Last months I haven’t written anything in the blog due to a combination of lack of time in my personal life and spending my remaining “free” hours in coursera platform learning about climate change. It has been a very well spent time, I have learned many interesting things about climate change, but I hope to talk about it in a further post. Today I want to greet the new year with some short wishes about climate change:
1.- It would be wonderful to stabilize the carbon emissions worldwide as many important countries have done in their particular cases. Or even better, to start reducing them making 2013 the peak emissions year.
2.- If the previous is too optimistic, it would be good at least to stop Coal plant growth in most parts of the world.
3.- And combine it with a robust growth of renewable energies.
4.- An international carbon tax would really help, adopted broadly, or at least by the greater emitter countries. Next COP would be a good place to agree on it.
5.- If all of these does not happen, or it is too weak, and international social movement could help to raise public opinion awareness and move some reluctant governments.
6.- or … we could just stop talking and act with the seriousness to be expected from an intelligent being.
Image from Urban Bike web
Recently I met an acquaintance in his new business: Urban Bikes . It is a business around electric bicycles, he sells them rents and repairs. It is not the only shop in Bilbao but certainly it is well located and collaborating with some other small businesses for alternative tourism offers. He told me that he hoped a great future for electric bikes in cities and even if it is not boasting in Bilbao for now it could be in any moment.
I do not know anything about this business but it seems he is doing a great job and I really hope he is successful because this would mean we are advancing in transport transformation towards lower carbon footprint. Because I have the feeling (someday I should put data in that feeling) that transportation is among the main carbon emissions activities the one that is advancing less or has less current possibilities to advance. Maybe this “small” electric vehicles will play a significant role in that transformation and not everything will be a technology substitution in cars.
It is a known fact for anyone reading scientific news that there is much concern and research in renewable energies, energy storage, low C transportation and some other subjects closely related to climate change. This means that there are many scientists warned by our climate future and they have convinced investors from politics or private sector to research in those areas. This fact is not frequently displayed in the news but there are exceptions as this list of 10 emerging technologies of the world economic forum.
5 out of 10 of the proposed technologies are related to energy or transportation, so, to climate change mitigation. These kind of speculative analysis are just that, but as in the case of a previous one in the BBC, show mainly our worries and hopes for the future, and in both of them climate change is present (in this one more clearly in fact)
Image from Wikipedia
What happens with biofuels? (biofuels can be distinguished from biomass, because they need a chemical process to extract the liquid fuel and the biomass is burn directly or after just cutting and drying)
There are frequent news about promising biofuels , about good and bad perspectives at the same time in Neofronteras , some really negative from climate progress , some more standard and encouraging news from Denmark or other explaining the possibilities of biotech , and this last one about the interesting possibilities of marginal lands for biofuels.
Consequently, in this subject, we can say that clearly there is no consensus.
I think that the problem is that we are talking about too many things when saying biofuels. Nowadays there aren’t many doubts about the problems and scarce utility of using crop to fuel our cars, or destroying some hectares of rain forests for getting some liters of ethanol called “green”. And maybe the greatest sin have been to think they could be a direct substitute of petroleum. They can’t.
Nevertheless, there are many other possibilities of obtaining energy from plants or their wastes. I do not think they will solve our dependency to fossil fuels but they can contribute to certain extent and in some places help to get a self-containing solution because they can use the long experience we have on moving things by burning liquid fuels. For example, I imagine some marginal lands in a farm that are useful to obtain fuel for some machinery there.
So, let’s include some biofuels as part of the solution, even if small, being , at the same time, critical with their production process, giving priority to food but remembering that they are the most ancient solar power stations. In fact, they power our bodies.
In the world the CO2 emissions corresponding to the transport sector sum a 22% of the total.
Nonetheless this percentage varies seriously from country to country. Among the top emitters (next table), China and India do not reach the 10% emissions by transport, Germany and Japan are close to 18%, the USA are around 26% and some like Mexico or Brazil are above 35%. So transport is very important depending on the location.
|People’s Rep. of China
|Islamic Rep. of Iran
Next histogram includes the distribution of these topo emitters but also the whole world, and in this case the panorama is even more complex with a range from less than 10% of the share until more than 90%.
Histogram of the transport share in country CO2 emissions for two populatios: All the world and the top 20 emitters, source of data IEA
Anyway, one thing is quite regular for all of them road is the main transport emission source, a 16% around the world but up to 80% in Congo or 35% in Mexico.
Meanwhile, americans are driving less, (reducing that 26%) some also talk about peak car there. One thing is clear, if we want to mitigate climate change, we will have to drive less (mas transit, bicycle, or just walk), do it more efficiently or change cars technology or all at the same time. In some cases it is not difficult to start saving CO2.
CO2 Emission percentage by production sector in the world, source of data IEA.
I frequently think that the climate change solution is in transforming the power production sector and consumers mentality somehow. However, many times remember too that transportation is important and I got in mind the simple figure that one out of three CO2 tons comes from transport. Rough numbers help but it is always better to be more precise, and the two figures in this blog follow this purpose. They have been obtained with the open data from the Internationa Egergy Agency (IEA) and show total emissions in 2010.
The first one, at the beginning, displays the emission proportions by emission production sectors. In some cases, these divisions are not easy to understand but the main conclusion can be that electricity production is responsible for more than 40% of emissions and this is good news in my opinion because the progress in low-carbon electricity production has been much fester than in other factors and because in fact there are many countries producing most of their electricity without fossil fuels. Transport and industry account for other more or less 20% each (in industry excluding electricity use). Transport is a bit lower that the 33% that I expected and it is mainly road transport. Residential sector is surprisingly low.
CO2 Emission percentaje by consuming sector in the world, source of data IEA.
In the other hand, the last figure classifies the same data by consuming sector. So roughly, industry is the objects we use, transport is transport and residential our houses. In this case, industry leads the figure with 36%, and transport and residential follow close to 20%.
The main reference is that we should reach 10-20% of current emissions to be on the safe side, so we have to make important effort in all areas.
Chevrolet Volt Image from Wikipedia
A recent article in a general media mentioned the virtues of Chevrolet Volt, Open Ampera in the european version. Its numbers are astonishing as combines the comfort and autonomy of a Hybird car (or a fuel driven one) with the big batteries of many electric ones. The result can be a very low fuel expense of 1-2 lt per 100 Km. And the amazing thing, at least for me, is that it is not just a car in the exhibitions, it is in the streets and anyone can buy it, if you can afford to. It is more real than I expected.
No doubt, this is another step forward, as it was my beloved Prius. Regrettably it is still too expensive, (twice the standard Prius), still far from the possibilities of most. I hope it will be getting more and more affordable, our future and a third part of global CO2 emissions depend on transportation. So we need several kind of approaches to improve in this area and we need them fast.