How Can Cities Reduce Methane Emissions?

Mitigation of methane emissions in cities: how new measurements and partnerships can contribute to emissions reduction strategies (39 page pdf, Francesca M. Hopkins, James R. Ehleringer, Susan E. Bush, Riley M. Duren, Charles E.Miller, Chun-Ta Lai, Ying-Kuang Hsu, Valerie Carranza, James T. Randerson, Earth’s Future, Sep. 10, 2016)

Today we review research into methane emissions from cities which along with other greenhouse gases contributes to climate warming. Cities themselves account for 70% of GHG emissions globally.  Unlike CO2 however, methane emissions are more easily managed at the city level whether they come from transportation and the increased shift to natural gas as a fuel for city vehicles or, secondarily, from landfills where methane is emitted from decomposing organic materials or, thirdly, from leaks in the systems delivering natural gas to users. One of the major problems is the lack of accurate inventories of methane emissions which in some cities results in an underestimate of 50%. Some efforts being made in the transportation sector to reduce CO2 emissions include shifts to the use of propane or natural gas but these may have unintended consequences in terms of their contribution as a radiatively active gas to the greenhouse effect. Landfill emissions may be reduced by simply reducing the amount of waste generated though pricing of garbage or encouraging home composting.

methane-emissions

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The Future of the World and Cities in It

Urban futures: anticipating a world of cities (6 page pdf, Geci Karuri-Sebina, Karel-Herman Haegeman and Apiwat Ratanawaraha, Foresight, Sep. 10, 2016)

Today we review an introduction to a series of papers on cities from a foresight point of view. It begins with a prediction that the city has evolved from the city-state in Ancient Greece to city-worlds in the next 100 years. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, compared to 54% today. While cities can improve economic prosperity, reducing poverty and becoming more inclusive socially, there are also downside risks of unemployment and poverty, as well as tensions based on religion, race and values – in addition to the major health threats that resulting congestion and emissions from downtown traffic where city government has not taken steps to alleviate. While cities are good at generating problems they also have a problem solving capability. The paper ends on an optimistic note: “In a world that increasingly appears ungovernable, cities – not states – are the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built”- something that those who try to come to grips with climate change and urban air pollution need to acknowledge and take count of in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the challenge.

Indoor and Built Environment

Indoor and Built Environment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Must Cities Shrink to be Sustainable, even with Increased Urbanization?

Sustainability for Shrinking Cities (9 page pdf, Dustin L. Herrmann, William D. Shuster, Audrey L. Mayer and Ahjond S. Garmestani, Sustainability, Editorial, Sep. 7, 2016)

 

Today we review an overview (and editorial) focused on sustainability for cities in the face of increasing urbanization worldwide and to the recent trend toward shrinking cities because of economic depression and the hollowing out of city centres as a result. Many large growing, economically-healthy cities tend to replace urban greenspace and urban parkland with high income residential or commercial developments with significant negative impacts on a healthy environment. Shrinking economically poor cities on the other hand are faced with vacant downtown lots some of which steer toward sustainable cities through improved water filtration, dampening of urban flash floods and carbon sequestration. For many coastal cities, sea level rise and threats to human health from more frequent hot spells as a result of climate warming are other issues on cities to adapt sustainably with more thoughtful urban planning.

shrinking-city

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Can the Paris Agreement on Climate Change Work?

The Paris Agreement and the New Logic of International Climate Politics (28 page pdf, Robert Falkner, International Affairs, Aug.31, 2016)

Today we review an analysis of the international negotiations from the top-down 1996 Kyoto Accord that today applies only to 15% of global carbon emissions, to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord that failed to reach consensus on a global emission reduction goal but managed to provide an umbrella for all participating countries for future negotiations. To the bottom-up Paris Agreement in 2015, signed by 195 nations, combines domestic politics with international commitments through a “naming and shaming” approach, voluntary national commitments,  rachet-up reviews every five years and, perhaps most importantly, definition of a long term goal to reach “net-zero” emissions or “emission neutrality” between 2050 and 2100. As these voluntary commitments would result in a global warming of 2.7 C above pre-industrial levels, further reductions beyond the pledges are needed. The author cautions that “the Paris Agreement cannot be expected to ‘fix’ the climate problem; it can only provide a supportive framework within which states and other actors can achieve the required emissions cuts.”

Carbon emissions from various global regions d...

Carbon emissions from various global regions during the period 1800–2000 AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Measuring Exposure to Urban Air Pollution Where People Work rather than Where they Live.

The Impact of Mobile-Device-Based Mobility Patterns on Quantifying Population Exposure to Air Pollution (11 page pdf, Marguerite Nyhan, Sebastian Grauwin, Rex Britter, Bruce Misstear, Aonghus McNabola, Francine Laden, Steven R. H. Barrett, and Carlo Ratti, Environmental Science and Trechnology, Aug. 12, 2016)

Also discussed here: Air pollution threat hidden as research ‘presumes people are at home’: study (The Guardian, Aug. 24, 2016)

And here: Urban air pollution is worse than we think—but better data might solve the problem (Barbara Eldredge, CURBED, Aug. 30, 2016)

Today we review research into a study in New York City that compared the exposure to urban air pollution during an active day at the place of work and travelling to that rather than as earlier exposure studies have done only at the place of residence. The results indicate, first of all, that the highest concentration of PM2.5 is not surprisingly in central Brooklyn and Queens and in the southern half of Manhattan Island. Pollution levels at places of work compared to those at residences was 10 μg/m3 higher which suggests that a higher congestion charge be applied to vehicles which enter the high emission zones (which is the basis for the [present congestion charge zone in London, UK) .Future applications of this research when self driving cars are the norm might involve automatically controlling their movement to avoid adding to the pollution levels in some packets of the city.

air-pollution-smart-city-mit-study-nyhan-3

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Do Biofuels Produce Less Carbon Emissions than Petroleum Fuels?

Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use (John M. DeCiccoDanielle Yuqiao Liu,   Joonghyeok HeoRashmi KrishnanAngelika KurthenLouise Wang, Climatic Change, Aug. 25, 2016)

Also discussed here: Biofuels increase, rather than decrease, heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions (ScienceDaily, Aug.25, 2016)

And here: Controversial study claims biofuels aren’t carbon neutral, says it’s much worse than gasoline (ZNE Science, Aug. 26, 2016)

Today we review research into the belief assumed by government policy to justify agricultural subsidies that  biofuels (mostly from corn and soy beans) which currently amounts to 14.6 B gallons/year (or 6% of emissions) offset carbon emissions using petroleum products. This belief is based on the supposition that emissions from biofuels balance carbon emissions by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis from the new crops. Results indicate that this additional carbon uptake is only 37% of the emissions from biofuels.  The conclusion reached is that the rising use of biofuels (which has tripled over the last 10 years) has resulted in net increase rather than a net decrease in carbon emissions.

biofuel_chart

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How Does a Low Carbon Future for Canada compare with Europe, the USA and Australia?

What low carbon futures might look like… (Ralph Torrie, Aug. 27, 2016)
Also discussed here: Low Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios (55 page pdf, Ralph D. Torrie, Tyler Bryant, Dale Marshall, Mitchell Beer, Blake Anderson, Ryan Kadowaki, and Johanne Whitmore, Technical Report, Trottier Energy Futures Project, Jan. 2013)

Today we review a report that compares low carbon future scenarios from 8 countries: 3 carbon resource rich (USA, Canada, Australia) and 5 European countries (Sweden Germany, France, Finland, UK). The common goal of the scenario was to lower carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels. Each country has its own approaches to the challenge from differing start points and so the scenarios differ as well although some similarities were noted including: decarbnization of the electricity supply, increased efficiency of fuels, a large supply of biofuels and electricity‘s share of the total energy  consumption grows over time.  Sweden has by far the lowest energy intensity because almost all of its electricity comes from nuclear, hydro and biomass- so that future reductions in carbon emissions comes from increased energy efficiency. Canada like Sweden  also generates energy from non-carbon sources but has larger inputs ofnon-renewable energy sources (natural gas, coal, oil) in its energy pie and so has further to go to reach 80% less carbon emissions. Over 50% reductions in carbon emissions in Canada and the USA is in transportation where the growth of electric vehicles is key.

energy-scenario

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