Home » Environment » Recent Articles:

Opinion: Climate Change Making Natural Weather More Intense, Frequent

May 15, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Opinion: Climate Change Making Natural Weather More Intense, Frequent

The St. Louis region has experienced flooding events since its founding, so it’s easy to think current flooding is usual Spring flooding.

The St. Louis riverfront the afternoon of May 5, 2019

It’s not.

The impact of climate change on snowfall in the Midwest and Plains is uncertain, but projections suggest that heavy snow events will become more likely in the northern Great Plains.

David Robinson, a professor at Rutgers University who manages the Global Snow Lab, said that in some areas where climate change causes winter temperatures to warm above freezing more often, more winter precipitation may fall as rain. But other areas may experience more snow.

“As the cold temperatures get closer to freezing, there’s more moisture being held by the atmosphere,” he said. “So ironically, there are some areas that should warm up and get snowier because the temperatures will still be below freezing.” (Yale Climate Connections)

Hers’s another way to look at the connection:

Climate scientists often use a baseball analogy to explain the connection between climate change and extreme weather.

Martha Shulski, Nebraska’s state climatologist, describes the analogy this way:

Say you’ve got a home run hitter and you put him on steroids. He still hits home runs, but now he’s hitting the balls farther and getting home runs more frequently.

That’s how climate change influences weather: It can increase the intensity and frequency of extreme events. (Omaha World-Herald)

Let me repeat that last point — extreme events will be more frequent and intense.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Our current flooding is normal, has nothing to do with climate change.

  • Strongly agree: 5 [25%]
  • Agree: 2 [10%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [5%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [5%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 2 [10%]
  • Disagree: 3 [15%]
  • Strongly disagree: 5 [25%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [5%]

The following is not safe for work due to f-bombs, but it’s worth watching:

I saw the above as part of an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver  — you can watch the full 20 minutes here (again, NSFW).

— Steve Patterson

 

Neighborhood Streetlights Still On Because Electrical Station Is Blocked

May 13, 2019 Environment, Featured, Neighborhoods Comments Off on Neighborhood Streetlights Still On Because Electrical Station Is Blocked

A month ago I posted about how My Neighborhood’s Street Lights Are Always On. To get this resolved I sent the link to the blog post to the folks at the St. Louis Citizens Service Bureau (CSB). As always, the promptly responded.

Here’s one of the many images of street lights on during the day included on my April 12th post.

These lights are supposed to be pedestrian-scaled are also used frequently throughout the neighborhood. Many have the globe canted like this one. Carr at 8th 

The CSB said lighting department was to respond by April 17th. On May 3rd the lights were still on so I replied asking what’s going on.

Click above to view the thread on Twitter

Yes, the lights have been on in my entire neighborhood for months (years?) because a concrete barrier is blocking access. I went searching to see if I could figure out the location of the blocked access to the electrical station.

Manhole cover at 6th & Carr Streets. This might be the blocked electrical station

I”m not sure the above is the blocked location in question. In September 2014 it’s partially covered, and more so in August 2017.  Another nearby cover remains accessible.

Again, I don’t know if this is the correct location for the neighborhood electrical station workers need to access to get the street lights to come on only at night. All I know is the street lights, except the ones that are burnt out, remain on 24/7 a month after I notified the city.

We must have extra money to burn.

— Steve Patterson

 

We Switched to 50% Wind-Generated Electricity to Save Money & the Environment

March 29, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on We Switched to 50% Wind-Generated Electricity to Save Money & the Environment

In December the New York Times had an interesting article on how each state generates their electricity. No surprise, Missouri has been predominantly coal with nuclear secondary:

Missouri’s electricity generation mix hasn’t changed much in nearly two decades. Coal provided the vast majority of power generated in the state between 2001 and 2017, declining only slightly during that time as older coal-fired plants went offline or switched to burning natural gas.

Missouri will require utilities to get at least 15 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2021, including a small amount from solar power. (New York Times)

I looked at other states, envious of some.   Here’s a visual of Missouri’s electric sources going back to 2001.

Missouri’s main source of power is coal, followed by nuclear & natural gas. The aqua blue at the bottom is hydroelectric and the darker blue is wind. Source: New York Times, click image to view article

Primarily coal, with nuclear & natural gas. Tiny amount of hydroelectric & wind.  Other states do a better job of mixing in renewables, however, none of the states compare to countries like Germany — from earlier this month:

Renewable energy sources supplied nearly 65 percent of Germany’s electricity last week, with wind turbines alone responsible for 48.4 percent of power production nationwide, Clean Energy Wire reported. As a result, fossil fuel plants ran at a minimum output and nuclear facilities were shut down at night.

“These figures show that the envisaged goal [of the German government] of 65 percent renewables by 2030 is technically feasible,” Bruno Burger, a researcher with the solar research institute Fraunhofer ISE, said in a statement.

Lignite coal generated an average 24 percent of Germany’s electricity in 2018. Last week, that share was down to just 12 percent. Solar contributed 5.1 percent of Germany’s electricity last week, biomass 7.6 percent, and hydropower 3.5 percent. (Yale Environment 360)

For years I’ve wanted to have access to renewable energy sources, a few years ago my oldest brother installed solar panels on the roof of his California home. I’d spent 11 years in a loft where I couldn’t add solar or wind even if I could afford to do so, just signed a lease on an apartment where solar/wind wasn’t an option either.

This month half of our electricity was generated by the wind. How you ask? Renewable energy certificates.

Renewable energy certificates (RECs) represent the property rights to the environmental, social and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation. They are either kept by the renewable electricity generator (i.e. wind farm) or they become a part of the generators’ revenue and sold on the market. One megawatt-hour (MWh) represents one REC. 

When you purchase RECs (or when we purchase them on your behalf), you are taking ownership of wind energy that’s being fed onto the grid. Once energy reaches the grid, it mixes together with the energy from coal and hydroelectric plants, solar farms, landfill gas, etc.

Utility companies then pull indistinguishable electrons off the grid and deliver them to homes and businesses. It is impossible to determine where the electrons came from – all consumers can do is ensure that wind energy is being matched through the purchase of RECs.

Wind farms rely on the revenue from RECs to offer their energy at a price that is competitive against fossil fuels. Anybody who says they’re using renewable energy – even big companies like Google – are purchasing both physical electrons from the grid and RECs.

By purchasing RECs, you’re increasing the demand for clean energy – which expands access and availability, helps the environment, and reduces our reliance on fossil fuels – without having to install and maintain your own equipment.  (Arcadia Power)

Here’s a video explanation of the above:

You’re probably thinking these RECs are expensive to purchase. Well, we got our first bill yesterday — we saved $5! Plus, we can pay via credit card instead of bank withdrawal, so we’ll get cash back on our credit card statement. It’s free to sign up.

Proof that we’re reducing our carbon footprint by supporting renewable energy.
Our circle, on the right, shows how we now exceed the national average when it comes to renewables.

We still have an Ameren Missouri account, that’s who we use to get our energy from the grid. However, our bill goes to Arcadia Power, then they bill us & pay Ameren.  After we’ve been in our apartment a year we’ll consider paying 1.5¢ extra per kWh to go to 100% wind.

For full disclosure, the link about to Arcadia Power is a referral link. They have working relationships with power companies nationwide, not just Ameren Missouri. Click here to find out more.

Further reading, just please use my referral link if you sign up:

Feels good to be able to support renewable energy sources without costing more money.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities’ by Peter Plastrik and John Cleveland

December 21, 2018 Books, Environment, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities’ by Peter Plastrik and John Cleveland

It usually takes me weeks/months to post about new books I receive, but another book arrived earlier in the week — just when I needed a subject for today.

The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future.

In Life After Carbon, urban sustainability consultants Pete Plastrik and John Cleveland assemble this global pattern of urban reinvention from the stories of 25 “innovation lab” cities across the globe—from Copenhagen to Melbourne. A city innovation lab is the entire city—the complex, messy, real urban world where innovations must work. It is a city in which government, business, and community leaders take to heart the challenge of climate change and converge on the radical changes that are necessary. They free downtowns from cars, turn buildings into renewable-energy power plants, re-nature entire neighborhoods, incubate growing numbers of clean-energy and smart-tech companies, convert waste to energy, and much more. Plastrik and Cleveland show that four transformational ideas are driving urban climate innovation around the world, in practice, not just in theory: carbon-free advantage, efficient abundance, nature’s benefits, and adaptive futures. And these ideas are thriving in markets, professions, consumer trends, community movements, and “higher” levels of government that enable cities.

Life After Carbon presents the new ideas that are replacing the pillars of the modern-city model, converting climate disaster into urban opportunity, and shaping the next transformation of cities worldwide. It will inspire anyone who cares about the future of our cities, and help them to map a sustainable path forward. (Island Press)

The primary chapters are divided into three parts:

Part I: On the Innovation Pathway

  • Innovation Proliferation
  • Urban Climate Innovation Laboratories
  • Goals, Systems, Clusters, and Waves
  • Making a Better City
  • The Rebel Alliance

Part II: Toward Global Urban Transformation

  • The Power of Transformational Ideas
  • Carbon-Free Advantage
  • Efficient Abundance
  • Nature’s Benefits
  • Adaptive Capacities

Part III: Challenges of Urban Evolution

  • The Edge of City Climate Innovation
  • Assembly Required
  • The Next Urban Operating System
  • Going Global

Here’s a three and a half minute video from their website:

I do think cities that resist changing will suffer as the next century nears, whereas those that innovate and adapt will fare better.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: We Must Demand Less Waste Be Produced

September 19, 2018 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Opinion: We Must Demand Less Waste Be Produced
We use yard/leaf bags for recycling, pinned on the wall is guidelines from our recycling company.

Growing up in the 70s/80s we recycled — aluminum cans. Once the container in the garage filled with flattened cans we were off to the metal recycler to sell them. Though other items were often reused, nothing else was recycled. It all went into trash cans that I often had to drag out to the curb. In the 30 years since I’ve lived on my own I’ve tried to recycle more and more.

Sorting used to be the thing, then single stream. Now a common word is contamination.

Today, the average contamination rate among communities and businesses sits at around 25%. That means that roughly 1 in 4 items placed in a recycling container is actually not recyclable through curbside programs, and this creates enormous problems for the recycling economy.

Problem one: contamination significantly increases the cost to process recyclables. Add this to the fact that commodity prices for recyclables has fallen significantly and the financial sustainability of recycling is at risk. To put another way, not only are plastics lighter, and packaging more complex, recyclables derived from those items are being sold for less and at a higher cost to process. Those are some big economic hurdles.

Problem two: Recycling contamination has a direct impact in the quality of recyclables entering the commodity markets. For example, when foods or liquids are placed in a recycling container they will ultimately saturate tons and tons of otherwise good paper and cardboard that they come into contact with. When paper and cardboard loses its quality, it also loses its ability to be recycled. It becomes trash.

Now, imagine that all taking place at an enormous scale, and not just with food and liquids but with all contaminants. Trash entering the recycling stream impacts the quality of recyclables entering the commodity markets. The higher the recycling contamination, the less we can recycle – that is the challenge we are all facing, and it is a global problem.

In response to these quality issues, China – a major importer of recyclables – recently issued new rules on the types of materials it will accept, including a 0.5% max on recycling contamination. That means that the 25% contamination rate we see today at the curb must reach virtually zero for those items to be recycled. Anything above that 0.5% contamination will be trash. (Waste Management)

China’s decision to no longer purchase & process our contaminated materials means recycling must change. We must adapt to this change.  In May the St. Charles County Council rejected a proposed trash transfer center.  Besides, landfills are filling up quickly.

One of the first things you can do is attempt to reduce recycling/waste by buying products in minimal packaging. Buying larger sizes of something will reduce the total packaging needed. Buy large refill bottles. Buy spices in refill packages rather than a new plastic/glass bottle.

Those rare times we have a pizza box, my husband has the pleasure of cutting out the greasy cardboard so the non-greasy parts (lid, sides) can be recycled. Sure it’s extra work, but by doing so more than half will be recyclable.  We have stainless steel straws for when we go out for shakes, not using straws otherwise.

Still plastics remains a major problem. A costly experimental effort is underway to begin to reduce the size of one of the five floating garbage patches in the world’s oceans.

We need to gather the political will to do better:

Legislators could make laws that incentivize and facilitate recycling, like the national bottle deposit and bag tax bills that were proposed in 2009. These bills would have created a nationwide five-cent deposit on plastic bottles and other containers, and a nonrefundable five-cent charge on plastic bags at checkout. The U.K. launched a similar charge on all single-use grocery bags in 2015 and announced a nationwide bottle deposit requirement in March of this year. Within six months of the plastic bag charge being in place, usage dropped over 80 percent. Similarly, in Germany, where a nationwide bottle bill was put in place in 2003, recycling rates have exceeded 98 percent. In the U.S. these actions would go a long way toward recovering the estimated $8 billion yearly economic opportunity cost of plastic waste. (Scientific American)

Those who profit from plastics, however, don’t want anything to change.  You might be thinking “What could replace plastics?” Mushrooms!

From 2010:

Companies are now beginning to use regional agricultural byproducts to reduce the use of plastics in their packaging & products:

Mushroom-based packaging went mainstream when the furniture giant, IKEA, announced that it will replace Styrofoam packaging with EcoCradle for all its products. Ecocradle decomposes within weeks as against Styrofoam packaging that can take centuries to decompose. Moreover, it’s cost-effective to produce and almost as durable as plastic. Ecocradle has also proved to be as insulating and flame-resistant as polystyrene. IKEA’s ingenious initiative is bound to be a motivating factor for other commercial outfits that aim to give back to the society and environment where they exist. IKEA’s Head of Sustainability, Joanna Yarrow, said this was the retailer’s small yet significant step towards reducing waste and conserving ecological balance. Dell, Coca Cola, P&G, and many other brands have switched to eco-friendly alternative packaging. (Medium)

I love the idea of tossing packaging into a compost pile to decompose instead of into the trash/recycling.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Recycling is too much trouble to bother with.

  • Strongly agree: 3 [10.34%]
  • Agree: 2 [6.9%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [3.45%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [10.34%]
  • Disagree: 5 [17.24%]
  • Strongly disagree: 15 [51.72%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

As cities in the St. Louis region scramble to maintain recycling we need to do our part by demanding stricter laws on the production of plastics, let manufactures know they need to reduce/eliminate plastics.  If we don’t adapt quickly the recycling will begin piling up — before being dumped into dwindling landfills.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Advertisement



FACEBOOK POSTS

Unable to display Facebook posts.
Show error

Error: (#10) To use 'Page Public Content Access', your use of this endpoint must be reviewed and approved by Facebook. To submit this 'Page Public Content Access' feature for review please read our documentation on reviewable features: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/apps/review.
Type: OAuthException
Code: 10
Please refer to our Error Message Reference.

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe