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Global experts gather to tackle the growing issue of “ghost” fishing gear in oceans

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Lost and abandoned fishing gear is causing irreparable damage to the world’s oceans. Experts from around the world will meet in London today to launch the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), marking the start of an action plan to tackle this urgent problem.

The GGGI, driven by World Animal Protection, has brought together leading experts, including the United Nations Environment Programme, the Marine Stewardship Council, Young’s Seafood Limited and Australia’s Northern Prawn Fishery to share their knowledge and expertise to ensure safer, cleaner oceans.

Here is short one minute video or a slightly longer one with a bit more in depth on the projects.

Lost and abandoned fishing gear, also known as ’ghost gear’, poses a significant threat to the health and productivity of our oceans. Each year sees the appearance of new ghost gear due to factors such as extreme weather events, accidental loss or deliberate disposal at sea. Mostly made of plastic with a life expectancy of up to 600 years, ghost gear accumulates in our oceans at an estimated rate of 640,000 tonnes per year or one tonne of ghost gear per 125 tonnes of fish caught. This causes huge devastation to marine habitats as it continues to catch, entangle and kill hundreds of species including seals, turtles, dolphins and whales.

The growing volume of ghost gear and lack of a global solution puts a strain on the livelihoods of coastal communities and productivity of the fishing industry. For example, the loss of marketable lobster due to ghost fishing gear is estimated to lead to a global loss of US$250 million per year.

David Parker, Marine Biologist, Young’s Seafood Limited, UK, said: We recognise that ghost gear poses a significant yet hidden threat to both the seafood industry and the wider marine environment; affecting fishermen, other marine users and wildlife. Young’s aims to bring a seafood industry perspective to the GGGI through the network of our supply chains around the world.” Mike Mitchell, CSR and Technical Director at Young’s Seafood Limited, added: “As a leading processor of responsibly sourced fish we are delighted to be involved in this ground-breaking initiative, seeking to tackle one of the great unresolved issues in seafood sustainability, on a global scale. We’re pleased to be taking a hands-on role in this, drawing on the expertise of our Marine Biologist, as part of our Fish for Life programme on responsible sourcing.”

Petri Suuronen, Fishery Industry Officer, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nation’s Fishing and Operations Service, said: “This global problem requires a global solution and FAO supports the GGGI’s mission and collaborative approach to ensure safer, cleaner oceans. We encourage the active participation of the fishing industry in this initiative.”

In parts of the world, local communities, organisations and governments have combined their efforts to address this problem at a local level; this collaboration provides us with a glimpse of the scale of this issue, and the positive impact that collective action can bring.

In the US, World Animal Protection and the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation recently teamed up with local fishermen to remove ghost gear from Maine waters. Some 147 derelict traps as well as 1,000 pounds of rope and line were removed in total. Ghost gear that could not be reused was recycled into electricity by the Fishing for Energy programme.

Mike Baker, Chief Executive of World Animal Protection, said: “Ghost gear is an under reported problem that is killing the animals of our world’s oceans. The loss of fishing gear needs to be better quantified, monitored and ultimately prevented.

“We are very proud of the GGGI, and by uniting global efforts we hope to move towards a future where ghost gear no longer poses an ever-growing threat to our oceans or the animals that live in them.”

Visit www.ghostgear.org  for more details or follow their Twitter campaign using #ghostgear

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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