Tag Archives: Sustainability

Cut poverty and energy use to cool the climate

To cut poverty and energy use would cool the planet, build a more just society − but end dreams of economic growth.

LONDON, 1 July, 2021 − Containing climate change is really quite simple. The answer? Cut poverty and energy use: higher living standards for the poorest people, together with using less energy more economically, would produce a cooler planet and a more just society. The two demands may be inseparable.

And if that wasn’t a tough enough call, citizens everywhere have already in the same month been asked to contain climate change while at the same time protecting and restoring the wild things on the planet. Once again, the two challenges are necessarily intertwined.

The latest research, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, is about sustainability in a world in which billions are still deprived of basic needs. It is also about how the economic world is organised.

As the researchers say delicately: “The way societies design their economies thus seems misaligned with the twin goals of meeting everyone’s needs and remaining within planetary boundaries.” They also suggest that extraction of planetary resources and demand for riches beyond modest affluence are “associated with lower need satisfaction and greater energy requirements.”

The question then becomes: how do you provide for the basic human needs of all while using energy most efficiently and sustainably?

“Our economic system is fundamentally misaligned with the aspiration of sustainable development: it is unfit for the challenges of the 21st century”

So the researchers start with a simple number for a worldwide measure called final energy use: the number 27. To keep the promises 195 nations made in Paris almost six years ago to contain global heating to no more than 1.5°C by 2100, nations must limit final energy use per person to what, in scientific units, would be 27 gigajoules − 27 billion joules (GJ) − by 2050.

Comparisons help to deliver meaning to such an enigmatic number. Canadians and Americans right now use more than 200GJ per head. People in the UK consume 81GJ. The global average is 55GJ. In the poorest nations such as India, energy use is as low at 19GJ per head. Vietnamese citizens each consume about 27GJ. The message is clear: energy is not separable from wealth.

But global energy demand of the kind that threatens climate catastrophe without precedent in human history is what drives global heating. The global challenge is to find ways to establish decent living standards − food, sanitation, education, health care and livelihoods − for everybody while reducing individual energy consumption dramatically.

“Decent living standards are crucial for human wellbeing, and reducing global energy use is crucial for averting catastrophic climate changes. Truly sustainable development would mean providing decent living standards for everyone at much lower, sustainable levels of energy and resource use,” said Jefim Vogel, of the University of Leeds, UK.

“But in the current economic system, no country in the world accomplishes that − not even close. It appears that our economic system is fundamentally misaligned with the aspiration of sustainable development: it is unfit for the challenges of the 21st century.”

Tax rich harder

The 27GJ target was set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The latest study addresses ways to achieve this dramatic reduction while raising living standards for the poorest, who will be hardest hit by climate change.

The answer: to abandon pursuit of economic growth in affluent countries, reduce extraction of oil, gas, coal and minerals, and prioritise public services, basic infrastructure and fair income distribution everywhere.

“Our findings suggest that improving public services could enable countries to provide decent living standards at lower levels of energy use. Governments should offer free and high quality public services in areas such as health, education and public transport,” said Daniel O’Neill, a co-author at Leeds.

“We also found that a fairer income distribution is crucial for achieving decent living standards at low energy use. To reduce existing income disparities, governments could raise minimum wages, provide a Universal Basic Income and introduce a maximum income level. We also need much higher taxes on high incomes and lower taxes on low incomes.” − Climate News Network

To cut poverty and energy use would cool the planet, build a more just society − but end dreams of economic growth.

LONDON, 1 July, 2021 − Containing climate change is really quite simple. The answer? Cut poverty and energy use: higher living standards for the poorest people, together with using less energy more economically, would produce a cooler planet and a more just society. The two demands may be inseparable.

And if that wasn’t a tough enough call, citizens everywhere have already in the same month been asked to contain climate change while at the same time protecting and restoring the wild things on the planet. Once again, the two challenges are necessarily intertwined.

The latest research, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, is about sustainability in a world in which billions are still deprived of basic needs. It is also about how the economic world is organised.

As the researchers say delicately: “The way societies design their economies thus seems misaligned with the twin goals of meeting everyone’s needs and remaining within planetary boundaries.” They also suggest that extraction of planetary resources and demand for riches beyond modest affluence are “associated with lower need satisfaction and greater energy requirements.”

The question then becomes: how do you provide for the basic human needs of all while using energy most efficiently and sustainably?

“Our economic system is fundamentally misaligned with the aspiration of sustainable development: it is unfit for the challenges of the 21st century”

So the researchers start with a simple number for a worldwide measure called final energy use: the number 27. To keep the promises 195 nations made in Paris almost six years ago to contain global heating to no more than 1.5°C by 2100, nations must limit final energy use per person to what, in scientific units, would be 27 gigajoules − 27 billion joules (GJ) − by 2050.

Comparisons help to deliver meaning to such an enigmatic number. Canadians and Americans right now use more than 200GJ per head. People in the UK consume 81GJ. The global average is 55GJ. In the poorest nations such as India, energy use is as low at 19GJ per head. Vietnamese citizens each consume about 27GJ. The message is clear: energy is not separable from wealth.

But global energy demand of the kind that threatens climate catastrophe without precedent in human history is what drives global heating. The global challenge is to find ways to establish decent living standards − food, sanitation, education, health care and livelihoods − for everybody while reducing individual energy consumption dramatically.

“Decent living standards are crucial for human wellbeing, and reducing global energy use is crucial for averting catastrophic climate changes. Truly sustainable development would mean providing decent living standards for everyone at much lower, sustainable levels of energy and resource use,” said Jefim Vogel, of the University of Leeds, UK.

“But in the current economic system, no country in the world accomplishes that − not even close. It appears that our economic system is fundamentally misaligned with the aspiration of sustainable development: it is unfit for the challenges of the 21st century.”

Tax rich harder

The 27GJ target was set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The latest study addresses ways to achieve this dramatic reduction while raising living standards for the poorest, who will be hardest hit by climate change.

The answer: to abandon pursuit of economic growth in affluent countries, reduce extraction of oil, gas, coal and minerals, and prioritise public services, basic infrastructure and fair income distribution everywhere.

“Our findings suggest that improving public services could enable countries to provide decent living standards at lower levels of energy use. Governments should offer free and high quality public services in areas such as health, education and public transport,” said Daniel O’Neill, a co-author at Leeds.

“We also found that a fairer income distribution is crucial for achieving decent living standards at low energy use. To reduce existing income disparities, governments could raise minimum wages, provide a Universal Basic Income and introduce a maximum income level. We also need much higher taxes on high incomes and lower taxes on low incomes.” − Climate News Network

Building back better needs radical change − by us

We’ve got the money, we’ve got the knowhow, but averting the worst of the climate crisis needs radical change by us.

LONDON, 20 April, 2021 − With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across the globe, plenty of thinkers are devoting their time to what comes next. The hopeful argue for an effort to Build Back Better. The less hopeful doubt that that will be easy, or perhaps even possible, and not necessarily because of the pandemic itself. The pragmatists say the future can be different, if humans can achieve radical change in themselves and their lives.

They start from where we are and try to plot a way through to where we want to be. One of these is a UK think tank, the  Cambridge Sustainability Commission on behaviour change and the climate crisis, whose report is published by the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA).

The RTA argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Commission’s report notes that some of us need to change our behaviour more than others. “Globally, the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population is responsible for roughly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the poorest half is responsible for less than 10%,” it says.

“The lifestyle emissions of the richest in society are actually increasing … Relying on conscientious individuals to ‘do their bit’ will never be enough to put society on a sustainable pathway without substantial shifts in the behaviour of the polluter elite.”

“I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity”

The report looks beyond the problem of taming the polluter elite, identifying several other “behaviour hotspots”. One, described as high-impact behaviours and ways of life, not very surprisingly lists these as “car and plane mobility, the consumption of meat and dairy, and the heating of residential homes”.

Some readers, though, may gulp to see a fourth candidate suggested for the list − the need for a 25% reduction in average personal living space in order to stay below the stricter emissions limit adopted by the Paris Agreement, 1.5°C.

How should we measure lifestyle sustainability? The Cambridge report says that as “global meat production (which roughly mirrors consumption) has fallen for the past two years (FAO, 2020), strategies to reduce meat consumption could accelerate the move away from meat-heavy diets and food production, acting as a social tipping point.”

Earlier it defines these as small quantitative changes which “lead to a qualitatively different state of the social system”, and are therefore to be welcomed.

Eager for change

There are certainly grounds in the report for thinking that more Britons are ready to change the way they behave than to stay the way they are.

The authors report a substantial appetite in the United Kingdom for post-pandemic behavioural change, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) RESET enquiry, led by Caroline Lucas MP. This found that, from a sample of more than 57,000 people:

  • 66% of UK adults want the government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over GDP growth
  • 66% of the public think the Government should intervene to make society fairer
  • 60% support a shorter working week
  • 63% support a jobs guarantee
  • 57% support some form of universal basic income
  • 65% support rent caps

But these changes may be a long way from all that’s needed. Chapter 5 of the Cambridge report, Future intervention points, starts with a warning: “As things stand under a business-as-usual scenario, we are headed towards 3-4°C of warming by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences for humanity and the ecosystems upon which we depend.”

Simple step

The end of the century may feel comfortably far distant for much of humanity, but not everybody is confident that we have even that much time to change. In March the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) published a report, Global Trends 2040. The website Axios offered a summary: “This is not your typical grim climate report projecting disaster in the year 2100, i.e. the distant future.

“Instead, the climate change we will see through midcentury is already baked into the climate system, thanks to how the oceans absorb and redistribute heat. Studies show that even if emissions are sharply reduced now we are still in for additional amounts of warming through mid-century, which will lead to more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other effects … Buckle your seatbelt, we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Perhaps the NIC is right. But just possibly we’re overcomplicating one of our main problems in the UK − and even globally. How do you cut crime? It’s simple, says one of Britain’s most senior police officers, Andy Cooke, the retiring chief constable of Merseyside in north-west England, in an interview with the Guardian: you give people something to hope for by reducing poverty.

Asked what he would do if he had £5 billion (US$7bn) to cut crime, Cooke said reducing inequality and deprivation would be his priority: “I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity.”

That would go a long way to stamping out the drugs war in Liverpool and the rest of Andy Cooke’s patch. Scaled up across the globe, it could stem the wretched flow of migrants struggling to survive. It would, in fact, give hope to people who have lost it. Is that really a radical change? − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

We’ve got the money, we’ve got the knowhow, but averting the worst of the climate crisis needs radical change by us.

LONDON, 20 April, 2021 − With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging across the globe, plenty of thinkers are devoting their time to what comes next. The hopeful argue for an effort to Build Back Better. The less hopeful doubt that that will be easy, or perhaps even possible, and not necessarily because of the pandemic itself. The pragmatists say the future can be different, if humans can achieve radical change in themselves and their lives.

They start from where we are and try to plot a way through to where we want to be. One of these is a UK think tank, the  Cambridge Sustainability Commission on behaviour change and the climate crisis, whose report is published by the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA).

The RTA argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C” (the more stringent limit set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Commission’s report notes that some of us need to change our behaviour more than others. “Globally, the wealthiest 10% of the world’s population is responsible for roughly half of all greenhouse gas emissions, while the poorest half is responsible for less than 10%,” it says.

“The lifestyle emissions of the richest in society are actually increasing … Relying on conscientious individuals to ‘do their bit’ will never be enough to put society on a sustainable pathway without substantial shifts in the behaviour of the polluter elite.”

“I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity”

The report looks beyond the problem of taming the polluter elite, identifying several other “behaviour hotspots”. One, described as high-impact behaviours and ways of life, not very surprisingly lists these as “car and plane mobility, the consumption of meat and dairy, and the heating of residential homes”.

Some readers, though, may gulp to see a fourth candidate suggested for the list − the need for a 25% reduction in average personal living space in order to stay below the stricter emissions limit adopted by the Paris Agreement, 1.5°C.

How should we measure lifestyle sustainability? The Cambridge report says that as “global meat production (which roughly mirrors consumption) has fallen for the past two years (FAO, 2020), strategies to reduce meat consumption could accelerate the move away from meat-heavy diets and food production, acting as a social tipping point.”

Earlier it defines these as small quantitative changes which “lead to a qualitatively different state of the social system”, and are therefore to be welcomed.

Eager for change

There are certainly grounds in the report for thinking that more Britons are ready to change the way they behave than to stay the way they are.

The authors report a substantial appetite in the United Kingdom for post-pandemic behavioural change, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) RESET enquiry, led by Caroline Lucas MP. This found that, from a sample of more than 57,000 people:

  • 66% of UK adults want the government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of citizens over GDP growth
  • 66% of the public think the Government should intervene to make society fairer
  • 60% support a shorter working week
  • 63% support a jobs guarantee
  • 57% support some form of universal basic income
  • 65% support rent caps

But these changes may be a long way from all that’s needed. Chapter 5 of the Cambridge report, Future intervention points, starts with a warning: “As things stand under a business-as-usual scenario, we are headed towards 3-4°C of warming by the end of the century, with catastrophic consequences for humanity and the ecosystems upon which we depend.”

Simple step

The end of the century may feel comfortably far distant for much of humanity, but not everybody is confident that we have even that much time to change. In March the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) published a report, Global Trends 2040. The website Axios offered a summary: “This is not your typical grim climate report projecting disaster in the year 2100, i.e. the distant future.

“Instead, the climate change we will see through midcentury is already baked into the climate system, thanks to how the oceans absorb and redistribute heat. Studies show that even if emissions are sharply reduced now we are still in for additional amounts of warming through mid-century, which will lead to more extreme weather events, sea level rise, and other effects … Buckle your seatbelt, we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

Perhaps the NIC is right. But just possibly we’re overcomplicating one of our main problems in the UK − and even globally. How do you cut crime? It’s simple, says one of Britain’s most senior police officers, Andy Cooke, the retiring chief constable of Merseyside in north-west England, in an interview with the Guardian: you give people something to hope for by reducing poverty.

Asked what he would do if he had £5 billion (US$7bn) to cut crime, Cooke said reducing inequality and deprivation would be his priority: “I’d put a billion into law enforcement and the rest into reducing poverty and increasing opportunity.”

That would go a long way to stamping out the drugs war in Liverpool and the rest of Andy Cooke’s patch. Scaled up across the globe, it could stem the wretched flow of migrants struggling to survive. It would, in fact, give hope to people who have lost it. Is that really a radical change? − Climate News Network

*********

The Rapid Transition Alliance is coordinated by the New Weather Institute, the STEPS Centre at the Institute of  Development Studies, and the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. The Climate News Network is partnering with and supported by the Rapid Transition Alliance, and will be reporting regularly on its work. If you would like to see more stories of evidence-based hope for rapid transition, please sign up here.

Do you know a story of rapid transition? If so, we’d like to hear from you. Please send us a brief outline on info@climatenewsnetwork.net. Thank you.

Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change

Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change. A new book makes it sound almost easy. Well, it’s not impossible.

LONDON, 19 August, 2020 – The world is nowhere near tackling the climate crisis, says a new book by an Oxford scholar, Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change. But at least we know how to.

Year on year, the amount of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising. The ability of oceans, forests and soils to absorb and recycle CO2 is fast diminishing. Like an out-of-control coal train, climate change is thundering towards us.

International agreements and protocols – countless meetings and mega amounts of jaw-jaw – have manifestly failed to address the challenge ahead.

Dieter Helm, professor of economic policy at Oxford University in the UK and the author of several books on climate change, throws up his hands in frustration.

“Thirty years on from the UN’s drive to address climate change, we are still going backwards at an alarming rate”, he says.

The wrong policies have been followed, governments have misled people and we, the public, have failed to come to terms with what’s happening.

“In terms of the scale of the damage over the 30 wasted years, we are the most selfish generation in history”

The Paris Agreement goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C compared to the level in 1990 is unattainable, says Helm.

“Stop pretending and recognise the brutal facts about what has been going on for the last 30 years and why it has been such an abject failure. It is realism, not spin and fake optimism about progress and costs, that we need.”

For the most part, Helm talks of events in the industrialised world, in particular in Europe. He argues that countries such as the UK and Germany delude themselves by thinking they are tackling climate change simply by cutting the production of greenhouse gases within their own borders.

Much of Europe, he argues, is post-industrial: it imports vast amounts of goods – steel from China, textiles from Bangladesh, avocados from Peru. All these products have heavy carbon footprints.

It is the consumption of all these goods that is doing the damage. Only when countries – and we, their citizens – stop buying and accumulating such products will progress be made.

Dangerous delusion

“It is not enough to clean up our own backyard. This does not stop us contributing to global warming.

“It is fantasy, propagated by politicians, the [UK] Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and some activists, that if we could only get to net zero for our own territorial emissions – for our carbon production – that would mean that we would have crossed the Rubicon and no longer be causing any further global warming. It is an extremely dangerous delusion.”

The solution, says Helm, is going to be painful, at least in the short to medium term. There have to be substantial carbon taxes, on both domestic produce and imports.

A whole range of goods will become more expensive. Standards of living will fall, we will be worse off. We have to adapt to a whole new way of life.

The top-down approach to tackling the climate crisis, through what Helm describes as the UN cartel and other bodies, has just not worked. It is we, the consumers, who must act.

“You and I, the ultimate polluters, will have to pay the price of our carbon-intensive lifestyles”, says Professor Helm.

Tiny renewable share

Public finances have to be transformed: massive spending on zero carbon infrastructure is a priority. Agriculture – an environmental disaster area – has to be changed completely.

Helm has an edgy, no-nonsense style of writing. “In terms of the scale of the damage over the 30 wasted years, we are the most selfish generation in history”, he says.

He rails against people fooling themselves. Those who think China is leading the way towards a green future are seriously mistaken. Activists who prophesy the end of coal and other fossil fuels are deluded.

With exploding demand, the past 30 years have been a golden age for the fossil fuel industry, and for all the hype, renewables still contribute only a minuscule amount of the total world energy mix.

Yet if we, the consumers, act, there will certainly be pain but the reward will be worthwhile. “There are many aspects to our individual lives which would be better in 2050 than they are now”, Dieter Helm says. “A greener world is a healthier one.” – Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

  • Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change   By Dieter Helm   William Collins: to be published on 3 September 2020   £20.00

Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change. A new book makes it sound almost easy. Well, it’s not impossible.

LONDON, 19 August, 2020 – The world is nowhere near tackling the climate crisis, says a new book by an Oxford scholar, Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change. But at least we know how to.

Year on year, the amount of climate-changing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising. The ability of oceans, forests and soils to absorb and recycle CO2 is fast diminishing. Like an out-of-control coal train, climate change is thundering towards us.

International agreements and protocols – countless meetings and mega amounts of jaw-jaw – have manifestly failed to address the challenge ahead.

Dieter Helm, professor of economic policy at Oxford University in the UK and the author of several books on climate change, throws up his hands in frustration.

“Thirty years on from the UN’s drive to address climate change, we are still going backwards at an alarming rate”, he says.

The wrong policies have been followed, governments have misled people and we, the public, have failed to come to terms with what’s happening.

“In terms of the scale of the damage over the 30 wasted years, we are the most selfish generation in history”

The Paris Agreement goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C compared to the level in 1990 is unattainable, says Helm.

“Stop pretending and recognise the brutal facts about what has been going on for the last 30 years and why it has been such an abject failure. It is realism, not spin and fake optimism about progress and costs, that we need.”

For the most part, Helm talks of events in the industrialised world, in particular in Europe. He argues that countries such as the UK and Germany delude themselves by thinking they are tackling climate change simply by cutting the production of greenhouse gases within their own borders.

Much of Europe, he argues, is post-industrial: it imports vast amounts of goods – steel from China, textiles from Bangladesh, avocados from Peru. All these products have heavy carbon footprints.

It is the consumption of all these goods that is doing the damage. Only when countries – and we, their citizens – stop buying and accumulating such products will progress be made.

Dangerous delusion

“It is not enough to clean up our own backyard. This does not stop us contributing to global warming.

“It is fantasy, propagated by politicians, the [UK] Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and some activists, that if we could only get to net zero for our own territorial emissions – for our carbon production – that would mean that we would have crossed the Rubicon and no longer be causing any further global warming. It is an extremely dangerous delusion.”

The solution, says Helm, is going to be painful, at least in the short to medium term. There have to be substantial carbon taxes, on both domestic produce and imports.

A whole range of goods will become more expensive. Standards of living will fall, we will be worse off. We have to adapt to a whole new way of life.

The top-down approach to tackling the climate crisis, through what Helm describes as the UN cartel and other bodies, has just not worked. It is we, the consumers, who must act.

“You and I, the ultimate polluters, will have to pay the price of our carbon-intensive lifestyles”, says Professor Helm.

Tiny renewable share

Public finances have to be transformed: massive spending on zero carbon infrastructure is a priority. Agriculture – an environmental disaster area – has to be changed completely.

Helm has an edgy, no-nonsense style of writing. “In terms of the scale of the damage over the 30 wasted years, we are the most selfish generation in history”, he says.

He rails against people fooling themselves. Those who think China is leading the way towards a green future are seriously mistaken. Activists who prophesy the end of coal and other fossil fuels are deluded.

With exploding demand, the past 30 years have been a golden age for the fossil fuel industry, and for all the hype, renewables still contribute only a minuscule amount of the total world energy mix.

Yet if we, the consumers, act, there will certainly be pain but the reward will be worthwhile. “There are many aspects to our individual lives which would be better in 2050 than they are now”, Dieter Helm says. “A greener world is a healthier one.” – Climate News Network

* * * * * * *

  • Net Zero: How we stop causing climate change   By Dieter Helm   William Collins: to be published on 3 September 2020   £20.00

Airship’s return can boost hydrogen economy

For a sustainable world, aim high and try some abandoned technology: the airship. It could be the latest, coolest way to deliver the hydrogen economy.

LONDON, 7 August, 2019 − The airship could be on the way back. Tomorrow’s fuel could be delivered at all-but zero carbon cost by the ultimate in high-technology supertankers: vast dirigibles, sailing round the world at stratospheric heights on the jet stream.

Enormous balloons or airships more than two kilometres in length, laden with hydrogen and an additional burden of cargo could, according to new calculations, circumnavigate the northern hemisphere in 16 days. They could, on route, deliver their heavy goods, and at the same time transfer 60% or even 80% of their hydrogen in gas form.

And then, the holds empty, the same airship could float back home in the same direction on the jet stream with the remaining hydrogen to provide the necessary lift, for another trip.

Transport accounts for almost a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions generated by humankind: marine cargo delivery accounts for at least 3% and is projected to grow.

“Cheap and clean transportation of hydrogen would be convenient for the implementation of a global hydrogen economy. This would ultimately promote sustainable development on a global scale”

But as city authorities and inventive motor engineers and laboratory ingenuity around the world have already demonstrated, hydrogen can serve as a combustion fuel. And as solar and windpower investors have already found, surplus renewable energy can be stored as hydrogen, if the unwanted power is used to apply electrolysis to water. And that could be a cue for the return of the airship.

Dirigible development more or less ceased in 1937, when the Hindenburg caught fire and crashed in New Jersey: hydrogen is highly flammable. But a new study of the possibilities of lighter-than-air machines in the journal Energy Conversion and Management: X suggests that safety is now less of a problem.

With advances in computing and communications in the last eight decades, and vastly more accurate weather observation systems, such ships could be fuelled, flown, guided, landed and emptied entirely by robotic control. In effect, the hydrogen would provide the lift, the permanent stratospheric winds would provide the propulsion; in emergency the cargo would also provide the additional fuel.

Julian Hunt of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and colleagues did the sums.

Big is beautiful

The Hindenburg class airship was 245 metres in length. Tomorrow’s hydrogen bulk carriers could be ten times that. Big here is beautiful: a tenfold increase in length would yield a thousandfold increase in volume at the cost of only a hundredfold of the fabric in which the hydrogen is enclosed.

One of those 2.4km giants could be loaded with 3,280 tonnes of hydrogen, lift it to 15km, and glide with the jet stream on a one-way route around the hemisphere. Assuming such a behemoth could make 25 deliveries a year, a fleet of 1,125 lighter-than-air supertankers could deliver enough energy stored in the form of hydrogen to account for a tenth of the global electricity consumption.

The combination of vast bulk carrier (the same cargo could also be transported in a monster balloon, the scientists argue) and a free ride at high altitude carries additional possibilities, they say. Hydrogen to be liquefied must reach a temperature of minus 253°C. Temperatures in the stratosphere can get as low as minus 70°C: altitude makes the process more economical because the fuel would already be at minus 60°C when it landed.

Hydrogen can also be used as fuel for landing and lift-off and course changes, but a big enough airship could also carry solar arrays to exploit the available sunlight. Hydrogen when burned to produce power also delivers nine times its weight as water: sprays of water at high altitude could be used to trigger the complex process that ends in rainfall over drought-stricken farmlands.

Slow but sure

But the researchers see the real bonus simply as a delivery system for hydrogen without the need to liquefy it (a process that consumes about 30% of the available energy of the hydrogen). Delivery might be slow compared to air freight, and always be in the direction west-to-east, but it would outpace most marine shipping – and a dirigible could load at, and deliver directly to, regions far from the coast: from Denver in the US to Islamabad in Pakistan, the researchers instance.

There are problems to overcome: wind and storm stresses could create real problems for structures of such size. Descent and landing could be problematic. But lighter-than-air travel comes with its own economies. Dirigibles are already being revived for a number of commercial uses.

And that’s not all a really vast airship could offer: a dirigible could deliver supplies to space, to be fired into the emptiness by pressure gun. Or a doughnut-shaped airship in the stratosphere could support a spaceship at its centre of gravity, to become the launch pad for its final lift-off.

Above all, the authors say, “cheap and clean transportation of hydrogen would be convenient for the implementation of a global hydrogen economy. This would ultimately support the widespread adoption of intermittent renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind, and promote sustainable development on a global scale.” − Climate News Network

For a sustainable world, aim high and try some abandoned technology: the airship. It could be the latest, coolest way to deliver the hydrogen economy.

LONDON, 7 August, 2019 − The airship could be on the way back. Tomorrow’s fuel could be delivered at all-but zero carbon cost by the ultimate in high-technology supertankers: vast dirigibles, sailing round the world at stratospheric heights on the jet stream.

Enormous balloons or airships more than two kilometres in length, laden with hydrogen and an additional burden of cargo could, according to new calculations, circumnavigate the northern hemisphere in 16 days. They could, on route, deliver their heavy goods, and at the same time transfer 60% or even 80% of their hydrogen in gas form.

And then, the holds empty, the same airship could float back home in the same direction on the jet stream with the remaining hydrogen to provide the necessary lift, for another trip.

Transport accounts for almost a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions generated by humankind: marine cargo delivery accounts for at least 3% and is projected to grow.

“Cheap and clean transportation of hydrogen would be convenient for the implementation of a global hydrogen economy. This would ultimately promote sustainable development on a global scale”

But as city authorities and inventive motor engineers and laboratory ingenuity around the world have already demonstrated, hydrogen can serve as a combustion fuel. And as solar and windpower investors have already found, surplus renewable energy can be stored as hydrogen, if the unwanted power is used to apply electrolysis to water. And that could be a cue for the return of the airship.

Dirigible development more or less ceased in 1937, when the Hindenburg caught fire and crashed in New Jersey: hydrogen is highly flammable. But a new study of the possibilities of lighter-than-air machines in the journal Energy Conversion and Management: X suggests that safety is now less of a problem.

With advances in computing and communications in the last eight decades, and vastly more accurate weather observation systems, such ships could be fuelled, flown, guided, landed and emptied entirely by robotic control. In effect, the hydrogen would provide the lift, the permanent stratospheric winds would provide the propulsion; in emergency the cargo would also provide the additional fuel.

Julian Hunt of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and colleagues did the sums.

Big is beautiful

The Hindenburg class airship was 245 metres in length. Tomorrow’s hydrogen bulk carriers could be ten times that. Big here is beautiful: a tenfold increase in length would yield a thousandfold increase in volume at the cost of only a hundredfold of the fabric in which the hydrogen is enclosed.

One of those 2.4km giants could be loaded with 3,280 tonnes of hydrogen, lift it to 15km, and glide with the jet stream on a one-way route around the hemisphere. Assuming such a behemoth could make 25 deliveries a year, a fleet of 1,125 lighter-than-air supertankers could deliver enough energy stored in the form of hydrogen to account for a tenth of the global electricity consumption.

The combination of vast bulk carrier (the same cargo could also be transported in a monster balloon, the scientists argue) and a free ride at high altitude carries additional possibilities, they say. Hydrogen to be liquefied must reach a temperature of minus 253°C. Temperatures in the stratosphere can get as low as minus 70°C: altitude makes the process more economical because the fuel would already be at minus 60°C when it landed.

Hydrogen can also be used as fuel for landing and lift-off and course changes, but a big enough airship could also carry solar arrays to exploit the available sunlight. Hydrogen when burned to produce power also delivers nine times its weight as water: sprays of water at high altitude could be used to trigger the complex process that ends in rainfall over drought-stricken farmlands.

Slow but sure

But the researchers see the real bonus simply as a delivery system for hydrogen without the need to liquefy it (a process that consumes about 30% of the available energy of the hydrogen). Delivery might be slow compared to air freight, and always be in the direction west-to-east, but it would outpace most marine shipping – and a dirigible could load at, and deliver directly to, regions far from the coast: from Denver in the US to Islamabad in Pakistan, the researchers instance.

There are problems to overcome: wind and storm stresses could create real problems for structures of such size. Descent and landing could be problematic. But lighter-than-air travel comes with its own economies. Dirigibles are already being revived for a number of commercial uses.

And that’s not all a really vast airship could offer: a dirigible could deliver supplies to space, to be fired into the emptiness by pressure gun. Or a doughnut-shaped airship in the stratosphere could support a spaceship at its centre of gravity, to become the launch pad for its final lift-off.

Above all, the authors say, “cheap and clean transportation of hydrogen would be convenient for the implementation of a global hydrogen economy. This would ultimately support the widespread adoption of intermittent renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind, and promote sustainable development on a global scale.” − Climate News Network

Banks put a price on Earth’s life support

EMBARGOED until 0900 GMT on Friday 30 August Clean water, forests and other natural resources are being used unsustainably, so some of the world’s largest banks plan to cut credit for companies which rely on them but fail to value them. LONDON, 30 August – It is not easy to put a value on a forest, a clean river, or unpolluted air, but that is what a group of the world’s biggest banks is attempting to do. They have agreed that the way the present economic system uses and often destroys the environment without paying to do so is not sustainable. The banks are also concerned that some companies are using up natural resources so fast, with no thought for their own future, let alone that of the planet, that they will collapse. They want a way of warning them and ultimately withdrawing their credit unless the companies mend their ways. The 43 financial institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, are setting up a working party as a consequence of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, also known as the Rio+20 summit, when the initial 39 large banks signed a Natural Capital Declaration. The declaration defined natural capital as “the Earth’s natural assets (soil, air, water, flora and fauna), and the ecosystem services resulting from them, which make human life possible.” The document went on to say that the food, fibre, water, health, energy, climate security and other essential services provided by natural capital were worth trillions of dollars a year, but that they were not adequately valued.

Carrot and stick

“Despite being fundamental to our wellbeing, their daily use remains almost undetected within our economic system. Using natural capital in this way is not sustainable”, the declaration says. The bankers went on to acknowledge this was partly their fault because they had no way of valuing this natural capital, nor did they currently recognize the danger to the stability of some companies because of its destruction. They want governments to force companies to disclose their dependence on natural capital and the impact they have on it by disclosures in annual financial reports. They also want penalties for companies not doing so and tax incentives for those who protect natural capital as part of their business.

Mining and fracking
However, the bankers know that in order to value natural capital someone has to work out what it is worth in monetary terms. What value can you place on a hectare of forest for the clean air, rain collecting, carbon sequestration and foodstuffs it provides? Just as important, what is the economic loss if it is destroyed? Industries like mining and fracking are in the front line because their operations are already perceived to damage and use up clean water resources and to cause pollution. The banks involved in the project are not attempting to directly put a value on nature but rather are looking to assess how much they are set to lose by being exposed to clients that are too dependent or having too great an impact on nature, and if necessary withdrawing credit as a result. But all businesses, even the banks that control investments, have an impact on the natural environment, which generally they do not pay for and which does not appear in the accounts. So to turn their heady declaration of a year ago into something more tangible, the bankers have set up a high-powered working party to put a value on the natural world. Liesel Van Ast, project manager for the Natural Capital Declaration, is based at the Global Canopy Programme in Oxford, England. She is working with the UNEP Finance Initiative in Geneva to help the bankers set up a series of committees to implement the declaration.
No illusions

She said: “The bankers need to address how they will account for natural capital, explain to everyone why they need to do it and then tell them how to do it.” At the moment overuse of natural capital is not seen as a business risk, because everyone believes they can get out before the resources run out and the crash occurs. We are hoping to change that attitude and get companies to pay a price for overuse of natural capital.” No one has any illusions that the commitment by bankers to get natural capital accounted for on balance sheets, and then taken into account in the share price, interest on loans and cost of insurance is going to happen quickly. They have set themselves a target of 2020 to get an international system up and running and recognized by all governments signed up to the UN Framework Climate Change Convention. It may be slow and difficult work, but they believe this is vital to prevent the current economic system destroying the planet. – Climate News Network

EMBARGOED until 0900 GMT on Friday 30 August Clean water, forests and other natural resources are being used unsustainably, so some of the world’s largest banks plan to cut credit for companies which rely on them but fail to value them. LONDON, 30 August – It is not easy to put a value on a forest, a clean river, or unpolluted air, but that is what a group of the world’s biggest banks is attempting to do. They have agreed that the way the present economic system uses and often destroys the environment without paying to do so is not sustainable. The banks are also concerned that some companies are using up natural resources so fast, with no thought for their own future, let alone that of the planet, that they will collapse. They want a way of warning them and ultimately withdrawing their credit unless the companies mend their ways. The 43 financial institutions, including the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank, are setting up a working party as a consequence of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, also known as the Rio+20 summit, when the initial 39 large banks signed a Natural Capital Declaration. The declaration defined natural capital as “the Earth’s natural assets (soil, air, water, flora and fauna), and the ecosystem services resulting from them, which make human life possible.” The document went on to say that the food, fibre, water, health, energy, climate security and other essential services provided by natural capital were worth trillions of dollars a year, but that they were not adequately valued.

Carrot and stick

“Despite being fundamental to our wellbeing, their daily use remains almost undetected within our economic system. Using natural capital in this way is not sustainable”, the declaration says. The bankers went on to acknowledge this was partly their fault because they had no way of valuing this natural capital, nor did they currently recognize the danger to the stability of some companies because of its destruction. They want governments to force companies to disclose their dependence on natural capital and the impact they have on it by disclosures in annual financial reports. They also want penalties for companies not doing so and tax incentives for those who protect natural capital as part of their business.

Mining and fracking
However, the bankers know that in order to value natural capital someone has to work out what it is worth in monetary terms. What value can you place on a hectare of forest for the clean air, rain collecting, carbon sequestration and foodstuffs it provides? Just as important, what is the economic loss if it is destroyed? Industries like mining and fracking are in the front line because their operations are already perceived to damage and use up clean water resources and to cause pollution. The banks involved in the project are not attempting to directly put a value on nature but rather are looking to assess how much they are set to lose by being exposed to clients that are too dependent or having too great an impact on nature, and if necessary withdrawing credit as a result. But all businesses, even the banks that control investments, have an impact on the natural environment, which generally they do not pay for and which does not appear in the accounts. So to turn their heady declaration of a year ago into something more tangible, the bankers have set up a high-powered working party to put a value on the natural world. Liesel Van Ast, project manager for the Natural Capital Declaration, is based at the Global Canopy Programme in Oxford, England. She is working with the UNEP Finance Initiative in Geneva to help the bankers set up a series of committees to implement the declaration.
No illusions

She said: “The bankers need to address how they will account for natural capital, explain to everyone why they need to do it and then tell them how to do it.” At the moment overuse of natural capital is not seen as a business risk, because everyone believes they can get out before the resources run out and the crash occurs. We are hoping to change that attitude and get companies to pay a price for overuse of natural capital.” No one has any illusions that the commitment by bankers to get natural capital accounted for on balance sheets, and then taken into account in the share price, interest on loans and cost of insurance is going to happen quickly. They have set themselves a target of 2020 to get an international system up and running and recognized by all governments signed up to the UN Framework Climate Change Convention. It may be slow and difficult work, but they believe this is vital to prevent the current economic system destroying the planet. – Climate News Network