Demographic Catastrophe or the Direction towards Sustainable Human Population?

Tiistai 18.1.2022 klo 18:12 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Whenever population growth stops anywhere, media and politicians are screaming about demographic catastrophe. This has earlier been said of Japan and many European countries, but now China is concluding the same. The concept of endlessly growing population is based on the gross misunderstanding that the earth has no limits, it is related to the concept of eternal increase of consumption.

Even though recent reports have suggested that human population may peak during this century at 10 000 000 000, this number is far greater than is sustainable. If one would want to have the consumption habits of Americans, we could have about 1 500 000 000 people, if we would want to be like Europeans, then about 2 500 000 000 people could inhabit the world sustainably, and if our outset were that the wealth (or its lack) was frozen at the present-day level throughout the world, about 5 000 000 000 people could inhabit the world. So, regardless of the goal, human population needs to decrease at least to half to enable sustainable use of resources. The last goal, freezing the wealth in different parts of the world is completely unacceptable: it amounts to “climate colonialism”, the rich keeping what they have, and preventing the poor from increasing their wealth.

A sustainable solution would involve a marked decrease of inequality, the rich 25 % of nations should decrease their gross national product by improving the standing of poor nations, which should aim at limiting population growth. Interestingly, the carbon footprint of a Chinese is greater today than that of a European. Thus, a stable or decreasing population in China has as much influence on climate as that of Europe and thus China cannot claim to be a developing country which would have exemptions from policies required of rich countries.

Decreasing or stable population is not a demographic catastrophe. Rather, increasing population is a demographic catastrophe, since it will cause unsustainable life on earth.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, population growth, carbon footprint

Scientists have reported the effects of fossil fuels for hundred years

Lauantai 11.12.2021 klo 19:52 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Although the alarming effects of fossil fuel consumption have only become headline news only during the past 20 years, measurements done over 100 years ago have indicated that coal and oil burning cause increased carbon dioxide tension of the atmosphere. The measurements were done in 1902 when the Danish physiologist August Krogh took part in a scientific expedition to Greenland. He observed that the carbon dioxide tension of the atmosphere was slightly above that of the seawater. His conclusion was that burning of coal caused this mismatch. This information was published recently by Tobias Wang in FUNCTION, 2021, 2(6): zqab052.

So, scientists have reported the change of carbon dioxide tension and its reason for 100 years ago. However, nothing has been done to prevent the problem before it became critical. Even now people who would like to return to the past say that we should not try to be “so ambitious” in combatting climate change. Instead, we should think about the economy. I do not understand the division between economy and environment. In a world with limits, environment must be a part of every economic decision.  This is the major change that must be reached in economic thinking to enable sustainable economy.

Money is a poor substitute for healthy environment.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, sustainability, economy

Investors hold the key to climate actions

Tiistai 16.11.2021 klo 14:42 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, stock market, economy, investments

How to avoid making friends in British Columbia?

Tiistai 16.11.2021 klo 13:40 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Climate change ain’t real.

Say that to anybody in British Columbia, if you want to be alone and disliked. First they had temperatures above 40oC in the summer, and now they have rain, which exceeds even their expectations. It has always rained a lot in BC in the autumn, but now the rains enough to cause flooding in an area known for its heavy autumn rains.

So when talking with British Columbians, start your conversation with the sentence above, if you do not want them to be your friends.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, floods, temperature

Promises, promises - COP26

Torstai 11.11.2021 klo 19:00 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The Glasgow climate summit has again brought a lot of promises of future actions in combatting climate change. Nations have agreed to stop deforestation by 2030, to generate carbon-free shipping and to become carbon-neutral generally by 2050 (except for India by 2070). However, so far virtually everything is just talk of future actions. And even the promises fall short of the 1.5oC temperature increase limit, which is the preferred target of the 2015 Paris Agreement. At present, the promises made (for 2030) would limit the temperature increase to 2.4oC.

And these are almost totally just promises. Since the electricity use has increased markedly in the 21st century, the proportion of it produced using renewable sources has increased only about two percentage points, from 37 to 39 %. Many countries, such as Australia are building new coal mines and oil exploration continues virtually everywhere. The social media are filled with climate-denialist propaganda, and what is very worrying is that close to 20 % of the biggest oil product companies are running ads with misinformation about climate change. Many Facebook and Twitter users believe these ads. In contrast, they say that scientists are spreading lies about climate change. It is amazing that after the heat waves, wildfire, storms and floods of this year, about 45 % of people, e.g., in Finland deny that there is any human influence on climate – and Finland is supposed to have high education level.

The fact that it is all promises with little action is shown by a couple of examples. In COP26 an alliance committing to ending oil and gas extraction was formed. As members it has Costa Rica, France, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Quebec, Wales and Greenland. None of the countries are significant oil and gas producers and only Denmark has committed to immediately stop issuing new oil and gas licences. The other countries have not set a date to when they will stop permitting new oil and gas projects. In Finland subsidies of peat extraction were not stopped and worldwide subsidies to fossil fuels amount to hundreds of billions of euros. An alliance for generating non-carbon shipping by 2030 has been formed, but present changes from the use of diesel oil to the use of LNG actually increases greenhouse effect, because of the engine type used. The greenhouse gas emissions could be curbed by a different type of engine. However, they would cost more, as they require catalytic converters for removing nitrogen oxides.

It appears that despite their urgency, climate actions are not accepted, if they cost anything. This is a huge problem, since a small cost now could prevent a huge, if not insurmountable cost by 2050.  

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

Methane limits to shipping - a climate action that could be done immediately

Tiistai 9.11.2021 klo 16:36 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The low pressure dual fuel engines used in most LNG-fuelled ships are more or less the same as the two-stroke engines (Otto motors) of old Wartburgs and Trabants, or present-day lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Typical for all two-stroke engines is that a lot of unburnt fuel is emitted to the environment. For example, 8-hour use of a leaf blower emits about the same amount of hydrocarbons in the environment as driving a car around the world. Thus, it is no surprise that the use of low-pressure dual fuel LNG engines cause a massive increase in the emission of the very powerful greenhouse gas methane.

What is worrying, though, is that the governmental response has been that even though the negative climate effects of most LNG-fuelled ships are clear, it does not pay to set emission limits to methane in ships for two reasons. First, LNG is only a transition-phase fuel from diesel oil to hydrogen or ammonia. Second, acceptance of the limit in International Maritime Organization would take up to ten years, and even then the requirement could be enforced only for new motors/ships. Consequently, any climate effect would not be seen before 20-30 years have passed.

The situation is somewhat funny, since the most important reason for replacing diesel fuel by LNG was to decrease air pollution. Compared to diesel oil, LNG causes virtually no sulphur oxide emissions and decreases nitrogen oxide emissions drastically. The latter is actually the reason for the use of low pressure dual fuel engines: the alternative LNG-fuelled engines, high pressure dual fuel engines have higher nitrogen oxide emissions, and would require external catalytic converters for removing the nitrogen oxides like cars have. Since nitrogen oxides have emission limits, decreasing their emissions has been priority in ship building.

However, the inability of governments to do anything not only with regard to this but in general in combatting climate change is alarming. In the case of shipping, this can mean that the climate effects double if LNG becomes a major fuel. The major problem is that any climate actions should be done immediately, but most responses require 20 years or more with devastating results.


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

LNG - an environmentally friendly ship fuel?

Perjantai 5.11.2021 klo 15:08 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Ships started using Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as a fuel, because there was a grave need to decrease the sulphur and nitrogen oxide pollution caused by ship transport. Also, particle emissions are significantly smaller than for diesel-fuelled ships. Thus, the introduction of motors using LNG was considered to be a significant environmental win.

However, recent findings cast a doubt on this. In Environmental Science & Technology, Grönholm et al. (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021, 55, 13677−13686) have measured the emissions from LNG-fuelled ships in the Baltic. Although also the carbon dioxide emissions decrease about 20 %, there is a marked methane emission. Since methane is about 30 times worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, a ship using LNG instead of diesel oil may have at least 30-fold climate effect. This is because of the LNG motors are commonly similar to the two-stroke motors in common use in e.g. leaf blowers. These motors emit a lot of unburned fuel in the environment. There are also LNG motors without this problem, the high pressure dual fuel engines. However, they have not become common for the simple reason that their nitrogen oxide emissions are higher than those of low pressure dual fuel engines and International Maritime Organization has setlimits to nitrogen oxide emissions. In contrast, there is no limit for methane emissions. The nitrogen oxides could be removed from the exhaust fumes by catalytic converters, but that would increase the cost of the motor, and as long as the methane emission is unregulated it is unlikely that the LNG-fuelled motors would change.

The simple solution would be to set emission limits for methane in boats. Since ship traffic accounts for approximately 3 % of world’s greenhouse gas emissions, without limits to methane emissions, conversion of ships to LNG-fuelled ones could increase this proportion far above 10 %. In order to combat climate change such a simple solution should be implemented until more environmentally friendly fuels become mainstream.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, methane emission, greenhouse gases

COP26 Summit

Maanantai 1.11.2021 klo 16:06 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The Glasgow Climate Summit has started with most world leaders present. Undoubtedly, we will hear many promises of climate deeds. However, words do not often translate to actions. If the words promising climate deeds had become reality, we possibly would not have the present climate emergency. Further, there are three important world leaders missing, Xi from China, Putin from Russia and Bolsonaro from Brazil. Although reasons for their absence have been given, it shows their preferences: and climate is not their number one.

What is really interesting is that commercial sector seems to be more eager to apply new climate-friendly technologies than many governments. This is likely due to the companies understanding that the new approaches give them an advantage in an area that is definitely becoming important. On the other hand, many politicians are afraid of losing the support of their conservative funders and voters. It is really surprising that almost half of the populations in European and North American countries think that climate change is not a serious problem despite the Arctic heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes.

In the coming two weeks, it is likely that one of the border lines will again be between the developed and developing nations. Hitherto China has always considered itself to belong to the group of developing nations, which do not need to carry out as drastic climate actions as developed world. For most of the developing nations the carbon footprint per capita is much smaller than that of developed nations: and average European has ten times greater carbon footprint than the average African. How can we rich Europeans say that the poor Africans are not allowed to have the same energy use as we are. However, this argument does not apply to China any more. An average Chinese has a bigger carbon footprint than a European. This means that the energy use for high material standard of living can be diminished, like it has been done in Europe for the past 30 years. Thus, China should stop claiming that it needs to increase its carbon footprint to reach the same standard of living as Europe.

One of the pressing problems with manufactured goods is that much of the energy-demanding and polluting industry has been removed from Europe and relocated in Asia or Africa, where energy and environmental laws are nonexistent or much more lenient than in Europe. Yet, the markets are almost completely here. This being the case, the Climate Summit should generate a mechanism by which the end user would be responsible for the carbon (and other environmental) footprint of any imported product. One could, e.g., require that any product sold/imported to Europe would have a carbon/environmental tax collected towards improving the energy/environmental standards in the place of production to European levels. Naturally this would increase the prices, but wouldn’t it be fair, as the consumer of the product would pay the cost required to combat climate change and other environmental deterioration.

The above would also make the following statement, used by the people who are not willing to do anything to combat climate change, invalid. “Why should we do anything, things are done here already. Climate actions should be done in places, which cause the problem.” If the costs of climate actions were included in the use of imported products, we would only pay for the climate actions caused by us.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, carbon tax, china, environmental standards

Renewable energy and electricity demands

Torstai 21.10.2021 klo 13:52 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Bitcoins, electric cars and other vehicles, green hydrogen production, household appliances, heating and cooling of apartments with electricity etc. The list of places/appliances where electricity is needed is increasing almost daily. Because of this, it is estimated that the use of fossil fuels will increase for several years to produce enough energy for electricity generation.

A climate change-conscious person buys an electric car thinking that doing it will decrease carbon dioxide emissions. However, it only does that, if electricity production is fossil-free, and because of the increasing electricity needs and simultaneous decrease of energy production using nuclear power plants, a large portion of electricity is produced using fossil fuels. In most countries with high energy consumption, most electricity is still produced using fossil fuels. Although this situation is concerning, there is one silver lining: about three quarters of new electricity is produced using renewable sources. But because electricity needs increase all the time, the production from renewable sources cannot keep up with consumption increase.

Thus, the major way to both prevent energy crisis and decrease the use of fossil fuels in electricity production is to decrease electricity consumption. The first, very simple solution would be to ban bitcoins altogether. Who needs them? Bitcoin mining uses as much electricity per year as Finland and Denmark together. The second, also easily implemented solution would be to decrease lighting, when it is not needed. Technological advancements such as automatic movement and light sensors make this much easier than 50 years ago, when most streetlights were shut down because of oil crisis. With regard to neon lights, they could be automatically shut down, e.g., between 23 and 5. Third, the car use should be decreased; most of work traffic could be done with collective traffic, which could increasingly use the same principle as school taxis in Finland, i.e., have a set group of employees picked up near their homes. The cost could be partly covered by the employer, partly by the state/community and partly by the employee. The cost would probably not be higher than for driving to work today. Fourth, do we really need all the electric appliances we are using? The manufacturers have actually done a good job in decreasing the energy consumption of household machines, but we are having more and more of them. Fifth, presently the dream of using green hydrogen as fuel is problematic, since it requires a large amount of electricity. Current research is trying to overcome this problem by splitting water to hydrogen and oxygen directly with the use of sunlight.

There are thus multiple ways to decrease the consumption of electricity, and many could be implemented immediately so that fossil fuel use could be diminished faster than planned. Ultimately, renewable energy must fulfill the electricity production completely. One almost infinite energy source is almost always forgotten: tidal energy. If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on that it becomes a major energy source within the next twenty years.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, tidal energy, bitcoin mining, fossil fuels

Functions Determine Temperature Effects on Animals and Man

Torstai 30.9.2021 klo 19:05 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Climate change is one of the most studied topics of the present time. The web of science contains approximately 350 000 scientific articles studying the topic. Out of these, around 64 000 have studied the biology of climate change. However, only about 1500 of those appear to be concerned with animal or human physiology. This is very concerning, since any effects of temperature changes must be a result of physiological responses to the change. All the other findings on animals and man will be downstream consequences of the physiological adjustments. In view of the above, the recent compilation of reviews in the Journal of Experimental Biology is very welcome. Since it is open access, everyone can read it at

As an example, polar bears have become iconic victims of climate change. There are several documentaries about skinny and diseased creatures about to succumb to increased temperatures as they find less food, when sea ice decreases because of an increase in temperature. However, if that were the only problem they are facing, their plight would probably be tolerable. But since their food availability is decreased, they need to spend an increased amount of energy to catch the prey. Because of the sea ice loss, the energy needed for locomotor activity is 3-4 times higher than expected. Another problem with endotherms is that an increase in temperature is less well tolerated than a decrease. Further, an increase in temperature is a serious problem in dry environments because water loss increases.

For ectothermic animals, temperature increase causes various problems. Dive durations of reptiles, turtles and amphibians decrease by about a third. This translates directly to decreased feeding efficiency. The thermal niches of fish become decoupled from the light-dark rhythms, which function as cues for reproduction etc. When thinking about thermal niches, it appears that both tropical and polar fish tolerate changes in temperature less well than temperate ones. Two overall problems are apparent in translating most temperature studies on fish to climate change scenarios. First, the temperature changes due to climate change are usually much slower than temperature changes imposed on fish in experiments. Second, individual variation as an important component of temperature responses of fish is hardly ever considered. Also, one knows very poorly, what the actual physiological mechanisms behind the measures of thermal tolerance are.

The major reasons why our understanding of physiological mechanisms behind the responses to climate change are poor is due to the fact that functional studies have not been considered important. However, any ecological or genetic response can only occur, if physiological changes take place earlier. Thus, predicting climate change effects on animal populations requires understanding how animals respond physiologically, not by observing changes that have already occurred (either ecologically or genetically).



Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, physiology, temperature biology, individual variatio

Steel Production without Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Sunnuntai 29.8.2021 klo 20:22 - Mikko Nikinmaa

One of the forgotten players in carbon emissions is steel production. It accounts for nearly 10 % of the total global emissions. Thus, steel production is 4-5 times greater emitter than air traffic, which has received a lot of attention. Further, current steel production is still largely based on iron extracted from mined ore, and not on effective recycling of used steel products.

The technology for carbon-free steel production is available. However, as with making all environmentally friendly products, making steel without carbon dioxide emissions is currently more expensive than the traditional steel production. Traditionally, steel is made from iron ore using coal as reductant. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions are high. The environmentally friendly way of producing steel would first make directly reduced iron (DRI) from iron ore using green hydrogen (hydrogen extracted from water with energy from renewable sources). The DRI and recycled steel scrap is then melted in Electric Arc Furnace (again with energy from renewable sources) and steel is produced.

As I said above, steel produced without carbon dioxide emissions is currently much more expensive than traditional coal-using production. The cost is, however, dependent on the proportion of production without carbon need. This is illustrated by the change in paper production. In 1970’s paper industry said that it would never be economically plausible to produce paper without chlorine-based bleaching. Yet, today all paper is chlorine-free and none of the paper mills have gone bankrupt because of that. Thus, once the carbon-free steel production is mainstream, the methods for such production certainly become more economical. Also, since the increased cost of steel production is directly associated with environmental actions, shouldn’t we accept it without reservations, if we say that we want sustainable economy.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, recycling, mining

We have got a long way to go

Lauantai 21.8.2021 klo 17:48 - Mikko Nikinmaa

To keep temperature increase at 2 degrees Celsius, the world needs to become carbon neutral by 2050. This means that the use of fossil fuels must virtually stop by that date. We have a long way to go to achieve it. The world’s energy use is still increasing, and about 85 % of it is produced using fossil fuels. What is even worse for climate is that to cover the increased energy needs also the use of fossil fuels has increased apart from the use of coal, which has decreased. In absolute terms, the total energy production using fossil fuels has increased more than that using renewable sources.

The use of energy per capita is greatest in Canada, out of which about 65 % is produced by fossil fuels. Compared to Canada, the energy use per person in India is only 1/20. However, coal use in both countries is approximately the same. Behind Canada, USA and Australia use most energy per person. And what is worse, in USA about 80 % of energy is produced using fossil fuels and in Australia more than 90 %. Australia leads the world in per capita energy production using coal. Against this, it is disappointing that the present Australian government is not planning to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels. The two countries with greatest dependence on coal energy are China and South Africa. Still, their energy use per person is only one third of that in USA, which means that total energy consumption in China and USA is about the same.

In global energy production Europe, especially the present-day EU is in the class of its own. Most EU countries produce less than 50 % of their energy with fossil fuels. Further, the energy used for a given gross national product is much smaller than in North America, China and Australia. Europe is also the only big economic area with marked decrease in energy consumption per capita. These statistics indicate that Europe is a clear front runner in decreasing the use of fossil fuels.

But even Europe has a long way to go to reach carbon neutrality. And what is worse, there are several political parties, and a lot of voters to them, who do not think that the use of fossil fuels should be restricted. If economic growth requires, we should not do any actions to decrease their use.

It is the people, who do not accept that the world climate is changing despite the wildfires, heat waves, draughts and hurricanes, that we should get convinced about the need for a change in the way we produce energy. Only that way the fossil fuel use could be phased out and climate change be combatted. The scientists are starting to be afraid that the climate of Venus represents what climate change gone awry may have in store for Earth. The thing is that we would have the means needed to prevent further climate change, but the technology is not used, because so many people are so greedy and egoistic.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, energy use, fossil fuels, coal, oil

IPCC Report - Nothing New But Still Alarming: Immediate Global Climate Actions Are Needed

Tiistai 10.8.2021 klo 12:11 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The IPCC report on the physical science basis of climate change was released yesterday. It is not likely that many people read all its 1300 pages. However, it is enough if the 65-page summary for policymakers is read through. In fact, all of the findings and information are in line with what scientists have been saying for the past 50 years: ever since the book “Limits to Growth” was published in 1972. The scientists’ warning has been repeated twice – or three times, if you take into account the recent addition to the 2019 data. This is now the 6th IPCC report. The scientists’ voices have come louder and more demanding: actions are needed. What was a worst case possibility in 1970’s has become likelihood with high probability, if drastic actions are not done.

 With the wildfires raging throughout the world, many massive heat waves, heavy rains causing floods and droughts in various parts of the world one would think that people accept that climate change is taking place, and demands global action. Hot temperature extremes and heavy precipitation have increased frequency in most places, and there is not a single area in the world where their frequency would have decreased. Similarly, droughts have increased in many parts of the world, but decreased only in one: Northern Australia. Despite this, a significant proportion of people think that climate change is a hoax, and many politicians are of the opinion that one must not do any environmental actions if they interfere with economic growth and decrease the economic competitiveness.

Quite often those, who deny climate change, say that for example last year it snowed in Spain and Texas, and that very high temperatures have been reported earlier, e.g. in 1998. That one year is climate denials’ favourite, since having that as a basis, there has hardly been any change in average global temperature afterwards. However, it is known and repeatedly pointed out by climate scientists that natural variability dampens or accentuates changes in the short term. In fact, the probability of most types of extreme weather increases with climate change: the likelihood of both droughts and heavy precipitation doubles even if the temperature increase can be kept at 1.5oC; if drastic climate actions are not done, droughts become 5x more common, and heavy precipitation occurs 3x more frequently than now.

The climate problem is global. Thus, we cannot say that our country is doing its share, now the other nations should do the same. Combatting climate change in developing countries should be a primary focus of the rich countries, and rich individuals: what is the point of spending billions to military or space flights if the world is in peril. Even if the report is gloomy, we have all the technology and other means to still prevent the climate catastrophe. What is required is that we start to think globally instead of nationalistically.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, temperature, weather

Scientists' warning is not heard - or at least not acted upon

Maanantai 2.8.2021 klo 18:22 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Scientists have been trying to alert the public about how the present way of life is not sustainable ever since 1970’s. A very strong message with more than 10000 scientists endorsing the publication of data was written in 2019 indicating that unless strong measures are taken, many tipping points leading to drastic environmental deterioration are reached in the near future. After 2019 the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world, and the lead authors of the 2019 paper thought that it is good time to see, if any measures have been taken to heed the warning. In BioScience this July 28 (, Ripple et al. estimated what has happened during the pandemic time. For the most part the findings are bleak: the temperature, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide levels continue to increase, Antarctic, Greenland and overall glacier ice mass continue to decrease at a similar rate as before. What is almost worse is that although many climate-friendly changes took place as a result of the pandemic, almost all have started to revert to pre-pandemic levels. For example, the number of livestock has continued to increase, and all the media are just saying how we need to get the economic growth back to pre-pandemic track.

In the overall gloomy picture there are, however, a couple of bright spots. The first is that the number of births per woman continues to decrease. For ending up with sustainable human population, this is probably the most important trend and should be supported by improving the education of women. The second is the marked decrease in subsidies to fossil fuels. It has been quite funny that the same groups, who have been very vocally against any subsidies to green energy production, have wanted and accepted billions of dollars/euros in subsidies to oil and coal industries.

Stabilizing and reducing the human population by voluntary actions is the key behind making the life sustainable for all citizens of the world. Only with decreasing population can enough environment be kept in natural state to maintain biodiversity and to reduce the risks of new pandemics. Life in the globe with limits requires social justice, not that some superrich burn a lot of money to a few hours space travel.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, biodiversity loss, economic growth, sustainability, tipping points

Renewed Town Planning Helps in Containing Floods and Extreme Temperatures

Torstai 22.7.2021 klo 13:25 - Mikko Nikinmaa

“Hot down, summer in the city…” Town building has traditionally maximized the concrete housing and the asphalt streets and parking lots. The area allocated to trees and parks has usually been minimized. This has two major consequences. First, the temperatures in the towns without green areas can be up to 5-10oC higher than in parks. Second, the rainwater cannot be removed from the asphalt streets leading to flooding whenever heavy rain sets in. If the town is at the coast, and the vegetation and floodplains in the coastline have been removed, any rise of water level will cause flooding.

All of these problems could be remedied. First, instead of building towns for cars, they should be built for people. The streets should be boulevards with trees between the car lanes and pavements. Further, the proportion of land that is park in towns should be maximized. This would both decrease the temperature and combat floods, as the water would be sucked in soil. To decrease the temperature further, apartment blocks could have green roofs. The park areas and green roofs would also increase insect diversity.

With regard to coastal towns, one should have green area between the town and the sea. No wonder that mangrove forests grow by the seaside in the tropics. They effectively prevent coastal floods, but have been cut down and replaced by concrete and asphalt. Also, overall human handling of rivers, drying of marshes etc. almost always cause reduced retention of water, with the result that floods become more severe and droughts set on more rapidly.

The above changes in town and watershed planning are both possible and necessary. It should be quite obvious given the floods in Germany and China and heat waves in American West. One cannot but wonder, why towns are planned for cars and not for people.    

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, land use, parks

Carbon taxes first, then environmental taxes

Torstai 15.7.2021 klo 19:23 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Both European Union and USA are planning to introduce carbon taxes on imports from third countries with more lenient standards in coal use in production. Since these two areas are the most important users of, e.g., steel, which is among the products that will be taxed for coal use, also production in third countries will certainly soon fulfill US and European standards to avoid taxation.

This is a first step, which is hopefully followed by taxing all imports to Europe, which do not follow European environmental standards. Such measures will also affect companies having headquarters in Europe, as a lot of production has been relocated to areas with less strict environmental standards and lower wages. Such a change would be beneficial both to the third countries, as the environmental impacts of factories remaining there would be markedly reduced, and to the European countries, as some production would certainly return Europe because the costs in the “cheap countries” would increase towards European costs.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, environmental pollution, environmental economics

The times they are a-changin'

Maanantai 12.7.2021 klo 18:49 - Mikko Nikinmaa

A change is the most terrible thing that the human mind can envision. This is actually the reason, why climate actions are so difficult to carry out. Many if not most people think that we cannot accept changes to our way of life, since they would mean that things will become worse. Whenever questionnaires about climate attitudes are made, they show this resistance to change to be a problem even to the people making the questions. Generally, a question asked is: “Do you think you have been required to give up something because of climate actions?” This question as such indicates that change is negative, and the best thing would be if one could continue with the old ways. Instead, the question should be: “Do you envision that combatting climate change have or will require changes in your way of life?”

The times they are a-changin’. But the changes do not necessarily mean that the quality of life decreases, maybe it would improve; a little less hurry, a little less competition, a little more time to do whatever one wishes. Maybe we could use less resources, buy only one third of the clothes we buy today etc. This may sound socialistic, but it is difficult for me to see that some companies earn billions (in €, £ or $) yet out of those profits only 1-2 % is tax revenue, while at the same time a person earning 50000 pays often 30-40 % of the income in taxes. And both the income differences have increased and taxes of the rich generally decreased while those of the normal taxpayer have increased throughout rich countries. If one required the richest 1 % of population to spend 5 % of their yearly profits to climate actions and if 20 % of the world’s military spending was used to improve the quality of life of poor people, most present problems would be solved. The likelihood that military force would be required anywhere would be markedly reduced.

The times they are a-changin’. What was good in 1960’s is not appropriate now. We have the means to combat climate change and social inequality of people, but to do that a radical change in our attitudes is required.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, environmental economics

It is not only American West

Torstai 1.7.2021 klo 18:58 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Cities in the Northwest of USA and Canada have had deadly heat. Temperatures above 40 C (more than 104 F) have been recorded in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. It would be very hot even for San Diego, but those, up to now, cities with mild summer temperatures with heat waves being temperatures between 25 and 30 C really suffer. It would not be incredibly bad if one could say that this is an once in a thousand years occurrence in only one place in the Earth. However, one has had stationary heat wave reaching above the Arctic Circle in Siberia, with air temperature above 30 C and land surface temperature between 35-50 C.

In a way those temperatures are even worse than the heat wave in the American Northwest. Although many people do not live there, and thus the acute death toll caused by the high temperature remains small, it is permafrost area. As the permanently frozen soil (permafrost) melts, craters are formed, from which huge methane leaks enter the atmosphere. The gas is much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. 

Despite these huge changes, which occur in several places, and despite the years from 2000 to 2021 making up most of the years with globally highest temperatures, there still are people who deny climate change. Their attitude can be summarized by the following sentence: "Ok, world, which becomes uninhabitable because of heat, is the price we have to pay for having a growing economy."

The heat brings with it a couple of serious other problems. The agricultural areas in, e.g., California have serious lack of water, whereby crop yields start to decrease markedly. Further, wildfires probably increase in severity. Already in last year the Siberian forest fires caused more carbon dioxide release than was the whole decrease of carbon dioxide production in Europe.

The continuation of climate change is irritating, because we would have the means to stop it, and it could be done without serious harm to even us, the rich of the North. However, it would require changes in attitude, and that appears to be impossible. 

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, heat wave, temperature anomaly

Carbontech - technologies for future, but not enough alone

Maanantai 28.6.2021 klo 12:02 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Carbontech means technologies that use more carbon dioxide than is released to the environment, thereby acting as carbon dioxide sinks. There are already many such applications, one being producing carbon-neutral concrete. This application is very significant as presently building using concrete causes 5-10 % of all carbon dioxide production. In the carbontech concrete production carbon dioxide is bubbled in the material. Virtually all the applications depend on being able to utilize the carbon dioxide produced in energy production thus cleaning the chimney fumes. Although this can be done, at present the carbon dioxide capture is relatively expensive and thereby the products made are not pricewise very competitive in the market. This will naturally change with increasing use of the technologies.

However, although carbontech solutions may become important with regard to sequestering carbon dioxide, other problems with our overuse of the earth remain. Biodiversity loss, increasing land use and degradation, environmental pollution etc. are all questions that require increased attention. The present way of life in developed world requires too much resources and generates too much waste. The population growth, although it is decreasing and may completely stop during this century, leads to need of increased land use and, unfortunately, decreased land productivity. While we are presently 7.8 billion, it is estimated that sustainable population on earth is 2-3 billion provided that people in rich countries allow their standard of living decrease somewhat in favour of poor people in developing countries, who then should stop population growth more rapidly than the present estimations suggest. 

Population must actually be decreased, and to do this we require a change in thinking everywhere. It is invariably shown that when women's schooling and position in society is improved, population growth decreases markedly. Thus, one needs to change patriarchal societies to gender-equal ones. Also, in rich countries one needs to change the notion that they need population growth. In addition to carbontech we need controlled population decrease to enable sustainable life

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, biodiversity loss, population control

Cold winter and power failures - it is because fossil fuel industry and economic circles

Torstai 18.2.2021 klo 12:16 - Mikko Nikinmaa

A real winter throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Or actually worse that that. It has snowed in Madrid and the weather has been colder than ever in Texas. The climate change deniers say, pointing to this one incidence, how the whole concept is faulty. However, unexpected cold spells are something that is predicted based on an overall warming of the globe. The worming of the areas near the poles pushes the cold air south in the northern winter.

In Texas the energy production has stalled in most places. The Governor of Texas has claimed that this shows how green energy, wind and solar power, do not function when it is cold. As for many fossil fuel lobbyists, this is a lie. Out of the energy produced in Texas, wind and solar energy account for approximately 1/10. Energy is produced using mainly oil and natural gas. The reason for the huge power outages in the extreme cold was largely that the natural gas could not be pumped from the wells because of the extreme cold. That is actually due to the fossil fuel and economic lobbyists. If , instead of the need to pump natural gas from wells, there had been storage of the natural gas, energy could have been produced even in the cold. Now it was not possible. It was cheaper not to have natural gas storage, so since the likelihood of natural gas distribution because of extreme cold was not likely, storing was not done.

So the fossil fuel lobbyists claim that the problems they have themselves caused are caused by the environmentalists. The ways of oil industry remind me of how tobacco industry claimed for many years that tobacco didn’t cause any problems – against all scientific evidence. Now fossil fuel lobbyist are doing the same – lying against all the scientific evidence.

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

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