(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The world’s largest cloud-computing company, Amazon, has made a major commitment to run its cloud services entirely on renewable energy. With this comprehensive environmental pledge, Amazon has finally chosen to follow the same path as already taken by tech giants Google, Apple, and Facebook.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) — We have seen impressive growth in renewables over the past several years, but much of that growth is based on the somewhat shaky foundation of continuing subsidies. So argues Eduardo Porter in the New York Times. Porter points out that while wind power added 13 GW of new capacity in 2012, only one additional GW was added in 2013. The reason why: expiration of the Production Tax Credit (PTC).
Referring to the rapid expansion in the market, Letha Tawney of World Resources Institute says, “any time there is uncertainty about the production tax credit, it all stops.”
According to the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives report, their “annual progress report on global efforts to engineer a clean-energy transformation,” says that despite best efforts in many areas, “the carbon intensity of our energy supply is stuck.” Gains in renewables are being offset by added fossil fuel capacity. Furthermore, even where wind and solar PV are thriving, some of the other technologies, like offshore wind, geothermal, and biofuels have been lagging.
According to IEA Executive Director, Maria van der Hoeven, we have the technology and it is cost effective, but the political will is still lacking. How do we get people and governments in particular, to spend the money?
Here’s an analogy. Let’s say you just moved into a house that was built 30 years ago. The furnace in that house is very inefficient but it is still working. If you replaced the furnace today, you’d begin saving the money (and helping the planet) immediately. But how many of you, despite the fact that the investment can be shown to be cost effective in terms of payback, would still wait until the furnace breaks down before replacing it. That’s exactly where we are today on the clean energy journey. Even though these technologies can be shown to be cost-effective without incentives, it seems to take that extra push to move people to action.
(3BL Media/Just Means) - Solar power is the cleanest form of generation as far as the source of power is concerned. But as things stand now there’s one catch: we still rely on toxic materials to produce the cells that harness solar light and convert it into electricity. These include arsenic, cadmium telluride, lead and polyvinyl fluoride, and others.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Tobacco growing has been an area of considerable debate with regard to the economic, social and environmental impact of this commercial crop. As one of the leaders in tobacco production, British American Tobacco (BAT) has recognized its responsibility to address the impact positively and shown commitment to supporting the tobacco farming communities globally and helping them prosper in a sustainable environment.
(3Bl Media/Justmerans) - We’ve heard a lot about how the ubiquitous and free flow of information is going to improve our quality of life, through smart phones, smart grids, smart cities and smart cars. That’s all well and good, but what about basic questions like can I get enough to eat?
Well it turns out, big data has some good news for us there, too.
Ramez Naam, in his book The Infinite Resource, described some cutting edge agricultural projects with yields anywhere from ten to a hundred times the norm. Using this as a benchmark, Naam surmises that we will have plenty of food to feed ten billion mouths. Agronomist Kenneth Cassman from the University of Nebraska, took this idea to the work boots on the ground level when he and his colleagues unveiled the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas last month at the Water for Food conference in Seattle where the theme was “Harnessing the Data Revolution to Ensure Food and Water Security From Field to Global Scales.”
The map contains site-specific data that shows where actual yields fall short of their potential due to any number of factors including drought, soil, and farming practices. Big Agro companies, like Monsanto and Syngenta, who sponsored the conference, can use their data to target development and marketing of specific products. But the data can also be used to help small farmers who number over 500 million and produce half the world’s food.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Forests provide one of the cheapest and most effective ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and thereby help mitigate climate change. In the last few decades, global forests have absorbed about a third of the annual carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from fossil fuels. However, human beings have been destroying forests at a rate of 13 million hectares per year for the last 10 years.