Tag Archives: CO2

Growth and low carbon 'can co-exist'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A new study suggests that economic growth and carbon cuts may not be mutually exclusive, offering a chance to keep energy supplies flowing without adding to global warming.

LONDON, 19 September – It’s a question which goes to the heart of virtually any discussion about the future and the impact of climate change: how is it possible to maintain or increase energy supplies while at the same time cut back on CO2 emissions?

Faced with this dilemma, there are those who say the only course of action is to do away with the idea of economic growth – an argument that does not go down  well in many quarters. But a new study says the world can, in fact, have its cake and eat it – growth can continue and CO2 emissions can be cut.

The study, by the Energy Futures Lab and Grantham Institute of Climate Change at Imperial College, London, says the key is employing technology to radically decarbonise the world’s energy sector: this, say the researchers, can be accomplished with technologies that either currently exist on a commercial scale, have been demonstrated to work or are still awaiting full-scale deployment.

The study states the present position: the world needs to limit the overall global temperature to around 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 in order to avoid the more serious impacts of climate change. That means a wholesale cut in fossil fuel use and a big reduction in CO2 emissions – from around a global total of 31 gigatonnes (Gt) per year at present to about 15 Gt per year in 2050.

Fundamental importance

The trouble is we are going the wrong way: on present projections – and barring a cataclysmic meltdown of the world economy – fossil fuel consumption will increase by 50% between now and 2050 and CO2 emissions could rise to 50Gt per year or more. This would result in higher global temperatures and possible runaway climate change.

The study divided the world into ten geographical regions and, in each area, projected both economic output and population growth to 2050. The global population is likely to grow to more than nine billion, say the researchers, while real per capita incomes will almost treble.

 Decarbonising the world’s electricity generation system is fundamental says the study: the large-scale development and commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass, solar, wind and nuclear sources should be high on every government’s agenda.

“…With challenging but feasible penetrations of low-carbon technologies, an energy and industrial system transformation is possible…”, says the study. It focuses on three sectors:  industry, buildings and transport.

It says: “…There needs to be a shift towards electrification of industrial manufacturing processes, building heating systems and vehicle propulsion systems.

“A range of technologies will be required to achieve this, including increased penetrations of electric arc furnaces in steelmaking, heat pumps in buildings and battery electric and hybrid vehicles in road transport.

“Considerable investment in developing new technologies, with associated infrastructure, needs to begin now in order to enable the penetrations of these technologies that are required by 2050.”

 Achievable goals

The study admits that all this will be very challenging in technological, operational, social and political terms. For example, achieving targets for bioenergy would require the use of nearly 9% of the world’s total arable and pasture lands.

The goal is achievable – and affordable – says the study. Its analysis indicates the transition to a low carbon energy future would cost about US$2 trillion a year by 2050. While that figure might seem large, the researchers point out it would amount to only about one per cent of global gross domestic product, based on projected 2050 GDP figures.

Whether or not the planners and politicians will take heed of the study’s findings is the big question.  In 2006 the Stern Review examined the impact of climate change, warning of the escalating costs in economic terms of not taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  In May this year CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, a level generally considered to be the highest for more than four million years. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A new study suggests that economic growth and carbon cuts may not be mutually exclusive, offering a chance to keep energy supplies flowing without adding to global warming.

LONDON, 19 September – It’s a question which goes to the heart of virtually any discussion about the future and the impact of climate change: how is it possible to maintain or increase energy supplies while at the same time cut back on CO2 emissions?

Faced with this dilemma, there are those who say the only course of action is to do away with the idea of economic growth – an argument that does not go down  well in many quarters. But a new study says the world can, in fact, have its cake and eat it – growth can continue and CO2 emissions can be cut.

The study, by the Energy Futures Lab and Grantham Institute of Climate Change at Imperial College, London, says the key is employing technology to radically decarbonise the world’s energy sector: this, say the researchers, can be accomplished with technologies that either currently exist on a commercial scale, have been demonstrated to work or are still awaiting full-scale deployment.

The study states the present position: the world needs to limit the overall global temperature to around 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 in order to avoid the more serious impacts of climate change. That means a wholesale cut in fossil fuel use and a big reduction in CO2 emissions – from around a global total of 31 gigatonnes (Gt) per year at present to about 15 Gt per year in 2050.

Fundamental importance

The trouble is we are going the wrong way: on present projections – and barring a cataclysmic meltdown of the world economy – fossil fuel consumption will increase by 50% between now and 2050 and CO2 emissions could rise to 50Gt per year or more. This would result in higher global temperatures and possible runaway climate change.

The study divided the world into ten geographical regions and, in each area, projected both economic output and population growth to 2050. The global population is likely to grow to more than nine billion, say the researchers, while real per capita incomes will almost treble.

 Decarbonising the world’s electricity generation system is fundamental says the study: the large-scale development and commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass, solar, wind and nuclear sources should be high on every government’s agenda.

“…With challenging but feasible penetrations of low-carbon technologies, an energy and industrial system transformation is possible…”, says the study. It focuses on three sectors:  industry, buildings and transport.

It says: “…There needs to be a shift towards electrification of industrial manufacturing processes, building heating systems and vehicle propulsion systems.

“A range of technologies will be required to achieve this, including increased penetrations of electric arc furnaces in steelmaking, heat pumps in buildings and battery electric and hybrid vehicles in road transport.

“Considerable investment in developing new technologies, with associated infrastructure, needs to begin now in order to enable the penetrations of these technologies that are required by 2050.”

 Achievable goals

The study admits that all this will be very challenging in technological, operational, social and political terms. For example, achieving targets for bioenergy would require the use of nearly 9% of the world’s total arable and pasture lands.

The goal is achievable – and affordable – says the study. Its analysis indicates the transition to a low carbon energy future would cost about US$2 trillion a year by 2050. While that figure might seem large, the researchers point out it would amount to only about one per cent of global gross domestic product, based on projected 2050 GDP figures.

Whether or not the planners and politicians will take heed of the study’s findings is the big question.  In 2006 the Stern Review examined the impact of climate change, warning of the escalating costs in economic terms of not taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  In May this year CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, a level generally considered to be the highest for more than four million years. – Climate News Network

Growth and low carbon ‘can co-exist’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A new study suggests that economic growth and carbon cuts may not be mutually exclusive, offering a chance to keep energy supplies flowing without adding to global warming. LONDON, 19 September – It’s a question which goes to the heart of virtually any discussion about the future and the impact of climate change: how is it possible to maintain or increase energy supplies while at the same time cut back on CO2 emissions? Faced with this dilemma, there are those who say the only course of action is to do away with the idea of economic growth – an argument that does not go down  well in many quarters. But a new study says the world can, in fact, have its cake and eat it – growth can continue and CO2 emissions can be cut. The study, by the Energy Futures Lab and Grantham Institute of Climate Change at Imperial College, London, says the key is employing technology to radically decarbonise the world’s energy sector: this, say the researchers, can be accomplished with technologies that either currently exist on a commercial scale, have been demonstrated to work or are still awaiting full-scale deployment. The study states the present position: the world needs to limit the overall global temperature to around 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 in order to avoid the more serious impacts of climate change. That means a wholesale cut in fossil fuel use and a big reduction in CO2 emissions – from around a global total of 31 gigatonnes (Gt) per year at present to about 15 Gt per year in 2050.

Fundamental importance

The trouble is we are going the wrong way: on present projections – and barring a cataclysmic meltdown of the world economy – fossil fuel consumption will increase by 50% between now and 2050 and CO2 emissions could rise to 50Gt per year or more. This would result in higher global temperatures and possible runaway climate change. The study divided the world into ten geographical regions and, in each area, projected both economic output and population growth to 2050. The global population is likely to grow to more than nine billion, say the researchers, while real per capita incomes will almost treble.  Decarbonising the world’s electricity generation system is fundamental says the study: the large-scale development and commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass, solar, wind and nuclear sources should be high on every government’s agenda. “…With challenging but feasible penetrations of low-carbon technologies, an energy and industrial system transformation is possible…”, says the study. It focuses on three sectors:  industry, buildings and transport. It says: “…There needs to be a shift towards electrification of industrial manufacturing processes, building heating systems and vehicle propulsion systems. “A range of technologies will be required to achieve this, including increased penetrations of electric arc furnaces in steelmaking, heat pumps in buildings and battery electric and hybrid vehicles in road transport. “Considerable investment in developing new technologies, with associated infrastructure, needs to begin now in order to enable the penetrations of these technologies that are required by 2050.”

 Achievable goals

The study admits that all this will be very challenging in technological, operational, social and political terms. For example, achieving targets for bioenergy would require the use of nearly 9% of the world’s total arable and pasture lands. The goal is achievable – and affordable – says the study. Its analysis indicates the transition to a low carbon energy future would cost about US$2 trillion a year by 2050. While that figure might seem large, the researchers point out it would amount to only about one per cent of global gross domestic product, based on projected 2050 GDP figures. Whether or not the planners and politicians will take heed of the study’s findings is the big question.  In 2006 the Stern Review examined the impact of climate change, warning of the escalating costs in economic terms of not taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  In May this year CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, a level generally considered to be the highest for more than four million years. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A new study suggests that economic growth and carbon cuts may not be mutually exclusive, offering a chance to keep energy supplies flowing without adding to global warming. LONDON, 19 September – It’s a question which goes to the heart of virtually any discussion about the future and the impact of climate change: how is it possible to maintain or increase energy supplies while at the same time cut back on CO2 emissions? Faced with this dilemma, there are those who say the only course of action is to do away with the idea of economic growth – an argument that does not go down  well in many quarters. But a new study says the world can, in fact, have its cake and eat it – growth can continue and CO2 emissions can be cut. The study, by the Energy Futures Lab and Grantham Institute of Climate Change at Imperial College, London, says the key is employing technology to radically decarbonise the world’s energy sector: this, say the researchers, can be accomplished with technologies that either currently exist on a commercial scale, have been demonstrated to work or are still awaiting full-scale deployment. The study states the present position: the world needs to limit the overall global temperature to around 2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2050 in order to avoid the more serious impacts of climate change. That means a wholesale cut in fossil fuel use and a big reduction in CO2 emissions – from around a global total of 31 gigatonnes (Gt) per year at present to about 15 Gt per year in 2050.

Fundamental importance

The trouble is we are going the wrong way: on present projections – and barring a cataclysmic meltdown of the world economy – fossil fuel consumption will increase by 50% between now and 2050 and CO2 emissions could rise to 50Gt per year or more. This would result in higher global temperatures and possible runaway climate change. The study divided the world into ten geographical regions and, in each area, projected both economic output and population growth to 2050. The global population is likely to grow to more than nine billion, say the researchers, while real per capita incomes will almost treble.  Decarbonising the world’s electricity generation system is fundamental says the study: the large-scale development and commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass, solar, wind and nuclear sources should be high on every government’s agenda. “…With challenging but feasible penetrations of low-carbon technologies, an energy and industrial system transformation is possible…”, says the study. It focuses on three sectors:  industry, buildings and transport. It says: “…There needs to be a shift towards electrification of industrial manufacturing processes, building heating systems and vehicle propulsion systems. “A range of technologies will be required to achieve this, including increased penetrations of electric arc furnaces in steelmaking, heat pumps in buildings and battery electric and hybrid vehicles in road transport. “Considerable investment in developing new technologies, with associated infrastructure, needs to begin now in order to enable the penetrations of these technologies that are required by 2050.”

 Achievable goals

The study admits that all this will be very challenging in technological, operational, social and political terms. For example, achieving targets for bioenergy would require the use of nearly 9% of the world’s total arable and pasture lands. The goal is achievable – and affordable – says the study. Its analysis indicates the transition to a low carbon energy future would cost about US$2 trillion a year by 2050. While that figure might seem large, the researchers point out it would amount to only about one per cent of global gross domestic product, based on projected 2050 GDP figures. Whether or not the planners and politicians will take heed of the study’s findings is the big question.  In 2006 the Stern Review examined the impact of climate change, warning of the escalating costs in economic terms of not taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  In May this year CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, a level generally considered to be the highest for more than four million years. – Climate News Network

Waste CO2 could be source of power

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Dutch scientists have thought up a new use for all the carbon dioxide that pours from the chimneys of fossil fuel-burning power stations: harvest it for even more electricity. LONDON, 15 August –They could, they argue, pump the carbon dioxide through water or other liquids and produce a flow of electrons and therefore more electricity. Power-generating stations release 12 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year as they burn coal, oil or natural gas; home and commercial heating plants release another 11 billion tonnes. This would be enough, they argue, to create 1,750 terawatt hours of extra electricity annually: about 400 times the output of the Hoover dam in the US, and all without adding an extra gasp of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the exhaust from one cycle of electricity production could be used immediately to deliver another flow of power to the grid. They make the claim in a journal called Environmental Science and Technology Letters, which is published by the American Chemical Society, and the claim rests on a 200-year-old technique pioneered by Sir Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday: electrolysis.

Harvesting energy from waste

Behind the reasoning is a simple proposition, that every chemical event involves some exchange of energy. In a solution, this movement of energy involves electrons, and ions that migrate to cation or anion electrodes. In a mix of two different solutions, the final mixture has an energy content lower than the sum of the two original solutions: since energy cannot be created or destroyed, therefore there must be some energy available for exploitation. Bert Hamelers of Wetsus, a centre for water excellence in the Netherlands, and colleagues from Wageningen University report that they used porous electrodes and flushed carbon dioxide into water to get their flow of current: the gas reacted with the water to make carbonic acid, which in the electrolyte became positive hydrogen ions and negative ions of the bicarbonate HCO3. As the pH of the solution gets higher, the bicarbonate becomes a simple carbonate and the higher the CO2 pressure, the greater the increase of ions in the solution. In their experiment, they found that as they flushed their aqueous electrolyte with air, and alternately with CO2, between their porous electrodes, a supply of electricity began to build up. Since the air that comes from the chimneys of fossil fuel-burning power stations contains anything up to 20% of CO2, even the emissions represent a potential for more power. They found they could get even more power if instead of a water solution they used an electrolyte of monoethanolamine. In experiments, this delivered an energy density of 4.5 mW a square metre. The irony is that this electrical energy is already potentially available at the top of the power station chimney, because on release one “solution” of greenhouse gas in air immediately mixes with a different-strength solution in the air all the time. Nobody of course has a way of harvesting this power directly, but an old-fashioned experiment with electrodes in a laboratory shows that huge quantities of potential power are being lost every day, in unexpected ways.

Graphene batteries

It would require huge investment – and a great deal of engineering ingenuity – to turn greenhouse emissions into yet more electricity, but such research is a reminder that scientists everywhere are looking for clever new ways to power the planet. Dan Li, a materials engineer at Monash University in Australia, reports in the journal Science that he and his team have developed a graphene-based supercapacitator that is compact, and can be recharged quickly, but can last as long as a conventional lead-acid battery. That means it could be used to store renewable energy, power portable electronics or drive electric vehicles. Graphene is a new wonder material, a variant of graphite or carbon organised into layers just one atom thick. “It is almost at the stage of moving from the lab to commercial development”, says Li.

Power from sunlight and water

And in the same journal, a team from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the US report that they have a technique to concentrate sunlight and use it to split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen: these two in combination provide the energy for hydrogen fuel cells that have already begun to power public transport in many cities. The Boulder technique employs a towering array of mirrors focused on a single point to heat a metal oxide reactor to 1,350°C and set up a chain of atomic-scale events which grabs oxygen atoms from steam, releasing the hydrogen molecules. “Splitting water with sunlight is the Holy Grail of a sustainable hydrogen economy”, says Alan Weimer, leader of the Boulder research group. But commercial introduction could be years away. “With the price of natural gas so low, there is no incentive to burn clean energy.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Dutch scientists have thought up a new use for all the carbon dioxide that pours from the chimneys of fossil fuel-burning power stations: harvest it for even more electricity. LONDON, 15 August –They could, they argue, pump the carbon dioxide through water or other liquids and produce a flow of electrons and therefore more electricity. Power-generating stations release 12 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year as they burn coal, oil or natural gas; home and commercial heating plants release another 11 billion tonnes. This would be enough, they argue, to create 1,750 terawatt hours of extra electricity annually: about 400 times the output of the Hoover dam in the US, and all without adding an extra gasp of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the exhaust from one cycle of electricity production could be used immediately to deliver another flow of power to the grid. They make the claim in a journal called Environmental Science and Technology Letters, which is published by the American Chemical Society, and the claim rests on a 200-year-old technique pioneered by Sir Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday: electrolysis.

Harvesting energy from waste

Behind the reasoning is a simple proposition, that every chemical event involves some exchange of energy. In a solution, this movement of energy involves electrons, and ions that migrate to cation or anion electrodes. In a mix of two different solutions, the final mixture has an energy content lower than the sum of the two original solutions: since energy cannot be created or destroyed, therefore there must be some energy available for exploitation. Bert Hamelers of Wetsus, a centre for water excellence in the Netherlands, and colleagues from Wageningen University report that they used porous electrodes and flushed carbon dioxide into water to get their flow of current: the gas reacted with the water to make carbonic acid, which in the electrolyte became positive hydrogen ions and negative ions of the bicarbonate HCO3. As the pH of the solution gets higher, the bicarbonate becomes a simple carbonate and the higher the CO2 pressure, the greater the increase of ions in the solution. In their experiment, they found that as they flushed their aqueous electrolyte with air, and alternately with CO2, between their porous electrodes, a supply of electricity began to build up. Since the air that comes from the chimneys of fossil fuel-burning power stations contains anything up to 20% of CO2, even the emissions represent a potential for more power. They found they could get even more power if instead of a water solution they used an electrolyte of monoethanolamine. In experiments, this delivered an energy density of 4.5 mW a square metre. The irony is that this electrical energy is already potentially available at the top of the power station chimney, because on release one “solution” of greenhouse gas in air immediately mixes with a different-strength solution in the air all the time. Nobody of course has a way of harvesting this power directly, but an old-fashioned experiment with electrodes in a laboratory shows that huge quantities of potential power are being lost every day, in unexpected ways.

Graphene batteries

It would require huge investment – and a great deal of engineering ingenuity – to turn greenhouse emissions into yet more electricity, but such research is a reminder that scientists everywhere are looking for clever new ways to power the planet. Dan Li, a materials engineer at Monash University in Australia, reports in the journal Science that he and his team have developed a graphene-based supercapacitator that is compact, and can be recharged quickly, but can last as long as a conventional lead-acid battery. That means it could be used to store renewable energy, power portable electronics or drive electric vehicles. Graphene is a new wonder material, a variant of graphite or carbon organised into layers just one atom thick. “It is almost at the stage of moving from the lab to commercial development”, says Li.

Power from sunlight and water

And in the same journal, a team from the University of Colorado at Boulder in the US report that they have a technique to concentrate sunlight and use it to split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen: these two in combination provide the energy for hydrogen fuel cells that have already begun to power public transport in many cities. The Boulder technique employs a towering array of mirrors focused on a single point to heat a metal oxide reactor to 1,350°C and set up a chain of atomic-scale events which grabs oxygen atoms from steam, releasing the hydrogen molecules. “Splitting water with sunlight is the Holy Grail of a sustainable hydrogen economy”, says Alan Weimer, leader of the Boulder research group. But commercial introduction could be years away. “With the price of natural gas so low, there is no incentive to burn clean energy.” – Climate News Network

Plea For GM As Climate Warms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Leading scholar says attitudes to GM must change and backs introduction in Africa LONDON, 5 June – One of Africa’s most distinguished scientists insists that in a warming climate the world needs to adopt genetically modified crops on a massive scale in order to feed the planet’s growing population. Professor Calestous Juma appealed to political leaders who have rejected the technology to think again and young scientists to embrace the possibilities of GM following years of controversy over the crops. GM has been shunned by much of Africa. Seventeen years after the first commercial introduction of GM corn there are still sharp divisions in the scientific community about genetically modified plants, fish and animals. But Professor Juma from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the US – who also co-chairs the High-Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation of the African Union – believes GM developments in crops important to Africa should make people far more positive about new technologicy. CO2 reductions Speaking to graduates of McGill University, Montreal he said that from 1996 to 2011, transgenic crops “saved nearly 473 million kg of active pesticide ingredients.” Juma said such crops also reduced 23.1 billion kg of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 10.2 million cars off the road. “Without transgenic crops, the world would have needed another 108.7 million hectares of land (420,000 square miles — roughly the area of Ethiopia) for the same level of output. “The benefits to biological diversity from the technology have therefore been invaluable. On the economic front, nearly 15 million farmers and their families, estimated at 50 million people, have benefited from the adoption of transgenic crops.” However, of the 28 countries today growing transgenic crops, only four are in Africa – South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt, and Sudan  – said Juma, a Kenyan. He hoped this would change. Golden Bananas He cited examples of important transgenic plant science innovations in Africa. One, a transgenic black-eyed pea variety using insecticide genes from a bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, was developed by scientists at Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University. Currently a moth-like insect, Maruca vitrata, destroys nearly US$300 million worth of black-eyed pea crops every year, despite the annual use of US$500 million in imported pesticides. Not only are the hearty, drought-resistant black-eyed peas important in local diets, they’re a major export — Africa grows 96% of the 5.4 million tons consumed worldwide each year. In Uganda scientists are deploying biotechnology against the problem of Xanthomonas wilt, a bacterial disease that ruins bananas and costs Africa’s Great Lakes Region an estimated US$500 million annually. Using genes from a species of sweet pepper, Ugandan researchers are developing a transgenic banana that resists the disease. Also in Uganda scientists have developed “Golden Bananas” that offer enhanced Vitamin A content, important for growth and development, a healthy immune system and good vision, said Juma. Kenyan scientists are also enhancing the micronutrient content of bananas as well as two other staples — sorghum and cassava. “The techniques mastered can be extended to a wide range of indigenous African crops,” said Juma. “This would not only help Africa broaden its food base using improved indigenous crops, but it would have the potential to contribute to global nutritional requirements.” Controversy The delay in subjecting these products to testing and approval for commercial use is due in part to “technological intolerance,” he said, much of which reflects European anti-biotechnology activism. “This opposition, however vexatious, amounts to petty political mischief.” As the world’s food challenges increase humanity must include genetic modification and other technologies such as satellites for monitoring land resources, Juma said. “But these techniques are not silver bullets. They must be part of a wider system of innovation that includes improving interactions between academia, government, business and farmers.” Despite Professor Juma’s enthusiasm 160 countries have so far rejected GM technology: at present more than 80% of GM crops are grown in just four countries in the Americas. The main crops are soy, corn, canola and cotton. Critics say the first generation of GM plants are mostly herbicide resistant crops that have benefitted big agri-business because they patented both the seeds and the herbicide used. Some scientists also point out that use of the pesticides had created so-called “superweeds” that have become resistant to herbicides and difficult to wipe out. Environmental groups say negative attitudes to GM might  change if drought and salt resistant crops are developed to help agriculture on marginal land rather than concentrating on commercial crops for already rich farmers. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Leading scholar says attitudes to GM must change and backs introduction in Africa LONDON, 5 June – One of Africa’s most distinguished scientists insists that in a warming climate the world needs to adopt genetically modified crops on a massive scale in order to feed the planet’s growing population. Professor Calestous Juma appealed to political leaders who have rejected the technology to think again and young scientists to embrace the possibilities of GM following years of controversy over the crops. GM has been shunned by much of Africa. Seventeen years after the first commercial introduction of GM corn there are still sharp divisions in the scientific community about genetically modified plants, fish and animals. But Professor Juma from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the US – who also co-chairs the High-Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation of the African Union – believes GM developments in crops important to Africa should make people far more positive about new technologicy. CO2 reductions Speaking to graduates of McGill University, Montreal he said that from 1996 to 2011, transgenic crops “saved nearly 473 million kg of active pesticide ingredients.” Juma said such crops also reduced 23.1 billion kg of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 10.2 million cars off the road. “Without transgenic crops, the world would have needed another 108.7 million hectares of land (420,000 square miles — roughly the area of Ethiopia) for the same level of output. “The benefits to biological diversity from the technology have therefore been invaluable. On the economic front, nearly 15 million farmers and their families, estimated at 50 million people, have benefited from the adoption of transgenic crops.” However, of the 28 countries today growing transgenic crops, only four are in Africa – South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt, and Sudan  – said Juma, a Kenyan. He hoped this would change. Golden Bananas He cited examples of important transgenic plant science innovations in Africa. One, a transgenic black-eyed pea variety using insecticide genes from a bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, was developed by scientists at Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University. Currently a moth-like insect, Maruca vitrata, destroys nearly US$300 million worth of black-eyed pea crops every year, despite the annual use of US$500 million in imported pesticides. Not only are the hearty, drought-resistant black-eyed peas important in local diets, they’re a major export — Africa grows 96% of the 5.4 million tons consumed worldwide each year. In Uganda scientists are deploying biotechnology against the problem of Xanthomonas wilt, a bacterial disease that ruins bananas and costs Africa’s Great Lakes Region an estimated US$500 million annually. Using genes from a species of sweet pepper, Ugandan researchers are developing a transgenic banana that resists the disease. Also in Uganda scientists have developed “Golden Bananas” that offer enhanced Vitamin A content, important for growth and development, a healthy immune system and good vision, said Juma. Kenyan scientists are also enhancing the micronutrient content of bananas as well as two other staples — sorghum and cassava. “The techniques mastered can be extended to a wide range of indigenous African crops,” said Juma. “This would not only help Africa broaden its food base using improved indigenous crops, but it would have the potential to contribute to global nutritional requirements.” Controversy The delay in subjecting these products to testing and approval for commercial use is due in part to “technological intolerance,” he said, much of which reflects European anti-biotechnology activism. “This opposition, however vexatious, amounts to petty political mischief.” As the world’s food challenges increase humanity must include genetic modification and other technologies such as satellites for monitoring land resources, Juma said. “But these techniques are not silver bullets. They must be part of a wider system of innovation that includes improving interactions between academia, government, business and farmers.” Despite Professor Juma’s enthusiasm 160 countries have so far rejected GM technology: at present more than 80% of GM crops are grown in just four countries in the Americas. The main crops are soy, corn, canola and cotton. Critics say the first generation of GM plants are mostly herbicide resistant crops that have benefitted big agri-business because they patented both the seeds and the herbicide used. Some scientists also point out that use of the pesticides had created so-called “superweeds” that have become resistant to herbicides and difficult to wipe out. Environmental groups say negative attitudes to GM might  change if drought and salt resistant crops are developed to help agriculture on marginal land rather than concentrating on commercial crops for already rich farmers. – Climate News Network