Earth More Sensitive to Carbon Dioxide Than Previously Thought
ScienceDaily (Dec. 7, 2009) — In the long term, the Earth’s temperature may be 30-50% more sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide than has previously been estimated, reports a new study published in Nature Geoscience.
The results show that components of the Earth’s climate system that vary over long timescales — such as land-ice and vegetation — have an important effect on this temperature sensitivity, but these factors are often neglected in current climate models.
Dan Lunt, from the University of Bristol, and colleagues compared results from a global climate model to temperature reconstructions of the Earth’s environment three million years ago when global temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations were relatively high. The temperature reconstructions were derived using data from three million-year-old sediments on the ocean floor.
Lunt said, “We found that, given the concentrations of carbon dioxide prevailing three million years ago, the model originally predicted a significantly smaller temperature increase than that indicated by the reconstructions. This led us to review what was missing from the model.”
The authors demonstrate that the increased temperatures indicated by the reconstructions can be explained if factors that vary over long timescales, such as land-ice and vegetation, are included in the model. This is primarily because changes in vegetation and ice lead to more sunlight being absorbed, which in turn increases warming.
Including these long-term processes in the model resulted in an increased temperature response of the Earth to carbon dioxide, indicating that the Earth’s temperature is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than previously recognised. Climate models used by bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change often do not fully include these long-term processes, thus these models do not entirely represent the sensitivity of the Earth’s temperature to carbon dioxide.
Alan Haywood, a co-author on the study from the University of Leeds, said “If we want to avoid dangerous climate change, this high sensitivity of the Earth to carbon dioxide should be taken into account when defining targets for the long-term stabilisation of atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations.”
Lunt added: “This study has shown that studying past climates can provide important insights into how the Earth might change in the future.”
(a) shows predicted global temperatures when processes that adjust on relatively short-term timescales (for example sea-ice, clouds, and water vapour) are included in the model
(b) includes additional long-tem processes that adjust on relatively long timescales (vegetation and land-ice).
This research was funded by the Research Council UK and the British Antarctic Survey.
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Does the latest generation of energy-saving light bulbs save energy? A comprehensive study conducted by Osram, the German lighting company, provides evidence that they do.
While that may seem self-evident, until the release of the report on Monday the answer remained unclear.
That is because no one knew if the production of LED lamps required more energy than needed for standard incandescent bulbs. While it is indisputable that LEDs use a fraction of the electricity of a regular bulb to create the same amount of light, if more energy were used in the manufacturing and distribution process, then the lighting industry could be traveling down a technological dead end.
The study results show that over the entire life of the bulb — from manufacturing to disposal — the energy used for incandescent bulbs is almost five times that used for compact fluorescents and LED lamps.
The energy used during the manufacturing phase of all lamps is insignificant — less than 2 percent of the total. Given that both compact fluorescents and LEDs use about 20 percent of the electricity needed to create the same amount of light as a standard incandescent, both lighting technologies put incandescents to shame.
“We welcome these kinds of studies,” said Kaj den Daas, chief executive of Philips Lighting North America. The Osram study “provides facts where we often have only emotional evidence.” Philips recently became the first entrant in the Energy Department’s L Prize, a race to develop the first practical 60-watt LED equivalent to a standard light bulb.
To calculate what is know as a Life Cycle Assessment of LED lamps, Osram compared nearly every aspect of the manufacturing process, including the energy used in manufacturing the lamps in Asia and Europe, packaging them, and transporting them to Germany where they would be sold. It also looked at the emissions created in each stage, and calculated the effect of six different global warming indexes.
Those included the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by each process, the acid rain potential, eutrophication (excessive algae), photochemical ozone creation, the release of harmful chemical compounds, and the resultant scarcity of gas, coal, and oil.
Compact fluorescents also contain harmful mercury, which can pollute the soil when discarded.
In addition to the amount of electricity needed for each process, the energy used and the emissions created as a result, were also calculated. In China and Malaysia, where part of the LED production took place, that meant coal and natural gas respectively. In Germany, where the lamps would be sold, electricity is created from a mix of coal, nuclear and renewable sources.
The methodology followed the procedures set down in ISO 14040/44, an industry standard. The results were certified by three university professors in Denmark and Germany as adhering to the standard.
“The difference in energy use between incandescents, compact fluorescents and LEDs is definitely significant,” said Dr. Matthias Finkbeiner of Berlin’s Technical University and chairman of the study’s review committee. “The results are very stable.”
While 60-watt lamps are more popular light sources, they were not used in the study as Osram does not yet have a commercial version. The amount of energy used to illuminate 60-watt-type lamps would increase, but the increase would effect all types of lamps and therefore not change the relative results, according to Dr. Berit Wessler, head of innovations management at Osram Opto Semiconductors in Regensburg, Germany.
Dr. Wessler expects the results to shift even more in favor of LEDs, as newer generations of that technology become even more efficient, requiring less energy to produce the same amount of light.
“Everything I’ve seen strengthens the assumption that LED efficiency will increase,” she said. “There has not been much improvement in incandescent efficiency in the last 10 years.”
Measuring Environmental Performance of Green Buildings
Selecting building products based on minimum life cycle economic impacts is relatively straightforward. Products have been bought and sold in the marketplace, which has established their first cost, and sound analytical procedures to quantify life cycle cost have been developed and employed for over 20 years. In addition to initial cost, future costs that contribute to life cycle cost include the cost of energy, operation and maintenance, labor and supplies, replacement parts, and eventually the cost of decommissioning or recycling the system.
Environmental performance can be quantified using the evolving, multi-disciplinary approach known as environmental life cycle assessment (LCA). Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) is a “cradle-to-grave” systems approach for measuring environmental performance. It is based on the belief that all stages in the life of a product generate environmental impacts and must therefore be analyzed. The stages include:
Raw materials acquisition Product manufacture Transportation Installation Operation and maintenance Recycling and waste management
An analysis that excludes any of these stages is limited because it ignores the full range of upstream and downstream impacts of stage-specific processes.
The strength of environmental life cycle assessment is its comprehensive, multi-dimensional scope. Many sustainable building claims and strategies are now based on a single life cycle stage or a single environmental impact. A product is claimed to be “green” simply because it has recycled content, or accused of not being green because it emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during its installation and use. These single-attribute claims may be misleading because they ignore the possibility that other life cycle stages, or other environmental impacts, may yield offsetting effects.
For example, the recycled content product may have a high embodied energy content, leading to resource depletion, global warming, and acid rain impacts during the raw materials acquisition, manufacturing, and transportation life cycle stages. LCA thus broadens the environmental discussion by accounting for shifts of environmental problems from one life cycle stage to another, or one environmental medium (land, air, or water) to another. The benefit of the LCA approach is in implementing a trade-off analysis to achieve a genuine reduction in overall environmental impact, rather than a simple shift of impact.
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Can Alternative Energy Save the Economy and the Climate?
BRIGHTON, Colo. – The low-carbon economy has already arrived on the windy prairie north of this fast-growing Denver ‘burb. It’s here that Danish wind-turbine giant Vestas converted 298 acres of hayfield into the West’s largest turbine factory – and turned Brighton into a magnet for “green” energy companies.
It’s part of a $1 billion investment by the company in the United States, what Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter touts as a “new energy economy.”
“We have a caseload of 56 prospects. Of those, a majority are energy-related industries,” said Raymond Gonzales, president of the Brighton Economic Development Corporation. “People are looking. They’re not slowing down. And they’re aggressively looking at the United States.”
Some say these efforts – not the upcoming Copenhagen climate treaty talks – provide the most promising route to energy independence, climate change mitigation and job creation.
Regardless of whether delegates emerge next month with a comprehensive replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, industry’s full-throttle acceleration toward a low-carbon future will continue, they say.
Vestas isn’t the only company spending millions of its capital. Several utilities are investing some $1 billion on an industrial-scale carbon capture and storage tests at coal plants in Wisconsin, West Virginia and Oklahoma. The race to perfect the batteries that will power the next generation of automobiles and buses has manufacturers in Europe, the United States and China scurrying to build plants and research centers.
“The vast majority of the utility industry (has) pretty much accepted the reality that CO2 is something they have to cope with,” said Revis James, director of the energy technology assessment center for the Electric Power Research Institute, or EPRI, a California-based nonprofit that helps drive long-range development and is coordinating carbon capture experiments at coal plants in the Midwest and Southeast.
Failure in Copenhagen won’t “substantially stop what’s going to happen,” James added. “The utilities have to deal with (carbon emissions). They have to respond one way or another.”
Many business leaders and policy analysts counter the status quo – a piecemeal, federated approach to carbon and energy emissions – doesn’t carry enough of a signal to produce the revolution required of our economic and energy sectors.
Private-sector investments and regional and local government efforts to boost “green” technology are good, they say. But that’s just the down payment: The transformative change necessary to avoid the worst warming won’t come until the international community firmly sets a global standard in place.
“What you want is something sustainable, predictable and long-term,” said Roby Roberts, spokesman for Vestas Americas. “That’s what you want out of the climate rules, but that’s going to be a few years away.”
Beyond LEED: Living Building Challenge 2.0 Certification Unveiled This week the ILBI released it's New Green Building Standards
This week the International Living Building Institute released its new green building standard to the public at Greenbuild 2009. Version 2.0 expands on its already impressive focus to now cover social issues – any Certified Living Building must be net-zero energy, net-zero water, non-toxic, provide for habitat restoration on sister sites, and urban agriculture is mandated. The 20 imperatives, all of which must be addressed, go well beyond the simple efficiency standards that our industry seems content to comply with before calling a project ’sustainable’. Seriously, read this thing!
Jason F. McLennan and his team have done a wonderful thing in giving us the language and rules to move beyond LEED. Industry spokespeople will call this ‘idoitic’, ‘unreasonable’ and ‘impossible’. Don’t be scared industry spokespeople – change happens, we move forward, let’s do it together. Remember when you said the same things about LEED, which is now mandated in cities and counties all over the world?
The International Living Building Institute was founded in 2009 by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council to promote to the creation of Living Buildings, sites and communities in countries around the world. There are currently 70 projects pursuing certification in the US under the previous release.
One of the most important features of LBC is that it measures the actual performance of buildings. Basically this means that a year after a building was built, measurements are taken to ensure that it is, in fact, net zero in terms of energy and water, etc. This is a big distinction from existing requirements like LEED and CA’s Title 24 which measure performance models and do not hold projects accountable to live up to those models.
This is also the first standard to address social justice and equity issues. In their own words: “The intent of the Equity Petal is to correlate the impacts of design and development to its ability to foster a true sense of community. A society that embraces all sectors of humanity and allows the dignity of equal access is a civilization in the best position to make decisions that protect and restore the natural environment.”
“The simple concept of green buildings has generally produced more efficient buildings and smaller footprints. But that is no longer enough,” says McLennan. “With version 2.0 addressing issues of food, transportation and social justice, we expect a considerable leap forward will happen once again.”
We are interested to hear what you think about this new standard – sound off in the comments! by Trey Farmer, 11/12/09 www.inhabitat.com