Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

InVEST to get more Natural Capital, and prize on the right way!

Today I got the opportunity to attend a great session, maybe I was even meeting a future Nobel Prize winner (it has happened before). Even more important than the prize is the discussion on putting a price to what we all value so much: Nature. It is far too often overlooked, but we have a special interest and know that what gets measured gets done.

Putting the right value to nature’s services. It is a quest and lots of bottom-up innovation is still needed to make it happen in everyday life. Top-down policy may do its part and judging on the new World Bank report it is a more hot topic than ever. -Will the COP18 deliver? Instead of waiting and keep asking we can all contribute and get on the right way.

Gretchen Daily (yes we have talked about her earlier) is certainly a positive person and this morning her speech was vibrant with energy and engagement. However, she does not neglect the challenges we face. As a professor at Stanford University she know what she is talking about and her pioneering work is quantifying and valuing natural capital. Have a look! InVEST is a policy and calculation tool that bring macro-level understanding to both global and local conditions and can comprehend both complex and simple factor analysis for valuation on nature capital.

It was great to meet today as well as to get encouraging support for Commute Greener!

 

 

 

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Greener Halloween: Call for pumpkins!

Thanks to Liene Vanaga and Pavel Rodin.

Usually strange things happen in the last days in October in many places. While we feel for those in trouble by storms we act with positive actions for sustainable development. At the same time lots of people are dressing up, making pumpkins and try to scare each other. And you may not know if those ghosts, zombies, witches and other strange creatures are real or not.

Guess what we met today on our way to work?

At Lindholmen Science Park in Sweden people who commute greener were greeted and others were tricked!

 

Sometimes these Halloween creatures are more inspiring than horrible and scary. Our one definitely wants to inspire you to change your behaviour at least for one day and chose public transport or biking instead of driving car. This is a chance to get a lot of positive emotions, meet people and experience beautiful autumn days or the season that surround you currently. At the same time you will take care of the environment.

To see the progress and share experiences you can always note journeys, as an organization with a dedicated community, or with rewards via our new Facebook application!

Now, make your own green-minded pumpkin and join our competition! Share it by sending a picture to CommuteGreener@volvo.com or upload on www.facebook.com/CommuteGreener

The most creative one will get some nice surprise from us  -  Everything is possible!

Just try it and Commute Greener!

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Break free – your steps counts!

A posting from guest blogger Jessica Gold, Sustainergies

I saw this picture of an interesting ad posted on Internet the other day. I think its brilliant content is in line with Eldridge Cleaver’s quote from 1968: “you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem”. Breaking free from an unsustainable system is the core of Commute Greener – we have a long way to go, and your steps counts!

Break free

Jessica Gold

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Living without a car on the peninsula south of San Francisco (by guest blogger Frances Sprei)

This April me and my family moved to Menlo Park just south of San Francisco from Sweden. Both me and my fiancé are researchers devoted to solutions to climate change so we have a built in resistance to own a car and try to minimize its use. So when we moved here it was obvious to try to do it without getting a car. This turned out to be quite a challenge at least until we got settled down.

The good part is that at least public transportation exists here. The problem is that it does not go very frequently which we learned the hard way.  One day we just missed one bus and decided to wait for the next one. One hour later, and many “When is our bus coming?” from our son, the bus finally arrived. Luckily it was a beautiful sunny day and we were not in a hurry. Another time it took us three hours, we walked 3 km and took 2 buses and had a short stop at a grocery store, to travel a distance that took 15 minutes by car.

Now we are settled and everyday living without a car is actually quite smooth. After getting our apartment we quickly purchased two bikes and a bike-trailer for our kids. Menlo Park and Palo Alto are actually very well suited for biking. Good weather, flat landscape, good bicycle paths and you can bring the bike on the buses, commuter trains and even some subways. The kids like riding in the back even if it took some time for the smallest one to get adjusted to the helmet. And you can transport a lot of things in the trailer combined with a basket I have on my bike.

Another day after having bought a booster for the car, vacuum cleaner, shoe rack, pillow and some other small items at a major shopping center; the cashier gently asked us if we need help getting the things to the car. We said “no thank you, we are just going to take it to a bus and then on our bike”, her chin dropped and she was speechless. After three months however we did succumb to the pressure and bought a car, a used Toyota Prius. We still do our everyday life – commuting to work, taking the kids to pre-school, buying groceries – by bike but we wanted a car to be able to explore the beautiful nature around were we live, that is not accessible in any other ways. So now we enjoy a spontaneous outing to some of the open space reserves on the weekends. The challenge now is not to overuse the car and to stick to the bikes and public transportation when this is feasible. And maybe that is more realistic challenge to pose to families, or what do you think?

Frances Sprei

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Even more evidence that Global warming exists

Hi everyone!

You know, sometimes it is easy to understand why some people don’t believe in the scientists when they are saying that earth is warming and the climate is changing. It is such a huge problem that it is almost impossible to get ones head around.

Global Warming. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Couple that with a healthy dose of misunderstanding of the lingo of the academic world and methods, mistakes made in the IPCC report and all rather aggressive discussion amongst the scientists themselves, where some are very public with their notion that everybody but

themselves are wrong and it is a wonder that anybody actually see the problem at all.

One of those skeptic scientists recently published an article in the wall street journal about how he put his own group together to come to terms with the problem as he mistrusted the methods of data gathering and processing made by many other scientists. Professor Richard Muller and his team spent some time gathering new data and developing new methods to analyze the data, and came to an conclusion.

Global warming is indeed real. Or to quote his article;

When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.

Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that. -Richard A Muller, Wall street journal

Studies like these are the heart of science. It is all about testing and retesting a hypothesis, trying to prove it wrong. Which is partly a reason to why so many distrusts scientists as they can’t say that anything is “true”. Hopefully this is one step on the long road towards a global acceptance of the problem, and possibly even a starting point on the road to mitigating the problem. More and more evidence is turning up that points towards an anthropogenic global warming. It is time to start doing something against it.

There are many reasons to remain skeptic and not to swallow everything on the net or in media. But the “great arguments among the climate scientists” is no reason just lay back and do nothing. Even the skeptic scientists are coming up with “positive” results nowadays. In other words, get of that couch and start doing something about the problem. There are thousands of ways to reduce your energy and resource use. Insulation, low energy or LED lamps, buying local food, reducing meat and soda consumption etc etc. are great ways to start.

Driving less is also a very good way to reduce your CO2 footprint as well as reducing several other environmental problems. One bus can swallow vast amounts of cars. A train can swallow ten times that number. Biking or walking is even more environmentally friendly, but not an option for everyone. The point is that there are so many ways you can help reduce global warming. It is just a matter of getting started and finding the right tools to do it. By the way, have you heard of Commute Greener! :-)

I’m out of here

Fredrik

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Lee Shipper (with Nobel Prize and more) a tribute by guest blogger Frances Sprei

The 16th of August (today 2 months ago) was a somber day for sustainable transportation, since one of its giants, Lee Schipper passed away. I met Lee for the first time in Berkeley in 2007 at a transport conference. He wanted help to gather some transportation data from Sweden. He was always in search for data, good data, always struggling to really understand data on energy and transportation and to get it right. And justly so, it is a jungle out there. He wanted to truly understand energy and transport trends and then you have to dig into the dirt. He was also never afraid to ask question and question so called truths. Making him thought provoking and a source of learning for all of us.

But Lee was more than a researcher that authored over 100 papers and wrote books, he was also a doer. He made sure to push people around the world to do the right thing, such as Bus Rapid Transit systems in Mexico city. He founded Embarque the World Resource Institute’s center for sustainable transportation with offices worldwide. He has definitely left a mark in any institution or office working with transportation around the World.

At the conference in Berkeley I got to experience Lee the musician as well, when during one of the social events Lee played the vibraphone with his band the Mitigators.

My path and Lee’s crossed number of times the following years, at conferences and dissertation defenses (including my own). He was very supportive of my research (as he was of many researchers around the world) and helped arrange a post-doc at Stanford that I started late spring this year. Unfortunately Lee’s illness took overhand and I never had the chance to work a lot with him. But I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to meet with him, discuss with him, getting e-mails from him sent at 2 o’clock in the morning from a Toyota Prius taxi on his way home from the airport (no matter when you wrote him he would quickly respond).  James Sweeney, the director of Precourt Energy Efficiency Center where Lee was a senior researcher, called Lee, righteously, “a force of nature” and will be terribly missed. We can all honor his commitment and his energy by doing our part in creating a more sustainable world, be it by doing research on sustainable transportation modes, working on and promoting new transport solutions or commuting greener. Let’s do our best to keep Lee’s spirit alive!

Frances Sprei

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We have the tech to reduce CO2 emissions, why are we not using it?

One of the biggest obstacles in fighting climate change is the lack of tech to reduce carbon emissions on a large scale, right? That have been the focus in several climate debates and it is quite clear that we lack viable and economical options to make industry cleaner. Or is that really so?

Eleven of the worlds largest engineer organizations beg to differ, and aren’t afraid to do so. According to these organizations there are lots of tech solutions in energy, mechanical and several other sectors. These organizations mean that there is no lack of ideas and development but there is a great need for funding, new legislation and action from the politicians. The development is simply too slow without the right incitements towards a sustainable economy. They may actually be right on that one.

This is the bad guy! Go get 'em engineers!

This years environmental conference will be held in Durban, South Africa. The conference in Cancun last year saw a lot of locked horns, stalling and random disagreements but did actually come up with some good ideas and plans. It did lack a real commitment to carbon reductions though, something which was sorely needed. This year will most likely see more of the same. Although that isn’t the most optimistic outlook, it is probably a realistic one.

However it is important that the industry and engineering organizations are clear with the fact that they CAN and WANT to take responsibility and work for the environment. That is a clear message to the ambassadors, especially those from the larger countries, that this is doable, if very expensive and potentially time consuming. Actual action is needed and a quite aggressive strategy to reduce CO2 emissions through taxes, subsides, carbon trade and legislation will probably be needed for real results. This is in fact necessary as Climate change is already upon us.

So we have the tech needed, in working condition or in the planning/experimental stage. It should be easy to just start using it, right? Well industry can’t really act without the above mentioned economical and legal steering. While most large corporations, like Volvo Group, are working very hard to reduce emissions and become more and more “green” in the production, they still have to make a profit of their products, and reducing emissions of CO2 and other pollutants, becoming more effective etc costs A LOT. One simply can’t invest infinite sums in environmental care when the competition don’t. Laws, regulations and the economy sets the level of viable environmental improvements and decides which is the best tech to use for reducing environmental impact. At least on a simplified level, I am no environmental economist so I have probably missed something.

It is sad to think about all that could have been done for the environment but doesn’t happen because it has become an economical top political issue. I sincerely hope the leaders of the world can get together and come up with a common goal this time around and that clean production will become more and more a priority. And until then there are a lot of improvements that can be done on a smaller scale in both large and small organizations, and for private persons as well. Organizing transports so cars and trucks are always full and taking the best route, making sure the environment is an important part of future planning and working with replacing old tech with cleaner as it gets to old are all things to consider which can improve the environmental status a lot. Working with attitudes among the employees, like providing bike parking and encouraging healthy and sustainable lifestyles are other options, which can be quite cheep and actually create something of value within the company. Do I dare mention that Commute Greener! is a good tool for this? After all, our campaigns have proven successful in several situations.

While this article more or less focus on the political and corporate side of this tech issue, it actually has a great impact on private persons as well. We all have the responsibility to take some kind of action for the planet and we are getting more and more gadgets and options through tech. It is not necessary to get it all, but a there are sure to be some goodies that can make everyday a bit more sustainable, right?

Fredrik

 

 

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Commute Greener! at Keb – the collapsing “roof of Sweden”…

I have a t-shirt with the text: “Kebnekaise: The top of Sweden, been there – climbed it”. And it’s true – I was there about two weeks ago and climbed the beautiful South Peak, and it’s still the highest top in Sweden. Standing on the top, with shaky legs I was deeply touched and felt a lot of respect and humility for Mother Nature, and then just euphoria…

But maybe my t-shirt became unique soon, because the South Peak is a top glacier and it’s melting because of the global warming. We have heard about melting glaciers before, but on the news on the Swedish television yesterday it was a reportage where scientists were measuring the top of Kebnekaise. The South Peak has been melting four meters the past three years and three meters since last year! The top of Sweden is now 2 099,7 meters which is historically low, the lowest value in 1000 year! The climate change seems to have a more dramatically impact on the melting glaciers than the prognosis….

Get going and join us in Commute Greener! – together we can make a big leap towards a sustainable development! Today I take the bike to work, will you join me?

Commute Greener!
/Karin

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Hurricanes and climate change is running rampage – is this what we want in our future?

Climate change is one of the great threats to the planet, right up there with overpopulation and lack of clean water. Almost all of the scientists tell us this in numerous scientific papers. But this is still a very difficult mechanism, even if it looks very easy in mr Al Gores film. Just take the example of changes in weather patterns we are seeing. Can we really say that this is a change in local climate after just a few years with droughts and cold winters? And what of the hurricanes?

I guess no one have missed the hurricane that have hit north America. Once again climate change get more discussion and people say with great self assurance that “climate change caused this”. Or that it did not. And no one can really go out and say that this is with 100%, or even 95%  probability an effect of global warming. This is the problem with climate science; it is incredibly complex and hard to understand.  If it were only that simple. Not only that, but several other disciplines have to cooperate and a huge amount of factors have to be accounted for in models and simulations that can show whether or not this is possibly connected to changes in the climate. But it seems like that actually is the case.

Last year a study about the connection between the greenhouse effect and tropical hurricanes were published. Well, I am sure more than one were published, but this is the one I have taken a look at. At the abstract at least as you have to have credentials to read the full article. You get the picture. The authors mean that

it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes. However, future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100. - Knutsson et al. Tropical cyclones and climate change, Nature Geoscience 3, 157 – 163 (2010)

Granted, the authors begin the abstract with a short discussion of how difficult it have been to say in which direction this issue is pointing. But they seem to be able to make a connection.

We already knew that the greenhouse effect with following global warming and climate changes were going to mess with the weather. Wet places get wetter, dry get dryer. Recent studies show that this prediction was somewhat correct. But this is on a whole other level. Is this how we want our future to be?

The greenhouse effect is a monster running wild, and to capture and tame it a lot of work will have to be done. No single human can change this. No single country can completely stop it, even if it is as big as the USA or China. But many human beings doing their part and countries that take their responsibility can probably at least slow it down. It is going to take a lot of work and a lot of investments, but it is not to late.

It is not to late for the common man/woman to do their part either. It is time to start changing habits, since that is what it really comes down to. We don’t have five earths. We have one. We have to be careful with what we got. Cycling or taking the bus may seem like a small thing, but it is a good start. One change leads to another. With some hard work and creative thinking we may get very far. Just look at the One Tonne family that is trying to live with just one tonne of CO2/year and person.If they can do it, why can’t somebody else do it as well?

Fredrik

 

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Nature flee from global warming.

Global warming is an interesting concept. After all, what’s wrong with warmer summers. Being able to grow wine in New York or Stockholm. And so on. Besides, the winters have been terribly cold with snowstorms and ice all over the north hemisphere, so Global warming can’t be real, right? Well it is real. And it has severe consequences.

Last year we could read about severe storms, droughts, firestorms, heat records and floods. This year have had heavy rain storms coming from nowhere and there is a starvation catastrophe happening in Africa. The bad winters are probably related to climate change as well, although it is almost impossible to show with 100% security. Scientists never confirm anything to a 100% by the way, as they use statistics in their research. 95% is more common…

The latest in the row of signs is that plants and animals are moving north, away from the rising temperatures, as shown in a study from the University of New York. I know of several Swedish alerts as well such as bears not going into hibernation due to being confused by warm weather and so on. While it would be kind of cool to have rain forests here in Sweden, this isn’t really helping the ecosystem. I am no biologist but I have studied enough to know that ecosystems are incredibly complex. A whole lot of bad stuff can happen to the nature if there are sudden changes to an ecosystem. Species can go extinct, foreign species with no real predator can wreck havoc and so on. This is serious. Really serious.

But Darwin this just works according to Charles Darwin’s theories!  Survival of the fittest and all that. Well, while it is true ecosystems always evolve more or less according to the old mans theory, this is happening at a rapid pace. 12 meters/ decade migration north doesn’t sound that much but for a plant or lichen it is.

As I said, I am no biologist. I know many in that field of study though. And they are getting scared. This is a dangerous sign that global warming is already starting to do real damage. Another sign that is.

At the same time politicians are arguing that Climate change is a hoax and that drilling for more oil is going to solve every problem in the world, that US fuel prizes shall be down to under 2$ /gallon again and much other things. In a time where it is getting more and more important to start making real difference by investments, research, policy, regulation and cooperation.

In the face of this it is getting more and more important for us ordinary people to make an effort to make a difference. If everyone lived like the average American we would need 4 earths to bet by. We only have one. We need to take care of it. As an individual there are lots you can do, like turning of the lights, choose a smaller car or public transportation/zero emission alternatives for transportation, stop buying junk, recycling and so on. Commute Greener! is not the solution to climate change, but it is a tool to take a first step.

Fredrik

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