Mechanochemists want to shake up industrial chemistry

Read the full story at Chemical & Engineering News.

Using mechanical force to drive reactions offers greener routes to molecules, but chemists need to demonstrate that mechanochemistry can work on industrial scales

Looming copper shortfall threatens business sustainability goals: report

Read the full story at Supply Chain Dive.

Growing demand for copper from key parts of the energy transition — electric vehicles, solar and wind equipment, and power lines — will likely outstrip supply later this decade, potentially putting the goal of net zero carbon emissions in 2050 out of reach, according to S&P Global analysts.

The energy transition will help drive the total global demand for copper to about 50 million metric tons a year by 2035 from about 25 mmt today, the analysts said in a report released last Thursday.

However, even assuming record levels of mining and recycling, there won’t be enough copper to meet that demand, Daniel Yergin, S&P Global vice chairman, said during a presentation on the study. “This study is a wake-up call,” he said.

‘Hot and stressed’ grapes: Start-up helps winemakers survive climate change with AI and satellite tech

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

Oxford start-up Deep Planet is leveraging AI and satellite imagery data to help wine growers and producers adapt to climate change. We catch up with COO Sushma Shankar to ask how VineSignal can impact wine pricing on-shelf.

Heineken says suppliers representing 80% of packaging carbon footprint are committing to science-based emissions targets

Read the full story at ESG Today.

Beer company Heineken revealed today that suppliers representing 80% of the company’s packaging carbon footprint have committed to or are in the process of setting science-based climate targets with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), marking a significant milestone in the company’s efforts to address its supply chain climate impact.

Increasing agricultural conservation outreach through social science

Jessica Espenshade, Adam Reimer and Lekha Knuffman (2022). “Increasing agricultural conservation outreach through social science.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 77 (4) 56A-59A; DOI: https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.2022.0516A

Abstract: The sustainability challenges facing US agriculture now are more complex and challenging than the technological and productivity challenges of the previous century (Batie 2009). Addressing these challenges requires a different approach to conservation outreach. In this paper, we outline a new approach that leverages the social sciences and an understanding of human decision making to increase the effectiveness of outreach efforts and improve the sustainability of US agriculture.

New open data platform aims to bring transparency to global supply chains

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

An open data platform, which allows companies to disclose their supplier lists and showcase their commitment to supply chain transparency, has launched its beta phase.

Open Supply Hub aims to improve insights around production facilities and global supply chains, allowing organizations, civil society and other stakeholders to work collaboratively with suppliers and manufacturers to enhance supply chain sustainability.

How not to solve the climate change problem

This direct air capture plant in Iceland was designed to capture 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Climeworks 2021 via AP Photos

by Kevin Trenberth, University of Auckland

When politicians talk about reaching “net zero” emissions, they’re often counting on trees or technology that can pull carbon dioxide out of the air. What they don’t mention is just how much these proposals or geoengineering would cost to allow the world to continue burning fossil fuels.

There are many proposals for removing carbon dioxide, but most make differences only at the edges, and carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to increase relentlessly, even through the pandemic.

I’ve been working on climate change for over four decades. Let’s take a minute to come to grips with some of the rhetoric around climate change and clear the air, so to speak.

What’s causing climate change?

As has been well established now for several decades, the global climate is changing, and that change is caused by human activities.

When fossil fuels are burned for energy or used in transportation, they release carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that is the main cause of global heating. Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries. As more carbon dioxide is added, its increasing concentration acts like a blanket, trapping energy near Earth’s surface that would otherwise escape into space.

When the amount of energy arriving from the Sun exceeds the amount of energy radiating back into space, the climate heats up. Some of that energy increases temperatures, and some increases evaporation and fuels storms and rains.

Illustration of energy in from the Sun vs energy out from Earth in greenhouse effect
How the greenhouse effect works. EPA

Because of these changes in atmospheric composition, the planet has warmed by an estimated 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 F) since about 1880 and is well on the way to 1.5 C (2.7 F), which was highlighted as a goal not to be crossed if possible by the Paris Agreement. With the global heating and gradual increases in temperature have come increases in all kinds of weather and climate extremes, from flooding to drought and heat waves, that cause huge damage, disruption and loss of life.

Studies shows that global carbon dioxide emissions will need to reach net-zero carbon emissions by midcentury to have a chance of limiting warming to even 2 C (3.6 F).

Currently, the main source of carbon dioxide is China. But accumulated emissions matter most, and the United States leads, closely followed by Europe, China and others.

Pie charts show CO2 emissions from fossil fuels in one year compared with cumulative for top emitting countries. China has the largest share in 2018; the U.S. has the largest share cumulatively
Estimated shares of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2018 compared with cumulative emissions over time, based on data released by BP. Kevin Trenberth, Author provided

What works to slow climate change?

Modern society needs energy, but it does not have to be from fossil fuels.

Studies show that the most effective way to address the climate change problem is to decarbonize the economies of the world’s nations. This means sharply increasing use of renewable energy – solar and wind cost less than new fossil fuel plants in much of the world today – and the use of electric vehicles.

Unfortunately, this changeover to renewables has been slow, due in large part to the the huge and expensive infrastructure related to fossil fuels, along with the vast amount of dollars that can buy influence with politicians.

What doesn’t work?

Instead of drastically cutting emissions, companies and politicians have grasped at alternatives. These include geoengineering; carbon capture and storage, including “direct air capture”; and planting trees.

Here’s the issue:

Geoengineering often means “solar radiation management,” which aims to emulate a volcano and add particulates to the stratosphere to reflect incoming solar radiation back to space and produce a cooling. It might partially work, but it could have concerning side effects.

The global warming problem is not sunshine, but rather that infrared radiation emitted from Earth is being trapped by greenhouse gases. Between the incoming solar and outgoing radiation is the whole weather and climate system and the hydrological cycle. Sudden changes in these particles or poor distribution could have dramatic effects.

Illustration of solar rays bouncing off human-made aerosol layers and other sources
Some methods of solar radiation management that have been proposed. Chelsea Thompson, NOAA/CIRES

The last major volcanic eruption, of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, sent enough sulfur dioxide and particulates into the stratosphere that it produced modest cooling, but it also caused a loss of precipitation over land. It cooled the land more than the ocean so that monsoon rains moved offshore, and longer term it slowed the water cycle.

Carbon capture and storage has been researched and tried for well over a decade but has sizable costs. Only about a dozen industrial plants in the U.S. currently capture their carbon emissions, and most of it is used to enhance drilling for oil.

Direct air capture – technology that can pull carbon dioxide out of the air – is being developed in several places. It uses a lot of energy, though, and while that could potentially be dealt with by using renewable energy, it’s still energy intensive.

A man holding onto a small tree speaks with reporters.
Boris Johnson, then mayor of London, plants a tree in 2008. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Planting trees is often embraced as a solution for offsetting corporate greenhouse gas emissions. Trees and vegetation take up carbon dioxide though photosynthesis and produce wood and other plant material. It’s relatively cheap.

But trees aren’t permanent. Leaves, twigs and dead trees decay. Forests burn. Recent studies show that the risks to trees from stress, wildfires, drought and insects as temperatures rise will also be larger than expected.

How much does all this cost?

Scientists have been measuring carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, since 1958 and elsewhere. The average annual increase in carbon dioxide concentration has accelerated, from about 1 part per million by volume per year in the 1960s to 1.5 in the 1990s, to 2.5 in recent years since 2010.

This relentless increase, through the pandemic and in spite of efforts in many countries to cut emissions, shows how enormous the problem is.

Chart showing increasing CO2 over time.
Carbon dioxide concentrations at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The monthly mean, in red, rises and falls with the growing seasons. The black line is adjusted for the average seasonal cycle. Kevin Trenberth, based on NOAA data, CC BY-ND

Usually carbon removal is discussed in terms of mass, measured in megatons – millions of metric tons – of carbon dioxide per year, not in parts per million of volume. The mass of the atmosphere is about 5.5×10¹⁵ metric tons, but as carbon dioxide (molecular weight 42) is heavier than air (molecular weight about 29), 1 part per million by volume of carbon dioxide is about 7.8 billion metric tons.

According to the World Resources Institute, the range of costs for direct air capture vary between US$250 and $600 per metric ton of carbon dioxide removed today, depending on the technology, energy source and scale of deployment. Even if costs fell to $100 per metric ton, the cost of reducing the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide by 1 part per million is around $780 billion.

Keep in mind that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has risen from about 280 parts per million before the industrial era to around 420 today, and it is currently rising at more than 2 parts per million per year.

Tree restoration on one-third to two-thirds of suitable acres is estimated to be able to remove about 7.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050 without displacing agricultural land, by WRI’s calculations. That would be more than any other pathway. This might sound like a lot, but 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide is 7 billion metric tons, and so this is less than 1 part per million by volume. The cost is estimated to be up to $50 per metric ton. So even with trees, the cost to remove 1 part per million by volume could be as much as $390 billion.

Geoengineering is also expensive.

So for hundreds of billions of dollars, the best prospect with these strategies is a tiny dent of 1 part per million by volume in the carbon dioxide concentration.

This arithmetic highlights the tremendous need to cut emissions. There is no viable workaround.

Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Scholar, NCAR; Affiliated Faculty, University of Auckland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Designing roots to penetrate hard soils could help climate proof crops

Read the full story from the University of Nottingham.

Scientists have discovered how to design cereal roots able to continue growing in hard soils by altering their ability to penetrate, enabling roots to access sources of water deeper in soil, and helping ‘climate-proof’ vital crops in response to changing UK rain fall patterns.

Climate impact of plastics

Read the full story from McKinsey & Company.

Plastics are frequently criticized for everything from their toxicity to their contributions to ocean pollution, but they play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.