Greenpeace Finds Microplastics and Hazardous Chemicals in Remote Antarctic Waters
Another day, another sign of the reach of the global ocean plastics crisis. A Greenpeace expedition to Antarctica turned up microplastics in more than half of ocean water samples taken in the world's southernmost waters. It also found chemicals dangerous to wildlife in a majority of snow samples, Greenpeace reported Wednesday.
"We may think of the Antarctic as a remote and pristine wilderness," Frida Bengtsson of Greenpeace's Protect the Antarctic campaign said in the press release, "but from pollution and climate change to industrial krill fishing, humanity's footprint is clear. These results show that even the most remote habitats of the Antarctic are contaminated with microplastic waste and persistent hazardous chemicals."
Microplastic sampling in Antarctic waters from aboard the Arctic Sunrise. Sandra Schoettner, marine biologist and oceans campaigner with Greenpeace Germany and crew deploying the so-called manta trawl – a net specifically designed for skimming small particles from the sea surface.Christian Åslund / Greenpeace
Greenpeace took the samples on a landmark expedition during the first three months of 2018 that helped fill in the limited global data on microplastic pollution in the Antarctic. In seven of eight samples of surface water tested, they found at least one microplastic per litre (approximately 1.06 quarts) of water. Out of nine samples taken with manta trawl nets, they found two that contained microplastics.
Greenpeace also tested for chemicals known as per- and polyfluorinated alkylated substances (PFASs). These are chemicals used in industrial processes and commercial products, notably for water or dirt repellent in outdoor gear. They break down very slowly once they enter the environment and have been known to impact wildlife reproduction and development. Greenpeace found PFASs in seven of nine snow samples. The results were reported in depth in the document Microplastics and Persistent Fluorinated Chemicals in the Antarctic.
Campaigner Thilo Maack takes snow samples, for testing of environmental pollutants, on Greenwich Island in the Antarctic.Paul Hilton / Greenpeace
Greenpeace's research was part of a campaign to create the largest protected area on Earth in the Antarctic. The Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, proposed by the EU, would be 1.8 million square kilometers (approximately 1.12 million square miles) and will be decided on at the Antarctic Ocean Commission Meeting in October 2018.
Bengtsson said the expedition results reinforced the need for such a sanctuary.
"Plastic has now been found in all corners of our oceans, from the Antarctic to the Arctic and at the deepest point of the ocean, the Mariana Trench. We need urgent action to reduce the flow of plastic into our seas and we need large scale marine reserves—like a huge Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary which over 1.6 million people are calling for—to protect marine life and our oceans for future generations," she said.
In addition to the smaller pollutants and plastics, Bengtsson also noticed refuse from the fishing industry on the journey.
"Buoys, nets and tarpaulins drifted in between icebergs, which was really sad to see. We took them out of the water, but it really made clear to me how we need to put vast parts of this area off-limits to human activity if we're going to protect the Antarctic's incredible wildlife," she said.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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