fight Into Orbit – China Real Time Report – WSJ

13/12/2016

Can jet engines clean up Delhi’s foul air? – BBC News

Sometime next year, if all goes well, a retired jet engine will be mounted on a flatbed trailer and taken to a coal-fired power plant in Delhi.

With the exhaust nozzle pointed at the sky, the engine will be placed near the smokestack and turned on.

As the engine roars to life, it will generate a nozzle speed of 400 metres per second (1,440km/h; 900mph), which is more or less the speed of sound.

The exhaust will create powerful updrafts that will, to put it simply, blast the emissions from the plant to higher altitudes, above a meteorological phenomenon called temperature inversion, where a layer of cold air is held in place by a warmer “lid” trapping smog.

The jet exhaust will act as a “virtual chimney”, drawing in and transporting the smog, which makes Delhi’s air some of the most toxic in the world. A single jet engine can deal with emissions from a 1,000 megawatt power plant.

Temperature inversion

Can Delhi ever clean up its foul air?

So can jet engines help clean up Delhi’s foul air? A team of researchers from the US, India and Singapore believes so.

“This could lead to a successful implementation of a new technology for smog mitigation all over the world,” the lead researcher, Moshe Alamaro, an aeronautical engineer and atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tells me.

“The programme could use retired and commercial engines and has the possibility of adding value to numerous retired propulsion systems available.”

Delhi is an ideal candidate for this experiment. The widespread use of festival fireworks, the burning of rubbish by the city’s poor, plus farm waste from around the city, vehicular emissions and construction dust, all contribute to the city’s thick “pea-soup” fogs.

The jet engines will be mounted on a flatbed trailer

Things get worse in winter: last month, schools were shut, construction and demolition work suspended, people wore face masks and were asked to work from home.

The move came after levels of PM2.5 – tiny particles that can affect the lungs – soared to over 90 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization and 15 times the federal government’s norms.

Carrying out the jet engine experiment outside a coal-fired electricity plant makes sense as coal accounts for more than 60% of India’s power generation. In two years, the country could surpass China as the biggest importer of thermal coal.

Coal-fired energy may be linked to more than 100,000 premature deaths and millions of cases of asthma and respiratory ailments. Also, emissions from a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired plant are equivalent to emissions from roughly 500,000 cars.

Scientists say that jet engines were used in the Soviet Union 45 years ago to enhance rainfall.

“They achieved some success,” says Dr Alamaro. “As far as I know nobody tried using jet engines for smog mitigation.”

Noise concerns

Farmers have also rented helicopters to hover over their fields to “agitate and disrupt the inversions” to protect their crops.

Next month, Dr Alamaro will join some of India’s top scientists and collaborators from government agencies at a workshop to plan the experiment.

There are concerns: noise from the jet engine, for example.”In the beginning,” he says, “the jet engine will be tested in remote location and not necessarily near a power plant, to observe the jet properties and for optimisation.”

The scientists say that fears about emissions from jet engines fouling the air are unfounded as their emissions “are much cleaner than that of the power plant per unit of power”.

There are reportedly offers of retired jet engines from air forces in India and the US for the experiment.

Scientists are talking to Tata Group, a private power producer, to use one of their plants for a site for the experiment.

Before the test, meteorological data on the area, along with information on frequency of smog will be essential. Drones will be used before and after the experiment.

Coal-powered thermal power plants meet most of India’s energy needs

Critics of the planned experiment doubt whether the jet exhausts will be powerful enough to create a virtual chimney and blow out the smog, and question whether expensive jet engines can be used on a large scale to control air pollution in a vast city such as Delhi.

But Dr Alamaro is optimistic.

“Each new technology should start with the least resistant path for success,” he says.”The concentration of emission from coal is very high near the power plant.”

So a jet engine that elevates this emission is more effective near the power plant than somewhere else in the city that is plagued by smog.

“That said, we also plan to try to elevate the less concentrated smog in and around the city by jet systems.”

For example, the jet system can be placed near highways where vehicle emission is high, so the jet is more effective than somewhere else in the city.

If successful, Dr Alamaro says, this method can be used “anywhere and anytime, away from a power plant and during normal atmospheric conditions” to control air pollution.

Fairly soon, we may know if jet engines can really help to clean Delhi’s foul air.

Source: Can jet engines clean up Delhi’s foul air? – BBC News

16/11/2016

China’s top coal province says 29 percent of water unsuitable for humans | Reuters

Nearly a third of the surface water in Shanxi, China‘s biggest coal producing province, is so polluted that it cannot be used by humans, the local environmental watchdog said in a notice on Wednesday.

The Shanxi Environmental Protection Bureau said in a report that 29 out of the 100 surface water sites tested in the first three quarters of 2016 were found to be “below grade five“, which means that pollution levels are so high that the water has “lost functionality”.

China’s water is graded into five categories. Grade three and above is deemed safe for direct human contact, while grades four and five can only be used in industry and agriculture.

While there have been slight improvements compared to the first half of the year, Shanxi is still falling behind its targets, the bureau said.It said 11 sites had shown improvements compared to last year, but eight had deteriorated, including five spots in the major coal-producing city of Datong, which were found to have fallen “below grade five” over the period.

According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection‘s latest analysis of water quality on major rivers published this week, 22 percent of samples from 146 sites nationwide was found to be grade four or worse.

Shanxi produced 944 million tonnes of coal last year, more than a quarter of the national total, and decades of overmining in the province have damaged underground water tables and contaminated ground water supplies.

Source: China’s top coal province says 29 percent of water unsuitable for humans | Reuters

06/10/2016

Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

At a time of Brexit and talk of a wall between the United States and Mexico, it seems the Chinese are embracing international engagement.

They think their country’s power is rising, that their living standards will keep improving, that corruption is being cleaned up and that air pollution should be fixed even if it means slowing down economic growth.

These are the views which have emerged from a broad survey from Washington-based the Pew Research Center.

Elsewhere there is fear and uncertainty. Here optimism trumps all.

When asked about economic globalisation, 60% of people said it is a good thing and only 23% think it is bad for China.

While some China watchers are warning that this country’s mounting local government debt could mean that a hard landing is on the way, Chinese people don’t appear to share this pessimism.

Nearly 90% of respondents amongst this group of 3,154, interviewed face-to-face in China earlier this year, think that the state of their country’s economy is either “very good” or “somewhat good”.

GETTY IMAGES – Chinese people seem to remain optimistic

Looking into the future things will apparently get even better: 76% of people think the economy will improve over the next 12 months, 70% said their personal financial situation will improve and eight out of 10 people believe that their children will have a better standard of living than they do.

Bread and butter issues

It’s not that people are without concerns.

“Corrupt officials” is at the top of the table when it comes to people’s worries (83% said this was a “very big” or “moderately big” problem) and yet here too we see optimism.

Some 64% of them said that President Xi Jinping‘s massive anti-corruption drive would improve the situation over the next five years.

Running down the concern list, an alarmingly high number of people see income inequality and the safety of food and medicine as “very big” problems.

This should give the Chinese Communist Party pause for concern.

If you enjoy monopoly power on the basis that you are delivering “socialism with Chinese characteristics” then a small group of ultra-rich driving around in their sports cars and showing off their wealth while most struggle to pay the rent is surely at odds with your central message.

Then, if ordinary Chinese people can’t even trust the food and medicine they are giving their children, the possibility for social unrest over bread and butter issues is looming large.

The environment also emerges as a massive challenge with water and air pollution at the front of people’s minds.

Air pollution is so bad in China that half of those polled said their country should fight air pollution harder even if it means sacrificing economic growth.

GETTY IMAGES – Emissions from coal-powered industries, cars and heating systems generate the smog

Only 24% saw air deterioration as a necessary price to pay.

When it comes to the war of ideas in the top echelons of power here, those ministers in favour of tougher environmental protection measures could do worse than table this research.

A “major threat” to China?

The South China Sea and other geo-strategic tensions offer some of the most bleak opinions.

Nearly six out of 10 people think that territorial pressures with neighbours could lead to military conflict; 77% say their way of life needs to be protected from “foreign influence” (up by 13 percentage points since 2002) and only 22% say China should help other nations.

Regarding relations with rival superpower the United States people views are complex and, at times, seemingly contradictory.

Around half of Chinese respondents rated the US favourably but more than half think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power.

About 45% said that US power and influence poses a “major threat” to China. In fact the US came in at number one as the top international threat to the country.

GETTY IMAGES – More than half of Chinese people think that Washington is trying to prevent China from becoming an equal power

It’s interesting that some would see the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot to Asia” as a greater threat than say jihadist extremist groups just across the western border promoting bloody conflict in China’s vast Muslim region of Xinjiang.

Either way, whatever the perceived threat, China is seen as becoming ever more important and with ever more power at its disposal.Information is being controlled here ever more tightly – whether it is coming from the traditional media or sources online – so some analysts will see these views as the inevitable result of messages being delivered to the Chinese people by their government.

This may the be case but, in a world where politicians in various countries are accused of exploiting people’s fear and insecurity, could it be that a quarter of the globe’s population are going around with a smile on their dial because every day they look out the window and to them it just gets better and better?

Source: Chinese people optimistic about the future, says Pew survey – BBC News

03/10/2016

India joins Paris Climate Change Agreement, submits instrument of ratification at UN headquarters – Times of India

With the US, China and now India signing the accord, other nations should not hesitate to join them. On any case, thes three account for the vast majority of the pollution, so even if no one else signs up, its good news for Mother Gaia.

India formally joined the Paris Climate Change Agreement by submitting its instrument of ratification+ at UN headquarters in New York on Sunday – the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The instrument of ratification was deposited by India’s permanent representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin.

By putting Gandhi seal on the climate deal, the country will now urge the global community to adopt ‘Gandhian way of life’ (shun extravagant lifestyles) to reduce their carbon footprints and protect the earth from adverse impact of climate change.

India will articulate its point vigorously during the next climate conference (COP22) at Marrakech in Morocco, beginning November 7.

“India had led from front to ensure the inclusion of climate justice and sustainable lifestyles in the Paris Agreement+ . We will put across this view based on Gandhian lifestyle in Morocco”, said environment minister Anil Madhav Dave.

Spelling out next course of action after India formally joined the Agreement, Dave said, “It is important that apart from emission cuts, we also focus on measures that involve broader participation. People in developed countries live extravagant lifestyles with high carbon footprint.

“Simple everyday changes in lifestyles, when practiced by a large number of people around the globe, collectively will make a huge impact”.

Source: India joins Paris Climate Change Agreement, submits instrument of ratification at UN headquarters – Times of India

30/09/2016

The human and animal costs of India’s unregulated coal industry – BBC News

India is one of the largest producers of coal in the world and more than half of its commercial energy needs are met by coal.

But unregulated mining has caused serious health and environmental issues, and led to growing conflicts between elephants and humans.

In the coal-rich central state of Chhattisgarh, for example, fly ash has caused respiratory problems and serious illnesses like tuberculosis among people, but their troubles don’t end there.

Forests are being cleared for coal mining and wild elephants are entering villages in search of food and attacking people.

Photojournalist Subrata Biswas has documented the fallout of India’s dependence on coal.

“As thousands of acres of forest land are destroyed to mining, foraging elephants attracted by the crops in the fields often enter villages, resulting in an alarmingly high number of human-elephant conflict situations,” says Biswas.

Officials estimate elephants have been responsible for 8,657 incidents of property damage and 99,152 incidents of crop damage in Chhattisgarh between 2005 and 2014.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

“We were sleeping when the elephants broke into our room. Somehow we managed to escape but I fractured my left leg when a large part of the wall fell on my leg. My husband saved my life,” says Rujri Khalkho, 70, whose home was damaged by a herd of wild elephants almost a year ago.

A compensation of 10,000 rupees ($149; £114) has not been enough to repair her house or pay for her medical care.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

Deaths of elephants due to electrocution have become common in the state.In Dharamjaigarh, the most affected area, officials have recorded 30 elephant and 75 human deaths so far.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

In 2009, Kanti Bai Sau, 40, lost her home and farm to an open-cast coal mine.

She was promised compensation of 200,000 rupees ($2,980; £2,290) and a job to a family member, but received neither. Her son died last year of respiratory complications.

“There is no fresh air to breath, fresh water to drink. Coal has usurped everything here.”

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

“We lived next to this mine for almost 10 years and watched helplessly as our wells went dry, forests disappeared and fields become unproductive,” says Girja Bai Chauhan.

“We have lost almost eight acres of our fields to the mine and authorities haven’t fulfilled a single promise they made while acquiring land. They sent us into a dark future and unhealthy environment to live and breathe in.”

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

Pipelines carry fly ash slurry from a local thermal power power plant in Korba to a fly ash pond.

Environment activists say that every year approximately 50 million tonnes of fly ash is generated by power plants in Chhattishgarh but not even the half of this amount have been reutilized to reduce the pollution from fly ash.

Fly ash is known to contain trace elements such as arsenic, barium and mercury among others, and unlined ponds like this could be polluting groundwater by leaching.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

“The ash is everywhere. When the wind blows, everything is coated with a layer of white grey ash. The road, ponds, our houses, sometimes even our spectacles get coated with a fine layer of the ash,” says Biswas.

Image copyrightSUBRATA BISWAS

Rohit Rathia, 55, suffers from tuberculosis.He lives in a village next to an open cast mine where lung diseases such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), silicosis and tuberculosis have become common ailments.

Source: The human and animal costs of India’s unregulated coal industry – BBC News

29/09/2016

China punishes coal, steel companies for violating pollution, safety rules | Reuters

China’s state planner has punished hundreds of coal and steel companies by forcing them to close or cut output for violating environmental and safety regulations, the latest effort to crack down on the country’s heavily polluting industries.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) forced two steel companies to shut completely, 29 firms to halt production and another 23 to curb output, it said in a statement on Thursday. The closures and curbs followed a nationwide inspection of more than 1,000 steel makers in the world’s top producer.

Among more than 4,600 coal mines inspected, the NDRC has revoked safety certificates for 28 coal mines and forced another 286 coal mines to halt production, it added.

The planner did not identify or name the companies, or give details on how the companies broke the rules and how long the penalties will be in place.

Beyond the safety and environment rules, the NDRC also listed other infractions such as violations of energy consumption rules or quality standards.

The statement reflects the government’s continued push to force ageing mills and mines to comply with tough new pollution rules by meeting emission standards and installing appropriate monitoring equipment.

China’s unwieldy coal and steel industries are considered two of the biggest sources of pollution in the country.

The government is targeting coal output cuts of 500 million tonnes in the next three to five years.

Source: China punishes coal, steel companies for violating pollution, safety rules | Reuters

29/09/2016

This Map Shows the Severity of India’s Pollution Problem – India Real Time – WSJ

A new map from the World Health Organization shows just how bad India’s air pollution problem is.

The interactive map, which shows the average levels of dangerous particulate matter in the air that can lodge in lungs and cause diseases, was made by the WHO in conjunction with the U.K.’s University of Bath.

It shows that 92% of the world’s population live in places where air quality is worse than the WHO’s recommended limits.Researchers used satellite data as well as information from ground stations to create the map. WHO data released in May showed that the city of Gwalior was India’s most polluted city, coming second in the world to Zabol in Iran.

The map plots levels of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in the air. The darker the red on the map, the higher the concentration. The PM2.5 pollutants, which come from dust, soot and smoke, can penetrate deep into the lungs and increase the risk of heart and lung diseases including asthma and lung cancer.

The map paints a dark swathe of red across northern India, meaning that the annual average PM2.5 levels are above 70. The country gets progressively lighter in color toward the south, indicating lower pollution levels. But not one spot of the country is green–indicating healthy air.

A man sifted through trash at a massive garbage site in New Delhi, Sept. 27, 2016. PHOTO: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

India’s capital, New Delhi, is the 11th worst polluted in the world, with an annual average PM2.5 measurement of 122. Mumbai is another hotspot, with an average PM.2.5 level of 63.

The World Health Organization said that worldwide, around 3 million people a year die of causes linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution and that nearly 90% of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

In India, air pollution comes from a number of sources, including the burning of trash, the use of coal for cooking, factories and exhaust fumes. In some parts of the country, like Delhi, dust storms exacerbate the problem. The Delhi government has made efforts to reduce car use, but experts say more needs to be done.

“Fast action to tackle air pollution can’t come soon enough,” Flavia Bustreo, assistant director general at WHO said in the report. “Solutions exist with sustainable transport in cities, solid waste management, access to clean household fuels and cook-stoves, as well as renewable energies and industrial emissions reductions.”

Source: This Map Shows the Severity of India’s Pollution Problem – India Real Time – WSJ

27/09/2016

What India’s Decision to Ratify Paris Climate-Change Pact Means – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s announcement that it would ratify the 2015 global agreement on climate change increases the chances that the pact will go into effect this year.

Source: What India’s Decision to Ratify Paris Climate-Change Pact Means – India Real Time – WSJ

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