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Many people don’t understand how cap and trade for carbon emissions work. Two frequently heard objections: overall emissions are not reduced but just shifted between players and trading in certificates becomes just another form of financial speculation. This is not true. I will try to explain cap & trade in a very unorthodox way.

Say you have a brother called John and a sister called Jane. The three of you have an alcohol problem: each of you drink a bottle of wine every day, totaling 30 bottles a month. Your mom is worried and wants the three of you to reduce drinking by 90%, bringing down alcohol consumption to three bottles a month each. You all agree that it would be a great idea but you don’t know how to achieve this. Your mom comes up with a great plan to do this in nine months, starting in January.

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The burning of fossil fuels is one of the major causes of climate change. In a perverse way, warming temperatures will open new areas to oil exploration – almost literally adding more fuel to the fire. Ice melting will make drilling in the Artic region possible. Greenland will soon become an oil producer.

This should not happen. An oil spill in these waters would be devastating for the wildlife. And we must reduce the amount of oil we use, not increase it. But we must understand the temptation! Oil money, if well managed, can make a country and its citizens rich. Do traditional oil producers have a god-given right to this money just because they were there first?

Maybe we should pay countries like Greenland not to drill! A Cap & Trade system for oil production rights would avoid climate catastrophe, share the oil wealth equally among all people on earth, and make drilling in such sensitive areas as the Artic unnecessary.

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As I wrote in the previous two articles in this series, the area required to meet our energy needs 100% from renewable energy sources is huge. But it is available in Europe, North America and Australia. Whether it makes economic sense to use photovoltaic, windmills, or biomass, is another matter. But there is a resource in abundance that can and must be used: sunshine in the desert!

The United States and Australia have their own deserts. Europe must cooperate with its neighbours in North Africa.

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The five pillars of renewable energies in Germany are: biomass (biodiesel, vegetable oil, bioethanol, biogas, wood pellets, wood chips, etc.), wind energy (onshore & offshore), solar energy (open fields and rooftops), geothermal and hydropower.

According to the Agency for Renewable Energies, the share of renewable energy will cover 28% of the energy consumption (electricity, heat, transport) in Germany in 2020. How much area will this take? And how much land would be needed to go from 28% to 100%?

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In principle no one seems to have anything against renewable energy. In practice, however, people keep repeating that there are three practical obstacles: it is not affordable, the technologies are not mature yet, and we lack the area required to generate the energy. And because of this we need fossil fuels and nuclear power....

Time will take care of two of these objections. The technologies are getting better all the time and the more they are deployed the bigger the economy of scale, leading to lowers costs. But the available area won’t increase much. Will this be the bottleneck?

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“Dear Mr. Cool Ness,
I have a condo in the beautiful mountains of Colorado and have wondered what the impact of wood burning fireplaces has on the environment. Do you have a formula to help calculate the types of emissions from wood burning fireplaces? Also, if the wood-burning fireplace is replaced with a gas or electric insert how does one calculate the benefits! Thanks and great work on your site!
Jane”

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I finally saw the movie “No impact man”. It was one of those situations when you don’t know if you should laugh out loud or cry in despair. The part that bugged me the most was his giving up electric power. Has the guy never heard that nowadays one can have green electricity – electricity from renewable sources (hydroelectric, wind, solar, etc.) – and so cause zero carbon emissions? Wouldn’t it be better to do so and teach a lot of people how to reduce emissions without giving up on comfort? At least when he reconnected the power supply at the end of the movie, wouldn’t it be the right time to say so? “I have power again but from renewable sources – you could do the same!”

With electricity he would be able to cook using clean electricity, instead of burning methane gas and producing a lot emissions as he did the whole year – he never mentioned his cooking, did he? Keeping a dog produces about the same amount of carbon emissions as driving a small car. Why didn’t he deal with that either? No impact? Is he kidding us or just himself?

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The goal was good: to convince people to reduce their carbon emissions by 10%. The date was great: October 10th, 2010 or 10-10-10. The sponsors were first-class consumer brands. It couldn’t go wrong...

But it went terribly wrong. It took only an outrageous video showing innocent people being executed just because they don’t want to commit. Was it ecofascism at its best? No, it was only a joke – or so they say. (Oh man, it was supposed to be funny...) With friends like these, who needs enemies?

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Misconceptions: We hear that “flying is bad”, that “flying causes climate change”, that we must “avoid flying at any cost”, even that “we should be ashamed of flying”. There are many companies offering carbon offsetting for flights only – as if only flying would produce carbon emissions...

This is plain wrong: Flying is not bad in itself – flying on fossil fuels is bad!

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The US government is providing the company Abengoa Solar with $ 1,45 billion in loan guarantees to kick-start the construction of the largest solar power plant in the world in Arizona at Gila Bend near Phoenix. The Solana project will have the capacity to generate 280 MW of power. This will provide 100 permanent jobs and 1,500 temporary construction jobs. This is a smart move. America needs hundreds more plants like this. Solar energy is the answer – not nuclear.

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Global sport events are great opportunities to change a country’s image. The Olympic games in Tokyo in 1964 and in Beijing in 2008 were a sort of coming out party for both countries: they showed that they had finally become a member of the rich countries’ club. The first football (soccer) World Cup on African soil was supposed to show the world the other face of Africa: young, active, and shaping its own future.

It could also have been a good opportunity to address climate change since Africa will be particularly hard hit by it. But this and other opportunities were missed.

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Everybody knows that America has an addiction to oil. Everybody also knows how bad this addiction is both to America and to the rest of the world. What nobody has figured out up to now is how to cure it. People have been talking about this oil addiction for decades to no avail. Even the danger to national security, which always works when everything else fails, couldn’t stop it. It seems like a spell has been cast on the mightiest country on earth.

Then came the biggest spill ever in the American history and quite probably, if it goes on unchecked for much longer, in the history of oil exploration. It’s ugly, it’s bad, and it’s inexcusable. It’s oil’s Chernobyl, wracking the environment in ways never thought possible.

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