Saturday, December 19, 2009

The falure of Copenhagen Summit

The conclusion of the Copenhagen conference represents either colossal disappointment or profound rage. The financial pledges— if honored— that rich nations made to poor nations will do nothing to combat global warming. The few climate related agreements that were made were of zero substance, especially when compared to what the situation demanded.

The sorrowful outcome, however, could have been predicted in the conference’s first week, based on two seemingly unrelated events: The conference showcased the largest police action in Denmark’s history (including mass arrests of “troublemakers”); while also producing the largest ever boom in limousine rentals. Both happenings helped reveal the true nature of the conference, spelling doom for climate progress.

Contrary to the hopes of billions of people, the talks were a purely elite affair. Many of the thousands of delegates sent to the conference were not looking to save the planet, as advertised, but were looking out for the national interest of their native governments. Most of these countries are dominated by the “special interests” of giant corporations.

Big business in the rich nations used the conference as a cynical maneuver to maintain their economic dominance over the “emerging business” in the developing countries. This fact was at first obscured by technical language, until the now-famous “Danish Text” was leaked to the press in the first week of the conference.

This document was a conference proposal written by the U.S. and England, though submitted by Denmark. The Danish Text proposes that developed nations — the U.S., Europe, Japan, etc. — be allowed to pollute twice the amount of developing countries — China, India, Russia, Brazil, etc. — for the next fifty years.

If enacted, the corporations of the developing nations would be forced to function under an incredible economic handicap. Their governments would have, of course, rejected such nonsense, giving the U.S. delegates the needed excuse to blame China for the failed talks (the U.S. media has done this with absolute disregard for facts).

The Danish Text also proposed to move future climate talks out of the realm of the too-democratic UN into the U.S./Europe dominated World Bank. Obama has thus surpassed his predecessor in the realm of global arrogance.

However, the U.S. torpedoed the talks long before they ever began, forcing the international media to campaign in favor of “lower expectations.” The New York Times explains:

“… when Mr. Obama and other world leaders met last month, they were forced to abandon the goal of reaching a binding accord at Copenhagen because the American political system is not ready to agree to a treaty that would force the United States, over time, to accept profound changes in its energy, transport and manufacturing [corporate] sectors.” (December 13, 2009).

Instead of building upon the foundation of the already-insufficient Kyoto Protocol, the Obama administration demanded a whole new structure, something that would take years to achieve. The Kyoto framework was abandoned because it included legally binding agreements, and was based on multi-lateral, agreed-upon reductions of greenhouse gasses (however insufficient). Instead, Obama proposed that “…each country set its own rules and to decide unilaterally how to meet its target.” (The Guardian, September 15, 2009).

This way, there is zero accountability, zero oversight, and therefore, zero climate progress. Any country may make any number of symbolic “pledges” to combat global warming, while actually doing very little to follow through — much like billions of dollars rich countries pledged to Africa that have yet to leave western bank accounts.

Obama’s maneuvering to ruin Copenhagen was correctly assessed by Canadian writer Naomi Klein, who said that Obama, like Bush, is “using multi-lateralism to destroy multi-lateralism.” This means that Obama is participating in international organizations like the UN Copenhagen conference, with no intention of reaching agreements. Once the U.S. blames its overseas rivals for the failure to “cooperate,” a more independent path can be struck.

This is reminiscent of Bush’s path to invading Iraq: he used the UN Security Council to pass resolutions against Iraq, which helped him weaken Iraq while strengthening U.S. public opinion. But when the Security Council wouldn’t agree to an invasion, Bush assembled a pathetic “coalition of the willing” to attack, completely abandoning the UN (Obama appears to be following an identical approach with Iran). U.S. corporations wanted to dominate Iraq’s huge oil reserves and other treasures, to the detriment of the corporations within Europe, Russia, and China.

Another example of Obama’s fake multi-lateralism is the World Trade Organization (WTO). The U.S. is again being blamed for blocking a multi-lateral agreement in this corporate-controlled organization — some U.S. corporations want market protection from rival corporations of other countries.

The international WTO continues to be unofficially abandoned in favor of regional (unilateral) trade blocs like NAFTA, CAFTA, the EU, etc., increasing international tensions, which, if one looks below the surface, are conflicts between giant corporations based in rival nations, battling for control of international markets, raw materials, and cheap labor.

The failure of the WTO, the UN, and now Copenhagen are all examples of an increasingly conflict-ridden world, based on the emerging economies challenging the rule of the old powers. This dynamic clearly resembles the situation prior to WWI, when the big powers — England and the U.S. — felt threatened by the rise of Germany and Japan, and used a strategy of “containment” to stunt their growth. The end result was war.

This time, however, China, India, Brazil, and Russia are the emerging threats, and the issue of climate change is being used as yet another tactic to “contain” their growth.

With such a dynamic unfolding, there can be no future multi-lateral agreements expected, minus the “symbolic” type that Copenhagen produced. The unbridgeable national conflicts are not the result of bad policy from naïve leaders, but an inherent future of a market economy [capitalism].

Giant corporations in different countries are constantly growing and competing with each other for a very limited global marketplace, always attempting to monopolize markets, raw-materials, and labor by any means necessary. This vicious competition pushes all other social issues into the background — human needs are subordinate to blindly chasing profits.

Such an irrationally competitive system cannot be smoothed over with good intentions and on-paper cooperation. Deeper, conflicting corporate interests between nations are the motor force pushing countries further apart the more cooperation is needed.

But soon the fake cooperation Obama stresses will be too much for the U.S. corporate-elite to bear. Many of them are bored with the international community, especially when the U.S. is the sole military super-power in the world. Soon Obama’s “failed attempts” to cooperate internationally will evolve into a more independent, Bush-like approach.

The largely ignored UN is likely to be further pushed aside so that brute force can continue to dictate US international policy, an agenda already begun by the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, Obama’s expanding war in Pakistan, and the “looming threat” that supposedly Iran is.

As long as governmental policy is dictated by the corporations — represented in the U.S. by the two party system — multi-lateralism and cooperation are doomed. Thus, the battle to save the environment and end war must include a fight against these corporations, who wield a political/economic vise grip over society. Only by publicly controlling these billionaire-owned mega-enterprises can the peaceful and cooperative impulses of the earth’s people find their full expression.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Bangladesh tops the Global Climate Risk Index

The report from the climate and development organization Germanwatch was released on Tuesday at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

According to the index, Bangladesh is the country most severely affected with natural disasters claiming 8,241 lives and damaging property worth 2.18 billion US dollars a year on average.

Myanmar, Honduras, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Haiti, India, Dominican Republic, Philippines and China are other countries in the top ten of the 2010 index, based on data made available by the world's largest reinsurer, Munich Re.

On the top 20 list of affected countries, there are only four developed countries: Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United States.

"It's really hard to make a climate risk index. Only the number of people killed in natural calamities and losses of properties were counted to make this report... But millions of people, who survived extreme weather events and who are suffering across the globe, were not taken into the account," says Dr Saleemul Haq, chief of the climate change cell of the International Institute of Environment and Development, according to The Daily Star.

He added that some African nations would have been on the list, if the surviving people had been counted.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Can we expect a Copenhagen protocol?

The Summit at Copenhagen begins today. Can we expect some good news at the end....not likely. Is it a political game of the influential Nations? Now scientists and environmentalists came out openly about the possible outcome of the Climate Summit.

"For those who claim a deal in Copenhagen is impossible, they are simply wrong," said UNEP director Achim Steiner, releasing the report compiled by British economist Lord Nicholas Stern and the Grantham Research Institute.

Environmentalists have warned that emissions commitments were dangerously short of what UN scientists have said were needed to keep average temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6F) above what the industrial age began 250 years ago.

But most of those warnings were based on pledges only from industrial countries. The UNEP report included pledges from China and other rapidly developing countries, which in turn were contingent on rich-country funding to help.

UNEP said all countries together should emit no more than 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2020 to avoid the worst consequences of a warming world.

Computing the high end of all commitments publicly announced so far, the report said emissions will total some 46 billion tons annually in 2020. Emissions today are about 47 billion tons.

"Absolutely. It is possible – if we give politicians a cold, hard slap in the face"....says James Hansen, the renowned Climate Scientist fro U.S. See his article published in the Guardian which is relevant in the context of Copenhagen Summit, is reproduced below.
Article by James Hansen:

"The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach – "goals" for emission reductions, "offsets" that render ironclad goals almost meaningless, the ineffectual "cap-and-trade" mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics as usual.

Science reveals that climate is close to tipping points. It is a dead certainty that continued high emissions will create a chaotic dynamic situation for young people, with deteriorating climate conditions out of their control.

Science also reveals what is needed to stabilise atmospheric composition and climate. Geophysical data on the carbon amounts in oil, gas and coal show that the problem is solvable, if we phase out global coal emissions within 20 years and prohibit emissions from unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands and oil shale.

Such constraints on fossil fuels would cause carbon dioxide emissions to decline 60% by mid-century or even more if policies make it uneconomic to go after every last drop of oil.

Improved forestry and agricultural practices could then bring atmospheric carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm (parts per million) or less, as required for a stable climate.

Governments going to Copenhagen claim to have such goals for 2050, which they will achieve with the "cap-and-trade" mechanism. They are lying through their teeth.

Unless they order Russia to leave its gas in the ground and Saudi Arabia to leave its oil in the ground (which nobody has proposed), they must phase out coal and prohibit unconventional fossil fuels.

Instead, the United States signed an agreement with Canada for a pipeline to carry oil squeezed from tar sands. Australia is building port facilities for large increases in coal export. Coal-to-oil factories are being built. Coal-fired power plants are being constructed worldwide. Governments are stating emission goals that they know are lies – or, if we want to be generous, they do not understand the geophysics and are kidding themselves.

Is it feasible to phase out coal and avoid use of unconventional fossil fuels? Yes, but only if governments face up to the truth: as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy, their use will continue and even increase on a global basis.

Fossil fuels are cheapest because they are not made to pay for their effects on human health, the environment and future climate.

Governments must place a uniform rising price on carbon, collected at the fossil fuel source – the mine or port of entry. The fee should be given to the public in toto, as a uniform dividend, payroll tax deduction or both. Such a tax is progressive – the dividend exceeds added energy costs for 60% of the public.

Fee and dividend stimulates the economy, providing the public with the means to adjust lifestyles and energy infrastructure.

Fee and dividend can begin with the countries now considering cap and trade. Other countries will either agree to a carbon fee or have duties placed on their products that are made with fossil fuels.

As the carbon price rises, most coal, tar sands and oil shale will be left in the ground. The marketplace will determine the roles of energy efficiency, renewable energy and nuclear power in our clean energy future.

Cap and trade with offsets, in contrast, is astoundingly ineffective. Global emissions rose rapidly in response to Kyoto, as expected, because fossil fuels remained the cheapest energy.

Cap and trade is an inefficient compromise, paying off numerous special interests. It must be replaced with an honest approach, raising the price of carbon emissions and leaving the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground.

Are we going to stand up and give global politicians a hard slap in the face, to make them face the truth? It will take a lot of us – probably in the streets. Or are we going to let them continue to kid themselves and us and cheat our children and grandchildren?

Intergenerational inequity is a moral issue. Just as when Abraham Lincoln faced slavery and when Winston Churchill faced Nazism, the time for compromises and half-measures is over. Can we find a leader who understands the core issue and will lead? "

Monday, November 30, 2009

India and China plan for a major offensive against rich nations at Copenhagen

In an unprecedented move, India on Saturday joined China and two other developing countries to prepare for a major offensive on rich nations at the Copenhage conference on Climate Change next month.

The four countries, which include Brazil and South Africa, agreed to a strategy that involves jointly walking out of the conference if the developed nations try to force their own terms on the developing world, Jairam Ramesh, the Indian minister for environment and forests (independent charge), said.

“We will not exit in isolation. We will co-ordinate our exit if any of our non-negotiable terms is violated. Our entry and exit will be collective,” Ramesh told reporters in Beijing.

The move comes after reports suggested that rich nations led by Denmark are trying to set the agenda of the conference by presenting a draft containing a set of specific proposals.

The BASIC countries-Brazil, South Africa, India and China- decided to throw the gauntlet at rich nations by coming up with a counter-draft that will be presented at the conference. They agreed to let China, which initiated the exercise, to present the draft of the developing nations at Copenhagen.

“This BASIC draft fully meets India’s goals and aspirations. We hope it is made the basis of discussions at the conference,” Ramesh said.

The draft, which was originally prepared by China, was finalized after some changes during a 7-hour long meeting of BASIC countries-Brazil, South Africa, India and China besides Sudan as the chair of G-77.

This joint front forged on Saturday is a major political initiative -- the first major India-China accord on international affairs--that is likely to impact not just the dimension of the talks on climate change but international diplomacy as a whole. The move comes after recent discussions on climate change held with Indian and Chinese leaders by US president Barack Obama, who appears to have made little impact on them.

Denmark is expected to unveil its draft to a group of select countries that includes the United States, several European nations, India and China on December 1. It will be later presented at the conference. Around the same time, the BASIC nations plan to circulate their own counter-draft in order to influence the course of negotiations.

The four nations issued a joint press release, which made it clear the developed nations should be ready to contribute funds and share green technology if they expected the developing and poor nations to take major actions on environmental protection.

The four countries and the chair of G-77 said they were keen to make a “contribution towards a consensus in Copenhagen”.

The release said: “We are in agreement on major issues including those relating to the establishment of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, as well as shared vision for long term cooperative action on climate change, mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to the impact of climate change, and the provision of finance and technology to support and enable these actions, taking into account the special needs of the least developed countries, the small island developing states and African countries.”

The United States, which refused to endorse the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, might find it difficult to handle the new onslaught mounted by four developing nations including India and China. They are demanding an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.
Ref: Times of India

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Scientists see the possibilitty of 6 degree rise at the end of the century

The world is now firmly on course for the worst-case scenario in terms of climate change, with average global temperatures rising by up to 6C by the end of the century, leading scientists said yesterday. Such a rise – which would be much higher nearer the poles – would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilisation.

We are headed for it, the scientists said, because the carbon dioxide emissions from industry, transport and deforestation which are responsible for warming the atmosphere have increased dramatically since 2002, in a way which no one anticipated, and are now running at treble the annual rate of the 1990s.

This means that the most extreme scenario envisaged in the last report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2007, is now the one for which society is set, according to the 31 researchers from seven countries involved in the Global Carbon Project.

Although the 6C rise and its potential disastrous effects have been speculated upon before, this is the first time that scientists have said that society is now on a path to meet it.

Their chilling and remarkable prediction throws into sharp relief the importance of next month's UN climate conference in Copenhagen, where the world community will come together to try to construct a new agreement to bring the warming under control.

For the past month there has been a lowering of expectations about the conference, not least because the US may not be ready to commit itself to cuts in its emissions. But yesterday President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China issued a joint communiqué after a meeting in Beijing, which reignited hopes that a serious deal might be possible after all.

It cannot come too soon, to judge by the results of the Global Carbon Project study, led by Professor Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey, which found that there has been a 29 per cent increase in global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel between 2000 and 2008, the last year for which figures are available.

On average, the researchers found, there was an annual increase in emissions of just over 3 per cent during the period, compared with an annual increase of 1 per cent between 1990 and 2000. Almost all of the increase this decade occurred after 2000 and resulted from the boom in the Chinese economy. The researchers predict a small decrease this year due to the recession, but further increases from 2010.

In total, CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have increased by 41 per cent between 1990 and 2008, yet global emissions in 1990 are the reference level set by the Kyoto Protocol, which countries are trying to fall below in terms of their own emissions.

The 6C rise now being anticipated is in stark contrast to the C rise at which all international climate policy, including that of Britain and the EU, hopes to stabilise the warming – two degrees being seen as the threshold of climate change which is dangerous for society and the natural world.

The study by Professor Le Quéré and her team, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, envisages a far higher figure. "We're at the top end of the IPCC scenario," she said.

Professor Le Quéré said that Copenhagen was the last chance of coming to a global agreement that would curb carbon-dioxide emissions on a time-course that would hopefully stabilise temperature rises to within the danger threshold. "The Copenhagen conference next month is in my opinion the last chance to stabilise climate at C above pre-industrial levels in a smooth and organised way," she said.

"If the agreement is too weak, or the commitments not respected, it is not 2.5C or 3C we will get: it's 5C or 6C – that is the path we're on. The timescales here are extremely tight for what is needed to stabilise the climate at C," she said.

Meanwhile, the scientists have for the first time detected a failure of the Earth's natural ability to absorb man-made carbon dioxide released into the air.

They found significant evidence that more man-made CO2 is staying in the atmosphere to exacerbate the greenhouse effect because the natural "carbon sinks" that have absorbed it over previous decades on land and sea are beginning to fail, possibly as a result of rising global temperatures.

The amount of CO2 that has remained in the atmosphere as a result has increased from about 40 per cent in 1990 to 45 per cent in 2008. This suggests that the sinks are beginning to fail, they said.

Professor Le Quéré emphasised that there are still many uncertainties over carbon sinks, such as the ability of the oceans to absorb dissolved CO2, but all the evidence suggests that there is now a cycle of "positive feedbacks", whereby rising carbon dioxide emissions are leading to rising temperatures and a corresponding rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

"Our understanding at the moment in the computer models we have used – and they are state of the art – suggests that carbon-cycle climate feedback has already kicked in," she said.

"These models, if you project them on into the century, show quite large feedbacks, with climate amplifying global warming by between 5 per cent and 30 per cent. There are still large uncertainties, but this is carbon-cycle climate feedback that has already started," she said.

The study also found that, for the first time since the 1960s, the burning of coal has overtaken the burning of oil as the major source of carbon-dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuels.

Much of this coal was burned by China in producing goods sold to the West – the scientists estimate that 45 per cent of Chinese emissions resulted from making products traded overseas.

It is clear that China, having overtaken the US as the world's biggest carbon emitter, must be central to any new climate deal, and so the communiqué from the Chinese and US leaders issued yesterday was widely seized on as a sign that progress may be possible in the Danish capital next month.

Presidents Hu and Obama specifically said an accord should include emission-reduction targets for rich nations, and a declaration of action plans to ease greenhouse-gas emissions in developing countries – key elements in any deal.

6C rise: The consequences

If two degrees is generally accepted as the threshold of dangerous climate change, it is clear that a rise of six degrees in global average temperatures must be very dangerous indeed, writes Michael McCarthy. Just how dangerous was signalled in 2007 by the science writer Mark Lynas, who combed all the available scientific research to construct a picture of a world with temperatures three times higher than the danger limit.

His verdict was that a rise in temperatures of this magnitude "would catapult the planet into an extreme greenhouse state not seen for nearly 100 million years, when dinosaurs grazed on polar rainforests and deserts reached into the heart of Europe".

He said: "It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles."

Very few species could adapt in time to the abruptness of the transition, he suggested. "With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean.

"As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.

"The British Isles, indeed, might become one of the most desirable pieces of real estate on the planet. But, with a couple of billion people knocking on our door, things might quickly turn rather ugly."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Renewable must be key ingredient in future energy supply, according to IEA

Investment in renewable energy technologies could decline by 20% this year, but renewables are expected to make large contributions in the latest forecast from the International Energy Agency.

“The past 12 months have seen enormous upheavals in energy markets around the world, yet the challenges of transforming the global energy system remain urgent and daunting,” the IEA notes in its World Energy Outlook 2009. Demand for energy has already plunged with the economic contraction, and countries have responded with fiscal and monetary stimuli on an unprecedented scale which, in many cases, have included measures to promote clean energy in an effort to avoid the “even bigger, and just as real, longterm threat of disastrous climate change.”

Energy is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and the recession has made the task of “transforming the energy sector easier by giving us an unprecedented, yet relatively narrow, window of opportunity to take action to concentrate investment on low-carbon technology,” it says. The annual outlook examines low-carbon options through a reference scenario (no changes to existing policies and measures) and a 450 scenario (collective policy action to limit the long-term concentration of GHG in the atmosphere to 450 parts per million of CO2-equivalent).

Global energy use will fall in 2009 for the first time since 1981 but current policies will allow it to increase once the economy recovers by 1.5% per year until 2030, or 40% over the period, the report forecasts. Fossil fuels would remain the dominant sources of primary energy around the world, accounting for three-quarters of overall increase in energy use, with coal receiving the largest increase in demand, followed by gas and oil.

The use of non-hydro emerging renewable energy (wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, wave, bio-energy) sees the fastest rate of increase in the reference scenario, with most of the increase in power generation. The share of non-hydro renewables in total power output rises from 2.5% in 2007 to 8.6% in 2030, with wind power grabbing the largest absolute increase.

Falling energy investment has had and will continue to have far-reaching consequences and, in late 2008 and early 2009, investment in renewables fell proportionately more than in other types of generating capacity. In 2009, as a whole, investment could drop by close to one-fifth and, without the stimulus provided by government fiscal packages, investment in renewable energies would have fallen by 30%.

Under the 450 scenario, energy efficiency is the largest contributor to abatement of GHG emissions by 2030, accounting for half of total savings compared with the reference scenario. Decarbonisation of the power sector also plays a central role in reducing emissions, with a big shift in the mix of fuels and technologies such as a 50% reduction in coal-based generation while renewables and nuclear make much bigger contributions.

“The upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen will provide important pointers to the kind of energy future that awaits us,” concludes the WEO. “The IEA has already called on all countries to take action on a large scale - a Clean Energy New Deal - to exploit the opportunity the financial and economic crisis presents to effect the permanent shift in investment to low-carbon technologies that will be required to curb the growth of energy-related GHG emissions.”

“Saving the planet cannot wait,” it states. Every year, the costs of transforming the energy sector add US$500 billion to the global incremental investment cost of US$10.5 trillion for the period 2010 to 2030, and the IEA says “the time has come to make the hard choices needed to turn promises into action.”

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sharp achieves world's highest solar cell conversion efficiency

Sharp Corporation has announced that its triple-junction compound solar cell has broken the efficiency record for non-concentrator solar cells at the research level. The conversion efficiency record of 35.8% was confirmed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST, one of the organisations around the world that officially certifies energy conversion efficiency measurements in solar cells) in September 2009.

Sharp was able to boost efficiency of the 1 square centimetre solar cell by improving the crystallinity (the regularity of the atomic arrangement) in each of the three photo-absorption layers.

Conventionally, Ge (germanium) is used as the bottom layer due to its ease of manufacturing. However, in terms of performance, although Ge generates a large amount of current, the majority of the current is wasted, without being used effectively for electrical energy. The key to solving this problem was to form the bottom layer from InGaAs (indium gallium arsenide), a material with high light utilization efficiency. However, the process to make high-quality InGaAs with high crystallinity was difficult.

Nevertheless, Sharp succeeded in forming an InGaAs layer with high crystallinity by using its proprietary technology for forming layers. As a result, the amount of wasted current has been minimized, and the conversion efficiency, which had been 31.5% in Sharp’s previous cells, has been successfully increased to 35.8%.

Sharp achieved this breakthrough as part of a research and development initiative promoted by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) on the theme of “R&D on Innovative Solar Cells”.

In light of these results, Sharp plans to “continue its efforts towaBased on these results, Sharp will continue its efforts toward even greater improvements in solar cell conversion efficiency.

History of Sharp Compound Solar Cell Development

1967 Development begins of solar cells for space applications using single-crystal silicon.

1976 Launch of operational Japanese satellite, "Ume," equipped with Sharp solar cells for space applications (single-crystal silicon solar cell).

2000 Research and development begin on triple-junction compound solar cell to further improve efficiency, reduce weight, and increase durability of solar cells for space applications.

2001 Participation in research and development on NEDO's photovoltaic power generation themes.

2002 Triple-junction compound solar cell gains certification from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

2003 Conversion efficiency of 31.5% is achieved (at the research level) for triple-junction compound solar cell.

2004 Launch of small scientific satellite, "Reimei," equipped with Sharp triple-junction compound solar cells.

2007 Conversion efficiency of 40.0% achieved (at the research level) for a triple-junction compound solar cell (concentrator type, at 1,100 times concentrated sunlight).

2009 Launch of Greenhouse gases Observing SATellite (GOSAT), "Ibuki", equipped with Sharp triple-junction compound solar cells.

2009 Conversion efficiency of 35.8% is achieved (at the research level) for a triplejunction compound solar cell based on research and development efforts that are part of NEDO's "R&D on Innovative Solar Cells" program.

(1) As of October 22, 2009, for non-concentrator solar cells at the research level (based on Sharp survey).

(2) Conversion efficiency confirmed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST; one of the organizations around the world that officially certifies energy conversion efficiency measurements in solar cells) in September 2009. (Cell surface: approx. 1 cm2)

(3) The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is Japan's public management organization for promoting research and development as well as for disseminating industrial, energy, and environmental technologies.

About Sharp

Sharp Corporation (TSE: 6753) is a worldwide developer of innovative products and core technologies that play a key role in shaping the future of electronics. As a leader in liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and digital technologies, Sharp offers one of the broadest and most advanced lines of consumer electronics, information products and electronic components, while also creating new network businesses. For more information, please visit .

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Malidives Cabinet's underwater meeting to highlight the threat of Global Warming

The Maldives government held a cabinet meeting underwater in a bid to attract international attention to the dangers of global warming.

President Muhammad Nasheed, dressed in full scuba gear, held Saturday's 30 minute meeting at a depth of six metres just north of the capital Male.

A tourist paradise we most associate with its coral reefs and white sand beaches, many of the 1200 islands that make up this country are less than one metre above sea level.

President Mohammed Nasheed and 13 other government officials submerged and took their seats at a table on the sea floor -- 20 feet (6 meters) below the surface of a lagoon off Girifushi, an island usually used for military training.

With a backdrop of coral, the meeting was a bid to draw attention to fears that rising sea levels caused by the melting of polar ice caps could swamp this Indian Ocean archipelago within a century. Its islands average 7 feet (2.1 meters) above sea level.

''What we are trying to make people realize is that the Maldives is a frontline state. This is not merely an issue for the Maldives but for the world,'' Nasheed said.

As bubbles floated up from their face masks, the president, vice president, Cabinet secretary and 11 ministers signed a document calling on all countries to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.
The issue has taken on urgency ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference scheduled for December in Copenhagen. At that meeting countries will negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol with aims to cut the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that scientists blame for causing global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Wealthy nations want broad emissions cuts from all countries, while poorer ones say industrialized countries should carry most of the burden.

Dozens of Maldives soldiers guarded the event Saturday, but the only intruders were groupers and other fish.

Nasheed had already announced plans for a fund to buy a new homeland for his people if the 1,192 low-lying coral islands are submerged. He has promised to make the Maldives, with a population of 350,000, the world's first carbon-neutral nation within a decade.

''We have to get the message across by being more imaginative, more creative and so this is what we are doing,'' he said in an interview on a boat en route to the dive site.

Nasheed, who has emerged as a key, and colorful, voice on climate change, is a certified diver, but the others had to take diving lessons in recent weeks.

Three ministers missed the underwater meeting because two were not given medical permission and another was abroad.

IPCC warning

The Maldives, located southwest of Sri Lanka, has become a vocal campaigner in the battle to halt rising sea levels. In 2007, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that a rise in sea levels of 18 to 59 centimetres by 2100 would be enough to make the country virtually uninhabitable.

More than 80 per cent of the country's land, composed of coral islands scattered some 850km across the equator, is less than one metre above sea level.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Artic ocean turns into acid

Carbon-dioxide emissions are turning the waters of the Arctic Ocean into acid at an unprecedented rate, scientists have discovered. Research carried out in the archipelago of Svalbard has shown in many regions around the north pole seawater is likely to reach corrosive levels within 10 years. The water will then start to dissolve the shells of mussels and other shellfish and cause major disruption to the food chain. By the end of the century, the entire Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic.

"This is extremely worrying," Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, told an international oceanography conference last week. "We knew that the seas were getting more acidic and this would disrupt the ability of shellfish – like mussels – to grow their shells. But now we realise the situation is much worse. The water will become so acidic it will actually dissolve the shells of living shellfish."

Just as an acid descaler breaks apart limescale inside a kettle, so the shells that protect molluscs and other creatures will be dissolved. "This will affect the whole food chain, including the North Atlantic salmon, which feeds on molluscs," said Gattuso, speaking at a European commission conference, Oceans of Tomorrow, in Barcelona last week. The oceanographer told delegates that the problem of ocean acidification was worse in high latitudes, in the Arctic and around Antarctica, than it was nearer the equator.

"More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm," he said. "Hence the problem of acidification is worse in the Arctic than in the tropics, though we have only recently got round to studying the problem in detail."

About a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by factories, power stations and cars now ends up being absorbed by the oceans. That represents more than six million tonnes of carbon a day.

This carbon dioxide dissolves and is turned into carbonic acid, causing the oceans to become more acidic. "We knew the Arctic would be particularly badly affected when we started our studies but I did not anticipate the extent of the problem," said Gattuso.

His research suggests that 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018; 50% by 2050; and 100% ocean by 2100. "Over the whole planet, there will be a threefold increase in the average acidity of the oceans, which is unprecedented during the past 20 million years. That level of acidification will cause immense damage to the ecosystem and the food chain, particularly in the Arctic," he added.

The tiny mollusc Limacina helicina, which is found in Arctic waters, will be particularly vulnerable, he said. The little shellfish is eaten by baleen whales, salmon, herring and various seabirds. Its disappearance would therefore have a major impact on the entire marine food chain. The deep-water coral Lophelia pertusa would also be extremely vulnerable to rising acidity. Reefs in high latitudes are constructed by only one or two types of coral – unlike tropical coral reefs which are built by a large variety of species. The loss of Lophelia pertusa would therefore devastate reefs off Norway and the coast of Scotland, removing underwater shelters that are exploited by dozens of species of fish and other creatures.

"Scientists have proposed all sorts of geo-engineering solutions to global warming," said Gattuso. "For instance, they have proposed spraying the upper atmosphere with aerosol particles that would reduce sunlight reaching the Earth, mitigating the warming caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide.

"But these ideas miss the point. They will still allow carbon dioxide emissions to continue to increase – and thus the oceans to become more and more acidic. There is only one way to stop the devastation the oceans are now facing and that is to limit carbon-dioxide emissions as a matter of urgency."

This was backed by other speakers at the conference. Daniel Conley, of Lund University, Sweden, said that increasing acidity levels, sea-level rises and temperature changes now threatened to bring about irreversible loss of biodiversity in the sea. Christoph Heinze, of Bergen University, Norway, said his studies, part of the EU CarboOcean project, had found that carbon from the atmosphere was being transported into the oceans' deeper waters far more rapidly than expected and was already having a corrosive effect on life forms there.

The oceans' vulnerability to climate change and rising carbon-dioxide levels has also been a key factor in the launching of the EU's Tara Ocean project at Barcelona. The expedition, on the sailing ship Tara, will take three years to circumnavigate the globe, culminating in a voyage through the icy Northwest Passage in Canada, and will make continual and detailed samplings of seawater to study its life forms.

A litre of seawater contains between 1bn and 10bn single-celled organisms called prokaryotes, between 10bn and 100bn viruses and a vast number of more complex, microscopic creatures known as zooplankton, said Chris Bowler, a marine biologist on Tara.
"People think they are just swimming in water when they go for a dip in the sea," he said. "In fact, they are bathing in a plankton soup."

That plankton soup is of crucial importance to the planet, he added. "As much carbon dioxide is absorbed by plankton as is absorbed by tropical rainforests. Its health is therefore of crucial importance to us all."

However, only 1% of the life forms found in the sea have been properly identified and studied, said Bowler. "The aim of the Tara project is to correct some of that ignorance and identify many more of these organisms while we still have the chance. Issues like ocean acidification, rising sea levels and global warming will not be concerns at the back of our minds. They will be a key focus for the work that we do while we are on our expedition."

The toll by 2100

■ The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast in 2007 that sea levels would rise by 20cm to 60cm by 2100 thanks to global warming caused by man-made carbon-dioxide emissions. This is now thought to be an underestimate, however, with most scientific bodies warning that sea levels could rise by a metre or even higher. Major inundations of vulnerable regions such as Bangladesh would ensue.

■ The planet will be hotter by 3C by 2100, most scientists now expect, though rises of 4.5C to 5C could be experienced. Deserts will spread and heatwaves will become more prevalent. Ice-caps will melt and cyclones are also likely to be triggered.

■ Weather patterns across the globe will become more unstable, numbers of devastating storms will increase dramatically while snow will disappear from all but the highest mountains.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Climate Change - The Road to Copenhagen

We now have 100 days until Copenhagen. Greenpeace China displayed 100 children carved from ice at the Temple of Earth in Beijing, to symbolise the “disappearing future” for the 1.3 billion people in Asia at risk of water shortage as a result of climate change. This event, matched in India with another ice sculpture, marks the 100-day countdown before the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen - where we are urging governments to take strong, effective action to stop climate change.

The melting sculptures of 100 children are made from Himalayan glacier water from the source of Yangtse, Yellow and Ganges rivers. The ice sculpture in India is a huge “100” on a World Map and was unveiled in New Delhi to show “the world washed away” by glacial melts.

The melting sculptures of 100 children are made from Himalayan glacier water from the source of Yangtse, Yellow and Ganges rivers. The ice sculpture in India is a huge “100” on a World Map and was unveiled in New Delhi to show “the world washed away” by glacial melts.

A climate tipping point is unfolding in the Himalayas. The rapid melting of glaciers caused by global warming is jeopardising the water supply for 1.3 billion Asians who live in the watershed of the 7 great rivers that originate in the region. If we cannot stop runaway climate change, babies born today – at this moment – will face a very different reality when they grow up, where water availability would be a serious problem.

The Himalayan glaciers are melting at a rate faster than recorded for other glaciers anywhere in the world. The IPCC suggests that glacier coverage will fall by at least 43 percent and possibly as much as 81 percent by the end of the century - depending on how effectively we act to restrain our greenhouse gas emissions.

China and India together account for one-third of the world’s population but both countries’ water resources (per capita are far below the global average. The two largest developing countries share the challenge of balancing the goals of development and environmental protection. They must pursue a low-carbon development path if we are to avert environmental and humanitarian disaster.

Global countdown to Copenhagen

In other parts of the world - our activists staged public events to highlight the number of days left for our leaders to take action. In Brazil, we set up large clocks in eight cities together with the tcktcktck campaign. In Belgium, 10,000 people formed a giant human banner in the shape of a big clock. Our team in Switzerland placed a giant banner on a retreating glacier saying 'Our Climate, Your Decision' and there was bike riding activity in the Philippines.


We're proud to be part of the Tcktcktck campaign this year. It's a global campaign for climate action, which has launched 100 days ahead of the UN Climate Summit, and brings together an unprecedented alliance of faith groups, non-governmental organisations, trade unions and individuals at this crucial time. We're working with Tcktcktck to harness the voices of people from around the world - calling for an ambitious, fair and binding international agreement that reflects the latest science. As December’s meeting in Copenhagen approaches, tcktcktck will organise around major international meetings and other relevant events to demonstrate the support from citizens around the world in having world leaders attend the negotiations in Copenhagen and produce an ambitious, fair and binding agreement.
Time to take responsibility

The latest scientific research shows catastrophic climate impacts can be averted by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions after 2015 in order to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. We are urging developed countries, as a group, to agree to cut emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. And developing countries must reduce their projected emissions growth by 15-30 percent by 2020.

With 100 days until the most important meeting of our time, we're working together with other organisations as part of the global TckTckTck campaign to show that the world is ready for bold climate action. We're asking world leaders to ensure a fair, ambitious, and binding climate deal in Copenhagen this December.

A strong climate treaty will not only reverse the march of dangerous climate change - it will also help us tackle the world’s largest challenges. We will create millions of green jobs, reduce healthcare costs, lift millions out of poverty, and put renewable energy into the hands of everyday citizens in the developing world.

Ref: Greenpeace

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Converting garbage into biofuel may cut CO2 emissions by 80 percent

Scientists in Singapore and Switzerland have suggested that converting the trash that fills the world’s landfills into biofuel could cut global carbon emissions by 80 percent. Biofuels produced from crops have proven controversial because they require an increase in crop production that has its own severe environmental costs.

However, second-generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol derived from processed urban waste, may offer dramatic emissions savings without the environmental catch. Converting the rubbish that fills the world’s landfills into biofuel may be the answer to both the growing energy crisis and to tackling carbon emissions. New research published in Global Change Biology: Bioenergy, reveals how replacing gasoline with biofuel from processed waste could cut global carbon emissions by 80%.

Biofuels produced from crops have proven controversial because they require an increase in crop production which has its own severe environmental costs. However, second-generation biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol derived from processed urban waste, may offer dramatic emissions savings without the environmental catch.

“Our results suggest that fuel from processed waste biomass, such as paper and cardboard, is a promising clean energy solution,” said study author Associate Professor Hugh Tan of the National University of Singapore. “If developed fully this biofuel could simultaneously meet part of the world’s energy needs, while also combating carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency.”

“If this technology continues to improve and mature these numbers are certain to increase,” concluded co-author Dr. Lian Pin Koh from ETH Zürich. “This could make cellulosic ethanol an important component of our renewable energy future.”

Data from the United Nation’s Human Development Index and the Earth Trends database was used to arrive at an estimate of how much waste is produced in 173 countries and how much fuel the same countries annually require.

The research team has calculated that 82.93 billion liters of cellulosic ethanol can be produced by the available landfill waste in the world and the resulting biofuel can reduce global carbon emissions in the range of 29.2% to 86.1% for every unit of energy produced.

Reference: Wiley - Blackwell (2009, September 29). Is Garbage The Solution To Tackling Climate Change?. ScienceDaily.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Impacts of Climate Change coming faster and sooner.

The pace and scale of climate change may now be outstripping even the most sobering predictions of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC).

An analysis of the very latest, peer-reviewed science indicates that many predictions at the upper end of the IPCC's forecasts are becoming ever more likely.

Meanwhile, the newly emerging science points to some events thought likely to occur in longer-term time horizons, as already happening or set to happen far sooner than had previously been thought.

Researchers have become increasingly concerned about ocean acidification linked with the absorption of carbon dioxide in seawater and the impact on shellfish and coral reefs.

Water that can corrode a shell-making substance called aragonite is already welling up along the California coast?decades earlier than existing models predict.

Losses from glaciers, ice-sheets and the Polar Regions appear to be happening faster than anticipated, with the Greenland ice sheet, for example, recently seeing melting some 60 percent higher than the previous record of 1998.

Some scientists are now warning that sea levels could rise by up to two metres by 2100 and five to ten times that over following centuries.

There is also growing concern among some scientists that thresholds or tipping points may now be reached in a matter of years or a few decades including dramatic changes to the Indian sub-continent's monsoon, the Sahara and West Africa monsoons, and climate systems affecting a critical ecosystem like the Amazon rainforest.

The report also underlines concern by scientists that the planet is now committed to some damaging and irreversible impacts as a result of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.

Losses of tropical and temperate mountain glaciers affecting perhaps 20 percent to 25 percent of the human population in terms of drinking water, irrigation and hydro-power.

Shifts in the hydrological cycle resulting in the disappearance of regional climates with related losses of ecosystems, species and the spread of drylands northwards and southwards away from the equator.

Recent science suggests that it may still be possible to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. However, this will only happen if there is immediate, cohesive and decisive action to both cut emissions and assist vulnerable countries adapt.

These are among the findings of a report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) entitled Climate Change Science Compendium 2009.

The report, compiled in association with scientists around the world, comes with less than 80 days to go to the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In a foreword to the document, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who this week hosted heads of state in New York, writes, "This Climate Change Science Compendium is a wake-up call. The time for hesitation is over".

"We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge. This is the moral challenge of our generation."

The Compendium reviews some 400 major scientific contributions to our understanding of Earth Systems and climate change that have been released through peer-reviewed literature, or from research institutions, over the last three years.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said, "The Compendium can never replace the painstaking rigour of an IPCC process?a shining example of how the United Nations can provide a path to consensus among the sometimes differing views of more than 190 nations".

"However, scientific knowledge on climate change and forecasting of the likely impacts has been advancing rapidly since the landmark 2007 IPCC report," he added.

"Many governments have asked to be kept abreast of the latest findings. I am sure that this report fulfils that request and will inform ministers' decisions when they meet in the Danish capital in only a few weeks time," said Mr. Steiner.

The research findings and observations in the Compendium are divided into five categories: Earth Systems, Ice, Oceans, Ecosystems and Management. Key developments documented since the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report include:

Earth Systems

A new climate modeling system, forecasting average temperatures over a decade by combining natural variation with the impacts of human-induced climate change, projects that at least half of the 10 years following 2009 will exceed the warmest year currently on record. This is despite the fact that natural variation will partially offset the warming "signal" from greenhouse gas emissions.

The growth in carbon dioxide emissions from energy and industry has exceeded even the most fossil-fuel intensive scenario developed by the IPCC at the end of the 1990s. Global emissions were growing by 1.1 percent each year from 1990-1999 and this accelerated to 3.5 percent per year from 2000-2007.

The developing and least-developed economies, 80 percent of the world's population, accounted for 73 percent of the global growth of emissions in 2004. However, they contributed only 41 percent of total emissions, and just 23 percent of cumulative emissions since 1750.

Growth of the global economy in the early 2000s and an increase in its carbon intensity (emissions per unit of growth), combined with a decrease in the capacity of ecosystems on land and the oceans to act as carbon "sinks", have led to a rapid increase in the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This has contributed to sooner-than-expected impacts including faster sea-level rise, ocean acidification, melting Arctic sea ice, warming of polar land masses, freshening of ocean currents and shifts in the circulation patterns of the oceans and atmosphere.

The observed increase in greenhouse gas concentrations are raising concern among some scientists that warming of between 1.4 and 4.3 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial surface temperatures could occur. This exceeds the range of between 1 and 3 degrees perceived as the threshold for many "tipping points", including the end of summer Arctic sea ice, and the eventual melting of Himalayan glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet.


The melting of mountain glaciers appears to be accelerating, threatening the livelihoods of one fifth or more of the population who depend on glacier ice and seasonal snow for their water supply. For 30 reference glaciers in nine mountain ranges tracked by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, the mean rate of loss since 2000 has roughly doubled since the rate during the previous two decades. Current trends suggest that most glaciers will disappear from the Pyrenees by 2050 and from the mountains of tropical Africa by 2030.
In 2007, summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean shrank to its smallest extent ever, 24 percent less than the previous record in 2005, and 34 percent less than the average minimum extent in the period 1970-2000. In 2008, the minimum ice extent was 9 percent greater than in 2007, but still the second lowest on record.
Until the summer of 2007, most models projected an ice-free September for the Arctic Ocean towards the end of the current century. Reconsideration based on current trends has led to speculation that this could occur as soon as 2030.

Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet surface also seems to be accelerating. In the summer of 2007, the rate of melting was some 60 percent higher than the previous record in 1998.

The loss of ice from West Antarctica is estimated to have increased by 60 per cent in the decade to 2006, and by 140 percent from the Antarctic Peninsula in the same period.

Recent findings show that warming extends well to the south of the Antarctic Peninsula, to cover most of West Antarctica, an area of warming much larger than previously reported.

The hole in the ozone layer has had a cooling effect on Antarctica, and is partly responsible for masking expected warming on the continent. Recovery of stratospheric ozone, thanks to the phasing out of ozone-depleting substances, is projected to increase Antarctic temperatures in coming decades.


Recent estimates of the combined impact of melting land-ice and thermal expansion of the oceans suggest a plausible average sea level rise of between 0.8 and 2.0 metres above the 1990 level by 2100. This compares with a projected rise of between 18 and 59 centimetres in the last IPCC report, which did not include an estimate of large-scale changes in ice-melt rates, due to lack of consensus.

Oceans are becoming more acidic more quickly than expected, jeopardizing the ability of shellfish and corals to form their external skeletons. Water that can corrode a shell-making carbonate substance called aragonite is already welling up during the summer along the California coast, decades earlier than models predict.


Since the 2007 IPCC report, wide-ranging surveys have shown changes to the seasonal behaviour and distribution of all well-studied marine, freshwater and terrestrial groups of plants and animals. Polar and mountaintop species have seen severe contractions of their ranges.
A recent study projecting the impacts of climate change on the pattern of marine biodiversity suggests dramatic changes to come. Ecosystems in sub-polar waters, the tropics and semi-enclosed seas are predicted to suffer numerous extinctions by 2050, while the Arctic and Southern Oceans will experience severe species invasions. Marine ecosystems as a whole may see a species turnover of up to 60 percent.

Under the IPCC scenario that most closely matches current trends ? i.e. with the highest projected emissions ? between 12 and 39 percent of the Earth's land surface could experience previously unknown climate conditions by 2100. A similar proportion, between 10 and 48 percent, will see existing climates disappear. Many of these "disappearing climates" coincide with biodiversity hotspots, and with the added problem of fragmented habitats and physical obstructions to migration, it is feared many species will struggle to adapt to the new conditions.
Perennial drought conditions have already been observed in South-eastern Australia and South-western North America. Projections suggest that persistent water scarcity will increase in a number of regions in coming years, including southern and northern Africa, the Mediterranean, much of the Middle East, a broad band in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.


The reality of a rapidly-changing climate may make conventional approaches to conservation and restoration of habitats ineffective. Drastic measures such as large-scale translocation or assisted colonization of species may need to be considered.
Eco-agriculture, in which landscapes are managed to sustain a range of ecosystem services, including food production, may need to replace the current segregation of land use between conservation and production. This could help create resilient agricultural ecosystems better able to adapt to the changing climate conditions.

Experts increasingly agree that active protection of tropical forests is a cost-effective means of cutting global emissions. An international mechanism of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is likely to emerge as a central component of a new agreement in Copenhagen. However, many issues need to be resolved, such as how to verify the reductions and ensuring fair treatment of local and indigenous forest communities.

A number of innovative approaches are emerging to keep carbon out of the atmosphere, including the use of "biochar", biologically-derived charcoal. It is mixed in soils, increasing fertility and potentially locking up carbon for centuries. This is a 21st century application of a technology known as Terra Preta, or Black Earth, used by Amazon peoples before the arrival of Europeans in South America.

Ref: IPCC Website

Friday, September 25, 2009

UN conference on Global Warming - Was it successful?

On 22nd September 2009, government leaders representing about 100 nations gathered at the United Nations in New York to discuss global warming. The meeting was billed as an attempt to jump-start negotiations in advance of a December summit in Copenhagen at which a global treaty governing greenhouse gas emissions is to be produced.

Instead, the New York conference only served to highlight the impossibility of realizing even the most limited environmental reforms in a world order dominated by rival capitalist nation states.

Global warming is caused by carbon dioxide emissions created in the burning of fossil fuels. Carbon and other “greenhouse gases” trap heat in the atmosphere, increasing the earth’s temperature beyond normal climatological fluctuations. Among global warming’s observed effects are the melting of the polar ice caps, which threatens coastal populations due to rising sea levels, and an increase in the severity of weather patterns. Its impact on the earth’s species, food production, water supply and human disease will be dramatic.

In light of the gathering threat of environmental catastrophe, the inability of the world heads of state to agree on even modest measures to meet it is all the more glaring. The conference revealed sharp divisions among the world’s three largest greenhouse gas producers, the US, China, and Europe.

China and the US by themselves produce 40 percent of all carbon emissions. The two nations, whose economies are also tightly bound together, have refused to agree to mandates on emission reductions. The speeches of presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, both of whom addressed the UN gathering, were therefore watched with particular interest.

Obama’s remarks were typical of the president. The speech had nothing to say about what the US might do to reduce its emissions.

“Yes, the developed nations that caused much of the damage to our climate over the last century still have a responsibility to lead,” Obama said. “And we will continue to do so by investing in renewable energy, promoting greater efficiency, and slashing our emissions to reach the targets we set for 2020 and our long-term goal for 2050.”

In fact, the US has taken no significant measures to reduce its carbon emissions. The US is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, after Congress, on cue from major corporate polluters, refused to ratify the treaty. The US is the only major country not to pass Kyoto.

Obama did not use his UN speech to call on the the US Senate to produce a greenhouse gas emissions bill in advance of the Copenhagen meeting. To be ratified, any treaty would require a 67-vote Senate majority.

Obama favors a “free market” solution to global warming, or so-called “cap and trade” measures, which would provide rich incentives to corporations to modestly reduce carbon emissions, while turning pollution into a tradeable commodity. Such a bill was passed in the House in June, but has been held up in the Senate until some time next year. (See "US House passes Obama administration’s carbon trading legislation".)

The only difference that Obama’s speech enunciated from the previous American position was an acceptance that global warming is, in fact, taking place and that it is caused by human activity. This Obama referred to as an “historic recognition on behalf of the American people and their government [that] we understand the gravity of the climate threat...” George W. Bush, Obama’s obscurantist predecessor in the White House, notoriously declared that “all the science isn’t in yet” on global warming.

Yet, in his speech’s only substantive portion, Obama reiterated the Bush administration position that combating carbon emissions is the responsibility of developing industrial powers like China and India. “Those rapidly-growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part as well,” Obama said.

Given that China and India are rapidly growing economies, it is unsurprising that their carbon emissions are also growing rapidly. But they still lag far behind the US in per capita carbon production. While the US produces about the same amount of carbon as China, it has less than a fourth of China’s population.

There is little doubt that China’s rapid industrial expansion is creating an environmental disaster. Much of China’s energy consumption comes from burning coal, which produces carbon emissions at a higher rate than other fossil fuels.

Hu tacitly rejected the American president’s claim that developing countries must shoulder the burden for reducing carbon emissions. “Developing countries need to strike a balance between economic growth, social development and environmental protection,” Hu said.

Hu indicated that China would continue to increase its carbon emissions, saying only that greenhouse gas output would decrease relative to economic growth. Hu also said that China would begin a large-scale reforestation project, increase its consumption of non-fossil fuels, and develop a “green economy.”

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, addressed the meeting on behalf of the European nations, which “have grown increasingly frustrated with Mr. Obama for not investing more political capital in the climate agenda at home,” the British daily Telegraph notes.

Sarkozy used his speech to take a swipe at Obama, telling the gathered heads of state he would not “inflict” a “grandiose speech” on delegates when “concrete proposals” are required.

Sub-Saharan African and poor island nations, which are already suffering under the effects of global warming and which produce relatively negligible amounts of carbon, are requesting financial reparations from the wealthier nations primarily responsible for global warming.

The French environment minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, went out of his way to reject such a proposal. “They have to show what it will pay for,” he said.

It is clear that if any agreement is produced at December’s Copenhagen gathering, it will be a derisory response to the crisis of global warming.

To date, major industrialized nations have agreed to reduce emissions by 2050. This date is so far in the future, and the promises to reduce emissions so vague, that it is not taken seriously. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has proposed a short-term target of reducing emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. This reduction, which environmental groups say is insufficient to reverse global warming, is likely to be opposed by the US as well as China and India, which reject emission mandates.

There are also unresolved disagreements over what body should oversee compliance with carbon emission standards.

Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary general, who called the climate change summit, lamented that “negotiations were moving as fast as a glacier.”

Slower, perhaps, than the world’s glaciers are melting.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Indian wind energy could cover 24% of the country’s power needs by 2030

Honorable Minister for New and Renewable Energy, Govt. of India, Dr. Farooq Abdullah released a book titled “Indian Wind Energy Outlook 2009" on the 9th September 2009 in New Delhi. This report is published jointly by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association (IWTMA).

The study examines the potential of wind power in India up to the year 2030 and found that the technology, re-powering, untapped off-shore potential and furthering wind resource assessment could play a key part in the nation’s effort to provide energy to its ever growing demand in an economy which will boom and at the same time combat climate change.

“India is already an established force in the global wind energy markets, and yet, it has the potential to achieve so much more,” said GWEC Secretary General Steve Sawyer. “Wind energy can be deployed at a very large scale in a very short period of time. With the right support, it can make a major difference in improving India’s energy independence by providing it with vast amounts of clean, indigenous energy.”

The report explains how wind energy can provide up to 24% of the India’s power needs by 2030 while attracting 475 bn Rs in investment every year and creating 213,000 ‘green collar’ jobs in manufacturing, project development, installation, operation, maintenance, consulting etc. At the same time, it would save a total of 5.5 bn tons of CO2 in that timeframe.

The ‘Indian Wind Energy Outlook’ explores three different scenarios for wind power – a Reference scenario based on figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA); a Moderate version which assumes that current policy measures and targets for renewable energy are met; and an Advanced Scenario which assumes that all policy options in favour of renewables have been adopted. These are then set against two demand projections for electricity demand.

Mr. D V Giri, Chairman, IWTMA, said, “In our rapidly growing economy, the security of energy supply is key and wind energy potential must not be wasted. Deploying wind energy at a large scale would help us to realize significant economic and environmental benefits. We now urge the government to fast track proposals to introduce a National renewable energy policy to help the industry to make this happen for India. He also added, “IWTMA plays a significant role as turnkey solution providers with ‘state of the art’ technology to its customers.”

Mr. Arthouros Zervos, Chairman, GWEC, said, “This report demonstrates that wind technology is not a dream for the future – it is working now, and ready for tackling India’s energy challenges.” He also added, “The political choices of the coming years will determine the world’s and India’s, environmental and economic situation for many decades to come. The wind industry stands ready to do its part in what the UN Secretary General has described as ‘the defining struggle of the 21st century’. With sufficient political will and the right frameworks, it could do even more”.

To date, 10 Indian states have implemented supporting policies for wind energy. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is currently considering plans to introduce Generation Based Incentive (GBI) which is expected to attract Foreign Director Investment (FDIs) and Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

The report is part of a wind industry campaign entitled ‘Wind Power Works’, which is coordinated by GWEC and supported by IWMTA. Its aim is to increase government awareness and positive action on wind energy in the run up to the COP 15 climate talks in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Prospects of CPV Technology

Concentrating PV employs optic elements to concentrate sunlight on to cells which are much more efficient and smaller than conventional cells. These optic elements allow the concentration of sunlight, multiplying its intensity by factors that range from 2, in low concentration, to more than 1000, in high concentration. Given that the efficiency of CPV cells tends to increase with concentration, CPV can afford to reduce the use of semi-conductive material used in cells without lowering the overall efficiency of the system.

Currently, most CPV companies employ triple junction cells. Mass produced multi-junction cells have reported efficiencies of 35% to 39%, which exceed the efficiency of conventional silicon cells by a wide margin. The combination of high efficiency cells with optic elements allows CPV to produce the same amount of energy whilst using 1775 times less cell surface than standard PV systems . Given that the semiconductor materials that make up the cells are the most expensive, this should result in a reduction in the cost per kWh.

Despite its potential for staggering cost reductions, CPV is still relatively costly. According to a CPV today report , the costs of CPV are around 0.31 to 0.39 € per kWh. These high prices are partly due to the small scale of most CPV installations. However, dramatic cost reductions are expected in the coming years, bringing CPV within an affordable cost bracket of 0.12 to 0.15 € per kWh in 2015 in places with a level of solar irradiation of 2500 kWh/m2/year.

Increases in cell efficiency and optic elements will be crucial factors in bringing about these cost reductions. It is expected that in 2015 triple junction cells will reach record efficiencies of 50% while optics systems could reach between 80% and 90%.


Concentrator PV systems convert sunlight directly to electricity, just as other photovoltaic technologies do, but with some important differences. First, CPV systems use different PV cell technology. CPV systems utilize high-efficiency, multi-junction cells, not silicon. These cells provide over twice the conversion efficiencies of most silicon cells—approaching 40+%. Thus, the amount of photovoltaic material used is a fraction of that used in traditional PV systems.

Second, CPV systems use optical elements — mirrors or lenses — to collect and focus sunlight onto these high-efficiency cells. In the optical system shown in the figure at the top of the page, the primary mirror collects the sunlight, focuses it on the secondary mirror, then it travels down the optical rod, concentrating it 650 times onto the high efficiency cell. Similar to a telescope, the CPV optics are trained on the sun’s position and collect and concentrate light onto the solar cell.

Third, CPV systems incorporated precision, dual-axis tracking to keep the concentrators in alignment with the sun throughout the day. By tracking the sun from sunrise to sunset, CPV systems produce energy at a steady rate throughout the day and power production remains at high levels during afternoon’s peak demand hours.

By replacing expensive PV material with comparatively inexpensive optics, utilizing high efficiency PV cells, and tracking the sun, energy generation potential is much higher and cost of energy much lower than with other solar technologies in the high solar resource regions of the world.

CPV technology has clearly moved out of the lab and prototyping phase -- becoming a reality with multi-megawatt installations underway. Today we are faced with dramatically increasing electricity demand globally presenting a critical need for clean, renewable energy. While the sun is the world's most abundant renewable resource, today it is barely tapped as an energy source. The challenge has been in cost effective conversion of that sunlight to electricity. Historically, harvesting photons has been hindered by high costs compared with traditional energy.

Photovoltaics technology (PV) has played a critical role in the evolution of renewable energy. The important thing to recognize, however, is that for the PV industry to reach its growth potential and become a major source of the world’s energy supply, then technology cannot stand still. Technologies like silicon PV and thin films must continue to evolve, working to squeeze more energy out of PV cells, and driving to lower cost. But that alone won’t take us far enough. There is a need for disruptive technologies that leverage existing technology, but are more advanced at providing benefits not achievable with current technologies.


CPV is a young technology but the progress made in the past three years alone has been dramatic. In this short time, the number of companies developing CPV systems has grown from a handful to three dozen. The number of companies advancing technology for high-efficiency cells is accelerating, and commercial deployments have gone from a few kilowatts of primarily test sites, to somewhere around 5–8 MW in 2008. The expected deployments this year are forecasted to be between 30–50 MW. CPV now has a place under the sun.


In areas where the solar resource is high, CPV systems are ideal, including such areas as southern Europe, the southwest U.S., Africa, Australia, parts of Latin America and Asia. We estimate that CPV is ideally suited to about one-third of the world’s land regions, which represent ~40% of the world’s population. In these regions, CPV technology will provide the highest level of energy production and the lowest cost of electricity.


CPV has been challenged by some as being too expensive a technology. There are two key factors to understand related to cost. First is efficiency. The single biggest impact on the cost of delivering solar energy is efficiency of the system — in other words, the rate at which the system can convert sunlight to electricity. CPV clearly has the highest efficiency levels — nearly twice that of most PV. Of equal importance is the fact that these efficiency levels are increasing on a steady upward trajectory, with tremendous headroom before they begin to approach any theoretical limits for the cell technology.

The second factor is the issue of manufacturing costs. From a volume manufacturing perspective, CPV is in its infancy. The manufacturing cost reduction curve, resulting from rapidly increasing volumes combined with automation, is also moving at a very steep trajectory downward. When you combine the increasing efficiency and decreasing manufacturing costs, CPV clearly leads the industry in its cost of energy reduction potential.


From a scalability standpoint, there are two key factors to understand. First, CPV systems use very little specialized PV material. The majority of the system is built from readily available materials that can be sourced globally including aluminum and glass. The materials supply shortages that have plagued the solar industry in the past are much less of an issue for CPV, allowing for very rapid scalability from a materials perspective.

CPV also has a much lower cap-ex requirement than other solar technologies. This is a very important element of rapidly building capacity as the deployment of CPV systems moves from 8 MW to 50 MW to gigawatts of capacity in the not-so-distant future. CPV provides deployment flexibility from small sites to large utility-scale power plants, with projects being deployed for commercial, industrial, and utility customers in both on-grid and off-grid environments.


High-temperature performance

While it would be easy to assume that high solar resource regions are ideal for all solar, that is not the case. When it gets hot, silicon PV and thin films both suffer temperature degradation, resulting in a much lower energy production as temperature rises. On the contrary, the multi-junction cells used in CPV systems do not suffer from significant temperature degradation. Energy producers get the highest energy output per megawatt installed with CPV. Higher energy production directly correlates to lower cost of energy.

Environmental sustainability

CPV uses significantly less PV material than traditional photovoltaics. It depends on the system, but in the case of SolFocus (Fig. 1), its systems are over 97% recyclable. Being mounted on trackers (Fig. 2), not directly on the ground, the systems do not disrupt the land as much as other technologies do. Dual-use of the land is possible; land could be improved while producing energy.

CPV also offers a much shorter energy payback than other solar technologies. While it varies depending on the system, energy payback is 6 months for reflective CPV technology like SolFocus’, compared to 2 years for traditional PV. Also important: CPV does not use water to produce electricity. In many high solar resource regions, water is in scarce supply. With technologies such as concentrating solar power, says a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report, power plants consume on average 750–1000 gallons/MWh of energy production.


CPV solutions are changing the face of PV. Deployment of ground mounted, utility scale systems is growing. The cost of solar energy in the fastest growing solar markets is reducing rapidly. The environment is benefiting not just from clean energy, but from energy created with a very small carbon footprint. The technology has clearly moved out of the lab and prototyping phase, and is becoming a reality with multi-megawatt installations underway.
Ref: Article by Nancy Hart Soch

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Solar Power from Space

The idea of generating solar power from space has been gathering momentum for quite some time. And various alternative energy companies are investing substantial amount of money in this concept. The advantages of harnessing solar energy from space are many. Solar energy in space is ten times more than on the planet earth. In space there are no nights and no weather changes. The wear and tear will be less too because of lack of humidity, rain, storm or friction.
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and IHI Corporation are undertaking an ambitious project of $ 21bn. They are aspiring to design and develop a Space-based solar farm that would generate 1GW of power. This will require an area of four square kilometer consisting of rows of solar panels. This space solar farm will be housed 36,000km above the surface of the earth.

This 21bn power project has a timeline of three decades. Before wetting their feet fully, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will go for a small 10MW demonstration satellite which would have solar panels. This smaller project would be completed in 2015. This experimental project will first test the water before taking the whole plunge. They will also test the systems used to beam energy from space to ground-based receivers. Once fully developed the plant will generate about 1GW of solar power on the ground. It could be a base load resource instead of an intermittent source of power. This amount of power can meet the energy needs of about 294,000 Tokyo homes on an average.

In fact base load issues are one the last hurdles when we talk about many forms of renewable energy. But the million dollar question to tackle is how to get the power from the solar panels affixed upon the orbiting platforms back to Earth? Currently the existing knowledge says that one can convert it into radio frequency energy for transmission. We can install a receiving station on the earth, which then converts it back into electricity.

If successful, the pilot project could deal with certain concerns such as the use of environmentally sensitive areas for extensive solar farms. However, they have to tackle one more issue: the energy required to produce and put these solar panels into space versus the amount of energy they may generate. One of the solutions can be that they can utilize the concept of space elevators.

A division of JAXA, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) has already prepared a prototype of the SPS2000, a 10 megawatt demonstration solar-power satellite.

ISAS is also undertaking a project where an experimental satellite will be tested for wireless power supply of several hundred kilowatts. Ground experiments are being held for scrutinizing the influence of high-voltage discharge which is a sheer necessity for large-capacity power generation in space. They are also spending time on the impact of space debris on the solar farm.

Ref: Mitsubishi Electric Corporation

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