By Ajit Niranjan and Stuart Braun
But many people may never have heard of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The IPCC is a UN body that evaluates climate science. Its scientists look at the current impacts and future risks of a changing climate, presenting options to mitigate the damage and adapt to global heating.
Founded in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program, the IPCC produces major assessments every few years. These are presented in a non-technical style for broad readership, especially by policymakers.
The IPCC selects hundreds of scientists from across the world to prepare the reports after evaluating peer-reviewed scientific literature and, less often, government and industry reports. Thousands of studies are considered when developing the IPCC's comprehensive assessments of the state of climate change.
The most recent publications include a series of special reports published over recent years. They cover living on a planet with 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming, and the effects of climate change on land, oceans and icy places.
Projections, Not Predictions
IPCC climate scientists stress that they do not tell governments what to do, but rather assess possible policy options. They also say their conclusions for the future are projections — based on different warming scenarios — not predictions.
Before releasing assessments, the IPCC also publishes summaries for policymakers that are prepared by experts and reviewed line-by-line in marathon plenary sessions by UN member states — who must then unanimously approve them. These documents guide decision-makers.
These reviews are essential to the comprehensive assessments published by the IPCC every few years on the state of climate change.
The last assessment report, the fifth, was released in full in 2014. It laid the groundwork for the 1.5-degree Celsius warming target set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Next Major Assessment
In late July 2021, almost 200 nations began vetting the first part of the IPCC's sixth comprehensive assessment report on climate change. Published in August, it will likely inform decisions made at the pivotal COP26 in Glasgow in November. The entire sixth assessment is due for release in 2022.
The IPCC also comes in for criticism, with scientists and climate experts recently arguing, for example, that it has failed to call out the fossil fuel companies that have lobbied to obstruct emission reductions.
But in the scientific community and media, its reports are broadly viewed as the most comprehensive and reliable assessments of climate change. In 2007, the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
This is an updated version of a previous article.
Reposted with permission from Deutsch Welle.
The COVID effect didn't last. Earth Overshoot Day, the day humanity exceeds its yearly allotment of the planet's biological assets, is nearly back to its record high. What can be done to ease the burden?
By Martin Kuebler
After a temporary reprieve due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Earth Overshoot Day — the day humanity is projected to have used up all the planet's biological resources regenerated in one year — has shifted forward again, this year landing on July 29.
"With almost half a year remaining, we will already have used up our quota of the Earth's biological resources for 2021," said Susan Aitken, leader of Glasgow City Council, where world leaders will gather later this year for the COP26 climate summit in November. "If we need reminding that we're in the grip of a climate and ecological emergency, Earth Overshoot Day is it."
As much of the world was living under coronavirus lockdowns in 2020, last year's Overshoot Day fell on August 22, nearly a month later than the high of July 25 set in 2018. But this year, even though carbon emissions from air travel and road transport are still lagging 2019 highs, a rallying global economy is pushing emissions and consumption back up.
"Rather than recognize this as a reset moment, governments have been eager to get back to business-as-usual. Global emissions are already creeping back up to pre-pandemic levels," said Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a US-based environmental group.
In an email to DW, she pointed out that even with last year's shutdowns, greenhouse gases only declined 6.4% in 2020 — a substantial drop representing around twice Japan's yearly emissions, but not enough to turn things around.
"We missed opportunities when bailout funds were given to major climate polluters, like the aviation and meat industries, without any requirements for a green recovery," said Feldstein. "And we continue to miss opportunities every day that officials refuse to recognize the climate and extinction crises as emergencies — just like the pandemic."
Balancing the Books
Earth Overshoot Day, first created in 2006, aims to calculate the number of days per year that correspond to the necessary biocapacity — the ability of an ecosystem to reestablish its biological resources and absorb waste — to account for civilization's ecological footprint.
Global Footprint Network (GFN), the research organization which comes up with the yearly date along with environmental group WWF, compares the calculation to a bank statement tracking income against expenditures. It crunches thousands of UN data points on resources like biologically productive forests, grazing lands, cropland, fishing grounds and urban areas. That tally is then measured against the demand for those natural resources, among them plant-based foods, timber, livestock, fish and the capacity of forests to absorb carbon dioxide emissions.
Today, humanity uses about 74% more than what global ecosystems can regenerate; to continue living the way we do now, we'd need the resources of about 1.7 Earths. And that doesn't look set to change any time soon. CO2 emissions related to energy — particularly fossil fuels like coal — are projected to grow by 4.8% this year over 2020 levels, according to the International Energy Agency.
Boosting the Bioeconomy
Feldstein, however, sees some reasons to be optimistic. "The most hopeful signs are coming from communities around the world that are taking the climate crisis seriously, rethinking consumption and growth, and integrating equity and environmental protection into their policies," she said.
Among them are communities looking to tap into the bioeconomy, which aims to swap a "bio-based, or renewables-based, economy for the fossil fuels-based economy" while addressing societal challenges, as outlined in a December 2019 report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).
Rocio A. Diaz-Chavez, the deputy center director at SEI Africa in Nairobi, Kenya and the report's author, said making the shift to a bioeconomy can help preserve natural resources for future generations while working to create sustainable industries today. She highlighted regional groups like the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean or BioInnovate Africa in Kenya — organizations which are working to promote bioeconomy and sustainable development in their parts of the world.
Diaz-Chavez told DW that the pandemic recovery could be the opportunity for these regions to explore alternatives to the traditional economy that would "contribute to job creation and improve livelihoods, [while] producing alternatives to fossil fuel products."
One example: reducing the Global South's reliance on fossil-fuel derived pesticides and fertilizers shipped in from abroad, in favor of locally produced biofertilizers. "This would have a series of contributions to human health, and to the environment," she said, adding that this shift could also help develop alternative supply chains for other sustainable products.
She stressed, however, that the development of the bioeconomy hinged on having the necessary infrastructure or improved supply chains in place to support and market such products, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Solutions to #MoveTheDate
Greening our economies isn't the only way to bring us back into balance with the Earth. On its site under the rallying cry #MoveTheDate, the Global Footprint Network (GFN) highlights other ways to bring that date closer to December 31.
Reforesting an area the size of India, for example, would shift the date back by eight days, according to GFN. Retrofitting buildings and industries with existing energy-saving technology, such as mechanical system upgrades, water conservation controls and sensors that accurately control lighting, temperature and air quality, would move the date back by 21 days.
Food is another important area — according to GFN, half of the Earth's biocapacity is used just to keep us fed. But too much of that food is lost due to inefficiencies during the production process, or waste; an estimated 30 to 40% of food in the US ends up in landfills every year.
By eliminating food loss and waste, reducing meat consumption and choosing foods grown with more sustainable agricultural practices less reliant on fossil fuels, another month could be added to the Earth's biocapacity account. Shifting to more plant-based diets, for example, could help reduce food-related emissions as much as 70% by 2050, according to a recent draft report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"While we need to transition away from industrial agriculture as a whole, we can't solve this problem by simply tweaking how food is produced — we must change what is produced," said the CBD's Feldstein, adding that while fossil fuels are responsible for more emissions overall, meat and dairy production are also a major cause of habitat loss. "Governments can accelerate this change by supporting plant-centered diets and agriculture and ending subsidies for cheap meat and dairy."
Reposted with permission from Deutsch Welle.
Making the switch to solar energy can help you lower or even eliminate your monthly electric bills while reducing your carbon footprint. However, before installing a clean energy system in your home, you must first answer an important question: "How many solar panels do I need?"
To accurately calculate the ideal number of solar panels for your home, you'll need a professional assessment. However, you can estimate the size and cost of the system based on your electricity bills, energy needs and available roof space. This article will tell you how.
If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Factors That Influence How Many Solar Panels You Need
To determine how many solar panels are needed to power a house, several factors must be considered. For example, if there are two identical homes powered by solar energy in California and New York, with exactly the same energy usage, the California home will need fewer solar panels because the state gets more sunshine.
The following are some of the most important factors to consider when figuring out many solar panels you need:
Size of Your Home and Available Roof Space
Larger homes tend to consume more electricity, and they generally need more solar panels. However, they also have the extra roof space necessary for larger solar panel installations. There may be exceptions to this rule — for example, a 2,000-square-foot home with new Energy Star appliances may consume less power than a 1,200-square-foot home with older, less-efficient devices.
When it comes to installation, solar panels can be placed on many types of surfaces. However, your roof conditions may limit the number of solar panels your home can handle.
For example, if you have a chimney, rooftop air conditioning unit or skylight, you'll have to place panels around these fixtures. Similarly, roof areas that are covered by shadows are not suitable for panels. Also, most top solar companies will not work on asbestos roofs due to the potential health risks for installers.
Amount of Direct Sunlight in Your Area
Where there is more sunlight available, there is more energy that can be converted into electricity. The yearly output of each solar panel is higher in states like Arizona or New Mexico, which get a larger amount of sunlight than less sunny regions like New England.
The World Bank has created solar radiation maps for over 200 countries and regions, including the U.S. The map below can give you an idea of the sunshine available in your location. Keep in mind that homes in sunnier regions will generally need fewer solar panels.
© 2020 The World Bank, Source: Global Solar Atlas 2.0, Solar resource data: Solargis.
Number of Residents and Amount of Energy You Use
Households with more members normally use a higher amount of electricity, and this also means they need more solar panels to increase energy production.
Electricity usage is a very important factor, as it determines how much power must be generated by your solar panel system. If your home uses 12,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year and you want to go 100% solar, your system must be capable of generating that amount of power.
Type of Solar Panel and Efficiency Rating
High-efficiency panels can deliver more watts per square foot, which means you need to purchase fewer of them to reach your electricity generation target. There are three main types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. In general, monocrystalline panels are the most efficient solar panels, followed closely by polycrystalline panels. Thin-film panels are the least efficient.
How to Estimate the Number of Solar Panels You Need
So, based on these factors, how many solar panels power a home? To roughly determine how many solar panels you need without a professional assessment, you'll need to figure out two basic things: how much energy you use and how much energy your panels will produce.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average American home uses 10,649 kWh of energy per year. However, this varies depending on the state. For example:
- Louisiana homes have the highest average consumption, at 14,787 kWh per year.
- Hawaii homes have the lowest average consumption, at 6,298 kWh per year.
To more closely estimate how much energy you use annually, add up the kWh reported on your last 12 power bills. These numbers will fluctuate based on factors like the size of your home, the number of residents, your electricity consumption habits and the energy efficiency rating of your home devices.
Solar Panel Specific Yield
After you determine how many kWh of electricity your home uses annually, you'll want to figure out how many kWh are produced by each of your solar panels during a year. This will depend on the specific type of solar panel, roof conditions and local peak sunlight hours.
In the solar power industry, a common metric used to estimate system capacity is "specific yield" or "specific production." This can be defined as the annual kWh of energy produced for each kilowatt of solar capacity installed. Specific yield has much to do with the amount of sunlight available in your location.
You can get a better idea of the specific yield that can be achieved in your location by checking reliable sources like the World Bank solar maps or the solar radiation database from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
To estimate how many kW are needed to run a house, you can divide your annual kWh consumption by the specific yield per kilowatt of solar capacity. For example, if your home needs 15,000 kWh of energy per year, and solar panels have a specific yield of 1,500 kW/kW in your location, you will need a system size of around 10 kilowatts.
Paradise Energy Solutions has also come up with a general formula to roughly ballpark the solar panel system size you need. You can simply divide your annual kWh by 1,200 and you will get the kilowatts of solar capacity needed. So, if the energy consumption reported on your last 12 power bills adds up to 24,000 kWh, you'll need a 20 kW system (24,000 / 1,200 = 20).
So, How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
Once you know the system size you need, you can check your panel wattage to figure how many panels to purchase for your solar array. Multiply your system size by 1,000 to obtain watts, then divide this by the individual wattage of each solar panel.
Most of the best solar panels on the market have an output of around 330W to 360W each. The output of less efficient panels can be as low as 250W.
So, if you need a 10-kW solar installation and you're buying solar panels that have an output of 340W, you'll need 30 panels. Your formula will look like this: 10,000W / 340W = 29.4 panels.
If you use lower-efficiency 250-watt solar panels, you'll need 40 of them (10,000W / 250W = 40) panels.
Keep in mind that, although the cost of solar panels is lower if you choose a lower-efficiency model over a pricier high-efficiency one, the total amount you pay for your solar energy system may come out to be the same or higher because you'll have to buy more panels.
How Much Roof Space Do You Need for a Home Solar System?
After you estimate how many solar panels power a house, the next step is calculating the roof area needed for their installation. The exact dimensions may change slightly depending on the manufacturer, but a typical solar panel for residential use measures 65 inches by 39 inches, or 17.6 square feet. You will need 528 square feet of roof space to install 30 panels, and 704 square feet to install 40.
In addition to having the required space for solar panels, you'll also need a roof structure that supports their weight. A home solar panel weighs around 20 kilograms (44 pounds), which means that 30 of them will add around 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds) to your roof.
You will notice that some solar panels are described as residential, while others are described as commercial. Residential panels have 60 individual solar cells, while commercial panels have 72 cells, but both types will work in any building. Here are a few key differences:
- Commercial solar panels produce around 20% more energy, thanks to their extra cells.
- Commercial panels are also more expensive, as well as 20% larger and heavier.
- Residential 60-cell solar panels are easier to handle in home installations, which saves on labor, and their smaller size helps when roof dimensions are limited.
Some of the latest solar panel designs have half-cells with a higher efficiency, which means they have 120 cells instead of 60 (or 144 instead of 72). However, this doesn't change the dimensions of the panels.
Conclusion: Are Solar Panels Worth it for Your Home?
Solar panels produce no carbon emissions while operating. However, the EIA estimates fossil fuels still produce around 60% of the electricity delivered by U.S. power grids.
Although the initial investment in solar panels is steep, renewable energy systems make sense financially for many homeowners. According to the Department of Energy, they have a typical payback period of about 10 years, while their rated service life is up to 30 years. After recovering your initial investment, you will have a source of clean and free electricity for about two decades.
Plus, even if you have a large home or find you need more solar panels than you initially thought you would, keep in mind that there are both federal and local tax credits, rebates and other incentives to help you save on your solar power system.
To get a free, no-obligation quote and see how much a solar panel system would cost for your home, fill out the 30-second form below.
Thousands of scientists reiterated calls for immediate action over the climate crisis in an article published Wednesday in the journal BioScience.
"The extreme climate events and patterns that we've witnessed over the last several years — not to mention the last several weeks — highlight the heightened urgency with which we must address the climate crisis," said Philip Duffy, co-author of the study and executive director of the Woodwell Climate Research Center in the US state of Massachusetts.
Two years ago, more than 10,000 scientists from around 150 countries jointly declared a global climate emergency. They are now joined by over 2,800 more signatories in urging the protection of life on Earth.
Since the 2019 declaration, Earth has seen an "unprecedented surge" in climate-related disasters, researchers noted.
What Are the Signs?
For the study, researchers relied on "vital signs" to measure planetary health, including greenhouse gas emissions, glacier thickness, sea-ice extent and deforestation. Out of 31 signs, scientists found that 18 hit record highs or lows.
The year 2020 was the second-hottest year since records began, scientists said. And earlier this year, the carbon dioxide concentration in the Earth's atmosphere was higher than at any time since measurements began.
The authors noted that all-time low levels of ice mass have been recorded in Greenland and Antarctica. Glaciers are melting 31% faster than they did just 15 years ago, they added.
Meanwhile, the annual loss rate of the Brazilian Amazon reached a 12-year high in 2020.
Tim Lenton, director of the University of Exeter's Global Systems Institute and co-author of the study, said the recent record-breaking heat wave in the western United States and Canada showed that the climate had already begun to "behave in shocking, unexpected ways."
"We need to respond to the evidence that we are hitting climate tipping points with equally urgent action to decarbonize the global economy and start restoring instead of destroying nature," he said.
How Can We Respond to the Climate Crisis?
Researchers reiterated calls for transformative change, listing three main emergency responses in the immediate term:
- Phasing out and eliminating fossil fuels
- Implementing "a significant carbon price"
- Restoring ecosystems such as carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots
Climate change should be included in core curricula in schools worldwide to raise awareness, the authors said.
Scientists also urged slashing pollutants, stabilizing the human population and switching to plant-based diets.
"We need to stop treating the climate emergency as a standalone issue — global heating is not the sole symptom of our stressed Earth system," said William Ripple, a lead author of the study and professor of ecology at Oregon State University's College of Forestry.
"Policies to combat the climate crisis or any other symptoms should address their root cause: human overexploitation of the planet."
Reposted with permission from DW.
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By Gero Rueter
Solar energy has become extremely cheap. In the desert of Saudi Arabia electricity from solar modules is now generated for just $0.01 (€0.009) per kilowatt hour (kWh), and in Portugal for $0.014 cents per kWh.
An increasing number of large solar parks are being built across the globe to help solve the planet's energy needs.
Just how cheap is solar electricity?
Production costs for solar energy have dropped by 90% between 2009 and 2020, according to US investment bank Lazard.
In 2020, electricity from large-scale solar plants cost a global average of just $0.037/kWh. By comparison, the costs of generating electricity from new coal-powered plants was three times that at $0.112/kWh, while natural gas cost $0.059, nuclear $0.163, and wind $0.04/kWh.
"We're going to see solar power plants all over the world. It's the cheapest energy source in the world, with a few exceptions. In some places, wind power is still a bit cheaper," said Christian Breyer, a professor of solar economy at LUT University in Finland.
With large solar farms, Breyer says, production costs can be as low as $0.01 in locations with lots of sunlight, and up to $0.04 elsewhere. He and other experts expect that new and more efficient solar panels will lower costs even more, by 5 to 10% per year.
How big are large solar farms?
The world's largest solar parks have a capacity of 2,000 - 2,200 megawatts (MW), most are located in desert regions in China, India, and the Middle East, Egypt being a prime example. There are also big plants with over 500 MW in the US, Mexico, and southern Europe.
One of the largest solar parks, known as Al Dhafra PV2, is scheduled to begin supplying the United Arab Emirates' national energy provider beginning next year. Under construction to the tune of $1 billion, the 2,000 MW plant will be comprised of four million modules installed over an area of 20 square kilometers near the capital, Abu Dhabi.
Most other solar parks around the world are smaller than the giant facilities in the desert. Germany's largest solar park, for example, located in Weesow near Berlin, has an output of just 187 MW. Its 465,000 solar modules supply the electricity needs of about 50,000 households.
But even in densely populated countries like Germany, larger plants with a capacity of several thousand megawatts are conceivable. One place where they could be built are the quarries of abandoned open-cast lignite mines.
Where is solar power worthwhile for industry?
Globally, the industrial sector requires lots of energy. In Germany for instance it consumes about half of all electricity generated. To save costs, companies are turning to photovoltaics. International mining companies for instance have started replacing diesel power with solar power in remote locations. And more and more chemical companies, aluminum plants, car factories, cement manufacturers, and data centers are getting their power from solar farms.
One example is Facebook's data center in the state of Tennessee, located in the southeastern US, which will get about 110 MW of electricity from a solar park with a capacity of 150 MW. The park is being built and operated by the German power company RWE.
Another example: starting in 2022, several Bayer Group's chemical plants will run on 100% green electricity from a 590 MW-solar power plant in southern Spain.
The energy-intensive steel industry is also reorienting itself. Low-cost solar power is in demand there, as is "green" hydrogen generated by solar and wind power, which is needed for the blast furnace process. Low-cost energy supply is a decisive factor when planning the location of new steel mills.
Solar power is even proving to be worth the investment in regions with less exposure to the sun's rays. One example is Poland's largest solar park in Witnica, which has a capacity of 65 MW. It supplies the neighboring cement plant.
"This is the best proof that solar power, without any subsidies, can be competitive with power from conventional energy sources. Even in a European country as far north as Poland," says Benedikt Ortmann from power plant operator BayWa r.e.
Where should we build solar power plants?
Experts estimate that in the near future, photovoltaic plants with a total capacity of around 60 million MW will be needed to supply the entire world with cost-effective electricity. That's 70 times more than all the existing solar capacity so far.
The area required for solar panels would then be equivalent to 0.3% of the world's land area.
"On a global average, you don't have to worry about land availability," said Christian Breyer of LTU Finland. But if the energy is to be generated as close as possible to cities and large factories, he says, it's a bit more tricky, especially in densely populated regions.
One solution would be to use roofs and facades. According to Breyer, some 20% of the world's solar power demand could be generated there.
So-called agrivoltaics, with solar roofs installed above fields, are also becoming increasingly important.
Another option: building solar panels that float on water. According to a World Bank study, the global potential of floating PV is 400,000 MW even if only one percent of the area of reservoirs is used for this purpose.
So far, the largest solar plants on inland lakes have been built in China, India, South Korea, and Taiwan. There are also smaller plants on lakes and reservoirs in many other countries, including the Netherlands, Israel and Indonesia. India is currently planning a large-scale floating plant with 1000 MW.
Meanwhile, research is underway in the Netherlands to find solutions for installing floating solar farms in the rough North Sea to povide energy for the national grid. But salt water, strong currents and winds still pose huge challenges.
Smaller floating facilities in offshore waters already exist, such as in the Maldives, where they provide electricity to vacation islands.
This article was adapted from German.
Reposted with permission from Deutsch Welle.
The restriction will come into effect at the beginning of August, the Italian government has confirmed. Campaigners say the liners cause damage to Venice's ecosystem.
Large cruise ships will be banned from entering the Venice lagoon as of August 1, the Italian government announced Tuesday.
It follows years of warnings they risk causing irreparable damage to Venice's ecosystem.
"The decree adopted today represents an important step for the protection of the Venetian lagoon system," Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a statement.
The move affects vessels longer than 180 meters (530 feet) or higher than 35 meters.
Venice and UNESCO Concerns
The decision comes just days before UNESCO convenes over proposals to add Venice to its list of endangered heritage sites.
Venice was put on the prestigious list in 1987 after describing the city as an "extraordinary architectural masterpiece."
But the UN body said last month the city needed a "more sustainable tourism management."
Venice's Fragile Ecosystem
Capital of northern Italy's Veneto region, Venice is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea.
Environmental activists say giant ships generate large waves that wreck Venice's foundations and cause severe damage to the lagoon's ecosystem.
The city is without roads and its canals are lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces.
Reposted with permission from Deutsch Welle.
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By Gero Rueter
"I really like my job, I'm excited and I'm learning a lot," says Fabian Rojas.
The 26-year-old Argentinian has been working since last October for a small company near the western German city of Cologne that installs solar panels on roofs.
The company's CEO René Hegel, who's been selling photovoltaic systems since 2008, hired the Argentine engineer, who was visiting Germany at the time. In this way, the company is able to meet at least part of rapidly increasing demand in the region.
"We have many inquiries, I put together at least six offers a week and we already have orders for the next four to five months," Rojas told DW. "Customers want to generate their own electricity, charge their electric cars and reduce consumption from the grid. This also contributes to climate protection."
Rojas talks to customers, customizes photovoltaic systems and sometimes helps install them on rooftops.
"Fabian is a fast learner," Hegel says. "In the next few months he will gain more practical experience, and then things will get even better."
German Solar Industry: Help Wanted
Hegel is planning on expanding his four-person team to meet the increasing demand for solar energy, which is again picking up following a boom and bust of solar in the early 2000s.
In Germany, solar power systems with a total capacity of 5 gigawatts (GW) were installed in 2020, and that capacity is expected to grow. Studies indicate that expansion would have to be increased six-fold — to 30 GW per year — in order to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) this century.
To achieve this, more manpower is needed in the solar industry, says Günther Haug, manager at BayWa r.e. The Munich-based company is building large solar and wind farms worldwide, and continues to grow. In 2017, BayWa r.e. had 1,100 employees; today, there are 2,700.
"We are looking for engineers, financial experts, skilled personnel for project development and for people with technical training for customer service," said Haug.
To find and retain personnel, Haug says the company is "willing to make a considerable financial investment and also train applicants ourselves, because there aren't enough skilled workers."
"There are presently about 50,000 jobs in photovoltaics in Germany," says Volker Quaschning, a professor of renewable energy at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin (HTW). He says that many people are now looking for new jobs because of the coronavirus crisis.
"We have to be smart about how we approach this, we need to start training programs to have enough skilled workers. Otherwise, the energy transition will fail due to a lack of personnel," Quaschning told DW.
Solar Jobs to Exceed 60 Million Worldwide
As of 2019, around 11.5 million people worldwide were working in the renewable energy sector, according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). More than a third of them worked in photovoltaics.
IRENA holds the view that investments to revive the economy and job market as countries emerge from the COVID-19 crisis should prioritize the energy transition.
"We estimate that every dollar spent in this field creates three times more jobs than in the fossil energy sector," says IRENA Director General Francesco La Camera. "More and more policymakers are recognizing the job potential."
Solar power is now the cheapest means of generating electricity, which is why researchers expect it to make a global breakthrough as the primary source of energy in the future. Currently, there are photovoltaic systems with a total capacity of about 850 GW installed worldwide. They produce roughly as much electricity as 190 nuclear power plants.
Studies estimate that at least 60,000 GW of solar power will be needed to achieve a global, climate-neutral energy supply. To do this, the industry would need to hire more than 60 million workers in the next decade for module production and assembly, as well as system maintenance.
Curiosity Can Lead to a New Job in the Energy Sector
Fabian Rojas, the Cologne-based engineer, is fascinated by solar and wind power, and new energy-saving technologies. He regularly exchanges ideas about these topics via video call with a friend from Argentina who is setting up solar power systems in the United States.
"Solar power is needed worldwide, and that's why there's a global demand for workers in this field," Rojas said, adding that this was true for Europe as well as for Asia and South America.
To anyone who wants to work in the industry, Rojas recommends being proactive.
"Educate yourself, do an internship. Luckily, there's a lot of information on the internet, too."
In the solar sector, he sees many opportunities to work in other places in the world and to share his knowledge: "I'm excited to see who will come knocking on our door next."
This article was adapted from German.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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Seattle and Portland set record temperatures on Saturday as a dome of extremely hot air settled over the US Pacific Northwest.
All of Washington and Oregon, and parts of Idaho, Wyoming and California, are under an excessive heat warning.
Temperatures are set to soar 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit above average throughout the region during the weekend and into next week, the US National Weather Service (NWS) said.
"This event will likely be one of the most extreme and prolonged heat waves in the recorded history of the Inland Northwest," the NWS added.
The Inland Northwest is a sparsely populated region comprising eastern Washington, and parts of Idaho and northeast Oregon.
Record Temperatures in Seattle and Portland
Portland, Oregon recorded its hottest day ever on Saturday, topping 108 Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius) by the afternoon.
The previous record for Oregon's largest city was 107 F (41.7 degrees Celsius), a mark hit in 1965 and 1981.
Seattle reached 101 degrees Fahrenheit (42.2 degrees Celsius) by mid-afternoon on Saturday, making it the hottest June day ever recorded in the city. It was only the fourth time in recorded history that Seattle has topped 100 degrees, according to the NWS.
Authorities Tell Residents to Stay Cool
Residents in the temperate Pacific Northwest are not generally equipped to deal with the heat, and many homes do not have air conditioning. There were reports of stores across the region running out of fans and air conditioners.
In Seattle, officials told the city's 725,000 residents to hydrate, keep blinds closed, use fans and to go to a city "cooling center" if needed.
Officials in Multnomah County, Oregon, which encompasses Portland, warned that there could be public transportation delays, strains on emergency medical services and power outages as a result of the extreme heat.
County officials also said they would be providing cooling centers for people to escape the heat.
In a short video posted online, the county's health officer, Jennifer Vines, urged residents to go to a cooling center if they do not have air conditioning, warning that the area is in for "life-threatening" heat.
Agriculture and wildlife conservation across the Pacific Northwest has also been impacted.
Berry farmers scrambled to pick crops before they rotted on the vine. Fisheries managers working to keep endangered sockeye salmon safe from warming river water,
State, tribal and federal officials began releasing the water from Idaho's Dworshak Reservoir earlier this week into the lower Snake River in a bid to lower the water temperature.
Officials fear a repeat of 2015, when water temperatures in Columbia and Snake river reservoirs reached lethal levels for the salmon.
How Long Will It Last?
The unusually hot weather is expected to extend into next week for much of the region, as a "heat dome" persists caused by an area of stalled high pressure.
The NWS was also expected to issue new red flag warnings in California and elsewhere, advising that the hot, dry and breezy conditions raise the risk of wildfires.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
Countries fringing the Mediterranean need to turn at least 30% of its waters into Protected Maritime Areas (MPAs) by 2030 and rein in overfishing and pollution, urged the World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) in a report published by its German branch Tuesday.
The 26-page WWF report also calls for "well-connected" efforts between riparian nations to save already depleted Mediterranean seagrass beds and coral clusters — home to many fish species and vital in stabilizing coastlines and capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
The report also warns residents they face losing fishing livelihoods and Mediterranean culture like cuisine if biodiversity is not restored and deadly industrial impacts reduced.
"The Mediterranean is no longer the sea that we once knew," said Heike Vesper, maritime protection director at WWF Germany, which urged "resilience" strategies, including the sea's integration in the UN's biodiversity and climate frameworks.
Although it covers an area of only 1% compared to all world seas, the Mediterranean is home to 10% of all known maritime species, with a quarter of these creatures endemic to the enclosed sea basin between Africa and Europe.
"Spreading north and west every year" this process of tropicalization was displacing old species preferring cooler waters, said the WWF, citing replacement jellyfish plaguing fishers and tourists alike and "complete" upheavals in maritime ecology.
One example it gave was the shallow Israeli coastal shelf. Only 5-12% of native molluscs were still present, and that seascape had become "unrecognizable," said researcher Paolo Albano in the report.
"Voracious" rabbitfish (Siganus rivulatus and Siganus luridus) had caused a 40% reduction in native Mediterranean species in some waters.
Swimming in large shoals, they gobbled up algae forests, such as large seaweeds, leaving largely rocky barrens underwater off Greece and Turkey.
In Turkey's Gokova area, a massive 98% of its herbivore fish biomass was already rabbitfish.
Another invader, the lionfish (Pterois miles), first caught in an Israeli trawl in 1991, had since spread to waters off Lebanon and Greece, but also off Libya and Italy.
With venomous spines, it ate "large quantities of small native fish and crustaceans," said the WWF, and like rabbitfish was likely to spread "across the Mediterranean."
"Fishers [anglers] have a big role to play: both [species] are good to eat," said the WWF, encouraging Mediterranean spearfishing and net-catching experts to hunt them.
Decades of overfishing had removed local predators such as dusky groupers that would have otherwise kept these invasive species in check, said the WWF.
Jellyfish too, thriving on eutrophication and land-sourced pollution, had become the "new top predators," replacing larger but overfished rivals such as sharks and tuna, the report added.
Die-offs in recent years, down to 40 meters (130 feet) deep, had left fragile coral and seagrass beds "ravaged" around the Mediterranean, said the WWF.
Seagrass prairies are ecologically valuable nurseries for "many commercial species," stemming waves and currents, and storing CO2, it explained.
Ecologically rich seagrass "prairies" resemble rain forests on land.
Incentives putting people "at the center" of remedial efforts were needed to help keep these "essential" carbon storage reservoirs intact, said the WWF.
Soft corals admired by divers, and known as gorgonians or "sea fans," were also being killed by Mediterranean warming, said the WWF, citing "mass mortalities" in Ligurian waters off Italy since the 1990s.
"Abandoned fishing gear (mainly lines) tangled around deeper [coral] colonies also proved to be a major threat, rubbing against the coral … damaging living tissue."
Coral reef off Capri, Italy.
Indigenous fan mussels (Pinna nobilis) that filter detritus, boosting water clarity, were devastated from 2016 in so-called mass mortality events. As a result, the large molluscs — hit first in the Spanish Mediterranean and then off Italy, Sicily and Corsica — were declared critically endangered in 2019.
Warming could be behind this die-off, said the WWF, calling for a "multi-stakeholder collaboration" to repopulate areas with resilient Pinna larvae.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Isabela Martel
When British environmental geochemist Jon Hawkings arrived in Greenland for the first time in 2012, he was impressed.
"It's mind-blowing: You look onto the horizon and it's just ice and it goes on for 150, 200 kilometers at least."
He went to the Arctic with a group of international scientists. Their goal was to investigate the relationship between nutrients entering coastal ecosystems from glacial meltwater. But the group's research took an unexpected turn.
The scientists analyzed samples from meltwater rivers and fjords and found concentrations of dissolved mercury among the highest ever recorded.
Like Contaminated Rivers in China
Despite it being a pristine and remote environment, with no industrial activity or apparent source of pollution, runoff water coming from three different glaciers in southwest Greenland contains as much mercury as water in far more industrialized areas.
"Mercury concentrations this high would usually only be seen in quite contaminated systems. We compare it to contaminated rivers in China, because that's where similar kinds of concentrations have been found before," Hawkings, who is the lead author of the study published in Nature Geoscience, told DW.
Normal amounts of dissolved mercury in rivers are around 1 to 10 nanograms per liter (ng L-1 ). According to Hawkings, that is comparable to "a grain of sand in an Olympic size swimming pool." But in the water samples from southwest Greenland, the researchers found values of 150 ng L-1, far higher than average.
Unlike what is seen in China, the evidence indicates that the mercury in Greenland originates from natural geological sources in the ice sheet bed.
The findings were a surprise. Back in 2012, the scientists casually took water samples to test for mercury. Their intention was "to get an idea of what mercury concentrations were in the meltwaters, just because we could measure it," Hawkings recalled. That was when they came across high concentrations for the first time. At that point, however, the data was limited, as it was a pilot study.
When the group went back to Greenland in 2015 they decided to investigate a little more in detail, and again obtained similar results. Three years later, in 2018, they returned to the same region once more. The results confirmed what was first observed in 2012 and 2015.
"I just didn't quite believe it! Because the numbers were so high, it was so unexpected," Hawkings said. "As a scientist, there was an element of excitement, of finding something new that nobody else had looked at before. But also concern."
The group of researchers camped in front of the Leverett Glacier, where they collected some of the samples.
Why Is Mercury an Issue?
Mercury (chemical symbol: Hg) is a toxic heavy metal that occurs naturally in air, water, and soil ― through volcanic eruptions, for example. Its presence, however, is amplified through pollution caused by human activity. Coal power plants and gold mining, for instance, are responsible for much of the mercury released into the environment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies mercury as one of the top 10 chemicals of major public health concern. Exposure to it, even in small quantities, can lead to numerous health problems including toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, as well as in organs such as lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
Consumption of seafood is one of the main reasons for overexposure to mercury. The element accumulates in organisms and enters the aquatic food chain as methylmercury, which is its most toxic and concerning form.
The concerns about mercury's consequences for the environment and its effects on humans are so significant that in 2013, governments agreed to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. The global treaty entered into force in 2017. It requires countries to take action by addressing anthropogenic (human-caused) mercury emissions and phase out a variety of mercury-containing products, such as batteries, fluorescent lamps and thermometers.But, as Hawkings points out, the Minamata Convention "doesn't take into account these climatically sensitive natural sources that are much more difficult to manage than, say, closing a coal-burning power plant."
The study's results imply that the international community should start focusing on this issue.
Dangers May Increase With Global Warming
Despite naturally originating from the ice sheet bed, the mercury found in Greenland raises concerns. One of them has to do with global warming. Around 10% of the world's land area is covered by glaciers. As glacial systems increasingly melt, Hawkings affirms that should the results found in southwest Greenland be true to other parts of the island as well, a concerning trend could take place.
"Glaciers melting may mean more mercury in rivers and potentially in coastal systems," he said.
Linked to that is another point of alarm: The mercury could potentially endanger the health of Greenland's Indigenous people. Fishing is a primary food source and economic activity for these populations. The island is, in fact, a major exporter of shrimp, halibut and cod.
The degree to which mercury has made its way into the food web is uncertain, as the study only measured its concentration in water, so it remains difficult to assess the risks. "It's unclear yet just how dangerous the situation is for Indigenous populations of Greenland at the moment," said Hawkings.
Hawkings thinks it's urgent to learn more, as the Arctic systems are still understudied. How wide the effect is in Greenland, whether the mercury is going into coastal ecosystems and how local populations could be affected constitute some of the most important study topics to be explored.
"If the ice sheet is a source of mercury and it could exacerbate some of those effects, then people need to know about it and how to manage it," said Hawkings.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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The world's richest countries face billions of dollars in economic losses if they fail to take stringent measures to curb climate change, Oxfam said on Monday, citing research by the Swiss Re Institute.
According to the report, the G7 (Group of Seven) economies — Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the UK and the US — could see annual average losses of up to 8.5% by 2050 if CO2 emissions continue unabated.
Total losses could amount to $4.8 trillion (€3.95 trillion) a year, double the GDP losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
What Did the Report Reveal?
The Swiss Re report looked out how different aspects of changing climate, including heatwaves, rising sea levels and degradation of agricultural land, may impact economic activities in 48 countries.
Although the report concluded that the richest countries would be badly hit by the consequences of runaway climate change, poorer countries would fare much worse.
It predicted that up to 35% of the Philippines' economy could be wiped away while India, home to over 1.3 billion people, may see its economic activity shrink by 27%.
Oxfam added that between 32 and 132 billion people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 due to climate change, citing a recent report by the World Bank.
What is Oxfam's Message for the G7?
Oxfam called on the leaders of the G7 countries to immediately increase the pledges to cut carbon emissions, pointing out that most were falling short of necessary reductions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees.
The charity also demanded that the G7 countries — who represent some of the world's worst emitters of CO2 historically — stick to their pledge to provide $100 billion annually to help poorer countries deal with the impacts of climate change.
"The economic turmoil projected in wealthy G7 countries is only the tip of the iceberg: many poorer parts of the world will see increasing deaths, hunger and poverty as a result of extreme weather. This year could be a turning point if governments grasp the challenge to create a safer, more livable planet for all," Oxfam expert Mark Lawson said.
The leaders from the G7 countries are meeting in the UK later this week.
"The economic case for climate action is clear ― now we need G7 governments to take dramatic action in the next nine years to cut emissions and increase climate finance," Lawson said.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Anne-Sophie Brändlin
Some of the world's great coastal cities could be severely inundated by 2050 as a result of global warming. Extreme floods that used to occur once a century could start hitting some cities every year.
1. Shanghai (China)
Ninety-three million people currently live on land in China that could be inundated by 2050 due to the localized coastal flooding, according to research by independent US-based science organization Climate Central. Shanghai, which is China's most populous city, is expected to be particularly vulnerable to ocean flooding as it lacks coastal defenses.
2. Hanoi (Vietnam)
In Vietnam, more than 31 million people — almost one-quarter of the population — now live on land that will be threatened by saltwater flooding at least once per year by 2050, according to Climate Central. By that time, annual ocean floods are projected to particularly affect the densely populated Mekong Delta and the northern coast around Vietnam's capital, Hanoi.
3. Kolkata (India)
In India, projected sea level rise could render land currently home to some 36 million people vulnerable to annual floods by 2050. West Bengal and Odisha are considered particularly vulnerable, as is the eastern city of Kolkata. In the absence of coastal defenses such as levees, elevation determines the extent to which ocean floods can wash over the land, according to Climate Central.
4. Bangkok (Thailand)
More than 10% of citizens in Thailand currently live on land that could become flooded by 2050. The political and commercial capital of Bangkok (pictured here during 2011 floods), is just 1.5 meters above sea level and therefore particularly at risk. Mapping by Hong Kong-based environmental nonprofit Earth.Org suggests 94% of the population would be displaced by flooding by 2100.
5. Basra (Iraq)
According to Climate Central modelling, Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, is also extremely vulnerable to coastal flooding and could become largely submerged by 2050. Experts predict this could have effects well beyond Iraq's borders, as the migration caused by rising seas could trigger or exacerbate regional and political conflicts.
6. Alexandria (Egypt)
Floods could also cause the disappearance of cultural heritage in the future. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great more than 2,000 years ago. But much of the city of 5 million on the Mediterranean is low-lying. Mapping by Earth.Org indicates that without flood controls or relocation programs, much of the city could be inundated by 2100.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
- Where Can You Move to Avoid the Climate Crisis? - EcoWatch ›
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By Selma Franssen
In 2014 eco-entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma gave a TED Talk about the value of the mini-woodland ecosystems he was planting across India. He described how they grow 10 times faster, are 30 times denser, and 100 times more biodiverse than a conventional forest.
His tiny forests were inspired by Japanese ecologist Akira Miyawaki's technique of creating small, condensed urban forests on degraded soils.
He had created them near houses, schools and even factories. Some covered the space of only six parked cars and were so dense you couldn't walk into them. "If you see a barren piece of land, remember that it can be a potential forest," urged Sharma.
His company Afforestt has planted 138 forests in 10 countries around the world.
Tiny Forests Thriving in Europe?
Tiny forests have been springing up across Europe. Advocates say they are key to boosting declining flora and fauna like birds and insects in cities, and to help reach climate goals by storing carbon.
Belgian biologist Nicolas de Brabandere came across Sharma's work while searching for something he could do to regenerate ecosystems and create jobs.
After visiting Sharma in India to learn his approach, he planted his first urban forest in 2016 and has now started a business, growing them in Belgium and France.
One of the first challenges was adapting the Miyawaki method to Europe and its very different soil conditions, species and climate.
"Species that have grown here forever are more likely to do well and be able adapt to climate change," said de Brabandere. "So, I contacted scholars and tree nurseries to identify suitable native tree species and locally sourced materials to improve the soil."
He planted species such as sessile oak, lime trees, wild apple and pear.
The idea has also taken off in Germany, where the first tiny forest was planted in March 2020. The 'Wald der Vielfalt' — or Diversity Forest — is bigger than most at 700 square meters, and is home to 33 native tree species, mostly maple, beech, oak, ash and lime.
But do tiny forests live up to the hype?
Measuring Environmental Impact
Daan Bleichrodt, who works with IVN, a Dutch organization that connects people with nature, was equally impressed by Sharma's story. Bleichrodt adapted the method to plant the first Dutch tiny forest in Zaandam in 2015, kicking off a movement that has since grown 126 tiny forests.
IVN has also planted a "control forest" next to the tiny forest in Zaandam that follows a more natural growth method: it consists of hedges and berry plants to attract birds who then disperse seeds. They hope after a few years it will help them ascertain the impact tiny forests have on air and soil quality, biodiversity and capacity to prevent urban heat island effects.
Researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands are also gathering data on the Zaandam control forest and another ten tiny forests in the country, all between 200 and 250 square meters in size.
"Overall, the results are promising," said Fabrice Ottburg, environmental researcher at Wageningen University. "We recorded 934 different plant and animal species, over 6 million liters (1.6 million gallons) of rainwater was collected in the research period, and we recorded a lower temperature within the forests compared to the paved city."
Although the results varied between projects, they found that a standard sized tiny forest captures an average of 127.5 kilograms (281 pounds) of CO₂ annually, a number they expect will increase for up to 50 years after planting.
Competition Between Species, Drop in Biodiversity?
Europe's tiny forests are all relatively young. Critical voices, such as Dutch sustainable landscaper Tinka Chabot, have questioned whether they will thrive in the long run.
One issue is that a lack of space could potentially lead to competition between species, causing a drop in biodiversity.
"We do observe that many low shrubs and herbs start to disappear after three years," Ottburg said. "However, that is the case in every ecosystem. As the tiny forests grow, trees will occasionally die, making way for lower shrubs."
In Japan, where the movement is more established, they have discovered that it is soil rather than climate conditions that determines the success of the forests over the longer term.
Tiny forests are not a miracle solution, Ottburg adds. Instead, he believes they should be seen as one of many elements that can make cities greener and attract more plants and animals over time.
"In densely populated cities, it can be difficult to find space for a large new park, while it's easier to create many connecting pockets of nature, including tiny forests, green roofs and natural riverbanks," said Ottburg.
Trees for Well-Being
There is also increasing research into the positive impact being in nature has on the well-being of urban communities.
Last year, scientists found that among 9,751 residents of the German city of Leipzig, those living within 100 meters (328 feet) of street trees took fewer antidepressants.
Well-being is one of the focuses of Earthwatch Europe, a British environmental charity. They created the first tiny forest in the United Kingdom in March 2020 and have since added 16 more.
The organization engages local communities in the planting, maintenance and monitoring of the forests, and uses feedback forms to measure people's responses. Spaces are created within the forests to allow visits from schools and organizations.
"Bringing people into tiny forests reconnects them with nature and their neighbors," explained Bethany Pudifoot, a researcher with Earthwatch Europe.
For biologist Nicolas de Brabandere, the forests are a way to help people learn about the plants and animals they may have forgotten. On social media he regularly shares educational posts in the hope greater knowledge about urban forests will help the small habitats thrive.
"I find that many are desperate for a practical way to fight climate change and connect with nature. Urban forests offer that," he said. "To me, more than anything, they're a place where people hear birds sing and insects buzz."
Reposted with permission from DW.