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Friday, May 10, 2019

It is time UN acted on climate change

Carbon emission caused by human beings has become a major issue for our environment and future economy due to changing climate. But there are still few countries who are sceptical about the science of climate change and reluctant to act and refuse to be a part of United Nation’s action on climate change. These countries are either fossil fuel producers such as coal, oil and gas or large economies who have been traditionally depending on usage of fossil fuel for their economy and security. The transition from Carbon economy to non-Carbon economy may not be easier for them in the absence of an alternative technology that can guarantee not only complete elimination of CO2 emission but also efficiency and sustainability. There is a strong political motivation too behind such dithering and they create a fear of slowing economy and large-scale unemployment among the people in the absence of a viable alternative energy source. Therefore, United Nation has an important role to play at this critical juncture of transition to non-carbon economy and save the planet earth from imminent danger of environmental and economic collapse. UN can also stop mass extinction of species and migration of refugees for a better life. UN was successfully able to bring together 174 countries to the negotiating table during Paris climate change conference. However, they failed to reach a unanimous Agreement and announce a concrete action plan to act. They failed to articulate the ways and means of reducing or eliminating man made CO2 emissions in a stipulated time frame. They also failed to bring powerful nations such as USA to the table which made the task even harder. But this situation can be changed if UN is able to articulate a concrete Action plan which is agreeable to all the parties involved. This is possible only if UN can address all the issues involved such as the alternative technology, funding, implementing in a stipulated time frame, measuring and monitoring the progress and achieving the final goal. UN should first be able to create the same level playing field where all Countries can take part equally without any discrimination. It depends completely on focussing the type of technologies to be deployed to achieve the above goals and It should be able to set a specific date to implement such a plan. Currently renewable energy is considered as one of the alternatives along with renewable Hydrogen which can act both as an energy storage and as well as energy carrier. But renewable Energy is intermittent and energy storage has become part of the system. With our limited experience in renewable energy deployment over a decade renewable energy alone Cannot be the solution to address the issue of CO2 emissions. One must estimate the life cycle CO2 emissions of hardware used in renewable energy systems such as PV solar panels, Solar concentrators, wind turbines, storage batteries. Renewable Hydrogen generators, Fuel cells etc. Each of them has their own Carbon footprint that must be incorporated in life cycle assessment. Similarly, even fossil fuel-based power generators such as boilers, steam or gas turbines, pumps and compressors etc too have Carbon footprint that should be assessed. Carbon footprint should be assessed as fixed carbon footprint and variable carbon footprint and then these data should be used to arrive at the Carbon footprint to generate power (tons of CO2/Mwh) Once a life cycle assessment of their Carbon footprint is estimated then it will be easier to rate each technology based on their “Carbon Rating” which will be a measure of their Carbon footprint. The Carbon rating is measured and allocated “number of stars” based on Carbon footprints. Lowest emitting technology will be rated with highest number of stars while highest emitting technologies will get the lowest number of stars. Carbon rating will be a good measure to assess the technology that can be used worldwide. Countries who are reluctant to reduce CO2 emissions will be discouraged to participate in government and private tenders worldwide and exports. Such countries will be treated as “Pariahs” and rejected by consumers due to their low Carbon rating. Technologically advanced countries or companies who can use fossil fuel but with lowest or Zero CO2 emissions will also be able to compete with renewable energy technologies. Carbon Rating will offer everybody the same level playing field. Carbon is the fundamental building block of organic life on earth which is essential for human survival but unabated CO2 emission by human activities is the culprit. I strongly believe Zero Carbon emission can be achieved even while using fossil fuels by constantly recycling CO2 in the form of regenerated synthetic natural gas. It will not only eliminate CO2 emission but also generate synthetic fuel using renewable Hydrogen without any necessity to exploit fresh fossil fuels. Using renewable Hydrogen as a storage medium or as energy carrier may be expensive due to inherent nature of Hydrogen atom. UN can introduce Carbon Rating as a single tool to measure the Carbon footprint of a specific technology with the lowest or Zero CO2 emission worldwide to start with. They should be more proactive in promoting technologies with highest Carbon rating and encourage countries to adopt such measures.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Can renewable technologies mitigate climate change?

Energy generation and usage is considered not only as a mark of progress of a nation but also security of a nation. That is why countries go to extraordinary lengths to achieve such a security and everything else becomes secondary in the path of their goal. That is why countries with high oil and gas reserves enjoy good relationship and privileges with powerful nations of the world. Countries who do not have their own oil and gas reserves and who completely rely on import of oil and gas have no choice but maintain a good relationship with oil rich countries despite their difference in ideologies and policies. But with warming globe and changing climate the dependence on fossil fuels is fast becoming unsustainable and countries look for alternatives. It is good news for the whole world especially for nations who depend completely on import of oil and gas because they can develop their own renewable energy sources to lower their emissions. But there is one major difference. Countries who depend on import of oil and gas required to develop only an infrastructure to store and distribute oil and gas, But with renewable energy they have to develop an infrastructure to produce the hardware necessary to use alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal but also energy storage such as batteries. The warming globe and changing climate have become a grave threat to the plant earth and a threat to lives of entire future generations. It is the greatest challenge of the industrialized world. One can view this as threat or as an opportunity. But it is time to act irrespective of our views and we must act now. It is an opportunity for scientists and engineers to view energy sources and their applications in a new perspective. It is an opportunity to understand how human activities affect our environment and how not to damage them but preserve them for our future generations while developing new alternatives. Humanity is just a part of a larger environment and any damage to planet earth is at our own peril. It is an ancient wisdom, but we neglected them. When an aboriginal of Australia said “we belong to earth and earth does not belong to us” we failed to listen to them. We(people) became bigger than They (environment). In pursuit of a new energy source one must be extremely careful in examining Nature and how she operates so that we do not make the same mistakes of the past. As we develop renewable energy as a potential energy source of the future, we should be aware of the life cycle of such a system and their impact on environment. Renewable energy requires hardware that uses exotic metals, catalysts, polymers, new Carbon sources and glasses. As we switch to Carbon free economy, we should make sure that there are no emissions in developing renewable energy sources and if necessary impose Carbon tax on such emissions and, to develop recycling technologies to recycle that hardware safely and environmentally friendly manner. It is critically important issue as we move forward. According to an article published in Chemical engineering News “The potential quantities of waste are enormous. By 2025, waste batteries removed from electric vehicles will total 95 Giga watt hours, according to an estimate by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That pile will weigh roughly 600,000 metric tons. A similar amount of old solar panels will have accumulated by then, according to projections by the International Renewable Energy Agency. IRENA anticipates solar panel waste could reach 78 million metric tons by 2050. And Europe could see 300,000 metric tons per year of decommissioned wind turbine blades in the next two decades, says the trade association Wind Europe. Each year, approximately 300,000 metric tons of lithium-ion battery waste is generated around the world, says Sheetanshu Upadhyay, an analyst with India’s Esticast Research & Consulting. Most of those batteries come from mobile devices, but that waste will soon be overshadowed by old electric car batteries. Sales of plug-in electric vehicles are expected to surpass 2.6 million in 2020, according to Navigation Research.” The above data shows the amount of CO2 emission associated with implementation of renewable energy sources soon. There is a potential for large scale recycling industries on renewables, but it will come with a price and environmental issues. Right now, the main problem is the CO2 emission and the only way to tackle this problem is impose Carbon tax on emissions while encouraging industries with low emission technologies. It should be possible for UN to pass a unanimous resolution among the nations to address climate change by imposing Carbon tax uniformly across the nations. By such resolution UN can bring all those countries to the table who are currently reluctant to be a party to the Paris accord. Countries can use “Carbon rating” similar to “energy ratings” currently used for measuring energy efficiencies in appliances such as Heaters and air-conditioners. The lowest emitting technologies will get the highest Carbon rating while high emission technologies will get the lowest Carbon ratings. By using such a method countries who are reluctant to act on climate change will be disadvantaged; they will not be able to compete in international market or export their goods to low emitting countries based on Carbon ratings.