Assessing the impact of climate change on a global scale

SimonGoslingpr

via University of Nottingham

The researchers identified the Amazon region, the Mediterranean and East Africa as regions that might experience severe change in multiple sectors.

Thirty research teams in 12 different countries have systematically compared state-of-the-art computer simulations of climate change impact to assess how climate change might influence global drought, water scarcity and river flooding in the future. What they found was:

• The frequency of drought may increase by more than 20 per cent in some regions.

• Without a reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions, 40 per cent more people are likely to be at risk of absolute water scarcity.

• Increases in river flooding are expected in more than half of the areas investigated.

• Adverse climate change impacts can combine to create global ‘hotspots’ of climate change impacts.

For the project —‘Intersectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP)’ —  Dr Gosling contributed simulations of global river flows to help understand how climate change might impact on global droughts, water scarcity and river flooding.

Dr Gosling said: “This research and the feature in PNAS highlights what could happen across several sectors if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t cut soon. It is complementary evidence to a major report I jointly-led with the Met Office that estimated the potential impacts of unabated climate change for 23 countries. Those reports helped major economies commit to take action on climate change that is demanded by the science, at the 17th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP17) in Durban.”

Global severity of drought

One of the papers1 reports a likely increase in the global severity of drought by the end of the century, with the frequency of drought increasing by more than 20 per cent in some regions — South America, Caribbean, and Central and Western Europe.

Water scarcity

This in turn has an impact on water scarcity. Another paper2 co-authored by Dr Gosling shows that without reductions in global greenhouse-gas emissions, 40 per cent more people are likely to be at risk of absolute water scarcity than would be the case without climate change.

Dr Gosling said: “The global-level results are concerning but they hide important regional variations. For example, while some parts of the globe might see substantial increases in available water, such as southern India, western China and parts of Eastern Africa, other parts of the globe see large decreases in available water, including the Mediterranean, Middle East, the southern USA, and southern China.”

River flooding

Another paper3 in the PNAS feature found that while river flooding could decrease by the end of the century across about a third of the globe, increases are expected at more than half of the areas investigated, under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario.

Dr Gosling said: “More water under climate change is not necessarily always a good thing. While it can indeed help alleviate water scarcity assuming you have the infrastructure to store it and distribute it, there is also a risk that any reductions in water scarcity are tempered by an increase in flood hazard.”

‘Hotspots’ of climate change

The ISI-MIP team describe how adverse climate change impacts like flood hazard, drought, water scarcity, agriculture, ecosystems, and malaria can combine to create global ‘hotspots’ of climate change impacts. The study is the first to identify hotspots across these sectors while being based on a comprehensive set of computer simulations both for climate change and for the impacts it is causing. The researchers identified the Amazon region, the Mediterranean and East Africa as regions that might experience severe change in multiple sectors.

Read more . . .

 

The Latest on: Impact of climate change on a global scale

via Google News

 

The Latest on: Impact of climate change on a global scale

via  Bing News

 

New material to enhance crop yield

Lodo 2 interior pie en

Researchers at the UPM have developed a carbonaceous material from sewage sludge that when applied to soil can help to improve its quality.

The material is called biochar and was prepared and characterized by the research group of Resource Exploitation of the Technical University of Madrid (UPM). The biochar has promising effects because its addition can enhance the quality of soil, and consequently it can enhance crop yields. In addition, it has beneficial properties for the environment.

The generation of sewage sludge is increasing and its management and treatment have been studied over the last years. Among the different usages of the sludge in countries such as Spain, where soil has a low content of organic material, we should stress its direct addition to soil. However, there are some factors that threaten this practice due to high level of salts, metals and organic compound which can even be toxics.

Researchers at the group of Resource Exploitation of the UPM have been working on the preparation and characterization of the biochar for several years. They also worked on the biochar from sewage sludge and also the effect of physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil, as a result improving this material. The obtained results so far are quite encouraging as they show how the addition of biochar to soil can enhance its quality (for example, its ability for moisture retention, pH or biological activity) and therefore, to enhance crop yields.

The generation of sewage sludge is increasing and its management and treatment have been studied over the last years. Among the different usages of the sludge in countries such as Spain, where soil has a low content of organic material, we should stress its direct addition to soil. However, there are some factors that threaten this practice due to high level of salts, metals and organic compound which can even be toxics.

Researchers at the group of Resource Exploitation of the UPM have been working on the preparation and characterization of the biochar for several years. They also worked on the biochar from sewage sludge and also the effect of physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil, as a result improving this material. The obtained results so far are quite encouraging as they show how the addition of biochar to soil can enhance its quality (for example, its ability for moisture retention, pH or biological activity) and therefore, to enhance crop yields.

Read more . . .

 

The Latest on: Biochar

via Google News

 

The Latest on: Biochar

via  Bing News

 

The potential of straw for the energy mix has been underestimated

53790_Getreidefeld_Kuetten-Rieda_Stefan_Michalski_NL_Oktober_2013_RGB_275px

Straw from agriculture could play an important role in the future energy mix for Germany.

Up until now it has been underutilised as a biomass residue and waste material. These were the conclusions of a study conducted by the TLL (Thueringian regional institute for agriculture), the DBFZ (German biomass research center) and the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). According to them, from a total of 30 million tons of cereal straw produced annually in Germany, between 8 and 13 million tons of it could be used sustainably for energy or fuel production. This potential could for example provide 1.7 to 2.8 million average households with electricity and at the same time 2.8 to 4.5 million households with heating. These results highlight the potential contribution of straw to renewable sources of energy, scientists state in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Applied Energy.

For their respective study, scientists analysed the development of residual substances resulting from German agriculture. Accounting for 58 per cent, straw can be regarded as the most important resource, and yet so far it has hardly been used for energy production. From 1950 to 2000 there was a noticeable rise in the cultivation of winter wheat, rye and winter barley in Germany which then remained relatively constant. To remove any bias from weather fluctuations, the average values were taken from 1999, 2003 and 2007. On average, approx. 30 megatons of cereal straw per year were produced in these years. Due to the fact that not all parts of the straw can be used and the fact that straw also plays an important role as bedding in livestock farming, only about half of these 30 megatons are actually available in the end.

Sustainable use

It must be taken into consideration that cereal straw plays an important role in the humus balance of soils. For this reason some of the straw must be left scattered on the agricultural land to prevent nutrients from being permanently extracted from the soil. To calculate the humus balance of soils three different methods of calculation were tested by the team of scientists. Depending upon the method of calculation used, 8, 10 or 13 megatons of straw can be used sustainably every year for energy production – i.e. without causing any disadvantages to the soils or other forms of utilisation. “To our knowledge this is the first time that a study like this has been conducted for an EU country, demonstrating the potential of straw for a truly sustainable energy use, while taking into account the humus balance”, stresses Prof. Daniela Thraen, scientist at the DBFZ and the UFZ.

Greenhouse gas balances depend on utilisation forms

It can thus be said that straw can contribute to the future energy mix. The degree to which it will contribute to greenhouse gas reduction however will depend on how the straw is used. A reduction compared to fossil fuels can be somewhere between 73 and 92 percent when using straw for the generation of heat, combined heat and power generation or as second-generation biofuel production. The different greenhouse gas balances cast a differentiated light on the EU´s goal of covering ten percent of transportation sector’s energy use by using biofuels. Once again the study emphasizes how the use of bioenergy needs to take into account various factors. Given the conditions prevalent in Germany, the use of straw in combined heat and power generation would be best for the climate. “Straw should therefore primarily be used in larger district heating stations and/or combined heat and power stations, but technology must be developed for an environmentally-friendly utilisation”, stresses Dr. Armin Vetter from TLL, who has been operating a straw-fuelled power station for 17 years.

Read more . . .

 

Sequestration and fuel reserves

300px-Carbon_dioxide

Storing carbon dioxide to release liquid fuels

A technique for trapping the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide deep underground could at the same be used to release the last fraction of natural gas liquids from ailing reservoirs, thus offsetting some of the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels. So says a paper to be published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Oil, Gas and Coal Technology.

While so-called “fracking” as a method for extracting previously untapped fossil fuel reserves has been in the headlines recently, there are alternatives to obtaining the remaining quantities of hydrocarbons from gas/condensate reservoirs, according to Kashy Aminian of West Virginia University in Morgantown, USA, and colleagues there and at Kuwait University in Safat.

Earlier experiments suggests that using carbon dioxide instead of nitrogen or methane to blast out the hydrocarbon stock from depleted reservoirs might be highly effective and have the added benefit of trapping, or sequestering the carbon dioxide underground. Aminian and colleagues have calculated the economic benefits associated with the enhanced liquid recovery and demonstrated that the approach is technically and financially viable.

The team explains that the mixing of carbon dioxide with the condensate reservoir fluid results in a reduction of the saturation pressure, the liquid drop-out, and the compressibility factor, boosting recovery of useful hydrocarbon and allowing the carbon dioxide to be trapped within. The team found that the process works well regardless of the characteristics of the reservoir or even the rate at which the carbon dioxide is injected into the reservoir, the amount that is recovered remains just as high.

Read more . . .

 

The Latest on: Storing carbon dioxide to release liquid fuels

via Google News and Bing News

Cultured Beef: Do We Really Need a $380,000 Burger Grown in Petri Dishes?

cultured-beef1

For the first time, the public has been treated to the spectacle of lab-grown meat cooked and eaten via live Webcast.

Backed by Google billionaire Sergey Brin, Dutch tissue engineer Mark Post unveiled his “cultured beef” at a press event on August 5, answering the question posed by a 2011 Scientific American feature: “When Will Scientists Grow Meat in a Petri Dish?”

The verdict? “It is close to meat,” said nutrition scientist Hanni Rutzler. “It is not that juicy.” But British chef Richard McGeowan said the lack of fat didn’t affect his cooking of the five ounces of minced “meat” in a frying pan, thanks to lots of butter.

In addition to a lack of fat with the meat (tissue biologists just haven’t gotten that union down yet), the in vitro meat features heavy antibiotic use to keep the cells alive and growth on serum from the blood of unborn cows gathered from slaughterhouses (as well as the less gruesome sugars, proteins and fatty acids). As synthetic biologist Christina Agapakis noted in a blog critique in 2012: “Cell culture is one of the most expensive and resource-intensive techniques in modern biology.”

Then the meat requires “exercise” on a scaffold. There are questions about its nutritional value as well, such as how much iron it might contain compared with traditional meat. The lab meat has to be colored red after all, by adding beet juice because it is composed of 20,000 or so thin strips of muscle cells rather than the complicated mélange of muscle, fat, blood vessels and bone found in meat from an animal.

Despite all this, the lab beef is being cultured (and feted) because of its potential to reduce the environmental impacts of the human taste for meat. As Post notes, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that demand for meat will swell by more than 70 percent by 2050. Already 30 percent of the world’s ice-free land is devoted to feeding animals for meat thanks to the fact that cows and pigs convert only roughly 15 percent of the plants they eat into edible meat. Then there’s the problem of the greenhouse gas emissions, particularly potent methane, from all those ruminant belches and their waste, often stored in massive, stinky lagoons. The FAO estimates that livestock are responsible for nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities—more than all cars, trucks, ships and airplanes put together.

Of course, to reduce those emissions, the lab meat would have to be grown on a diet of algae, something that has never been accomplished. If that can be done on a big scale (and that’s a big if), the lab meat would reduce methane pollution by 95 percent, as well as reduce the need for farmlands to feed livestock by 98 percent, according to a 2011 study by the University of Oxford published in Environmental Science and Technology. Or we could just eat the algae directly.

The other reason for the hoopla is ethical: philosopher Peter Singer and groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals extol such efforts for eliminating human cruelty to animals. Why not harvest muscle cells from a single cow to culture millions of hamburgers rather than slaughtering hundreds of thousands of cattle?

Read more . . .

 

The Latest on: Cultured Beef

via Google News and Bing News