Association of the Greens
We create our heritage
Association of the Greens
Association of the Greens
We create our heritage
Association of the Greens
The world needs more electricity. That will mean severe climate damage unless something changes soon, CNN reports.
A report published Friday by the International Energy Agency found that global demand for electricity surged 6% in 2021, fueled by a colder winter and the dramatic economic rebound from the pandemic. That drove both prices and carbon emissions to new records.
The growth in demand was particularly intense in China, where it jumped by about 10%.
IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said the report containeda stark warning for the future.
Electricity has a crucial role to play in the fight against climate change as countries ditch fossil fuels and more battery-poweredcars hit the road. But so far, renewable sources of electricity — as opposed to power stations that burn coal or natural gas — haven’t kept up.
Electricity generated by renewables grew by 6% globally last year, while coal-fired generation leaped 9% due to high demand and skyrocketing natural gas prices, which made it look like a more attractive option.
Carbon dioxide emissions from power generation rose 7% as a result, reaching an all-time high after declining the previous two years.
“Not only does this highlight how far off track we currently are from a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050, but it also underscores the massive changes needed for the electricity sector to fulfill its critical role in decarbonizing the broader energy system,” Birol said in a statement.
In the United States, coal-fired electricity generation spiked by 19% in 2021. The increase is likely to be temporary, though, with output from coal expected to decline by about 6% a year between 2022 and 2024, according to the IEA.
There’s some good news: Rapid expansion of renewable energy capacity should be enough to cover the vast majority of the growth in global electricity demand through 2024.
Still, emissions will remain high. The IEA found that emissions from the power sector will “remain around the same level from 2021 to 2024,” even though they need to decline “sharply” for the world to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani is going big on green energy. His conglomerate, Reliance Industries, announced Thursday that it would allocate a whopping 6 trillion rupees (approximately $80.6 billion) to renewable power projects in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where it hopes to help generate a million new jobs, CNN reports.
The bulk of that money — about $67.7 billion — will go toward a new power plant and hydrogen system, the company said in a stock exchange filing. Reliance plans to make the massive investment over a 10-to-15-year period and has already begun scouting for land for the 100-gigawatt capacity site.
The company also plans to create a new manufacturing hub that will be dedicated to the production of solar panels, fuel cell technology and other renewable energy sources.
Reliance said the new initiatives stem “from the vision” of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The company’s 1 million jobs projection includes both direct and indirect new opportunities in Modi’s home state.
Renewable energy is starting to take off in India. Last year, new installations of such projects were projected to double across the country, compared with those from 2015 to 2020.
The trend comes at a critical time. As of late last year, coal still accounted for almost 70% of the country’s electricity generation.
That placed the world’s second most populous country in a vulnerable spot recently as it faced risks of a coal crunch last October, with stocks of the commodity at most Indian power plants dropping to critically low levels.
Reliance is one of India’s most valuable and recognizable companies. The powerhouse conglomerate — which spans petrochemicals, telecommunications and retail — has long been trying to reduce its reliance on oil.
It has also been undergoing a shift in focus recently as Ambani, its chairman, seeks to transform it into a global tech giant.In its statement Thursday, Reliance said it would use the remaining funds to invest “. In existing projects and new ventures over next three to five years.”
Over that period, the company wants to direct $1 billion to upgrade its mobile network to 5G, and spend about $406 million on its retail arm.
The first thing it resembles – this private, manmade island, straddling the Adriatic Sea and the Venetian lagoon – is a Bond villain’s lair. The second – as you dock at the private pontoon, walk past the Brutalist concrete façade, and into a “control room” where staff watch monitors tracking the waters around the island 24/7 – is something out of “Squid Game”, CNN reports.
In fact, as sinister as it sounds, this 144,000 square meter (35.6 acres) island which keeps a silent tab on Venice around the clock isn’t a malign force – it’s there to protect one of the world’s most fragile cities.
The nameless island – situated between the peninsula of Cavallino-Treporti (which curls out from the Italian mainland, putting a protective arm around the Venetian lagoon) and the Lido island, a giant sandbar that blocks off most of the historical center of Venice from the Adriatic Sea – is the beating heart of the MOSE: the system of flood barriers that have, after 1,200 years, allowed the floating city to stand up to rising sea levels.
It has taken its time. The MOSE – Italian for Moses, and short for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, or Experimental Electromechanical Model – has been in the works since 1984. But it took nearly four decades to build, being beset by delays and corruption to such an extent – a former mayor went on trial for embezzling money from the project – that many Venetians believed it would never work.
Their fears were proved groundless on October 3, 2020, however, when, as regularly happens in winter, Venice was hit by an exceptionally high tide.
A tide that was 135 centimeters (53 inches) above normal levels hit Venice. Usually, that would have put around half the city underwater, but this time, the city remained dry. It was the first time the MOSE had been raised in adverse weather conditions. It was, as one Venetian told at the time, “historic… like the first step of Armstrong on the moon.”
Fourteen months later, the MOSE has been raised 33 times: 13 in 2020, and 20 so far in 2021. (The flooding period typically runs from October to March.) The naysayers appear to have been proven wrong – not once has it failed to protect the city when raised.
The yellowfins poking ever so slightly out of the sea tend to look fragile against the raging Adriatic, in footage taken when they’re raised – normally during storms whipped up by rough sirocco winds, which blast the city from the south.
But get up close, and you realize appearances can be deceptive. Each of these enormous barriers is 20-30 meters (66-98 feet) long, and 20 meters wide. They are embedded in the seabed in concrete chests, 40 meters wide, 60 meters long, and 10 meters high.
Oh, and there are 78 of them, spread in four lines, at the three entry points to the Venetian lagoon.
As a piece of infrastructure, the MOSE is a behemoth.
And yet, when the barriers are not in use, you don’t see a thing. Unlike flood barriers in northern Europe – and at a much greater expense – the MOSE was designed to be invisible when the barriers are not needed.
A Bond-style island in no man’s land
The hub of the project is the specially constructed island floating in the middle of the northernmost entry point to the lagoon.
Overlooking the bucolic island of Sant’Erasmo, with the snow-tufted Dolomites on the horizon, it’s a “no man’s land between the sea and lagoon” where the lagoon and Adriatic waters converge, according to engineer and site director Alessandro Soru.
The “bocca di Treporti,” or Treporti inlet (“bocca” is Italian for mouth) is an almost mile-wide channel between Punta Sabbioni (the tip of Cavallino-Treporti) and the northernmost point of the Lido island.
There are two more entry points to the lagoon: at Malamocco, on the southern tip of the Lido, and another one at Chioggia, a fishing town at the southernmost point of the lagoon.
Treporti is by far the widest channel, though, and the level of the seabed varies from between 20 to 40 feet here. So, rather than create a massive barrier of varying height, the island has been created to divide the inlet into two. It also provides a space for the headquarters of the MOSE, which might otherwise disturb tourists in the campsites and beaches of Punta Sabbioni.
‘Proper James Bond’
Inside, a wall of monitors in the control room streams live CCTV footage of boats passing through the three channels. It also feeds in information on weather and tide levels and monitors the barriers when they are raised.
One screen monitors the level of the lagoon and the sea levels: blue for the former, red for the latter.
On normal days, both blue and red lines rise and fall together like a heartbeat monitor – spiking at high tide, then hitting a trough at low.
On a recent date, however – December 8, 2021 – the lines spectacularly diverged.
The red line, denoting the Adriatic tide level, spiked high at 130 centimeters (51 inches) above the average, while the blue lagoon line followed it for a while, then plunged, then leveled out far below the red line, before eventually descending together.
On that date, at 8.58 p.m., the MOSE was raised as the tide hit 80 centimeters. That quick plunge? Physics – more specifically, the fluid dynamics of Bernoulli’s principle, meaning the lagoon level took a quick dip to 50 centimeters, before stabilizing at 80 centimeters for the next 12 hours. The MOSE was lowered at 8.44 a.m. the following day, when the two lines converged again.
In good weather, there are a couple of people here on day shift, as well as a team of four in the tunnel, 62 feet below, where half-mile tunnels in the concrete cases below the fins connect the island to the Lido and Punta Sabbioni, and the underwater humidity can be felt in your bones.
Warrens of pipes carrying the air to fill the barriers run underfoot in the tunnel, while chambers leading off from the side house the valves connecting the fins to the concrete bunkers. Each can be sealed off from the main corridor with the flick of a button, and it can operate even if, in a disaster, water gets in. Soru points to a porthole in the corner of the room: “That’s so you can get in via a sub, if it’s flooded – proper James Bond,” he says.
But when tides are high, this is the 24/7 hub of the whole operation, with a 100-strong team operating in the control room, in the underwater tunnels, and in the lagoon, as boats zip around to bring workers to the island – since there’s no public transport. There’s even accommodation so workers can sleep here between shifts.
How the MOSE works
After decades of initial controversy, the building of the MOSE began in 2009, with the last “fin” installed in June 2019, on the Lido side of the Treporti island.
The Venice lagoon is notoriously shallow – the average depth is just 1 meter (3.3 feet). But the inlets from the Adriatic are much deeper – Malamocco, the entrance to the industrial port is 14 meters (46 feet) deep, for example. Although they didn’t alter the depth of the inlets, engineers excavated the seabed along all three to make room for the concrete “cases,” which fit flush along the seabed.
The 14,000-ton cases were cast in concrete on the mainland, then floated into position and sunk beneath the water, while the debris removed from the seabed was used to build the island at Treporti – the “works citadel,” as Soru calls it.
Inside the concrete chests sit the metal floodgates, treated every three months with an anti-corrosive – non-toxic, because of the lagoon ecosystem. Each of the 78 barriers is a uniform 20 meters (65 feet) wide, and varies from 20-30 meters in length, depending on the depth of the water.
They can resist waves of up to 3 meters above normal tide levels – significantly more even than the record 194 centimeters (76 inches) tide that devastated the city in 1966.
How they work is down to a surprisingly simple hydraulics method. Lying dormant on the seabed, the hollow barriers are filled with water to weigh them down.
To raise them, air is pumped into the fins, as the water drains out. They float upwards until they emerge above the water – at which point they form a barrier with the Adriatic surging against them one side, the lagoon relatively calm – and low – on the other.
When the tide subsides, water is pumped back into the fins and air expelled, causing them to sink down again and settle in their cases. It takes just 32 minutes to raise them, and about half that to lower them – that’s down from 91 minutes last year, according to Elisabetta Spitz, the “extraordinary commissioner” responsible for the project, who reports to the Italian government.
The process sounds simple, but has been honed to a precise degree. Between each barrier is an almost 3-inch gap, to release some of the intense pressure on the fins as they withstand the Adriatic. For the same reason, they’re raised four or five at a time, instead of all at once. They can work independently, too – so engineers can choose to raise just some of the barriers, to slow down the flow of water into the lagoon, or lower them temporarily at Malamocco to let an industrial ship go through to Venice’s port – Italy’s second busiest, and the fifth in the Mediterranean.
That also means, says Soru, that if, as people fear, one barrier ever fails to raise, it won’t stop the MOSE working as a whole. Not that that’s happened in the year that it’s been protecting the city.
Finger on the button
Deciding to raise the barriers is a complicated process. Two establishments study the weather predictions: the Centro Maree di Venezia, which monitors tide levels for the city, and the Sala Operativa Consorzio Venezia Nuova, which is responsible for the MOSE. Both use different modeling and compare their forecasts.
Spitz calls the process a “series of warnings, from 48 hours before the tide until three hours before.”
It’s not just the MOSE operatives who receive it. “It informs everyone who operates in the lagoon to get going, because everyone has to do something – from the guy driving the trash-collecting boat who needs to change course, to ships needing to go in and out,” she explains.
Fifteen minutes before that three-hour warning, Spitz and a government representative get an email, “summarizing everything that’s happened in the preceding hours and asking for confirmation to proceed.
“For example, if there’s a ship running late because it’s been caught in bad weather, we can decide to leave a part of the barrier open to let it in.
“We intervene only if there are exceptional events that mean we need to deviate from the procedure. If not the procedure goes ahead without intervention.”
It’s not just sea level and wind speed that they need to take into account — rainfall raises the water level around the city, as do swollen rivers disgorging into the lagoon. “Even if a tide of 95cm is predicted, we don’t know if the barriers will go up,” says Soru.
Last year, on December 8, Venice was hit by a 138cm flood, causing extensive damage to the city, just weeks after the MOSE had shown it never need to happen again. The reason? Only 125cm had been predicted, but wind, rain and river water rocketed the sea level up.
“I take responsibility for it,” says Spitz. “It was one of the first raisings, we had a procedure that was a bit more complicated and as acqua alta [flooding] wasn’t predicted, we took the decision to not mobilize it.
“But it was one of the first tries, and we understood the process needed to be made more automatic, so we updated the procedure. It was our fault. But today it wouldn’t happen.”
“It was disastrous, but we learn from experience – now we raise the barriers a few centimeters earlier,” says Soru.
When the MOSE is fully operational in 2023, the barriers will be raised when the water level hits 110cm (43in) above the regular level. That won’t help the lowest areas of the city, such as St. Mark’s Square which floods at around 90cm; but it will protect around 86% of Venice, including most residential areas.
In fact, says Soru, the barriers will be raised when it looks like the tide will hit 100cm, to account for wind and rain raising the water levels.
For now, though, with the barriers in a final stage of tests, they’re raised when the tide is predicted to hit 130cm.
Of course, projects of this size are rarely without their detractors. One of the main criticisms leveled at the MOSE is that the barriers interfere with the lagoon ecosystem, turning it into a pond rather than a living lagoon.
But, says Spitz, when the barriers were up for 48 hours last year, that was as a trial, to test their resistance. In the future, even in periods when the barriers are up daily, it will only be for a few hours at a time. They have also installed locks at Chioggia and Malamocco to enable some fishing vessels and industrial ships to pass while the barriers are up.
“When it goes up, it’s three, four hours maximum,” she says. “And then it’s not a given that you have to raise all the barriers. There are many possibilities and much flexibility. We’re trialing all of them to target choices better to the needs that will gradually show up. Every time we do a raise, we prepare dozens of tests to get the answers we need, understand the function and make it better.”
And while St. Mark’s Square floods at a level well below that at which the MOSE kicks in, another project – though delayed – is due to construct a glass barrier around the famous Byzantine basilica. Protection for the businesses in the square, however – like historic café Quadri – is a long way off. Its manager, Roberto Pepe, previously told that the MOSE’s cut-off point of 110 centimeters “changes nothing and leaves a sour taste” for those whose livelihoods rely on the piazza.
Spitz insists that she didn’t choose the cut-off points – a committee of local and national governance did. Access to the port was also taken into consideration.
“We need to save Venice, Chioggia, the islands – Murano, Burano, and lots of small islands are even worse off in front of high tides,” she says.
“But above all we need to find a point of mediation between economic needs – of those who operate in the lagoon – and the need to protect. That’s the big question we’ll need to take forward down the line.”
Another criticism of MOSE? The exorbitant overheads. The MOSE cost around $8 billion to build, and accounts from its first year suggest that it costs $328,000 to raise it every time – nearly double the original estimates.
The fins must be treated with anti-corrosive every three months, and their containers must be dredged twice per season, after a buildup of sand inside them meant that six fins could not be lowered during 2020 trials. The containers will need a thorough clean every five years.
Coping with climate change
The big question, of course, is how the MOSE can hold up to climate change.
After the flood of December 2020, Claudio Vernier, president of the Associazione Piazza San Marco, which represents business owners in St. Mark’s Square, told that when the MOSE was initially planned, it was estimated that it would hit 110 centimeters only a couple of times a year.
“Now with the worsening climate crisis, the water level is always higher, and we see that kind of tide level 20 times a year – what will happen in 30 years?”, he asked.
Spitz and Soru, however, insist that the barriers will last longer than that.
“A study on corrosion we did a few months ago said that it can last for 100 years, but must be maintained every three months,” says Soru.
“If in 100 years the barriers aren’t enough, and we can’t hold off 3-meter tides, I can tell you the problem won’t be Venice,” adds Spitz.
“The lagoon is closed now. The protection is more than sufficient, the barriers are what they are. But you would need to think about protecting other areas – the problem would be much more in the Po delta [which covers much of northern Italy].
“If climate change is dramatic, there will be serious problems elsewhere. You’d need to look elsewhere, not at Venice.”
In the meantime, plans have been mooted to partially power the MOSE through solar panels. Installing them at Malamocco could provide 20% of power – but Spitz hopes to make the project carbon neutral within three years, to stand it in good stead for the future.
Spitz arrived in 2019, well after the corruption trials of the MOSE. “I know there were scandals, I’ve read about them, and it’s right that they’re stigmatized and the people who did it were punished,” she says.
“But despite everything that happened with the MOSE, I say, long live the MOSE. Because it protects Venice.”
If she’s right, the devastating flood of November 2019 – which killed two and caused $1 billion damage to local businesses which have yet to recover, might be a thing of the past. And La Serenissima can rest a little more, well, serene.
The 30 or so golf courses in the Salt Lake County of Utah drink up around nine million gallons of water a day to stay pristine green – that’s more than 13 Olympic-sized swimming pools, CNN reports.
Managing the turf on golf courses also means using carbon-intensive fertilizers, plenty of mowing and, in many cases, clearing forests or trees that were soaking up carbon-dioxide to make way for long tracts of the fairway. In other words, golf is a dirty sport that’s wrecking the planet. But it doesn’t have to be.
The impact of golf on the climate and environment has led to growing calls to make the sport more sustainable – even to play on bone-dry courses, as golfing legend Tiger Woods has enjoyed. And it’s not just to save the planet, but to save the sport itself, as the climate crisis threatens to transform many courses into muddy swamps.
The president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), Jason Straka, told how the climate crisis has been affecting golf in flood-threatened Florida, and in Ohio and Utah, which have been hit by warmer-than-usual weather and even drought.
“Clubs never used to have to close after two-inch rain, now they do. They also experience sunny day flooding,” said Straka. In Miami, authorities are raising public drains to a minimum of 3.4 feet, but more than 50% of courses in the city are under this minimum, which rings alarm bells for Straka.
“If they don’t go out and literally lift their footprint up in the air, they’re going to be in a perpetually deeper and deeper bathtub,” he said. “If they think they have problems now, in 10 years, they’re going to be a swamp.”
But change will equate to cost, which is where golf’s critics find their voice once more: courses are just not sustainable anymore.
While courses in the eastern US are being threatened by changing rainfall patterns, deadly wildfires that ripped through the west, including in California, have led to poor air quality and course closures in recent years. Less stark, but by no means less worrying, are rising temperatures in Ohio, which are being infested with Bermuda grass, a warmer-season grass that can be difficult to control.
Rain, fire, floods and ice
The situation in Australia is similar: Lynwood Country Club, northwest of Sydney, was flooded in 2020 and again earlier this year. At one stage, parts of the course were over 26 feet under water, while up the New South Wales coastline, Nambucca Heads received 42.5 inches of rainfall in just eight days.
On the same eastern coast, some 350 miles south of Sydney in the state of Victoria, Mallacoota Golf Club very nearly perished during the bushfires of 2019 and 2020, the fairways providing a sanctuary for townsfolk. Club Catalina, further up the NSW coast, broke the firewall that threatened to wipe out the town.
But in a country accustomed to regular wildfires, courses are adapting by trying to capture water when rain is heavy for use in course irrigation, or even to put out fires.
“Golf courses in Australia, by and large, all have some sort of irrigation storage which are very useful for fighting fires,” Society of Australian Golf Course Architects (SAGCA) President Harley Kruse told CNN Sport, echoing Straka’s comments on future forecasts.
“Last year in Sydney, there was a 1-in-100-years flood event. We’re going to get an increase of various storm events which could be wind, rain, cyclone or we get a greater increase in drought events. Golf courses need to be flexible and more understanding.”
Fellow Australian Tim Lobb, President of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA), is promoting naturalization and grass reduction in Turkey to decrease water usage – 15-20% of the area that was fine turf will use a lower-maintenance grass species.
In cooler regions, coastal courses around the British Isles face a very uncertain future – none more so than the world’s fifth-oldest layout in Montrose, a few miles up the coast from major championship venue Carnoustie, where in the last 30 years, the sea has encroached by almost 230 feet (70 meters) in places, according to research released in 2016.
With sea levels projected to rise by one meter in the next 50 years, the home of golf at St. Andrews in Scotland could be a swamp like Miami as early as 2050.
Over in Iceland, Edwin Roald, renowned Icelandic architect and founder of Eureka Golf – a company “committed to mitigating climate change through golf” – told CNN how greater frequency of water freezing and thawing cycles in colder Northern Hemisphere climates is becoming a real danger to courses.
“We have a lot of issues with frozen water […] and a lot of flash flooding, repeatedly throughout the winter. It’s allowing that to happen without the water eroding the land.
“Winter kill, through the turf’s suffocation under ice cover, is a greater threat and increasing. This causes financial damage to courses that are opening in spring with dead turf.”
Solar panels and robotic mowers
At the COP26 summit in the Scottish city of Glasgow, the North Berwick-based environmentalist GEO Foundation for Sustainable Golf showed a virtual audience how golf is learning to be a champion among sporting bodies for a greener planet.
Woburn, the host course for the 2019 Women’s British Open, constructed its own reservoir in 2013 to capture rainwater to irrigate its turf and more recently drilled a borehole to tap water from underground. The company managing the course says the new infrastructure should make Woburn fully self-sufficient, so it isn’t using water that could be otherwise used for drinking and in homes.
While at Remuera Golf Club in Auckland, carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions were reduced by nearly 25 tons from 2018-19, through the cutting of all electricity use at the club.
Finland’s Hirsala Golf aims to have 40 robotic mowers running on electricity that can be sourced from renewable sources by 2022, cutting the usage of 1,000 liters of diesel fuel, while solar panels at Golf de Payerne in Switzerland have saved 1,080 tons of CO2.
Back in Iceland, the country is measuring the carbon status of all of its 65 golf courses through the Carbon Par project – the first golfing nation to produce such an account.
“The method that is being used to produce this estimate, hopefully, others can use that going forward. To improve, you first have to know where you stand,” said Roald.
“Golf courses are sequestering a considerable amount of carbon, which I think few people actually associate with golf. On the flipside, golf is a large land user and is bound to be using wetlands in places. Emissions, when you drain wetlands, are so great.”
Forests, peatlands, deserts and tundra can all absorb and hold stocks of CO2. Of all the carbon held in land-based ecosystems, around 34% can be found in grasslands, data from the World Resources Institute shows. That’s not much less than the 39% held in forests. So whether a golf course might actually soak up a good amount of carbon-dioxide depends on how it’s managed and whether it destroys more valuable land to begin with.
Roald added: “It’s only a matter of time before the golf industry will be asked questions about what we can do with those wetlands – that’s where we can have the most impact.”
Climate change clamor has caught the eye of one of golf’s most recognizable voices in Rory McIlroy, just one of many high-profile athletes who travel enormous distances by plane.
“I wouldn’t self-profess to be an eco-warrior, but I’m someone that doesn’t want to damage the environment,” the Florida-based Northern Irishman told the media at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“I live in a part of the world where hurricanes are very prevalent and becoming more and more prevalent as the years go on. I think we can all play our part in some way or another.
“We play on big pieces of land that take up a lot of water and a lot of other things that could maybe be put to better use.”
‘The way golf should be played’
Ahead of a trip to the world-renowned Royal Melbourne in Australia, Kruse referenced comments in 2019 by Tiger Woods and Ernie Els at the Presidents Cup.
Cutting to the chase, both players spoke highly of the course’s natural setup — in essence, much like many past Open Championships, the course was dry and vast areas of the rough and even fairways had gone without water, “letting Mother Nature dish up the elements to play the game,” said Kruse.
Well-watered and manicured golf courses can often provide softer conditions that produce better scoring and prettier TV images, but Els and Woods took the chance to laud another approach that will become the norm as courses seek sustainable practices.
Els and Woods both talked up the advantages of playing on a dried-out course, like in Australia.
Kruse said he could barely believe his eyes when he saw a team of maintenance staff on TV earlier this year using petrol-driven leaf blowers to dry the rough, adding American courses probably have more sprinkler heads per golf course and water more area of turf compared to courses in, for example, Australia or the British Isles.
“Taking the drought in California a few years ago, I would hope that they haven’t gone back to their old ways and they’re having a rethink,” Kruse said.
“You don’t need 2,000 irrigation heads right from fence line to fence line to keep the course alive. You can let things dry out.”
It’s the time of the year when most Americans finish Thanksgiving leftovers and venture out in search for the best holiday sales. More importantly, they plan their household centerpiece of the season: the Christmas tree, CNN reports.
While some revel in the scent of a real tree and the joy of picking one out at a local farm, others prefer the simplicity of artificial trees they can reuse for Christmases to come.
But consumers are becoming more climate-conscious, and considering which tree has the lowest impact on our rapidly warming planet has become a vital part of the holiday decision. Plus, choosing a planet-friendly tree will likely get you on Santa’s good list.
So, which kind of tree has the lowest carbon footprint — a natural tree or a store-bought plastic tree? It’s complicated, experts say.
“It’s definitely a lot more nuanced and complex than you think,” Andy Finton, the landscape conservation director and forest ecologist for the Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.
We’ve made a list — and checked it twice — of the things to know before you choose between real and artificial.
The case for artificial trees
It’s easy to imagine that reusing an artificial tree year after year is the more sustainable option. But Finton says if an artificial tree is used for fewer than six years, the carbon cost is greater than investing in a natural tree.
“If the artificial trees are used for a longer lifespan, that balance changes,” Finton. “And I’ve read that it would take 20 years for the carbon balance to be about equivalent.”
That’s because artificial trees are typically made of polyvinyl chloride plastic, or PVC. Plastic is petroleum-based and created at pollution-belching petrochemical facilities. Studies have also linked PVC plastic to cancer and other public health and environmental risks.
Then there’s the transportation aspect. According to the US Department of Commerce, most artificial Christmas trees are imported into the US from China, meaning the products are carried by fossil fuel-powered ships across the Pacific Ocean, then moved by heavy freight trucks before it ultimately lands on the distributor’s shelves or the consumer’s doorstep.
The American Christmas Tree Association, a nonprofit that represents artificial tree manufacturers, commissioned WAP Sustainability Consulting for a study in 2018 that found the environmental impact of an artificial tree is better than a real tree if you use the fake tree for at least five years.
“Artificial trees were looked at [in the study] for factors such as manufacturing and overseas transportation,” Jami Warner, executive director of ACTA. “Planting, fertilizing and watering were taken into account for real trees, which have an approximate field cultivation period of seven to eight years.”
What are the benefits of real trees?
On average, it takes seven years to fully grow a Christmas tree, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. And as it grows, it absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. Protecting forests and planting trees can help stave off the worst impacts of the climate crisis by removing the planet-warming gas from the atmosphere.
If trees are cut down or burned, they can release the carbon they’ve been storing back into the atmosphere. But Doug Hundley, spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association, which advocates for real trees, says the act of cutting down Christmas trees from a farm is balanced out when farmers immediately plant more seedlings to replace them.
“When we harvest the trees or cut them, we plant back very quickly,” Hundley said.
If the idea of trekking through a forest to find the perfect tree is intriguing, you can buy a permit from the US Forest Service, which encourages people to cut their own tree rather than buy an artificial one. According to Recreation.gov, cutting down thin trees in dense areas can improve forest health.
But Finton doesn’t recommend pulling a Clark Griswold and chopping down a massive tree to haul home — especially if it’s in an area you’re not permitted for. He recommends getting a tree from a local farm, instead.
“To me, the benefit of going to a Christmas tree farm, which is different than cutting a tree in the forest, is that it concentrates the impact of removing trees into one location,” he said. “And it puts the responsibility on the farmers to regenerate those trees.”
There’s also an economic benefit to going natural, since most of the trees people end up getting are grown at nearby farms. About 15,000 farms grow Christmas trees in the US alone, employing over 100,000 people either full or part-time in the industry, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.
“What we’re doing by purchasing a natural Christmas tree is supporting local economies, local communities, local farmers and to me, that’s a key part of the conservation equation,” Finton said. “When a tree grower can reap economic benefits from their land, they’re less likely to sell it for development and less likely to convert it to other uses.”
Trees pile up on the curbs after the holidays are over, and the final destination in many locations is landfills, where they contribute to emissions of methane — a powerful greenhouse gas roughly 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
“Real Christmas trees ending up in landfills is very much discouraged,” Hundley said, adding that there needs to be “separate areas for yard waste where Christmas trees can go.”
But some towns and cities repurpose the trees to benefit the climate and the environment. In New York City, trees left on curbs during a certain timeframe are picked up to be recycled or composted. The city sanitation department also hosts an initiative called MulchFest, where residents can bring their trees to be chipped for mulch and used to nourish other trees throughout the city.
“When the tree is finished being used by the homeowner, it’s very easy and common in America to have the tree chopped up into mulch — and that’s stored carbon is put back in the ground,” Hundley added.
Finton also says former Christmas trees can be reused for habitat restoration; they can help control erosion if placed along stream and river banks, and can even help underwater habitats thrive if they are placed in rivers and lakes.
The end of life for an artificial tree is much different. They end up in landfills — where they could take hundreds of years to decompose — or incinerators, where they release hazardous chemicals.
The bottom line
Weighing the complicated climate pros and cons, real Christmas trees have the edge. But if you choose to deck your halls artificially, get a tree you’re going to love and reuse for many years.
Either way, Finton said, people should feel good about their decision and find other ways to tackle the climate crisis.
“It’s a debate, but once you’ve made a decision, you should feel good about your decision, because there’s so many other things we can do in our lives that have an even greater climate impact — such as driving less or advocating for policies that expand renewable energy,” Finton said. “Enjoy the holidays and focus on other aspects of your life to reduce the impacts of climate change.”
The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow has been billed as a last chance to limit global warming to 1.5C. But beyond the deals and photo opportunities, what are the key things countries need to do in order to tackle climate change? BBC reports.
1. Keep fossil fuels in the ground
Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and especially coal, releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, trapping heat and raising global temperatures.
It’s an issue that has to be tackled at the government level if temperature rises are to be limited to 1.5C – the level considered the gateway to dangerous climate change.
However, many major coal-dependent countries – such as Australia, the US, China and India – have declined to sign a deal at the summit aimed at phasing out the energy source in the coming decades.
2. Curb methane emissions
A recent UN report has suggested that reducing emissions of methane could make an important contribution to tackling the planetary emergency.
A substantial amount of methane is released from “flaring” – the burning of natural gas during oil extraction – and could be stopped with technical fixes. Finding better ways of disposing of rubbish is also important because landfill sites are another big methane source.
At COP26, nearly 100 countries agreed to cut methane emissions, in a deal spearheaded by the US and the EU. The Global Methane Pledge aims to limit methane emissions by 30% compared with 2020 levels.
3. Switch to renewable energy
Electricity and heat generation make a greater contribution to global emissions than any economic sector.
Transforming the global energy system from one reliant on fossil fuels to one dominated by clean technology – known as decarbonization – is critical for meeting current climate goals.
Wind and solar power will need to dominate the energy mix by 2050 if countries are to deliver on their net zero targets.
There are challenges, however.
Less wind means less electricity generated, but better battery technology could help us store surplus energy from renewables, ready to be released when needed.
4. Abandon petrol and diesel
We’ll also need to change the way we power the vehicles we use to get around on land, sea and in the air.
Ditching petrol and diesel cars and switching to electric vehicles will be critical.
Lorries and buses could be powered by hydrogen fuel, ideally produced using renewable energy.
And scientists are working on new, cleaner fuels for aircraft, although campaigners are also urging people to reduce the number of flights they take.
5. Plant more trees
A UN report in 2018 said that, to have a realistic chance of keeping the global temperature rise under 1.5C, we’ll have to remove CO2 from the air.
Forests are excellent at soaking it up from the atmosphere – one reason why campaigners and scientists emphasize the need to protect the natural world by reducing deforestation.
Programs of mass tree planting are seen as a way of offsetting CO2 emissions.
Trees are likely to be important as countries wrestle with their net-zero targets because once emissions have been reduced as much as possible, remaining emissions could be “canceled out” by carbon sinks such as forests.
6. Remove greenhouse gases from the air
Emerging technologies that artificially remove CO2 from the atmosphere, or stop it being released in the first place, could play a role.
A number of direct-air capture facilities are being developed, including plants built by Carbon Engineering in Texas and Climeworks in Switzerland. They work by using huge fans to push air through a chemical filter that absorbs CO2.
Another method is carbon capture and storage, which captures emissions at “point sources” where they are produced, such as at coal-fired power plants. The CO2 is then buried deep underground.
However, the technology is expensive – and controversial, because it is seen by critics as helping perpetuate a reliance on fossil fuels.
7. Give financial aid to help poorer countries
At the Copenhagen COP summit in 2009, rich countries pledged to provide $100bn (£74.6bn) in financing by 2020, designed to help developing countries fight and adapt to climate change.
That target date has not been met, although the UK government, as holders of the COP presidency, recently outlined a plan for putting the funding in place by 2023.
Many coal-dependent countries are facing severe energy shortages that jeopardize their recovery from Covid and disproportionately affect the poor. These factors stop them from moving away from polluting industries.
Some experts believe poorer nations will need continuing financial support to help them move towards greener energy. For instance, the US, EU and UK recently provided $8.5bn to help South Africa phase out coal use.
From cool, dewy European mountain ranges and humid Central Asian forests to the urban sprawl across North America and the arid landscapes of the African continent, millions of people are cooking with only the sun’s rays as fuel, CNN reports.
This culinary magic is known as solar cooking. Instead of burning a fuel source, solar cooking uses mirrored surfaces to channel and concentrate sunlight into a small space, cooking food while producing zero carbon emissions.
Solar Cookers International (SCI) is an non-profit that advocates for the adoption of solar thermal cooking technologies. SCI says it knows of over 4 million solar cookers around the world, which people are using to cook and bake in the direct sun or through light clouds.
One of these people is Janak Palta McGilligan. The 73-year-old is a member of the SCI Global Advisory Council and director of the Jimmy McGilligan Centre for Sustainable Development in Madhya Pradesh, India — which she founded with her late husband in 2010.
In a country where up to 81% of rural communities rely on polluting fuels for cooking, Palta McGilligan noticed people were being disadvantaged by cooking with firewood from shrinking ecosystems. Their health was impacted and the natural environment surrounding them eroded. “Girls couldn’t go to school because they spent all day collecting wood,” adds Palta McGilligan.
Yet with an estimated 300 sunny days a year, India has a substantial opportunity for using solar thermal energy.
Palta McGilligan introduced solar cookers to these communities, with the Jimmy McGilligan Centre covering all the training costs and 90% of the price of the cookers, both to protect the forests from degradation and to provide equal opportunities for women.
To date, the Centre has trained more than 126,000 people in sustainable practices such as solar cooking, and food curing and dehydrating techniques, as well as using solar thermal energy to heat up an iron to press clothes.
“It is about the environment, but it is also about equality,” she tells CNN.
A simple solution?
There are many types of solar cookers: from mirrored boxes to rooftop systems and evacuated tube cookers — a more complex device that functions well in colder climates.
Palta McGilligan advocates globally for the health benefits of solar cooking. “Even economic health is benefited,” she says. “All the polluting fuels are so expensive but solar cooking is free — always.”
Anyone can use a solar cooker and training is simple: “You have to learn to position the solar cooker, how to align it to the sun. That’s all,” explains Palta McGilligan.
A basic solar box oven can be constructed with a cardboard box and mirrors or foil, costing as little as a couple of dollars.
There’s one obvious drawback: You can’t cook after dark, and although food will cook quickly on a sunny day, in poor weather solar cookers can take considerably longer than a conventional stove or oven and may not reach temperatures high enough to safely cook meat. On cool or windy days, heavy foods — such as loaves of bread — may not cook at all.
But solar cookers can be used to dehydrate and cure foods to preserve them for stretches of time when there is heavy cloud cover.
‘Whole forests will be saved’
According to international NGO SolarAid, in sunny and arid climates a single solar cooker can save up to a ton of wood annually.
Beyond the carbon cost, the use of biomass fuels can contribute to deforestation of rural regions.
“The planet is at risk,” says Palta McGilligan. “In rural India, we can’t grow trees quickly enough to make up for the wood burnt for cooking.”
She says that alongside training on solar cooking methods, she encourages the planting and nurturing of native vegetation and trees to begin to counteract the environmental impact lifetimes of woodfire cooking has had in rural India.
“The people in the villages are connected to the forests,” Palta McGilligan tells CNN. “They feel sorry the jungles are being lost, they’re sad that there will be no trees. Solar thermal energy is a great relief to them.”
Palta McGilligan has observed the recovery of ecosystems as a direct result of solar cooking being introduced to a village. “Whole forests will be saved by the use of solar cookers,” she says.
SOFIA, Oct 13 – About 1,000 miners and workers from Bulgaria’s largest coal-fired power plant marched in Sofia on Wednesday to protect their jobs and to urge the government to support their industry, Reuters informs.
Demonstrators called on the Cabinet to guarantee it would not rush to shut mines and power plants at the Maritsa East lignite coal complex in southern Bulgaria, despite a European Union push to decarbonise the bloc’s economy by 2050.
“There should be green, clean energy, but time is needed for investment first,” said Spaska Ruskova, 58, who works for a mining equipment company.
“It will probably happen for our grandchildren, but it cannot happen now, because hundreds of families are destined to lose their jobs and doomed to high power bills,” she said.
Bulgaria needs to set a date when it will phase out power generation from coal if it wants to draw on EU recovery funds and meet the bloc’s climate goals.
The interim government has said it will present its plan for EU aid to Brussels on Friday. It will defend its target of closing coal-fired plants by 2038 or 2040 – largely in line with the miners’ demands.
Environmental group Greenpeace has demanded that the polluting plants be closed by 2030, urging Bulgaria to focus on renewable energy and providing new jobs in the coal regions.
Protesters say early closure of the plants, which produce 40% of Bulgaria’s electricity, would lead to power shortages and rising energy costs.
Some 10,000 people work at the Maritsa East complex, whose lignite coal deposits are rich in sulphur blamed for poor air quality and respiratory diseases.
Trade unions say the complex provides livelihoods for more than 100,000 people in the European Union’s poorest member and have vowed to keep up pressure on the government that is to formed after a Nov. 14 general election.
Google is cracking down on the ability of climate change deniers to make money off its platforms and to spread climate misinformation through advertisementі, CNN reports.
The company said Thursday it will no longer allow advertising to appear alongside “content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change.” Google (GOOG) will also prohibit advertisements that deny the reality of climate change.
The policy, which goes into effect next month, applies to any content on YouTube and other Google platforms that refers “to climate change as a hoax or a scam,” as well as denials that “greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.”
“We’ve heard directly from a growing number of our advertising and publisher partners who have expressed concerns about ads that run alongside or promote inaccurate claims about climate change,” Google said in its announcement Thursday. “Advertisers simply don’t want their ads to appear next to this content. And publishers and creators don’t want ads promoting these claims to appear on their pages or videos.”
Big tech companies have faced increasing pressure in recent years to contribute more to the fight against climate change, including action against climate-related misinformation on their platforms. But as some of the big platforms have shown in the past, consistently implementing a policy after it has been announced tends to be the most challenging part.
Facebook last month announced its own effort to combat climate misinformation, including a $1 million grant to support fact-checking of false climate claims.
Google also rolled out several products earlier this week to increase climate awareness, including a new setting in Google Maps that shows users the most eco-friendly route.
Driving and flying are huge contributors to carbon emissions and climate change. So Google is helping users make more informed decisions about how they travel, CNN informs.
The company is releasing features on Google Maps and Google Flights to show how travel plans may contribute to climate change.
In addition to showing drivers the fastest way to get to their destination, Google Maps will now show the route that’s the most fuel-efficient.
To provide the new feature, Google incorporated data from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which estimates that eco-friendly routing has the potential to prevent more than one million tons of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere per year. That’s the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars from the road, Google claims.
On the Google Maps app, the most eco-friendly route will display with a small green leaf next to it. The route option will include information about how long the trip will take and how much fuel the driver could save.
Options for bikers
It’s no secret that biking is a more eco-friendly travel option than driving, and the use of biking directions on Maps has increased by as much as 98% over the past year, according to Google. The tech company is focusing on tapping into bike riders with a new feature called “lite navigation” that gives cyclists important details about their routes.
This feature is being introduced after Google heard from cyclists who were sick of following turn-by-turn directions on their phones. Bikers tend to tuck their phones away for most of the ride, after all.
With lite navigation, bike riders will be able to see details about their route without needing to keep their screen on or engage turn-by-turn navigation.
Cyclists will also be able to track their trip progress, see their ETA updated in real time and find details about the elevation of their route.
Bike and scooter sharing
In addition to the biking feature, in 300 cities — including Berlin, New York and São Paulo — Google Maps is introducing a feature that will provide more information about bike and scooter sharing. With this new option, Google Maps users will be able to find nearby docking stations and pinpoint how many vehicles are available at that moment.
To make this feature possible, Google is partnering with bike and scooter companies including Europe-based Donkey Republic, Tier and Voi, as well as Bird and Spin, which are based in the US.
Finding flights with fewer carbon emissions
Alongside price and trip duration information, Google Flights users will now be able to see carbon emissions estimates for nearly every flight in the search results. The estimates are “flight-specific” and “seat-specific,” Google said.
“Newer aircraft are generally less polluting than older aircraft,” the company said in its press release. “Emissions increase for premium economy and first-class seats because they take up more space and account for a larger share of total emissions,” Google added.
The non-profit association created in 2016 by Ukrainian and Lithuanian representatives of the greens. The Association eagers to involve more Eastern European members interested in environmental protection and expand its influence throughout Eastern European region and wider if necessary.
For Mass Media: email@example.com