Monday, March 15th, 2010
The harnessing of solar energy is expanding on every front as concerns about climate change and energy security escalate, as government incentives for harnessing solar energy expand, and as these costs decline while those of fossil fuels rise. One solar technology that is really beginning to take off is the use of solar thermal collectors to convert sunlight into heat that can be used to warm both water and space.
China, for example, is now home to 27 million rooftop solar water heaters. With nearly 4,000 Chinese companies manufacturing these devices, this relatively simple low-cost technology has leapfrogged into villages that do not yet have electricity. For as little as $200, villagers can have a rooftop solar collector installed and take their first hot shower.
This technology is sweeping China like wildfire, already approaching market saturation in some communities. Beijing plans to boost the current 114 million square meters of rooftop solar collectors for heating water to 300 million by 2020. (more…)
Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
There is an often-vicious debate occurring within the environmental community about nuclear energy. While there are those like Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, who are arguing in support of nuclear power, there are still many others against it.
Gwyneth Cravens is one environmentalist participating in this debate who supports nuclear energy and wrote Power to Save the World in favor of this energy source. Cravens wasn’t always a nuclear energy supporter. In fact, she once helped support initiatives that prevented a nuclear power plant from being completed in Long Island, where she currently lives.
However, this book shows how she went from being firmly anti-nuclear to believing that nuclear energy is actually environmentally friendly while at the same time following the life cycle of nuclear fuel from extraction to use to storage.
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010
This article has been updated.
In her forthcoming book, Prefabulous + Sustainable, author Sheri Koones sets out to show how beautiful and green a prefabricated home can be.
The book is divided into three categories –- “green, greener, greenest” –- and the homes featured vary in style, design, type of construction and size. Koones walks the reader through each of the homes, explaining the materials, strategies and systems used to create a sustainable living environment. CleanTechies had a few questions about the methodology and the pre-fab industry.
CleanTechies: Tell me how you chose the houses you profiled.
Koones: I was looking for houses that were as sustainable as possible, but also attractive, in various locations of the country using different methods of pre-fab construction, and in city, residential and suburban settings.
CleanTechies: How did you find them and ascertain which ones you wanted to look at? (more…)
Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
We can’t successfully tackle climate change without changes to the corporate regime which has been in place in America since the Reagan presidency. That’s the underlying message of Charles Derber in his latest book, Greed to Green: Solving Climate Change and Remaking the Economy. It’s a message he delivers with directness in a book much more readable than I expected from an academic sociologist.
He accepts the position of scientists like James Hansen and others who point to the ominous dangers of tipping points in climate and conclude that we are already above a safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which they consider no more than 350 parts per million. It’s not a happy acceptance. “No sane person would wish it to be the scientific truth,” he writes.
Derber recounts the terrible difficulty he had, after realising with despair the seriousness of climate change, in dealing emotionally with the prospect of mass, collective death — “more difficult than dealing with my own personal death.”
The only good news he discerns is that the scientific truth may be spreading and leading to a tipping point in the world’s social and political awareness. (more…)
Sunday, February 7th, 2010
“All indications are that we should be alarmed about the future of sea level rise and should be doing something about it now.”
So say Orrin Pilkey and Rob Young, eminent coastal scientists, who wrote The Rising Sea to provide substance for that alarm and to offer suggestions as to how we can plan ahead to reduce the severity of the impact of the rising sea.
The authors begin by reminding us that it’s not a distant prospect. They describe what is happening to Alaskan shoreline villages such as Kivalina and Shishmaref, the Pacific atoll nations such as Kiribati, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Tokelau and Tuvalu, and the city of Venice, places already grappling with rising sea level.
Rising tide gauge data and an increase in coastal erosion along many of the planet’s shorelines provide clear evidence of the rising sea and of the warming of the planet.
Monday, February 1st, 2010
This is the second book review of Stewart Brand’s new book “Whole Earth Discipline” posted on CleanTechies. Read the first review by Todd Woody here.
When James Lovelock, Edward O. Wilson and Ian McEwan jostle to praise a book I assume it will be worth attention. Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto doesn’t disappoint. The title echoes the Whole Earth Catalogue which he founded over forty years ago as an ambitious reference aid for skills, tools and products useful to a self-sustainable lifestyle.
Times have changed and Brand has changed with them. Climate change has become a clear and present danger. He has become more of a pragmatist, though no less of an environmentalist. His pragmatism leads him to regard with favour three factors which put him to some extent at odds with others in the environmental movement. The three are urbanisation, nuclear power and genetic engineering, and part of the purpose of the book is to urge the Green-inclined to consider how the three may now be considered significant contributions to facing up to climate change.
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
A new book touts energy efficiency as one possible environmentally and economic solution for solving the global energy crisis. In Crossing The Energy Divide, authors Robert and Edward Ayres argue that we need to reform the way we manage our existing energy systems to double the amount of “energy service” we get from every drop of fossil fuel we use. They claim the resulting improvements in energy efficiency can bridge the global economy until clean renewables can fully replace fossil fuels.
CleanTechies put three questions to the authors:
CleanTechies: Is the U.S. government listening to you on your energy efficiency/waste-to-energy arguments? If so, where are we at in terms of implementation of your proposals?
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf are notable climate scientists. They are also excellent communicators of the science to the general reader, as is apparent in their new book The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change. The authors seek to provide an accessible and readable account of the “treasure trove” of the IPCC reports.
They distinguish their work sharply from the Summaries for Policy Makers officially provided by the IPCC, which are negotiated between government representatives and exclude much of what scientists think and write in the full report.
But while they draw heavily on the latest IPCC report and feature many of its informative graphs and tables, they also refer to new findings since the 2006 cut-off date for the report, and draw attention to weaknesses they sometimes see in the report.
Most of the book deals with global climate science, the focus of IPCC Working Group I, with subsequent brief attention given to the impacts of climate change (Working Group II) and to mitigation (Working Group III). (more…)
Saturday, January 16th, 2010
The reason international negotiations to tackle climate change are not working is because they have been premised on long-established norms of state sovereignty and states’ rights.
Consequently they are characterised by “diplomatic delay, minimal action -– especially relative to the scale of the problem – and mutual blame between rich and poor countries, resulting in a ‘you-go-first’ mentality that has prevailed even as global greenhouse gas emissions have exploded.”
This is Paul Harris’s perception in his book World Ethics and Climate Change: From International to Global Justice . He argues that the communitarian principle which underlies the concept of the sovereign state is too limiting to be able to deal adequately with environmental issues which extend beyond state borders. It’s not that states have completely ignored the problem of dangerous climate change.
They have recognised that collective action is required, and have agreed that climate change is a common but differentiated responsibility, with developed states obligated to act first before developing countries are expected to limit emissions. (more…)
Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
Mike Hulme’s “Why We Disagree About Climate Change” came out in May and was recently listed as one of the “Best Books of 2009″ by The Economist.
A former member of the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University – home to the infamous “ClimateGate” e-mails – Hulme has been a polarizing figure for all sides in the climate debate.
“Too often, when we think we are arguing over scientific evidence for climate change, we are in fact disagreeing about our different political preferences, ethical principles and value systems,” Hulme told the Wall Street Journal about the leaked e-mails. “Climate scientists, knowingly or not, become proxies for political battles.”
With “Why We Disagree About Climate Change,” Hulme argues how the inevitable gaps and ambiguities of science have laid open a wellspring of emotion, rendering it impossible to disentangle scientific insight from politics and culture.
Hulme spoke with CleanTechies on December 18, shortly before Copenhagen closed.