The enormous heat pumps warming cities

Rather than burning a fuel, heat pumps concentrate heat energy already present in air, ground or water and pump it through a building's pipes and radiators.

They do this with incredible efficiency, converting 1 kilowatt (kW) of electricity into 3-5kW of heat, as opposed to 1kW for a direct electrical heater and 0.9kW for a gas boiler. This means they provide practically "free heat", says Lott. However, as with all heating systems, efficiency depends on how well the building is insulated to minimize heat loss, she notes.

If the source of electricity is renewable, heat pumps themselves emit no carbon. In the UK, almost half of the electricity provided to the national grid comes from renewable sources, compared to 20% in the USBoth countries aim for sharp increases in these percentages.

In the UK today, 74% of people heat their homes using gas boilers, with mostly electric heaters and oil comprising the rest. This leads the heating sector to account for a third of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions – comparable to the emissions of all its petrol and diesel cars. Similar values are seen in the US, where around half of heating comes from gas.

To limit global warming, this needs to change drastically, and in many places, that means installing many more heat pumps. By 2030, around a quarter of UK buildings should be heated using them, according to the UK government's climate advisory body, rising to 52% by 2050. Electrifying heating will also be key to decarbonizing buildings in the US, says Melissa Lott, director of research at the Centre on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. One study in San Francisco referred to heat pumps as the "single most impactful lever" to reducing emissions.



A shoutout on a product I purchased on your site: The Portable Water Flosser, model V500. I was a bit skeptical at first as I owned a different model a few years back and was disappointed.

This water flosser did not disappoint; it was functional and surpassed my expectations. Portable with three settings, 4 attachments and cordless. This is a must have for anyone over 30 years and a small price to pay for an essential device to improve and maintain one’s oral health.. A 5 Star recommendation.


BBC – Future Planet  By Norman Miller - 

We now smash, grab and pull some 100 billion tonnes of raw material out of the fabric of the planet in just a single year. That’s equivalent to destroying two-thirds of the mass of Mount Everest every 12 months.

Roughly half of the raw materials we extract go into the world’s built-environment. Construction creates an estimated third of the world's overall waste, and at least 40% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Compare that to the 2-3% caused by aviation, which people fret far more about. 

The "waste" from the consumption of these raw materials is dumped in such vast quantities that its environmental imprint has helped to create a new epoch, dubbed the Anthropocene. Future archaeologists will dig through strata of manufactured detritus to discern how we lived.

But this stuff that we make and discard today also contains a treasure trove of materials we could be using to our benefit. It's been calculated that one tonne of mobile phones contains 300 times more gold than a tonne of the best quality gold ore, as well as significant quantities of silver, platinum, palladium and rare earths – all things we scar the earth to get more of by ongoing mining. The vast quantities of copper inside billions of cables worldwide is far more concentrated source of reusable metal than the less than 1% in top-grade ore

This all gives rise to an obvious question – why don't we re-use what we've already extracted, rather than gouging the planet for ever more raw materials? This thought has spurred a growing band of architects and building firms to look at how to re-use the huge range of materials already hiding within our built environment, from concrete and wood to the metallic bounty within electronic waste.

In 2005, Rotterdam-based architecture firm Superuse laid down a marker for a new vision of construction by completing Villa Welpeloo, the world's first contemporary house to be made with a majority of waste construction materials. Steel from old textile machinery and timber from damaged industrial cable reels are among the total 60% of second hand materials used.

Then in 2013, UK architect Duncan Baker-Brown outdid Superuse by using over 90% waste materials to build the Brighton Waste House. Baker-Brown combined various different materials from used denim to plastic DVD cases and discarded toothbrushes to make the wall cavity insulation, and old bicycle inner tubes to provide sound and impact floor insulation. Around 10 tonnes of chalky soil destined for landfill was diverted to create rammed earth walls, while used carpet tiles rescued from an office provided exterior cladding.

"The waste house is a 'live' research project that gets people thinking where materials come from and where they end up," says Baker-Brown. He has laid out a blueprint for a new way of minimal waste construction in his 2017 book The Re-Use Atlas, and teaches its principles to a rising generation of architects and builders at the University of Brighton’s architecture school. He offers a simple but powerful redefinition of waste as being "just useful things in the wrong place".

While these ideas would be included under the "circular economy" banner, Baker-Brown uses a more striking phrase: he calls for the need to "mine the Anthropocene" rather than dig up new material. "We need to become ‘urban miners’ and re-work [or] re-use previously made buildings, components, and material sources, " he wrote in a rallying call to action published in the Royal Institute of British Architects Journal in 2019.

March 2022 - Lithium batteries' big unanswered question

As the quiet whirr of electric vehicles gradually replaces the revs and noxious fumes of internal combustion engines, a number of changes are set to filter through our familiar world. The overpowering smell of gas stations will fade away into odourless charge stations where cars can re-juice their batteries as needed. Meanwhile, gas-powered generator sites that dot the horizon may be retrofitted to house massive batteries that could one day power entire cities with renewable energy.

This electrified future is much closer than you might think. General Motors announced earlier this year that it plans to stop selling gas-powered vehicles by 2035Audi's goal is to stop producing them by 2033, and many other major auto companies are following suit. In fact, according to BloombergNEF, two-thirds of the world's passenger vehicle sales will be electric by 2040. And grid-scale systems the world over are growing rapidly thanks to advancing battery storage technology.

While this may sound like the ideal path to sustainable power and road travel, there's one big problem. Currently, lithium (Li) ion batteries are those typically used in EVs and the megabatteries used to store energy from renewables, and Li batteries are hard to recycle.

As demand for EVs escalates, as it's projected to, the impetus to recycle more of them is set to barrel through the battery and motor vehicle industry. One reason is that the most widely used methods of recycling more traditional batteries, like lead-acid batteries, don't work well with Li batteries. The latter are typically larger, heavier, much more complex and even dangerous if taken apart incorrectly. 

In your average battery recycling plant, battery parts are shredded down into a powder, and then that powder is either melted (pyrometallurgy) or dissolved in acid (hydrometallurgy). But Li batteries are made up of lots of different parts that could explode if they're not disassembled carefully. And even when Li batteries are broken down this way, the products aren't easy to reuse.

"The current method of simply shredding everything and trying to purify a complex mixture results in expensive processes with low value products," says Andrew Abbott, a physical chemist at the University of Leicester. As a result, it costs more to recycle them than to mine more lithium to make new ones. Also, since large scale, cheap ways to recycle Li batteries are lagging behind, only about 5% of Li batteries are recycled globally, meaning the majority are simply going to waste. But as demand for EVs escalates, as it's projected to, the impetus to recycle more of them is set to barrel through the battery and motor vehicle industry.


Save money by buying products that are -> 

  • Energy efficient: Because of their high lumen output per watt, LEDs are capable of turning about 70% of their energy into light. This makes them much more efficient than other bulbs, which waste a lot of energy by turning it into heat. It only takes a 6 watt LED bulb to produce the amount of light that a 40-watt incandescent does, and their lower temperature also makes them safer to operate. In comparison, incandescent bulbs can get so hot that they should be kept out of reach of children who might burn themselves, and they have also been known to cause fires if they accidentally come into contact with flammable materials, such as curtain fabrics.
  • Quality products: When you choose to purchase high-quality items, you save more money. You will only need to pay a considerable amount one time. On the other hand, if you buy cheap things, you will need to keep buying new ones. Cheap items often get damaged after a few uses. Thus, you will be obliged to keep purchasing new products to replace them. Other small ways to save money...
    • Use a reusable bottle/cup for beverages on-the-go
    • Use reusable grocery bags, and not just for groceries
    • Purchase wisely and recycle: You can reduce the amount of waste you produce by purchasing products that come with less packaging and/or come in packaging that can be recycled.
    • Compost it!
    • Avoid single-use food and drink containers and utensils
    • Buy second-hand items and donate used goods
    • Shop local farmers markets and buy in bulk to reduce packaging
    • Curb your use of paper: mail, receipts, magazines. Today’s digital world, most companies offer bills by email, and some even offer incentives to do so. More stores are offering e-receipts, too, which are great because they’re harder to lose if you need to make a return.

What's the "Green" truth behind a planned eco-city in the Saudi desert?

  • March 3, 2022 - Glow-in-the dark beaches. Billions of trees planted in a country dominated by the desert. Levitating trains. A fake moon. A car-free, carbon-free city built in a straight line over 100 miles long in the desert. These are some of the plans for Neom - a futuristic eco-city that is part of Saudi Arabia's pivot to go green. But is it all too good to be true?
  • Neom claims to be a "blueprint for tomorrow in which humanity progresses without compromise to the health of the planet". It's a $500B project, part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plan to wean the country off oil - the industry that made it rich.
  • Covering a total area of over 26,500 sq-km (10,230 sq-miles) - larger than Kuwait or Israel - Neom will, developers claim, exist entirely outside the confines of the current Saudi judicial system, governed by an autonomous legal system that will be drafted up by investors. 
  • Ali Shihabi, a former banker now on Neom's advisory board, says the mega-territory will include a 170km (105m) long city, called The Line, which will run in a straight line through the desert. If that sounds unlikely, Shihabi explains that The Line will be built in stages, block by block. "People say this is some crazy project that's going to cost gazillions, but it's going to be built module by module, in a manner that meets demand," he says. Much like Barcelona's traffic-free "Superblocks", he explains that each square will be self-sufficient and contain amenities such as shops and schools so that anything people need will be a five-minute walk or cycle away. When complete, travel along The Line will be via hyper-speed trains, with the longest journey "never more than 20 minutes", the developers claim. What's more, Neom will be home to Oxagon, a city floating on water spanning 7km (4.3 miles) - making it the largest floating structure in the world. Neom's chief executive, Nadhmi al-Nasr, has said the port city will "welcome its first manufacturing tenants at the beginning of 2022". Government climate advisers say cut fossil fuels to lower energy bills Feb. 22, 2022: The best way to ease consumers' pain from high energy prices is to stop using fossil fuels rather than drill for more of them, the government's climate advisers say. Some Tory MPs want the government to expand production of shale and North Sea gas, saying it would lower bills.
  • But advisers said UK-produced gas would be sold internationally and barely reduce the consumer price. They said wind and solar power, as well as home insulation, is a better route.
  • The report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) comes at a time when household energy bills are rising quickly. There is also international uncertainty over gas supplies due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
  • The committee warned that new fossil fuel projects in the North Sea would, in some cases, not deliver gas until 2050. That’s the date when climate laws stipulate that the UK must be almost completely weaned off gas. The committee said it favours tighter restrictions on drilling in the North Sea, and it favours a "presumption against exploration". But it won’t go so far as recommending these actions to ministers because it said there are finely-balanced arguments for and against drilling. British-produced gas, for instance, is extracted causing less damage to the climate than imports, although it’s impossible to say whether other exporters will reduce their own emissions in future.
  • What’s more, a so-called windfall tax might be imposed on the rising profits of oil firms – and the cash given back to consumers. These uncertainties mean that decisions on whether to drill more in the North Sea must be left to ministers, the committee says.
  • The oil and gas industry feels it has a strong case because of its lower-than-average emissions.
  • Environmentalists are angry that the committee hasn’t followed the recommendation of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and ruled out further fossil fuel exploration because enough has been discovered already. “We think the UK - with its diversified economy and its large historic emissions - should be the ones leading the way on recommending no further oil and gas exploration,” Doug Parr from Greenpeace told BBC News. Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, said the committee was disappointed with the UK oil and gas industry's ambitions to cut its own operational emissions. 
  • It said the industry could lower pollution by reducing methane venting and electrifying oil platforms. And it warned that over-supply of hydro-carbons globally would “blow the Paris climate agreement out of the water.”

Finnish shoemaker creates sneakers from coffee waste

  • Coffee is a big deal. While just a handful of countries dominate production, it’s consumed in vast amounts almost everywhere on the planet: around 2 billion cups are drunk every da All that coffee produces a lot of waste. Coffee grounds often end up in landfill or being washed into sinks and drains, contributing to the food waste problem – around a third of all food produced is thrown away.
  • Now two entrepreneurs in Helsinki have started making sneakers from used coffee grounds. Son Chu and Jesse Tran are self-confessed sneaker obsessives. But, concerned about their environmental impact, they couldn’t find sustainably made sneakers they found stylish and affordable. So they made some.
  • Their business, Rens, combines fabric made from coffee grounds with recycled plastic waste to create a material light and durable enough to use for footwear. A pair of their sneakers weighs 460g – 300g of that is coffee. The equivalent of six discarded plastic bottles is also used in each pair.

Young Black farmers fighting environmental food injustice:

  • 'Sustainability is about longevity': Gen Z climate-change activists discuss some of the most pressing issues facing our planet — and reveal what you can do to help make a real difference.
  • Extreme heat, droughts and severe downpours fueled by the climate crisis are affecting crops around the world. And farmers, perhaps more than anyone, understand that climate change, with its decreasing crop yields, require action before it is too late — and that includes funding to enable farmers "to truly revolutionize current ways of farming globally," implored researchers in the journalNature Food
  • In the United States, Black farmers point out how communities of color — often located in urban "food deserts," with little access to fresh fruits and vegetables, thus increasing the reliance on unsustainable practices such as eating at fast-food chains and having to drive long distances to well-stocked stores — are most vulnerable to the climate crisis.
  • "If we are to create a society that values Black life, we cannot ignore the role of food and land," wrote Leah Penniman, co-director of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, of the 80-acre farm, which, like many other small Black farms across the country, is bringing "diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, health, and environmental justice," notes its website.
  • "People think that justice has to be super radical," saysIvy Walls, founder of Ivy Leaf Farms in South Houston, Tex. "But it can be as simple as supporting the farmer who is growing food in your community. When you do that, you're supporting so many other people. Because farmers who are making money will produce more food, right?"
  • Effects of climate change taking root in the wine industry
  • 2021 - 60 Minutes TV show by Lesley Stahl - France, a major center of winemaking for centuries, is experiencing increasingly higher temperatures and extreme weather conditions that have damaged vintages, and livelihoods; this year was particularly dramatic. France recorded its smallest harvest since 1957 and stands to lose more than $2 billion in sales - a huge blow to the country's second largest export industry. And it's hitting nearly all the winegrowing regions where they make dry whites, fruity reds and fizzy champagne.
  • All bubblies are called sparkling wine. But champagne is made here and nowhere else – in these vineyards and villages of Champagne located in northeastern France. There's a mystique to champagne, an aura of romance. Coco Chanel once said, "I only drink champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not." They've been producing this "wine of kings" here for centuries. This year's extreme weather not only battered Champagne and the foundation of its economy, but nearly every one of the wine-producing regions in France -- Burgundy to Bordeaux, where some of the highest quality, best-known and best-tasting reds and whites are made.
  • Jacques Lurton, the head of a wine family dynasty, runs the Château La Louvière and several other wineries in Bordeaux. He says vine disease is getting worse all over France because of the rising temperatures. We don't have winters anymore, almost. In wintertime, normally you get colder conditions. These cool conditions tend to kill the funguses or the disease. So normally, winter cleans the situation but the most important problem that we have is what we call spring frost. Spring frost was so severe in April this year that winegrowers were on their knees lighting bales of hay and candles between their vines in a mostly futile attempt to protect their young buds.

Artic Coasts in Transition

  • Arctic coasts are characterized by sea ice, permafrost and ground ice. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which is already accelerating rapid coastal erosion. The increasing warming is affecting coast stability, sediments, carbon storage, and nutrient mobilization. Understanding the correlation of these changes is essential to improve forecasts and adaptation strategies for Arctic coasts. In a special issue of the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute describe the sensitivity of Arctic coasts to climate change and the challenges for humans and nature.

 Safe Drinking Water Remains out of Reach for Many Californians

  • Jan.11, 2022 — An estimated 370,000 Californians rely on drinking water that may contain high levels of arsenic, nitrate or hexavalent chromium, and contaminated drinking water disproportionately impact communities.