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Climate change: is geoengineering the answer?



Joseph Iddison takes a look at some of the solutions to climate change and what these offer in comparison to one another; both short- and long-term.

Speaking at a TED event in 2007, David Keith, an environmental scientist, detailed the extent, or rather lack of extent to which we have dealt with current climate problems.

People may think that the problem of climate change is relatively recent, and now with people actually beginning to do something that we may be on the road to a solution”, he said.

The fact is, we’ve known about it for 50 years, and we have talked about it endlessly over the last decade or so, and we’ve accomplished close to nothing.”

Many scientists have offered mitigation and adaptation as responses to the world’s climate crisis. In contrast to each other, these two approaches offer differing resolutions to our ongoing energy needs.

Many agree with the definition of climate change mitigation being the much-needed human intervention in reducing the sources of greenhouse gases. Examples of this include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial purposes, switching to forms of renewable energy, improving the insulation of buildings and expanding forests and other ‘sinks’ to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The term can also involve the education in consumer behaviour, as well as altering organisational activities, towards being more environmentally-friendly.

Others have discussed the necessity in adapting to climate change, and how it is in fact more essential than reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Most adaptation being implemented at present is responding to current climate trends and variability. An example of which is the increased use of the Thames Flood Barrier and building more property on raised stilts. Some adaptation measures, however, are anticipating future climate change, such as the construction of the Confederation Bridge in Canada at a higher elevation in order to take into account the effect of future sea-level rise on ship clearance under the bridge.

Another line of tackling climate change is geoengineering, the calculated large-scale manipulation of the environment. It was first introduced in the 1830s with proposals to sow clouds to stimulate rain, and later on, to modify the path of hurricanes by seeding them with silver iodide. Most recently, geoengineering methods have been proposed, in addition to mitigation and adaptation, to counteract anthropogenic climate change.

Several see it as a necessary step to undo previous climate damage. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers argues that, in order for the UK government to realistically reach its target of carbon dioxide reduction of 50% by 2050, more engineering methods need to be adopted and implemented instead of relying on mitigation and adaptation.

So our problem of climate change and preventing it is absolutely soluble”, Keith explained, attempting to address the financial, political and moral anxieties regarding geoengineering.

Slowing emissions are intrinsically slow, because it takes time to build all the hardware we need to reduce emissions. Not only that, but when you cut emissions you do not cut concentrations, because concentrations is the sum of emissions over time. But with geoengineering, it’s quick.”

Scepticism over the practicality of the theory grows, however. Indeed, the majority of research into the topic has consisted of computer modeling or laboratory tests.

Geoengineering in its simplest idea is putting particles into the upper atmosphere where they would reflect away sunlight and cool the planet. I know for certain it will work – not that there aren’t side effects – because it’s been done by nature.

Referring to volcanic eruptions, Keith demonstrated the lower levels of heat kept in the Earth’s atmosphere.

After these events you can see a cooling of the atmosphere because we’ve shielded the atmosphere. There are side effects, such as it partly destroying the 0-Zone layer, but it clearly cools down the atmosphere”.

Keith admitted, “We’re still in the middle of thinking about it, but so far it looks good.”

However, there have been serious concerns over the long-term effects of geoengineering, and how the technology could enable mass weaponisation. According to some, geoengineering began as a device for warfare in the 1940s, apparently for the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War. It is a popular concern among scientists and those in the field that the implementation of geoengineering could lead to global catastrophe, especially as the area is one with little proof or large-scale testing.

There could also be further implications for the technology, such as droughts and famine in areas where some sort of calculation was perhaps underestimated.

Nevertheless, the principle intentions of geoengineering are to aid our combat with climate issues.

There is the view that, even though geoengineering is uncertain and morally unhappy, it’s a lot better than not geoengineering. It’s using this as risk control, not instead of action.” added Keith.

Further reading:

Wind farm debate: have we forgotten why we’re doing this?

Watching Hurricane Sandy shows us the future of our climate


Joseph Iddison is a master’s student at the University of Leicester. Having graduated from the same institution in July 2013 in English, Joseph will start the global environmental change course in September.


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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