Alice in Cloudland? DHL successfully launched the first all-electric cargo plane, Alice, late last month.
The maiden flight was completed at Moses Lake, WA’s Grant County International Airport (MWH), It flew for eight minutes and reached an altitude of 3,500 feet. The Seattle-based manufacturer, Eviation, is the builder.
“Completing its maiden flight confirms our belief that the era of sustainable aviation is here. With our order of 12 Alice e-cargo planes, we are investing towards our overall goal of net-zero emissions logistics,” said John Pearson, CEO DHL Express, who was quoted in the article.
A single pilot can fly the plane and it will carry 1,200 kilograms (2,600 lbs.). It will require 30 minutes or less to charge per flight hour and have a maximum range of up to 815 kilometers (440 nautical miles).
DHL says Alice will operate in all environments currently serviced by piston and turbine aircraft. Alice’s advanced electric motors have fewer moving parts to increase reliability and reduce maintenance costs. Its operating software constantly monitors flight performance to ensure optimal efficiency.
The aircraft is ideal for feeder routes and requires less investment in station infrastructure, DHL says. The Alice can be charged while loading and unloading operations occur, ensuring quick turnaround times that maintain DHL Express’ tight schedules. Eviation says Alice can be configured for cargo or passenger use.
Pearson noted that Alice’s range and capacity “makes it a unique sustainable solution for our global aviation network.” It supports DHL’s goal to make a “substantial contribution” in reducing its carbon footprint and ultimately, achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations asserts that minimizing food loss “is easier than you think” by adopting simple solutions that can help “break the vicious cycle of food loss and climate change.”
The FAO article, released in connection with the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste 2022, notes that each year, approximately 14 percent of the food we produce is lost between when it is harvested and before it reaches the shops. A further 17 percent of our food ends up being wasted by retailers and consumers.”
FAO continues: “Food loss and waste is also a major contributor to the climate crisis, accounting for up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions. In some countries, the food supply chain is already on course to overtake farming and land use as the largest contributor to GHGs emissions, adding to an unstable climate and extreme weather events such as droughts and flooding.”
Alarming numbers, to be sure, but simple solutions? It seems that nothing is ever simple anymore.
The UN organization has implemented several projects designed to reduce food loss and make agriculture systems more efficient. The Asia region is showing some promising results. Consider the mango.
Like other fruits, fresh mangoes spoil rapidly because of their high moisture content and delicate nature. If not harvested at the correct stage of maturity, and if not handled properly throughout the distribution chain, mangoes suffer both in terms of quality and quantity, resulting in losses and reduced income for all involved in their production and post-harvest handling. Furthermore, improper handling and infestations shorten their shelf-life, which in turn limits their sales, resulting in economic losses.
In southern Asia, for example, FAO experts found that local farmers often have scarce knowledge of how to handle fruit and vegetables after the harvest and also lack the resources to address quality issues in the supply chain. This can result in more than half of vegetable harvests being lost due to diseases, pest infestations, improper harvesting techniques, careless handling, poor packaging, and transport conditions.
That does not sound very simple, but apparently, training is a key factor. “When FAO trained the farmers to apply good post-harvest management practices and use reusable plastic crates instead of single-use mesh sacks to transport their produce, the switch produced dramatic improvements.”
Using plastic crates for bulk packaging reduced losses to a minimum during transportation. Also, “shelf lives in shops and markets improved significantly for the mangoes that underwent a hot-water treatment that controls post-harvest diseases. New harvesting tools and techniques, such as improved picking poles or trimming the fruit stem with scissors and gloves rather than pulling them off by hand, reduced mechanical injury to the fruit, while the trimming of the stems reduced latex staining of the fruit when packed in the crates, making them more attractive in shops and markets.”
Improvements in the post-harvest handling practices, together with the hot water treatment, resulted in better quality mangoes having a longer shelf life in retail, with a 70 – 80 percent reduction in the number of mangoes wasted due to decay over a period of five days.
FAO is promoting its findings and practices around the world. About 5 000 smallholders across Asia have been trained in fresh fruit and vegetable production and marketing.
The FAO conclusion? “With the rise of food prices, the growing impact of climate change, and the persistence of global hunger, there is no excuse for food loss and waste at any level.”
It does sound simple, but simple is often complicated.
A new eHandbook from Environment+Energy Leader, sponsored by Anguil Environmental Systems, outlines current trends in air pollution controls and what should be considered when choosing emission control technologies.
That is of course if energy companies insist on emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) rather than converting their plants to renewable energy sourcing. But oh well, the climate crisis must continue, and fewer pollutants might have to do.
The handbook notes that in trying to understand how best to mitigate VOCs and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), industrial companies can find “compliance downright baffling.”
“Significant shifts in the industrial landscape and in the economy at large, along with constant regulatory changes, contribute to the confusion.
“There are many factors impacting the clean air technology industry, including regulation, public policy, and considerations such as environmental justice,” says Clare Schulzki, executive director of the Institute of Clean Air Companies (ICAC), quoted in the ebook. The landscape is changing. EPA, for example, continues to update and release new air emissions rules including regulations requiring additional controls on certain equipment and processes that emit Ethylene Oxide (EtO) to reduce risk to surrounding communities and protect public health from this known carcinogen.
EPA is also developing new methane emission rules that will tighten standards for new and existing equipment primarily in the oil, gas, and mining sectors.
The eBook identifies five pollution control trends:
Trend #1. The carbon footprint of air pollution controls starts to matter. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) considerations are driving companies away from gas-fired emission combustion systems to fume abatement technologies that utilize electrically heated sources. For example, one technology, oxidation, converts pollutants into water vapor, carbon dioxide, and thermal energy. When designed properly these systems can have fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a gas-fired burner.
Trend #2. Concentrator systems gain in popularity. Emission concentrators are specialized systems that process large quantities of polluted air with low pollutant concentrations. This allows companies to use smaller oxidizers in self-sustaining modes. Apparently, this approach is more efficient and cost-effective.
Trend #3. Industries such as battery manufacturing, semiconductors, and renewable natural gas are soaring. For many companies in these industries, this means more factories, increased output and/or new processes.
Trend #4. Supply chain disruptions affect every industry. “If you’re contending with the inability to receive the materials you need in order to manufacture your products, you’re not alone. Nearly every industry is facing similar challenges – including your pollution control technology provider.” This means there might be longer than expected wait times for those smaller oxidizers and other neat technologies. So, plan way ahead.
Trend #5. US industry adheres to US standards even in emerging markets. Manufacturing is increasing in emerging markets. “Large companies are building more plants in Southeast Asia, for example. And many large corporations are committed to adhering to US standards regardless of local regulations.”
The handbook also lists “considerations” for companies to address when choosing emission control technologies, such as the compounds that comprise a company’s emissions, meeting regulatory requirements, sorting capital costs vs. operating costs, and sources of funding.
So again, the basic message is to plan way ahead and keep abreast of new pollution control technologies.
And don’t forget the long-term value inherent in renewable energy technologies. Just saying.
An article in Information Today talks about “reigning in” the risks of sustainable sourcing. Written by contributing reporter Samuel Greengard, the report says that building more eco-friendly and sustainable supply chains “is rapidly becoming a top priority for businesses. A clear strategy and the right technology that delivers visibility can reduce risks and improve results.”
That’s great but what has taken so long for businesses to realize this? The climate crisis is well upon us — it should have been a top priority many years ago. One of the great lessons, and confluences, of the pandemic and the climate crisis, is that supply chains of all types must change their thinking dramatically about how they do business.
Back to the article. Greengard writes:
“Product shortages and supply chain disruptions have emerged as a frustrating reality for organizations across a wide swath of industries. Due to a convergence of factors — including the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and a shortage of raw materials — procuring essential materials and components is increasingly difficult.
“Yet, things suddenly get a whole lot more complicated as soon as sustainable sourcing enters the picture. As businesses strive to meet aggressive climate goals and display results on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reports, the headaches and risks multiply. An inability to obtain materials, products and services can threaten basic operations.”
Supply chains and procurement are risky enterprises and adding green principles and sustainable sourcing to the mix adds even more risk. It’s the cost of doing business, so “reigning in risk” seems like the wrong approach. Actually, it can’t be done in a significant way because risk in the modern era is a pandora’s box.
“The end goal is to establish strategies, policies and processes that fully support sustainable sourcing.”
A nice and obvious thought but extremely difficult to implement as the climate crisis becomes more, well, critical. Better to do the right things, risks or no.
Note: Things are changing job-wise for yours truly so watch this space for developments with this blog and other endeavors.
OXFAM cites six things about inequality and the climate crisis:
1. The biggest villain in this climate emergency is the fossil fuel industry, “but in the US, fossil fuel companies are receiving $15 billion annually in federal subsidies paid for by taxpayers.”
2. “The people who contribute the least to climate change are the ones who face the worst impacts.” An example: due to the effects of climate change an estimated 13 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia have been displaced in search of water and pasture, just in the first quarter of 2022, despite having done little to cause the climate crisis.
3. “Black and Indigenous people face the worst impacts of climate change, which causes heat waves, storms, and other disasters.”
4. “Climate change disproportionally impacts women—whether it’s walking further to collect water, being last to eat during droughts, or assuming most of the household care responsibilities in the wake of extreme weather.”
5. “The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the three billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity in the last 25 years.”
6. The US has many laws in place—such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act—that could be protecting communities from fossil fuel pollution and climate change; but unfortunately, politics and big polluters often get in the way.
These points point to what appears an unsolvable problem: there will never be a comprehensive and stable solution for all peoples and nations. How can there be?
As Makower says, “We find ourselves in uncharted and unfamiliar territory. Again. The worlds we collectively inhabit — corporate sustainability, sustainable finance, the circular economy, climate tech — are all reaching inflection points, growing and changing faster than many could have imagined. Along the way, they’re roiling industries, companies, jobs, and career paths — mostly for the better but also in a be-careful-what-you-wish-for kind of way.”
It sounds a bit like gobbledygook, but there it is. Simply put, there are too many balls in the air. As Makower notes, the Covid pandemic era now coincides with the rise of most aspects of sustainable business: companies’ commitments to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; the increase of green bonds and sustainability-linked loans; the inexorable growth of renewable energy, alongside its declining price; the mainstreaming of electric vehicles; the rise of concern about biodiversity loss and its economic impact, and more.
Perhaps the past two years of pandemic life have focused organizational attention on how to deal with multiple crises and issues in business health and the environment. “Despite our self-imposed isolation, the klieg lights focused on companies’ environmental and social commitments and performance have grown increasingly brighter and hotter, in lockstep with the rise of concern about the scale, scope and pace of change. With the signs of a changing climate becoming ever more apparent — and costly — the business world is finally recognizing that sustainability is not merely a nice-to-do activity,” Makower says.
But the bottom line is that while the pace of change has increased, it’s far from what’s needed to address the challenges ahead.
Here are some points to consider from the report:
– This is an exciting and perilous time for companies, their stakeholders, and the world in general. The impacts of a changing climate are clear as storms, droughts, wildfires, heatwaves and other weather phenomena become more frequent and extreme.
– It’s not just the climate crisis. The increasing loss of biodiversity, and all of the economic activity it enables, is a major growing concern.
– In addition, the increasing economic inequality in the world seems an insoluble problem. Unconscionable numbers of people still lack adequate food, shelter, water, electricity and sanitation, while those with financial means are, as a rule, doing better and better.
– The rise of “net-zero” commitments by companies and countries was one of the major themes of 2021, along with the pushback from activists, regulators and investors that many of these claims weren’t backed by credible action or plans. “It’s not necessarily that companies aren’t serious about reaching these goals, say critics. It’s that they’re not serious about the speed at which they need to reach them.”
– The finance component of sustainable business is proving to be powerful.The world’s largest financial institutions are committing trillions of dollars to fund the transition to a net-zero world, though many of them also continue to back fossil fuel companies and projects. Still, the trajectory away from coal, oil and natural gas is clear — though, once again, the pace of change may be way too slow.
“All of this together — the perils and the promise — suggest that business — and, indeed, humankind — is undergoing an epochal transition. Those who view tomorrow’s world as a continuation of today’s are increasingly having those assumptions challenged. As we face these existential threats, there is an opportunity to renew and regenerate the structures upon which we rely for our health, wealth and security. Nearly everything, it seems, must be reinvented if we are to prosper into the future, indefinitely and for all.”
in many ways, none of them good from a population and climate perspective.
Let’s skip a discourse on the current quality of general human intelligence because that seems too easy and depressing, even though human stupidity and inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence has created the climate crisis.
Now there is evidence the Earth is dimming due to climate change. According to a report in EarthSky, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) last month said that Earth’s warming oceans are causing fewer bright clouds to reflect sunlight back into space. So we are not shining so brightly in the universe, and more heat is reaching the Earth’s surface. This additional heat will, presumably, lead to even warmer oceans, according to the article. “This result is contrary to what many scientists had hoped. They’d hoped a warmer Earth might lead to more bright clouds and higher albedo (greater reflectivity), and more heat reflected away.” That outcome would have helped to moderate warming and balance the climate system, but the AGU result shows the opposite is true. The new Earth-albedo study was published in the peer-reviewed AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Earthshine is what happens when sunlight bounces from Earth onto the night landscape of the moon. It’s that dim glow you sometimes see on the darkened portion of a crescent moon. The Big Bear Solar Observatory in Southern California gathered the earthshine data from 1998 to 2017. The scientists said the Earth is now reflecting about half a watt less light per square meter than it was 20 years ago. Most of the drop has occurred in the last three years of earthshine data.
Meanwhile on the “let’s do something” climate crisis front, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized its first new climate rule last month, slashing the use of powerful greenhouse gases widely used in home refrigerators and air conditioners and often found to be leaking from U.S. supermarket freezers.
The final rule establishes a comprehensive program to cap and phase down the production and consumption of climate-damaging hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in the United States, the EPA said on 23 September. “HFCs are potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, as well as foams and many other applications. A global phasedown of HFCs is expected to avoid up to 0.5 °C of global warming by 2100. This final rule will phase down the U.S. production and consumption of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years, as mandated by the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act that was enacted in December 2020.”
Sometimes we have to take it slowly, but this is not the time. The IPCC report is not a gentle meditation.
The Sixth Assessment Report of the .Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released earlier this month underscores and update what the IPCC has stated for many year.
The 42-page “Summary for Policymakers” — the full report is more than 3400 densely-written pages — is more of the same, only more so.
Here are some of the summary’s findings:
On the “current state” of the climate: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” Each of the last four decades” has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. Global surface temperature in the first two decades of the 21st century (2001-2020) was 0.99 [0.84- 1.10] °C higher than 1850-1900.”
“The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate system are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.”
“Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since AR5 (the fifth Assessment Report).”
“Improved knowledge of climate processes, paleoclimate evidence and the response of the climate system to increasing radiative forcing gives a best estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity of 3°C with a narrower range compared to AR5.”
On “possible climate futures”:
“Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”
“Many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming. They include increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, and proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.”
“Continued global warming is projected to further intensify the global water cycle,including its variability, global monsoon precipitation and the severity of wet and dry events.”
“Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.”
“With further global warming, every region is projected to increasingly experience concurrent and multiple changes in climatic impact-drivers. Changes in several climatic impact-drivers would be more widespread at 2°C compared to 1.5°C global warming and even more widespread and/or pronounced for higher warming levels.”
Even in scenarios with lower GHG emissions, it will take 20 years or more to detect “discernible differences” in global surface temperature trends. In short, this crisis is virtually “irreversible.” Tough stuff indeed. And it seems hopeless.
We want to see with wisdom and clarity what is going on with our planet and accept the facts in front of us. The time to act is now
The often on again-off again Keystone XL Pipeline project has been touchstone of environment activism for about 13 years, but now it appears it is off for good.
Last week, TC Energy, the Canadian company behind the pipeline, said that it had decided along with the government of Alberta to end the multibillion-dollar project. XL was the focus of frequent delays, construction permit battles, and changing government policies. It was the bane of environmentalists because of its scope and because tar sands are among the filthiest, most polluting form of fossil fuel. If completed, the 1,200-mile pipeline would have carried 830,000 gallons of oil from the vast tar sands mines in Alberta to refineries on the US Gulf Coast.
A Sierra Club article on the pipeline termination said: “The whole operation would have added more than 181 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere each year. Oil from the tar sands is some of the dirtiest on the planet, producing 20 percent more CO2 than conventional crude. Along the way, the Keystone XL Pipeline would have passed through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, where it would have threatened farmland, drinking water, and wildlife habitat.”
Keystone is gone but the writing is on the wall for other pending projects, so stay tuned.
Climate change activist, guru and New Yorker contributing columnist Bill McKibben called it the “most cataclysmic day so far for the traditional fossil-fuel industry.” Shareholders at the major oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron have long tried to push the oil giants to change their ways and address the damage to the climate they have caused over many decades. McKibben, in a recent article, wrote that a “remarkable set of shareholder votes and court rulings have scrambled the future of three of the world’s largest oil companies.”
Last week, a court in the Netherlands ordered Royal Dutch Shell to dramatically cut its emissions over the next decade—a mandate it can likely only meet by dramatically changing its business model. Then, a few hours later, 61% of shareholders at Chevron voted, over management objections, to demand that the company cut so-called Scope 3 emissions, which include emissions caused by its customers burning its products.
Oil companies are willing to address the emissions that come from their operations, but, as Reuters has pointed out, the support for the cuts “shows growing investor frustration with companies, which they believe are not doing enough to tackle climate change.”
Powerful proof of those frustrations also occurred when ExxonMobil officials announced that shareholders had (over the company’s opposition) elected two dissident candidates to the company’s board, both of whom pledge to push for climate action.
“The action at ExxonMobil’s shareholder meeting was fascinating: the company, which regularly used to make the list of most-admired companies, had been pulling out all stops to defeat the slate of dissident candidates, which was put forward by Engine No. 1, a tiny activist fund based in San Francisco that owns just 0.02 per cent of the company’s stock, but has insisted that Exxon needs a better answer to the question of how to meet the climate challenge. Exxon has simply insisted on doubling down: its current plan actually calls for increasing oil and gas production in Guyana and the Permian Basin this decade, even though the International Energy Agency last week called for an end to new development of fossil fuels. Observers at the meeting described a long adjournment mid-meeting, and meandering answers to questions from the floor, perhaps as an effort to buy time to persuade more shareholders to go the company’s way. But the effort failed. Notably, efforts by activists to push big investors appear to have paid off: according to sources, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, backed three of the dissident candidates for the Exxon board.”
The court case involving Shell is noteworthy. The Dutch court found that, though Shell has begun to make changes in its business plans, they are not moving fast enough to fall in line with the demands of science, and that it must more than double the pace of its planned emissions cuts. “The court understands that the consequences could be big for Shell,” Jeannette Honée, a spokeswoman for the court, said in a video about the ruling. “But the court believes that the consequences of severe climate change are more important than Shell’s interests.” Honée continued, “Severe climate change has consequences for human rights, including the right to life. And the court thinks that companies, among them Shell, have to respect those human rights.” Shell plans to appeal the court decision.
McKibben concluded, “It’s clear that the arguments that many have been making for a decade have sunk in at the highest levels: there is no actual way to evade the inexorable mathematics of climate change. If you want to keep the temperature low enough that civilization will survive, you have to keep coal and oil and gas in the ground. That sounded radical a decade ago. Now it sounds like the law.”