What Is Climate Change? Is It Different From Global Warming?
Climate change is actually not a new phenomenon. Scientists have been studying the connection between human activity and the effect on the climate since the 1800s, although it took until the 1950s to find evidence suggesting a link.
Since then, the amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases) in the atmosphere have steadily increased, taking a sharp jump in the late 1980s when the summer of 1988 became the warmest on record. (There have been many records broken since then.) But climate change is not a synonym for global warming.
The term global warming entered the lexicon in the 1950s, but didn't become a common buzzword until a few decades later when more people started taking notice of a warming climate. Except climate change encompasses a greater realm than just rising temperatures. Trapped gases also affect sea-level rise, animal habitats, biodiversity and weather patterns. For example, Texas' severe winter storms in February 2021 demonstrate how the climate isn't merely warming.
Why Is Climate Change Important? Why Does It Matter?
Marc Guitard / Moment / Getty Images
Despite efforts from forward thinkers such as SpaceX Founder Elon Musk to colonize Mars, Earth remains our home for the foreseeable future, and the more human activity negatively impacts the climate, the less habitable it will become. It's estimated that Earth has already warmed about one degree Celsius, or two degrees Fahrenheit, since the start of the Industrial Revolution around the 1750s, although climate change tracking didn't start until the late 1800s. That warming number may not sound like much, but this increase has already resulted in more frequent and severe wildfires, hurricanes, floods, droughts and winter storms, to name some examples.
Then there's biodiversity loss, another fallout of climate change that's threatening rainforests and coral reefs and accelerating species extinction. Take rainforests, which act as natural carbon sinks by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But as rampant deforestation is occurring everywhere from Brazil's Amazon to Borneo, fewer trees mean that rainforests are becoming carbon sources, emitting more carbon than they're absorbing. Meanwhile, coral reefs are dying as warming ocean temperatures trigger bleaching events, which cause corals to reject algae, their main food and life source. Fewer trees, coral reefs and other habitats also equate to fewer species. Known as the sixth mass extinction, a 2019 UN report revealed that up to a million plant and animal species could become extinct within decades.
It can be easy to overlook climate change in day-to-day life, or even realize that climate change is behind it. Notice there's yet another romaine lettuce recall due to E. Coli? Research suggests that E. Coli bacteria are becoming more common in our food sources as it adapts to climate change. Can't find your favorite brand of coffee beans anymore? Or that the price has doubled? Climate change is affecting that too. Climate change is also worsening air quality and seasonal allergies, along with polluting tap water. Not least, many preliminary studies have also drawn a line between climate change and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that is still gripping much of the world. Future pandemics are likely to happen more frequently until the root causes, such as deforestation, are addressed.
Speaking of larger-scale issues, global water scarcity is already happening more frequently. The Caribbean is facing water shortages due to rising temperatures and decreased rainfall; Australia's dams may run dry by 2022 as severe wildfires increase and Cape Town, South Africa has already faced running out of water.
As touched upon earlier, it's one thing to be inconvenienced by a lack of romaine lettuce for a couple of weeks or higher coffee bean prices, but reports warn how climate change will continue to threaten global food security, to the point of triggering a worldwide food crisis if temperatures surpass two degrees Celsius.
Many of these factors are already contributing to climate migration, forcing large numbers of people to relocate to other parts of the world in search of better living conditions.
Unless more immediate, drastic action is taken to combat climate change, future generations will have to contend with worst-case scenario projections by the end of the 21st century, not limited to coastal cities going underwater, including Miami; lethal heat levels from South Asia to Central Africa; and more frequent extreme weather events involving hurricanes, wildfires, tsunamis, droughts, floods, blizzards and more.
What's Happening and Why?
Fiddlers Ferry power station in Warrington, UK. Chris Conway / Moment / Getty Images
The Earth's temperature has largely remained stable until industrial times and the introduction of greenhouse gases. These gases have forced the atmosphere to retain heat, as evidenced by rising global temperatures. As the planet grows warmer, glaciers melt faster, sea levels rise, severe flooding increases and droughts and extreme weather events become more deadly.
The Greenhouse Effect
In the late 1800s, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius studied the connection between the amount of atmospheric carbon and its ability to warm and cool the Earth, and while his initial calculations suggested extreme warming as carbon increased, researchers didn't start to take human-induced climate change seriously until the late 20th century.
But proof of human-led climate change can be traced to the 1850s, and satellites are among the ways that scientists have been tracking increased greenhouse gases and their climate impact in more recent years. Climate researchers have also documented warmer oceans, ocean acidification, shrinking ice sheets, decreased snow amounts and extreme weather as among the events resulting from greenhouse gases heating the planet.
Numerous factors contribute to the production of greenhouse gases, known as the greenhouse effect. One of the biggest causes involve burning fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas, to power everything from cars to daily energy needs (electricity, heat). From 1970-2011, fossil fuels have comprised 78 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
Big Ag is another greenhouse contributor, particularly beef production, with the industry adding 10 percent in 2019. This is attributed to clearing land for crops and grazing and growing feed, along with methane produced by cows themselves. In the U.S. alone, Americans consumed 27.3 billion pounds of beef in 2019.
Then there's rampant deforestation occurring everywhere from the Amazon to Borneo. A 2021 study from Rainforest Foundation Norway found that two-thirds of the world's rainforests have already been destroyed or degraded. In Brazil, deforestation reached a 12-year-high in 2020 under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro. As it stands, reports predict that the Amazon rainforest will collapse by 2064. Rainforests are important carbon sinks, meaning the trees capture and remove carbon from the atmosphere. As rainforests collapse, the remaining trees will begin emitting more greenhouse gases than they're absorbing.
Meanwhile, a recent study revealed that abandoned oil and gas wells are leaking more methane than previously believed, with U.S. wells contributing up to 20 percent of annual methane emissions.
Not least is the cement industry. Cement is heavily used throughout the global construction industry, and accounts for around eight percent of carbon dioxide emissions.
Natural Climate Change
Granted, natural climate change exists as well, and can be traced throughout history, from solar radiation triggering the Ice Ages to the asteroid strike that rapidly raised global temperatures and eliminated dinosaurs and many other species in the process. Other sources of natural climate change impacts include volcano eruptions, ocean currents and orbital changes, but these sources generally have smaller and shorter-term environmental impacts.
How We Can Combat Climate Change
Participant holding a sign at the climate march on Sept. 20, 2020, in Manhattan. A coalition of climate, Indigenous and racial justice groups gathered at Columbus Circle to kick off Climate Week with the Climate Justice Through Racial Justice march. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images
While the latest studies and numbers can often feel discouraging about society's ability to prevent the worst-case climate scenarios from happening, there's still time to take action.
As a Society
In 2015 at COP 21 in Paris, 197 countries came together to sign the Paris Agreement, an international climate change treaty agreeing to limit global warming in this century to two degrees Celsius, and ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels; it's believed that the planet has warmed one degree Celsius since 1750. Studies show that staying within the two-degree range will prevent the worst-case climate scenarios from happening. Achieving this goal requires participating parties to drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions sooner rather than later. However, there have already been numerous setbacks since then, from former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement in 2020 to world leaders, such as China, the world's biggest polluter, failing to enact aggressive climate action plans. Yet many of the treaty participants have been slow to implement changes, putting the world on track to hit 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century even if the initial goals are met. However, it's worth noting that U.S. President Joe Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement in 2021, and pledged to cut greenhouse gases in half by 2030.
Then there's the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 global agreement to phase out ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons, chemicals that were commonly used in air-conditioning, refrigeration and aerosols. Recent studies show that parts of the ozone are recovering, proving that a unified commitment to combatting climate change issues does make a difference.
On a smaller scale, carbon offset initiatives allow companies and individuals to invest in environmental programs that offset the amount of carbon that's produced through work or lifestyle. For example, major companies (and carbon emitters) such as United Airlines and Shell have pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in part by participating in carbon offset programs that remove carbon from the atmosphere. The problem is that these companies are still producing high levels of fossil fuel emissions.
While individuals can make a small impact through carbon offsets, the greater responsibility lies with carbon-emitting corporations to find and implement greener energy alternatives. This translates to car companies producing electric instead of gas vehicles or airlines exploring alternative fuel sources. It also requires major companies to rely more on solar and wind energy for their energy needs.
In Our Own Lives
While it's up to corporations to do the heavy lifting of carbon reduction, that doesn't mean individuals can't make a difference. Adopting a vegan lifestyle, using public transportation, switching to an electric car and becoming a more conscious consumer are all ways to help combat climate change.
Consuming meat relies on clearing land for crops and animals, while raising and killing livestock contributes to about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization. By comparison, choosing a plant-based diet could reduce greenhouse gas footprints by as much as 70 percent, especially when choosing local produce and products.
Riding public trains, subways, buses, trams, ferries and other types of public transportation is another easy way to lower your carbon footprint, considering that gas-powered vehicles contribute 95 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Electric cars and trucks have come down in price as more manufacturers enter the field, and these produce far lower emissions than their gas counterparts. Hybrid vehicles are another good alternative for lowering individual emission contributions.
Buying locally produced food and items is another way to maintain a lower carbon footprint, as the products aren't shipped or driven long distances. Supporting small companies that are committed to sustainability is another option, especially when it comes to clothes. Fast fashion has become a popular option thanks to its price point, but often comes at the expense of the environment and can involve unethical overseas labor practices. Not least, plastic saturates every corner of the consumer market, but it's possible to find non-plastic alternatives with a little research, from reusable produce bags to baby bottles.
Those interested in becoming even more involved can join local climate action organizations. Popular groups include the Sunrise Movement, Fridays for Future, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, to name a few. Voting, volunteering, calling local representatives and participating in climate marches are additional ways to raise your voice.
It's taken centuries to reach a climate tipping point, with just a matter of decades left to prevent the worst-case climate scenarios from happening. But there's still hope of controlling a warming climate as long as individuals, companies and nations make an immediate concerted effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions. As the world already experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic, a rapid unified response can make all the difference.
Meredith Rosenberg is a senior editor at EcoWatch. She holds a Master's from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in NYC and a B.A. from Temple University in Philadelphia.
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By Carter Dillard
In 2019 a study linked climate change and hotter weather to early childbirth in the United States. "That's enough to take somebody from what's considered to be a pretty healthy pregnancy into a 'we are somewhat worried' pregnancy," said Alan Barreca, a UCLA professor of environment and human health and lead author of the study.
Prior to this, several studies showed that the most effective way to mitigate the climate crisis, in terms of individual behavior, was to choose a smaller family, and have fewer children than one normally would.
That means the best thing we can do to protect our kids is to change the way we plan families. If you think about that statement, it makes sense: Planning ahead is much more effective than simply reacting to a situation. But as the climate crisis kills off nature and superheats the planet at an accelerating rate, pregnancies give us a beautiful window to see the interconnection in one stark way — at the nexus between the human world and the nonhuman world and the environment we are overrunning — and to consider the best solution to the problem.
There's something hidden in this question that could be preventing the world from taking the effective action necessary to deal with the climate crisis, and related crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. What do we mean by the environment? What are we protecting from the climate crisis, and wish to have in the future? This is called the normative baseline problem, and it halts progress on policy and action as we struggle at the crossroads of different ways to go, between more anthropogenic and less anthropogenic choices.
The baseline problem tends to linger when we consider things in terms of human welfare. If we switch to a framework of human freedom, our preference should become clear. Should infants be free of the ravages of an anthropogenic climate? How can we be free from others without restoring nature, or adhering to the highest environmental baseline possible? Freedom from the power of others is contingent upon restoring nature and the wild — or a baseline based on the absence of human power — and pursuing the highest form of environmental protection. Freedom from others logically starts with the nonhuman world or the rewilding of our planet.
The Baseline Problem
There is a cognitive dissonance prevalent in our species of evaluating something without thinking through the normative baselines, or the things against which we are making the evaluation. For example, I might think that — relative to how I will feel in a minute's time — it is a good idea to gorge on doughnuts right now. If I had really considered how I would feel later, and especially in the long run, and if I keep making the same decision, I would realize that I should have thought beyond the short term, or made the decision at a later point of time.
The world made the baseline mistake in developing environmental policy decades ago, choosing to treat nature as a resource for humans. The baseline was too low and allowed policies that fell short; indeed, it is one of the reasons our planet continues to superheat. We are making that same mistake now with regard to COVID-19, by financially stimulating factory farming and other forms of ecocide that degrade the buffer (or social distancing) between people that our pre-Anthropocene environment offered. Degrading that "natural buffer" exacerbates the risk of pandemics and determines how we can react to them. As the New Republic reported, the next pandemic could be hiding in the Arctic permafrost.
Solving the baseline problem will allow us to trace these calamities — like the unfolding death of the Great Barrier Reef — and help us back to an ultimate source, and, perhaps, to a solution. We can no longer use a baseline for environmental policy that treats nature or the nonhuman world as a human resource. This is the baseline most environmentalists use, and the one that created the Anthropocene era in which we find the world today. A much higher baseline would view nature as something that ought to be a nonhuman habitat or the homes of sentient species who have a right to survive and thrive. This would be a restorative baseline, and the one more consistent with animal liberation. Such a baseline would be most protective against things like climate change and the pandemics it drives. A policy based on this baseline would revolve around ensuring our children have the only environment proven — over millennia‚ that allows humans and all species to thrive. It would seek to eliminate the way the absence of nature in our lives is degrading our psyches.
In other words, what should our environment be like? What environment do our kids deserve? Do we want to raise kids with antisocial personalities who will plague their future generations with the same issues? Can we avoid doing so? Our choices to answer that question are being cut off as corporate and government forces convert nature into profits for the uber-wealthy. Our freedom to choose, our freedom through nature, is being taken away from us.
Whether we and our children have a right to that higher baseline and environment — what our future ought to look like — underlies the climate debates and the culture wars over how we respond to COVID-19. In this context, the debate centers around whether we should prioritize economic growth over preserving nature, and the protection of human life. The debate is between those who favor a lower environmental baseline and economic growth and those who favor a higher baseline and human rights, like the right of the most vulnerable groups to survive the pandemic.
It is a debate that is now being fought out in federal court. The case will determine a lot about what it means to be free in America — for us and for our kids.
Here is the key to that case, something many people miss. In order for us to be free, wilderness — or the relative absence of human domination over nature — has to remain and be protected as a potential baseline against the imposition of human power. Without it, we will lose our point of orientation to know what it means to be free from others. Or as Senator Frank Church of Idaho said in helping to pass the Wilderness Act of 1964, that "without wilderness this country will become a cage." Consider this, and the uber-wealthy class: People like Elon Musk insert themselves between us and nature in order to overrun it and promote increased population growth to accelerate that process. They envision a future in which the world is one big market, or a place they can dominate as the alternative — or the free world of Thoreau — recedes into extinction.
It's hard to think outside of the box when there is no outside, when there is no alternative to a man-made, human-dominated world. Anti-environmental groups who wish to convert the entire world into a market that is owned by a powerful few, who are now even eyeing the resources in space, know and exploit this fact. When I am in nature, in the wild, I can see the box or cage from the outside. I am free because I have that perspective, point of orientation, or baseline. Shouldn't we ensure that our kids have the same choice, and can see from that perspective?
The founders of this country thought so. They understood how crucial it was to have a baseline that could be used to judge and orient ourselves against human power, and wrote it into the Declaration of Independence, using the concept of wilderness and nature as the foundation upon which to build the latticework of the American social contract. They understood that human rights and democracy are objective values and should orient around an external and objective point like nature. In the Declaration, they explicitly assured it to our progeny.
No Freedom Without Nature
In the case, which is now on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Seeding Sovereignty, two nonprofits, allege that the federal government's policy of ignoring the climate crisis — and in many cases knowingly exacerbating it — violates Americans' right to be free because it is destroying our environment relative to the higher, or restorative baseline. The concept of constitutional freedom can be complex but one way to unpack it is by dividing it into positive and negative freedoms — or the right to be free from the nonconsensual impact other people have on you, and the freedom to choose how to live your life. The plaintiffs allege our government is violating both these freedoms.
Consider the impact of the climate crisis on pregnant women, as the baseline environment, which generations of American mothers have enjoyed, and is now being degraded. Not only are the mothers and their babies subject to the disastrous and long-term impacts of the crisis, but their choices and opportunities in life are being cut off by such long-term impacts. Instead of addressing this issue, the government's policies internationally have shifted the benefits to polluters, who use the wealth to minimize the harm of the crisis upon themselves and expand their own choices in life by ensuring poorer health, additional costs of care, etc. This case argues that because we have the right to be free from others and to live our lives as we choose, such government policies violate the Constitution, which protects us from these and similar intrusions. How can we have a right to be free from relatively nonintrusive things like government surveillance, as the Supreme Court has always held, but not be free from life-threatening ecological impacts? We do have such a right — a right to a natural and restorative environmental baseline, or the highest possible standard of environmental protection, which stands as a wall between us and those who would use nature for their own profits, and prevents from further endangering pregnant women and their children, and exacerbating pandemics in the future. Having that right is what it means to be free.
Taking a Revolutionary Perspective and Acting on It
The case of Juliana v. United States, which was filed in 2015 by 21 youth and organizational plaintiff Earth Guardians, is powerful and differs significantly from other constitutional litigations regarding the climate crisis as it is focused on anthropocentric standards for environmental protection, and relies on the role of nature, and wilderness, in particular, in the American Revolution and the founding of the country. Could the Founding Fathers have imagined that Americans would one day be so impacted by others, that nature would be so degraded, that our own environment threatened pregnancy? How would they have wanted us to react to that threat and our rights to be free from others, and free to live our lives as we see fit, relative to the environmental baseline they enjoyed and extolled as a necessary condition of freedom? This country is built on a promise to our progeny and we know the people who are making it impossible to keep that promise.
This is not about fealty to our Founding Fathers or some other form of nationalism masquerading as liberalism. If we don't orient our political systems around the absence of human power and the restoration of nature, we are adopting a concept of freedom that is incoherent. That, in turn, poses serious legitimacy problems for any form of governance, making consensual political association physically impossible. In other words, without the absence of human power — or nature or the nonhuman world — it becomes impossible to consent to human power. We cannot allow ourselves to simply embrace — and foist upon future generations — a world where we cannot be free from others' harmful influence, in which freedom from the power of others does not exist and political liberty is replaced by a degrading form of consumerist freedom. In such a world, freedom is more economic than political, and the average person's role is reduced to being a buyer and seller in a world market rather than that of an empowered citizen in free democracies surrounded by nature. Those promoting such an emaciated form of freedom, and blocking family planning reforms that would ensure people are empowered as truly free and equal might be thought of as pre-constitutional, but it is preventing the intergenerational constituting or coming together of people as truly self-determining.
The move away from a lower or resource-based baseline has begun, in part, with the recognition that humans and the environment are inextricably linked, which is a partial move away from the view of nature as a resource and separate from humanity. The next steps involve understanding exactly what we mean by the concept of nature and why we value it, and moving from the descriptive realm to the normative or evaluative realm — the realm of law and human rights — where we can articulate exactly how nature should be part of us and part of who we as a species should be. And when it comes to taking action, a useful perspective would be understanding that the fight for nature involves liberating the most vulnerable entities in the world — future generations and nonhumans. This involves universal reform of our family planning system. One effective option would be to liberate them by seizing the resources of those at the top of the power and population pyramid that Nobel laureate Steven Chu recognized and using those resources to fund universal family planning programs that promote smaller and more equitable families. And while we have been taught that countries like the United States were "constituted" by god-like wealthy white men in the past, new scholarship argues that this idea is nonsense and that if we assume political power derives from actual people, we are constantly either constituting legitimate democracies or deconstituting into illegitimate "pre-constitutional" political states, depending on the family planning systems at play.
Do you think the idea of linking equity and a universal ethic of smaller families to population and family planning sounds far-fetched? Others, like Michael Moore and David Brooks, are already making the connection in the mainstream.
The war on nature has turned into a war against us and our kids. We cannot afford to make the baseline mistake in the face of threats like the climate crisis, COVID-19, mass extinction and many other interrelated catastrophes. That is what the case is about: arguing that our fundamental human rights include a right and responsibility to nature, which in essence means seeing ourselves as guests of nature, and not its master. It is an argument that completely gels with changes around the country to limit destructive and mythical property rights, such as those over animals and over specific parts of our environment, in favor of a form of personhood that would protect the most vulnerable entities in the world.
And whether courts recognize that right to be free in nature or not, the tide of those willing to fight for the highest standard of environmental protection, and to protect those most vulnerable will continue to rise all the way up to the doorsteps of our oppressors — specifically those who push for a lower environmental baseline and economic growth over our right and responsibility to nature.
Carter Dillard is the founder of HavingKids.org. He served as an Honors Program Attorney at the United States Department of Justice and served with a national security law agency before developing a comprehensive account of reforming family planning for the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. He has begun to implement the transition to child-centric "Fair Start" family planning, both as a member of the Steering Committee of the Population Ethics and Policy Research Project, and as a visiting scholar of the Uehiro Center, both at the University of Oxford.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
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For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.
So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.
While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.
In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.
Solar Roadways: The Original Concept
Solar roadways are complex in execution, but in concept, they're as simple as they sound. They're roads "paved" with extremely strong solar panels that are covered in glass that can withstand environmental stressors and the weight of vehicles driving over them on a consistent basis.
The idea was something that got people really excited when the initial Solar Roadways, Inc. project (which is still seeking funding) burst onto the scene in 2014:
More advanced designs included solar roadways outfitted with LED lights that could be used to illuminate lane lines, communicate to drivers and more. Other iterations included weight sensors that would detect when obstructions were on the road or could alert homeowners if unexpected vehicles were approaching their driveway. Embedding these kinds of technology into the solar roadways renderings only added to their appeal and the initial hype around the concept.
Key Selling Points of Solar Roadways
Early innovators of solar roadways touted the numerous benefits of their ideas. These included:
- Sunlight shines down on roads at no cost, making the energy not only readily available, but also free (aside from installation and maintenance).
- The ability to power street lights with solar roadways eliminated the need to pull extra energy from the grid.
- Having electronics embedded into the roadway opened up a world of possibilities for communicating with drivers in ways that didn't require painting and repainting of roads.
- The ingenuity to attach weight sensors on the solar panels could be used to alert drivers about potential obstructions, such as animals, disabled vehicles or rocks on the road.
- In a future of electric vehicles, the possibilities were seen as even more beneficial, as solar roadways could be used to power electric vehicle charging stations or to charge the cars while they're driving.
While some early thinkers may also have envisioned these roadways sending solar energy to the local power grid, the most impactful way solar roadways could utilize the energy they generated is right around the road itself: lighting street lights, heating mechanisms to melt snow on the roadway, or powering small emergency equipment on road shoulders.
Using the energy for on-road applications would mean that the power didn't have to be sent long distances before being used, which results in energy loss. However, in more rural or remote locations, having the solar roadway energy available for nearby homes and businesses could be a huge benefit, especially if there's an outage in the overall grid.
Why Solar Roadway Tests Have Failed
To much of the general public — and especially to people who weren't well versed in the intricacies of solar panels or road structures — solar roadways seemed like a slam-dunk solution that both looked futuristic and had benefits that went far beyond electricity generation. It was the kind of innovation that had people exclaiming: "How has no one done this yet?!" But in reality, the execution of solar roadways was much more complex than the idea.
Here are a few reasons solar roadway tests have failed:
Cost of Manufacturing and Maintenance
The cost of the energy from the sun may be free, but the investment to install and maintain the solar roadways was undeniably prohibitive. The reason asphalt is used by default to pave roadways is because it is immensely affordable and low-maintenance, which is especially critical on vast, expansive roadways and interstates.
In 2010, Scott Brusaw, co-founder of Solar Roadways, Inc., estimated a square foot of solar roadway would cost about $70. However, when the first solar roadway was built in France by a company called Colas, it measured 1 kilometer and cost $5.2 million to build — or about $1,585 per foot of roadway. Of course, this was a small iteration and bulk manufacturing would cost less, but either way, it's hard to believe the cost of a solar roadway would ever be competitive with the price of asphalt, which is about $3 to $15 per square foot.
Further, the cost and complexity to send a crew to repair individual panels that fail would far outweigh those to maintain asphalt. So, while one of the presumed benefits of solar roadways is the cost savings associated with self-generated energy, even back-of-the-envelope math highlights how the numbers would simply not add up to be more cost-effective in the long run.
Energy Required to Produce the Panels
Another limiting factor appears when considering the energy it takes to make asphalt versus high-durability glass and solar panels. Most asphalt used on roads today is a byproduct of distilling petroleum crude oil for products such as gasoline, which means it makes use of a substance that would otherwise be discarded as waste.
The solar roadway panels, although intended to save energy in the long run, take much more to produce. Typical rooftop solar panels can easily make up for the extra energy used in production because the glass doesn't need to withstand the weight of vehicles driving over them, but solar roadways have that added complexity.
Power Output of the Panels
When estimating power output, early optimists seemed to perform calculations based on the raw surface area they could cover — and not much else. However, beyond the stunted energy generation that any solar panels face on cloudy days or at night, solar roadways presented unique new performance challenges.
For example, vehicles constantly driving over solar roadways would interrupt sun exposure. Plus, they'd leave behind trails of fluid, dirt and dust that can dramatically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Being installed on the ground is a challenge in itself because of how readily shade would find the roads; that's the reason you find most solar panels on rooftops or elevated off the ground and angled toward the sun.
Issues With Glass Roadways
Lastly, driving on glass surfaces is simply not what modern cars are designed to do. Asphalt and tires grip each other well, being particularly resilient in wet conditions. If the asphalt is replaced with glass — even the textured glass that's used for solar roadways — tire traction could be reduced dramatically. Wet or icy conditions could lead to catastrophic situations on solar roadways.
Could Recent Advances in Solar Technology Bring Solar Roadways Closer to Reality?
For all of these challenges and even more roadblocks that early solar roadway projects have run into in the past, the reality is that solar technology continues to improve. In the seven years since the first Solar Roadways, Inc. video went viral, solar panels have developed to be more durable, more cost-effective and more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. To put some numbers behind these trends:
- The average solar PV panel cost has dropped about 70% since 2014.
- In 2015, FirstSolar made news with panels that were 18.2% efficient. Today, the most advanced prototypes are able to exceed 45% efficiency.
- Total solar energy capacity in 2021 is nearly six times greater than in 2014, and with that explosion has come advances to flatten the learning curve and increase the general public's acceptance of the benefits of solar.
- Solar jobs have increased 167% in the last decade, giving the industry more capable workers able to take the reins of a solar roadway project and more professionals who know how to affordably install solar.
The question to ask is whether these advances are enough to bring solar roadways from failure to success.
Despite the improvements, many of the original challenges with solar roadways remain, and the scale of execution is immense. Even with decreasing solar PV costs, outfitting long stretches of roadway with such complex technologies will require tremendous capital.
Rather than a future where solar roadways cover the country from coast to coast, a more likely outcome is that these advances will bring solar roadways to viability in narrow, niche applications.
Just like tidal energy is a great opportunity for small coastal communities but can't be scaled to solve the energy crisis across the world, it's conceivable that limited-scope solar roadways could be constructed around the world. However, large-scale solar roadways may never be more than a pipe dream.
By Ashutosh Pandey
In 1973, a handful of oil-rich countries, led by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, brought the mighty U.S. economy to its knees by slapping an oil embargo on Washington and its allies. The suspension of oil shipments from the Middle East to the U.S. and steep production cuts in retaliation for the Americans' support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, leading to fuel shortages and causing oil prices to go through the roof.
The ban was lifted within months following hectic negotiations, but not before it pushed the U.S. economy into its worst recession since World War II. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which until then had maintained a relatively low profile, mainly negotiating higher oil prices from major oil companies for its members, had emerged as a force to reckon with.
Nearly five decades later, OPEC remains only a pale shadow of its past glory, weakened by infighting within its ranks, the rise of the United States as a major oil exporter thanks to a shale boom, and a global push for renewable sources of energy amid climate change worries.
"OPEC is significant primarily as a political club. It fails economically as a cartel, but it does boost the prestige and standing of its members, most of whom would not otherwise have a seat at the table in world affairs," said Jeff Colgan, a professor at Brown University who authored the book Petro-Aggression: When Oil Causes War. "A functional cartel needs to set tough limits to production and stick to them. OPEC sets easy targets and still often fails to meet them," he told DW.
The bloc has seen its market share progressively diminish over the years, in part thanks to its efforts to artificially boost oil prices by holding back its own production. OPEC's share of the global oil market has fallen to around 30% from above 50% in 1973. It has also been hurt by involuntary losses in war-torn Libya and the fallout from U.S. sanctions in both Iran and Venezuela.
It was OPEC's weakness amid the rise of the U.S. as a major oil producer that prompted the once exclusive club to join hands with Russia and some other oil producers to form OPEC+ and attempt to balance the oil markets. The alliance's inception in 2016 was preceded by a disastrous campaign by the Saudi-led bloc to force weaker U.S. shale players out of business, which caused oil prices to collapse to around $30 a barrel. U.S. shale players then proved to be more resilient than the Saudis had expected — strong enough to push the U.S. to become the world's biggest oil producer.
Peak Oil Debate Heats Up Amid COVID-19 Crisis
The bloc's waning influence has coincided with oil's fall from grace. The fossil fuel has seen its share in the global energy mix diminish to about 33% from a peak of 50% in 1973, according to estimates by BP, as governments and companies shift to cleaner energy sources to combat climate change. By contrast, renewables, mostly from solar and wind, have seen their share rise, accounting for over 40% of global energy growth last year, according to BP's data.
"Oil isn't as significant or visible as it used to be. For example, do you know who the head of Exxon is? Probably not. Do you know who the head of Tesla is? Yes, Elon Musk," said Philippe Benoit, from consultancy Global Infrastructure Advisory Services 2050.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further dimmed oil's prospects. Global lockdowns brought cars, planes and trains to a screeching halt, causing oil consumption to drop by a quarter and oil prices to crash to multiyear lows, even trading below $0 a barrel in the US at one point. Transportation accounts for close to a third of the global oil demand.
Experts don't see the automobile and aviation sectors returning to their pre-pandemic levels for the next 3-5 years at least. The airline industry was touted to be the biggest growth engine for oil, riding on demand from people getting richer, but that now looks unlikely, especially over the next few years.
Oil industry leaders, including BP's chief executive, Bernard Looney, and Royal Dutch Shell's boss Ben van Beurden, have said the current crisis may cause the oil demand to peak sooner than expected.
"The backdrop of declining demand means that the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] and its Gulf allies would find it increasingly difficult to manipulate supply and boost prices for any length of time," Jason Tuvey, of Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients. "If prices are kept artificially high for an extended period, oil demand will end up declining at an even faster pace and the nimbleness of U.S. shale production means that non-OPEC supply will expand."
'OPEC Is a Saudi Mouthpiece'
OPEC was founded in Baghdad in September 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The bloc, which has expanded and contracted over the years, has been plagued by squabbles over strategy and regional power struggles, which have occasionally turned into full-blown conflicts like the Iran-Iraq war and Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Saudi Arabia, which produces a third of OPEC's oil, has remained the de facto leader of the bloc since the 1990s, when conflicts, corruption and poor management wrecked production in other member countries, including regional rivals Iran and Iraq.
Riyadh has oscillated between propping up crude oil prices and shielding its market share, often unilaterally. "OPEC is a Saudi mouthpiece," Colgan said. In March, when OPEC+ negotiations to cut output in response to the pandemic collapsed, Saudi Arabia launched a price war against Russia — much to the dismay of weaker OPEC members such as Nigeria and Angola, already bleeding due to low oil prices caused by Riyadh's 2015-16 misadventure.
Despite all its sway, Saudi Arabia has struggled to rein in the bloc's so-called cheaters, including Nigeria and Iraq, which have been notorious for failing to comply with pledged output cuts aimed at propping up oil prices. Riyadh, which is more vulnerable to low oil prices than other major oil producers with its break-even oil price exceeding $80 a barrel, has ended up doing much of the heavy lifting to ensure overall compliance.
Tuvey of Capital Economics says in the medium-term Saudi Arabia will scale back its efforts to prop up oil prices and revert to the strategy of shielding its market share at any cost to avoid leaving substantial quantities of oil stranded amid falling demand.
"Such a shift in policy, particularly if it were sudden and unexpected, would put some downward pressure on oil prices. But this is unlikely to be too troubling for the kingdom, and the government has proven its willingness to impose harsh fiscal austerity," Tuvey said. "Saudi policymakers won't have much sympathy for other producers that fail to adjust their economies to low oil prices."
Bigger Role for OPEC?
Yet it may be too early to write an obituary for the bloc, which has survived many crises in the past 60 years, eliciting comparisons to the proverbial cat with nine lives. Oil is likely to remain the world's most important commodity for years to come.
"Paradoxically, OPEC as an aggregator, a point of meeting for many producing nations, could potentially play a bigger role in managing the tensions of a contracting market among those oil producers," Benoit said.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By John R. Platt
When things get tough, many of us often turn to books for new information, inspiration or simple entertainment. Well, we've got you covered on all three counts, with 14 great new environmental books coming out this month. The list includes books for eco-interested kids, dedicated activists and everyone in between.
The publishing industry isn't immune to the economic threats posed by the current pandemic. Most local bookstores and libraries have closed their doors to customers and patrons, and many authors have needed to cancel their planned promotional tours. Publishers themselves are feeling the pinch, and at least three additional books that would have appeared on our list this month have been pushed back to later in the spring or summer.
But we're all adapting. Many publishers and bookstores will happily ship new books to you (or, in the case of local shops, offer curbside pickup). E-books may also be great options (they're often available through publishers or your local library website). The links below go to publishers' sites for each new book, which should provide you with a variety of options.
No matter how the books end up coming your way, may they offer the ideas and inspiration you need to keep you going and continuing to find ways to protect the planet.
1. Nature Obscura: A City’s Hidden Natural World by Kelly Brenner
With many of us currently restricted to our homes or neighborhoods, now's the perfect time to become a backyard naturalist (as we wrote recently). This magnificent book offers stories about the varied plants and wildlife that lives around us — even in the hearts of big cities — and ideas about how to make our urban ecosystems even wilder.
2. The Not BAD Animals by Sophie Corrigan
An utterly delightful kids' book that tries (and succeeds) to soften the reputation of the critters "that make us squirm and wriggle in our seats," but which, beneath their sharp teeth and odd habits, fulfill important roles in the world. You'll never look at a spider or vulture the same way again.
3 - 4. Becoming Wild and Beyond Words by Carl Safina
Two new books from the famed ecologist and bestselling author. The first, for adult audiences, examines "how animal cultures raise families, create beauty and achieve peace." The second, for younger readers, adapts one of Safina's earlier adult books and discusses the inner lives of wolves and dogs. Both are must-reads.
5. Green Meat? Sustaining Eaters, Animals and the Planet edited by Ryan M. Katz-Rosene and Sarah J. Martin
This book tackles some tough questions about meat, examining issues related to production and consumption through a wide and varied set of lenses. Throughout, the book and its contributors invite readers to examine what they eat, where it comes from and how it's produced. You won't find easy answers inside, but it'll give you something to chew on.
6 - 7. A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety by Sarah Jaquette Ray and Facing the Climate Emergency by Margaret Klein Salamon
"Climate grief" is both real and draining. These two complementary titles offer readers some great psychological tools necessary to keep going in these trying times — and beyond. Field Guide is aimed more at young adults ("the climate generation"), but both books provide key tips for turning your negative emotions into powerful action.
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Cars? Public Transit in the Age of Google, Uber and Elon Musk by James Wilt
Public transportation was already in crisis before the pandemic, thanks in no small part to the Koch brothers' assault on local transit systems. Things could get even worse now, with ridership in trains and busses on the decline while we maintain safe distance from each other, a trend that could undermine critical low-carbon transportation initiatives. This book, which addresses issues ranging from transit to electric cars to ridesharing, aims to provide a model for a greener future.
9 - 10. How Birds Work and How Insects Work by Marianne Taylor
These two heavily illustrated science books provide great insight into both intriguing groups of species. Taken together or individually, they may offer hours of fun educational opportunities in this era of home-schooling.
11. Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson
The pandemic reinforces the tragic reality that our systems are terribly broken. Many experts and activists feel that this crisis — which comes on top of the already existing climate and wildlife crises — also provides an opportunity for change. This book offers an ever-so-timely economic model, along with working examples, for a safer and more just future. (Expect several more books on similar topics in the months ahead.)
12. Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton
We probably shouldn't personally be visiting national parks during the pandemic, but here's the next best thing. This thoroughly delightful travelogue (from a CBS Sunday Morning correspondent) brings national parks to you and delivers a deeply personal and revelatory take on what makes America's natural spaces so important.
13. The Human Planet: Earth at the Dawn of the Anthropocene by George Steinmetz and Andrew Revkin
Steinmetz is renowned for his aerial photography projects, which often capture the stark reality of climate change, agriculture and sea-level rise. Revkin is a prominent environmental journalist and educator. Together they've delivered a beautiful, haunting coffee-table book that provides a powerful portrait of the ways we're changing the planet.
14. Sea Otters: A Survival Story by Isabelle Groc
Your required dose of cuteness combined with important conservation messages, all wrapped up in a fun and heavily illustrated book for teen readers. Dame Judy Dench provides the foreword, which may be the most unexpected fact in this whole column.
That's it for this month. Stay safe and stay tuned for another batch of books on May's list in a few short weeks. Until then you can find dozens of additional eco-books in the "Revelator Reads" archive.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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The company is planning its first European electric car and battery factory in the town of Gruenheide, but local environmental groups opposed the tree clearing necessary to construct it, Reuters explained. The court had issued a temporary injunction against the tree felling Sunday, The Guardian reported, but its decision now to allow the trees to be cleared is final and cannot be appealed, MarketWatch pointed out.
The factory has divided environmentalists in Germany, DW explained. On the one hand, Tesla plans to clear 92 hectares of forest for its factory. Local environmental groups are worried about how it will impact wildlife and water supply, and their vocal opposition has surprised authorities, according to Reuters. Demonstrations against the plant have drawn hundreds.
Local environmental group Grüne Liga Brandenburg (Green League Brandenburg) also argued that the company should not have been granted permission to clear trees until the March 5 deadline for environmental groups to comment on the factory, Bloomberg reported.
"To fell half of the forest when many aspects of this process are yet to be clarified seems fairly problematic, which is why we have asked the court to deal with it," Heinz-Herwig Mascher of Grüne Liga said, according to The Guardian. "It is not that we have something as such against Tesla as a company or its objectives. But we are concerned the preferential treatment they're being given could set a precedence."
On the other hand, the Gigafactory will produce at least 500,000 electric cars every a year, DW pointed out, making it part of the fight against the climate crisis. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also argued that the forest was not natural, but was planted for cardboard. He also said the plant would not use as much water as the peak estimates that had alarmed activists.
@EvaFoxU @Tesla Sounds like we need to clear up a few things! Tesla won’t use this much net water on a daily basis.… https://t.co/0oi9YhR8yh— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1579929424.0
Some environmental leaders took his side.
"[Y]ou don't always have to oppose everything," Berlin Green Party politician Ramona Pop said, as DW reported. "It is absurd to declare a pine plantation as a forest. We need to keep some perspective. Tesla's future investment should be allowed quickly for clean mobility and climate protection."
In its ruling Thursday, the court decided that the local authorities did not violate any laws when they allowed work on the factory to start, Bloomberg reported. Their decision means that Tesla should be able to finish clearing and begin construction before the breeding and nesting period for local wildlife in mid March. This will put the company on track to meeting its goal of opening the Gigafactory in the middle of 2021.Musk said on Twitter that the plant would be designed with "sustainability and the environment in mind," and that the company would plant three trees for every tree cut down.
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Tesla just unveiled its first electric truck.
CEO Elon Musk showed off the new design at a launch event at the company's Design Studio in Hawthorne, California Thursday.
"We need sustainable energy now," Musk said, according to Reuters. "If we don't have a pickup truck, we can't solve it. The top 3 selling vehicles in America are pickup trucks. To solve sustainable energy, we have to have a pickup truck."
But some commentators questioned whether Tesla's new electric vehicle would attract traditional pickup buyers. Teslas and other electric vehicles tend to sell in the coastal U.S., while truck sales are highest in the Midwest, CNN pointed out. The overall electric truck market is not expected to be large in the near future, according to Reuters: tracking firm IHS Markit estimates electric trucks will only account for about 75,000 sales in 2026 compared to three million trucks sold total. (These estimates do not account for the Tesla model.)
Then there's the design of the truck itself, which is, as CNN described, far from traditional:
When the truck initially drove onto the stage, many in the crowd clearly couldn't believe that this was actually the vehicle they'd come to see. The Cybertruck looks like a large metal trapezoid on wheels, more like an art piece than a truck.
Instead of a distinctly separate cab and bed, the body appears to be a single form. The exterior is made from a newly developed stainless steel alloy, Musk said, the same metal that's used for SpaceX rockets.
The futuristic design may not appeal to typical truck lovers.
"It will be a niche product at best and poses no threat in the pickup market as we know it today," Kelley Blue Book senior managing editor Matt DeLorenzo told CNN.
However, fellow Kelley Blue Book employee executive publisher Karl Brauer thought the truck would appeal to a different market — fans of high tech.
"Everything from its styling to its drivetrain will be a major departure from standard pickup trucks," he said in a statement reported by The New York Times. "As a technology statement for tech-oriented professionals and fans, this truck's departures from the norm will be seen as assets, not liabilities."
Tesla announced three models at different prices: a $39,900 single-motor rear wheel drive, a $49,900 dual motor all wheel drive and a $69,900 tri-motor all wheel drive. The most expensive car will be able to tow 14,000 pounds and drive 500 miles before recharging. The cheapest model will be able to travel half that, according to CNN.
Production on the trucks is expected to begin in late 2021 and they are now available for order on the Tesla website, The New York Times reported.
The truck is also advertised as being especially resilient. Musk said its doors could resist a bullet from a nine millimeter handgun, and Tesla's chief designer Franz von Holzhausen hit them with a sledge hammer during the unveiling to prove their strength. They remained undented.
A test of the windows, however, did not go as well. When von Holzhausen threw a metal ball at the front and near left windows, they smashed.
Musk swore and then said, "Room for improvement," BBC News reported.
"It didn't go through, that's a plus side," Musk said further, according to BBC News. "We threw wrenches, we threw literally the kitchen sink at the glass and it didn't break. For some reason it broke now… I don't know why."
Jessica Caldwell of vehicle marketplace Edmunds told BBC News she thought the "fail" would overshadow the announcement of the new truck.
Tesla isn't the only company looking to make electric trucks in the coming years. Both General Motors and Ford plan to sell electric trucks by the end of 2021, according to Reuters. Ford also invested $500 million in a startup called Rivian, which plans to build electric trucks starting in the fall of 2020.
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By Fiona E. McNeill
The Michigan community of Flint has become a byword for lead poisoning. Elon Musk recently entered the fray. He tweeted a promise to pay to fix the water in any house in Flint that had water contamination above acceptable levels set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
On Twitter and elsewhere, people argued whether this offer was a big deal or not. Some said his follow-up tweets that most houses in Flint had safe water were wrong. Some said the issue had already been fixed so he was doing nothing.
@DylanSheaMusic Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has… https://t.co/UT3wmEE0m8— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1531342347.0
Others argued that his clarification that he would pay to fit water filters in the small number of houses with high lead levels ("outliers," as he called them) meant he was backtracking.
Even as controversy swirls this week around Musk's financial contribution to a Republican fundraising committee and his comments about a British cave rescuer in Thailand, I argue the Tesla founder has made an important offer regarding Flint. What's more, he's clearly explored the issues surrounding lead in the town's drinking water.
I have studied lead exposure for 30 years. I develop biomedical devices to measure long-term exposure. I recently showed that long-term exposure to lead in Canada has been reduced by half since the early 1990s.
I know that removing lead from drinking water is important because lead is such a toxic metal. It lowers children's IQs, and my colleagues and I showed that lead-exposed children have higher blood pressure late in life. We also found that women exposed to lead undergo menopause earlier than non-exposed women.
In Flint, controls of lead levels in drinking water failed, and an increased number of children were exposed to high lead levels for months. These children will suffer long-term consequences to their health and quality of life.
The children were lead poisoned in Flint because of poor management, complacency and intransigence.
Like many municipalities in North America, a proportion of the water lines in Flint are made of lead. Water running through lead pipes picks up small amounts of the metal, but more lead dissolves when the water is warm and/or acidic.
In April 2014, the city switched the source of water to the Flint River. This water was corrosive, and they failed to add corrosion control. More lead dissolved into the water and children drinking tap water were poisoned. The switch in water supply increased the number of children with blood lead levels above the U.S. action level of 5 µg/dL by 50 percent.
Government Officials Prolonged Crisis
It took months for the problem to be acknowledged and some state officials "stubbornly worked to discredit and dismiss others' attempts to bring the issues of unsafe water… to light" and "prolonged the Flint water crisis." The source of water was finally switched back, and slowly lead levels in drinking water and the number of children with blood levels above the action level fell.
As of 2018, the state of Michigan's sampling data of high-risk areas in Flint shows that four per cent of water samples in Flint over a six-month period had lead level levels above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory level of 15 parts per billion.
As Musk noted, most of the tap water in Flint (more than 90 percent) is indeed safe by the EPA standard. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced the withdrawal of supplies of bottled water in April 2018, arguing that tap-water testing met federal guidelines and declaring the crisis over.
But that doesn't mean that lead has been completely eliminated. There are still properties in the city in 2018 with tested levels that exceed the EPA standard. While ongoing work to replace pipes, some the result of lawsuits, should mean lower levels of lead in the community's tap water in the future, it can cause spikes in lead water levels as particular pipes are cut apart and replaced.
Musk went further in his Tweets than a commitment to water levels below the EPA standard. He committed to fixing the water in any house that exceeded Food and Drug Administration (FDA) levels.
In the U.S., bottled water and tap water are regulated at different levels. The FDA (bottled) water level is three times lower than the EPA limit at five parts per billion. The state data from high-risk areas in Flint from January to July 2018 shows that 50 to 100 per cent more samples fail at this level.
And so by using the FDA standard, Musk is committing to paying to add filters to the water supply in potentially twice the number of homes in high-risk areas.
Lead can be removed from water by filtration. Some filters work better than others, but even low-cost filters can work well, so Musk's pledge to add filtration to house water supplies could work as an interim measure. Free water filters and replacement cartridges are available at City Hall, but as Musk noted in his Tweets, some local people distrust the state agency information and the filters. Who can blame them?
@elonmusk Hey Elon! Sean Hollister here with CNET. Can you confirm this is 100% real... and any comment on reports… https://t.co/uDuhPH6niW— Sean Hollister (@Sean Hollister)1531343892.0
The official report of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force notes that state officials tried to discredit the issue of unsafe water. Why would people in Flint accept on faith an offer of help from government, when governments have failed them?
Elon Musk may have an important role to play, not as an engineer and an installer of filters, but as an arm's-length third party whose help can be believed. The mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, has said her conversation with Musk's team gave her hope that Musk could help with improving local confidence in water quality.
If Musk can help achieve safe drinking water more quickly for every home in Flint, then he should be lauded. Water is life. Giving all of the residents of Flint confidence in the safety of the tap water in their homes helps restore their lives and dignity.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
The car is a compact SUV that will have a range of 300 miles, The Verge reported. Three versions will be available for sale in fall of 2020: a $47,000 long-range version, a $51,000 all-wheel drive dual-motor version and a $60,000 performance version. A cheaper standard version with a 230 mile range will sell for $39,000, but won't be available until 2021.
The Model Y looks essentially like a larger version of the Model 3, the company's first mast-market car, according to The Verge. The Model 3 just became available for its target $35,000 price two weeks ago, three years after the car was first announced.
The announcement comes at a difficult time for Tesla, BBC News reported. Musk was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2018 after tweeting about Tesla going private. The launch in 2019 of the $35,000 Model 3 came with a decision to lower prices across the board, at the expense of closing the majority of the company's retail outlets. But customers, employees and landlords complained, so the company reversed course and raise prices again, except for on the Model 3s, according to The Verge and BBC News.
Tesla car prices go up ~3% next week, except for $35k Model 3. Order online at https://t.co/46TXqRrsdr before then for current prices.— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1552363358.0
In addition, Consumer Reports revoked its recommendation of the Mode 3 in February, saying customers had reported problems with body hardware, paint and trim.
Executive Director of Industry Analysis at Edmunds Jessica Caldwell told The Verge the Model Y could be an important car for Tesla if it plays its cards right, seeing as SUVs currently sell very well in the U.S.:
"If Tesla truly wants to be a mainstream brand, it's going to have to figure out how to sell cars to people besides young men in California," Caldwell said in a statement. "Tesla has the right foundation for the Model Y to be a turning point: Tesla has the youngest buyer base of any luxury brand, and the Model X has more female buyers than any other vehicle in the brand's lineup. If the Model Y is priced right, offers a roomy interior, and delivers flawless safety and quality, it has the potential to be the 'it' vehicle for young families."
But Tesla does have competition. Most German automakers either already do or soon will ship electric SUVs.Transit, driven largely by fossil-fuel-powered cars and other land vehicles, is the fastest growing source of climate-change causing emissions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO.) The sector is also currently responsible for the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at 28 percent, according to the most up-to-date data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"We are incredibly excited to announce that the standard Model 3, with 220 miles of range, a top speed of 130 mph and 0-60 mph acceleration of 5.6 seconds is now available at $35,000!" the company announced in a blog post. "Although lower in cost, it is built to achieve the same perfect 5-star safety rating as the longer-ranged version, which has the lowest probability of injury of any car ever tested by the U.S. Government."
$35,000 Tesla Model 3 Available Now https://t.co/xZ0J4rbbgM— Tesla (@Tesla)1551392579.0
This is now the cheapest electric vehicle on offer from the company, bringing the Model 3 price-point down from the $42,900 it went for after a price reduction this February.
"From the beginning, this has been the goal," Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on a press call reported by The Verge. "It's an incredible car."
The car is available to order now online in the U.S. and will be available in Europe and China in three to six months.
In addition to the newly-discounted Model 3, Tesla also announced other variations on the car at newly low prices, including a Model 3 Standard Range Plus for $37,000 that gets 240 miles on the charge and a Mid Range for $40,000 that gets 264 miles per charge.
Model 3s now available Standard Range: 220mi, $35k Standard Range Plus: 240mi, $37k Mid Range: 264mi, $40k Long R… https://t.co/A891MuqeJK— Tesla (@Tesla)1551399077.0
The move squares with the goal of the company as announced by Musk in 2017, according to USA Today.
"The whole point of Tesla was to build a great affordable electric car," Musk said when the first Model 3s were released.
The lower prices come at a cost though: Tesla is moving to all online sales. This is what allowed the company to reduce all vehicle prices by an average of six percent. The company will shut down most of its retail stores, keeping a few open in particularly busy locations as showcases and information hubs. This means Tesla will have to lay off staff, Musk admitted on the press call reported by The Verge.
"There's no other way for us to achieve the savings required to provide this car and be financially sustainable," he said. "I wish there was some other way, but unfortunately, it will entail reduction in force on the retail side. There's no way around it."
In order to bypass the need for a test drive, the company touted a generous return policy.
"You can now return a car within 7 days or 1,000 miles for a full refund. Quite literally, you could buy a Tesla, drive several hundred miles for a weekend road trip with friends and then return it for free. With the highest consumer satisfaction score of any car on the road, we are confident you will want to keep your Tesla," the announcement said.
Musk hinted at the announcement with a cryptic series of three tweets on Wednesday.
"Thursday 2pm." "California." "Some Tesla news." he wrote.
Some Tesla news— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk)1551255713.0
Musk has gotten in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) before for his tweets, as USA Today explained:
On Monday, the SEC filed a claim against Musk for not complying with an agreement reached with the Wall Street regulatory agency in late September. The SEC accused Musk of securities fraud after the Tesla chairman tweeted that "Tesla made 0 cars in 2011, but will make around 500k in 2019."
It is not known if Tesla approved Musk's tweets Wednesday, but they caused its stock to jump five percent.Transportation is responsible for the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the most up-to-date data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most of this is due to the burning of fossil fuels for vehicles including cars.
Top Clean Cars and Trucks of 2018 https://t.co/GEEUua5BX6 #renewable #solar #wind #PV https://t.co/ZX5w810xNn— Renewable Search (@Renewable Search)1518271815.0
When it goes live in three months, Hyundai's 150-megawatt system will overtake Tesla's 100-megawatt facility in South Australia as the world's largest industrial energy storage system, Independent.ie reported. Sorry, Elon Musk.
It's an exciting—albeit geeky—race to help the planet wean off environmentally harmful fossil fuels. That's because if we want to accelerate the world's renewable energy transition, we'll have to modernize the energy grid and much of that depends on energy storage technology.
Tesla famously built its ginormous battery within 100 days after Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes dared Musk to help fix the South Australian's electricity woes. The system, which is connected to Neoen's Hornsdale wind farm, has exceeded expectations after switching on about a year ago. The lightning-fast system has saved about $40 million in grid stabilization costs, prevented blackouts and helped restore confidence in the state's energy resources, the Australian Financial Review noted.
Hyundai's $45 million battery is being built for the metal smelting company KoreaZinc, which intends to be energy self-sufficient and wants to reduce electricity costs, according to Climate Action. The company estimates it will save almost $60 million in electricity expenses over the next three years once the facility is built. KoreaZinc is also complying with the South Korean government's larger efforts to boost renewables and mitigate air pollution, the publication added.
These large-scale projects are enabled by less expensive battery prices, with prices dropping by almost half since 2014, according to Bloomberg.
Other entrepreneurs are joining in the big battery race, including billionaire Sanjeev Gupta's SIMEC ZEN Energy, which plans to build a 120-megawatt battery near Adelaide. Tesla is also vying to build another giant Powerpack system in Colorado for Xcel Energy Inc., an electric utility operating in eight Western and Midwestern states.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimated that developers announced 1,650 megawatts per hour of new lithium-ion battery projects in 2017, four times the amount for all of 2016.
"Musk has set a benchmark on how quickly you can install and commission a battery of this size," Ali Asghar, a BNEF senior associate, said in a Bloomberg interview.
Falling costs are "making them a compelling mainstream option for energy-storage applications in many areas around the world, and projects even bigger than Tesla's are now under construction."
Battery Storage Revolution Could 'Sound the Death Knell for Fossil Fuels' https://t.co/HXbegsfUqn @Tesla @elonmusk… https://t.co/7d7APPuBUd— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1516303748.0
In the event of World War III, the only way for humanity to survive is to colonize Mars or the moon, according to Elon Musk.
"I'm not predicting that we're about to enter the dark ages, but there's some probability that we will, particularly if there's a third world war," the SpaceX and Tesla founder said during a question and answer session at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference in Austin on Sunday ahead of President Donald Trump's possible nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"We want to make sure there's enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and, perhaps, shorten the length of the dark ages," Musk continued during his chat with Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of HBO's Westworld.
"It's important to get a self-sustaining base ideally on Mars, because Mars is far enough away from Earth that [if there's a war on Earth] the Mars base is more likely to survive than a moon base," he said. "But I think a moon base and a Mars base that could perhaps regenerate life back here on Earth would be really important."
Musk's remarks—which you can watch below—are similar to comments made by theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who also thinks that humanity needs to colonize Mars, the moon or other planets in order survive threats such as climate change.
Elon Musk wants a self-sustaining base for human civilization, ideally on Mars, in case WWIII on Earth #tictocnews https://t.co/lEwBrwE0I9— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Bloomberg Quicktake)1520792894.0
Musk said it will not be easy for the first people living in space.
"The moon and Mars are often thought of as some escape hatch for rich people, but it won't be that at all," he said. "Really it kind of reads like Shackleton's ad for Antarctic explorers ... difficult, dangerous, good chance you'll die, excitement for those who would survive."
Once the space settlers are established, the billionaire visionary envisions a "direct democracy" for Martian colonies, "where people vote directly on issues instead of going through a representative government."
Musk suggested that SpaceX will be ready to fly a rocket to Mars in 2019.
"I think we'll be able to do short flights, sort of up-and-down flights, probably some time in the first half of next year," he said.
However, he admitted this interplanetary project, like many of his other grand plans, could be a little too ambitious.
"People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic, and so I'm trying to recalibrate to some degree here."
Elsewhere in his wide-ranging interview at SXSW, Musk spoke about the threat of climate change and why there must be a price on carbon.
"Anything that pushes carbon into the atmosphere … has to have a price," Musk said.
Musk, whose many companies build electric vehicles, batteries and solar panels, has spoken frequently about his vision of a cleaner, more sustainable future.
"In the absence of a price, we sort of pretend that digging up trillions of tons of fossil fuels and putting in the atmosphere … won't have a bad outcome," he said. "It's up to people and [their] governments to put a price on carbon."
Tesla Installing World's Largest Solar Rooftop on Nevada Gigafactory https://t.co/HG8WuegadG @solarfeeds @cleantechnica— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1520289309.0
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One of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. is from burning fossil fuels for transportation, so accelerating the electrification of our planes, trains and automobiles is crucial in a clean energy future.
In a recent interview with CNBC's Squawk Box, Bob Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America, spoke about the Japanese automaker's plans to offer an electrified option for every model in the Toyota and Lexus line-up by 2025. This includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids, full electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
"We are working on an entire portfolio of hybrids which we have been selling since 1997, plug-in hybrids, full battery electric vehicles as well as our fuel cell vehicles," Carter said on the show. "Those vehicles represent about 9 percent of our sales in 2018. We have set a goal that it will be 15 percent of our sales next year in 2020."
Toyota aims for electrified option for every model by 2025 www.youtube.com
Toyota's ambitions are a major shift away from traditional gas guzzling vehicles—and that commitment should be commended.
However, instead of pouring its resources into purely electric cars—à la Elon Musk's Tesla—Toyota is focusing more on gas-electric vehicles.
"Our strategy is to keep utilizing our hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and eventually bring in battery-electric vehicles as the market grows," Carter told CNBC.
But Toyota could be missing the boat by sidestepping fully electric cars, sales of which are taking off and poised to accelerate.
"Toyota's emphasis on hybrids comes at a time when U.S. demand for the traditional gas-electric vehicle is dropping. LMC Automotive estimates full hybrid sales in the U.S. fell 6 percent last year, while Toyota's hybrid sales dropped 5 percent.
The lower price of gasoline gives potential buyers less incentive to opt for a hybrid over a model powered by an internal combustion engine. Another factor: The growing number of electric models for sale gives eco-friendly buyers the option to plug in and stop pumping gas. In that area, Tesla, not Toyota has become the clear leader."
Toyota sold about 28,000 plug-ins in U.S. last year, compared to the 191,000 EVs Tesla reportedly sold, LeBeau noted.
Fred Lambert, the editor in chief of the electric vehicle blog Electrek, also said it was "dumb" for Toyota to not focus on a mass-market EV.
"If the EV market is small right now, it's not because people don't want to buy EVs, it's because the industry is not manufacturing enough attractive all-electric vehicles at a decent price," he wrote in a blog post.
Toyota's commitment to an electrified fleet was announced in Decemeber 2017 an environmental push. The company said it would no longer develop models without an electrified version.
"Electrified vehicles, which are effective for economical consumption of fuel and promoting usage of alternative fuels, are indispensable in helping to solve current environmental issues," Toyota said then in a press release.
Government subsidies for electric vehicles and solar panels are an important tool to help accelerate a clean energy… https://t.co/1NhzEYsvK0— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1544002571.0