Natural refrigerant replacements could reduce energy costs and conserve the environment

The 1987 Montreal Protocol and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol called for countries around the world to phase out substances like CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), and HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) that deplete the ozone layer and cause global warming. Many heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems still use these synthetic refrigerants that violate those international agreements and inflict environmental damage.

Recently, a team of Iranian researchers investigated how natural refrigerants could replace CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs in geothermal heat pumps to reduce energy consumption and operating costs. They report their findings in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, from AIP Publishing.

The researchers also examined the environmental and economic benefits of zeotropic and azeotropic refrigerants, as well as natural refrigerants. Based on their modeling, the researchers determined that natural materials, including ammonia and n-butane, are the most economical and environmentally friendly replacement refrigerants for geothermal heat pumps.

Geothermal heat pumps exploit how the earth's temperature below the surface stabilizes in mid-50s-degree Fahrenheit by using a vapor compression cycle equipped with buried pipes in horizontal trenches or vertical boreholes. Geothermal heat pumps extract heat from the ground (in the winter) and dissipate heat to the ground (in the summer) by circulating fluid such as water through buried pipes. This design takes advantage of the moderate temperatures in the ground to boost efficiency and reduce the operational costs of heating and cooling systems.

In their review, the researchers ran an Hour Analysis Program to calculate the heating and cooling loads in a 14-story, residential building. Then, they applied their findings to an Engineering Equation Solver to model the thermodynamic cycle of an open and closed loop ground source heat pump with different known refrigerants.

"The big challenge for the coming years in the HVAC and refrigeration industry is to establish natural refrigerant technology to substitute CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs refrigerants," said Mostafa Mafi, one of the authors on the paper. "A solution to reduce energy consumption in heat pumps is using the earth as a renewable heat source/sink to both increase efficiency and create a diversity of energy sources."

Global Quantity Of Plastic In Oceans To Nearly Double To 250 Million Tonnes By 2025

Kochi: About eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans each year and the global quantity will nearly double to 250 million tonnes by 2025, says a new analysis paper.

The new International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) co-authored analysis paper, released recently, warned that the 'plastic soup' contains toxic chemicals, which could pose risks to marine species and humans.

It said reliable quantitative estimations of input loads, sources and originating sectors represent a significant knowledge gap, "but it is suggested that every year almost eight million tonnes leak to the ocean."

It said estimates are that oceans may already contain over 150 million tonnes of plastic, of which around 250,000 tonnes, fragmented into five trillion plastic pieces, may be floating at the oceans' surface.

"It has also been estimated that the global quantity of plastic in the ocean will nearly double to 250 million tonnes by 2025, which likely also represents a pollutant load of millions of tonnes of chemical additives," it said.

Marine species ingest potentially contaminated plastics directly, and by eating contaminated prey, says the paper titled 'Marine litter plastics and microplastics and their toxic chemicals components: the need for urgent preventive measures'.

"Seabirds are particularly vulnerable, with studies showing the presence of additives used as flame retardants in plastics, as well as foams and textiles, which were discovered in their stomachs and fatty tissue," said the paper, published in Environmental Sciences, Europe.

The paper said that at a global level, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has estimated the economic impact of marine plastics (excluding microplastics), including losses incurred by fisheries and tourism due to plastic littering, as well as beach clean-up costs, at around USD 13 billion per year.

"Looking at the scale of the marine plastic problem today and at the projections for future growth in production of plastic globally, it is clear we are in the midst of a major crisis," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCNs Global Marine and Polar Programme.

Ludin said urgent action was needed to reduce toxic chemicals leaching into oceans from plastic.

To reduce amount of contaminants in marine plastics, the authors recommend addressing issues in the life-cycle design of plastic products and creating products that minimise use of hazardous substances, an approach known as 'green chemistry'.

They also concluded that the development of best practice codes for industry is likely to be more efficient than relying on 'end-of-pipe' solutions; and existing scientific evidence and precautionary principles should drive action from scientists, industry, policy and civil society to curb leaking of plastics into the marine environment in the short term.

"Societies need to act at multiple levels," said Joao Sousa, IUCN Project Manager for Marine Plastics, co-author of the report.

"Developed countries need to identify and adopt less harmful production processes and promote alternatives, whilst sound waste management and awareness-raising should be the main priority for developing nations," said Sousa.

The paper was authored by members of a working group associated with the Stockholm and Basel Conventions multilateral environmental agreements aimed at protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes and other authors.

India to Host World Environment Day This Year

In recognition of India''s progress in defense of the environment, this country will host the World Environment Day, to be celebrated every June 5, the government and the UN announced today.

During a news conference, the executive director of the the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Erik Solheim, and Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Harsh Vardhan, stressed this nation's works to protect nature.

Under the slogan 'Overcoming Ocean Plastic Pollution', the UN convenes this year to 'join to explore sustainable alternatives to urgently reduce the production and the excessive use' of that product.

This country has one of the world's highest recycling rates, the official said.

According to the UN, the world plastic production surpasses 300 million tons annually, eight millions of which ends in the oceans.

  • Published in World

Climate Change Could Turn Earth into Venus: Stephen Hawking

The British physicist said Venus was once an inhabitable Earth-like planet, but greenhouse gases raised its surface temperatures to boiling point – and beyond.

In the second episode of his new series "Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places," the British physicist warns Earth could soon become as hot as Venus if action to halt climate change is not taken immediately.

RELATED: Stephen Hawking Says AI Can 'Outperform Humans'

Hawking says Venus was once an Earth-like planet with surface water, mild temperatures and an appropiate atmosphere. According to NASA, Venus was an inhabitable planet for a period of about two billion years as recently as four billion years ago.

Now temperatues on Venus reach 250°C with powerful 300mph winds. Hawking says a greenhouse effect burned the planet's oceans and lands, and that something similar could happen right here on Earth if climate change continues unabated.

"Next time you meet a climate-change denier, tell them to take a trip to Venus; I will pay the fare," says the physicist in his show.

Hawking has severely criticized Trump's decision last year to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement. The US president has stated before that this climate pact puts the US economy at a disadvantage, even denying that climate change is a real thing and stating that he cares not for the citizens of Paris, but only those of the United States.

The Paris climate agreement is an international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and was signed by 195 nations in 2015.

In the Starmus Festival last year, Hawking said Trump's decision was "the most serious and wrong decision on climate change this world has seen." He also said that the human race would have to colonize outer space in the next 200 to 500 years if we are to survive as species.

Since then, Hawking has stated multiple times his hopes for a new era of space exploration, in which nations unite toward a single goal.

"It is clear we are entering a new space age. We are standing at the threshold of a new era. Human colonisation and other planets is no longer science fiction, it can be science fact."

The scientist is currently working on Breakthrough Starshot, a project that could send "a ground-based light beamer pushing ultra-light nanocrafts – miniature space probes attached to lightsails – to speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour" to Alpha Centauri, the closest star system, in just 20 years.

"Stephen Hawking's Favorite Places" won an Emmy last year and is available for streaming at Curiosity Stream.

Earth witnesses hottest August ever recorded

2016’s global temperatures keep on breaking new records, NASA has said, declaring last month the hottest ever August to be recorded on Earth.

Last month earned the title of warmest ever August on Earth since 1880, when record-keeping began, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York announced in a press release on Monday. The findings come soon after NASA branded July 2016 both the hottest ever July and the hottest ever month on record.

August 2016 was 0.16 degrees Celsius warmer than the last hottest August which took place recently, in 2014. Last month’s temperatures were also 0.98 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean August temperature from 1951-1980, scientists said.

What is more, August 2016 managed to tie with July as the hottest month on record. August is also the 11th consecutive month during which global temperatures have broken all records, scientists pointed out, adding that the trend goes all the way back to October 2015.

Scientists said that long-term trends are the key to understanding the changes taking place on our planet.

“Monthly rankings, which vary by only a few hundredths of a degree, are inherently fragile,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “We stress that the long-term trends are the most important for understanding the ongoing changes that are affecting our planet.”

To carry out its monthly analysis NASA collects data from some 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will announce its own August data later this month. Last month NOAA said that July 2016 was the 14th consecutive month with record high temperatures. April 2015 was the last month when the Earth did not encounter any record high temperatures.

READ MORE: Global temperatures set 14th consecutive monthly record

An upward trend in global temperatures has been noticed since 2014. Last year was considered the hottest on record surpassing its previous rival – 2014. This year is thought to have every chance of beating 2015, as the first six months of this year were all record warm.

NASA chief climate scientist Gavin Schmidt said earlier that 2016 has a 99 percent chance of being a third record hot year in a row. Last month he warned that the average temperature of Earth is rising at a pace “unprecedented in 1,000 years”.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Are Weak on Climate Change

The outcome of this year’s presidential election could have major implications in the global fight to combat climate change. 

U.S. citizens head to the ballot box November in order to elect their country’s next president, while global temperatures for 2016 are on track to be the hottest-ever on record.

In the United States, people are taking global warming more seriously than at any point in the past eight years, according to a March Gallup poll which found that 64 percent of the population are worried about global warming – marking an increase of 10 percent from last year.

RELATED: Sanders Trumps Clinton on the Environment and Climate Change

In his Republican presidential nomination acceptance speech last week in Cleveland, Trump vowed to eliminate government-imposed environmental regulations in order to jump-start the U.S. economy, which he argued “is costing our country as much as $2 trillion a year.”

“We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy. This will produce more than $20 trillion in job-creating economic activity over the next four decades,” Trump stated.

Throughout his electoral campaign, Trump has repeatedly advocated for offshore drilling. He has also expressed his support for the Keystone XL pipeline and is a firm supporter of fracking as a strategy to end dependence on imported oil.

Meanwhile, Trump campaign officials have told the media in recents weeks that Harold Hamm, Oklahoma oil and gas mogul, is currently being considered as the country’s energy secretary if Trump becomes elected to the White House.

Trump’s vows to overturn federal restrictions on oil and gas development were also echoed in a speech by Hamm at the RNC earlier this month, in which he advocated for expanded drilling and said too much environmental regulation threatened to limit U.S. oil production.

According to reports, Trump has tapped U.S. Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, a known climate change skeptic and drilling advocate, to help draw up his campaign energy platform, and picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence, also a climate skeptic, as his running mate.

RELATED: Trump Vows to Unravel Climate Change Policies in Favor of Oil

Following the Republican National Convention, Cramer told members of the media that if elected Trump is unlikely to make climate change a top priority.

"I will tell you this, I think it's quite clear that climate change is not a top-10 worrisome issue for Donald Trump,” E&E news quoted Cramer saying.

Trump made headlines yet again in December 2015 when he told a group of supporters at a rally in South Carolina that climate change is a “hoax”.

“So, Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and the -- a lot of it's a hoax, it's a hoax. I mean, it's a moneymaking industry, OK? It's a hoax, a lot of it," he said.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Reuters last May, Trump vowed to renegotiate the terms of the U.N. global climate accord, which was agreed upon in Paris in December by nearly 200 nations.

Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has promised to bolster regulation and increase use of renewable fuels to combat climate change if elected.

However, during her time as Secretary of State, Clinton advocated for fracking abroad around under the department’s Global Shale Gas Initiative.

In emails discovered by The Intercept last May, while leading the State Department Clinton worked closely with fossil fuel companies in order to put pressure on foreign leaders to promote fracking abroad, including in Romania, Bulgaria and Morocco.

Greenpeace estimates that Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Super PAC supporting her have received more than $6.9 million from the fossil fuel industry.

  • Published in World

Cuba Defends Decent Work for Sustainable Development

Cuba has defended decent work as a means and an objective to attain sustainable development, placing the human being as the center of this purpose.

National efforts for development should be supported by enabling an international economic environment, said Rodolfo Parra, the Cuban delegate at the 105th International Labor Conference being held in Geneva.

For employers, the recognition of the role of business in creating and improving employment and wealth is relevant. Investment and innovation are key factors for the economic growth, productivity and sustainable development, Parra stressed.

“We call on governments to act with greater responsibility to improve the socio-economic environment and help businesses development, especially in the areas of education and health,” he said.

The Cuban delegate stated that his country is focused on the 2030 strategic projection, through broad social dialogue. “The development projection is being hampered by the economic blockade imposed by the U.S. government,” he added.

"As part of this process, a broad discussion is being carried out as part of the study and consultation of the two major program documents. They are the framework within which we will comply with the national goals of the 2030 Agenda," he said.

  • Published in Cuba
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