Thursday, 31 May 2012 17:38

Climate Change Lessons from a Long Lost Civilization

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New information is coming to light about the massive collapse of one of the world’s oldest and earliest urban civilizations.  The Harappan, or Indus, civilization came into being over 4,000 years ago and existed for about 600 years before it slowly disappeared.  Scientists and scholars have hypothesized about its demise.  Theories range from regional conflicts to a foreign attack, but some suggest environmental issues may have been the cause. 

Researchers recently published an article named, “Fluvial landscapes of the Harappan civilization” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences outlining evidence that points to environmental factors leading to the end of this ancient civilization.  The scientists studied satellite maps and collected field sediment samples, then cross-referenced them with previous archaeological findings to develop a much clearer picture of what really happened to this long-lost civilization.

The Harappan civilization is named for one of its largest cities, and occupied what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and part of Afghanistan.  It had a sophisticated indoor plumbing system, gridded streets, a flourishing arts and crafts community, and what appears to be a more democratic society than other large civilizations such as Egypt or Mesopotamia. 

The Harappans were largely dependent upon monsoons that dried up leading to the end of their urban environment.  They used the rivers and seasonal floods that were fed by these monsoons to meet their agricultural needs.  Once the monsoons weakened, people slowly moved eastward away from cities into small villages and towns.  The water in the area they moved to was unable to support the large cities of the past.  

There are lessons to be learned from the extinction of this colossal civilization.  The Harappans were overly dependent on monsoons that eventually disappeared and the U.S. is also largely dependent on somewhat predictable weather, which is now threatened by climate change.  Americans need to prepare for increasingly extreme weather, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase energy efficiency, and we need to do it now before we suffer a similar fate to that of the Harappans.

To be fair, this is not a question we commonly receive from donors or those interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but when people do ask about the different between carbon offsets and carbon credits, and sometimes carbon dioxide equivalents, it shows an intense interest in the subject and usually a strong commitment to fighting climate change. 

Let’s start with a carbon credit. A carbon credit is an instrument that represents ownership of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent that can be traded, sold, retired, etc. If a company is regulated under a cap-and-trade system, they most likely have an allowance of credits they can use toward their cap. If they use fewer emissions (credits) than they are allocated, they can trade, sell, hold, or do whatever they like with the credit. If it is sold, it is their allowance  of emissions being sold to someone else. (Likewise, if they use more than they have allocated, they must purchase a credit to be in compliance). So a credit becomes tradable, like an offset, because of a very real reduction in emissions, but often times the reduction is from an activity you may not have thought of, like changing a business practice, flying less, turning off equipment at night, and so on. 

A carbon offset, on the other hand, is also a very real reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and results in the generation of a carbon credit, but from a project with clear boundaries, title, project documents and a verification plan. Carbon offsets generate reductions outside the ‘four walls’ of a company in most cases. Projects like building a wind farm, supporting truck stop electrification projects, planting trees or preserving forests are very common carbon offset projects. These reductions occur outside the companies’ four walls but more importantly, outside any regulatory requirement. They are in addition to what is being mandated. 

So a carbon offset derived from a third-party certified project usually generates a carbon credit. But a carbon credit need not be from a carbon offset project. Because carbon dioxide is a global impact gas, meaning it does not affect us locally through increased smog or acid rain, both offsets and credits have the exact same reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and have the exact same benefit to the planet in terms of climate change.

 We get excited about carbon offsets because they have the opportunity to reduce global climate change at a fraction of the cost than if every entity were forced to reduce their emissions only internally. Imagine how expensive it is for an already state-of-the-art factory to reduce its emissions by 30% versus a dirty coal plant in the Ukraine to reduce a similar amount of emissions by installing upgraded, new equipment. Carbon offsets enable capital to reduce emissions in the most efficient manner possible. Carbon offsets support technology transfer, international development, jobs and exports for developed countries and so forth. 

And this is why we ask people to [cue shameless plug] ‘reduce what you can and offset what you can’t’.

CarbonFree® Business Partner Brouwer Systems Group has made a carbon neutral workplace an important part of its comprehensive sustainability programs. The company is a leading provider of computer networks and services across the Midwest. They focus on website development, I.T. support, software design and content marketing.

In addition to achieving carbon-neutral operations again in 2012, Brouwer Systems Group also provides a bicycle to every employee and encourages an active, outdoor lifestyle.  B.S.G. is also a leading example of businesses working with other like-minded companies. They choose to work exclusively with local, privately-held companies that also share their environmental commitment.  

“We partner with Carbonfund.org because it’s impossible to avoid all fossil fuels,” cites Mark Brouwer, President.  “Brouwer Systems Group is dedicated to accelerating the course toward a fossil fuel free future. Better systems make a better world. Carbonfund.org is helping others develop the technology we need to survive climate change.” 

Brouwer is a shining example of what any company can do to both reduce its direct impact on climate change and lead the way, through their other environmental initiatives and who they work with, to building a stronger, more sustainabile future for all of us. We would like to thank Mark and his team at Brouwer Systems Group for being an important force for good in the fight against climate change.

Thursday, 24 May 2012 16:13

Killer Climate Change

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The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 that estimates 150,000 additional American deaths in the country’s top 40 cities by 2100 due to the excessive heat caused by climate change.

The top three deadliest cities outlined in the analysis of peer-reviewed data include Louisville, Detroit, and Cleveland.  Some other cities projected to have thousands of heat related deaths by the end of the century are Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Why cities?  Because that is where two-thirds of the U.S. population lives, and many municipal services there are not prepared to help people effectively beat the heat.  Urban areas have high concentrations of poor with little to no access to air conditioning.  Although everyone is at risk, children, the elderly, the obese, and those on medication are the most vulnerable. 

We’re already seeing how global warming can kill with hundreds of heat related deaths annually.  Extreme heat causes heat exhaustion and heat stroke and worsens illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.  In 2006, a two-week long heat wave in California caused 655 deaths, 1,620 excess hospitalizations, and more than 16,000 additional emergency room visits, resulting in nearly $5.4 billion in costs.  However, Chicago had an even deadlier record-setting heat wave in 1995 when more than 700 people died due to the excessive heat.

Some cities are learning from their experiences or heeding the warnings, and strengthening their municipal services.  Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle have already put measures in place to lessen the risk from excessive heat days.  Measures include improving the city’s heat warning system, emergency services, and establishing cooling centers.

There is hope; we can save lives by reducing emissions and improving emergency services.  Some examples of climate change mitigation are supporting reforestation projects and using more renewable energy such as wind energy.

Read the report and get more information at http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/killer-heat/.

Private Flight Advisors, LLC , a new CarbonFree® program partner, is a comprehensive private jet charter and advisory firm focused on safety, value, service, and security.  PFA’s mission is to deliver each client maximum value and service on each and every flight.  That mission now includes a commitment to offset jet fuel emissions from each client flight that PFA books. 

Private Flight Advisors has partnered with Carbonfund.org to offset the hourly jet fuel emissions from all client flights they book, by supporting Carbonfund.org’s energy efficiency, renewable energy and reforestation projects.  

 “Energy efficiency has become exceptionally important in the private aviation industry, specifically with the cycle and propulsive efficiencies of jet engines. Through this new partnership, we are supporting projects that apply to new technologies, processes and practices to achieve the same outcome while using less energy,” explains Bryan Ellis, Chief Operating Officer of PFA. 

PFA’s Jet Solutions Management maintains a goal to help clients develop and manage a portfolio of jet solutions, analyzing each client's requirements, preferences, and budget and then advising as to the best solution for that specific trip. We applaud Private Flight Advisors’ decision to add environmental responsibility to their mission to provide maximum value, service and safety, including environmental stewardship, to their clients’ flights.  

LEI Electronics and EcoAlkalines™ are ecstatic to be able to announce that EcoAlkalines™ Batteries, the World’s first Landfill safe, Certified Carbon Neutral Alkaline Batteries have been certified meet LEED standards.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® Green Building Program is a voluntary, consensus-based global rating system for buildings, homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.  LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) with the intent on providing building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions. LEED is based on a credit system and points are allocated based on the potential environmental impacts and human benefits of each credit. Under the current LEED credit system, EcoAlkalines™ batteries can help earn one prerequisite and one point under the LEED category of Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (EBOM) rating system.

For more information on LEED standards visit www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CategoryID=19 

Eco Alkalines™ have been reviewed by a LEED AP third party – Above Green, LLC. Above Green has provided us with a LEED certified technical statement which explains exactly which prerequisites and points Eco Alkalines™ batteries can be used to count towards.

As per Above Green, LLC:

EcoAlkalines are the world's first certified carbon neutral batteries. Manufactured with 0% Mercury, 0% Lead, 0% Cadmium – EcoAlkalines™ set the standard for responsible disposable alkaline batteries. Because of these qualities, EcoAlkalines are considered an environmentally preferable product. If you own and operate a LEED Certified building, include EcoAlkalines™ as part of your purchasing policy, and earn points toward certification and recertification of your facility.” 

Applicable   Credit Category and Credit Name

Number   of Points

MRp1: Sustainable Purchasing Policy

          Prerequisite

MRc1: Sustainable Purchasing - Ongoing Consumables

1

  • Materials and Resources Prerequisite 1 ("MRp1"): Sustainable Purchasing Policy requires facilities managers to develop a comprehensive purchasing plan, which sets goals for the purchasing of environmental friendly products.
  • Materials and Resources Credit 1 ("MRc1"): Sustainable Purchasing - Ongoing Consumables focuses on the implementation of MRp1, specifically in the procurement of environmentally friendly ongoing consumables, including batteries.

Carbonfund.org is pleased see one of our Carbon Neutral Certified Products recognized by the USGBC as meeting LEEDs Green Building Program Standards and congratulates LEI Electronics on this achievement. For more information about EcoAlkalines™ please visit: http://www.leiproducts.com/eco-alkalines and to learn more about Carbon Neutral Certification through Carbonfund.org please visit: http://carbonfund.org/offset/product-certification.

Friday, 18 May 2012 23:08

Animals Also Affected by Climate Change

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A new study named, “Dispersal will limit ability of mammals to track climate change in the Western Hemisphere” from the University of Washington released on Monday, May 14, 2012 examines how 493 animals will fare as they attempt to outrun the rising heat from climate change. 

The article, authored by Carrie A. Schloss, Tristan A. Nuñez, and Joshua J. Lawler, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and says on average 9.2% of the mammals in the study migrate too slowly to keep pace with expected climate shifts.  In some places, such as the Amazon basin and parts of the Appalachian Mountains, up to 39% of animals may be unable to find suitable climates in a warming world.

Contrary to popular belief, although temperature changes are expected to be more extreme in mountainous regions, equatorial-dwelling mammals may have a rougher time moving their ranges fast enough.  This is because temperatures at the equator have been fairly static and the animals that live there are adapted to steady temperatures.  Conversely, animals that live in the mountains don’t have as far to go to find cooler temperatures.  Flat lands are also a problem for mammals.  For example, animals that live in the Central United States or the Amazon basin will need to travel farther to beat the heat.

Mammals that take several years to mature, such as New World monkeys, disperse more slowly and this puts them in danger of extinction.  The study indicates that a whopping 87% of animals are expected to have smaller dispersal ranges.  Of which, 20% will probably result from limited dispersal abilities rather than less suitable climates.

The analysis provides additional information on how humans might help these animals and our own plight.  Reducing emissions is critical to slow down climate change.  However, it is also possible to ease animal migration barriers such as shopping centers, roads, and cities.  In fact, people could even build corridors to help the mammals reach safe havens in time.

Friday, 11 May 2012 13:56

Can Humans Survive on Earth?

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A new report released on Monday, May 7, 2012 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands by environmental think tank Club of Rome indicates human life on Earth may not be sustainable if we continue to over consume the planet’s resources and only think in the short-term.  The path we’re on is leading us to an expected 2°C rise in temperature by 2052, where we dangerously approach the point of no return.  The future doesn’t look any brighter either.  By 2080, temperatures will reach a 2.8°C rise, and global climactic changes may be unavoidable.

The report entitled, “2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years” and authored by Jorgen Randers raises some critical questions concerning how many people the planet can truly support, whether or not runaway climate change will prevail, and if quality of life will improve or decline.  Randers used meticulous research and compiled information from over 30 of his peers in the field to develop the report.  His conclusions were that:

  • While humankind has begun the process of adapting to the Earth’s limitations, the response could be too slow to engender meaningful change.
  • Global economies will rise and fall.  The United States will decline while Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and ten leading emerging economies (referred to as ‘BRISE’ in the Report) will advance.
  • China, because of its ability to act, will be a success story.
  • Poverty will still be a big problem at 3 billion in 2052.
  • Global population peaks in 2042, because of falling fertility rates in urban areas.
  • Global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grows much slower than expected, because of slower productivity growth in mature economies.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will continue to grow and may very well result in self-reinforcing climate change.

Now that you’re sufficiently scared about the bleakness of our planet’s future, it is important to note that the Report says the main cause of these problems is the exceptionally short-term political and economic model to which nations principally subscribe.  

“We need a system of governance that takes a more long-term view”, said Professor Randers, speaking in Rotterdam. “It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate friendly solutions, and [we] must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind”.

This means that the two main ways you can make a difference are to get involved politically and make choices that have an economic impact.  There is no other planet in our solar system so uniquely suited to sustaining human life and we need to work towards keeping it that way.