Sunday, 28 March 2010


passive solar techniques and the climate issue

Passive solar homes are designed to get their heating and cooling needs from the sun, wind, trees, or from the windows and the materials used on the walls and roof of the house and the way they interact with the environment and landscape. Passive solar plans intend to dispense with furnaces, boilers or air-conditioning...
Passive solar techniques
To reach their goal, passive solar techniques rely on the...
- thermal storage or reflectance of the materials used in their walls, floor and roof;- building's sun exposure (which depends on its shape, axis, layout);- natural ventilation (dependent on windows, windbreaks, orientation of the building);- proper shape and orientation of the house;- advanced windows, skylights and venting elements and overhangs;- appropriate colors (of the walls and roof…) and specific elements as sunrooms, trombe walls, water walls, roof ponds, diffusing glazing materials;- other elements dependent on design, architecture and landscaping.

A strategy for new homes
Passive solar techniques are mainly a set of strategies to implement while you are projecting a new home. It's impossible to apply most of them on existing homes: we can't change the orientation and shape of a home, or the materials used in their walls.
The use of mechanical and active techniques
The aim of solar passive cooling and heating is to get a natural cooling and heating. But doesn't collide with the use of "active" techniques such as fans or solar water heating. They are indispensable in many cases. An example: fans are indispensable in hot humid climates, where you can’t fight humidity through natural ventilation or other passive principles…
Passive solar house plans and climate
Most of the passive solar designs are geared towards heating and cooling in cold and temperate and dry climates.
Obviously, there are some general principles applicable in any climate: properly sized overhangs, principles of thermal and storage mass and reflectance, shading through trees…
But some principles or measures are very specific to some climates. The shading of trees can't be used extensively in cool and cold climates. That strategy should be analyzed with extreme care, according to specific micro climes and climate conditions. On the other hand, in hot and humid climates we should use some particular techniques, that we do not use in cold climates:
- orientation of the house to avoid the direct impact of sun, instead of the opposite;- extended use of verandas and shade nettings; - intense use of mechanical devices to control humidity, etc.
Each climate determines the final passive solar techniques, and your plan should reflect it. Some of the techniques are universal, but others are specific to some microclimates and climates zones.
SOLAR serdar

Bubble Bath Oceans Could Beat Global Warming

A physicist at Harvard has an idea for fighting climate change that's radical in every sense of the word. He wants to pump massive amounts of microbubbles into the world's oceans, increasing their reflectivity and cooling their waters.
Professor Russell Seitz proposed his idea at a recent geoengineering conference. The tiny bubbles essentially act as "mirrors made of air," reflecting the sunlight and keeping oceans cool. Early simulations showed that bubbles could potentially cool the Earth by up to 3 degrees Celsius.
But don't put your robe on just yet—there's still plenty of obstacles before the Atlantic Ocean becomes the Atlantic Jacuzzi. The formidable task of actually getting the bubbles into the oceans is largely unexplored. Seitz has suggested deploying the bubbles with boats, pumping a mixture of water and compressed air into their wakes, but if the water has too few particles the bubbles pop before they do any reflecting.
To truly mount the massive effort that reversing climate change will require, we'll need to come up with ideas that capture the public imagination, and Seitz's bubble bath proposal at least has that going for it. Geoengineering has never seemed like such a refreshing option.

Can I be green and have a family?

The pros and cons of procreation

Lucy Siegle
The Observer, Sunday 28 March 2010

To spawn or not to spawn? Naturally the planet has a view. Hitherto its mouthpiece has appeared to be the Optimum Population Trust (patron: David Attenborough)Proc. Its core message: that the projected 70-80 million additions to earth every year represent environmental catastrophe.
Every day 10,000 new inhabitants will, according to the OPT, begin using life-sustaining resources and emit carbon when the planet just can't take it. We are no longer able to live on the interest from the earth's natural capital – we are eating into the actual capital. The OPT's "Stop at Two" pledge encourages us to stop procreating after we've replaced ourselves.
But eco warriors send mixed messages. For every Norwegian sex activist wanting to "Fuck For Forest" (a non-profit "erotic ecological organisation" which involves more than just treehugging), there's a green campaigner angsting over oestrogen pollution from the pill and condoms killing coral reef.
Meanwhile, environmental writer Fred Pearce, in his book Peoplequake, argues that we've misinterpreted growth statistics. Look long term and factor in a time lag, and population is declining. Environmentally, he says, it's about overconsumption in rich nations, not overcrowding globally.
Green factions will just have to slug it out like Punch and Judy until someone's left holding the baby…

The trillion-dollar question is: who will now lead the climate battle?

Political and business leaders gather this week in an attempt to revive the world's faltering challenge to global warming. But they face a battle to lift the cloud of scepticism that has descended over climate science and chart a new way forward

Paul Harris in New York, John Vidal and Robin McKie
The Observer, Sunday 28 March 2010
Some of the planet's most powerful paymasters will gather in London on Wednesday to discuss a nagging financial problem: how to raise a trillion dollars for the developing world. Those charged with achieving this daunting goal will include Gordon Brown, directors of several central banks, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, the economist Lord (Nicholas) Stern and Larry Summers, President Obama's chief economics adviser.
As an array of expertise, it is formidable: but then so is the task they have been set by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. In effect, the world's top financiers have been told to work out how to raise at least $100bn a year for the rest of this decade, cash that will be used to help the world's poorest countries adapt to climate change.
"The prices we pay for our goods do not reflect one key cost: the damage that their production does to the planet's climate system," said Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the LSE. "We need to find ways to extract payment from those who cause that damage and then use that money to fund developing nations so that they can protect themselves from the worst effects of global warming."
And to raise those funds the Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing has made clear that it will consider everything – from placing levies on international aviation and shipping, to enlarging carbon markets, introducing financial transaction taxes and using the International Monetary Fund's special reserve currency. You name it and it will be run up the flagpole – for success in establishing a developing world finance plan is now considered crucial to the success of next December's UN climate change meeting in Mexico. "Finance is a prerequisite for a climate agreement," said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climage Change, on Friday. "Developing countries are very sensitive about this. Talks will collapse without strong and secure financing in place."
It sounds familiar, and so it should: these new discussions mark a renewal of global climate talks that ended only three months ago at the Copenhagen UN summit, which failed to set a deal to control emissions of carbon dioxide.
Politicians and negotiators are preparing another assault on the issue, though this time talks will be very different. For a start, climate science has suffered damaging setbacks. There was the leaking from the University of East Anglia's climate research unit of email exchanges between some of the world's top meteorologists as well as the discovery that a UN assessment report on climate change had vastly exaggerated the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers.
The former revelation suggested some researchers were involved in massaging the truth, sceptics claimed, while the latter exposed deficiencies in the way the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – authors of the report – go about their business. The overall effect has been to damage the credibility of the large number of scientists who fear our planet faces climatic disaster. Trying to restart stalled negotiations will be very hard.
Yet increased scepticism is only part of the problem for negotiators. Since December, new political groupings have emerged. China, India, South Africa and Brazil, known as the "Basics" nations, have assumed climate leadership roles, while the European Union has retreated from the front line. Nothing is quite what it was.
Consider the US. Obama – fresh from his successes in passing his health bill and his nuclear arms talks with Russia – has indicated he is turning his attention to climate change. At an hour-long meeting last week, his climate and energy adviser Carol Browner and White House legislative affairs director Phil Schiliro discussed the prospects of a climate change bill with Senate leader Harry Reid and other senior Capitol Hill Democrats. Three senators – Democrat John Kerry, independent Joe Lieberman and Republican Lindsey Graham – have also been holding talks to draw up legislation. Their planned bill looks set to be released next month.
For campaigners, these developments seem encouraging, while Obama's critics are angry. "The administration has shown it is prepared to draw up a partisan bill and force it through. If that is their model of governing, then there is no limit to what they will do," said Ken Green, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative thinktank.
A US climate law will be primarily aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But the devil, as always, will be in the details, for the bill is likely to include many provisions that will anger the green lobby. Graham wants to include measures that would boost offshore oil drilling on America's continental shelf, while recent leaks suggest funds may be provided for so-called "clean coal" power stations. In addition, there is likely to be support for nuclear power. All three ideas are reviled by environmentalists.
Barack Obama's move on climate change is therefore far less radical than it seems, for the simple fact is that there is little political appetite to repeat the dramas that marred healthcare reform. The new legislation will therefore be softened in order to ensure Republican support. "It is not going to be a one-party push. I am sure we can get 60 votes to support this," said Tad Segal, a spokesman for the US Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of environmental and business groups in favour of new laws limiting emissions. As Washington insiders know all too well, that is the way US law is passed, no matter what the concerns of the rest of the planet. "In America, even with climate change, all politics is local," said Segal.
The prospect of such a weak US move on climate change has not gone down well. "Countries are losing patience with the US. There may be sympathy for Obama, who clearly faces a difficult domestic situation, but it is now clear that the US wants to take another path on climate change and is demanding everyone goes with it," said a source in one European embassy last week.
This point was backed by Liz Gallagher of Cafod, the Roman Catholic development agency. "The talks cannot go back to where they were. The rest of the world has realised that the US will not change and the only way to progress may be to leave the US behind and show them that they will lose out in the green race."
This difference in attitude is likely to reach a showdown in Bonn next month over which negotiating text is used for future discussions. The US wants to adopt the weak accord agreed in Copenhagen, while most developing countries – including China, India and Brazil – say it has no legal standing and that the talks must continue with the far stronger framework that was agreed at Kyoto a decade earlier.
Significantly, this latter group is backed by the distinguished UN climate chief Yvo de Boer. "I think we'll continue on the two-track approach. For the developing countries, the presence of the Kyoto protocol is very important," he said. He is also supported by more than 200 of the world's largest environment and development groups, including Friends of the Earth International, Christian Aid, Third World Network, Jubilee South and the World Development Movement, which have called for a total rejection of the Copenhagen accord and urged countries to resume twin-track talks.
However, other observers believe the US has in effect forced its views on the world because no rich country is prepared to take it on.
"We are in a world of disarray. The US is laughing and there is no evidence that rich countries have the appetite to take on the US and go it alone. It is a mess," said Martin Khor, director of the South Centre, an inter-governmental developing country think tank based in Geneva.
It is a depressing backdrop for Wednesday's talks in London, but it does not mean that all is lost.
"If the US agrees to limit its emissions in only a modest way, that will be an immense improvement on America's previous stance," said the Grantham Research Institute's Ward. "And while it may seem daunting to talk about raising a trillion dollars for developing nations to deal with the impact of global warming, we should note that this represents an investment that is far lower than the one that was required to save the world's financial system in 2008.
"Had it gone down, the consequences would have been grim. But if we don't face up to global warming, then the impact will be far worse. This point is not lost on the Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing and I think that we will get global action to tackle global warming very soon. We should not be too downhearted yet."

Labour and Tories back clock change to give extra hour of daylight

Both parties believe new timekeeping system would have major benefits despite traditional opposition from Scotland

Toby Helm, political editor, and Nicky Woolf
The Observer, Sunday 28 March 2010
Plans to change the clocks to give another hour of daylight throughout the year are being advanced by Labour and the Conservatives. Both parties believe it would result in reduced energy consumption, fewer accidents and generally improved health.
The growing likelihood of a political deal between the parties on the issue can be revealed today, after the country moved the clocks forward last night to British summertime, one hour ahead of Greenwich mean time (GMT).
The UK's clocks are currently set to GMT during the winter and GMT+1 in summer. But the Observer understands that both Labour and the Tories have been influenced by environmental, road safety and tourism campaigners, who have argued for a switch to GMT+1 in winter and GMT+2 in the summer.
Traditionally, opposition to such a move has come from Scottish MPs and lobby groups who fear that, because Scotland has shorter days in winter, the change would mean even darker mornings, creating greater danger for children going to school, as well as more road accidents.
Angus MacNeil of the SNP, MP for the Outer Hebrides, said: "While the plan would be beneficial for those in the south, in Scotland the majority of people would prefer the extra hour of daylight in the morning. Children in my constituency should not have to go to school in the dark."
Scott Walker, policy director for the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, said it did not believe "sufficient justification" had been made for the change. "If we moved to a system where we did not put the clocks back, being able to start field work in the morning would be delayed and livestock farmers looking to feed their cattle and sheep would also be inconvenienced by the extended period of morning darkness."
However, recent academic research has challenged the idea that deaths on Scottish roads will rise, and supporters say there is nothing to stop Scotland's schools changing their opening times.
Last night Ben Bradshaw, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said the change would be "good for business, good for tourism, good for the environment, improve safety and increase people's sense of well-being". The plan would benefit the 2012 Olympics by ensuring longer summer evenings.
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservatives' tourism spokesman, said the arguments for the change were "more powerful than ever, with environmental, road safety, leisure, energy conservation and public safety advantages outweighing the disadvantages". He added that the Tories would want to bring all parties on board, including the SNP.
Today, 10:10, a pressure group pushing for carbon reduction, launches its own "Lighter Later" campaign, saying that the UK would "be one step closer to a 10% reduction in its carbon emissions, as well as happier, healthier and better off". The move, it argues, would prevent half a million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. The campaign is being backed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). Its chief executive, Tom Mullarkey, said: "This simple change would mean needless fatalities and countless accidents and injuries would be avoided."
Between 1968 and 1971, the government ran an experiment in which the clocks were changed to GMT+1 all year round. While there was a reduction in the overall number of deaths on the roads in that period, it was not clear how much of this was the result of tighter drink-driving rules. The experiment was blamed for a small rise in road deaths in Scotland.
Eight successive attempts in parliament since 1994 to change clock times have failed. Dr Elizabeth Garnsey, reader in innovation studies at Cambridge University's department of engineering, who has conducted research into the benefits of a new system, said: "An hour more light to the evening could reduce daily demand for electricity all year."