E. coli, best known for causing serious food poisoning, has been bioengineered to digest all the sugars found in seaweed and produce bioethanol and other useful products. The researchers estimate that seaweed farms along 3% of the world’s coastlines could produce 60 billion gallons (about 227 billion litres) of ethanol a year, using this technique. It is unlikely any accidental release of engineered E. coli could damage seaweed growing in the sea, as the microbes are not suited to the ocean environment.
Image from http://www.panoramio.com/photos/original/1346116.jpg
A recent study has calculated the amount of atmospheric CO2 that has been captured by a new green belt in Leipzig, Germany. The footprint ranges from 29 to 218 tonnes of CO2 sequestered per hectare depending on the level of mortality among the trees and their rate of growth. If the area was given over to lawn without trees it would be a source of increased atmospheric CO2. The city would need an area of green belt about 33 times its size to mitigate all its emissions.
A recent study from EASAC (the European Academies Science Advisory Council) examines how far CSP can help the EU reach its target of all electricity being produced with zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. It concludes that CSP could make a significant contribution to this target but four problems need to be overcome:
1. Costs – currently 2-3 times higher than fossil fuels but are expected to come down.
2. Location – Plants are most effective in hot, dry locations but they currently need large amounts of water.
3. Infrastructure – grid lines will have to be improved between Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.
4. Security – in protecting these lines and plants.
Image from Global Footprint Network
In 2011, Earth Overshoot Day, the approximate date our demands on nature for a given year exceeds the planet’s ability to replenish, fell on September 27. In 2010 it was 21 August so surely this is this good news? Unfortunately not. The information to calculate such a date is complex and factors are given weights according to how important they are conceived to be making the date an estimate. Yet this estimate is increasingly accurate as more evidence goes into calculating it. Research suggests that since 2001 the date has moved forwards three days each year.
Photograph from media.treehugger.com
James Hansen was in the UK this week to receive the prestigious Edinburgh Medal for his contribution to science. In his lecture he argued that taking action on climate change is on a par with ending slavery. Hansen was one of the first scientists to study the effects of climate change and in 1981 he wrote a paper in Science which has recently been evaluated in RealClimate and found he underestimated global warming by 30%. In a soon to be published paper he argues for a global levy on fossil fuels to save the planet from extreme weather events.
Denmark has announced that by 2020 a third of its energy will come from renewable energy and by 2050 it will be 100%. Remarkably this has support across the country’s political spectrum.