Just Climate Fees

Tiistai 25.6.2024 klo 19.06 - Mikko Nikinmaa

A common complaint against the high and progressive taxation in Finland and other Nordic countries is that it punishes people, who are diligent and favours the lazy ones. While this may be true for direct work taxation, people with high incomes and companies are able to carry out tax planning, which effectively reduces taxes to much less than 10 %. In my opinion the progressive work taxation is not a problem, but what is, is the much lower taxation of capital income than work income. Another major problem is that the carbon footprint of people with high incomes is much larger than that of low-income citizens.

The European Union has successfully introduced emissions trading system, which is used to combat climate change. It was originally not accepted by many “experts”, but has now been shown to be quite effective. One problem the European Union has is that it has no other income but the membership fees. There has been talk about EU starting to collect taxes, taking common loans etc. The nationalistic circles everywhere are strongly against such ideas. However, in terms of climate actions, something universal, or minimally EU-wide, is necessary. A very useful way for funding EU-wide climate action would be to start collecting climate fee, which would be progressive, and without the possibility of “tax planning”. Consequently, the greater your income (both capital and work), the bigger percentage of the income would go to European Climate Fund, which would support climate actions without national borders.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, emissions trading, EU-wide taxation

Green Ammonia - A Climate-Friendly Fuel and Fertilizer

Keskiviikko 12.6.2024 klo 19.05 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Out of the world’s carbon dioxide footprint 3 % is due to shipping. The use of diesel oil can be discontinued when motors with green ammonia as a fuel are taken into use. One can estimate that such motors make up the majority of ship motors by 2050. When ammonia is produced using renewable energy sources, the carbon dioxide footprint becomes virtually zero. The ammonia-fuelled motors need to have catalytic converters so that no N2O, which is a powerful greenhouse gas, is emitted. With catalytic converters the end products of ammonia as a fuel are nitrogen and water.  Although ammonia as a fuel is likely to be more expensive than diesel oil for a short transition period, the position as a front runner will soon favour ammonia-based shipping. Further, the companies making ammonia-fuelled motors, have significant competitive advantage.

Currently, 80 % of global ammonia use is in fertilizers. Mostly the fertilizer production uses minerals and fossil fuels in production. However, also in this case green ammonia could phase out the current ammonia fertilizers completely. In addition to being sustainable and climate-friendly, the production of green ammonia for fertilizer would diminish the dependence on Russian fertilizer import.

Ammonia-fuelled motors for ships and green ammonia for fertilizers are examples of how climate actions can be of a significant economic advantage to societies which start producing them first. It is important not to think of today’s expenses but of tomorrow’s profits. And for all climate and nature actions, the expenses are smaller, if things ore done today than if they are delayed.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, shipping, agriculture

Climate models give too small temperature increase if decreased air pollution is not included

Maanantai 13.5.2024 klo 12.04 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Air pollution has decreased significantly during the past fifty years in Europe. I remember how in my youth the air in all the densely populated areas was often smoggy, and the sun was always seen through the haze. Air pollution has decreased largely as a result of decreasing number of small particles being emitted in the air. This is mainly due to collecting them in the chimneys and exhaust fumes. Since air pollution is causing millions of deaths per year globally, one would expect that this is unequivocally a good thing.

However, clearer sky also lets solar radiation to pass through more efficiently than during the dirty olden days. Sunshine in summer is associated with heat spells. And the length and severity of those has increased markedly throughout the last decades. In Europe the temperatures have increased much, about one degree, more than the used climate models predict. So, climate change appears to be worse than expected. This appears to be mainly due to the fact that the climate models used to predict climate change have not included decreasing air pollution and consequent increase in solar radiation.

So, combatting air pollution makes climate change worse? Not really, what is seen is the effect of inadequate inputs for mathematical modelling. This means that temperature increases are more drastic for the predicted fossil fuel usage and consequent carbon dioxide load. In other words, we have underestimated the severity of climate change because of inadequate models. However, to a large part, the improvements of air quality can be associated with the decrease in fossil fuel burning, although there have been measures dissociating the two (like catalytic converters). Thus, in the long run, decreased air pollution is the result of discontinued use of fossil fuels, and no disparity between predicted and measured temperatures occurs.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, modelling, heat waves

World Population Is Predicted to Start Decreasing during This Century

Torstai 21.3.2024 klo 18.54 - Mikko Nikinmaa

When the news is flooded with bad news about climate change, biodiversity loss, overuse of natural resources, environmental pollution etc., good news often go unnoticed. And the true good news has in the past years been that the world population is predicted to start decreasing before the end of this century. It will then continue to decline so that in about 300-500 years the population is back to around 2 billion – a marked decrease from the present 8 billion. This change will mean that all the environmental problems mentioned above are easier to tackle. One must notice, though, that the population decrease does not mean that we need not to change our ways of life to be environmentally sustainable. Otherwise the population decrease will only mean that environmental collapse takes place later than it would happen if human population continued to increase.

However, when the population starts to decrease, one needs to develop completely new economic principles. Today, a decrease of population is seen as a problem. Politics and governance have population growth as a wanted phenomenon. In the present-day thinking, only population growth enables the existence of welfare society. The wellbeing of societies is dependent of economic growth. This idea must change. Instead of aiming at getting more and more, societies should be satisfied with things being adequate.

In terms of climate change and other environmental actions, immediate responses are required. Their effectiveness is helped first by diminishing population growth and then by population decline. On the other hand, the principles for economics and politics, developed for declining population, need to be established in about fifty years. I hope there are scientists who are presently developing ideas for economics beyond year 2100.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, economic growth, sustainability, socioeconomics, politics

Another recordhot month - February 2024

Torstai 14.3.2024 klo 18.17 - Mikko Nikinmaa

February was 1.77oC warmer globally than the preindustrial average for the month. It is now the ninth month in a row with highest measured average global temperature. For me this can hardly be happening without climate change contribution. Yet, US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says “drill, drill, drill” and right wing populists throughout Europe ask for lower petrol prices. No doubt that they will saying that there is no climate change if and when the temperature decreases next year. A decrease in global average monthly temperatures is expected to happen next year when the cooler La Nina weather pattern will replace the hot El Nino weather pattern in Pacific Ocean.

The February temperature was particularly high in Europe, 3.3oC above preindustrial average. Anybody with alpine skiing as a hobby certainly noticed this. Most ski resorts had only snow in some of the slopes, and offpist was out of the question because of the lack of snow.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, temperature, fossil fuels

Ice is melting in Greenland - so what, it is far away from Europe

Lauantai 2.3.2024 klo 15.06 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Heat waves, drought, heavy rain, floods, no snow in winter, extreme cold – weather in Europe has been extreme for many years now. And the weather pattern differs markedly spatially. When the British Isles had very warm November 2023, Scandinavia was freezing. Major things affecting weather are the location, direction and strength of tropospheric jet streams. Knowing how the jet streams are what they are would significantly help in predicting weather effects of climate change.

Oltmanns et al. (Weather and Climate Dynamics 5, 109-132, 2024) have now evaluated what changes in the melting of Greenland’s glaciers does to summer weather in Europe in the following years. They evaluated statistically what the relationship between freshwater flow to the Arctic sea and distinct aspects of weather, like temperature and rain, is. The links between freshwater flow to ocean and European weather were statistically significant for several years, and showed that significant spatial variation will also occur.

Why would there be a significant effect of melting water in East coast of North America? The reason appears to be that the cold meltwater increases the temperature difference between the subpolar and subtropical ocean water. The latitudinal boundary between the southern warm and northern cold water depends on the amount of melted water. This affects where the jet stream is located and if cold or hot air will be moving in the stream. Consequently, the temperature in European continent will be affected. The changes of freshwater melt have been such that heat waves in Europe have been favoured in summer, and the increase of summer temperatures has been greater than expected.

The article elegantly describes why and how the overall climate change can influence weather, often in conflicting ways. If I have read the figures right, the data used also show that ice-melt can cause the observed cold spells in Scandinavia, or, in any case, that weather variability increases. That is bad news for agriculture.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, weather, jet streams

Review of Hannah Ritchie's book "Not the End of the World"

Keskiviikko 31.1.2024 klo 14.14 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Environmental headlines have recently almost invariably been doomsday prophecies. Billions of people living on the coasts will die in climate change-induced floods. Deforestation accelerates temperature increase. Insect pollinators disappear with devastating effects on vegetable food production. Fishes are soon becoming extinct in many parts of the world. Often people reading such headlines start thinking that since catastrophe is coming anyway, it doesn’t pay to try to fight environmental destruction. Instead, they think that they can live as comfortably as possible today since the end of the world is coming tomorrow anyway.

Instead of only doomsday prophecies, true environmentalists should bring forward possible solutions to environmental problems. Based on her strong knowledge of environmental data, this is what Hannah Ritchie does in her book. Or, actually she presents data indicating that many things are not changing towards ultimate doomsday. She argues that we can make choices which make sustainable life for humankind possible. Often the things to be done, based on their environmental impact, differ from what the preconceived ideas of important environmental actions are. Further, focussing on only a couple of the most important changes can make the goal of sustainability feasible.

The two things that will change virtually everything are drastically decreasing the use of fossil fuels and minimizing the use of beef. One thing I noted when reading the book was that Hannah Ritchie virtually never said that one should stop doing something completely. Instead, she advocates marked reductions in the most harmful practices. With regard to energy (heating and electricity) production, fossil-free alternatives have already become cheaper than coal and oil. Thus, global efforts can be directed towards making energy production fossil-free. If burning can be stopped, also air pollution, presently killing millions of people especially in developing countries, will diminish markedly. While electrifying car transport appears to be quite good, the use of biofuels is not advocated by Hannah Ritchie, mainly because then agricultural land is used for cars instead of food production.

Cattle ranching is using up a large part of land and most of the agricultural crops go to animal feed. Thus, if the overall beef eating decreased by three quarters, so much agricultural land would be freed up that deforestation could be stopped completely, and consequently biodiversity loss would largely disappear. This is just one example of how environmental problems and their solutions are intertwined.

It is clearly possible to get us through the population peak, probably occurring in the latter part of this century. However, personally I think that we should aim to a total human population of 3-4 billion at equilibrium. This will probably be the end result after advances in (especially women’s) education. Such lowered human population is needed, as many of the natural resources are overused, and may become limiting in 100-200 years. (Overuse of mineral resources was not included in the book.) Also, I cannot share Hannah Ritchie’s optimistic view about pesticides – they and other pollutants will pose a problem, if we cannot get the equilibrium population down. However, a transition period of 100-200 years with higher population will most likely be feasible, whereafter we can truly reach sustainable state. And as Hannah Ritchie points out, many of the solutions require governmental actions. We, as individuals, must pressurize governments and companies to carry out such actions in order for them to remain successful.  

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, biodiversity loss, fossil fuels, cattle, agriculture, energy production

Biofuels are not ecologically or climate-wise friendly

Keskiviikko 24.1.2024 klo 13.39 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Burning causes carbon dioxide emissions. In the case of biofuels, the amount of carbon dioxide produced is actually higher than for fossil fuels. The claim that biofuels are climate-friendly is based on thinking that the produced carbon dioxide is taken up relatively rapidly by the plants used for further production of biofuels, i.e. the net emission of carbon dioxide can be zero, if the plants grown for  biofuels consume use up the carbon dioxide for oxygen production at the same rate as it is produced. However, this misses the point that burning causes carbon dioxide emissions, and any such emissions contribute to climate change. One could, and in my opinion should, decouple the plant growth, which is a carbon sink, and burning of plant products such as biofuels, which is a carbon dioxide emitter. One can grow plants without burning them.

Biofuels are produced especially using oil plants such as oil palm. Also other plants, such as maize and sugar cane are important sources of biofuels. Typically biofuels are produced by rich countries, often from plants grown in poor areas instead of food crops needed for the local population. This is true, e.g., for oil palm, which has got a really bad reputation. However, the bad reputation should not be warranted, if the palm oil were not used for biofuels but only for food oil. This would markedly reduce the need of agricultural land for oil plants, since oil palms produce at least 5-10 the amount of oil per unit area as other oil plants. Thus, if food oil production worldwide changed towards palm oil, decreased area of agricultural land were needed and more (tropical) forests could be saved (as soybean is one of the most important oil plants in use). So, ecologically, the important thing would not be to stop growing oil palms but stop producing biofuels made using them.

In addition to plants, food waste is a major source of biofuels. In my opinion, food and other wastes are good materials for thermal power plants, as then all the produced small particles and even carbon dioxide can be taken up by collectors inserted in chimneys. However, the carbon dioxide in car, truck, ship and plane exhausts will inevitably contribute to world’s carbon dioxide load. Further, in the case of food waste-based biofuel the link between carbon sink and source is more difficult to establish than for plant-based biofuel. In this case only the carbon dioxide produced in the burning process can reliably be established.

In conclusion, I do not think that biofuels are either ecologically or climatewise a sustainable solution. Instead, we should use cars and planes less, use e-meetings when we find them useful. Doing this we could easily diminish our need for biofuels for the short transition period from petrol- or diesel oil-using engines to more sustainable ones.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, palm oil, carbon dioxide emission, sustainability, oil plants, food waste

Better times ahead - hopefully

Tiistai 2.1.2024 klo 12.55 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Another year has gone, and 2024 has just begun. There have been worrying news about the state of environment and climate throughout last year: the biodiversity loss and the highest global temperatures ever, droughts, floods and storms. With doomsday predictions about the state of our planet, many people are suffering from eco-anxiety, others deny that anything at all is happening.

Eco-anxiety is a big problem, since it stems from having no hope. When one feels that there is no hope, one easily stops from trying to make future better. In view of this, it is important that people are given visions of possibilities that may bring about a better future. Although both climate change and biodiversity loss have become more serious every year, data indicate that especially during the past ten years improvements have been achieved. They are the topic of the book by Hannah Ritchie, published on January 11, titled Not the End of the World. Since she is a data scientist at the University of Oxford, handling environmental data, she is in a good position to evaluate what is happening.

The simplified conclusion is that although the present problems are alarming, we have technical capabilities to prevent further environmental deterioration, if people work for prevention with all their capabilities. Thus, one should step from eco-anxiety to true eco-activity. Further, in deciding which activities to do, we all should think in conflicting situations, which of our activities will have the most environmental impact. As Hannah Ritchie said in an interview: “Everyone focuses on the plastic bag, when what they should be focusing on is what they are putting in the bag. Most of your environmental impacts come from the food you eat not the plastic bag that you take to the shop.”

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, biodiversity loss, eco-anxiety

In the brink of extinction - many freshwater fish

Tiistai 12.12.2023 klo 17.23 - Mikko Nikinmaa

When I did my Ph.D. thesis 40-45 years ago, the topic: effects of temperature and hypoxia on respiration of rainbow trout, was hardly noticed by the general public. In 1976 we, biology students arranged a theme evening about the pollution of the Baltic  Sea and invited media. Nobody came, and when I asked a newspaper reporter why that was the case, he answered that the topic had no general interest. I wish the situation were the same today: fish would not suffer from pollution, increased temperature and decreased oxygen level. Unfortunately that is wishful thinking.

IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has recently updated its Red List with very worrying information of fish, particularly freshwater fish. A quarter of the freshwater species is in immediate danger of extinction. The most important proximate cause is pollution, but toxicant effects cannot be separated from temperature increases and eutrophication, which causes oxygen lack. All of the previous problems increase parasite loads and cause fish diseases. In addition, overfishing and building of waterways, which has destroyed spawning sites or made it impossible to reach them, decreases fish populations.

Below I give a couple of examples of how all of the above cause the disappearance of specific species. First, eels are critically endangered species, which are characterized by their catadromous way of life and long spawning migrations. They grow and reach maturity in freshwater. Their migration from sea to freshwater feeding sites is critically dependent on smell sensing, which is dramatically disturbed by pesticides and metals. Consequently, those types of pollution may be an important cause of declining eel populations. Second, burbot is a coldwater fish. It spawns in the middle of winter, and it is ice-fished in January-February to get the fish and its eggs for soup. Now that the temperature is increasing, burbot is already living at the high end of its temperature tolerance, and may soon become extinct. Another group of coldwater fish is salmon and its relatives. In addition, it requires clear water with high oxygen content. Since both an increase in temperature and eutrophication decrease the oxygen level, salmon and its relatives may become extinct. Lampreys have succeeded in temperate waters for 500 000 000 years. Many of the species live in sea as adults, but spawn in rivers. Because of building of waterways, e.g. hydroelectric power plants, their long saga may be coming to the end. Finally, aquarium hobby is very popular throughout the world. Many of the ornamental fish do not reproduce in captivity, and are thus fished wild. This has made many species endangered because of overfishing.


Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: environmental pollution, climate change, overfishing, eel, salmon, oxygen, hypoxia

Climate summit in United Arab Emirates (or is it really an oil lobby)

Keskiviikko 29.11.2023 klo 17.43 - Mikko Nikinmaa

News is dreary. First, it is estimated that climate change already causes more than 6 % decrease in global GNP. No wonder, as climate-related phenomena have diminished crops, caused wildfires and flooding, etc. Many insurance companies have incredibly high fees for house insurance policies in areas, where the likelihood of storms has increased radically in recent past. And GNP (Gross National Product) does not take the environment into account. The indexes which do this had their highest values in rich countries in 1990’s. Also, coal and oil pollution cause millions of deaths yearly, many more than the Covid pandemic. So, climate change is here, and decreases the quality of life more than any other single event.

Although wind and solar energy production has increased markedly during recent past so that clearly more than half of the new global electricity production is fossil-free, about 60 % of world’s energy consumption is still dependent on oil and coal. And, actually, the amount of energy produced using fossil fuels is still increasing although its percentage is decreasing. This apparent contradiction is due to the fact that the global energy consumption still increases markedly.

The above notions should be important to take into account now that world leaders again gather to Climate Summit, this time in United Arab Emirates (UAE). Already the place of the meeting generates suspicion, as UAE has gained its wealth with oil, and continues to do so. Further, the Persian Gulf nations are known for sports washing – World Cup of Soccer in Quatar, Incredible transfer fees of footballers in Saudi Arabia, the number of Kenian athletes now competing under Quatar flag. One can suspect that the Climate Summit is the start of climate washing with oil lobby doing its best to decrease climate actions. This conclusion has become quite credible after a document has leaked, which advises the UEC delegation to lobby oil and gas exports. Further, the president of the summit is also the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, and has suggested an approach, where renewable energy sources complement rather than replace oil.

Is this the way to combat climate change, which already causes significant damage?

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, GNP

Climate investment funds - not liked by conservatives

Maanantai 13.11.2023 klo 17.36 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Do conservative forces (such as American Republicans) really want to destroy the world? One can reach only this conclusion, when one reads the news about decisions made by, e.g., Texas. The state has decided that banks and other financial corporations, which would offer “climate investment funds”, are not allowed to do business in the state. Although the ban also concerns other “responsible investment funds”, it is quite clear that the action is mainly against green investments. In banning the responsible investment funds, the government of Texas states that those funds discriminate against companies, which are important for the economy of the state. Such discrimination shall not be allowed.

But hey, the banks offering climate investment funds also offer traditional funds. The reason for having the new responsible or ethical investment tools is to cater for customers who want ethical investment. Thus, there is no discrimination. In a similar vein, one could ban such glass sellers from selling products, which have mint chocolate chip glass in their variety: it discriminates against glass with other flavours. Clearly the reason has nothing to do with discrimination but the fact that advertising climate funds may get the customers to think that maybe investing in oil companies is not a climate-friendly action.

Investing money on responsible funds may speed up green shift, and thereby decrease the profits of oil companies. Such a change is good for the world, and needed in the long run – or maybe not a long run any more - but will affect the oil lobby in Texas.  

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: responsible investment, green shift, climate change

Green hydrogen - tomorrow's natural gas

Perjantai 10.11.2023 klo 14.23 - Mikko Nikinmaa

For the sake of the world, we need to stop using fossil fuels. Although green shift has been advocated, there have been many doubts of it being feasible, and also many points have been made especially about storing energy produced for later use. For example, when green electricity is produced, its storage is problematic with the present-day batteries. Further, battery production causes multiple environmental problems.

Green hydrogen production and its use as the major energy source is clearly a way forward. Further, it can be transported from where it is produced to where it is consumed using to some extent the infrastructure already available. Also, motors using hydrogen as the fuel can be made for heavy traffic, ships and planes. Green hydrogen is produced by using electricity produced by windmills, solar cells, hydroelectric power or whichever way of producing fossil-free electricity. The produced hydrogen can be stored in tanks/containers just like natural gas and transported in pipelines. I don’t see why pipelines that have been used for natural gas transport couldn’t be modified for hydrogen transport. The small amount of hydrogen that leaks from the pipelines acts indirectly as a greenhouse gas, but it is estimated that the leak-induced greenhouse effect is less than 5 % of the greenhouse effect caused by the same amount of energy produced by oil.

The problem of windmills, i.e., that energy production is proportional to wind strength is not a problem, since the hydrogen-producing plants may adjust their production according to wind. Hydrogen-fuelled vehicles already exist, and the service station concept with rapid tanking can be continued enabling service station owners to continue their livelihood.

 Altogether, green hydrogen enables the green shift to occur with a minimum of fuss. It is the way forward.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, green shift, energy production

Fossil fuel use must be stopped

Torstai 9.11.2023 klo 19.42 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Use of fossil fuels is still increasing, although there cannot be any doubt about climate change. This year (2023) is going to be the hottest one globally in the recorded history, and unnormal weather – heavy rain, drought, storms etc. – has occurred throughout the world. In spite of the increasing cost of repairing infrastructure after foul weather and wildfires, which have also increased drastically, the conservative parties throughout the world maintain that one cannot go away from oil-based economy: according to them the continued use of fossil fuels is the only way to avoid going deeper in debt and thus required for the sake of future generations.

However, it is quite clear that oil, gas and coal burning are causing the climate-related problems. It has recently also become clear that climate change occurs more rapidly than has earlier been predicted. We are already approaching many tipping points, which cause problems for future generations’ lives. And whereas monetary loans can be left unpaid, changes in the physical environment cannot just be written off. Loan is just an agreement in which the lender gives money to the loaner taking interest, i.e., profit on the amount given. Since loan market functions, there must be funds somewhere enabling the loan-based economy. That is completely different from the physical condition of the world. There is no planet B which we could start to use once we have spoiled the Earth.

The conservative thinking that we can continue the use of fossil fuels to avoid getting deeper in debt is fallacy and not sustainable. We should get our priorities right: first, we must have healthy environment. If that cannot be done without increasing debt, we must loan more money.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, conservative, temperature increase, debt, sustainability

Aquaculture can be a sustainable food source

Maanantai 23.10.2023 klo 14.02 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Overfishing is a threat to aquatic biodiversity. The worst sceneries predict that a massive flood of fish extinctions occurs in this century, if commercial fishing is continued at its present level. This is a major problem, as it occurs at the same time that the need for animal protein in our food should change from the traditional mammals (cattle, swine and sheep) towards poikilotherms. A production of flesh kilogram requires only about 1/10 of energy in poikilotherms as compared to mammals. Because of this, they are a much preferred food source compared to traditional farm animals, when we are faced with problems with land use, climate change and biodiversity loss. Of poikilotherms fish are by far the most acceptable food – virtually everyone has eaten them, whereas the alternatives, insects, snakes, crocodiles etc. all are disliked by several people or are difficult to culture.

So, aquaculture could be a way forward to provide the world with animal protein in a sustainable fashion. However, that would not be the present way of aquaculture. There are presently many reasons why aquaculture is not sustainable. First, most cultivated fish are predators, such as salmonids. Their feed is usually fish flour-based. So, it does not decrease overfishing, the only change is that one can fish species, which would not be preferred human food.  Second, fish are cultured especially in marine net cages at high densities. Feeding therefore causes local eutrophication and the fish are not subjected to normal activity. Third, to prevent parasites and diseases in the high-density environments, a lot of medications are used. These affect the ecosystems in the vicinity of the cages. For example, one of the major parasites of salmon is salmon louse, a copepod. Its treatment affects all crustaceans in the vicinity of the net cage. Thus, lobster stocks may suffer. It should be noted that all fish diseases are favoured by the high fish densities in the net cages. finally, the fish in the net cages do not get the same amount of exercise as wild fish. Because of this, if fish are reared for stocking, their survival is likely to be reduced.

The reason why aquaculture has mainly been in sea bins is naturally the cost – the profit is maximized at the cost of the environment. However, shouldn’t we start putting environment first in order to keep the world in reasonable condition. Sustainable aquaculture is presently possible. Instead of cultivating fish in sea cages, they could be kept in tanks in dry land. In such tanks water flow can be kept directional and all the waste collected before it enters the sea, rivers or lakes. If need be, water purification similar to normal municipal wastes could be applied. Instead of the fish flour, flour made of insect maggots could be used. Maggots can be grown in bulk quantities already today.

By these means the salmonid aquaculture would be made sustainable. Increasing the number of fish species cultivated in large amounts one could also combine, e.g., rice production and aquaculture or vegetable production and aquaculture.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, biodiversity, fish feed

From plastic waste to green hydrogen, profitably

Torstai 5.10.2023 klo 14.50 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In recent past, plastics have been only considered as a waste, which one should diminish as much as possible. Most of the everyday plastic is polyethylene, and exciting new avenue for its recycling has recently been reported. Wyss et al. (https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202306763) have written in Advanced Materials how one can produce hydrogen and graphene by rapid heating of polyethylene without any carbon dioxide emissions. By selling graphene, which is needed in increasing amounts, the production of a major energy source for future, hydrogen, becomes highly profitable.

So, a vision for a hydrogen production emerges which simultaneously nearly abolishes plastic problem. First, consumers are paid a small sum of money per kg of polyethylene returned to recycling stations. This is done, because while environmentally concerned people recycle plastics anyway, many people who are now throwing plastic bags to the environment would probably keep them if they knew that some money is given when the plastic is taken to recycling station. Second, the collected plastic is taken to hydrogen production facility. Hydrogen and graphene are produced, and hydrogen becomes, in fact, an energy source with no cost, as the produced graphene can be sold to any interested party at a price that is below today’s market price.

At the moment, the method for the production of hydrogen and graphene from waste plastics is at the lab scale, so scaling it up to commercial scale needs some time. However, in about five years the vision may become reality. It amounts to combatting climate change and plastic problem simultaneously, and doing it profitably. This shows again, how innovative new solutions can make green shift profitable, opposite to what the conservative, oil-loving populists say.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: plastic pollution, green energy, climate change, recycling

It is free - saving costs and environment with wind ships

Tiistai 3.10.2023 klo 15.42 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Every time one is talking about shipping, it is pointed out that fossil fuel is needed there long after virtually all other traffic becomes independent of fossil fuels. This is just conservative thinking. Since shipping has relied on heavy fuel oil for the past hundred years, people with limited imagination think that the climate-unfriendly fuel shall continue to be used in our ships. Maritime traffic causes about 3 % of all carbon dioxide load. In addition, shipping is an important contributor to oil pollution, shipping using diesel motors causes a lot of noise pollution, and it is the prime cause of whale mortality. All of these can be markedly decreased, if ships use wild as a fuel.

Besides, wind is free! It does not cost a cent. It is actually funny that shipping companies have not gone from fossil fuel-burning ships to wind ships earlier, as every kilometer travelled with wind instead of heavy fuel oil saves money. This shows again that changing our ways to an environmentally friendly direction need not increase, but decreases the costs of future actions. This is completely in contrast to what the conservative fossil fuel-loving people say. Naturally, even the wind ships need motors for moving in congested harbor areas, and in unfriendly winds. However, the amount of fuel that can be saved will be between 50 and 90 %. Further, future motors will use ammoniac or green hydrogen as an energy source, making shipping completely independent of oil.

The question is just: what are we waiting for? The technology is available. Money can be saved. Do we allow people with limited imagination spoil the planet before actions are taken? 


Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, shipping

Broken water cycle

Tiistai 29.8.2023 klo 15.42 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The civilization as we know it is dependent on appropriate availability of water. Water availability has been adequate and constant for the past 10000 years. It has enabled the development of agriculture followed by industrialization. Feeding the billions of people has been possible, as there has been enough water at right time.

However, it appears now that humans are breaking the water cycle. Intensive agriculture is using more fresh water than would be available. Climate change affects the timing, duration and place of precipitation. Also, glaciers, which are the source of many rivers, have melted to such an extent that the river flow is reduced. Deforestation affects the rains in the areas in the vicinity. All in all, although roughly ¾ of Earth’s surface is covered with water, the cycle of fresh water, needed for civilization as we know it, seems to be in peril.

It is easy to blame climate change for the fresh water problems, but it is only part of the problem. Because of climate change, droughts and heat spells become more common, heavy rains come irregularly and at unexpected places. Often they occur after severe drought, whereby the soil cannot bind the water, which flows to the sea. An important component of the water cycle in equilibrium is that the upper soil is moist. It is then able to bind additional water.

As for many other resources, mankind is overusing water. Intensive irrigation and domestic water use have emptied Jordan, Sacramento River, Colorado River etc., caused almost total disappearance of Dead Sea and Aral Sea, and lowered ground water level to such an extent that Earth’s poles have shifted slightly.

With regard to deforestation, rainforests are much more than important carbon dioxide sinks. They suck moisture from soil, liberate water in the air, and thus cause development of rains in the surrounding areas. With deforestation, this cycle is weakened with the result that rainforest may turn to savannah. It is estimated that when ¼ of the forest is cut, this happens. We are nearing this  percentage both for Amazonas and Congo rainforest.

In view of the disturbed water cycle, one should make every effort to diminish water use in any area to the amount which is certainly replaced by inflow. In terms of plants that are grown, this means that we should at least stop using cotton products, as there is already a sustainable alternative for cloth fibre, i.e., wood fibre. Deforestation of rainforests should be stopped. In this context it would be valuable to be able to stop population growth, as it inevitably causes the need for increased agricultural production, which is a primary reason for breaking water cycle.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, agriculture, deforestation, population growth

Flying should be taxed as other forms of transport

Perjantai 18.8.2023 klo 17.49 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Flying is estimated to cause several percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. Its influence on climate is much worse than the emissions, because the gases are emitted at high altitudes. One would consequently think that because there is a sore need to combat climate change, steps would be taken to diminish the effects of flight traffic on climate change. Two such steps have commonly reached the news. First, the possibility of passengers to pay extra to compensate for flying. The compensation is them used to pay either the protection of forests or planting trees. The funds obtained by the compensations are currently so small that it can be said to have only conscience-cleaning effect. Second, an increasing proportion of the fuel, kerosine, is made from biowaste or plant material instead of being fossil fuel. However, the so-called biofuel does not decrease the production of carbon dioxide in the flights, it only decreases the use of fossil fuel. It appears that electric airplanes will at most be responsible for short distance flights in the near future. For long distance travel one needs to ask the traveller if the present-day speed is really necessary. If not, zeppelin-like aircraft could replace a lot of the airplanes and fuel consumption would decrease radically.

However, the biggest change that should be made is that air traffic should be taxed as other traffic forms. Today fuel of airplanes is completely free of taxation throughout the world. As a consequence, air traffic is subsidised, e.g., in Finland approximately 20 times more per customer than environmentally friendly train traffic. And this is true at a time when politicians say that they are trying to get people to diminish travelling, if it has large carbon footprint. Yet they do not use the tax instrument, which would also make fairer to use different ways of transport. It is quite certain that all the nation states say that this cannot be done, since that would generate unfair competition in favour of countries that do not tax their flights or maintain tax level low. However, this is what EU is for. The European Union, which is also otherwise front runner in climate questions, could decide that all European flights would have a common fuel tax. One could try to get a world wide agreement; it should be relatively easy, if climate change is taken seriously.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, carbon footprint, fossil fuels, air traffic

Zero-carbon shipping by 2050?

Maanantai 10.7.2023 klo 16.24 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The International Maritime Organization took a huge step forward in the fight against climate change, when it agreed that shipping would become carbon-free by 2050. Earlier, IMO has been quite conservative, and reluctant to take significant steps forward, so the agreement is even more noteworthy.

The reason for a radical change is mainly that many of the island and coastal countries, which naturally have shipping as a major business, are really suffering from climate change. However, also other countries with the notable exception of Russia (they are doing nothing right at the moment) have finally woken up because of heat waves, wildfires, droughts and floods.

The bold agreement is presently only paper, so it must be implemented. Thus, the first question is: is implementation possible? The question is very acute, since the life-length of a ship is up to 60 years. Thus, the ships built today are probably sailing at 2050. The initial reductions in decreasing carbon dioxide emissions are easily done, as the fuel of ships has been the worst source of carbon dioxide of any of the fuels. So, things are getting somewhat better, when the old ships are replaced by new ones using, e.g., liquified natural gas (LNG) as fuel. However, natural gas still produces carbon dioxide, so it cannot be the final solution. One possibility is to mop up the carbon dioxide produced, but that isn’t a real solution, either, as carbon dioxide is still produced, but is filtered away. The sustainable solutions are new motors using ammonia or hydrogen as fuels. Several ship motor industries have done a great deal of work in developing such motors, and it is quite certain that within the near future we hear the news that the first ships without any carbon dioxide production have been launched.

The ammonia and hydrogen need to be produced without fossil fuels, but that has become increasingly possible. What Putin’s Russia has done, when it tried to cut off especially the European energy production, is to speed up the transition to green energy. Putting everything together: reaching zero-carbon shipping by 2050 is difficult but doable.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, shipping, hydrogen economy, IMO

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