Pros and cons of Daylight Saving Time: do we still want that?

Daylight Saving Time (DST) has a long and controversial history. After being introduced in an essay by Benjamin Franklin, the idea was adopted in 1916 by Britain and Germany. The goal was to reduce the domestic consumption of coal and to give factories daylight hours to work, in order to aid the war effort.

The functioning of the system is simple: clocks go forward one hour in the summer and back again in the winter. In this way, we can enjoy extra evening daylight in warmer months and extra morning daylight during the winter.

Nowadays, most areas in North America and Europe, and some areas in the Middle East, observe daylight saving time (DST), while most areas of Africa and Asia do not. In South America, most countries in the North of the continent near the equator do not observe DST, while Paraguay and southern parts of Brazil do.

How does DST affect people’s life?

The effects of this switch strongly vary depending on the geographical location of a country: the closer you are to the North Pole, the more noticeable they are. For example in Iceland, from mid-May to mid-August the sun only sets for around three hours a night and there are only around five hours of effective daylight during the winter months.

There are both positive and negative effects due to this practice. However, sometimes it is difficult to understand whether the positive ones prevail over the negative ones, or vice versa.

Thanks to DST during the winter time, people don’t have to go at work or school in the darkness and this strongly reduces the number of traffic accidents and makes streets a safer place. At the same time, people do not adapt so smoothly to changes and this can also raise the risk of health-related issues, mostly due to the disturbed sleep cycle. A 2016 study found that the overall rate for stroke was 8% higher in the two days after the change, while  the risk drops off in the following days because our bodies and circadian clocks gradually adapt. Moreover, the Monday and Tuesday after daylight saving time in the spring have also been associated with a 10% increase in heart attacks, according to a 2012 study at the University of Alabama Birmingham.

Are DST really effective for energy saving?

Originally, DST was aimed at reducing the energy consumption. However,  there is surprisingly little evidence that it actually helps to save energy. Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant (2008) proved that DST increases residential electricity demand, approximately by 1% (also by 2-4% during the fall). That results in a higher cost both in terms of electricity, but also for the pollution emissions.

Disagreements among European countries

The relevance of the DST related effects gave rise to several doubts about the effectiveness of the system, mostly in the North of Europe. Last year, over 70 000 Finnish citizens signed a petition in order to press EU for end to daylight saving time. The issue has a strong relevance at the European level, since all EU members must follow the same timetable to keep trade and travel running smoothly between the internal market.

The European consultation: we can have a voice!

The European Commission has launched a consultation on the daylight saving time clock changes in order to evaluate whether or not the rules should be changed. Europeans and interested organizations have until August 16th to give their opinion (the consultation and more background information are available here).

The EC is assessing two main policy alternatives: keep the current summertime arrangement or discontinue the changes and ban periodic switches, leaving each state to choose between permanent summer, winter or a different time. Repealing the current directive would not automatically abolish summertime across the EU. It would just end EU-wide harmonization and allow individual states to decide the issue.

We need a new transport system

We often speak about decarbonizing our economies. We are increasing the amount of Energy from renewable sources, we are developing better recycling systems, we invest in environmental services and so on.

However, the trickiest part of decarbonizing our economy is that we are carrying on the transition to a low-carbon or carbon free economy thanks to our transportation system, which undoubtedly is not carbon free.

Total new-vehicle sales were 84 million last year, but Navigant suggests that annual sales could soar to 127 million by 2035–bringing the global vehicle total to 2 billion or more.

As noted by Green Car Congress, just 2.5 percent of those will be battery electric, plug-in hybrid, or fuel-cell vehicles–the rest will run on gasoline or diesel fuel–according to the firm.

Another 8 percent will be hybrid-electric or natural-gas powered, and Navigant expects that fully 45 percent of all vehicles in use in 2035 will have start-stop systems fitted.

Rough estimates, but one data is sure: our transportation system tremendously depends on fossil fuel and it will for the future.

How can we effectively solve this problem? Many will argue that electric cars sales are soaring and that by 2020 they will cost as much as conventional cars, which will help the transition. Moreover, with huge investment in sustainable public transports we will definitely tackle the problem of our cities.

However, this approach is wrong! Incrementing the number of green vehicles on the streets will not solve the problems of traditional transport, yet it will make it better!

It is time to move away from incrementalism practices and redesign from scratches the way we think about transports. Cities, highway, roads are all built to meet the demands of the conventional system. We must therefore redesign the way we build cities, the way we think about public transport.

Some cities already are doing something about it, here you can find a list of car free cities https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_car-free_places.

If you would like to share any idea about this topic just do it!

Ultimately, I’d like to qoute Monica Araya, founder and director of Costa Rica Limpia (Spanish for “clean”), a citizen group that promotes clean energy, about this topic:”In our country, nearly 100% of our electricity generation comes from renewables. Now it’s time to pioneer a vision for a country without fossil fuels. This means embracing a different mobility model so that our cars, buses and trains are powered with our own clean electricity, instead of oil and gas.  We also need to invest in collective electric mobility and walkable streets in cities. Why accept polluting cars and traffic jams as normal? If we succeed in changing our mobility, our country could become the first emerging economy to abolish fossil fuels altogether.”

The Colour of Bitcoin? Certainly not green.

Could a thought be polluting?

The answer, my dears, is unluckily yes: it could.

An Example

In 2008 a mysterious man signing with  the fictitious name Satoshi Nakamoto, spread a paper illustrating his idea for a new digital currency.  Take a step back in 2008: the economic stability sounded like a sweet and far memory since banks and financial institutions were bankrupting or having liquidity issues, along with their clients. Houses, in particular in the US, were fractioning their original value and families were engaging in severe debts. Central banks were trying several  almost-new methods in order to dampen the effects of the “worst economic depression since the Great Depression” (some say), including quantitative easing.
Money:  if you still owned some, it  looked like it had no place to feel safe in.
And then, a bunch of months  later, in 2009, the first 50 Bitcoins were issued.


An  Invention

Simply there was general suspiciousness towards traditional investing.
Bitcoin presented itself as a smart, futuristic solution: a peer to peer technology that enables anonymous transactions of encrypted codes, which compose the  virtual currency. A shared database contains all the codes, in order to assure a one- time only use.
The codes were studied also to be limited in number (21000000000), to reach the value of 1000000 $ per Bitcoin (some day…) and no superpower (in a standard economy: a central bank) could govern, modify or withdraw the distribution of richness among users.
Of course it is an interesting trial, which by some is defined to be successful.
But Bitcoin didn’t come without any problems.
As the interesting article published on Wired (https://www.wired.com/2011/11/mf_bitcoin/) describes, issues were to be found in the fluctuation of its value over time and in fraudulent e-wallets services offered to store “securely” owners’ bitcoins.
But there is another issue, which  has to be watched very closely, which may be very well summarised in Mr.  Lane’s ( a sustainability expert)  words  published on the website bitcarbon.org:

“Unfortunately, the geeks who invented bitcoin failed to account for that fact that we humans live inside the biosphere of planet Earth and not an orbiting space-station powered by fusion reactors”


A Solution that became a Problem

How could a virtual something cause material polluting drawbacks?
Easy: through workforce.
In fact the process of creating a bitcoin, that is actually a computation to solve complicated mathematical algorithms, is called “mining”.
A very different mining in comparison to gold mining, but still: it is very much energy consuming.
As this BBC articles shows (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160504-we-looked-inside-a-secret-chinese-bitcoin-mine) hundreds of computers working 24hours produce only 50 Bitcoins a day.
This means that the amount of electricity used to produce 21billions of Bitcoins is tremendously enourmous.
And unsustainable. According to this article 70% of global Bitcoins are currently emitted in China, which is absolutely no carbon free economy. The electricity employed in producing Bitcoins have an high Carbon footprint.
The picture below shows some extreme and scary computation  available on Bitcoin.org

Computations available at bitcarbon.org
Computations available at bitcarbon.org

Steamgreeners, with this example, we should always remind ourself to think about the cost of our brilliant ideas.

European Mobility Week

On the 16th of September was lunched the European Mobility Week!

This year EU will focus on ‘Smart and sustainable mobility’, focusing on the link between transport and economics. The main idea is that having a smarter mobility across our society,  from the public to the private sector, benefits the entire economy.

In 2016 there are 50 countries partecipating, for a total of 2286 cities. You can check here if your city is in the list: www.mobilityweek.eu/2016-participants

Every year the Mobility Week focuses on a particular topic related to sustainable mobility. Local authorities organise activities for their citizens based on the theme. Moreover, they launch and promote permanent measures that support the specific year’s goal.

Why is sustainable mobility important?
From a governamental point of view, better infrastucture, avoided traffic jams, better air quality, fewer cars on our streets, more efficient public transport – the list can continue – mean less managing costs, public money saved and ultimately an economic boost. Having a smarter mobility in your city is a benefit in every aspects, both for the private and the public sector. Indeed, just think that houses’ value in the area with good cycling facilities and efficient public transport tends to be higher; furthermore, children who walk or cycle to school have higer school performances.

So jump on your bikes steamgreeners and make your city smarter and more sustianable.

If need more info, including how to make your city partecipating and possibly winning the EMW award for the city that best implement and encourage smart and sustainable mobility, look at the main website: www.mobilityweek.eu

Well done Montreal!

Montreal 1989, does it remeber anything to you?

Back in that year Perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date” (Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations) was signed.
Today 27 years later its effects are visible to everyone.

Yes!

hvac-ozone-depletion-emissions-montreal-protocol-air-conditioner
The Montreal Protocol effects

The Protocol (for who does not remeber) banned the use of CFC, chlorofluorocarbons, and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS), to help the ozone layer to restore itsself.

Recently, a MIT study confirmed that the ozone hole is shrinking. The size of the ozone hole above Antarctica each September has shrunk from about 20m square kilometres to 16m square kilometres since 2000.

It is now clear that banning CFCs through the Montreal Protocol almost 30 years ago was the right decision. The ozone hole is starting to recover, perhaps to close completely by the 2050s.

This confirm the theory that if we act altogether we can achieve great results. Is cooperation the answer to the man-made climate change problem? Defintely YES!

The successes and  lessons of  the Montreal Protocol are instructive in the context of global climate change discussions. Clearly, a multilateral agreement with strong, science-based and legally binding limits is what we need.  

If we act collectively we can do and achieve more!

Remeber togheter we stand divided we fall!

Life transitions can help to instil better environmental behaviours

You are most likely to change your habits if you are changing your city, a job or even a country. Maybe that’s why people say that their life changed once they moved to some other country. Different language, people or food can have a very positive effect on you. At least the researchers of University of Bath (Bath?! Really??) think so too.

“The study tested the habit discontinuity hypothesis, which states that the behavior change interventions are more effective when delivered in the context of life course changes. This assumption was that when habits are (temporarily) disturbed, people are more sensitive to new information and adopt a mind-set that is conducive to behavior change. A field experiment was conducted among 800 participants, who received either an intervention promoting sustainable behavior, or were in a no-intervention control condition. In both conditions half of the households had recently relocated, and were matched with households that had not relocated. Self-reported frequencies of twenty-five environment-related behaviors were assessed at baseline and eight weeks later. While controlling for past behavior, habit strength, intentions, perceived control, biospheric values, personal norms, and personal involvement, the intervention was more effective among recently relocated participants. The results suggested that the duration of the ‘window of opportunity’ was three months after relocation.”

Check the link below to read the actual scientific paper for more details.

We all can’t move to other location but we can try to change our lifestyle to be more sustainable. Maybe following Meatless Monday’s or going to office twice in a week by public transport, walking more or using less plastic.

Source: ScienceDirect, University of Bath

Extreme weather is due to Climate Change. Really?!

Every once in a while, I meet someone who doesn’t believe in climate change. They say that all the changes are happening since the beginning of the time and will continue to be so it is quite normal for the Earth to be so warm or to be so cold. Well, I always partially agree with them. But since last century we can see more and more storms all over the world. Maybe 2 of them you might think as a normal phenomenon but we saw in UK,China and India among other countries made it clear that it is indeed happening due to Climate Change.
If you still do not agree, read this post where the scientist in UK did some research and Carbon Brief did further research on that research and then followed up some Question and Answers session to understand these disasters happening all over the world. Why I can a storm a disaster? Well, it completes ruins your city and daily routine and not to mention the financial problem it causes the government in the matter of days.

A series of storms – first Desmond, then Eva, and finally Frank – dumped 230mm of rain on the UK during December, triggering flooding across much of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland. The preliminary results – from three different approaches – indicate the human impact on climate was as large, or even larger, than the impact of natural fluctuations in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean – even during a strong El Niño event. Climate change and ocean variability each made the record rainfall totals 50-75% more likely, the researchers say, and doubled the chances of such a warm month. Random variability in weather also contributed to the severe conditions.

Do you still feel that Climate Change isn’t happening? Is Yes, then I am sure you believe that Santa Claus exist too!

Source: Carbon Brief, Climate Prediction

Reduction in consumption of meat might be a good idea!

I know that the post image might tempt people to eat some meat right now. But as I have written few posts before about how the meat industry is kind of more responsible for the pollution around the world. Documentaries like ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Food Inc’ are worth watching for some reason. Deforestation is done also because of meat industry. According to some assumption, the demand for meat is going to be higher in the future. If this happens, the 2 degree target is well of the table.

If you read this article on Carbon Brief, there is strong evidence that reduce in meat might really reduce the pollution. I really have reduced my consumption of meat since Jan 2015. I intended to completely quit it but I will be honest, I can’t quit it 100%. Ever since I have started eating more veggies, my cooking skills have improved as I can try to cook different types of vegetables ( going off the topic now).

 

These two images taken from the article shows how the current consumption is happening around the globe. If you do not wish to quite it, no need as long as you reduce a little.

Read the article for more details.

 

Source: Carbon Brief.

India looking forward to bank on Solar power

In India, Solar power has become the catchword for many states in recent times. Internationally, the price of solar power components has been declining at 15% year over year, and states are leveraging this trend. India’s commitments on increasing its non-fossil fuel component of power generation to 40% by 2030 are substantial. Even though coal usage has been increasing too but India is confident to use more solar power. In Gujrat (one of the states in India) they have been using Solar power a bit for a while. The project was the brainchild of Narendra Modi. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi spurred companies to build more than 900MW of solar plant across the state in just a couple of years. Now, as prime minister, the question is whether he can repeat the feat across India, which receives more sunlight than any other country in the G20. India’s booming cities are another huge challenge, with many struggling with blackouts, particularly when temperatures soar and air conditioning is ramped up. Again, Modi’s 13-year tenure in Gujarat is providing the solar template. In September, it was announced that rooftop solar power projects in the state capital, Gandhinagar, will be replicated in Punjab and Delhi, where a storm at the end of May plunged its fragile grid into rolling blackouts for a week.

Delhi is ever more power-hungry, but with little open land and 300-plus days of sunshine a year, rooftop solar is an attractive solution. India’s pledge document talks about increasing nuclear power from 5 GW to 63 GW by 2032 and doubling wind capacity to 60 GW by 2022. But the most ambitious is the plan to increase solar capacity from 4 GW to 100 GW in the next seven years. With the liability issue bogging down nuclear, much of the heavy lifting may have to be done by solar and, to some extent, wind.

Solar power has become the catchword for many states in recent times. Internationally, the price of solar power components has been declining at 15% year over year, and states are leveraging this trend to get good deals. Recently, Madhya Pradesh was able to beat down the price it will have to pay for power from a solar project to Rs 5.05 a unit.
The pledge document says: “A scheme for development of 25 solar parks, ultra mega solar power projects, canal top solar projects and 1,00,000 solar pumps for farmers is at different stages of implementation.” The 100 GW expansion planned nationwide would need acquisition of nearly 5 lakh acres of land – at least three times the size of Mumbai.

I really hope India start using more non fossil fuels and less charcoal.

Source: The guardian, TOI

Paris Summit 2015 – Each country’s pledge

Carbon Brief has been following each country’s pledge towards the Paris 2015 summit. Here on this post you will find more details on how each country pledged in the upcoming summit. While for some countries, the pledges seem a big task however it will be interesting to see if they manage to achieve the target.

For instance, Mexico – the first developing country to come forward – includes a section on adaptation, while the EU is silent on the topic. Switzerland’s pledge of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions looks high compared to the EU’s “at least 40%”, until you realise they plan to use international carbon credits where the EU will make all reductions on home soil.

These pledges are also known as “intended nationally determined contributions”, or INDCs. You can find more details of each country’s INPC on UNFCCC. If the INDCs fall short – as they are widely expected to do – there is no official mechanism in place to ratchet them up before Paris. This is where they will be incorporated into the agreement, and likely take on some element of legal force.

I have my skepticism too but let’s wait for this event to happen!

Source: Carbon Brief