Co-fire us in to the 21st century

Guest blog by Kevin Daun, MTK311, HT19

Europe is in many aspects doing a great job with green initiative policies being implemented throughout the union, and in doing so keeping and greenhouse gas emission to minimalistic levels. Last year we had the lowest recorded levels as of yet! However, South Eastern Europe (SEE) beingthe highest emitters of and GHG (greenhouse gas) – within Europe – are still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, where coal, gas and heavy fuel dominate the regions as primary sources of energy. Seven of the ten most polluting coal-fired power stations is located within SEE, and similar stations areon their way to be implemented by 2030 due to foreign investors (Climate Action Network Europe, 2018). So what could be done to improve the current climate?

A good option that I recently came across is that of a so calledco-firing process within already existing thermal plants. With large thermal units already being used on a daily basisdomestically, there is a major possibility to dramatically improve emissions by integrating co-fire operations with biomass in to these systems. A recent model of a co-fire operation using coal and biomass – which is the most common combination – showed a boiler efficiency of 92% (Rusinowskiet.al, 2012) which is similar to what a “normal” combustion process achieves using only fossil fuels. The good news about this is that most units already have the ability to operate on a co-firing basis, thus incrementally decreasing the need for heavy emitters, while simultaneously keeping production costs extremely low since no new technology i.e. boiler needs producing in order to start this process. Boiler efficiency is a large factor when deciding on power production methods,which makes this is a discovery of great importance to further the cause.

To me it seems as clear cut of a solution as anything. Gaining some energy independence by simply decreasing the amountof imported products by using domestic resources, while simultaneously benefiting by fewer harmful emissions. It is difficult to see why this has not caught on, but a major reason seems to be the “cheap” production cost of power using coal compared to biomass. If all current boilers within the SEE would substitute 20% of their current fuel to biomass, you would correspondingly decrease the need for fossil fuels. 

There are also large quantities of biomass available, ready to be integrated in to these processes, mainly wood residues (e.g. sawdust, branches etc.) from the wood factories. Large portions of biomass can be obtained from annual tree branch trimming (Iliadis, 2009) that could make the process self-sustaining.

If EU want to reach their target of 27% of energy consumption from renewable resources by 2030 (European Commission, 2016), some actions towards the biggest polluters must be taken. Success on a global scale is heavily related to many small improvements at the location with the largest room for improvement. This integration of biomass in to an already existing process could really help improve the climate as a whole since it is cheap and already available, and we all know that availability is a huge factor in large scale decision making.

REFERENCES

H.Rusinkowski, M.Szega, A.Milejski. “Mathematical model of the CFB boiler co-fired with coal and biomass”. International Carpathian Control conference, 2012 Web 10 Okt. 2019

N.A.Iliadis. “Biomass development and potential in south east europe”. IEEE Power & Energy Society General meeting, 2009 Web 10 Okt. 2019

Climate Action Network Europe. 2018. South East Europe. [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.caneurope.org/energy/south-east-europe [Visited 10 Okt 2019]

European Comission. 2016. Clean Energy for All Europeans. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-strategy-and-energy-union/clean-energy-all-europeans [Visited 10 Okt 2019]

Algae, biofuels of the future?

Guest blog by Daniel Israelsson, MTK311 HT19

The time we live in is marked by discussions about how to solve the problem of switching to biofuels, but at the same time not using our cultivable arable land or adversely affecting animals and nature.

But our seas then? The earth consists of over 70% water, where there is great potential, even at our latitudes according to Lorenza Ferro, a researcher at Umeå University, who in a study (Ekman, 2019) shows that algae can cope with our harsh climate. In combination with Susanne Ekendahl’s research (Ekendahl, 2009) that highlights the potential of algae, they can be the next big step in a fossil-free future. The potentials that have been demonstrated include that they can produce incredibly large harvests, where laboratory tests yield volumes of 22,000 liters of oil per hectare and year with corresponding figures for maize and sunflowers are 23 and 155 liters respectively, which is superior even under sub-optimal conditions.

It sounds absolutely incredible to my ears, but it must be something holding it back because this has not yet broken through? One of the reasons turns out to be price competitiveness, which is not a surprise. Even though it is our future, the future of the planet that is at stake it is always about money. So far, profitability seems a bit off e.g. it requires “24,000 liters of water, nutrients, equipment, personnel and about two weeks to generate around one gallon (3.79 liters) of finished fuel. The price for the same amount crude oil is 1:90 dollars (15:50 SEK)” according to Schonna Manning, a researcher at Agrilife on the south coast of Texas (Brusewitz, 2018), but at the same time the whole algae is not used for fuel, which means that if you use all parts there is hope of approaching the price of crude oil. Crude oil is also a finite resource which will eventually increase the price of it, and in line with the progress made with algae I think we will reach a breaking point where there is no longer any incentive to choose crude oil over algae.

If you look at the other benefits that algae have, in addition to the ones already mentioned, they can be grown in virtually anywhere; in deserts, in the sea, on unproductive land, etc. (Brusewitz, 2018) and with the large number of species the direction of cultivation can be controlled for algae such as e.g. ones that are rich in fats that can become biodiesel or others that are rich in carbohydrates that can become ethanol and biogas (Ekendahl, 2009). They efficiently absorb carbon dioxide and can withstand concentrations up to 12-13% and also purify water from phosphorus and nitrogen, which means that industrial emissions can be directed directly to cultivation, resulting in that the harmful greenhouse gases are purified immediately after production. (Ekendahl, 2009) (SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut, 2019).

Our ability to use the earth’s resources and to develop technology that optimizes this has led to great progress for us, but at the same time it has cost us and as it looks right now it will cost us our future. But the ability and innovativeness that brought us here will also take us out of it, if we just can get everyone to understand this. At least by my opinion.

References

Brusewitz, M. (den 20 April 2018). Alger som flygbränsle – hajp eller hopp? Sveriges Natur nr 2-2018 .

Ekendahl, S. (den 19 10 2009). RI.se. Hämtat från Odlade alger – framtidens energikälla?: https://www.sp.se/sv/press/news/Sidor/20091019.aspx

Ekman, J. (den 14 Mars 2019). Miljö&Utveckling. Hämtat från Svenska mikroalger bäst i test: https://miljo-utveckling.se/svenska-mikroalger-bast-i-test/

EnergyFactor by ExxonMobil. (den 02 Augusti 2019). From petri dish to pond: Algae farming, in pictures. Hämtat från https://energyfactor.exxonmobil.com/science-technology/algae-farming-pictures/

SP Sveriges Tekniska Forskningsinstitut. (den 13 10 2019). Algodling för biobränsleproduktion. Hämtat från RI.se: https://www.sp.se/sv/index/research/algae_cultivation/sidor/default.aspx

Small scale biogas plant

Guest blog by Linus Österdahl Wetterhag, MTK311 HT19

After receiving a phone call from my dear friend Mr Andersson asking me how he could increase the sustainability of his farm I was very excited. He provided me with some facts about his farm and his possible resources and at first I really had to analyze the prerequisites to figure out how he could best increase his sustainability. Of course I saw many possibilities but the one that made me most interested was that he paid a company to remove his manure which almost made me angry. Why pay someone to collect a resource that could increase your income. So the concept I proposed to Mr Andersson was simply to invest in a biogas plant.


Investing in a biogas plant for his farm would solve most of his problems. He could instead of paying a company to remove his manure, use the manure himself for production of biogas, which then could be used for heating his farm (of course this would require further investments), fuel his biogas car (might also need an extra investment), use the digestate to fertilize his feedstock and sell the excess biogas. This way Mr Andersson would solve a lot of problems in one go. His electricity bill would decrease, he would have to buy less fertilizer, he would also decrease his costs for fuel, earn money on his manure instead of paying someone to collect it and also get rid of some of that awful smell that is present at times when I visit him.


So how does it work? Well the concept of the process is explained in figure 1 where a flow chart of the whole system can be seen. The substrate in this figure is the manure from Mr Anderssons farm, the digester is the plant itself and the output of the digester is methane and carbon dioxide which is stored and then upgraded if the methane is to be used for fuel and the excess gas is used for heat and electricity production (Hansson & Christensson, 2006). The remaining digestate can be used as fertilizer.

Figure 1. Showing the working principle of farm based biogas plant. Figure taken from Ahlberg and Eliasson, 2018.

The more practical process consists of feeding the digester which is being stirred by a machine. The temperature has to be controlled to be within a specific range for the digestion to proceed as expected. The process is anaerobic, meaning that no oxygen is to be present in the digester. Depending on size the amount of days between switching substrate depends but for a smaller plant around 20-30 days of digestion is common (Hansson & Christensson, 2006). This also depends on what kind of substrate is used and what temperature is used. Overall the whole process is quite simple and does really seize otherwise wasted resources.


Now you are of course wondering what does all of this? This of course varies depending on manufacturer and size of the plant, but Biolectric Sweden AB (Biolectric, 2018) has a large variety of plant sizes 11kW, 22kW, 33kW and 44kW. The plant is operated via the cloud and the only thing the farmer has to do himself is to feed the plant with manure. Biolectric Sweden AB does not provide any prices but do state that the payback time is around 6 years for the investment. In (Nääs, 2010) the investments for a local plant is estimated between 2 to 15 million swedish crowns depending on size. According to (Bioenergiportalen, 2014) a smaller plant for only producing heat could cost around 600 000 swedish crowns but if it is to be upgraded to produce fuel as well, the cost beyond the first investment would be around 5 million swedish crowns. These numbers are more for one of a kind applications and a large scale product like Biolectric Sweden AB supplies could be very cost efficient for farmers (Wahlberg, 2015).


So is small scale biogas production something for farmers to invest in? I really think so, of course the investments has to be economically plausible. If they aren’t the politicians should really look into the possibility of subsidies for these kinds of investments and if they already are plausible, then more farmers should really invest!

References:


Wahlberg, Carolina (2015, August 15). De bygger sin egen småskaliga biogasanläggning. Retrievedfrom https://www.ja.se/artikel/48041/de-bygger-sin-egen-smaskaliga—-biogasanlaggning. html
Ahlberg Eliasson, Karin (2018). Swedish farm-scale biogas production. ( Doctoral Thesis, Uppsala University). Retrieved from https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/15821/8/ahlberg_eliasson_k_190107.pdf
Hansson, Anna & Christensson, Kjell (2006). Gårdsbaserad Biogasproduktion (Jordbruksverket) Retrieved from https://www2.jordbruksverket.se/webdav/files/SJV/trycksaker/Pdf_jo/JO06_1.pdf
Nääs, Charlotta (2010). Småskalig biogasproduktion: förutsättningar, hinder och lösningar (Mittuniversitetet). Retrieved from http://miun.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:358626/FULLTEXT01.pdf
Biolectric (2018). “Vårt System”. Retrieved from
https://www.biolectric.be/sv/vart-system/
Bioenergiportalen (2014). Retrieved from
http://www.bioenergiportalen.se/?p=3368&m=1647&page=ekonomi

Make your home more ECO

Guest blog by Josef Bares, MTK311 HT19

When I was a child I was always very enthusiastic about ecology and saving our environment, because I grew up in the small village and nature was inherent part of my life since today. Trash sorting, saving water during taking a bath, buying food without plastic packages, planting trees – it could be the way. But when it comes to green energy topic, I wanted to make a smart choice to be self-sufficient and environmental friendly. For those who are interested in “green way” energies and modern possibilities how to make their home more eco, I have few ideas.
In case you come from a village, you are a farmer for a living and grow cereal crops and own forests, nothing is less difficult than make your own pellets or briquettes. It is advantageous in many ways. You can use residues from agricultural crops and sawdust after wood processing, you can use it for gasification or direct combustion and in many countries are pelletizers and biomass boilers supported by government subsidies.
Pellets can be made of many various materials. In home-made conditions we often use agricultural crop residues or wood. It is very firm, natural fuel in cylindrical shape with diameter 16-25 mm and maximum length to 50 mm. Calorific values are moving between 16-18,5 MJ/kg and ash content 0,2- 1,1% for clear wood, 0,7-3% with bark and 3-8% for cereal residues. The water content of biomass should be always less than 13%, otherwise pellets will disintegrate. [1], [2]

Figure 1 Samples of pellets [1]
left – wood without bark, right – rape

Whole process to make pellets out of biomass names pelletization. For pellet production it is very important to have quality homogenous mixture of biomass. Preparation process starts on the field where in case of cereal residues crops are cutted, collected and dried. We cut biomass to optimal size of segments 4 mm, then it is dried on the air or in special drying rooms (this step is the most energy demanding). Final part of preparation is grinding, where we grind biomass to smaller pieces, even to dust. [1]
Next step of pelletization is compaction. Compaction happens in mixing chamber in purpose to get maximally homogenous mixture. When it reaches granulation press, mixture is pressed through the mould at high pressure and temperatus, which makes pellets firm and shiny. It is made more pellets at one time and in case of wood lignin or resin contributes to firmness of one’s piece. [1], [3]

Figure 2 DEMATECH MGL 400 [3]
1 – storage tank, 2 – mixing chamber, 3 – granulation press, 4 – sorter and cooler, 5 – conveyor belt

During granulation temperature hits 120-140 degrees C, therefore we need to cool them, otherwise they would disintegrate or break. After that we pack them into bags, containers or use them in home boilers.
Due to increasing demand for pellets in the world (22,3 million tonnes in 2016 and 9,5% consumption increased from 2015 to 2016 [4]), lower GDP taxes for wooden pellets, prices around 220 EUR/tonne [1], positive influence in the way of combustion and heating, I decided to share this idea with you my friends. Let the pellets be with you.

Sustainable agriculture for renewable biomass production: what, why and how?

Guest blog by Mazin Al-Hashimi, MTK311 HT19

Agriculture is both part of the problem and part of the solution to climate change. Cultivation and food production as most of the other human activities, affects the environment. Food production accounts for up to 35% of global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and its increasing rapidly in order to keep up with population and economic growth [1]. Recent studies indicate that food production should increase by 70% by 2050 (Glenn et al., 2015). In the other hand, arable land area continues to decrease due to climatic change, urbanization, and industrialization. In addition, the competition of the highly demanded energy-crops which potentially participates in higher food prices, deforestation, less biodiversity, and decreasing of arable land for food production is increasing progressively.

Photo by Mazin Al-Hashimi, Uppsala 2019

Agriculture for both energy and food production lies behind the majority of emissions of eutrophying substances to the sea and other watercourses. Also, expansion of agricultural land and structural changes of agriculture could lead to lacking of biodiversity. Additionally, agriculture and the following stages in the food production process are highly dependent on fossil fuels.

Before talking about the potentials of sustainable agriculture, let’s first try to define sustainability. The simplest description of sustainability is to maintain the functionality of the system without compromising its capacity to do so in the future [2]. However, the effect of climate change compromises the functionality of food system by contributing to water shortage and pest exacerbation [3]. Hansen (1996) describes three different approaches concerning sustainable agriculture: Sustainability as an ideology e.g., reducing the use of external inputs and utilizing local resources and biological processes as much as possible. Sustainability as goal achievement, were the goals varies between different systems and depends on who defines them. And finally is the sustainability as a means for agriculture to continue. Hence, sustainable agriculture is one that can continue despite changes in external conditions including economic, social and environmental changes [4].

Photo by Mazin Al-Hashimi, Uppsala 2019

Sustainable agriculture supports biodiversity and tends to prevent soil degradation and environmental pollution by maintaining healthy and active microorganisms and ecosystem through sensible management of natural resources. It’s also support healthy crops and animals by using natural fertilizers and reduces the use of chemicals and prohibits mass production (intensive agriculture) in order to reduce diseases and GHG emissions. It’s important to mention that sustainable agriculture also aim to reduce food waste by minimizing food processing industry to shorten the gap between producers and consumers, in other words sustainable agriculture tends to increase food production and lower the environmental impact.

One interesting aspect to investigate is the number of individuals that can be fed by what is produced on the farm (Cassidy et al., 2013). In this case, the indicator may be: produced kcal per hectare or kilo of protein per hectare and their environmental impact (climate impact per kilo). These results can be then compared to see how the farm contributes to global food responsibility. One way to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product or a process is the life cycle assessment (LCA) which normally involves energy balance (net energy production) and GHG emissions (climate impact) [5]. LCA can also be used to calculate other environmental effects such as eutrophication, acidification, land and energy use.

Photo by Mazin Al-Hashimi, Uppsala 2019 Many practises can be done in order to achieve sustainability in agriculture. One method is by farming of perennial crops that all function together in a designed system that mimics how plants in a natural ecosystem would function, this methods calls Permaculture. Other method calls biodynamic farming and includes raising a variety of animals in a way that they increase soil fertility and enhance plant growth and biodiversity of plants and the beneficial insects. This will decrease chemical fertilisers and enhance ecosystem and microorganisms. Supporting the biodiversity of plants is very important for the sustainability of agriculture. Due to the industrialization of food production, the world has lost almost 90% of the fruit and vegetable seed varieties that were once available over the last 100 years, [6].

Allowing the animals to graze and live in natural pasture enhance sustainability and contributes for healthier animals and hence better products. Moreover, it would reduce the required amounts of feeder and enrich the grazing land. One of the most effective agricultural control strategies to preventing the loss of soil fertility and reduce pests and diseases is by planting of a diverse of crops in the same area and rotating these crops seasonally. This method calls polycultures.

These were few of many methods that can be used to achieve sustainable agriculture both for food and energy production. Most importantly is to prioritise food security, biodiversity and wildlife over industrialization, intensive agriculture and energy production. Our ancestors farmed the land sustainably for thousands of years simply because they had stronger bonds to their lands and lived in harmony with nature, so maybe this is what we really need to do.

References:

[1] Vermeulen, Sonja & Campbell, Bruce Morgan & Ingram, John. (2012). Climate Change and Food Systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 37. 195-222. 10.1146/annurev-environ-020411-130608. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234146044_Climate_Change_and_Food_Systems

[2] Saka, A.R.; Mtukuso, A.P.; Mbale, B.J.; Phiri, I.M.G. The role of research-extension-farmer linkages in vegetable production and development in Malawi. In Vegetable Research and Development in Malawi. Review and Planning Workshop Proceedings, Lilongwe, Malawi, 23–24 September 2003; Chadha, M.L., Oluoch, M.O., Saka, A.R., Mtukuso, A.P., Daudi, A., Eds.; World Vegetable Center (AVRDC): Shanhua, Taiwan, 2003.

[3] Munthali, D.C. Evaluation of cabbage varieties to cabbage aphid. Afr. Entomol. 2009, 17, 1–7. [CrossRef]

[4] DiClemente, R., Ponton, L., & Hansen, W. (1996). Handbook of adolescent health risk behavior. New York: Plenum.

[5] Cheng, J. (Ed.). (2017). Biomass to renewable energy processes. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ep.bib.mdh.se

[6] Greentumble. (2019, September 4). 10 Sustainable Farming Methods and Practices. Retrieved from https://greentumble.com/10-sustainable-farming-methods-and-practices/.

Are we on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level?

Figure 1. Two main pathways for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels are discussed in IPCC’s Special Report. The pathways are: stabilizing global temperature at, or just below, 1.5°C (left) and global temperature temporarily exceeding 1.5°C before coming back down later in the century (right). Temperatures shown are relative to pre-industrial but pathways are illustrative only, demonstrating conceptual not quantitative characteristics. Source: IPCC Special Report 15 (2014).

Introduction – defining pathways to the future

To determine what it takes to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels scientists have defined different pathways. The IPCC Special Report 15 (2014) identifies two main conceptual pathways: One where the global temperature is stabilized just below 1.5°C, and one where global temperature exceed 1.5°C for a while before coming back down, as illustrated above.

So how do we get to these two pathways?

The future is something we can only predict, therefore scientists use models to simulate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the future levels of warming. Simulations

with different amounts and intensities of greenhouse gas emissions result in different levels of warming. Each simulation describes a future possible pathway. There are many different pathways that can limit the warming to below 1.5°C.

The two pathways identified by IPCC have different implications on how much greenhouse gases we can emit, and how these emissions will impact the climate as well as sustainable development. The second pathway in the illustration above overshoots the target of 1.5°C for some time. The longer this overshoot is the more we have to rely on techniques that can actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere, in combination with reduced emissions. This is referred to as climate engineering, or geo-engineering, which is something we will address in a future post here at The Environmentalization.

What are we doing to meet the target to keep the warming under 1.5°C?

All countries that have formally accepted the Paris Agreement have to pledge how they will address climate change. At Climate Home News you can read more about what some countries have committed to do. Currently, however the combined effect of all the pledges that have been made are not enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. This means that warming will exceed 1.5°C, for at least a period of time. As mentioned above, this pathway requires geo-engineering to remove CO2 from the atmosphere in combination with extensive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to return warming to 1.5°C at a later stage.

So, which of the two pathways is the most likely one?

The answer to this question depends on how much each country manages to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. We have learnt that the current pledges are not enough. Based on the level of commitment required (e.g. transition from fossil based energy system to one based on renewable energy, less flight travels, reduce consumption, less plastics, reduce meat production etc.) to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect delayed action, limited international cooperation, and insufficient policies, leading to stagnating or increasing greenhouse gas emissions, preventing us from making the target of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In other words: we should prepare for a situation when the global average temperature exceeds 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level.

Conclusion

  • Many countries have made pledges to reduce CO2 emissions but it is not enough to keep the warming under 1.5°C.
  • We will most likely experience an overshoot when the global warming exceeds 1.5°C for a time
  • The impacts of a global warming above 1.5°C are uncertain and may even result in the climate exceeding a tipping point, i.e. a threshold that, when exceeded, can lead to large changes in the state of the system
  • To reduce the global average temperature when it increased more than 1.5°C we have to apply practices and techniques of geo-engineering in combination with extensive reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions
  • Geo-engineering at this scale has never been tested

Sources

This text is a reflection based on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ2.1) extracted from chapter 1 of IPCC’s fifth assessment report.

You can download the entire FAQ document here: IPCC Special Report 15, 2014

You can read more about what different countries have pledged to address climate change in the post: Which countries have a net zero carbon goal? published 14 June 2019 at Climate Change Home

How come that an increase of the global average temperature of 1.5°C has such enormous effects on life on earth?

When I think about global warming I sometimes think about the temperature of the human body. When it is healthy the body temperature ranges between 36.5–37.5 °C. A temperature above 37.5°C is referred to as a fewer, signalling that the body isn’t well. An increase by 1.5°C would equal a body temperature between 38-39°C, which is clearly defined as a fewer. We all know how a fewer affects us. You are tired, maybe having some muscle pains and you are not able to perform at your best. The higher the fever the worse it gets. As just a little increase of body temperature has such profound effects on our abilities, it might make it easier to understand that an increase of 1.5°C is like our planet having a fever and that is doesn’t function at its best.

This comparison just illustrates how an increase in human body temperature of 1.5°C is perceived by us humans. It doesn’t explain why the effects of such a small increase of the global average temperature is such a big issue. The explanation lies in the term average. It doesn’t mean that the temperature will be 1.5°C everywhere, only that the average of all temperatures on earth equals an increase of 1.5°C relative to the pre-industrial times. It doesn’t say anything about the deviations from the average. What we know is that land masses warm more than the oceans, and that some parts of earth warm more than others. This suggests that some parts of earth is running a far higher fewer than what the average temperature suggests. These larger temperature differences influence weather systems, resulting in more intense storms, with record breaking wind speeds and extreme precipitation. Other parts of earth see prolonged droughts leading to lost harvests and starvation of humans and animals. Again, these extreme weather situations together with rising sea levels and a generally warmer climate will force people to leave the areas which become inhabitable. The number of climate migrants will most likely outnumber the current wave of migrants seeking refuge in Europe and elsewhere by far.

According to IPCC we will already in 2040 have reached a global average temperature that is 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level. This is in just 21 years! This clearly signals that we have no time to spare and urgent actions are required if we want to halt the global warming. To do this:

  1. We all have to contribute to drastically reduce our GHG emissions into the atmosphere.
  2. We can’t afford to carry on with business as usual for much longer, waiting for someone else to fix this problem, it is everyone’s responsibility to take action.

The text is a reflection based on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ1.2) extracted from chapter 1 of IPCC’s fifth assessment report.

You can download the entire FAQ document here.
https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2018/12/SR15_FAQ_Low_Res.pdf

Why is 1.5°C so important?

Illustration from FAQ1.2, summary of FAQs in IPCC AR5

At the decade 2006-2015, human activity had caused the global average temperature had increased by 0.87°C (+/-0.12°C) compared to pre-industrial times (1850-1900).

In 2015 a majority of the counties in the world gathered in Paris to discuss what to do with the climate crisis. The outcome of this meeting organized by the United Nations Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change (UNFCCC) was a commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. So, the question is, why did the countries decide on a limit of global temperature rise of 1.5°C?

The actual agreement stated: ‘holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuit efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’.

An extensive review of the long-term global goals conducted by experts and representatives from UNFCCC concluded that in some vulnerable ecosystems, high risks are projected even at a warming of 1.5°C. This led to the decision to not stop at 2°C as the defense line, but to strive towards a goal of keeping the temperature increase to below 1.5°C.

A key reason for a lower limit is that already at an increase of global average temperature with 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels the expected impacts are so extensive that there is a limited capacity to adapt to its impacts. This is particularly the case in developing and island countries.

This is why limiting the increase of global average temperature to less than 1.5°C is so important, a majority of developing and island nations will not be able to cope with the changed conditions that this warming will bring. The effect of these countries not coping is likely to be massive migration from these nations, to areas less affected by the direct impacts of climate change.

References

The text is a reflection based on the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ1.2) extracted from chapter 1 of IPCC’s fifth assessment report.

You can download the entire FAQ document here.

The urgency of the climate crisis – but there is (little) hope on the way

Most of us have heard about climate change caused by anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and the effects that a further increase of the global temperature from today 0.99°C to 1.5°C, 2°C and beyond will have for all mankind. What we haven’t sufficiently realised is how dangerous the game that we are playing really is and how urgent drastic changes are required to minimise the risk of so-called tipping points. Tipping points are critical thresholds that once they are reached will lead to abrupt and irreversible changes of the ecosystem. The release of carbon dioxide and other GHGs can lead to such tipping points due to their impact on the global atmospheric temperature and as a consequence avoiding the release of GHGs to the atmosphere is the necessary step to stay as far as possible away from the critical thresholds.

The carbon dioxide budget is the best concept to visualise how serious the current situation is. In order to stay below 1.5°C global warming that all nations in 2015, with the Paris Climate Agreement preferably agreed on, we have with our current emissions (1,331 tons of CO2 per second) a budget of 361,538,000,000 tons left. This corresponds to a time period of 8 years, 7 months and 7 days, assuming that the emissions are remaining constant. If we look at the numbers with the 2°C scenario that all nations with the Paris Climate Agreement definitely agreed on we have 26 years, 5 months and 15 days left. A live carbon clock can be found at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC) webpage.

Considering our current global consumption of and dependence on fossil fuels and the speed of political decisions, especially on a global scale, both 8 and 26 years will not be enough to keep global warming under the accepted limits. But today, initiated by the movement FridaysForFuture, people all over the world (in 1,623 places in 119 countries) are protesting against the lack of action on the climate crisis. That people on a large scale realise the urgency of the climate crisis and and are willing to fight for action, is giving a spark of hope that we can still change tack. In this matter, every voice and every contribution counts. Let’s start together.

4,962 strikes in 1,623 places in 119 countries on the 24th of May 2019.

First steps towards an environmental blog, the Environmentalization

This blog is the product of our expanding portfolio of on-line courses in environmental engineering at Malardalen University in Sweden.

We are currently offering a range of courses on undergraduate and graduate levels, ranging from Introduction to environmental engineering to energy and natural resources, energy and climate, all on undergraduate level. On advanced level we offer courses in air quality management, biomass to energy, waste water management as well as short courses on circular economy, humanitarian engineering and sustainable consumption.

You can read more about the advanced level on-line courses here.

As the number of students applying to these courses increase, and we have created a rather large group of students that have taken our courses, we identified a need for a platform where we can exchange information and engage in discussions outside the formal course environment, involving students and practitioners in the field to keep in contact and to contribute to life long learning.

The focus of this site is on the subject of environmental engineering but touching on relevant aspects of energy systems and social sciences, as well as current affairs, as all these influence our environment. A special attention is given to the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and their impact on the global climate. We see this as one of our times biggest challenges and would therefore like to share information and knowledge about this, and by doing so, contribute to a better understand of what the issues are and what we can do about them, both as individuals and a society.

We hope you will find this site interesting and that it will bring you some new insights into the exciting world of environmental engineering and sustainable development.