Building the World

April 29, 2020
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CITIES/TRANSPORT: Carbon Neutral Boston

Boston is going carbon neutral. You can help. Image: “Traffic streaming through downtown Boston” by photographer Robbie Shade. Wikimedia commons.

Boston suffers some of the worst traffic in the United States. City of the ‘Big Dig’ or Central Artery Project, Boston has set the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Innovative ideas for that achievement can be discovered at the Museum of Science where students from around New England are presenting proposals and videos in Go Carbon Neutral: A Transportation Challenge. Winners will be announced on April 30. Take a look at these ideas for building a better Boston, and vote for your favorite here.

“Go Carbon Neutral.” Museum of Science. April 27-30, 2020. https://mos.org/go-carbon-neutral-2020.

Van Allen, Fox. “Cities with the worst traffic in the world.” 26 January 2020. CBSNews.com. https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/worst-traffice-cities-in-the-world.

Appreciation to the Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

April 28, 2020
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ENERGY: Petersberg Climate Dialogue

Petersberg, near Bonn, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

High upon a virtual mountaintop, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue gathered 35 countries to steer the course for achieving Paris Agreement goals. Alok Sharma, UK Secretary of State for Business and Energy and President of COP26, and Svenja Schulze, Federal Environment Minister of Germany, co-chaired ‘International Climate Action after the Coronavirus Pandemic.” While there is good news, including the cost of solar energy now 85% lower than in 2010, it is not enough: 840 million people lack access to electricity. As world governments allocate funding to rebuild economies after Covid-19, there is an unprecedented opportunity forfinance to support a green economic recovery and foster ambitious climate action.” We have not acted fast enough to reach climate goals, in part due to funding. The world might now have A UNIQUE opportunity to rebuild. Petersberg Climate Dialogue is digital: participate here.

Petersberg Climate Dialogue Digital Conference. https://www.bmu.de/press/live-broadcast/

Petersberg Climate Dialogue Digital Conference. “Financing Climate Ambition in the context of COVID-19.” Video Conference, 29 April 2020. https://www.bmu.de/en/event/financing-climate-ambition-in-the-context-of-covid-19/

Sharma, Alok. “Reaching Climate Goals.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cop26-president-remarks-at-first-day-of-petersberg-climate-dialogue.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unp

April 20, 2020
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ENERGY: Funding the Future

How should we spend the money of hope? Image: wikimedia.

THE MONEY OF HOPE

In the early part of 2020, the entire globe went into lockdown, suffered a plague of sickness and death that took lives and livelihoods of those in every corner of the world. In an urgent response, money on an unprecedented scale has entered the global economy.

Economic stimulus, large deposits of cash and loans, initiated to save national and global economies, present opportunity. How countries direct their bailouts may determine the future. Never again will so much money be readily available to rebuild the world. Let’s take a look at some examples:

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$700 billion pledged in asset purchases or quantitative easing (QE)

Federal funds rate: 0-0.25%

Discount window rate: cut by 150 basis points

Unlimited QE, including purchase of corporate and municipal bonds

Six months of allowing foreign central banks to access U.S. dollars for overnight dollar loans

$2.3 trillion to support local governments, small-mid businesses, with 4-year loans to enterprise with up to 10,000 staff

$2.2 trillion aid package (27 March 2020) with $500 billion for suffering industries and direct payments to individuals ($1200) and families (up to $3,000)

EUROPEAN UNION

120 billion euros ($130 billion) added to asset-purchase program of 20 billion euros per month

750 billion euros in QE, adding to existing with total of 1.1 trillion euros

Eliminated cap on number of bonds EU could buy from any Eurozone country

Cut interest on Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations (TLTROs) by 25 basis points to -0.75% (12 March 2020)

Suspended limits of EU government borrowing

Allowed credit line equal to 2% of national GDP from European Stability Mechanism (ESM) fund

European Investment Bank lending 200 billion euros to businesses

ESM freeing up 240 billion Europe of credit to governments

Total of 3.2 trillion euros: including provisions to cut company working hours rather than jobs

Berlin, Germany. Image: wikimedia.

GERMANY

750 billion euros total: with 100 billion for economic stability fund with direct stake in businesses

100 billion euros for public-sector development bank

400 billion euros to secure corporate debt vulnerable to default

FRANCE

300 billion euros guaranteed for corporate borrowing from commercial banks

45 billion euros to shore up businesses and employees

ITALY

400 billion euros of liquidity and bank loans to businesses

25 billion euros to suspend mortgage and loan repayments for families and companies, and funds for firms to pay workers on furlough or layoff.

SPAIN

200 billion euros divided in half with 50% government-backed credit for businesses/50% to help vulnerable people

700 million euros program to suspend evictions for six months after emergency is lifted

UNITED KINGDOM

200 billion pounds ($248 billion) of bond purchases

interest rate cut to 0.10% Bank of England

Bank of England doubled corporate bond purchase program to 20 billion pounds

Bank of England pledge to buy commercial paper with maturity of up to 1 year for businesses with pre-crisis investment grade credit

330 billion pounds in loan guarantees to business including paying 80% of staff salaries

Allowing businesses to temporarily retain 30 billion pounds of VAT (value added tax)

CANADA

Reduced overnight interest rates to 0.25%

Pledged purchase of Government of Canada securities – C$5 billion per week

C$50 billion credit for insured mortgages

C$10 billion for business support

C$150 billion for morgtages

C$55 billion for tax deferrals for businesses and families

C$27 billion aid for workers and low-income households

Government payment of up to 75% of salaries for workers in small and mid-sized businesses

Japan. Image: wikimedia.

JAPAN

Bank of Japan one-year zero-rate program to financial insitutions

Y430 billion for small and mid-sized businesses

Funding upgrades of medical facilities

Pay working parents forced to take leave due to school closures

Stimulus package of Y108 trillion ($993 billion) with cash payouts to households, small businesses; total package is equal to 20% of Japan’s economic output

CHINA

Yuan 2.8 trillion for infrastructure investment, backed by local bonds (19 March).

People’s Bank of China cut reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for small banks by 100 basis points. Worth about 400 billion yuan; cut will be in two phases, 15 April then 15 May 2020.

500 billion yuan ($71 billion) for re-lending and re-discount quotas

350 billion yuan for increased loan quota for businesses

Cut cash reserve requirements for banks, releasing 550 billion yuan

Also ruled: expand budget deficit, issue more bonds, drop interest rates, delay loan repayments, reduce supply-chain bottlenecks, and encourage renewed consumption

INDIA

1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) for food security and direct cash transfers. (26 March)

Reserve Bank of India cut repo rate by 75 basis points to 4.40%

SOUTH KOREA

100 trillion won economic rescue package (7 April) including 29 trillion won in loans to small and mid-sized businesses, and 20 trillion won to buy corporate bonds and commercial paper

36 trillion won in loans to exporters hurt by virus shutdown

9.1 trillion won ($7.5 billion) cash payments to most families

17.7 trillion won to boost consumption

INDONESIA

$24.9 billion for social welfare to 10 million household for food and energy discounts, and 3 percentage point cut in corporate tax rate (to 22%)

Bank Indonesia cut seven-day reverse repurchase rate to 25 basis points to 4.50%

Central bank cut reserve requirement ratio by 200 bps for banks (and 50 bps for Islamic banks)

AUSTRALIA

A$90 billion ($56 billion) funding for banks at rate of 0.25%

A$15 billion program for residential mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities

Reserve Bank of Australia cut rates in two steps for total to 0.25%, and introduced QE with a target of 0.25% for bond yields

A$66 billion for companies and welfare

A$17 billion for apprentices, small business, retirees

A$130 billion for wage support for 6 million workers

A$715 million support for airlines

Sydney Opera House, Australia. Image: wikimedia.

BRAZIL

1.2 trillion reals ($231 billion) for central bank purchase of bank loan portfolios, repurchases of dollar-denominated sovereign bonds

150 billion reals for most vulnerable people and jobs

51 billion reals to allow companies affected by virus to reduce worker pay and hours, with a goal of preserving jobs (1 April)

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Reserve Bank (SARB) cut rate by 100 basis points to 5.25%, and then reduced again (14 April 2020) to 4.25%

1.2 billion rand ($66 million) for small farms to keep up food production

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND

$50 billion to help low-income and emerging market countries

“The Great Lockdown Economic Retraction: A global map of the outlook of retraction and growth of nations across the world for 2020.” From IMF Outlook. Image: Foxterria, Wikimedia.

FUNDING THE FUTURE

Add up all those stimulus packages, monetary funds, loans, and that’s a lot of money, much of it supporting business interest rates and workers’ jobs. Yet, with the exception of instances where the industry is targeted (agriculture, transport, finance), there are few stipulations on how the money should be directed. For example, there could be payments and supportive programs for innovations in energy or water, decarbonizing transport, or reducing air pollution.

While the 2020 coronavirus is an acute crisis, and climate change is a chronic crisis, both require response. Over the past decades, we have talked about climate change, but taken too little action. Part of the reason is funding. Without the urgent public health crisis and resultant shutdown, the world would never have allocated so much money to rebuild economic life. Yet, there it is. Now.

Yes, there has been disaster response to unfortunate hot-spots suffering tsunami or hurricane damage, earthquake or fire devastation. But that was in a region. Yes, there has been systemic change, world-wide, in some industries due to disaster; after 9/11, airports and security changed permanently, but that was just one sector.

In 2020, the whole world changed at once. With everyone hit by the corona virus, new ways of communicating and working evolved. Cities rethought transport. Fossil fuel loss dropped and cities saw cleaner air. Sadly, it was all due to death and sickness. But as a result, to rebuild after the virus, every country on earth has raised new money, and new hope.

Where money goes to an industry, how can that sector direct renewal to the future we know is coming: de-carbonized and sustainable? Of course, some of the funds must support present production lines and supply-chains, but surely a percentage could be directed forward to future goals.

What would you do with this one-time funding to rebuild the world?

Sources:

Cash, David and Rebecca Herst, “Covid-19 and Climate: Policy and Practice.” 22 April 2020. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/news_events_media/events/covid_19_and_climate_policy_and_practice

Figueres, Christiana and Tom Rivett-Carnac. A Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis. Knopf, 2020. ISBN: 978052658351

International Monetary Fund. “IMF makes available $50 billion to help address the coronavirus.” 4 March 2020. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/03/04/sp030420-imf-makes-available-50-billion-to-help-address-coronavirus?mod=article_inline.

Ivanova, Maria. “Coasts and Communities.” Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, National Science Foundation. University of Massachusetts Boston, Center for Global Governance and Sustainability, Global Environmental Governance Project. https://www.umb.edu/igert/about.

Reuters, “Factbox: Global economic policy response to coronavirus crisis.”  14 April 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-economy-factbox/factbox-global-economic-policy-response-to-coronavirus-crisis-idUSKCN21W2AJ

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White, and the Making of a New World Order. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691149097

Appreciation to the University of Massachusetts Boston, especially Dean David Cash, Professor Maria  Ivanova, and Director Rebecca Herst.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpo

March 9, 2020
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ENERGY: Shaping the Future

Image: photographer Andrew MacMillan. wikimedia.

Electric vehicles are dependent upon batteries both for power and for design. That’s why General Motors’ recent announcement was a double break-through. A $20 billion investment in electric cars comes from a new kind of battery. Traditional EV batteries are a certain shape, determining the contours of a car. But GM’s new batteries can be stacked sideways, or even around curves, because the powerhouses are “soft, flat pouches.” (Valdes-Dapena, 2020). Tesla, by contrast, uses a hard cylinder. GM’s Ultium power cells may lead to curvy designs. Another advantage: Ultium uses far less cobalt that traditional EV batteries, significant because cobalt is becoming increasingly scarce. Finally, Ultium hits the desired metric: below $100 per kilowatt hour, the price point where electric cards are competitive with gasoline engines. According to estimates, electric vehicle sales in the USA will grow to 3 million units by 2030. Next-gen batteries enable driving ranges of 400  (and soon 600) miles. Longer range electric power means more highway trips, perhaps causing a redesign of the U.S. Federal Highway System, the Canada/USA Alaska Highway or the Pan-American Highway for a regional vision that could include a sportsway, maglev or hyper loop, in addition to vehicular paths. General Motors is partnering with LG Chem. With flexible batteries, look for different shapes to come.

Beresford, Colin. “GM Unveils Battery with Capacity Twice as Big as Tesla’s.” 4 March 2020. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a31226611/gm-ultium-electric-vehicle-battery-revealed/.

Beresford, Colin. “GM, LG Teaming Up to Build Batteries for GM’s Future EVs in Ohio.” 5 December 2019. Car and Driver. https://www.caranddriver.com/news/a30141005/gm-ev-battery-factory-ohio-lg/.

Valdes-Dapena, Peter. “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s.” 5 March 2020. CNN.Business. http://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range.html/ 

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpo

January 25, 2020
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ENERGY: Doomsday Clock

Back in the good old days, when doomsday was just three minutes away. Now, it’s 100 seconds. Time to reset. Image: wikimedia

We are in humanity’s moment of greatest peril,” warn those who keep time on the Doomsday Clock, moving us to 100 seconds before midnight. Midnight means catastrophic global annihilation. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, founded in 1945 by those who worked on the Manhattan Project, when doomsday only meant blowing ourselves up with bombs, the Doomsday Clock now includes a second danger: “Humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers – nuclear war and climate change – that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond.” (Ban Ki-Moon et al 2020)

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, inventors of the Doomsday Clock. Image: wikimedia

The Doomsday Clock does not really tick but is set. It started at seven minutes to midnight in 1947. Its best year to date was 1990, when it was fixed at 17 minutes to midnight, indicating the world was hopeful and relatively calm. The clock held at 2 minutes to midnight through 2017 – 2019, but now it is closer than it has ever been. It’s only been reset 24 times since 1947.

Regarding this week’s setting of the clock to 100 seconds before midnight, the keepers of the clock note two action areas. First, due to expire in 2021, the only remaining bilateral agreement between two nuclear super powers (Russia and USA), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), must be extended. Regarding the other existential threat, climate change, over 60 countries have committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. While the United States has not committed, California and New York have. That’s encouraging, but it’s still not enough, just 11% of world emissions.

Meanwhile, the clock is moving closer to midnight. Whether or not we suffer a nuclear war or an accident, certainly possible, climate change is not only possible but probable, and accelerating. We need to turn back the Doomsday Clock. What can you do to turn back the hands of time?

It is time to stop climate change, and reset the Doomsday Clock. Image: “Prague Astronomical Clock,” wikimedia.

ANIMATION: “Know the Time.” https://thebulletin.org/multimedia/know-the-time.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock

Sengupta, Somini and Nadja Popovich. “More than 60 countries say they’ll zero out carbon emissions. The catch? They’re not the big emitters.” 25 September 2019. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/25/climate/un-net-zero-emissions.html.

“Why the world is closer than every to Doomsday,” by Jerry Brown, William J. Perry, Mary Robinson, and Ban Ki-Moon. 24 January 2020, CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/24/opinions/doomsday-clock-emergency-moon-robinson-brown-perry/index.html/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

 

January 7, 2020
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ENERGY: Australia

 

“A river of smoke more than 25 km wide flows toward the Tasman Sea from fires burning in Australia.” Image: NASA

Australia’s fires have wrought damage to every aspect of life: people are perishing, dead animals are falling out of trees, the kelp forests of Tasmania are gone, houses are obliterated, the air is poisoned, kangaroos are herding to safe ground, families are camping on the beach. While some blame deforestation, and others note Australia is the most arid country on earth, many point to energy policy as causal. Studies by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis comment on “government’s defense of increasingly technologically obsolete thermal coal” (coal burned for energy rather than steel manufacturing). Australia also exports coal to China and India, among others. But those customers will soon be gone, having announced plans to transition from the coal sector.

Fires plague Australia, most arid country on earth. Image: wikimedia from a fire in another endangered area, California, USA. Climate change is an increasing factor.

The writings is on the wall, even if some politicians speak of alternative facts, and other walls. Coal is on the way out. Coal stocks in the United States dropped 50% in 2019 while renewable energy American utility Nextera Energy gained 42% more market share. Banks like Credit Suisee and Goldman Sachs are rethinking and restricting financing thermal coal and coal-fired power plants. Investors might observe the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change – with trillions under management – aligns pension funds to the goals of the Paris Agreement. Like former financial agreements such as those decided at Bretton Woods, investment and banking groups may increasingly link investment policy to environmental goals.

“Australian energy resources and major export ports,” based on Australian government Department of Resources, Energy, and Tourism, 2008 report. Image: Historicair, 2011, wikimedia.

Meanwhile, Australia might think of Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric as an example of mobilizing response to adverse conditions. The macro achievement was built after drought plagued early chapters of Australia’s history. From 1813 to 1815, drought parched the land; from 1824 to 1829 there was another. When a third drought occurred from 1837 to 1840, the land baked, crops failed, livestock died, and the once-lush landscape became so dry that people organized horse races on the Murrumbidgee River, using its dry bed as a dusty track. Snowy Mountains brought irrigation from snow melt, generating hydroelectric power to light a growing country. If Australia might again mobilize a suffering nation’s ingenuity and resolve in response to 2020’s parched and burned landscape, it should be noted that Snowy Mountains Hydro took 25 years to complete. If Australia sets a macro goal to rebuild energy and environment by 2025, what are the first three steps?

“Three Sisters, Blue Mountains,” Australia. Image: wikimedia.

O’Malley, Nick. “The world has made the link between Australian coal, fires, and climate.” 4 January 2020, The Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/the-world-has-made-the-link-between-australian-coal-fires-and-climate-20200103-p53omu.html.

Koning Beals, Rachel. “Goldman Sachs becomes first major U.S. bank to stop funding Arctic drilling, pulls back on coal.” 21 December 2019. MarketWatch. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/goldman-sachs-becomes-first-major-us-bank-to-stop-funding-arctic-drilling-pulls-back-on-coal-2019-12-16

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods. Princeton University Press, 2012. ISBN: 9780691162379.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

December 15, 2019
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Hearing (and Listening to) the Voices of the Future

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It is the world’s youth who must face consequences of decisions made now. Youth4Nature sent a COP25 delegation, and sailing across the Atlantic to get there, the world heard the message of Greta Thunberg, founder of Fridays for Future. Voices of youth may be louder than dicta of governments. UN Secretary General Guterres states: “The technologies that are necessary to make this possible are already available. Signals of hope are multiplying. Public option is waking up everywhere. Young people are showing remarkable leadership and mobilization. We need political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, and start taxing pollution instead of people.”

Youth Climate Strike, San Francisco, March 2019. Image: wikimedia

Many macro achievements, throughout history, can be traced to the genius and innovation of youth. A 12-year old conceived of a canal joining the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal des Deux Mers of France. Even younger, 10 year-old Ferdinand de Lesseps formed a friendship that would later turn into the Suez Canal. At COP25, it was the youth who insisted and persisted until a draft agreement on responses to climate change could be strengthened by contracts fulfilling promises made in Paris 2015. There is much to be agreed and achieved, including carbon contracts; now that debate awaits Glasgow. Meanwhile, it is hoped the world is not only hearing, but also listening to, the Voices of the Future, Greta Thunberg is TIME Person of the Year.

Irfan, Umair. “‘We are desperate for any signs of hope,’ Greta Thunberg tells UN climate negotiators.” 11 December 2019, Vox. com. https://www.vox.com/2019/12/11/21010673/cop25-greta-thunberg-climate-change-un-meeting-madrid

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Longest talks end with compromise deal.” 15 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment.

Time. “Greta Thunberg: TIME Person of the Year 2019.”https://time.com/person-of-the-year-2019-greta-thunberg/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

December 2, 2019
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ENERGY: COP25 MADRID where promise meets contract

“Gran Via, Madrid,” will Spain lead the way with COP25? Image: wikimedia.

As the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP25, gathers in Madrid, Spain, there’s some bad news. Greenhouse gas emission concentrations hit a peak in 2018. While 70 countries plan to be carbon neutral by 2050, the world will need a five-fold increase in carbon-cutting actions to keep warming under 1.5C, the goal agreed at COP21 in Paris. Right now, we’re on target for 3.2 degree rise, a number portending disaster. And then there’s loss and damage: loss refers to unrecoverable destruction of species, habitat, lives; damage is repairable destruction like roads, bridges. Rising seas will cause both loss and damage. It is estimated sea rise might cost $14 trillion by 2100; worse, if seas rise 1.8m, it could cost lives, land, and $27 trillion per year – that’s almost 3% of global GDP.

Carbon contracts, key agenda for COP25. Image: “Certified emission reduction units by country.” wikimedia

Carbon contracts are also on Madrid’s agenda: some countries and businesses pay carbon offsets; for example, fund tree planting elsewhere, while still using carbon-emitting fuels. COP21, article 6, raised the issue of carbon markets, opening doors for business involvement. Now, promise must become contract. Historically, our world has found few occasions for large-scale financial agreements linked with values and outcomes. Could lessons learned at Bretton Woods be helpful in Madrid? Are there parallels with the Atomic Energy Act?

Madrid: where promise meets contract. Image: wikimedia.

Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition – CPLC. “Article 6 is the secret ingredient of the Paris Agreement.” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pY1KVu537B4.

Climate Action Studio. “Article 6,” https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=13YiF6Mt2dc.

Fridays for Future. Climate action movement founded by Greta Thunberg. @FridaysForFuture.

Fried, Charles. Contract as Promise. Harvard University Press, 1981. ISBN: 0674169255

Harvey, Fiona. “COP25: youth ‘leadership’ contrasts with government inaction, says UN chief.” 2 December 2019. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/dec/01/island-states-want-decisive-action-to-prevent-inundation.

Jevrejeva, Svetlana et al.  “Rising sea levels could cost the world $14 trillion a year by 2100.” 3 July 2018. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180703190745.htm.

Litwin, Evan T. “The Climate Diaspora.” University of Massachusetts Boston, 2011. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1912859.

McGrath, Matt. “Climate change: Critical year for climate change starts in Madrid.” 2 December 2019. BBC: Science & Environment. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-50588128.

Mandelbaum, Michael. “The triumph of the market,” The Ideas That Conquered The World: Peace, Democracy, and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century. pp 277-304. PublicAffairs, Perseus: 2002. ISBN: 1586482068.

Steil, Benn. The Battle of Bretton Woods. Princeton University Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780691162379.

United Nations. “UN Climate Change Conference – December 2019.” https://unfcc.int/cop25.

Youth4Nature. https://www.youth4nature.org/cop-25.

Thanks to colleagues who suggested Bretton Woods as precedent, and to Charles Fried for contract as promise.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

 

November 22, 2019
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ENERGY: Building with the Sun

“August 31, 2012 Solar Corona CME.” Image: NASA Goddard Flight Center, wikimedia.

Heliogen: using solar to build the future. Solar roofs are not new: houses and office buildings often top with photovoltaic panels. Paris has decreed that new construction must have either a solar or green roof. Solar panels also are common in space. But until recently, it has not been possible to use solar technology to generate the extreme heat needed to produce building materials – cement, steel, glass. Heliogen, founded by CEO Bill Gross, backed by Patrick Soon-Shiong (physician and owner of the Los Angeles Times) and Bill Gates (Microsoft), uses artificial intelligence and mirrors to capture sunlight in such concentrations that high heat needed for industrial processes can now be generated by the sun. It’s clean, and the sun’s energy is free: both factors far outshine using fossil fuels for industrial construction that requires extremely high heat. In fact, Heliogen’s technology will be equivalent o 25% of the heat found on the surface of the sun itself. Building houses, schools, hospitals, and offices generates 20% of global emissions. Heliogen may soon go public, and is now seeking customers like cement companies who want what the company calls “green heat.”

Egan, Matt. “Secretive energy startup backed by Bill Gates achieves solar breakthrough,” 19 November 2019. CNN Business. https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/19/business/heliogen-solar-energy-bill-gates/index.html.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data.

Glaser, Peter E. “Solar Power from Space: US3781647A – Method and apparatus for converting solar radiation to electrical power.” https://patents.google.com/patent/US3781647/en.

Heliogen. “Replacing Fuel with Sunlight.” https://heliogen.com

Rodgers, Lucy. “Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about.” 17 December 2018, BBC.com https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46455844

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unpor

October 1, 2019
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ENERGY: Traveling Wave of the Future

“Prometheus bringt der Menschheit das Feuer,” by Heinrich Fuger, 1817. Image: Wikimedia.

Ever since Prometheus gave fire to humankind, energy has changed civilization. But energy has now become what some believe the critical challenge of the future, growing increasingly critical due to climate change. We must solve energy in this century; some say in the next decade. What if there were a form of energy that was cleaner, safer, with very low carbon emissions, and used – to power itself – some of the most toxic, undisposable waste on earth? Sounds good, but will it happen? Traveling Wave is the term given to this form of nuclear reactor, or TRW for short. It’s a fission reactor that, theoretically, could run decades, self-sustained by its own internal processes, because it uses spent fuel. Traveling wave reactors were once called “breed and burn” dating back to Saveli Feinberg in 1958, followed by advances by Michael Driscoll, Lev Feoktistov, Edward Teller and Lowell Wood, Hugo van Dam, and Hiroshi Sekimoto, among others. It was the world of Teller and Wood that attracted notice by Bill Gates, Intellectual Ventures, and TerraPower. TerraPower’s scientists applied for patent EP 2324480 A1, following WO201009199A1 “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” Plans for TerraPower to partner with CNNC, in a 2015 MoU, are perhaps in development after being on hold due to international trade issues recently in the news. While some may say nuclear energy is too dangerous to develop, others state that the world may not be able to make a climate-driven energy transition to renewables and non-carbon-emitting sources unless nuclear stays in the energy mix. ITER, in France, is working on fusion energy; TerraPower, in the USA, is working on better ways to do fission.

Alert Einstein, 1921. Image: wikimedia

Powerful enough to light and heat the world, yet yielding very few carbon emissions, a form of energy that is 70 years old this year may be due for a remake. It was in August of 1939 that physicist Albert Einstein wrote a letter to then United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt about the work of Fermi and Szilard proving “the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy.” What followed was the development of atomic power through the Manhattan Project, revealing the danger and destruction that led Los Alamos Lab Director J. Robert Oppenheimer to quote the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become death,/ The destroyer of worlds.” While the Atomic Energy Act go 1946 reversed the purpose of developing nuclear power, turning the energy into productive and peaceful uses, there still remained dangers.

Nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl, Russia and Fukushima, Japan are among tragic occurrences that have plagued the use of fission energy.

Fukushima nuclear disaster: Image, wikimedia.

Another problem has grown to considerable proportion: toxic radioactive waste. Presently, the United States has 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that needs disposal; the substance is often called “spent” fuel. Disposal is controversial, and unwanted: case in point: Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Worldwide, the picture is even more troubling. With nuclear waste building up, and old power plants breaking down, the nuclear energy question looms: where should we head in the future? Four problems are often cited: 1) danger of radioactivity from a reactor accident like Chernobyl or Fukushima; 2) limited supply of fuels U-235 and Pu-239, as presently obtained; nuclear energy is expensive; threat of misuse for military purposes. And then there is all that spent fuel.

Bill Gates. “Climate change solutions.” Image: wikimedia

But what if all that spent fuel could power future nuclear reactors capable of transforming and eliminating the world’s toxic nuclear waste, while providing enough clean energy to power the future AND stop climate change? Should we rethink nuclear energy? At 70 years of age, nuclear power may be ready for a makeover. Want to know more? Hear some ideas in Bill Gates’ TED Talk.

Ahlheld, Charles E, John Rogers Gilleland, Roderick A. Hyde, Muriel Y. Isikawa, David G. Mcalees, Nathan P. Myhrvold, Thomas Allan Weaver, Charles Whitmer, Lowell L. Wood Jr. “Heat pipe nuclear fission deflagration wave reactor cooling.” https://patents.google.com/patent/EP2324480A4/en.

Bobin, Jean Louis. Controlled Thermonuclear Fusion. World Scientific Publishing, 2014. ISBN: 9789814590686.

Gates, Bill. “Innovating to Zero.” TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates

Gates, Bill. “Inside Bill’s Brain.” Episode Three: “The Search for Climate Change Solutions.” Netflix.com, 2019.

Einstein, Albert. “Letter of August 2nd 1939 from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/psf/box5/a64a01.html/ and Building the World (2006), pages 488-490.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Waste and Environment Safety Section, Vienna, Austria. “Estimation of Global Inventories of Radioactive Waste and Other Radioactive Materials. June 2007. IAEA-TECDOC-1591. ISBN: 9789201056085.https://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications?PDF/te_1591_web.pdf.

Oppenheimer, Robert. On the Manhattan Project: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb13ynu3Iac

Teller, Edward. “Nuclear energy for the third millennium.” Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Department of Energy, United States of America, 1 October 1997.

Transatomic Power. http://www.transatomicpower.com

United States Congress. “Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.” https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheet/radwaste.html and https://www.congress.gov/bill/97th-congress/house-bill/3809.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unporte

 

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