clear the air

Battery-Powered Trucks

In London, Electruc distributes the French-built Mega Multitruck, which is designed for inner-city use. With speeds up to 30mph and a range of up to 60 miles, the Mega Multitruck can handle payloads from 300kg to 530kg, depending on body type.

The Mega Multitruck charges from a standard 13amp (3 pin) socket, and five body types are available, including modifications for espresso carts or mobile fruit stalls. As with electric cars, the Mega trucks are exempt from congestion charges and road tax, and they are eligible for free parking in many London boroughs. Pricing starts at GBP 45 per week, based on a 60-month contract; average yearly running costs are just GBP 215, or between 2p and 3p per mile, Electruc says.

On the other side of the Atlantic, California-based ZAP (which stands for Zero Air Pollution) sells a range of electric vehicles, including both cars and trucks. The company’s 3-wheel Xebra Electric Truck, for example, offers speeds up to 40mph and a range of 25 miles per charge. Both flatbed and dump-truck styles are available, as are left- and right-hand steering. The suggested retail price is USD 12,500, and operating costs are between 1 and 3 cents per mile. This fall, Zap will also begin selling the Zap Truck XL, a 4-wheel vehicle with a payload of 770 lbs, maximum speed of 25mph and a range of 30 miles. Estimated MSRP is USD 18,500, and operating costs are about 3 cents per mile.

With their financial and environmental advantages, demand for vehicles like these will only increase. Transportation entrepreneurs: time to make “emission-free” your mantra!


Make friends on the internet whilst being a friend to the Earth
February 14, 2008, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Global | Tags: , , ,

People band together online to date, discuss politics or lose weight. Now a US website called Greenopolis has created a community whose members help each other live in a more earth-friendly manner.

After registering on Greenopolis, which is still in beta, visitors complete an online survey that analyses their daily activities to determine how ‘green’ their lifestyle is. Based on the survey findings users receive a coloured badge, which shows other members just how much of a friend to the earth they really are. Orange badge holders need to clean up their environmental act, and solid green badge holders are on the right track.

By participating on the site, users are awarded points, which are displayed for other members to see (sometimes, peer pressure can be used for good). More points—and corresponding changes in badge colour—show that they’re becoming more environmentally responsible. Plus, when the site officially debuts, points can be used to receive discounts on sustainable products. Greenopolis founders also want to make the badges portable, so that members can post them on their blogs and social network pages.

As a concept, Greenopolis’ point system also seems highly portable. It’s easy to imagine similar website helping diabetics better manage their disease or kids improve their exercise habits. (Related: Doing the green thing.)


 Simon Turner

Antarctica: The Ticking Time Bomb

antarctica.jpgEven if a fraction melted, Antarctica could damage nations from Bangladesh to Tuvalu in the Pacific and cities from Shanghai to New York. It has enough ice to raise sea levels by 57 meters (187 ft) if it melted, over thousands of years.

A year after the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected sea level rises by 2100 of about 20 to 80 cms (8-32 inches), a Reuters poll of 10 of the world’s top climatologists showed none think that range is alarmist.

Six experts stuck by the projections, saying the response of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland was still unclear, and four other experts, including one of the authors of the IPCC report, projected gains could be 1 or even 2 meters by 2100.

Some island nations, such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, are building defenses costing millions of dollars and want to know how high to build. 

Antarctica may accumulate more ice this century because of warming, blamed by the IPCC mainly on human use of fossil fuels, rather than slide faster into the sea.The crux of this problem is that we are moving into an era where we are observing changes in the climate system that have never before been seen in human history.  Ice sheets fall into that category.

Quite simply, at this time we don’t have a good upper-range estimate of ‘how much sea- level rise and how fast’. Among worrying scenarios is the chance Antarctica will slide faster into the sea, perhaps if a ring of sea ice melts away in warmer oceans. Or melt water might flow under the ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, and act a lubricant to speed a slide.But glaciers can slow down as well as speed up.

Most of the projected sea-level rise by 2100 will be because water in the oceans expands as it warms, with little being added by the ice sheets.

Simon Turner

Your Green Grass Could Save The World

Grass WITH new research showing that the world’s forests are absorbing less man-made carbon dioxide each year, two Australian scientists said some plants could store CO2 for thousands of years.

Grasses such as wheat and sorghum can store large amounts of carbon in microscopic balls of silica, called phytoliths, that form around a plant’s cells as they draw the mineral from the soil, a report in the latest issue of New Scientist says.

When a plant dies, the phytoliths, or plantstones, enter the soil and lock in the carbon for potentially thousands of years, said the Southern Cross University agricultural scientists Leigh Sullivan and Jeff Parr. The next step would be to see if plants that best store carbon in plantstones have higher or lower crop yields and quality.

Strains could be bred to better produce plantstones and farmers could potentially claim carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol, the report said.

The forestry industry is already heavily involved in carbon storage but storing carbon in plantstones could become more widespread because farmers could also still earn income by selling the crops for food, the report said. 

Simon Turner

The effect of climate change on Australia

red-earth.jpg Ongoing water shortages, notably in southern and eastern Australia, are likely to get worse by 2030.

Ecologically important regions such as the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park are likely to lose a significant part of their wildlife before then, by 2020.

Some coastal communities are very likely to see an increased risk of coastal storms and flooding. Temperature rises of 1C-2C are likely to bring benefits to cooler areas, such as New Zealand, in the form of longer growing seasons and reduced energy demand.

Greater warming is likely to bring a net negative impact – such as increased risk of drought and fire.Ongoing water shortages, notably in southern and eastern Australia, are likely to get worse by 2030.

Ecologically important regions such as the Great Barrier Reef and Kakadu National Park are likely to lose a significant part of their wildlife before then, by 2020. Some coastal communities are very likely to see an increased risk of coastal storms and flooding.

Temperature rises of 1C-2C are likely to bring benefits to cooler areas, such as New Zealand, in the form of longer growing seasons and reduced energy demand. Greater warming is likely to bring a net negative impact – such as increased risk of drought and fire.

Simon Turner

What Does Your iPod & Kyoto Have in Common?

iPod To understand the deadlock in the debate on global climate change, look no further than your iPod.

The vast majority of the world’s MP3 players are made in China, where the main power source is coal. Manufacturing a single MP3 player releases about 7.7kg of planet-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

iPods, along with thousands of other goods churned out by Chinese factories, from toys to rolled steel, pose a question that is becoming an issue in the climate-change debate. If a gadget is made in China by an American company and exported and used by consumers from Stockholm to São Paulo should the Chinese government be held responsible for the carbon released in manufacturing it? Present agreements such as Kyoto look at emissions on a country-by-country basis, requiring participating nations to reduce greenhouse gases released within their borders.

In other words, the manufacturing nation pays for the pollution. Many are arguing, however, that the next global climate treaty should take into account a nation’s emissions “consumption.”  

Experts, environmentalists and scientists argue that the emissions are embedded in goods that move around the world through trade.  Therefore if Australia imports iPods from China, Australian’s should share some responsibility for the pollution produced in making them.

In other words, judgment should be based on a “consumer pays” criteria.

Simon Turner

Global Warming in Layman’s Terms

Global Warming

The average surface temperature has warmed one degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) during the last century, according to the National Research Council.

The temperatures were relatively unchanged from 1880 to 1910, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

They rose till about 1945, cooled until about 1975 and have risen steadily to present day.There are several possible reasons for the warming, scientists say.

A change in the Earth’s orbit or the intensity of the sun’s radiation could change, triggering warming or cooling.

The reason most cited for the current warming trend is an increase in the concentrations of greenhouse gases, which are in the atmosphere naturally and help keep the planet’s temperature at a comfortable level.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, for instance, has increased by 35 percent since the dawn of the industrial age, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commonly referred to as the IPCC.

The presence of methane is now 151 percent above pre-industrial levels, but the rate of increase has slowed in recent decades, according to the EPA.

Meanwhile, nitrous oxide increased by about 18 percent during the past 200 years.

Many scientists and experts who have studied global warming believe the increase is primarily the result of human activities, like the burning of fossil fuels, emissions from vehicles and the clearing of forests.

Quite simply, for the last 30 years, there’s no way there’s anything natural that can explain it.

There are, however, skeptics who are less convinced of the role of human’s in climate change, arguing that the current warming trend is the result of natural variability, where a planet goes through phases of warming and cooling (as is the case of any fluid-covered planet) and thus the human contribution to it is minimal.

The greatest point of contention is the possible implications for future political and economic policies for the world’s nations.

The lower end of the range could cause more intense hurricanes, droughts, wildfires and flooding, Schneider said. The higher end could lead to the catastrophes commonly associated with the visions of Hollywood filmmakers.

Therefore, whilst scientists cannot agree exactly how much the planet is going to warm up, most are convinced with major certainty that it is indeed going to get warmer.

Simon Turner

The Greenhouse Effect in Layman’s Terms

Mountain Peek The science of how the Earth is warmed is relatively straight-forward.

Energy and light from sun go through the Earth’s atmosphere and strike its surface, which warms the planet.

The Earth emits the energy, but it is trapped in the atmosphere by naturally occurring greenhouse gases — like water vapor and carbon dioxide — which help maintain a warm, comfortable temperature for life to exist.

The earth’s temperature is generally about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (about 16 degrees Celsius).

Without the naturally occurring greenhouse gases, the temperature would plunge to about 0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius).

OZone Layer Hole Closing

Stratos“This is the smallest hole for a decade”.

The ozone layer is on track to a full recovery, with the latest sets of satellite images showing the hole is shrinking.

“Apart from the (unusual) 2002 hole, this is the smallest hole for at least a decade,” CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric scientist, Dr Paul Fraser, said.

The hole in the ozone layer has been progressively shrinking since the phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halon gases in the 1990s.

“I think our long term prediction is still basically out to 2060 before we’ll get long-term recovery,” Dr Fraser said.

“We’ve got this large reservoir of CFCs and halons sitting in the atmosphere, slowly leaking into the stratosphere where it does the ozone destruction,” Dr Fraser said.“The slow leakage means it will around for a long time. We’re paying for the sins of the past.”

He added that increased levels of greenhouse gases are likely to push delay an ozone recovery by a few decades.  Simon Turner



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