Climate change influencing on twitter

According to K CORE analytics, I am @annemariayritys the top #18 climate change influencer on Twitter, after UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres and UN FCCC on the top of the list of climate change influencers. You can follow me on Twitter @annemariayritys and @GCCthinkacttank

Thank you to @HansLak #Mission2030 and K CORE Analytics for the mention.

Keep up the important work!

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Microsoft Stockholm

How Is Technology Fast Tracking The Global Climate Goals? Case Microsoft

In November 2019 I was contacted by Microsoft EMEA ́s communications team in Finland and Germany. They found my profile on social media, and invited me to participate as a climate change and sustainability influencer at their event “How Technology is Fast Tracking The Global Climate Goals” in Stockholm. The event took place at urban five star Hotel At Six near Microsoft Sweden ́s new headquarters in Stockholm City Center on November 28th. 

In addition to Microsoft hosting the event, influencers, journalists and researchers from around the EMEA region had been invited to participate as well as some of Microsoft ́s global clients and partners that were giving presentations upon their areas of business and expertise, in terms of how these businesses respectively are driving the global climate goals through the application of both artificial intelligence and technology throughout their supply chains.

The moderator and one of the speakers of the event was strategist and analyst Azeem Azhar from Exponential view, who is also a member of the Expert Network and on the Global Future Council on the Digital Economy & Society at the World Economic Forum. The panelists and speakers were Ben Combes, Assistant Director and senior economist in the Sustainability and Climate Change team at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Luc Domissy, Global Sales Manager at SGS/Transparency One, Xavier Houot, Senior Vice President Global Environment, Safety, and Real Estate at Schneider Electric, David Martin, Vice President Government Relations Ecolab Europe and Market Head France and Belgium at Ecolab, Ignacio Longarte from startup Szentia, Cecilia Nord, Director Responsible Sourcing at Electrolux, Johan Martinsson, Digital Operations Lead Global IT at Electrolux, Juha Maijala, Deputy Head Intelligent Packaging at Stora Enso, and Nina Lund, Retail & Consumer Goods lead at Microsoft EMEA. 

What was being discussed at Microsoft ́s event “How Technology Is Fast Tracking The Global Goals”?

The event was fully packed with information, some of which was confidential, so addressing this in depth in one article or blog post is an impossible task. To keep it brief, Microsoft as one of the world ́s largest organizations together with its clients and partners is addressing the world ́s perhaps largest challenge climate change and taking actions with the help of artificial intelligence and technology to solve the global climate crisis.

Although artificial intelligence and technology alone hardly will be capable of solving the global climate crisis, it is estimated that with the help of artificial intelligence and technology, at least five percent could be reduced in terms of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is still far from the much needed reduction of 90% in greenhouse gas emissions. To meet the Paris Agreement, all stakeholders involved would have to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The main takeaways from the event were: 

  • The largest greenhouse gas impacts are within the supply chain (75% of total emissions), which is why every business worldwide, backed-up by science-based insights, must drive the reduction of emissions (Azeem Azhar, Exponential View)
  • Research by PwC UK, commissioned by Microsoft, has identified more than 150 AI applications for key Earth challenges; meaning that emerging technologies with artificial intelligence at the core, can be transformational in terms of tackling the world ́s most urgent environmental challenges (Ben Combes, PricewaterhouseCoopers)
  • AI can enable future technology and systems to be more productive and help reduce waste in terms of the global economy and environment, thus increasing sustainable economic development
  • The mapping of any business supply chain helps build consumer trust and influences end-customer behavior to prioritize sustainability (Luc Domissy, SGS/Transparency One)
  • Sustainability across supply chains, circular, low CO2 and profitable business models (Xavier Houot, Schneider Electric)
  • Fresh water is a scarce resource, and water sustainability must be at the core of each carbon neutral or carbon negative program. Companies can provide better products at lower costs while saving water (David Martin, Ecolab)
  • How do you mainstream environmental performance in a globalized world where every organization is becoming a technology company? 
  • How can brands be moved into the circular economy through blockchain-based solutions? (Ignacio Longarte, Szentia)
  • Electrolux wants to be the best appliance company worldwide, committing to zero carbon emissions from their facilities and striving towards circularity across the business (Cecilia Nord & Johan Martinsson, Electrolux)
  • Stora Enso is a pioneer in externally approved science-based targets to reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil-based materials can be replaced by trees (Juha Maijala, Stora Enso)
  • How can circular economy become the “new normal”? 

While many climate change skeptics worldwide are still denying anthropogenic climate change, claiming that climate change is a hoax and that climate change would be used as an excuse for businesses around the world to make money, this is far from the truth. There is plenty of research and scientific evidence supporting the fact that human activities, mainly in the form of emitting high amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth´s atmosphere, are causing global warming and climate change. Not only is rapid population growth at the core of the environmental problems, but also the way we live and consume on this planet. Making circular economies the “new normal” and businesses around the world taking science-based and carefully planned action in terms of reducing or even eliminating greenhouse gas emissions is no longer merely a competitive advantage for businesses.

Climate action and sustainable economic development have become a must for everyone, that is if we want to enable future generations a healthy planet to live on. Despite the currently even dramatic outlook for the global environment, it is far better to take action now and to prepare for the worst-case scenario rather than remaining in a state of non-action. In fact, non-action in terms of environmental sustainability and sustainable economic development is the worst thinkable solution. Artificial intelligence and various technological advancements may be key solutions for saving humanity. 

Anne-Maria Yritys

 

 

 

 

 

GCC Think Act Tank cover 2019

What Is The Best Way of Taking Climate Action?

We are having a record warm January in Finland. No snow here in the South. Usually, we have temperatures up to more than -20 degrees Celsius in Southern Finland this time of the year. December was also warmer than average, with mostly rainfall. However, my heart is right now with Australia which is suffering from apocalyptic wildfires. If we just could send some of Finland’s rain to Australia now.

I am switching my electricity source from a combination of hydro, solar and wind to 100% wind energy. I found a service provider that is building onshore wind energy in Finland, and which is cooperating with for instance Google.

Why am I switching to 100% wind energy? Wind energy is by far the most environmentally friendly source of electricity/energy of all the options available on the energy market right now. 

Not only is wind power competitive in terms of pricing:

According to for instance the IHA (International Hydropower Association), onshore wind energy has by far the lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per kWh (kilowatt hour) among all energy sources, with only 11 gCO2 equivalent/kWh in comparison with for instance coal, the equivalent of which is 820 gCO2/kWh. That makes wind energy more than 74 times less polluting than coal.

Choosing energy and electricity sources with the lowest CO2 level possible is the single largest climate and environmental act that anyone can do right now. The effects of choosing clean energy are by far larger than any other climate action that can and should be taken.

Anne-Maria Yritys

 

Photo credit: Paulo Valdivieso

What Makes Wind Energy The Fastest Growing Renewable Source of Electricity Worldwide?

Similar to hydropower, which is energy derived from water, wind energy has been utilized for thousands of years, merely with less advanced technologies than the modern inventions we have today. From the Nile River to China, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe, wind as a source of energy was seized until oil and energy prices dropped. It was not until the 1970’s oil crisis that alternative sources of energy, such as wind, started to awaken new interest worldwide. 

Today, according to Wind Energy Foundation, wind energy is the fastest growing source of electricity worldwide, and it is a fossil-free, renewable source of energy. According to the IPCC and IHA, onshore wind energy has the lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of all energy sources, with only 11 gCO2/kWh. To understand the difference, coal has 820 gCO2/kWh. In terms of climate change mitigation, it is essential to drastically reduce the amount of coal energy and seek less polluting alternatives, including wind energy. 

In 2018, 51.3 GW of new wind was installed worldwide, as stated in GWEC ́s Global Wind Report 2018. Since 2014, more than 50 GW of new wind energy has been installed per annum. Worldwide, current onshore wind power capacity with a total of 591 GW (one gigawatt equals one billion watts) covers seven per cent (7%) of total power generation capacity, while its actual total global power generation covered four per cent (4%) in 2015. The leading wind power producing country worldwide today is China with over 200 GW installed capacity, followed by the USA, Germany, India, and Brazil. The top five countries combined have a 75% share of the total worldwide wind energy market. Total installed capacity onshore by world region is largest in the Asia-Pacific, followed by Europe, the Americas, and Africa/The Middle East. Offshore capacity is currently highest in Europe. 

According to the World Energy Council, current policy plans could allow for wind power capacity to grow from roughly 487 GW in 2016 to 977 GW by 2030. In China alone, wind power could provide 26% of all electricity by 2030. With the vast majority of wind power turbines onshore, worldwide investments in the sector are booming and hit USD 109.6 billion already in 2015. In many countries today, onshore wind is the most inexpensive source of renewable energy, with costs falling rapidly and significantly. 

With a fast and credible growth track record, the wind power industry is regarded as a low-risk investment, with financial institutions increasingly much competing about the funding of wind projects. Possible risks to wind project investments include policy uncertainty and long operational lifetimes. In terms of rapidly growing power demand and distribution challenges, wind is a cost-effective option according to GWEC. The market outlook up to 2023 projects an average annual increase of 2,7 per cent in the wind energy market.  

Both IRENA, GWEC, and the World Energy Council admit that there are multiple benefits from a growing renewable energy, including wind power, sector. Not only do renewable energy sources support socio-economic growth through the generation of new jobs that accelerates economic growth, but also supports the decarbonization of the global energy sector, thus leading to less pollution and improved environmental and human well-being. Investments and growth in the renewable energy sector overall are estimated to create millions of new jobs worldwide. 

As defined by the World Energy Council and the Global Wind Energy Council, wind power is leading the energy market in its transition away from fossil fuels on both performance, reliability and costs. Despite some of its harms on the environment and ecological impacts, such as wildlife colliding with wind turbines and possible public health concerns through noise and visual impacts on people, wind power is known to be an environmentally friendly source of renewable energy, with a small land footprint, low water requirements and low greenhouse gas emissions. Denmark remains the world’s leading country in terms of integration, production, and R&D of wind energy. In 2018 alone, Danish wind turbines generated 40.7% of the Danish electricity consumption. Quite impressive, or what do you think? 

Your comments/thoughts are welcome! 

Learn more by watching U.S. Department of Energy ́s video “Energy 101: Wind Turbines”:

You may also want to read one of my previous articles: What is the Outlook for the Global Hydropower Sector?  

 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest articles, delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

Hydropower by Josh Simmons on Flickr

What is The Outlook For The Global Hydropower Sector?

Hydropower, the currently largest single source of renewable energy worldwide, was first commercialized for the production of electricity in Niagara Falls in 1879, although human beings have been utilizing more primitive versions of hydropower for centuries or even thousands of years. The earliest hydropower usage can be traced back to the ancient Greeks who used simple water wheels in agricultural processes. Today, 15,9% of all renewable electricity is generated through hydropower production, (IHA 2019). 

For instance in Finland, the role of hydropower is still today quite remarkable in terms of electricity production. According to Finnish Energy, at its peak in the 1960 ́s, hydropower accounted for 90% of all electricity generation in the country. Today, hydropower contributes to four per cent (4%) of Finland ́s total energy mix, and annually between 10-15% of all electricity production, down from its impressive numbers in the middle of the 20th century. (Finnish Energy 2019).

Despite being a renewable source of energy, energy authorities and companies admit to the environmental problems caused by dams and hydropower plants. Not only do dams and hydropower plants change natural water systems, but also prevent (fish) species in these water bodies from wandering. The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, FANC, supports consumers and the industry in improving the sustainability of energy and electricity consumption. It has launched the EKOenergy label, which has now become the international ecolabel for energy. (Fortum 2019; FANC 2019).

What comes to the benefits of hydropower, the IHA identifies the following key components: hydropower is an affordable and reliable source of energy which enables and supports other renewables, it offers protection from floods and drought, provides responsible management of freshwater, is socioeconomically important, helps avoid emissions and pollutants, improves infrastructure and waterways, increases cooperation between countries, leads to community investments in rural areas, and enhances both recreational activities and tourism. Of all energy sources, hydropower has the second lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per kilowatt hour. 

In terms of hydropower costs, the International Renewable Energy Agency states that on average, electricity generated through the use of hydropower is inexpensive, with significant technical potential remaining untapped as of today. One of the obstacles in terms of fully utilizing the potential of hydropower worldwide, according to IRENA, is the absence of data in terms of these technologies. Despite currently being the most widely used renewable source of energy worldwide with a total market share of almost 16% in the global energy mix, IRENA estimates that the usage of hydropower is far from having reached its full potential on a global scale, although for instance Norway gets more than 99% of its electricity from hydropower. 

The World Energy Council reveals that Asia as a continent has the most significant untapped potential in terms of hydropower, while currently much of the new development is focused in China (26% of the worldwide installed capacity in 2015), Latin America and the African continent. According to the World Energy Council, the average annual growth rate of hydropower worldwide between 2005 and 2015 was almost four per cent (4%). With the share of other renewable energy sources increasing, hydropower now accounts for 71% of all renewable electricity worldwide, a share that has fallen by at least 10% within a few years time only. The countries with the fastest growing new installed hydropower capacity worldwide are currently China, Brazil, Pakistan, Turkey and Angola. One major benefit of hydropower is its flexibility and the capacity to store energy even up to several months. 

In the 2019 Hydropower Status Report the International Hydropower Association insists that hydropower, when correctly and sustainably managed, provides a number of benefits in a world faced with complex problems such as expeditious population growth in addition to energy and water challenges. The IHA identifies following developments and key trends in the worldwide hydropower sector:

  1. Risk management initiatives established in terms of hydropower
  2. Co-operative projects within the renewable sector to secure grid stability
  3. Pump storage serves global requirements for energy storage
  4. Hydropower interconnected to global markets
  5. Modernisation of available assets within the hydropower sector
  6. Advanced reporting mechanisms are now at hand
  7. Sustainability performance reporting (The Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol) is being implemented worldwide
  8. Climate resilience acknowledged and emphasized by financing institutions

Furthermore, the IHA recognizes climate change mitigation, including the Paris Agreement and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, being at the center for strategic sustainable development. In terms of environmental protection, both the World Energy Council and the International Hydropower Association acknowledge the availability and deployment of modern technologies that have been designed to minimize the potential harms caused to both water sources and its inhabitants through the hydropower sector. For instance in Uruguay alone, almost 100% of the country’s electricity is produced from hydropower and other renewable resources of energy.

What are your thoughts and/or experiences about hydropower? You are more than welcome to share your thoughts by commenting on this article. You may also want to read one of my previous articles: How Safe is The Production of Nuclear Energy?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environmental posts alone @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to my newsletter at Yritys Executive Services to receive my latest articles/news delivered personally to you. 

 

GCC Think Act Tank cover 2019

What Is The Future of The Worldwide Natural Gas Market?

The natural gas industry, together with the oil industry, together account for an estimated 24% of all anthropogenic methane emissions. According to for instance the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas is a fossil energy source consisting mainly of methane, which is a chemical compound with one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. The chemical formula for methane is CH4. 

The United States of America currently leads the production of natural gas hydrocarbons, followed by Russia, Iran, Qatar, Canada, China, The European Union, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan. In World Oil Outlook 2040, OPEC estimates that the largest upcoming energy demand will come from natural gas, with an average annual growth of 0.4 % from 2015 to 2040. (Global Methane Initiative 2018; Central Intelligence Agency 2017; U.S. Energy Information Administration 2017; OPEC 2017).

In OPEC ́s forecast for the world primary energy demand by fuel type from 2015 to 2040, the demand for gas will increase by a rate of 1.8% p.a., with the majority of the increase coming from non-OECD countries and the most rapid economic growth in the developing world. OPEC projects the global economy in 2040 being 226% in comparison to 2016, with 3/4 of growth coming from developing countries. China and India alone are projected to account for almost 40% of the global GDP in 2040. (OPEC 2017. World Oil Outlook 2040).

The OPEC acknowledges the relation between population growth and energy demand, however, considering a number of variables for instance in consumer trends. It also states how energy markets are affected by government policies and recognizes the need to monitor these on a regular basis, taking into consideration for instance the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, with energy efficiency and clean energy now trending development. The OPEC is closely monitoring worldwide energy market and policy developments, mentioning the USA, the European Union, China, and India at the forefront.

Furthermore, OPEC estimates that total world primary energy demand by fuel type from 2015 to 2040 will see an increase of 3.6% for gas, 1,5% for nuclear energy, 0.3% for hydro energy, and 4% for other renewables, while the demand for oil would decrease by 4.2%, coal demand decreasing by 5.1%, and biomass demand decreasing by 0.1% during the time frame. The OPEC identifies energy efficiency as a critical uncertainty for the energy market with policies concentrating on reducing emissions through a number of measures related to financial and fiscal instruments. (OPEC 2017. World Oil Outlook 2040).

Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020
Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

The U.S. Energy Information Administration presents natural gas as a proportionately clean burning fossil fuel, although exploration, drilling and production have direct impacts on the environment, in addition to the fact that natural gas consists mainly of methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Leaks from natural gas-related activities such as pipelines are causing toxic anthropogenic methane emissions. Despite the many environmental and health risks related to fossil fuels such as natural gas, the global energy market will continue to depend on these. 

The OPEC projects that oil and gas combined will supply for more than 50% of global energy needs between 2015-2040. Gas alone is estimated to have a share of 29% in OECD, 20.8% in developing countries, and 45.4% in Eurasia in 2040. In China, gas is forecast to account for 10.6% of energy demand in 2040, while coal is expected to drop down to 48.6% from 64.3% in 2015. 

The OPEC estimates that the highest growth in gas demand in the OECD region will be in OECD America, recognizing key influences related to the overall demand of natural gas and its dependency on multiple critical factors including gas supplies, competition,  regulations, and pricing.

For instance in Finland, the national Energy Authority reports that “The Finnish natural gas market has been under sector-specific regulatory supervision since the assertion of the Natural Gas Market Act in August 2000”. The natural gas market in Finland has currently no competition, with 100% of the natural gas is being imported through one pipeline from Russia and traded on the Finnish market by one single company. In Finland, the demand for natural gas has been in decline for several reasons, with natural gas accounting for six (6%) of total generation fuel mix in 2018, with the baseline for energy demand being market-based. 

In its World Gas Perspectives report (2017), the World Energy Council identifies four key findings concerning the development of the world gas market: 1) gas is expected to be the only source of fossil fuel with a growing share of the world energy market until 2050, although the long-term future for gas is insecure; 2) the global gas market will shift to Asia, with demand in Europe and North America stagnating or even decreasing; 3) by 2060, worldwide electricity demand will double, posing a possibility for the natural gas market to further grow, unless governments and regulators decide differently; 4) the natural gas sector must innovate and become a cleaner source of energy – policies and societal change will have an impact on the future of the worldwide gas market. Despite having lower emissions than both coal and oil, gas is a fossil fuel which emits greenhouse gases. 

Read one of my previous articles here: Why  Is Our World In A Freshwater Crisis?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Anne-Maria Yritys to receive my latest articles delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

Why Is Our World In A Freshwater Crisis?

Without water, there would be no life on our planet. A human being can survive without food or nutrition for months, but without clean, fresh water for only a couple of days. Lack of clean, fresh water is a worldwide disaster that already affects billions of people. Wastewater, on a global level, accounts for seven percent (7%) of all anthropogenic methane emissions. Not only is wastewater emitting large amounts of methane, but does contain many kinds of contaminants, bacteria and chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen nutrients, harmful for both our environment and for human beings. (Global Methane Initiative 2019; HSY 2019).

The European Union ́s water frame directive defines the minimum level of wastewater treatment in the European Union member states, including Finland. Finland, however, has its own stricter wastewater treatment regulation based upon Finnish legislation. In fact, Finland as a country ranks as having some of the cleanest waters worldwide: tap water is clean and safe to drink, since wastewater treatment uses advanced technologies allowing for wastewater treatment plants in Finland to process wastewater removing up to 95% of chemicals throughout the treatment process. For instance in Finland, dirt is being transformed into biogas and soil. (Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant 2019).

Why then, does wastewater treatment matter? Why is it important to purify both household and industrial water? If wastewater is not being treated, i.e. purified, it causes horrible odors. However, this is probably the smallest of all problems involved with dirty water, which unless treated, contains bacteria, chemicals and (other) toxins harmful both to our environment and to human health. Despite having some of the cleanest water and best water treatment facilities worldwide, Finland also experienced a water contamination crisis in Nokia in 2007. Through a single human mistake, hundreds of thousands of liters of wastewater at Nokia´s water treatment plant ended up mixed with purified water. Since the mistake was not immediately noticed, and communication failed, thousands of Nokia inhabitants ended up drinking the contaminated water and got sick – some for months, others still today have to deal with health problems that can be traced back to them having drunk contaminated water. The Nokia case led to improvements not only in crisis communication throughout Finland ́s municipalities, but also to all wastewater treatment plants in Finland being checked for any possible leakages and other risks. A decade after the Nokia contaminated water crisis the case was brought up again by media in Finland and acts as a reference case. 

Wastewater treatment is important both for the environment and for human health. The FAO states that wastewater treatment is necessary in order to avoid both environmental and health risks, and identifies the need for some degree of wastewater treatment before considering the usage of raw municipal wastewater to aquaculture, agriculture or landscape irrigation. In other words, dirty water should not be used directly anywhere. (FAO Corporate Document Repository – 3. Wastewater treatment). The Global Methane Initiative states that anaerobic decomposition of organic material during the treatment of wastewater leads to methane emissions. Moreover, in countries with less advanced technologies for wastewater treatment, methane emissions from wastewater are higher. (Global Methane Initiative. Municipal Wastewater Methane: Reducing Emissions, Advancing Recovery and Use Opportunities).

The United Nations identifies that the majority of human activity involving water also produces wastewater, followed by the fact that most wastewater worldwide is being released into our environment without any kind of treatment, with an exception to most highly developed countries. In its World Water Development Report 2017, the UN presents wastewater as an untapped resource, whereby wastewater treatment worldwide is necessary to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In the World Water Development Report, the UN discusses the various aspects directly related to wastewater and its treatment, including general governance, technical aspects of wastewater, wastewater in municipalities and urban areas, wastewater from industry, agriculture and in various ecosystems, followed by wastewater by geographical region. As a conclusion, the UN suggests several response options in terms of wastewater management.

In a world with continuously growing demands for freshwater, it is simultaneously becoming an increasingly much scarce resource. Billions of people worldwide also lack access to clean water. Unless resolved, it is a vicious circle leading to both environmental and health problems. The UN sees the potential for both business and sustainable development through wastewater management/treatment. (The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017).

The OECD (2015), Environment at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264235199-en highlights countries that have managed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, improved waste and water management processes, and have a higher usage of renewable energy sources. In this report, the OECD states how significant freshwater resources are both on social and economic levels, and for the environment. It also identifies that overall water quality is impacted by water abstraction, anthropogenic pollution loads, climate, and weather.

With majority of wastewater worldwide neither being collected, nor treated, the vast majority of the world population is exposed to wastewater. Moreover, at least 2/3 of world population live in areas where they are faced with water scarcity for at least one month each year. When wastewater is being directly dumped into the environment without any treatment, this only worsens the water scarcity that already affects much of the world ‘s population. 

If and when we know how harmful it is to both animals, the environment, and human beings to use contaminated water, then why do we allow this to continue on a global scale? 

According to the Finnish Red Cross, every single hour 33 children worldwide die due to lack of fresh, clean water. That makes 792 dead children every day. 289.080 unnecessary deaths every year, only due to the lack of clean and fresh water. If we managed our freshwater resources better, this could all be avoided. For instance, the Red Cross distributes 500.000 litres of clean water  every day at the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria, a country that has suffered severely from a war that has been going on for more than eight (8) years by now. Some sources claim that the origin of the Syrian war can be traced back to climate change issues, and environmental problems. 

Freshwater is also a basic human right, which should not be privatized or seen as a luxury product available only for the privileged. Why then, is for instance India facing its worst freshwater crisis ever? Where people living in slums hardly get any clean water and if they do, it is a constant battle. In countries like Tadzhikistan, where people depend on freshwater from the mountain glaciers, the battle for access to clean water is equally hard. These people can spend the vast majority of their days just to find clean water since they lack the resources to build even the simplest engineered systems to bring them some of the clean freshwater melting from the glaciers. The 21st century will be significant in the history of homo sapiens in terms of (the lack of) clean freshwater. In the Middle East, an effort to tackle the lack of freshwater is to import an entire iceberg from Antarctica. Can we afford to experiment with the environment and nature this way? Time will tell, and until then let us find out intelligent ways to solve the freshwater crisis, starting with (improved) wastewater management practices. 

Please share your thoughts and ideas concerning this article. If you found this helpful and/or interesting, do also share it with your social media networks. Access one of my previous articles here: Why Are Landfills Significant Sources Of Global Methane Emissions?

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts delivered personally to you.

 

 

 

GCC Think Act Tank cover 2019

Highlights From The UN Climate Action Summit 2019

Some of the many highlights, and a few positive news, from the UN Climate Action Summit that took place in New York on September 21st to September 23rd 2019:

  • 2015-2019 have been the five hottest years ever. According to UN Secretary General António Guterres, nature is angry, and nature is striking back: “Seas are rising, and oceans are acidifying. Glaciers are melting, and corals are bleaching. Droughts are spreading, and wildfires are burning. Deserts are expanding, and access to water is dwindling. Heat waves are scorching, and natural disasters are multiplying. Storms everywhere are more intense, more frequent, more deadly. I ́ve seen it with my own eyes.” 
  • New Zealand ́s gross emissions peaked in 2006. Over 80% of New Zealand’s electricity already comes from renewable hydro and wind. New Zealand has begun an ambitious agenda according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Furthermore, New Zealand is strengthening its ETS (emissions trading scheme) and aims to plant one billion (1.000.000.000) trees by 2028, and has a goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2023 along with many other ambitious actions. 
  • Marshall Islands is one of the world ́s most ambitious countries in the world when it comes to fighting the climate crisis. The Marshall Islands has declared a national climate crisis. President of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine, wants to empower girls and women in the fight for climate justice. 
  • Iceland already runs 100% on renewable energy.
  • Finland targets at becoming carbon neutral by 2033, and carbon negative by 2035. The climate program of Finland ́s new government (2019-2023) is one of the most ambitious in the world.
  • Pakistan has planted 1 BILLION trees within a short time period, and is about to plant another 10 BILLION trees in the near future, although the country is responsible for “only” 1% of total global GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.
  • The businesses, states and cities that are targeting net zero emissions and combating climate change in the United States together form the 4th largest economy in the world. According to Michael Bloomberg, since Beyond Coal was launched in 2011, more than half of coal plants in the U.S. have been closed: 297 out of 530. Net zero emissions is an ambitious but achievable goal, states Bloomberg. Bloomberg Philanthropies targets at phasing out coal in the whole world for instance by working together with countries around the world to accelerate new clean energy projects and by bringing together public and private sector leaders. 
  • The Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, states that the city targets net zero emissions through ambitious climate action, for instance by reducing emissions by 55% by 2030. Montreal has also launched a project called “Zero Carbon Building”. Furthermore, when combating climate change it is important to keep in mind the interconnection between climate change and social injustice, and problems that need to be taken care of.  
  • Germany announces new climate protection package: “Germany’s coalition government plans to invest 54 BILLION euros to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The new climate protection package includes incentives for buying electric cars and measures to help households transition from using heating oil”. Currently, Germany alone accounts for 2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Watch the whole UN Climate Action Summit 2019 here:

Guardian News: World leaders attend 2019 UN climate action summit – watch live

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Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

Why Are Landfills Significant Sources of Global Methane Emissions?

Landfills around the world contribute to an estimated eleven percent (11%) of all global methane emissions, with methane being a climate amplifier and up to 25 times stronger than CO2 (carbon dioxide) as a greenhouse gas on a longer term. In the first decades of being emitted into Earth’s atmosphere, methane is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, causing it to actually warm Earth’s climate more than carbon dioxide. 

The fact that landfills are such a large source of anthropogenic methane emissions on a global scale suggests that there is a need and potential to a) reduce the amount of overall waste b) improved waste management practices, including recycling and transforming waste into energy. Recycling and energy production from waste of course have to be in line with national policies, whereby communities and governments are responsible for creating and maintaining sustainable waste management policies and procedures, allowing for completely new kinds of businesses to emerge and to thrive in a world where waste can today be regarded as a currency.

While some countries have decided to completely ban plastic bags in order to reduce plastic waste and it ending up especially in our oceans, for instance in Finland plastic recycling was not set up until 2016. Today, around one fifth (20%) of all plastic waste in Finland is being recycled, with a target of increasing the amount of recycled plastic within the upcoming few years. 

I first ran into Plastic Bank on Twitter a few years ago. Plastic Bank is an organization dedicated to stopping ocean plastic ending up in our oceans by turning waste into currency, killing two birds with one stone by contributing both to ending poverty and preventing harmful plastic waste ending up in our oceans. 

Of course, plastic is not the only kind of waste on our planet, but it is one of the worst: it can take up to one thousand (1.000) years for plastic bottles to biodegrade, with the average time being 450 years. Think about that before throwing plastic garbage (or, any garbage at all) into the nature!

The average decomposition rates of debris/garbage varies largely: glass bottles thrown into water sources or nature in general is undefined, or can take up to one million (1.000.000) years to decompose, followed by fishing lines (600 years), plastic beverage bottles (450 years), disposable diapers (450 years), aluminium cans (up to 200 years), foamed plastic buoys (80 years), foamed plastic cups (50 years), rubber-boot soles (up to 80 years), tin cans (50 years), leather (50 years), nylon fabric (up to 40 years), plastic bags (up to 20 years), cigarette butts (up to five years), wool socks (up to five years), and plywood (up to three years). (NOAA Marine Debris Program 2019; U.S. National Park Service 2019). It is estimated that more than eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans alone each year, and cleaning all the waste from our oceans is not as simple as from elsewhere in our environment. 

Nevertheless, The Ocean CleanUp is an ambitious project determined to clean up our world’s oceans from all the waste through advanced technologies. It will definitely be exciting to see how this demanding project turns out.

The World Bank estimates that urban solid waste will increase by 70% by 2025, from some 1.3 billion tonnes currently to 2.2 billion tonnes by 2025, increasing the global costs of waste (management) significantly. This huge increase in overall waste worldwide does include a number of risks, both for health and the environment, but it also gives us the opportunity to create and develop improved waste management practices, recycling, and an effort to create better solutions for instance in terms of packaging materials and overall design.

The complete report published by The World Bank in March 2012, “What a Waste – A Global Review of Solid Waste Management” can be downloaded here. In brief, the report highlights key issues such as municipal solid waste management being the most important service any city provides, with poorly managed waste having immense impacts on health, the environment overall, and the economy. It identifies non-sustainable development including water and wastewater (treatment), greenhouse gas emissions, poverty and slums, social unrest, air pollution, and solid waste. Landfilling in low-income countries/low-technology sites, according to the report, is usually open dumping of wastes, leading to high pollution in nearby aquifers and water bodies, waste regularly being burned, with significant health consequences for local residents and staff. 

High-income OECD countries alone account for almost half (44-46%) of total worldwide waste generation, with high-income OECD countries also having the highest waste collection rates. What ends up in landfills worldwide has large impacts on our environment, as a result of which advanced recycling and waste management are significant factors for minimizing both environmental and health concerns.

Learn more by watching “Landfill Methane Emissions and Oxidation”, published by Illinois Sustainable Technology Center:

What conclusions can we draw from this? 

  • Your consumption habits matter and have an impact! Demand better products, and reduce your amount of waste. 
  • Packaging materials make a significant difference. Businesses/producers/retailers and consumers can influence what kinds of packaging materials are being used. 
  • With a constantly growing world population, it is essential to start limiting the amount of waste produced per capita in different countries. Otherwise, one option would be to charge for any additional waste through either waste collection costs per household/business or higher taxation on non-environmentally friendly packaging materials/products.
  • Improved recycling and overall waste management practices around the world. 

What else can you think of? Please share your ideas and thoughts by commenting on this article! You may also want to read my previous article “How Environmentally Friendly Is Biomass Production?” to find out more about how waste is being managed in for instance a country like Sweden. Today, we do have similar waste management practices in Finland as well. 

Connect with me on Twitter @annemariayritys. For climate/environment-related posts only @GCCThinkActTank. Subscribe to Leading With Passion to receive my latest posts.