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Shipping pollution ‘far more damaging than flying’

Daniel Howden, The Independent
New research suggests that the impact of shipping on climate change has been seriously underestimated and that the industry is currently churning out greenhouse gases at nearly twice the rate of aviation.

Shipping, although traditionally thought of as environmentally friendly, is growing so fast that the pollution it creates is at least 50 per cent higher than previously thought. Maritime emissions are also set to leap by 75 per cent by 2020.

The International Maritime Organisation, the UN body set up to regulate shipping, has set up a working group due to report this year. Research seen by the group suggests previous calculations, which put the total at about 600 million tonnes per year, are signifi-cantly short. The true figure is set to be more than one billion tonnes, according to a confidential report produced for the IMO by Intertanko, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners.

In comparison, aviation produces an estimated 650 million tonnes. The old figures were based on 2001 estimates, but shipping has grown by 4.5 per cent on average annually.

While other industries have come under pressure to clean up their acts, shipping has so far escaped
(10 October 2007)

The unheralded polluter: cement industry comes clean on its impact

David Adam, The Guardian
· Plants release over 5% of carbon dioxide emissions
· Industry sees no chance of green-friendly future

There were no climate change protesters waiting to jeer as the chief executives and other senior figures of one of the world’s biggest industries gathered on Wednesday. Yet they represented a business that produces more than 5% of mankind’s carbon dioxide emissions. And they were in Brussels to discuss climate change.

The summit was not called by the aviation industry – that is comparatively clean in comparison. Nor was it made up of car makers, oil companies, shipping firms or any other business that has traditionally drawn the fire of green campaigners.

These chief executives deal in a more down-to-earth commodity: cement. It is the key ingredient in concrete, and one that is rapidly emerging as a major obstacle on the world’s path to a low-carbon economy.

No company will make carbon-neutral cement any time soon. The manufacturing process depends on burning vast amounts of cheap coal to heat kilns to more than 1,500C. It also relies on the decomposition of limestone, a chemical change which frees carbon dioxide as a byproduct. So as demand for cement grows, for sewers, schools and hospitals as well as for luxury hotels and car parks, so will greenhouse gas emissions. Cement plants and factories across the world are projected to churn out almost 5bn tonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2050 – 20 times as much as the government has pledged the entire UK will produce by that time.

Dimitri Papalexopoulos, managing director of Titan Cement, Athens, who attended the meeting, said: “No matter what you do, cement production will always release carbon dioxide. You can’t change the chemistry, so we can’t achieve spectacular cuts in emissions.

“Cement is needed to satisfy basic human needs, and there is no obvious substitute, so there is a trade-off between development and sustainability.”

Concrete is the second most used product on the planet, after water, and almost half of it is produced in China.
(12 October 2007)
Brilliant article on a neglected subject. -BA

The time has come for drastic action

Kenneth Davidson, The Age
Living as we did in the 1950s may save the Earth and us.

SCIENTIFIC projections about climate change continue to worsen. Leading Australian scientist Tim Flannery said this week that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “synthesis” report for 2007 – to be released next month – would conclude that greenhouse gases had already reached levels “with the potential to cause dangerous climate change”.

There is now a growing concern among scientists that the two-degree warming cap accepted by the United Nations and European Union was based on a political compromise rather than a genuine scientific target. According to a paper prepared by Carbonequity, The Big Melt: Lessons from the Arctic Summer of 2007, which is available online, with the speed of change now in the climate system and the positive feedbacks that two degrees will trigger, it looms as a death sentence for a billion people and a million species.

According to this report, which is a review of the latest scientific publications on the issue, the Arctic’s floating sea ice is headed towards rapid summer disintegration by 2013, a century ahead of the IPCC projections.

…The science suggests we have choices. The first is the two-degree warming cap that looked almost impossibly expensive and politically suicidal for any politician who attempted to present a policy that seriously addressed it.

The second alternative, based on more up-to-date science, is to set a lower target if we are to protect the Earth’s biodiversity and make it fit for habitation by most of the present population.

To be blunt, it will be necessary to apply a 0.5-degrees (or lower) temperature cap, which will require a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions 30 per cent lower than present levels – equal to 320 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent, a point we passed more than half a century ago.

Living in a 1950s world of energy consumption? Terrifying? Politically impossible? Even for the few million people who might win the lottery to survive at the poles at the end of the century in the disastrous wake of the softer option, it will sure beat the alternative.

Kenneth Davidson is an Age columnist.
(11 October 2007)
The report mentioned by Mr. Davidson – The Big Melt: Lessons from the Arctic Summer of 2007 – is available as a PDF.