By Jim Palardy
As 2021 dawns, people, ecosystems, and wildlife worldwide are facing a panoply of environmental issues. In an effort to help experts and policymakers determine where they might focus research, a panel of 25 scientists and practitioners — including me — from around the globe held discussions in the fall to identify emerging issues that deserve increased attention.
- Six Eco-Friendly Pledges for 2021 - EcoWatch ›
- A 10-Step Plan to Save Our Seas - EcoWatch ›
- Bitcoin's 'Staggering' Energy Consumption Raises Climate Concerns - EcoWatch ›
By Tara Lohan
How much of U.S. energy demand could be met by renewable sources?
According to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the answer is an easy 100%.
Graphic: ILSR, Energy Self-Reliant States 2020
- 100% Renewable Energy Is Possible, Here's How - EcoWatch ›
- Solar Is the Fastest-Growing Source of Renewable Energy in America ›
- Cheers! Budweiser Switches All U.S. Brewing to Renewables ... ›
- Offshore Wind Power Is Ready to Boom. Here’s What That Means for Wildlife - EcoWatch ›
- Winter Storm in Texas Sparks Renewable Energy Debate - EcoWatch ›
- Renewable Energy Smashes Records in 2020 ›
Kidney stones are hard deposits that form in the kidneys. They are produced when minerals and salts, most commonly calcium oxalate, crystallize in the kidneys, creating hard, crystal-like stones. If you've ever had a kidney stone, we're sure you won't want to repeat the experience!
Ideally, you never want to have to go through this painful process. Fortunately, several steps and natural treatments can be used to reduce the chances of suffering them. In this article we'll examine how these annoying solidifications originate and how to treat them effectively and quickly with natural remedies.
By Brett Wilkins
Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.
- Hundreds of Thousands of Migratory Birds 'Falling Out of the Sky' in ... ›
- Scientists at Work: Sloshing Through Marshes To See How Birds ... ›
- Trump Finalizes Rollback of Migratory Bird Treaty Act ›
By Jo Harper
Only 10% of global energy utility companies are expanding their renewable energy capacity at a faster rate than their gas or coal-fired capacity. That is the main finding of a study by Galina Alova from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford.
The Matter of Gas<p>The report found that 10% of utilities favored growth in gas-fired power plants, dominated by the US utilities exploiting the country's shale gas reserves, followed by Russia and Germany.</p><p>"Renewables and natural gas often go hand in hand," Alova said, adding that companies often choose both in parallel. "So, it might be just in media reports we are getting this image of investing in renewables, but less coverage on continued investment in gas." </p><p>It might also be the case that gas is viewed as a transition fuel, relatively less carbon emitting and providing load-balancing services to intermittent renewables generation, Alova said.</p><p>Dave Jones, senior electricity analyst for independent climate think tank Ember, agrees with Alova that utilities have hindered the transition by "misunderstanding the future of gas." Utilities have a mindset to build big centralized power plants, replacing a coal power plant with a gas power plant, he said. "Fortunately, most of the gas hype across the world is now dying down, as wind and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/cheap-solar-energy-prices-explained/a-53590607" target="_blank">solar now provide cheaper options</a> for generating electricity," Jones said.</p>
Green Movement Taking Place<p>Over a fifth of Europe's energy was generated by solar panels and wind turbines in the first half of 2020, according to a report by Ember. Denmark came out on top, generating 64% of its energy from these renewable sources, followed by Ireland (49%) and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/renewables-make-up-over-half-of-germanys-power-mix/a-52986924" target="_blank">Germany</a> (42%).</p><p>In Ember's half-year review released in July, renewables exceeded fossil fuel generation for the first time ever, producing 40% of the EU's power, with fossil fuels contributing 34%. However, globally only a tenth of all energy was generated by these sources during the first half of 2020. </p><p>Last year saw the use of coal to generate electricity around the world fall by a record 3%. In part due to COVID-19, coal generation in the first half of 2020 again broke records with a drop of 8.3%. In the EU, the drop was higher, as coal energy generation fell by nearly a third.</p>
Slowly Getting There?<p>Utilities have been slow to understand how quickly wind and solar would drop in price, and also how quickly governments would want to move away from coal. "Many utilities have been caught off guard by the speed of the transition, and have suffered financially ever since," said Jones.</p><p>The world this year has generated one-tenth of its electricity from wind and solar, double from the 5% in 2015, and that increase has led to a fall in market share of coal generation, Jones added. </p><p>Valentina Kretzschmar from consultancy Wood Mackenzie says BP's recently announced strategy has created a new industry benchmark. BP plans to increase investment in its low-emission businesses, including renewable energy, by tenfold in the next decade to $5 billion (€4.5 billion) a year, while cutting back oil and gas production by 40%.</p><p>In July, Royal Dutch Shell won a deal to build a wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands, while France's Total has agreed to make several large investments in solar power in Spain and a wind farm off Scotland. Total also bought an electric and natural gas utility in Spain. Shell has said it will <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mexico-sells-rights-to-19-offshore-oil-fields-for-over-500-million/a-42393559" target="_blank">delay offshore oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico</a> and in the North Sea.</p><p>US giants like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, however, have been slower than their European counterparts to commit to climate goals.</p><p>"I have seen a substantial shift between companies in the fossil fuel clusters toward renewables," Alova said. "This signals that the companies that have been growing fossil fuel portfolios in the earlier time periods might be switching to renewables more recently."</p>
By Ajit Niranjan
It's a question that preys on our readers' minds: Can we invent our way out of climate breakdown?
But experts say there is no silver bullet to protect the climate — and that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the surest known way to prevent further warming.
Solar Panels and Wind Turbines<p>What may be the biggest innovation to combat climate change has been around for decades.</p><p><a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/solar" target="_blank">Solar panels</a> and <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/wind" target="_blank">wind turbines</a> turn sun and wind into electricity without releasing greenhouse gases. As the technologies have scaled up and converted energy more efficiently, they have come down in price to become <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/green-growth-africa-chooses-between-renewables-and-fossil-fuels/a-51510277" target="_blank">cheaper than fossil fuels</a> globally.</p><p>"Solar and wind being cheap and reliable and performing well opens up a lot of possibilities," said Gregory Nemet, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has written a book on how solar energy became cheap. "Even as we've had 30 years of politicians dithering and not as much progress as most people would have hoped, in the background, technology has been progressing."</p><p>But generating clean energy is one thing — storing and distributing it is another. This is particularly important for renewables that cannot generate electricity without the sun shining or wind blowing.</p><p>Three things suggest innovation is overcoming these hurdles, said Nemet. "That's renewables getting better, batteries allowing you to store electricity and then information in the system allowing you to manage it better."</p>
Batteries for Electric Vehicles<p>The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded three scientists a Nobel prize in October for their work in <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/nobel-prize-for-chemistry-awarded-for-the-development-of-lithium-ion-batteries/a-50737075" target="_blank">developing lithium-ion batteries</a>, which they say have "revolutionized our lives since they first entered the market in 1991" — and continue to advance.</p><p>Lighter and smaller than earlier rechargeable batteries, lithium batteries can also be charged faster and more often. As their weight and price continue to fall, they are playing an increasingly pivotal role in decarbonizing the transport sector by making <a href="http://www.ecowatch.com/tag/electric-vehicles" target="_blank">electric vehicles</a> cheaper.</p><p>"Battery storage will be critical," said Joao Gouveia, a senior fellow at Project Drawdown, a research organization that analyzes climate solutions. "It will allow the integration of more and more renewable tech. We cannot have 70 percent [of renewable energy by 2050] coming from wind and solar if we don't apply battery storage systems."</p><p>Holding batteries back are aging electricity grids and costs that, despite falling each year, remain high.</p><p>But electric vehicles could act as a storage system, said Gouveia, with owners buying electricity at night to charge their cars and selling it to the grid when demand is high and cars are parked, idle, during the day. "We are finding new lithium reserves because this is a tech for both markets, so we're innovating more and more."</p><p>While the global electric vehicle fleet has grown rapidly — passing 5 million cars in 2018, data from the International Energy Agency shows — this progress has been dwarfed by a rise in larger and less efficient SUVs that run on fossil fuels. Four in 10 new cars sold globally in 2018 were SUVs.</p>
Power-to-X<p>Another way to store renewable energy is using electrolyzers to extract hydrogen from water. The process, also known as power-to-X, is a way of storing energy in different forms. Engineers run an electric current through water and collect the hydrogen molecules that break off. These can be burned for heat, stored in fuel cells or turned into chemicals such as methane for processes that require fossil fuels.</p><p>"It's a great way to decarbonize the heating, mobility and chemical sector," said David Wortmann, a board member of Energy Watch Group, a German NGO. "It's scaleable — the tech is all there. The industry is young, you have manufacturers out there to produce an electrolyzer. But the demand is not there yet, the regulations are not in place."</p><p>Hydrogen could also help decarbonize a high-polluting sector that has mostly been overlooked: heavy industry.</p><p>The high heat needed to process industrial materials — such as concrete, iron, steel, and petrochemicals — is responsible for about 10 percent of global CO2 emissions, according to a report from the Center on Global Energy Policy in October. The cement industry alone is responsible for about 8 percent of CO2 emissions, mostly in production. This is more than three times the CO2 emissions of the aviation industry.</p><p>Burning hydrogen from renewable energy sources could meet industrial heating needs cleanly, said Jeff Rissmann, head of modeling at Energy Innovation, a research firm. "Moving to hydrogen can have a huge impact across many sectors, and would be one of the biggest ways to decarbonize the global economy."</p>
Carbon Capture and Storage<p>Even under optimistic scenarios for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, scientists say we will not meet targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius without removing some of the CO2 we have already emitted. The IPCC projects between 100 billion and 1 trillion tons of CO2 would need to be removed this century.</p><p>Trees and plants that extract CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into oxygen through photosynthesis are one way of doing this. But they take up large tracts of land — which is needed for other purposes such as growing food — and are not a secure way of storing carbon, because they may be felled for firewood or burned in forest fires.</p><p>Some companies are experimenting with <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/carbon-capture-expensive-risky-and-indispensable/a-43172422" target="_blank">capturing CO2</a> from power plants and storing it deep underground. By doing this with biomass plants — where recently-grown plant matter is burned and not ancient fossils — then power can be produced while reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.</p><p>But with just 19 facilities running such systems, its deployment is not happening quickly enough to meet emissions reductions targets, according to a report from the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.</p>
- Oil Companies Are Thinking About a Low-Carbon Future, but Aren't ... ›
- How Hot Would It Get If We Burned All Our Fossil Fuels? - EcoWatch ›
- Can We Reach 100% Renewable Energy in Time to Avoid Climate ... ›
- 25 Opportunities to Save the Planet After COVID-19 ›
By Jo Harper
Investment in U.S. offshore wind projects are set to hit $78 billion (€69 billion) this decade, in contrast with an estimated $82 billion for U.S. offshore oil and gasoline projects, Wood Mackenzie data shows. This would be a remarkable feat only four years after the first offshore wind plant — the 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island — started operating in U.S. waters.
Corporates Shift<p>Helping to drive offshore growth, U.S. corporate buyers <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/cities-leading-the-transition-to-renewables/a-42850621" target="_blank">are increasingly relying on wind energy to power their businesses</a>. Walmart and AT&T are the two top corporate wind buyers, while 14 newcomers entered the wind market in 2019, including Estée Lauder and McDonald's.</p><p>"Oil and gas companies have jumped into the U.S. offshore wind market, where they can transfer expertise in offshore fossil fuel development to clean energy investments," says Max Cohen, principal analyst, Americas Power & Renewable research at Wood Mackenzie. Many international oil and gas companies have already recognized this huge potential and entered the US offshore wind market, including Orsted, Equinor and Shell.</p><p>"Given the recent tumult in oil prices, fossil fuel companies may more and more be looking to diversify their portfolios, particularly with assets that are contracted or offer returns uncorrelated with oil and gas," Cohen says. "Offshore wind is an area where they may have a comparative advantage, and they can then leverage the experience with that technology to make the leap to onshore wind, solar, and other renewable technologies," he says.</p>
East Coast leads the way<p>"There is enormous opportunity, especially off the East Coast, for wind. I am very bullish," said former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "Market excitement is moving towards offshore wind. I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm from industry since the Bakken shale boom," he said.</p><p>Offshore wind initiatives require excessive upfront spending: a 250 MW venture costs about $1 billion, based on International Energy Agency data, but as costs fall the tipping point after which costs fall faster gets nearer</p><p>"The opportunity has been created by Northeastern states seeing the large price declines for offshore wind in Europe," says Cohen. Onshore wind is historically the lowest cost renewable resource, but is at its most expensive in the Northeast, he adds. "But costs are falling slower than for other technologies," he says.</p>
Jobs and Coastal Revitalization<p>U.S. wind energy now supports 120,000 US jobs and 530 domestic factories. A study by the University of Delaware predicted that the supply chain needed to build offshore turbines to feed power to seven East Coast states by 2030 would generate nearly $70 billion in economic activity and at least 40,000 full-time jobs. An American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA's) March 2020 report estimated that developing 30,000 MW of offshore wind along the East Coast could support up to 83,000 jobs and $25 billion in annual economic output by 2030.</p><p>Having said that, not all of the jobs are American jobs. The offshore wind developers with commercial leases in the US are all foreign companies. There is growing interest from the shipbuilding sector in the Gulf of Mexico in partnering with offshore wind companies to provide services. As a result, some of the US oil trade associations have submitted comments supporting certain aspects of offshore wind. "However, it is unclear to what extent offshore wind developers plan to use US vessels and crew, and the existing projects did not incorporate US vessels or labor at all," Hawkins says.</p>
- World's Cheapest Offshore Wind Farm to Power 600,000 Homes ... ›
- Offshore Wind Power Could Produce More Electricity Than World ... ›
- Offshore Wind Power Is Ready to Boom. Here’s What That Means for Wildlife - EcoWatch ›
By Douglas Broom
Artificial reefs play an important role in protecting offshore installations like wind farms. Unprotected, the turbine masts are exposed to tidal scouring, undermining their foundations.
Home from home: Reef cubes encourage marine biodiversity. ARC Marine
By Jessica Corbett
Federal regulators on Thursday released a pair of decisions expected to impact the expansion of renewable power nationwide—one that was celebrated by environmentalists and clean energy advocates as a crucial win and another that critics warned "could lead to more pollution by propping up fossil fuel power plants."
- Solar Panels Bring a New Vision for Farming - EcoWatch ›
- San Francisco Becomes First Major City to Require Solar Panels on ... ›
- How Solar Panels Can Boost Your Home's Value by Nearly $6,000 ... ›
- A Fair Clean Energy Transition Will Make a Stronger Society for All - EcoWatch ›
- Cheaper Solar Power Means Lower-Income Families Could Benefit - EcoWatch ›
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fdd0d7f170baa2b9806df4374501cba3"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/obgP1PRaj8s?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Ask a Scientist: Electric Vehicles are the Cleanest Option Today ... ›
- Texas Blackouts Reveal How Electric Vehicles Can Provide Power ... ›
- Big Oil Gearing Up to Battle Electric Vehicles - EcoWatch ›
By Ajit Niranjan
Shortly before he shot dead 22 mostly Hispanic people in El Paso, Texas, a little over a year ago, a white supremacist wrote in his online manifesto: "If we can get rid of enough people, then our way of life can be more sustainable." He was inspired by a terrorist in Christchurch, New Zealand, who five months earlier had killed 51 Muslim worshippers in attacks on two mosques and identified as an "eco-fascist."
Unequal Emissions<p>Overpopulation is a convenient idea. To some, it means their <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/our-consumption-choices-are-driving-biodiversity-loss/a-46423178" target="_blank">consumption</a> isn't what's damaging the planet, but rather the sheer mass of people — so there's little point in changing their behavior.</p><p>The IHME study says fewer people on the planet would mean lower carbon emissions, less stress on global food systems and less chance of "transgressing planetary boundaries."</p><p>But the problem, scientists say, is that people <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-global-injustice-of-the-climate-crisis-food-insecurity-carbon-emissions-nutrients-a-49966854/a-49966854" target="_blank">do not emit equally</a>.</p><p>"It's this extremely superficial analysis," said Arvind Ravikumar, assistant professor of energy engineering at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.</p><p>Population growth has increased greenhouse gas emissions, according to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter5.pdf" target="_blank">IPCC</a>, the UN panel of climate science experts, but it is dwarfed by the rise in emissions per person, which is tied to income. People in the richest countries emit 50 times more than those in the poorest — and it is in these low-income, low-emitting countries where human numbers are growing fastest.</p><p>"Sometimes people try to use population as a way to let <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/wealthy-countries-pledge-98-billion-climate-fund-to-aid-poorer-nations/a-50993966" target="_blank">rich countries</a> off the hook," said Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute in California, "whereas in reality, it's our consumption and our level of economic activity that drives emissions more than the number of people we have."</p><p>A world with lots of people running on <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/cheap-solar-energy-prices-explained/a-53590607" target="_blank">clean energy</a> could have lower emissions than one with few people powered by fossil fuels. Big, fast-growing countries like China and India are building cheap <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/india-coal-energy-solar-power-renewables-change/a-54688107" target="_blank">solar panels</a> and wind turbines that could bring their total emissions down even as incomes and populations rise. </p>
Dark History<p>The concept of overpopulation has a dark past.</p><p>Even if you accept the premise that more people mean more emissions, "what's your solution?" said Ravikumar. "Is your solution to reduce population, forcefully, and if so, whose population should be reduced?"</p><p>Like the terrorists in El Paso and Christchurch, governments throughout history have trampled over the rights of marginalized groups to control their populations.</p><p>Countries like the United States and Canada forcibly sterilized Indigenous women in the second half of the 20th century, while Australia did the same for people with disabilities. India sterilized 6.2 million mostly poor men in 1976, encouraged by foreign donors who made aid packages contingent on population control. More than 2,000 men are thought to have died in botched operations.</p><p>From the late 1970s, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/how-has-the-one-child-policy-affected-china/a-44749604" target="_blank">China restricted population</a> growth through fines, sterilization and forced abortions under a draconian one-child policy that lasted decades. It continues such practices against ethnic Uighur women today, according to an investigation published last month by The Associated Press.</p>
Diverging Population Models<p>Women are having fewer children globally because more girls go to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/one-in-three-girls-from-poor-households-has-never-attended-school-unicef/a-52064084" target="_blank">school</a> and more people have access to contraception. Both are human rights goals even before considering the environment.</p><p>But demographers disagree on how far — and how fast — fertility will continue to fall.</p><p>While the IHME projects the world's population will start shrinking by 2064, the United Nations expects it to continue growing throughout the century. The difference in population between the two models is about 2 billion people by 2100 — and the uncertainties are so great that both research groups accept the possibility of the opposite trend.</p><p>One reason for the discrepancy is that the UN, unlike the IHME, projects that fertility rates will rebound as countries grow richer.</p><p>Surveys show that women across Europe and North America have fewer children than they would like because of barriers like expensive child care, job pressures and men not taking on a fair share of housework. By removing some of these obstacles, countries like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/demography-german-birthrate-down-in-coronavirus-pandemic/a-54395345" target="_blank">Germany</a> have seen an uptick in fertility.</p><p>"The UN projections embody an optimism that the long arc of human progress will continue," said Sara Hertog, a demographer at the UN, adding that changing fertility rates are, in themselves, neither good news nor bad news. "I hope the level of fertility reflects the number of children people want to have."</p>
- For Many Reporters Covering Climate, Population Remains the ... ›
- David Attenborough: 'Population Growth Must Come to an End ... ›
- People Think the World’s Population Is Growing Too Fast – So Why Can’t We Talk About It - EcoWatch ›
By Bill McKibben
The upcoming election looks to be an apocalyptic turning point for our democracy—and our planet. In Turnout! Mobilizing Voters in an Emergency, political visionaries and movement leaders such as Bill McKibben define the urgency of this moment and provide a manual for turning out voters in an age of extreme inequality, climate change, and pandemic.
- Trump Seeks to Frack the 2020 Election - EcoWatch ›
- Latino Voters Worried About Climate Change Could Swing 2020 ... ›
- Climate Change Is a Top Concern in 2020 Election - EcoWatch ›
- Trump's Post Office Chaos Leads to Deaths of Thousands of Chicks Shipped to Maine Farmers - EcoWatch ›
- Trump and Biden: Little Room for Climate Change in 2020 Election - EcoWatch ›
- These Races Will Shape How U.S. Elections Affect Climate Progress - EcoWatch ›