Maanantai 20.6.2022 klo 15:16 - Mikko Nikinmaa
President Trump was able to nominate three Supreme Court judges during his presidency. This changed the Court to a significantly more conservative direction than earlier. This is now seen in the likelihood that the Roe vs. Wade decision from 1973 guaranteeing abortion right to women throughout USA will be overturned.
But maybe even more terrible to the world is the West Virginia vs. EPA case, which the conservative Supreme Court judges likely decide in favour of West Virginia. That decision would mean that EPA would not be allowed to limit the carbon dioxide emissions of power plants. This would effectively mean that USA will not be able to combat climate change unless coal and oil industry wishes.
In addition to this, there are several lower court cases, which would, e.g., limit the possibility of federal government to restrict carbon dioxide emissions of traffic or require that electricity production shifts from the use of fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Altogether the conservative court cases may mean that the worst producer of greenhouse gases will not be able to carry out any meaningful actions in combatting climate change. Ironically, the conservative circles are working against any climate actions at the same time that the temperature in almost every part of USA has increased to highest level ever. And it is only mid-June. But, according to conservative circles, there is no connection between burning of fossil fuels and heat waves. Or is there?
Maanantai 30.5.2022 klo 16:53 - Mikko Nikinmaa
We must get rid of burning fossil fuels. Especially two things have happened in recent past, which speed up the conversion from fossil fuels to other ways of energy production. As terrible as it is, the attack of Russia to Ukraine is the first. Russian economy has been centered around oil and gas export. With the attack, Europe, by far the biggest market, is decreasing its dependence on Russian energy. Putin’s Russia is imagining that China’s huge market will offer an alternative. However, there is not available transport infrastructure, and building it would take years during which China is investing mainly on decreasing fossil fuel use. So, what is happening to Russia is that it is rapidly becoming a huge loser in everything: it is currently under heavy sanctions, and soon nobody will buy oil and gas from it. And innovative people have emigrated which precludes the generation of new products, which would be bought after the sanctions are lifted. Second, the elections in Australia threw out the climate denialist Morrison and gave clear support to candidates who were for climate actions. Because of this, one can expect that Australia changes from being one of the biggest per capita carbon dioxide polluters (only behind some small Arabian oil producers) to a country that is actively promoting the use of fossil-free energy.
As one is moving away from fossil fuels, nuclear power has been advocated as an important alternative. At the moment the only place, where this is already happening is China, where more than 50 nuclear power plants are in different stages of construction. One cannot expect that any nuclear power plants which are not already being built will make a contribution at the time that fossil fuels need to be replaced, i.e., next ten years. Approximately only 30 % of the power plants, where construction was started 10 years ago, produce energy today. Besides, the traditional nuclear power plants are excessively expensive, with the cost of several billion €. As an alternative, the nuclear power lobbyists advocate the production of small, modular power plants, which could be placed to the sites liberated from coal power plants. However, there is the problem that no such power plant currently exists except in the planners’ drawing tables, although according to the lobbyists the first should have been in use already several years ago.
The reason for advocating nuclear power is that energy production from them is constant, not fluctuating as that from the much cheaper wind and solar energy. In view of this, one should either find ways of producing green energy at constant level or storing it so that the excess energy can be used during the time that production is limited. Both alternatives are already known, and the needed infrastructure is certainly much cheaper and more rapidly built than a full-scale nuclear power plant. With regard to constant fossil-free energy production, the use of geothermal energy is easily done. In fact, Iceland’s energy production depends almost fully on it, and its use is possible everywhere. The expense for kWh may presently exceed that of using fossil fuels, but it will most likely get cheaper as wind energy has. Tidal energy and ocean current energy are constant. It has been estimated that about 30 % of total energy demand in UK could be produced with tidal energy quite easily. Also, turbines for ocean current utilization would be quite similar to those in hydroelectric power plants.
The simplest way of achieving effective energy storage is to pump water to a storage site during the time that more energy is produced than is needed. When the stored energy is required, the storage site can function as hydroelectric power plant. The second good alternative is not actually storage, but utilizing the fact that the wind blows and sun shines always somewhere. Making electric grids interconnected so that electricity can be transported from where it is overproduced to where it is needed is a way of stabilizing global production/utilization. While this way of making ends need appears vulnerable today with Russian aggression, such globalism is required if we are to effectively combat climate change.
So, probably nuclear power is not needed because of its heavy investment costs and long building time. The alternatives can be built much more rapidly and do not require as extensive investments. However, if fusion power ever comes into controlled being, that changes everything. After all, the sun is only a massive fusion power plant.
Tiistai 1.3.2022 klo 19:06 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Another IPCC report has become available yesterday (February 28). They keep becoming larger, the full report now has 3685 pages. Its main findings are summarized in 35-page summary for policymakers. I am not going through the impressive amount of information, it can all be read at https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg2/index.html, but giving my musings about why this information is not accepted by almost a half of the people in industrialized countries. The publication of the IPCC report has been relegated to a secondary news item, because of the attack of Putin’s Russia to Ukraine, but the two have surprising links.
Russia’s main income is from oil and natural gas. Since the world is trying to diminish the use of fossil fuels, Russia’s incomes will be diminishing in future. Furthermore, since quite a few buildings have been built on permafrost, which is melting, there is a huge need for investments on new grounding of them. Together these facts mean that Putin saw his window of opportunity to restore the might of Russian empire to be now or never. I suppose he imagined that Ukraine could be easily conquered and puppet government installed there. That did not happen. He also supposed that Europe and NATO would be split. That did not happen, either. Rather, the unity of the Western World has increased, and resulted in so massive sanctions that Russian economy is reeling. This increases the economic problems that I alluded to above.
But, going to the climate deniers’ arguments. They are stating that government should decrease the price of fossil fuels and slow down the replacement of fossil fuels by carbon-free energy sources. Since already now the temperature increase is causing irreversible problems, the delay on the stop of fossil fuel use would cause increased climate-related problems. Besides, that would play in the hands of Putin regime, as it would increase the sales of natural gas and oil from Russia. In Finland, an argument is presented that one should continue the use of peat in the name of national fuel/energy security. However, peat can be equated to fossil fuels in the time range of climate change. Furthermore, the national energy production security can be obtained by wind power, because no foreign nation can stop the wind. Third, the climate deniers always say that there have always been changes in earth’s climate. This is naturally true, but the sheer speed of the change is unprecedent. In addition, predictable weather has actually enabled the development of present civilizations. Climate change is causing unpredictable heat waves, droughts, heavy rains and also cold spells in places they have seldom occurred.
Climate change already affects the lives of three billion people, and one of the most terrible things happening is the increase of sea level, which will affect a couple of billions more. One of the major points made in the IPCC report is that most of the predicted ill effects of climate change can still be avoided, but the actions against climate change need to be speeded up.
Keskiviikko 23.2.2022 klo 19:45 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Russia has remained as a nation exporting fossil fuels and raw materials, which other nations turn into more advanced products. Now that Russia is attacking Ukraine, virtually all nations are placing economic sanctions on Russia. As the major one is the decision of Germany to stop the approval process of Nord Stream 2. The dependence of Europe, especially Germany, on the largely Russian natural gas has hampered combatting climate change seriously. However, there would be an alternative to Russian natural gas already available, and Putin’s actions may be enough to change even the minds of Germany’s greens. One could just start the nuclear power plants already in place until there is enough windmills and solar power available. Doing this would have two major beneficial effects: first, it would immediately reduce the carbon dioxide emissions so much that the EU goals would easily be achieved. Second, it would really hurt Russia, as their major export income would disappear. That could stop Putin, or cause him to be replaced; I think the reason for his aggressive behaviour towards Ukraine is because he is afraid that even Russian people start seeing that a democratic country has developed from the earlier Soviet Union mainland (I am not counting the Baltic nations here, because they were democracies before being forced to become part of the Soviet Union).
The skeptical reader here says that it would not make a difference to Russia, if gas export to Europe would decrease, as it can be replaced by sales to another autocratic country, China. However, I don’t believe that China would want to severe its ties to Europe and USA for the simple reason that they are much more important to Chinese economy than Russia. Chinese exports to EU and USA are about 15 times greater than to Russia. This has actually already become obvious in the UN Security Council discussions, where China indicated that it was of the opinion that the souvereignty of a nation (Ukraine) should be respected.Thus, in my opinion, Putin is shooting himself in the stomach by his aggression against Ukraine. So far, he has developed unprecedent unity of EU and NATO, and he will further speed up the transformation of Europe to fossil fuel-free area faster than has been planned, depriving Russia from export income. And Russia is not known to produce anything which could be called high tech.
Tiistai 25.1.2022 klo 15:33 - Mikko Nikinmaa
The energy and electricity price has increased immensely during recent past. Invariably the climate sceptics, deniers or “realists” have said that it is because overambitious climate goals, we should not aim at reducing the use of fossil fuels. Well, we have not so far succeeded in reducing fossil fuel use – 2021 was the year with the highest combined coal, natural gas and oil use. The increased, not the decreased consumption of fossil fuels is the major reason for increased energy price. Because the coronavirus pandemic decreased the fossil fuel consumption in 2020, their production and storage were decreased in 2021. As the economic activity increased markedly in 2021, fossil fuel supply could not fulfil the demand, and their price increased markedly, driving also the price of electricity up. So the increased cost of electricity is not caused by increased shift away from fossil fuels, but fossil fuel producers producing less when the consumption was increasing.
Thus, increased green energy production is, in fact, reducing the price increase. Also, subsidies to wind and solar energy production do not increase the energy price, rather the opposite. In many cases, the wind and solar energy producers are given subsidies, if the energy price is below an agreed level. If it goes above the agreed sum, a part of the profit is paid back. This sum could then be used to offset the increasing cost to the consumer. Therefore, building more wind mills would dampen the energy price increases, which are largely caused by imbalance between fossil fuel production and consumption.
Maanantai 10.1.2022 klo 19:02 - Mikko Nikinmaa
One would imagine that electricity use in a rich dark Scandinavian country is excessively high and should be reduced to decrease the use of fossil fuels. However, in comparison to the electricity use of bitcoin mining the consumption of electricity by Scandinavian countries pales. On yearly basis bitcoin mining uses as much electricity as Denmark and Finland put together. And what is the whole bitcoin or other cryptocurrency craze needed for? Nothing. The whole concept is needed for nothing.
China banned bitcoin mining a couple of years back. While I disagree with many of the decisions made by the authoritarian state, I wish that the ban would be made global – it could become a UN resolution, I cannot see that any nation claiming to combat climate change could be against banning this completely unnecessary major electricity use.
What happened when China banned bitcoin mining? Much of the mining went to Kazakhstan, which is very rich in gas and oil resources. Consequently, the huge electricity use of bitcoin mining there has completely been generated with fossil fuels. Not surprisingly, the Chinese ban increased the gas and oil use in Kazakhstan by up to 20 %. It was a major reason for the increases of fuel prices which were the final straw causing the recent civil unrest in the authoritarian, corrupted country of Kazakhstan.
So, in addition to causing climate change, bitcoin mining has contributed to the more than 150 deaths so far caused by the civil unrest. Because the whole cryptocurrency concept is completely unnecessary and speculative, world action could easily be taken to abolish this source of fossil fuel consumption. The smartphone and computer world uses enough electricity even without harmful parasites such as cryptocurrencies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Perjantai 11.12.2020 klo 13:08 - Mikko Nikinmaa
In the 20th century, finding oil made you rich. The prosperity of many people and nations has been generated with oil profits. Oil as a source of wealth is now rapidly becoming to its end, although oil companies still try to maintain their status. Their methods remind me very much of what tobacco industry did in the latter part of the 20th century: although the scientific community has been quite unanimous about Climate change and the role of burning oil in generating it since 1970’s, the oil lobby has denied Climate change and presented pseudoscience suggesting that there is no interaction with oil burning and temperature change.
However, the oil companies are now seeing the end approaching. As a major indication is that investment companies are advising against buying oil stocks. As the latest big institutional investor, the New York Pension Fund (226 billion dollars) has indicated that it will sell all its oil and coal company stocks by 2040. Because oil use has dropped, so has oil price. Denmark just recently indicated that it will stop oil drilling by 2050 and also stop oil prospecting. In Finland, the national oil company is closing its second oil refinery next year.
Whenever any oil refinery, coalmine or power plant using fossil fuels including peat is closed, the local media are full of news complaining about the employment losses. It is naturally sad that people lose their work, but since the use of fossil fuels is not sustainable, it must be done. If the oil-dependent companies had prepared for the future, they would have started to develop commerce, which is not oil-dependent.
So big oil is past. What happens to the Middle Eastern countries, which are in the desert, but have become rich drilling oil?
Maanantai 16.11.2020 klo 13:23 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Hurricanes or typhoons – tropical cyclones cause immense damage because of the high-velocity wind and heavy rain. A commonly accepted consequence of climate change is that the number of tropical cyclones per time period and their average strength increase both in North America and in East Asia. This is caused because the increase of oceanic temperature. Since the cyclones are fuelled by the moisture of air, and increased oceanic temperature increases air moisture above the ocean, the increased frequency and strength of hurricanes and typhoons is easy to understand.
If hurricanes dissipate slower after landfall in warming climate, they cause damaga to larger areas than earlier. This adds to the need to increase actions against climate change. Even in fossil fuel energy were cheaper than renewable energy without taking into account the expenses caused in repairing hurricane damage, adding them to the costs would certainly stop fossil fuel use rapidly. Such climate tax could and should be added to the fossil fuel price at least in Europe, North America, Australia, Russia and China.
Maanantai 19.10.2020 klo 17:50 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Both Putin and Trump are anchored in the past, and hope to make decisions on 50-year old premises. Nothing can hurt the environment and, consequently, our future more than living in the past. For Trump it is the days on glorious 1960’s America, sending man to the moon. Those days American cars were the envy of every European: they were big, lean and fast. Although they used twice as much petrol as the small European cars, it did not matter, there was plenty of oil to burn. At that time the fossil fuel industry, and other industries were firmly rooted in industrialized west. There was no globalization, China and even Japan were not any commercial competitor, and the world population was 2-3 000 000 000.
The world had two major powers, USA and Soviet Union. Putin still dreams that he is leading the great Soviet Union, which has always had czars. Until the time of 1917 revolution they were called czars, but Stalin and other ruthless leaders did not rule democratically. Communist Soviet Union considered environment only as a commodity for the benefit of the party. One could do whatever, change the direction of rivers, drain lakes etc. just as long as it helped the top officials of the party.deeply rooted in the past. When Trump says the science does not know, if there is climate change, it is only one of his 20000 lies. There is more unequivocal evidence of anthropogenic influence on the state of the environment than for any other scientific endeavour. Climate change is taken seriously by all the American industries apart from the oil and coal industries. Even most of the energy sector sees that oil and coal belong to the past: the use of renewable sources has exceeded the use of oil and coal this year. So when Trump and Pence are talking about the excellent environmental record of the present government, they are telling lies, which even the commercial circles do not accept. It is almost worse with Putin, since he does not have any opposition. For him climate change is only an opportunity. Temperature increase will make the Arctic Ocean ice-free and navigable. As a result, the huge gas deposits of Siberia are easier to utilize than hitherto. It does not matter to him that the same temperature increase, which makes the Arctic Ocean ice-free, also causes permafrost thawing and liberation of immense methane deposits to the atmosphere. Since methane is much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, methane liberation may lead to vicious circle speeding up temperature increase even if humans tried to restrict greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. Not that it matters to Putin, since he is of the opinion that even if there is climate change, it is not caused by human actions.
With these two science-denialists in power, it is all the more important that Europe steps up. Europe’s lead with backing from China and hopefully next year from USA will be needed. The only way to get Putin change his mind is to show that his fossil fuels cannot be marketed anywhere.
That’s what comes from living in the past – no decisions fitting the future.
Keskiviikko 27.5.2020 klo 14:19 - Mikko Nikinmaa
During the coronavirus lockdowns the energy consumption has decreased markedly so that carbon dioxide emissions have decreased measurably. This has mainly been caused by reduced traffic, since heating and production of electricity have continued close to pre-coronavirus time. Now, the leaders/economist/politicians looking in the past suggest that when the economies are opened, the climate actions, including changes in energy production, should be delayed until a better time. However, there will never be a better time than this to increase investments in renewable energy.
First, all countries are giving massive stimulus funds. One of the most important sectors is improving infrastructure. When improving infrastructure, two directions stand out: railroads and power plants. With improvements of rail traffic, one could change most transport from road transport to rail transport. It would only require that in addition to improvement of rails one would build goods terminals to facilitate container transfer from trains to trucks. With this done, all long-distance goods transport would take place in railroads, and road transport would be restricted to the travel between the place of production/use and rail terminals. Such a change would have several benefits. One would decrease oil use markedly in transport, since trains are mostly electrical. One would also decrease the use of roads by heavy traffic, and thereby reduce the need for repairing them, also reducing oil consumption (in asphalt). Finally, tyre wear is currently the most important source of microplastics. Thus, reducing road traffic would reduce this universal environmental contamination. Developing bullet trains with international route planning would diminish passenger transport in air traffic, and improvement of railroads would increase local passenger train traffic, also reducing oil consumption.
One of the things with investment is that virtually all political and economic circles say that the corona support should be for a fixed time period, not taking place forever. Building power plants to harness renewable energy fulfils this criterion. Power plants producing energy from renewable sources, wind, sunlight, waves, tide or water flow, only carry costs during building. Thereafter virtually no costs are associated with energy production, so energy production becomes cheaper and cheaper with time. This is in stark contrast with power plants using oil, natural gas, coal or peat, which all require continuously buying the fuel. Further, whereas much of the traditional fuels must be imported, thus generating problems with security of supply, the renewable resources are truly local, and can be used even in the direst of crises.
In conclusion, investing in climate-friendly railroads and renewable energy makes sense both politically and economically. Such investments are going to the future, which we should do instead of reverting in tha unsustainable past.
Torstai 14.5.2020 klo 11:38 - Mikko Nikinmaa
When President Trump came to power, he vowed to make coal-based energy production stronger than previously. In general, he has supported the use of fossil fuels in energy production and withdrew USA from the Paris Climate Accord. Despite this, very good news are coming from the energy production sector in USA for the last months.
As a background for this the following must be stated. The federal government does not give any subsidies for energy production using renewable sources. Thus, energy companies buy needed energy from producers, who can deliver power most economically.
With this in mind, it is significant that in 2020 energy obtained using renewable sources (windmills, solar power, hydroelectric power) has exceeded coal-based energy production for 90 days already, as reported in a New York Times article today. This is all the more remarkable, as in 2019 the renewable energy production exceeded energy production using coal only in 38 days.
From this one can conclude that the coal era is rapidly coming to end, as energy is more expensive to produce using coal than using renewable resources.
Perjantai 3.4.2020 klo 15:19 - Mikko Nikinmaa
One of the very few positive things that have happened in recent months is how the air quality throughout the world has improved. Naturally the reason for that has been the Coronavirus pandemic, which has decreased traffic and industrial activity, whereby energy production using fossil fuels has markedly decreased. Since it is estimated that about 20000 people per day die as a consequence of air pollution, the decrease saves many human lives, so that the net effect of Covid-19 pandemic is not as devastating as solely the disease mortalities indicate.
However, some day the pandemic is over, and then the “forced” improvement of air quality and climate change-mitigating actions are also over. Then there are two alternatives: we can either return to the old ways or try to shape our actions towards sustainable future. Earlier, the crises have virtually always been followed by increased economic activity as compared the situation before the crisis. If we choose this path, the improvement of air quality just lasts for a fleeting moment. Traffic using fossil fuels increases above last year’s level and fossil fuel-based energy production (using both oil and coal) increases. As a consequence, death bells chime to more than 7000000 people per year because of air pollution and climate change accelerates.
Alternatively, we may want to retain the improvements of air quality and choose a more sustainable future. In the best case, the era of coal and oil comes to the end sooner than expected. The price of raw oil is presently at all time low. If the political leaders are rational, they start collecting so high taxes on oil products that their consumer prices do not decrease, and use taxes collected in this way to compensate for economic losses incurred during the Coronavirus pandemic. Since the low oil price would then not give an incentive for using oil as a fuel, the direction towards fossil fuel-free energy production would continue without slowing down. It could also be speeded up by giving tax breaks or bonus funds to communities and companies, which increase their energy use without fossil fuels. This could be done without increasing the money based on energy production, as the funds could be taken from subsidies to fossil fuels, which can currently be estimated to be more than 500 billion € or $ per year worldwide.
The surprisingly smooth conversion to distant working has given us a couple of things by which we can decrease both work traffic and air traffic. Distant working can be utilized much more and in many more jobs than previously thought. All the days at home decrease fuel consumption: both saving the employee’s costs and decreasing carbon dioxide emissions (and decreasing oil industry’s profits, which is a good thing). Also, many international meetings can be arranged without gathering people to one place. This decreases air travel, and both saves employer’s expenses and combats climate change. Note that although much of the work can be done from home and many meetings can be held as video conferences, it is imperative that social contacts be maintained both at working places and at international communities. Thus, in both cases, personal contacts must not be abolished, only reduced.
Although reducing traffic and increasing fossil-free energy production are only small steps in our way to sustainable society, the steps could be taken when we are going forward from Covid-19 pandemic.
Tiistai 26.11.2019 klo 12:40 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Among the 11000 other scientists, I was among the signatories in the article authored by William Ripple et al. It was published in BioScience in early November, and attracted pronounced media coverage. Since the article is open access, here is a link to the published paper. Please, read it (and if you know anybody who doubts anthroponic effects on climate, get them to read it): https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088
Lauantai 4.5.2019 klo 18:03
Oh, California - the beautiful landscapes of Yosemite, the redwood forests etc. But it is getting dry; because of overuse of water the groundwater level has decreased alarmingly in recent years. The climate change has aggravated droughts, and every year more and more serious wildfires are news all over the world. Last time the fires reached Yosemite. The fires in California are one indication of the effects of climate change. However, that is not the only one. The storms in the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and even the extreme cold spells in recent American winters are all indications of climate change. Yet, despite of all evidence about human influence on climate, the present Trump/Republican government denies that any change is happening. They have even tried to remove any wording suggesting that climate change may be affectng Arctic environments and should be combatted from the final communication of the Arctic nations during Finland's presidentship. The funny thing is that even if climate change were not caused by human influence, the overuse of Earth's resources cannot be denied. One questions, what the reasons behind denying facts can be. The sorry fact is that the present government, as the populists (including Putin's Russia) all over the world, is living in the past, when there were only two billion people in the world, one had enough resources to waste and the carbon dioxide production from fossil fuels was no problem. The posiion of Americam government is like that of car passsengers, who are driving full speed towards a brick wall and quarreling about their sitting positions.
Luckily, it appears that the majority of Americans see climate change as a fundamental problem, which needs to be tackled. Since the president of the USA is very powerful, the choice of POTUS in 2020 is very decisive for the wellbeing of the world. As a latest democraic presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke said that America need to spend up to ten trillion dollars in combatting climate change within the next ten years. This would indicate a drastic change to the actions of the present government, and would give hope to the world.
The reason why I, living in the other side of the world, am taking a strong position in American politics, is that all of us are inhabiting a small, overused planet, and whatever the actions in one side are, we on the other side will be affected. We cannot isolate ourselves any more, that priviledge has been lost a long time ago with increasing population and resource use. Unfortunately, many people have not accepted this. But the truth is that in next American presidential election one is pretty much deciding, if one chooses the unsustainable past or future, which may be sustainable.
Sunnuntai 14.10.2018 klo 15:21 - Mikko Nikinmaa
To be climate-friendly, the production of biofuels from wood should be associated with an increase of forest growth, which covers both the burned wood, and the carbon dioxide production during harvesting the material and transporting it to the biofuel factories and transporting the ready fuel to the fuel stations. If this requirement is not fulfilled, and new cuts done to obtain biofuel, then the new carbon dioxide produced is no better climatewise than carbon dioxide produced from oil and coal.
Climate-friendly biofuel can be produced from waste material, if new forest is planted at the same time. Then one increases the carbon sink, and simultaneously does environment-friendly treatment of waste.
I cannot understand, why production of biofuels without the above requirements is marketed as climate action, because it is definitely not that. To market something on grounds that is good for certain economic sectors and political parties, but against the most crucial requirements needed to have a sustainable world future, is something that our children do not thank us for, because we would have a choice. It would probably be against the interests of some groups, and probably more expensive than the cheapest choices, but it would in any case be a choice that we can decide on. Our children and grandchildren do not have the choice, but have to accept the situation we have generated through our choices.
Tiistai 24.7.2018 klo 19:57 - Mikko Nikinmaa
Plastics are made of oil. Thus, they could be utilized as components of fuel instead of generating massive garbage gyres in the oceans. And let's face it -since getting rid of the use of fossil fuels takes time, plastics should be used in energy production rather than just be destroyed by burning (without using the energy generated) which increases our carbon dioxide production.
This simple conclusion has now been advocated by the Finnish national oil company Neste. The company will start collecting plastic, and break it down to fuel components. The aim is to have 10-20 % of all petrol made of plastic garbage. This will mean savings in oil import, reduction in carbon dioxide generation and decrease in plastic garbage.
Although the solution does not make us fossil energy-free, it is a step in right direction. And at the present state of affairs anything done in right direction should be done as soon as possible, because it is getting hot in here, and a dop in the ocean must be done in the middle of plastic trash