Electric Cars are Pollution Shifters!


There seems to be little understanding of the simple fact that electric vehicles (EV) are, in the main, pollution shifters from tailpipe to power generation facility (Ban from 2040 on diesel and petrol car sales, 26 July). The electricity generation and transmission system is already tested to its limits during a harsh winter. Only if objections disappeared to the mass building of thousands of the largest wind turbines, plus similar numbers of hectares of photovoltaic solar generation, could the pollution shifters’ argument be refuted. Even then, there would still be need for conventional or nuclear generation for when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow doubling the capital requirement.

Then there is the transmission system. Its capacity is based on “averaging”. Each EV charging station takes minimum 3.3kW for around 12 hours or 7.2kW for fast charging. It would be the equivalent of every house having an electric shower in service for many hours, all at the same time. The distribution system is simply not designed to cope with these simultaneous loads. If the government is serious about no new hydrocarbon fuelled cars after 2040, we would need to start a program of upgrades or replacement to the entire electricity distribution system.

Backup power stations, particularly nuclear, need a long lead time.. Can we really believe National Grid and the power network companies would or could build a new high voltage grid, complete with substations, local transformers and upgraded street cables?

Source: The Guardian

$264 Billion Investment in New Renewables in 2016



The future of energy looks sunny. According to the latest Renewables Global Status Report from REN21, more renewable power capacity was added in 2016 than all new fossil fuel capacity combined. In fact, for the fifth consecutive year, investment in new renewables was roughly double fossil fuel investments, with $264.8 billion invested in renewables worldwide in 2016.

This report is big news for the planet. Burning oil, coal, and other carbon based fuels generates carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. A trend toward clean energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower can only help the environment, but that’s not the only reason for the switch. As Australian National University professor Andrew Blakers wrote in The Conversation, “It is probable that construction of new coal power stations will decline…because PV (solar photovoltaicsand wind are now cost-competitive almost everywhere.”


The process requires lots of water, produces toxic chemicals, and can expose workers to unsafe working conditions. The price cuts that come from manufacturing solar panels abroad have been a huge boon to the industry, but it has further polishing to do before it can be considered truly green.The overall tone of the Renewables Global Status Report is positive, and we can be encouraged to know that worldwide CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained stable in 2016 for the third year in a row. Of course, atmospheric CO2 levels continue to increase to record highs, and they will continue to do so until our emissions reach zero.

Source: Futurism

Trees in the Amazon make their own rain


The Amazon rainforest is home to strange weather. One peculiarity is that rains begin 2 to 3 months before seasonal winds start to bring in moist air from the ocean. Now, researchers say they have finally figured out where this early moisture comes from: the trees themselves.

Previous research showed early accumulation of moisture in the atmosphere over the Amazon, but scientists weren’t sure why. “All you can see is the water vapor, but you don’t know where it comes from,” says Rong Fu, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Satellite data showed that the increase coincided with a “greening” of the rainforest, or an increase in fresh leaves, leading researchers to suspect the moisture might be water vapor released during photosynthesis. In a process called transpiration, plants release water vapor from small pores on the underside of their leaves.

The findings also address a long standing debate about the role plants play in weather, says Saleska, an ecologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson , suggesting that they are more than just “passive recipients,” and that they instead can play an active role in regulating rainfall. If that’s true in the Amazon, Saleska says, climate scientists will need to take into account practices like deforestation when predicting regional changes in weather patterns. And curbing deforestation will be an important step for people to take in preventing drought.


Fuzzy Pikas Adapt to Climate Change at Different Rates


A small, fuzzy creature might help researchers reimagine conservation in the age of rapidly changing environments. Experts expect climate change to cause more endangered species to go extinct while bringing others to the brink. Most species slowly try to adapt often by changing the timing of major life events, like reproduction. They can also alter migration and feeding habits. Sometimes that works. But the same species can show great adaptive potential in some places while dying out elsewhere.

“For a while, folks were talking about species being climate change winners or climate change losers,” said Erik Beever, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey and an author of the paper.

Instead, it seems like an elusive mix of factors influence whether a species can survive or even thrive in changing landscapes.

A case study in that is the pika. Pikas resemble chubby hamsters with round ears, no tail, and small, furry bodies but they’re more closely related to rabbits. They typically live in mountainous areas, isolated from most human contact.

But the researchers documented a population of pikas living at low elevations in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. They adapted to their environment by using thick moss as insulation from the summer heat, or by using the nearby forest as shade so they could stay active during the day.

But pikas living elsewhere didn’t show the same adaptivity. In more than 23 years of observation, the pikas living in the Great Basin never showed such flexibility in habitat selection, the researchers wrote. That has led to sharp population declines.

The researchers also found differences in foraging habits and body posture as a way to regulate temperature. “Is it the physical environment that’s allowing this [behavioral] plasticity? Is it their genetic evolution to employ these behaviors?” Beever asked. “How do we disentangle those? I don’t know.”

“The simplest way to put it is: Can a species either cope with or adapt to climate change? The answer is, it depends,” he said.

Source: Scientific American

The First Sunfish Species to Be Discovered in 130 Years



For the first time in 130 years, researchers have discovered a new species of sunfish that has escaped taxonomy records for almost three centuries. The bizarre new species has been named the Hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta), and has been found in the cold waters of New Zealand, southern Chile, South Africa and the south east coast of Australia.

They can weigh up to two tonnes and reach three metres in length. Sunfish are notoriously hard to track down thanks to their solitary nature and preference for living in the hard to reach depths of the ocean. The life of a sunfish is a balancing act between deep diving for jellyfish and swimming to the surface to warm up. Nyegaard was studying the population genetics of the Southern ocean sunfish, she noticed there was a genetic difference in the skin samples collected by fisheries in Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s quite humbling to know that the ocean still holds so much mystery,” Nyegaard told ScienceAlert. “We tend to think that we know everything, but we still have so many mysteries to unravel.”

Source: Futurism