Powering up the future: Renewable energy rapidly taking off

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For obvious reasons, electrical power has become an essential part of the human civilization, from boosting economic activities to enhancing man’s overall quality of life. However, electricity is traditionally generated using fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas—the very reason why such commodities are among the most traded in the world. They have, however, often been associated with severe air pollution and global warming. The growing demand for energy and the ballooning concern over the planet’s deteriorating health have led to major developments in green tech, particularly in the field of renewable power. Such alternative power sources have existed for decades, but only in recent years have they been gaining significant attention and higher investment.

Geothermal power

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Geothermal power production requires high upfront investment costs. However, in most countries, it is one of the main sources of energy. It is tapped by over 20 countries around the world, such as the United States, China, and the Philippines. In Iceland, more than a quarter of the country’s energy needs are met by its five major geothermal power plants.

The United States has significant geothermal resources with a great growth potential, particularly in western states like California and Nevada. The United States ranks high among countries with most geothermal heat pump installations. According to the GEA (Geothermal Energy Association) annual production report for 2016, the U.S. geothermal market had about 3.7 GW of installed nameplate capacity and 2.723 GW of net capacity with two additional plant expansions in Nevada.

 

Solar Power

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Solar power is one of the most widely used renewable sources of energy. Its extremely low carbon footprint, zero emissions, and longevity make for a healthier environment. Large-scale solar farms are currently being constructed in countries like India and China.

In India, the Kamuthi Solar Power Project has a capacity of 648 MWs covering an area of 10 square kilometers and their Kurnool Mega Solar Park with an estimated 1,000 MW once finished. China, meanwhile, is being recognized as one of the leading producers and developers of large-scale solar projects. In contrast to the usual landscape or portrait orientation of solar panels, the country is building a 250-acre solar power plant shaped like a giant Panda that will be stretched up to 1,500 acres when completed. The plant is set to produce 3.2 billion kilowatt-hours of solar energy in the next 25 years according to China Merchants New Energy Group.

 

Hydropower

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Energy derived from moving water has been harnessed by humans for centuries. When turbines came to existence, hydropower has become one of the most popular sources of clean energy, and is particularly beneficial in many nations that are well-endowed with water resources. The hydropower industry constantly improves on its ecological profile by using modified and enhanced technologies.

Nowadays, several companies are investing billions of dollars on hydropower projects due to the growing population as well as the increasing electricity demands globally. Earlier this year, some of the successful hydropower projects have begun supplying electricity to the public such as:

The 2,070-MW Lauca hydropower project constructed in Angola, the first of six generator turbines with a cost estimate of US$4.5 billion. The Tata Power Company located in Georgia has finally completed its 187-MW Shuakhevi hydropower project with a price tag of more than US$420 million.

 

Given the fact that there are still millions of people living without electricity, many countries could potentially take advantage of their natural resources to produce a renewable and sustainable energy that are both economically viable and environmentally beneficial.

REPOST: The U.S. has been hit by two giant hurricanes. Here’s the financial toll

The last two catastrophic hurricanes that battered the US left massive destruction on the cities along their path. While it is still very difficult to measure the full economic extent of their devastation, experts agree that the total financial loss could reach billions of dollars. CNN has some specific figures:

One monster hurricane can cause serious economic damage.

So what happens when two massive storms hit the U.S. within two weeks of each other?

Hurricane Harvey decimated parts of Texas and damaged southwest Louisiana when it hit the region late last month, destroying billions of dollars worth of property.

Now, Hurricane Irma is tearing through Florida.

Both storms will be extremely costly. RMS, a catastrophe modeling company, estimates that Harvey has caused between $25 billion and $35 billion in losses that will be covered by insurance. The total economic damage, which includes uninsured losses, could be between $70 billion and $90 billion.

RMS is waiting until Monday or Tuesday to release damage estimates from Irma, since the storm’s path is still in flux.

AIR Worldwide, another so-called catastrophe modeling firm, says Irma might cause anywhere between $15 billion and $50 billion worth of insured losses in the United States. Damage in the Caribbean could bring that number to $65 billion.

Others say Irma’s cost could be even higher. Chuck Watson, an analyst with the disaster research group Enki Research, said the situation “looks pretty grim.”

Watson estimated that Irma could cause $172 billion in total U.S. damage, based on the storm’s path as of Sunday morning. He expected that $65 billion of that amount will be insured losses, and that $40 billion will need to be covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. That assumed the storm maintains its intensity as it moves north.

Irma was initially expected to hit Miami directly, but it shifted west. Forecasts show the storm moving up Florida’s west coast on Sunday and Monday, hitting Naples and Fort Meyers before reaching Tampa. It made landfall in the Florida Keys early Sunday.

Property damage isn’t the only issue in play. Harvey has already hurt the job market, and Irma could exacerbate the problem. That could knock down short-term economic growth.

On Thursday, the federal government reported that 62,000 more people sought jobless insurance in the last week of August, mostly from Texas.

That raised the total number of claims for the week to 298,000 — the highest level in more than two years.

Continue reading HERE.

World’s most expensive natural disasters in recent history

As a giver and nurturer of life, Mother Nature can also be the bringer of wrath and destruction that not even the most powerful countries on the planet can escape from. In fact, governments and nations all over the globe have witnessed nature’s devastations not only in terms of lost lives but also in its massive effect on the economy, leaving billions worth in ruins. Let’s take a look at some of the world’s costliest natural disasters in recent history.

 

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Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.

It was during the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season when Katrina made its presence known and that fateful day on August 25, 2005 would be remembered as one of the saddest and most expensive tragedies ($81 billion as of 2005 U.S. dollars) that America has ever seen. According to the reports, 1,836 died in the hurricane and the floods that followed. The devastation did not end there; five years later, many residents were displaced and had no choice but to stay in temporary shelters.

 

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Sichuan Earthquake in China

In May 2008, the entire Sichuan province was rocked by a massive 8.0 magnitude that killed about 70,000 people, and left over 18,000 missing. According to authorities, the damages and losses were estimated to have reached $29 billion – not including the indirect damage caused by the disaster’s aftermath. AIR Worldwide reported official estimates of insurers’ losses at US$1 billion from the earthquake. A huge number of livestock and large areas of agricultural lands were also destroyed, including 12.5 million animals. In the Sichuan province, around 60 million farm hogs died.

 

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Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

The entire world witnessed the horrors and destructions of the double-tragedy that struck Japan’s Sendai region on March 11, 2011. According to report, 8,649 people have been confirmed dead and there are still 13,262 missing.

The deadly tremors and the tsunami that followed were not the end of the resident’s nightmare. The 9.0-magnitude quake had resulted to a deadlier and toxic aftermath when the nearby Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant’s cooling system failed and threatened 200,000 people to a deadly radiation exposure.

According to the World Bank, the damages might reach $235 billion, but Japan’s government expected a higher estimate of $309 billion – and could go even higher because of how it could disrupt the country’s economic activities.

REPOST: Forget ‘Earth Hour’, we need to adopt real solutions to our environmental predicament

While initiatives like the “Earth Hour” aren’t necessarily useless, the planet requires more long-term solutions to halt the worsening effects of global warming and other environmental issues. The Independent has a few suggestions:

By encouraging high density living and vegetarianism, limiting travel, rationing electricity and introducing mandatory population control, we could reduce resource use and environment impact, preserving both for future generations.

High density living across the world could help solve our environmental crisis

 

Facing economic stagnation, the approaching scarcity of non-renewable resources and irreversible environmental damage, policy makers are vigorously doing nothing.

They argue about the correct solution, spend money on faux strategies unlikely to accomplish anything significant or lasting and claim chronic crisis fatigue. Ultimately, a major change in behaviour is needed. It requires embracing a more frugal lifestyle, following the advice of John Stuart Mill [seeking] “happiness by limiting … desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”

Caught in what philosopher Montesquieu called a “spiral of expectations”, the population of Western economies believe that they have a right to constantly improve living standards. Those in less developed countries, understandably, aspire to the lifestyle and opportunities of their peers in advanced economies. But a significant portion of higher living standards is based on unsustainable financial, environmental and resource management practices.

Technological developments may defer some of these problems but they cannot solve them entirely. The magnitude of the difficulty of reversing this spiral of expectations can be seen from a “thought experiment” of what a transformation to a more sustainable future – sometimes referred to as “frugal living” – would look like.

High density living would become the norm, with limitations on permitted living space designed to reduce environmental impact, consumption, and increase transport efficiency.

Vegetarianism would be mandatory. The inputs needed to produce animal protein does not match the added calorie value. Eating only locally produced food (locavorism) would minimise food waste and energy utilised in transportation and storage. All water would be recycled, with limits on consumption. Bottled water would be eliminated other than in emergencies. Disposable items, such as redundant packaging, non-reusable storage and so on, would be banned.

Access to private cars and non-essential air travel would be restricted to reduce energy and resource utilisation and emissions. Electricity consumption would be rationed. Air-conditioning may need to be eliminated to reduce energy demand.

Continue reading HERE.

Three of the most dramatic coastal sceneries on Earth

In many parts of the globe, tourism is a major revenue earner. The likes of the Caribbean, Oceania, and Southeast Asia capitalize on their natural beauty to attract visitors, and their magnificent beaches and islands almost always take the biggest slice of the cake. However, dramatic coastal sceneries are not only found in the tropics. In fact, even in the colder latitudes, seascapes can still be just as stunning. If you’re still trying to complete your bucket list, try visiting any of these surreal coastal utopias:

 

1. Norway’s Lofoten Islands

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The Lofoten archipelago is considered as one of the planet’s most mesmerizing group of islands because of its glorious mountains and picturesque coastline. The islands’ 160-kilometer rugged mountains are the first sights to see when traversing this coastal gem in northern Norway. Lofoten is a home to natural and surreal phenomena of sounds and sights. If you want to experience the dreamlike midnight sun in the summer or the enthralling northern lights of autumn and spring, then this paradise should be on your bucket list.

 

2. Italy’s Cinque Terre

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On one of the most beautiful parts of the Italian Riviera sits Cinque Terre, a line of craggy cliffs and stunning coastline named Liguria. The site is a home to five interesting and colorful villages: Riomaggiore, Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, and Manarola (Çinque Tære literally means “Five Lands”). These towns are inaccessible to cars so tourists have the chance to walk around and along the rocky coastlines while enjoying the tranquil Cinque Terre’s pebbled beaches and the spellbinding cliff-side terraced gardens. It was in 1997 when the Cinque Terre was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

3. Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast

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The stunning Antrim Coast will take your breath away, thanks to the outstanding natural beauties that surround this travel paradise: its splendid cliffs and spectacular farmlands of equally bucket-list-worthy landmarks. Just nearby is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Northern Ireland’s best known landmark, the world-famous Giant’s Causeway.

REPOST: Global diet and farming methods ‘must change for environment’s sake’

An article IOP Publishing argues that improvements in future agricultural sustainability will most probably be the result of major dietary shifts and increases in farming efficiency. With the world population projected to reach nearly 10 billion by the year 2050, food production methods must dramatically improve to keep up with the intensifying demand. Read more:

 

Reducing meat consumption and using more efficient farming methods globally are essential to stave off irreversible damage to the environmental, a new study says.

 

The research, from the University of Minnesota, also found that future increases in agricultural sustainability are likely to be driven by dietary shifts and increases in efficiency, rather than changes between food production systems.

 

Researchers examined more than 740 production systems for more than 90 different types of food, to understand the links between diets, agricultural production practices and environmental degradation. Their results are published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

 

Lead author Dr Michael Clark said: “If we want to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, but still provide a secure food supply for a growing global population, it is essential to understand how these things are linked.”

 

Using life cycle assessments – which detail the input, output and environmental impact of a food production system – the researchers analysed the comparative environmental impacts of different food production systems (e.g. conventional versus organic; grain-fed versus grass-fed beef; trawling versus non-trawling fisheries; and greenhouse-grown versus open-field produce), different agricultural input efficiencies (such as feed and fertilizer), and different foods.

 

The impacts they studied covered levels of land use, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), fossil fuel energy use, eutrophication (nutrient runoff) and acidification potential.

 

Dr Clark said: “Although high agricultural efficiency consistently correlated with lower environmental impacts, the detailed picture we found was extremely mixed. While organic systems used less energy, they had higher land use, did not offer benefits in GHGs, and tended to have higher eutrophication and acidification potential per unit of food produced. Grass-fed beef, meanwhile, tended to require more land and emit more GHGs than grain-fed beef.”

 

However, the authors note that these findings do not imply conventional practices are sustainable. Instead, they suggest that combining the benefits of different production systems, for example organic’s reduced reliance on chemicals with the high yields of conventional systems, would result in a more sustainable agricultural system.

 

Dr Clark said: “Interestingly, we also found that a shift away from ruminant meats like beef – which have impacts three to 10 times greater than other animal-based foods – towards nutritionally similar foods like pork, poultry or fish would have significant benefits, both for the environment and for human health.

 

“Larger dietary shifts, such as global adoption of low-meat or vegetarian diets, would offer even larger benefits to environmental sustainability and human health.”

 

Co-author Professor David Tilman said: “It’s essential we take action through policy and education to increase public adoption of low-impact and healthy foods, as well the adoption of low impact, high efficiency agricultural production systems.

 

“A lack of action would result in massive increases in agriculture’s environmental impacts including the clearing of 200 to 1000 million hectares of land for agricultural use, an approximately three-fold increase in fertilizer and pesticide applications, an 80 per cent increase in agricultural GHG emissions and a rapid rise in the prevalence of diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

 

Professor Tilman added: “The steps we have outlined, if adopted individually, offer large environmental benefits. Simultaneous adoption of these and other solutions, however, could prevent any increase in agriculture’s environmental impacts. We must make serious choices, before agricultural activities cause substantial, and potentially irreversible, environmental damage.”

How biodiversity relates to economic development

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Nature has provided mankind with all the resources we need for survival. In fact, it has contributed to the dramatic progress of different civilizations around the world. However, the increasing number of population eventually led to a higher demand in goods and raw materials. As a result, it has not only devastated the planet but it also threatened whatever nature has to offer into extinction.

 

Several nations have acknowledged the importance of nature to sustain a society and its economy by depending on the rich biodiversity readily available to them. Unfortunately, the unrestrained consumption of these resources is starting to show its effects particularly on people below the poverty line who depend on agriculture and fishing to feed their family.

 

Biodiversity provides us with different products for consumption such as fish, firewood, timber, medicinal plants, and many more. Non consumptive uses include recreation, science, education, as well as natural pest control.

 

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The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) Report emphasized the benefits of diversity to the local and international population. Furthermore, the report highlighted the social and economic costs of biodiversity loss and the massive ecosystem degradation. The results are then compared to the costs of proper and effective conservation and sustainable use of these resources.

 

Perhaps the biggest challenge that we are facing today is to have the right knowledge and tools to maintain a healthy environment not only for us but also for the future generation. In addition, government of every country should come together to integrate biodiversity and corresponding ecological issues when creating policies and programs in order to promote sustainable development in a global scale.

 

Green tech, clean energy, and the knowledge economy sectors are working together to create new industry strategies that will not only protect the environment but can also empower revenue models. In fact, there are currently exchange-traded funds and other forms of pooled fund investments that specifically invest in green stocks. After all, progress does not always mean ecological degradation.

REPOST: Poor overall environmental quality linked to elevated cancer rates

Apparently, the rapidly deteriorating and increasingly polluted environment is causing so much more dilemmas than just rising sea levels, biodiversity loss, and changing weather patterns. Exposure to pollutants has also largely contributed to the snowballing number of cases of cancer and most probably, many other dreaded diseases. Here’s an article from UIC News Center for more details:

 

 

Nationwide, counties with the poorest quality across five domains – air, water, land, the built environment and sociodemographic – had the highest incidence of cancer, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer.

 

Poor air quality and factors of the built environment — such as the presence of major highways and the availability of public transit and housing – – were the most strongly associated with high cancer rates, while water quality and land pollution had no measurable effect.

 

The findings may help reduce cancer by driving policy to lower pollution in areas with high cancer rates linked to the environment.

 

Previous research has shown that genetics can be blamed for only about half of all cancers, suggesting that exposure to environmental toxins or socioeconomic factors may also play a role.

 

“Most research has focused on single environmental factors like air pollution or toxins in water,” said Jyotsna Jagai, research assistant professor of environmental and occupational health in the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “But these single factors don’t paint a comprehensive picture of what a person is exposed to in their environment — and may not be as helpful in predicting cancer risk, which is impacted by multiple factors including the air you breathe, the water you drink, the neighborhood you live in, and your exposure to myriad toxins, chemicals and pollutants.”

 

Read the full report HERE.

Four nonprofits that lead the fight against Climate Change

The dawn of the 21st century was marked with numerous advancements in the field of science and technology, improving not only our way of life but people’s understanding of our physical world as well. However, this optimism did not fully bloom when we realized that coupled with the progress, our environment was starting to die on us as evident in the destructive effects of the shifting climate.

 

In definition, climate change is the shift in global and regional weather patterns and scientists believe that it is attributed to the increased atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by human’s use of fossil fuels.

 

The world’s economy may lose up to $12 trillion to climate change, unless greenhouse gases are tackled.

 

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When the environment is on peril, it can have rippling effects on many other facets of life as well. Property damage caused by erratic weather patterns may become more severe, livelihoods could be destroyed, food production will be jeopardized, and many industries that are directly or indirectly dependent on natural resources will be put at risk. According to the Independent, the world’s economy may lose up to $12 trillion to climate change, unless greenhouse gases are tackled.

 

The big question now is: is there a way to save the planet? Our hope lies in these top nonprofits that lead the fight against climate change and like them, you can do your part, too.

 

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Sierra Club Foundation is a California-based nonprofit organization. They believe in the importance of an effective conversion to a resource-efficient, clean energy economy that can serve the people without harming nature.

 

Greenpeace was founded in 1971 in Canada. Their organization is perhaps the most visible pro-environment group in the world, raising environmental issues to public awareness. Their actions have effectively influenced policy-making in both private and public sectors.

 

Union of Concerned Scientists is a science advocacy organization based in the United States and the group is composed of private citizens and professional scientists. It was founded in 1969 and has been promoting policies such as state laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the national renewable energy standard.

 

350.org is a New York-based organization founded in 2007 and their primary advocacy is to fight global warming. In addition, they were one of the boldest international organizations that helped publicize the harmful increase of carbon dioxide emissions through their online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions.

 

Supporting these organizations will make huge difference, but even in our own little ways, we can also do some things that could potentially save our planet. Planting more trees, capitalizing on green technology, investing in clean energy, increasing recycling initiatives, and even selecting non-polluting stocks (businesses) are small actions than can already have big positive impact.

Connecting to nature: The prescription to a clearer mind

Life is full of ups and downs, but sometimes the downs become too severe to handle. They stack up over time until individuals get stuck in a hole that they can’t climb out from. That’s when depression begins to develop. Arguably, it is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders worldwide and affects various aspects of the people’s lives, including their financial wellbeing. Making money decisions is difficult to carry out when the mind is too clouded with negative thoughts or overpowered by destructive emotions.

 

Depression so hard to recognize because it just creeps up on people insidiously. The moment one’s family and friends realize the gravity of the situation, the damage has already been done. Those who are feeling its effects might be wondering “What’s the best course of action to get out of this funk?” According to researchers, hiking and nature appreciation are the answers.

 

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A study done by Stanford scientists were able to find evidence that hiking and surrounding oneself with nature could significantly lower the risk of depression. What they did was that they created two groups. One group would walk 90 minutes in a natural setting while the other in an urban setting. They were able to observe a significant decrease in the activity of the part of the brain which plays a major role in depression in the group who followed a trail through the trees.

 

Majority of the global population resides in urban settlements and that number is growing at a steady pace. As their disconnection with nature increases, so does the incidence of depression and other mental health disorders. That’s why during the planning process, it is noteworthy to find ways which will increase people’s exposure to the environment as much as possible.

 

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In the US, national parks are the most popular destinations for nature exploration and outdoor activities. Not only are they excellent venues to clear the mind and relax the soul, but they are also a major source of revenues for their respective jurisdictions. In 2015, more than 300 million park visits were recorded, which translates to $32 billion in economic output to the U.S. economy and support to over 295,000 jobs.