Archive for June, 2007

reincarnation for plastics: dust to dust, oil to oil

hawk-10 turns tires into oil

Wot are we to do with all this plastic? Turn it back into oil, that's wot.

Talk about taking plastics recycling to a whole 'nother level! And you can do this with a microwave? Sign me up!

Turns out, different frequencies within the microwave range act on specific hyrdocarbon materials, breaking them down into diesel oil and combustible gas.

So, Global Resource Corp (GRC) has built a finely tuned microwave, called the Hawk 10, that uses 1200 different frequencies to zap the material, releasing the hydrocarbon molecules which become gas and oil. Whatever does not have a hydrocarbon base is left behind (via newscientist).

Published by Ken on June 29th, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | 1 Comment »

footprint game gains popularity down under

ecologic footprinting tool

For those who may be new to the ecological footprint game, you may be surprised to discover that downtown Sydney (Australia) has an entire exhibit center for interactive exploration of sustainability issues.

Included in their bag of tasty tricks is this unusually instructive footprinting tool, which can help you figure out what your footprint is now and what actions you might take that could most dramatically reduce your footprint.

To recapitulate, your ecological footprint is calculated from info about your consumption habits, including food consumption, home type, use of resources and waste management, and transportation choices.

Published by Ken on June 28th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

why footprinting begets better emissions policy

footprinting captures emissions too

Perhaps you've noticed the burgeoning global momentum for adoption of the ecological footprint method in all policy and industry-specific assessments.

It's the best tool we've got for considering all the feedback loops, and Global Footprint is networking vigorously to standardize the methods and data.

I'm pressing for Hawaii to adopt the footprinting method as it launches a new era of research in support of reducing the islands' greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, Australia in general, and the South Australia government in particular are far down the road toward integrating ecological footprinting and sustainability, as evidenced in their updated Strategic Plan.

Published by Ken on June 28th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

better keep my day job: nexgen talent emerging

costa samaras blogs at sustainable research

OK, so I started this blog to provide quick summaries of significant findings from sustainability science that bear on our discussions about sustainability in Hawaii.

Turns out, the process of synopsizing this 'firehose flow' of new information takes a fair amount of time each day.

So, anytime I stumble on another bloger who's doing similar stuff...and can effectviely lighten this load...I jump for joy.

I'm jumping now, thanks to Costa Samaras, a researcher (and environmental engineering doctoral student) in the Climate Decision Making Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Published by Ken on June 27th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | Comments Off

the power of ten: hurdle rates for new energy tech

life cycle impact assessment used by nike

When we talk about one energy technology being an 'order of magnitude' better than another, we mean it's at least 10 times better.

Since we're looking for emissions reductions in the 90% range, it seems useful to use an order of magnitude as the 'hurdle' rate.

That is, we're most interested in energy technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts by an order of magnitude.

Now, new research looks at the entire life cycle of different electricity technologies and confirms that all major renewable tech clears this hurdle (via sustainable research).

Published by Ken on June 27th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

on Hawaii emissions cuts: power, planes and us

jet emissions haunt hawaii

Air travel is the elephant in the room as we consider Hawaii's emissions reduction challenges.

Why? Because air travel emissions are seldom considered in our emissions reductions schemes, and because air travel is expected to grow rapidly in the decades ahead.

Net-net, as Britain is now learning, these air travel emissions could wipeout virtually all emissions reduction gains in other sectors.

Joel Makower reminds us of these essential facts in presenting the latest research on air travel emissions (via 2 steps forward).

Published by Ken on June 26th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comments Off

cut emissions, save heritage sites…and all else

mount everest glaciers threatened by climate change

Here's another example of how everything's connected. The significant global effort to preserve heritage sites will (obviously) come to naught unless we also mitigate climate change (via bbc).

Wudja believe the glaciers on Mount Everest are at risk?

Campaigning environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the Climate Justice Program, say the UN must take urgent action to protect six World Heritage sites, including Mount Everest, from the impact of climate change. They have been petitioning the global body to list the locations as "in danger".

Published by Ken on June 25th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

you tho’t democrats’d be different? oil money rules

gas price choices

If you're looking for the sort of comprehensive reforms needed to shift subsidies away from the coal, oil and nuclear industries to investments in home renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives...don't bother even reading the Senate's energy bill passed last Thursday.

This bill will do very little to address climate change or alleviate high energy prices, says Tyson Slocum, Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program (via common dreams).

A marginal improvement in energy efficiency standards for appliances in the only bright spot therein.

Published by Ken on June 25th, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

it takes a country (like Sweden) to get green towns

sweden going green, town by town

Whaddya get if your country is shooting to end oil dependency by 2020? "Climate towns", that's what.

Like Sweden's the town of Vaxjo, says Louise Williams (via Sydney Morning Herald).

Vaxjo is chasing a fossil fuel-free future, and it’s almost halfway there without having sacrificed lifestyle, comfort or economic growth, says Williams.

In the cool forest region of southern Sweden, the city of Vaxjo has turned off the heating oil, even on the darkest, snowbound days of winter. Coal, too, is gone and next on the fossil fuel hit list is petrol.

Published by Ken on June 23rd, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Community Initiatives | Comments Off

Hawaii is first alert in climate change impacts

seawall battered by rising oceans

To get the full impact of this story, first go look at Chip Fletcher's recent presentation on sealevel rise in Hawaii.

Now, consider the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came to the East-West Center (EWC) in Honolulu yesterday to warn delegates at the Pacific Global Health Conference that we are in "the most disaster-prone area in the world" if nothing is done about it (via starbulletin).

Wot's the connection between rising seas and disease, you ask? Let us count the ways:  Droughts can bring starvation, inundation leads to poor sanitation, hurricanes put pressure on emergency medicine, and disruption can help epidemics spread.

Published by Ken on June 23rd, 2007 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comments Off

Hawaii Island poster complements ahupuaa series

hawaii island ahupuaa map poster

Gotta tell ya, I'm in love with ahupuaa all over again, after my latest island map arrived from the printer.

The Hawaii Island ahupuaa poster is, dare I say it, a piece of art. So beautiful, and so...well, big.

Yet, at 28x40 this puppy is still not big enough to totally convey the wonders of this island, and the font sizes had to be scaled down. But, yes, they're perfectly readable...and yes, all the ahupuaa are there.

Whew! Wot a pile of work making sense of the jumble of historically derived boundary lines.

Published by Ken on June 22nd, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

on perverse offsets: utility credits from clean cows

confined animal feedlot operation

Say you were a huge conglomerate that owned both coal-fired electric power plants and factory farms.

And, say cleaning up your coal emissions was tough, but throwing a tarp over your cows to capture their methane was easy.

Could you use the carbon credits from the latter to offset the former?

Yup, and the Wall Street Journal last Thursday got a good laugh out of this scenario (via worldwatch mag).

Turns out, the American Electric Power Company (AEP), which is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, spews out more carbon dioxide than any other U.S. company—some 145 million metric tons a year.

Published by Ken on June 21st, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

whole ‘nother meaning for the phrase: wipeout

on toilet paper use in America

While rock star Sheryl Crow recently suggested that people might limit their toilet paper use to address climate change, the reality behind the tissue's consumption is no joke.

Seventh Generation, a Burlington, Vt., manufacturer of recycled paper products and “non-toxic” household products, has a calculation on its Web site suggesting that “if every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll of 500 sheet virgin fiber bathroom tissue with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees.”

Here's a tabulation of our comparative per capita annual usage of toilet paper from the July/August issue of World Watch magazine.

Published by Ken on June 21st, 2007 tagged Island Vulnerabilities, Systems Thinking | Comments Off

the greening of taste: napkins is part of it

kapaa rotary going green in food service supplies

Did I mention that our Rotary club's Taste of Hawaii fundraiser went 100% biodegradable with our food service supplies this year?

That's right, spoons and cups from corn plastic, forks from potatoe plastic, and napkins from recycled paper.

Hey, when we're talking nearly 120,000 separate items to feed a crowd of over 3,000, this stuff adds up.

Wudja believe (by my calculation, thanks to worldcentric) we may have saved as many as 10 trees by going green in this way. Yahoo!

And speaking of earth-friendly napkins, here comes Pablo, the sustainability engineer, with a detailed assessment of earth benefits from using green versus fabric napkins (via triple pundit).

Published by Ken on June 20th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

organic farmers wear shades, the future’s so bright

FAO conference on organic ag

Pinch me again, 'cause I'm seeing headlines in mainstream media that remind me of eco-rants just a few years ago. Then tell me the world hasn't changed...dramatically

Wudja believe just about the biggest deal in food policy globally, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), recently hosted a conference in Rome where a principal agreement was...hold your hats: organic farming is the smartest strategy for food security!

And, wudja believe I picked this up off Schaller's blog (via federal network for sustainability) deep inside Bushtown? Pinch me twice!

Published by Ken on June 20th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, Island Vulnerabilities | Comments Off

bruddah, can ya spare a percent…to cut carbon

earth focused on CA emissions reduction plans

The Stern Review's estimate of costs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions seems to be in the right ballpark, if California's recent cost assessment is any guide (via treehugger).

Count on about 1% cumulative real costs to California's economy through 2050, says the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which has just released the results of it's detailed analysis.

Perhaps most important, the EPRI study that shows that California CAN achieve its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

OK, so $511 billion sounds like a lot of money...

Published by Ken on June 20th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comments Off

get yer climate change here: Hawaii presentations

john tantlinger of dbedt on climate change in hawaii

So, you really, really wanted to fly over to Oahu and attend the climate change confab at the capitol 10 days ago, yet you couldn't justify spewing that much carbon, because you knew there would be lots of up-to-the-minute info on Hawaii's unique challenges, right?

Bruddah, are you in luck! HECO has now posted the presentations from 10 of the 14 speakers at this seminal event.

Read em and reap!

Of particular interest to emissions cappers is John Tantlinger's preliminary estimates of Hawaii's emissions trends since 1990 for the energy and transportation sectors.

Published by Ken on June 19th, 2007 tagged Community Initiatives, HI-specific | Comments Off

Hawaii forests serve as climate change sentinel

hawaii island rainforest

Research at two tropical forest sites on the Big Island will be critical in studying the effects of global climate change, officials involved in a new partnership say (via starbulletin).

The Hawaii Experimental Tropical Forest will combine the expertise of the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Hawaii to take an in-depth look at both dry and wet tropical forests over the next 35 years.

"This will have benefit for all the Hawaiian islands, but also benefits for other Pacific islands and for all tropical ecosystems throughout the world," said Boone Kauffman, director of the Forest Service's Institute of Pacific Island Forestry on the Big Island.

Published by Ken on June 19th, 2007 tagged HI-specific, Island Ecosystems | Comments Off

on car choices: better info to avoid wrong answers

dust to dust comparison of mpg vs ecost, click for larger

Didja notice that Art Spinella's controversial "Dust to Dust" research into the full footprint of American vehicles has been partially corroborated by Ben Lane's impeccable research into the 'eco-rating' of British vehicles.

Both studies suggest that, yes, improved MPG is generally better for the planet (on this chart of vehicle types, the blue bar MPG declines as the red line e-cost sorta increases). Yet, not always, and not in the case of several high profile vehicles.

Call this the battle of the hybrids against the SUVs. And, at the moment, the score seems to be tied. At least it is no longer safe to assume that hybrids are better.

Published by Ken on June 18th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, Systems Thinking | 10 Comments »

carbon policy: the state of debate on cap or tax

policies for stopping co2 emissions

As promised, here's a quick summary with reference links on the merits of choosing a carbon tax versus a cap-and-trade system.

Bear in mind that the objective is to most effectively and quickly reduce CO2 emissions in the least disruptive or corruptible way.

Upfront, it should be noted that there are no clear winners in this debate, although the taxers are currently gaining momentum while the cappers are waning, due in part to recent reportage on perverse outcomes in the EU's brief track record with cap-and-trade.

The smart money (see RMI and Gore, below) seems to be on a combination of both approaches.

Published by Ken on June 17th, 2007 tagged Climate Change, HI-specific | Comments Off