Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cutting Black Carbon Soot Could Save Arctic

arctic winter

Washington, DC – Reducing emissions of black carbon, the dark component of soot, could be the best – and perhaps only – way to save the Arctic from warmer temperatures that are melting its snow and ice, according to a study published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Dr. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University studied the short-term effects of reducing black carbon and other greenhouse gases, including CO2 and methane, over a 15-year period of time, with black carbon reductions appearing to be the fastest way to avoid further Arctic ice loss and warming.

Jacobson’s study found that aggressive reductions in black carbon emissions produced from both the burning of fossil fuels and burning of biomass, could lower temperatures in the Arctic by 1.7˚C within the next 15 years. The Arctic has warmed at least 2.5˚C over the past century – a reduction of this magnitude could help slow ice loss and potentially save it from reaching a tipping point where it would be impossible to recover its snow and ice cover.

“The Arctic is a critical defense shield for the Earth’s climate system. Its vast expanse of ice and snow is reflecting significant incoming heat back into space. We cannot afford to lose the Arctic,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Targeting black carbon with aggressive, fast action today is the most important strategy for saving the Arctic.”

Black carbon has a particularly negative impact on the Arctic and other regions with snow and ice, such as the Tibetan Plateau in Asia. After a few days or weeks, the black carbon particles are washed out of the atmosphere and deposited on the ground below, darkening the reflective white surface and leading to greater absorption of solar radiation. This leads to more melting and larger pools of dark water, which then absorb more heat, continuing a dangerous feedback cycle.

Besides its damaging impact on the Arctic, black carbon emissions have a significant effect on the overall warming of the earth. After studying the different climate forcers’ impacts on Arctic temperatures, as well as clouds and precipitation, Jacobson was able to conclude that black carbon may be the second largest contributor to warming after CO2, echoing the conclusion by several other scientists.

“On top of all this, black carbon is a killer,” added Zaelke. “Nearly a million and a half people die every year from breathing air polluted by black carbon and contracting deadly respiratory diseases. Black carbon is bad news for development, which depends on a healthy population, and we need to get rid of it now.”

Fortunately, as Jacobson notes in his paper, fairly simple technologies such as diesel particulate filters for vehicles and more efficient cookstoves, are available now and can effectively reduce black carbon emissions.

“We have the technology to solve this problem, and now we need to make it a priority,” said Zaelke.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Solar power to supply 80 percent of General Mills energy needs

General Mills yogurt facility in Methuen, MA has completed a solar retrofit that is expected to produce 80 percent of the warehouse's warm weather power needs. The Methuen plant is the company's first U.S. facility to produce its own electricity via solar energy.

"The enthusiasm of the work force and the partnership with state and local government led the way for us to install the solar panels," said Jon Russett, energy manager in General Mills' Supply Chain operations. "General Mills is committed to continuously improving its environmental performance."

The company's investment in renewable energy extends globally. A facility in Spain now receives all of its electricity and more than 30 percent of its overall energy needs from renewable energy sources - including wind power. Closer to home, General Mills is constructing a biomass burner at an oat-milling facility in Minnesota. Using leftover oat hulls from the milling process the burner is expected to generate 90 percent of the steam needed to heat the plant and make oat flour.

"As we continue to work on sustainability across our supply chain, we remain confident that the groundwork we've laid will continue to show even more progress in the future," said Russet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Innovative Art Contest Explores Climate Change.

Barca by Sharon McBride.

LOS ANGELES - The Gulf oil disaster is but one example of the ways in which our fossil fuel economy is impacting the planet we call home. But as bad as this catastrophe is, the specter of global climate change looms even larger as a threat to sustaining life on Earth. Despite overwhelming evidence - species extinction and dwindling water supplies to mass migrations and mega-storms - the public is still unclear what climate really means for them.

That is why the Creative Visions Foundation is calling on artists worldwide to participate in the CoolClimate Art Contest – the first online art contest exploring climate change in its many forms – how it is impacting our lives and what can be done to ensure a sustainable future for all of Earth’s inhabitants.

How Does it Work?
Submit a work of art that explores our relationship with the climate – from clean energy jobs to pollution-free oceans – the subject choice is yours. You can submit a piece you’ve already made, or pass this email along and get an artist friend involved. Post your art on and you will be eligible to win prizes, be featured on the Planet Green Planet100 show and be displayed at key leader events nationwide on 10/10/10.

A panel of esteemed judges, including: Philippe Cousteau (ecologist); Van Jones (environmental activist) and; Jackson Browne (musician)will select 20 finalists from all submissions.

Submissions are now open and will close on August 23, 2010. You can read the Official Contest Rules on the CoolClimate Group Page.

Historically the creative community has always helped to create new and expanded visions of possibility during difficult times and we look forward to the artist’s vision for a cool and sustainable future.