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Sustainability as an Investment Class

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‘The only silver bullet’: Successfully mimicking the leaf has the potential to profoundly change the global energy industry

‘The only silver bullet’: Successfully mimicking the leaf has the potential to profoundly change the global energy industry

Artificial photosynthesis is the concept of mimicking the natural processes of the leaf by taking the 46 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and combining it with sunlight and water to create hydrocarbons such as methane (a key ingredient in natural gas) or methanol (a core element for running fuel cells, making myriad chemicals and powering cars).

Geoffrey Ozin isn’t all that interested in climate-change politics. From the perspective of the University of Toronto chemistry professor, the science of artificial photosynthesis he and his team of approximately 30 researchers — and unaffiliated researchers around the world — are developing is something that should be pursued irrespective of whether or not one views climate change as real.

“It is the only silver bullet we have,” he says in reference to the potential for generating a viable renewable energy source.

Artificial photosynthesis is the concept of mimicking the natural processes of the leaf by taking the 46 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and combining it with sunlight and water to create hydrocarbons such as methane (a key ingredient in natural gas) or methanol (a core element for running fuel cells, making myriad chemicals and powering cars).

Carbon dioxide is a fuel; it’s not a waste product

“Carbon dioxide is a fuel,” says Prof. Ozin. “It’s not a waste product. It’s a whole new take. We just have to learn to run the world in reverse.”

Continue reading the source article

 

WEF Impact Investing Report

wef-impact-investing-thumbOver the last few years, much excitement has been generated around the term “impact investing” – an investment approach that intentionally seeks to create both financial return and measurable positive social or environmental impact. Despite the buzz, there is limited consensus among mainstream investors and specialized niche players on what impact investing is, what asset classes are most relevant, how the ecosystem is structured and what constraints the sector faces. As a result, there is widespread confusion regarding what impact investing promises and ultimately delivers.

This report is a result of engaging over 150 mainstream investors, business executives, philanthropic leaders and policy-makers through interviews, workshops and conference calls. The overall objective of the Mainstreaming Impact Investing initiative is to provide an initial assessment of the sector and identify the factors constraining the acceleration of capital into the field of impact investing.

Download the report (PDF)

 

Despite gloomy financial news, green sectors are showing significant progress throughout

In spite of all the negative news coming out of the press (politicians not showing leadership, parliaments frozen, the financial sector reluctant to embrace so called “extra financial” investments), we continue to see good news in the impact investing space. We continuously see positive signals with regards to market growth, and movement towards dealing with Climate Risk and investing in ESG and Impact.

As of July 2012, $4.1 trillion has been privately invested in a greener, global economy, since 2007.

Renewable Energy as a sector is benefitting from reduced cost and greater efficiencies as well as from changing attitudes toward fossil fuels and diminished returns on investments. Green Construction is increasing significantly as the demolition subsector takes down outdated infrastructure. The Efficiency sector is adding material and water efficiencies boosting this sector.

As the world continues to invest at least $1 trillion per year until 2020, we are leaving the fossil fueled industrial era behind and are entering a new solar age – and not a minute to soon.

The August 2012 Supplement to the February 2012 report focuses on investments companies are making in green research and development (R&D). Click here to download The Green Transition Scoreboard®

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Alternative energy will no longer be alternative

Alternative energy will no longer be alternative

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/05/31/alternative-energy-will-no-longer-be-alternative/

“Renewable” power will soon start to be seen as normal.

Wind farms already provide 2% of the world’s electricity, and their capacity is doubling every three years. If that growth rate is maintained, wind power will overtake nuclear’s contribution to the world’s energy accounts in about a decade. Though it still has its opponents, wind is thus already a grown-up technology. But it is in the field of solar energy, currently only a quarter of a percent of the planet’s electricity supply, but which grew 86% last year, that the biggest shift of attitude will be seen, for sunlight has the potential to disrupt the electricity market completely.

The underlying cause of this disruption is a phenomenon that solar’s supporters call Swanson’s law, in imitation of Moore’s law of transistor cost. Moore’s law suggests that the size of transistors (and also their cost) halves every 18 months or so. Swanson’s law, named after Richard Swanson, the founder of SunPower, a big American solar-cell manufacturer, suggests that the cost of the photovoltaic cells needed to generate solar power falls by 20% with each doubling of global manufacturing capacity. The upshot (see chart) is that the modules used to make solar-power plants now cost less than a dollar per watt of capacity. Power-station construction costs can add $4 to that, but these, too, are falling as builders work out how to do the job better. And running a solar power station is cheap because the fuel is free.

Coal-fired plants, for comparison, cost about $3 a watt to build in the United States, and natural-gas plants cost $1. But that is before the fuel to run them is bought. In sunny regions such as California, then, photovoltaic power could already compete without subsidy with the more expensive parts of the traditional power market, such as the natural-gas-fired “peaker” plants kept on stand-by to meet surges in demand. Moreover, technological developments that have been proved in the laboratory but have not yet moved into the factory mean Swanson’s law still has many years to run.

Fossil-fuel-powered electricity will not be pushed aside quickly. Fracking, a technological breakthrough which enables natural gas to be extracted cheaply from shale, means that gas-fired power stations, which already produce a fifth of the world’s electricity, will keep the pressure on wind and solar to get better still. But even if natural gas were free, no Swanson’s law-like process applies to the plant required to turn it into electricity. Nuclear power is not a realistic alternative. It is too unpopular and the capital costs are huge. And coal’s days seem numbered. In America, the share of electricity generated from coal has fallen from almost 80% in the mid-1980s to less than a third in April 2012, and coal-fired power stations are closing in droves.

It may take longer to make the change in China and India, where demand for power is growing almost insatiably, and where the grids to take that power from windy and sunny places to the cities are less developed than in rich countries. In the end, though, they too will change as the alternatives become normal, and what was once normal becomes quaintly old-fashioned.

Continue reading this excellent article from the Economist

 

by anric

 

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China air pollution moved to the top of the political agenda for the new government this year

China air pollution moved to the top of the political agenda for the new government this year

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/05/20/china-air-pollution-moved-to-the-top-of-the-political-agenda-for-the-new-government-this-year/

Reducing the extreme levels of air pollution in China has moved to the top of the political agenda for the new government this year. Without reform, China’s air pollution could worsen by another 70% in 2015. Construction and industrial emissions contribute approximately 20% of particle matters (as measured by PM2.5). We expect measures to address this crisis may have important implications for industrial sector activity. In fact, the forthcoming power rationing in Hebei province highlights that provincial governments may step up their effort to tackle pollution crisis.

According to Bloomberg, Tangshan city will shut 199 polluting factories by rationing their power supply from May 20th. Power supply for three ore-sintering lines at Tangshan Steel and two at Guofeng Steel will be cut. Operations won’t be resumed until desulfurizing devices are added to satisfy environmental standards. Furthermore, outdated, unlicensed and illegal facilities in Tangshan will also be closed by May 31st. If these measures are implemented strictly, we expect this could support steel prices while depress iron ore demand.

Chinese authorities have sought to appease public anger after smog in Beijing hit hazardous levels in January. Pollution has surpassed land disputes as the biggest cause of protests in China, Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Communist Party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, said in March.

Related Video Post:  Think China’s Air Pollution is bad – try again – look at its water pollution problem.

Related FAQ:  What is PM2.5 ? Click here to find out

by Anric

 

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An Inevitable Headline in 2014 — ‘Planet’s CO2 Level Reaches 400 ppm for First Time in Human Existence’

An Inevitable Headline in 2014 — ‘Planet’s CO2 Level Reaches 400 ppm for First Time in Human Existence’

http://www.globalfundexchange.com/blog/2013/05/09/an-inevitable-headline-in-2014-planets-co2-level-reaches-400-ppm-for-first-time-in-human-existence/

Dr. Peter Gleick
Sometime, about one year from now, the front pages of whatever decent newspapers are left will carry a headline like the one above, announcing that for the first time in human existence (or in nearly a million years, or 3 million years, or 15 million years), the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide — the principal gas causing climate change — will have passed 400 parts per million.

Image courtesy of Peter Gleick via ScienceBlogs. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere measured by Scripps/NOAA at Mauna Loa. We’re rapidly approaching 400 parts per million. Click image to enlarge.

That’s a significant and shocking figure.

Unfortunately, it is only a temporary marker on the way to even higher and higher levels. Here (Figure 1 above) are the most recent (March 2013) data from the Mauna Loa observatory showing the inexorable increase in atmospheric CO2 and the rapid approach to 400 ppm.

There is a range of estimates around the detailed time record of atmospheric composition, and the study of changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the billions of years of the Earth’s existence is an exciting area for research. A commonly cited figure with strong evidence comes from measurements of air trapped in ancient ice cores obtained from Antarctic ice. We now have a detailed 800,000 year record, which shows clearly that atmospheric CO2 levels never approached 400 ppm during this period (as shown in Figure 2).

Image courtesy of Peter Gleick via ScienceBlogs The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, measured over the past 800,000 years. It never came close to 400 ppm. Present day is on the right of the curve. Click image to enlarge.

In December 2009, a research team from UCLA published a paper in Science that suggested we would have to go back at least 15 million years to find carbon dioxide levels approaching today’s levels. This research used isotopic analysis of shells in deep sea sediments and reported that CO2 concentrations may not have exceeded 400 parts per million since the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO) — between 16 million and 14 million years ago. The MMCO was associated with reduced planetary ice volumes, global sea levels a huge 25 to 40 meters higher than today, and warmer ocean temperatures. Decreasing CO2 concentrations after that were associated with substantial global cooling, glaciations, and dropping sea levels.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Peter Gleick is president of the Pacific Institute, an internationally recognized water expert, and a MacArthur Fellow.
Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s GISS has pointed me to research in a December 2011 article in the journal Paleoceanography by Gretta Bartoli, Bärbel Hönisch, and Richard E. Zeebe reporting on paleoclimatic records that suggest that CO2 concentrations (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) may have been around 400 ppm between 2 million and 4.6 million years ago. This evidence comes from isotopes measured in planktic foraminifer shells spanning 2.0 million to 4.6 million years ago and indicates that atmospheric CO2 estimates during the Pliocene gradually declined from just above 400 ppm to around 300 ppm in the early Pleistocene 2 million years ago.

800,000 years ago? Three million years ago? 15 million years ago? More research will continue to clarify the variability of Earth’s atmospheric composition over time, as well as the impacts for the planet as a whole of screwing with it. [That’s a technical term…]

But the more important point to remember is that never in the history of the planet have humans altered the atmosphere as radically as we are doing so now. And the climatic consequences for us are likely to be radical as well, on a time-scale far faster than humans have ever experienced.

–Peter Gleick
Follow Peter Gleick on Twitter.

Originally published by Science Blogs on March 7, 2013.

The post Peter Gleick: An Inevitable Headline in 2014 — ‘Planet’s CO2 Level Reaches 400 ppm for First Time in Human Existence’ appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

by Anric

 

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