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Trends in Sustainability
An observation of sustainable trends, thinking, solutions and opinions.
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Melbourne Becomes World's Newest Carbon Neutral City | EarthTechling

Melbourne Becomes World's Newest Carbon Neutral City | EarthTechling | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

The city of Melbourne, Australia, has declared itself a carbon neutral metropolisafter being certified by the Australian Government’s independent carbon offsetting authority Low Carbon Australia. City officials say the certification highlights the hard work being put in to reach the goal of Zero Net Emissions by 2020.

 

Taking an entire city from emitter to carbon neutral in a decade is no easy feat. In order to achieve its goal of Zero Net Emissions by 2020, the City of Melbourne mounted a long-term campaign to change the way it uses energy by creating multiple environmental clean-up initiatives.

 

We’re already one of the world’s most livable cities, our challenge now is to ensure we are one of the world’s most sustainable cities,” said Environment Portfolio Chair Councillor Arron Wood. “As part of our work we’re delivering new waste management solutions, upgrading several of our council buildings by installing efficient heating, cooling and water systems and making improvements to Melbourne Town Hall which will result in significant savings in lighting costs.”

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A pep talk for the climate movement

A pep talk for the climate movement | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

As the World Bank said “the projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur”. Even the IEA, historically a kind of advocate in chief for the fossil fuel industry, came on board, pointing out that a stable climate and economy requires the majority of the global reserves of fossil fuels to never be burnt.

 

It is an extraordinary turn around when key mainstream economic institutions lay out the case for dismantling what is arguably the world’s most powerful business sector.

 

Of particular note in all this, observing both the message and the messengers, is that what was predominantly an ecological question is now primarily an economic one. This is a profoundly important shift, as economic risk is something society’s elites take very seriously. It also unleashes another major potential tipping point which we have seen signs of, but is not yet in full flight.

 

When non-fossil fuel companies understand the broad economic risk posed by the lack of climate action, they will become genuine and strong advocates demanding climate action – in their own self-interest. This is one to watch carefully as it will see a major shift in the politics when it comes.

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The Palen Solar Electrical Generating System

The Palen Solar Electrical Generating System | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

California will soon be home to the world’s two largest solar towers through an ambitious project known as The Palen Solar Electrical Generating System.


The announcement was made shortly after the US Department of Interior announced the country was to add 1.1 gigawatts to its clean energy capacity. California has also committed to have a third of their power must be derived from renewable sources by the year 2030

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What an 18th century treatise on population can teach us about energy resources | Plugged In, Scientific American Blog Network

What an 18th century treatise on population can teach us about energy resources | Plugged In, Scientific American Blog Network | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

But then something happened midway through the 20th century: population exploded. The number of people passed the 3 billion mark sometime in the 1960s, and crossed the 6 billion mark at the turn of the millennium. The reason? A new technological advance revolutionized modern agriculture: fertilizers. By pulling nitrogen out of the air in seemingly unlimited quantities, farmers could overcome the natural nutrient limitations in crop land and produce more food. No longer bound to natural limitations of agriculture, more calories could be supplied, which in turn, resulted in more people.

 

There are strong parallels to the growth of modern agriculture to the story of modern energy resources. New scientific and engineering advancements are challenging previously held beliefs about the world’s energy supplies. Developments such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are unlocking previously unattainable oil and natural gas resources, essentially “feeding” a growing planet.

 
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The Coming Age of Space Colonization

The Coming Age of Space Colonization | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

In the next generation or two—say the next 30 to 60 years—there will be an irreversible human migration to a permanent space colony. Some people will tell you that this new colony will be on the moon, or an asteroid—in my opinion asteroids are a great place to go, but mostly for mining. I think the location is likely to be Mars. This Mars colony will start off with a few thousand people, and then it may grow over 100 years to a few million people, but it will be there permanently. That should be really exciting, to be alive during that stage of humanity's history.

 
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Save the environment by mining asteroids?

Save the environment by mining asteroids? | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

There's a huge environmental cost to mining on Earth. But there are lots of strategic materials and metals that we can get in space and that will be necessary for us if we want to create abundance and prosperity generations from now on Earth. We sort of had a freebie over the past couple hundred years—we figured out that you can burn coal and fossil fuels and give all the economies of the world a big boost. But that's about to end. Not only do we have to transition to a new form of energy, we also have to transition to a new form of resources. And the resources of the nearest asteroids make the resources on Earth pale by comparison. There are enough resources in the nearest asteroids to support human society and civilization for thousands of years.

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Green Drinks March 2013 - Behind The Facade: Sustainable Architecture & Meeting Future Challenges

Green Drinks March 2013 - Behind The Facade: Sustainable Architecture & Meeting Future Challenges | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Addressing the population and resources constraints, Green Drinks March presents a talk you don’t want to miss. This month, we aim to bring together people who believes that through earnest planning, design ingenuity and innovation, we could achieve a sustainable environment for growth and progress especially in Singapore. We are very honoured to have speakers:


Allen Folks AICP, ASLA, Vice President Design + Planning, AECOM Singapore

 

One of the most prominent figure in urban planning and landscape architecture, Mr. Folks’s talk will focus on the role of urban designers in planning for sustainable cities. Through case studies both within Singapore and abroad, he will share his insights on sustainable planning and planning with resource constraints to meet future challenges.

 

Terence Ho, 5th Year Architecture Student, NUS

 

Mr. Ho is a pursuing his Masters in Architecture specializing in design technology and sustainability. He is also the current team lead of TeamNUS. TeamNUS collaborates with architects, builders and engineers to design, build and operate a solar-powered houses. Mr. Ho’s other works include research on Energy Retrofit and studies on natural ventilation in high density buildings. He has also been the host for the NUS City Exhibition held at the URA at which the TeamNUS model was featured.

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Al's Journal : "Time has come" for a carbon tax

Al's Journal : "Time has come" for a carbon tax | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Last weekend, the Financial Times published a must-read editorial on the need for a national carbon tax:


"Taxes are always a regrettable necessity, but some are less regrettable than others. A tax that strengthens energy security and cuts pollution, while minimising the damage done to employment and investment, is one of the least regrettable of all."

 

"Yet a carbon tax, which has all those characteristics, is struggling to find support from the US administration or in Congress. It deserves much wider enthusiasm."

 

"One of the few uncontroversial conclusions of economics is that it is better to tax “bads” than “goods”. Wages and profits are desirable objectives, and governments have no good excuse for obstructing them. They are taxed largely for reasons of convenience, at the cost of disincentives to wage-earning and profitmaking that are a drag on the economy."

 

"Energy consumption, on the other hand, is not an objective for anyone. Indeed, the negative externalities of energy use, including local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, mean that, other things being equal, an economy that burns less fuel is better off."

 

"That insight lies behind support from across the political spectrum for a tax linked to the carbon content of fossil fuels, generating revenue that could be recycled through cuts in other taxes. Four leading Democrats in Congress this month proposed such a tax, and asked for suggestions for how it could be implemented. On the Republican side, a carbon tax has been backed by several prominent figures, most notably Greg Mankiw of Harvard, a former economic adviser to George W. Bush and Mitt Romney."

 

"Carbon taxes have their drawbacks, it is true, but their problems are mostly fixable. They are regressive, but that could be offset by changes to other taxes. They can create difficulties for energy-intensive sectors, but those could be eased with targeted reliefs."

 

"The claim made this week by more than 85 Republican members of Congress that carbon taxes would “kill millions more jobs” has no evidence to support it."

 

"While the adjustment to higher energy costs would have some negative impact, it would be offset by the benefits of cuts in other taxes. Curbing consumption would also improve energy security, making the economy less vulnerable to commodity price shocks. President Barack Obama on Friday set out an energy agenda including reduced oil imports, greater use of natural gas and increased energy efficiency. A carbon tax would help meet all of those goals."

 

"The prospect that extra revenues will be needed to stabilise the public finances in the long term suggests that some taxes are likely to rise, and a carbon tax would be one of the least painful ways to do it. Shifting the tax burden off incomes and on to carbon would be a good idea at any time. Right now, the case is overwhelming."

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Melbourne Is Now A Certified Carbon Neutral City

Melbourne Is Now A Certified Carbon Neutral City | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Melbourne has reduced and offset its emissions to become a certified carbon-neutral city under Australia’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS). The city has also launched several programmes to reduce its energy consumption and emission production as part of the Net Zero Emissions strategy.

 

The city has identified four areas where significant emission reduction opportunities exist:

- Commercial sector; Reduce emissions by 25% from business-as-usual levels by 2020

- Residential sector; Cut emissions by 20% by 2020

- Transport: 20% reduction in emissions from public transport by 2020, 15% emission reduction from cars and 100% increase in use of bicycles

- Power sector; 19% emission reduction from energy production by 2020

 

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EV Could Make Up 1/4 Of Ford Sales By 2020

EV Could Make Up 1/4 Of Ford Sales By 2020 | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Once buried and left for dead, the electric vehicle (EV) has been gaining ground at a slow, yet steady pace in the automotive market. With a growing middle class globally, and climate change concerns is helping to revitalize EVs in recent years.


Now Ford’s new Chief Operating officer suggests EVs could make up one-quarter of their sales by the end of this decade.

 

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The Push Behind Corporate Sustainability Management

There are several forces within our marketplace, culture and corporations, which are driving the sustainability agenda. First, there is the public relations value of being seen as a green company. No one wants to be known as an indifferent destroyer of nature and human health. Second, is the growing cost of energy, materials and waste management and the fact that a more carefully designed product using less energy to manufacture reduces costs and can lead to a higher profit margin and/or market share. A third factor is the growing body of environmental liability law and the costs of the liability defense and court imposed penalties borne by corporations. However, while dollars and image are important drivers of sustainability, I think the most interesting and perhaps most important force behind sustainability management is a change underway in our culture and dominant social paradigm- our shared view about how the world works.

 

A growing number of people are concerned about our ability to maintain and improve our quality of life on an increasingly crowded and resourced stressed planet. Young people have heard their parents speak about these issues in their daily conversations. They have grown up hearing about: The price and occasional scarcity of gasoline; Higher home energy and water bills; The increased level of auto traffic; and, Changed patterns of land use- the place their parents once hiked and camped when they were young that is now a strip mall. The U.S. population is now 315 million. In 1960 it was about 179 million. Over the same half century, the planet's population grew from about three to seven billion. People understand what population growth means and the idea that we should use less energy, water and raw materials in our daily life is increasingly conventional wisdom. This does not mean we don't want the latest iPad or smart phone. Nor does it mean we are going to live off the grid. But it does mean that we like it when the companies making this stuff are working to reduce their environmental impacts. Moreover, we are more likely to buy the product that reflects green principles and we are starting to consider green design to be an element of higher quality. A product designed to ignore sustainability factors is seen by some as shoddy and second rate.

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Global Warming Continues to Accelerate

Global Warming Continues to Accelerate | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Perhaps the most important result of this paper is the confirmation that while many people wrongly believe global warming has stalled over the past 10–15 years, in reality that period is “the most sustained warming trend” in the past half century. Global warming has not paused, it has accelerated.

 

The paper is also a significant step in resolving the ‘missing heat’ issue, and is a good illustration why arguments for somewhat lower climate sensitivity are fundamentally flawed if they fail to account for the warming of the oceans below 700 meters.

 

Most importantly, everybody (climate scientists and contrarians included) must learn to stop equating surface and shallow ocean warming with global warming. In fact, as Roger Pielke Sr. has pointed out, “ocean heat content change [is] the most appropriate metric to diagnose global warming.” While he has focused on the shallow oceans, actually we need to measure global warming by accounting for all changes in global heat content, including the deeper oceans. Otherwise we can easily fool ourselves into underestimating the danger of the climate problem we face.

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Ash from refuse could become hydrogen gas

Ash from refuse could become hydrogen gas | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

The technique has significant potential: 20 billion litres of hydrogen gas a year, or 56 gigawatt-hours (GWh). Calculated as electricity, the energy is the equivalent of the annual needs of around 11 000 detached houses. Hydrogen gas is valuable and is viewed by many as an increasingly important energy source, for example as a vehicle fuel.


"The ash can be used as a resource through recovery of hydrogen gas instead of being allowed to be released into the air as at present. Our ash deposits are like a goldmine," said Aamir Ilyas, Doctor of Water Resources Engineering at Lund University and the developer of the technique. Refuse incineration is a widespread practice in Europe.

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Global warming predictions prove accurate

Global warming predictions prove accurate | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Forecasts of global temperature rises over the past 15 years have proved remarkably accurate, new analysis of scientists' modelling of climate change shows.

 

The debate around the accuracy of climate modelling and forecasting has been especially intense recently, due to suggestions that forecasts have exaggerated the warming observed so far – and therefore also the level warming that can be expected in the future. But the new research casts serious doubts on these claims, and should give a boost to confidence in scientific predictions of climate change.

 

The paper, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Geoscience, explores the performance of a climate forecast based on data up to 1996 by comparing it with the actual temperatures observed since. The results show that scientists accurately predicted the warming experienced in the past decade, relative to the decade to 1996, to within a few hundredths of a degree.

 

The forecast, published in 1999 by Myles Allen and colleagues at Oxford University, was one of the first to combine complex computer simulations of the climate system with adjustments based on historical observations to produce both a most likely global mean warming and a range of uncertainty. It predicted that the decade ending in December 2012 would be a quarter of degree warmer than the decade ending in August 1996 – and this proved almost precisely correct.

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Disney, Microsoft and Shell opt for self-imposed carbon emissions taxes

Disney, Microsoft and Shell opt for self-imposed carbon emissions taxes | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Visitors who climb aboard the steam trains in the Disneyland resort in southern California need not worry about their carbon footprint. The trains are powered by soy-based cooking oil recycled from the resort's kitchens.

 

It's a Mickey Mouse gesture, really, when set against the millions of miles that park visitors travel by car and plane to reach Disneyland. But it's driven, in part, by an innovative and forward-thinking tool that Walt Disney, which posted revenues of $42.3bn (£27.8bn) in 2012, uses to regulate its greenhouse gas emissions. A self-imposed carbon tax.

 

It's not just Disney. Although most of the world's governments have declined to put a price on carbon emissions, a handful of global companies, including Microsoft and Shell, have chosen to act on their own. They have established internal carbon prices in an effort to reduce emissions, promote energy efficiency and encourage the use of cleaner sources of power, just as a government tax or cap-and-trade program would.

 

"The more you emit, the more you pay. The less you emit, the less you pay," said Beth Stevens, a senior vice-president at Disney. "We want to provide an incentive for the businesses to innovate."

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Elon Musk’s TED Talk Feb 2013

Entrepreneur Elon Musk is a man with many plans. The founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX sits down with TED curator Chris Anderson to share details about his visionary projects, which include a mass-marketed electric car, a solar energy leasing company and a fully reusable rocket.

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HSBC says world is approaching "peak planet" : Renew Economy

HSBC says world is approaching "peak planet" : Renew Economy | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Global investment bank HSBC says the world is hurtling towards a “Peak Planet” scenario where the global carbon budget from 2000 to 2050 is consumed well before 2030.

 

To address this, a peak in greenhouse emissions will need to be achieved as a matter or urgency, and by 2020 at the latest. “This is a tough task – but not impossible in our view,” it writes. “There is a growing recognition of the severity of the situation … and we believe that ambition is about to pick up again.”

 

In an analysis on climate change politics and the business case for action, HSBC economists say the focus is now on five key economies to break that nexus between economic growth and emissions – in fact to double the rate of decoupling.

 

This so-called Carbon 5 comprises China, Russia, India, the EU and the US, and HSBC says these countries need to cut the carbon emitted per unit of GDP by between 3 and 5 per cent per annum by 2020, beyond existing efforts.

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Singapore BCA introduces new standards for buildings

Singapore BCA introduces new standards for buildings | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

A new set of standards for structural design of buildings and civil engineering works - known as the Eurocodes - will be introduced on April 1, according to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

 

To help the industry make a smooth transition to the new codes, BCA will allow building professionals to submit the structural plans of a building using either the Eurocodes or the current codes based on British Standards from April 1 for two years. On April 1 2015, BCA will withdraw the current British Standards codes from use.

 

The Eurocodes was developed over the last 30 years by experts from the European Union (EU) and is considered one of the world's most advanced structural design codes. The existing British Standards, which has been withdrawn from use in Britain in 2010, will no longer be updated.

The Commissioner of Building Control, BCA, Er. Ong See Ho said: "In moving from the British Standards to the Eurocodes, we now have a set of building codes that is constantly reviewed at an international platform and regularly updated to suit developments in the building industry."

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Translating Sustainability for Investors

Translating Sustainability for Investors | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

“It’s not sustainability.  It’s corporate excellence.”

 

That quote is from Erica Karp, Head of Sectoral Research at UBS. Right out of the gate Karp established that managing one’s stakeholders and GHG emissions was really just a key indicator of a well-managed company.  Corporations like Unilever that outline a long-term strategy with measurable targets for the volatile decades to come show true vision and solid governance standards.  Karp went on to say that if investment analysts weren’t asking questions about a company’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance then they “weren’t doing their jobs.”

 

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Photo by nadyahutagalung • Instagram

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Half of countries pose serious human rights risks, warns investment group - Blue and Green Tomorrow

Half of countries pose serious human rights risks, warns investment group - Blue and Green Tomorrow | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Citizens from 48% of countries across the world are at serious risk of human rights violations, meaning global businesses ought to be wary about where they’re investing and operating.


The findings appear in a report by Ecclesiastical Investment Management (EIM) called Human rights: human wrongs, an emerging corporate risk. The firm notes that companies can successfully evaluate potential obstacles, such as slavery, torture, gender and racial discrimination and cultural and educational rights abuses, without harming its reputation.

 

The EIM study points towards World Trade Organisation figures, which place global exports of manufactured goods at $10 trillion in 2010. It says that while globalisation has positive benefits – such as improved education and living standards – there are drawbacks.

 

Many developing countries continue to have questionable human rights records – an issue that an increasing number of private and institutional investors look to exclude from their portfolios.

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What Good Are Planetary Boundaries? A Debate

What Good Are Planetary Boundaries? A Debate | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Does Earth have limits — limits to how far we can push its natural systems and deplete its resources, beyond which we will incur major blowback?

 

Almost every environmentalist would answer “yes” — and have pugnaciously strong opinions about what we should do (or stop doing) to avoid crossing such lines. But what does science tell us about Earth’s limits? Which are really science-based? Can innovation can stretch any of them? Are they even useful for motivating policymaking and behavior change?

 

A world-class panel of scientists grappled with these questions last Thursday’s during “The Limits of the Planet: A Debate” — the final forum in this year’s “Nature and Our Future” discussion series, sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and held at The New York Academy of Sciences headquarters in lower Manhattan.

 

The major disagreements of the evening came over 1) whether outlining global limits for the stable functioning of nature (as opposed to tipping points for individual ecosystems) is good science — and 2) whether “limits” are the correct approach to achieving environmental goals. On both points, not everyone was in the Bill McKibben/350.org camp.

 

“The evidence is incontrovertible that there are local tipping points — for coral reefs, for instance — but not so for global ones,” said Erle Ellis, a panelist and associate professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Baltimore, Maryland County. “It’s not a runaway train. Ecosystems change, but it’s not a domino effect. You can change all the systems on the planet. But does that constitute a global tipping point?”

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Quick-Change Planet: Do Global Climate Tipping Points Exist?: Scientific American

Quick-Change Planet: Do Global Climate Tipping Points Exist?: Scientific American | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Is there a chance that human intervention—rising temperatures, massive land-use changes, biodiversity loss and so on—could “tip” the entire world into a new climatic state? And if so, does that change what we should do about it?

 

As far back as 2008 NASA’s James Hansen argued that we had crossed a “tipping point” in the Arctic with regard to summer sea ice. The diminishing ice cover had moved past a critical threshold, and from then on levels would drop precipitously toward zero, with little hope of recovery. Other experts now say that recent years have confirmed that particular cliff-fall, and the September 2012 record minimum—an astonishing 18 percent lower than 2007’s previous record—was likely no fluke.

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Can we 3D print our way out of Climate Chnage?

From Grist: “Tech optimists’ crush of the decade is surely 3D printing. It has been heralded as disruptive, democratizing, and revolutionary for its non-discriminatory ability to make almost anything: dresses, guns, even houses. The process — also known as “additive manufacturing” — is still expensive and slow, confined to boutique objets d’art or lab-driven medical prototyping. But scaled up, and put in the hands of ordinary consumers via plummeting prices, 3D printing has the potential to slash energy and material costs. Climate Desk asks: Can 3D printing be deployed in the ongoing battle against climate change?”

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Why Google is spending billions on renewable energy

Why Google is spending billions on renewable energy | Trends in Sustainability | Scoop.it

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has spent billions over the past few years investing in renewable energy projects and trying in general to cut its impact on the environment. Google is a successful business, and these investments have not been just for the benefit of the environment, or to increase their sense of wellbeing; they are investments made with a goal to making a profit in the future.

 

Rick Needham, the director of energy and sustainability at Google recently gave a presentation at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, in which he explained that, “while fossil-based prices are on a cost curve that goes up, renewable prices are on this march downward.”

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