Do you know how much money is in your bank account? How many calories does your white chocolate mocha have? How many steps did you walk today? We measure many aspects of our lives but when it comes to climate change our measurements are vague, and often nonexistent.
This week’s climate story brings us to the beautiful rice paddies of Vietnam. Seaspray Labs partnered with the International Rice Research Institute. IRRI’s climate change team is based in Vietnam and they are working on carbon accounting tools for rice. Rice farming releases a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. Traditional techniques such as flooding rice paddies release the potent greenhouse gas methane. The good news? Changing farming practices can drastically reduce emissions while still producing the same amount of rice.
We designed a web-based carbon calculator for rice growers, rice companies and scientists to better understand how different farming and processing methods for rice effect greenhouse gas emissions. We had three goals going into the project:
Easy access: Reach a bigger audience though a web-based tool
Intuitive experience: Provide a straightforward user experience
Understand data: Display data charts to measure, understand, and plan low emission practices
While most team members were in Vietnam, we also interviewed partners and end users in the Philippines, Thailand, India, Germany, and the US. This was followed by rapid prototypes to learn how users might use the calculator. Through different iterations and continuous feedback, the tool improved quickly. After the final development and testing phase the calculator got successfully deployed. You can read more about our process here. In early tests with the recently released calculator we see the following results:
Easy access: Instead of installing a tool and having to cater to different operating systems the web tool successfully allows ad hoc access in lectures and webinars.
Intuitive experience: Streamlined pages guide users through the complex task of entering data for growing, processing, and transporting rice. It works well for novice users but also supports efficient expert data entry.
Understand data: Visual results allow users to view and compare the carbon footprint of different rice products. By comparing different farming and processing methods users can explore how to best reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We partnered with an amazing team of scientists and implemented the tool within weeks. Let’s hope it helps rice growers, rice companies and scientists to adopt low emission practices for rice. And let’s hope for more tools to measure the climate impact of the food we eat, the products we purchase, and the things we do.
Imagine sitting in a minibus while the radio plays the latest Bollywood songs. Through the open window you see palm trees rustling in the wind, and a beautifully decorated, sand- colored temple. This week’s climate story brings us to Rajasthan in India, where India’s largest zinc-lead mining company Hindustan Zinc Limited has its operations.
But let me back up… We all know that we have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically. But how do we do that? This is where the Science Based Targets initiative comes into play. They are helping companies to assess and then lower their emissions.
Greenhouse gas emissions must drop to net-zero by 2050. We have limited time for action and the private sector has a crucial role to play – every sector in every market must transform
First, a company commits to the process and develops an emission reduction target. This can look something like this: “We commit to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 from a 2019 base year.” The target then gets submitted, validated, and publicly announced. In the third step, company wide emissions are reported and yearly progress is tracked.
Now back to our story in India. Over 1300 companies from all over the world are taking climate action and Hindustan Zinc is one of the case studies from the science-based targets initiative. They developed an emission reduction target and specific solutions how to get there. Here are some of the steps Hindustan Zinc is taking:
Reduce power consumption
Improve energy efficiency
Establish more efficient cooling methods
Increase responsible waste management
Become a water-positive company
Shift towards green power generation such as a waste heat recovery boiler, wind power plants and solar power
Hindustan Zinc will cut their 2016 greenhouse gas emissions by 14% by 2026. They also commit to cut indirect emissions such as purchased goods, travel and distribution by 20% in the same timeframe. Like other smart companies, Hindustan Zinc realized that climate action helps the company:
“The reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will help to reduce the company’s overall energy consumption, safeguard its future, and improve its brand value”
What I love most about this case study is the realization that climate solutions and running a successful business go hand in hand. Let’s hope they inspire more companies to commit to drastic emission reductions.
Grab your hat and mittens, it’s going to be cold outside. Imagine going for a walk on a sunny winter day while your lungs fill with cold and crispy air. This week’s climate story brings us up north, to Canada.
We have been introducing many amazing organizations from around the world that develop solutions towards a low carbon future. Today we are highlighting the Montreal based startup GHGSat.
Countries, cities and organizations have been setting targets for a low carbon future. In order to meet these targets, we need to understand where and what type of emissions occur. Today we measure emissions through reporting, earth based sensors, and satellite based sensors. Back to our story of GHGSat in Montreal. While other satellites measure carbon dioxide emissions GHGSat develops satellites to detect methane emissions. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas:
Over the course of a century, methane has 34 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide.
Some of the biggest sources of methane emissions are coal mining, gas and oil extraction, landfills, and livestock. To get to a low carbon future we need to avoid methane emissions. Where we can’t avoid them we need to capture them. To better understand operational emissions and accidental leaks GHGSat has developed high resolution mapping of methane emissions. This is how it works:
GHGSat detects and measures emissions from industrial sites across the globe. While the satellite orbits the earth spectrometers measure gas concentrations and provide high resolution heat maps of human caused emissions.
Their progress since launching their first satellite in 2016 has been amazing. The high resolution images are getting more and more detailed. Where they detected methane emissions from a coal mine before, they can now map emissions to individual vents.
What I like most is GHGSat’s bold vision to become the global reference for remote sensing of greenhouse gas emissions from any source in the world.
It is inspiring to see how startups all over the world tackle climate change. From drone startups to cultivating seaweed. GHGSat is another example of an amazingly dedicated group of people addressing climate change.
You guessed it: This week’s climate story leads us all the way to outer space. But let me back up…
Under the Paris Agreement most countries announced to cut down greenhouse gas emissions. Norway, for example, wants to reduce emissions by 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. Each country set their own specific target. But is each country on track? How do we know how much greenhouse gas emissions a country is emitting?
To calculate yearly emissions each country completes a complex inventory. It follows a bottom up approach of counting emissions for different sectors such as transportation, farming, industrial sites etc. for each region. The regions and sectors are then added up to understand national emissions. Unfortunately, there are many uncertainties and unknowns with this bottom up approach.
In recent years satellites have been developed to measure emissions from space. This top down approach has also many uncertainties. For example, one big challenge is to separate human made emissions from natural occurring emissions. So how do we best calculate a county’s yearly emissions? Both bottom up and top down approaches have pros and cons, and it looks like a combination is the way to get to the most accurate numbers.
OK, so let’s get back to outer space. Imagine a group of satellites circling the earth and measuring accurate real time emissions. This is what the European Space Agency is planning to do with its new Sentinel satellites. They are planning to launch the satellites in 2025 to map global carbon dioxide emissions. This is how it works:
Different spectrometers measure atmospheric carbon dioxide. The data is then processed to better understand emissions caused by human activities. The goal is to understand small scale regional emissions as well as overall emissions of big cities. This is how ESA puts it:
Detect emitting hot spots, such as megacities & power plants
Monitor hot spot emissions to assess emission changes
Assess emission changes against local reduction targets
Assess the national emissions and changes in 5-year time steps
Decarbonizing our economies is an enormous undertaking. To get there in time we need to get all the help we can get. Let’s hope the Sentinel sensors can help us reach and exceed our emission targets and motivate us to substantially reduce emissions.