Category Archives: Environmental

There’s a new way to mine for lithium and it’s right here in the U.S.

Thanks;Claudia Assis

Published: Aug 19, 2017 4:14 p.m. ET

Crater Lake in Oregon, a caldera lake formed after a volcano collapse.

Using trace elements as proxy, Stanford says it is easier to detect lithium in supervolcano lake deposits

Scientists at Stanford University say they have found a new way to detect large deposits of lithium, an essential component of rechargeable batteries powering everything from common household electronics and smartphones to electric vehicles.

Stanford researchers say that lake sediments within supervolcanoes can host lithium-rich clay deposits, which would be an important step toward diversifying the supply of the metal—most lithium found in today’s electronics come from deposits in rock formations in Australia and salt flats in Chile. Moreover, trace elements in such deposits can be used as a proxy for lithium, they say in a study.

“Supervolcanoes” produce massive eruptions and their calderas, formed after the volcano literally blows its roof off, are their most recognizable feature. The huge hole post-eruption often fills with water to form a lake, and Oregon’s Crater Lake is an example.

Over tens of thousands of years, rainfall and hot springs leach out lithium from the volcanic deposits, and the lithium accumulates, along with sediments, in the caldera lake where it becomes concentrated in clay, Stanford said.

The scientists analyzed samples from several calderas, and found a previously unknown correlation between trace elements, such as zirconium and rubidium, and lithium concentrations.

Lithium is a volatile element shifting easily from solid to liquid to vapor, and thus it is hard to measure its concentration. Detecting the trace elements as lithium stand-ins, however, geologists will be able to identify candidate supervolcanoes for lithium deposits “in a much easier way than measuring lithium directly,” Stanford said.

“The trace elements can be used as a proxy for original lithium concentration. For example, greater abundance of easily analyzed rubidium in the bulk deposits indicates more lithium, whereas high concentrations of zirconium indicate less lithium,” it said.

The Stanford study was scheduled to be published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications and was in part supported by a Defense Department fellowship.

Last week, energy news site wrote about potential lithium constraints, singling out five stock plays for betting on the alkali metal: Albermarle Corp. ALB, +0.43% Canada’s Southern Lithium Corp. SNL, +2.63% Chile’s Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SQM, -0.16% ; the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF LIT, +0.53% and Tesla Inc. TSLA, -1.27%  

The Global X ETF has gained more than 31% so far this year, compared with gains of around 10% for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.18%

Albemarle earlier this month reported a modest second-quarter earnings beat, saying its lithium sales rose 56% year-on-year and almost all of the gain was in battery-grade lithium.

Analysts at UBS said in a recent note they expect lithium margins at Albemarle to remain above 40% despite an additional $60 million to $70 million in costs from royalty and community payments as well as other expenses.

“Pricing was up 21% in 1Q, 31% in 2Q and the debate continues on how long the industry can maintain that pace,” the UBS analysts said.

The answer, at least as far as electric vehicles are concerned, might be “for a long time.”

Tesla in late July launched its Model 3, an all-electric sedan aimed for the masses, and expects to be able to run its Fremont, Calif., plant at a rate of 500,000 vehicles a year by the end of 2018.

Tesla has talked about adding other commercial and passenger vehicles, including an electric semi truck to be unveiled next month.



The town of Bloomington, Indiana is the ultimate college town. A campus filed with over 1,200 miles of bike and running trails, this quaint town not only encourages students to embark on a sense of community it nearly demands it. Student can visit “off” campus stores, restaurants and coffee shops just a few steps from the limestone buildings in which they will live and learn. The student building on the IU campus is listed on the National Historical Registrar. The Sample Gates welcome students onto campus. Most of the campus is made of Indiana limestone sourced locally, and was built during the Great Depression by the WPA.

Indiana University- Bloomington is a four-year, public institution in Bloomington, Ind. The university was founded in 1820 as the flagship campus of Indiana University’s eight statewide campuses. U.S. News & World Report ranks Indiana University-Bloomington No. 83 in the National Universities category in its 2013 edition of Best Colleges. Indiana University-Bloomington serves a student population of 42,731 and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 19 to 1. Notable Indiana-Bloomington alumni include composer and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael and Star Trek screenwriter Jeri Taylor.


Indiana University-Bloomington is composed of eight schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, Kelley School of Business, School of Education, School of Journalism, Jacobs School of Music, School of Nursing, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, School of Social Work. Indiana University-Bloomington offers more than 150 majors and more than 330 degree programs through these eight schools, including programs in African American studies and sociology, animal behavior, cognitive science, drama, ethnomusicology, folklore, accounting, legal studies, education, journalism, music, nursing, public health, urban studies, and social work. Indiana University-Bloomington also offers 190 master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees. Online bachelor’s degree programs are available in business administration, communication studies, criminal justice, English, technical and professional writing, general studies, health information administration, labor studies, mathematics, natural science and mathematics, political science, psychology, and nursing. Online master’s degrees are available in several areas, including in business administration, finance, global supply chain management, instructional systems technology, nursing, recreational therapy, and technology.


The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has accredited Indiana University-Bloomington since 1913.


Admissions to Indiana University-Bloomington requires prospective students to turn in an online application, a $55 application fee, a high school transcript, and SAT and/or ACT scores. Indiana University- Bloomington requires eight credits of high school English, seven credits of high school mathematics, six credits of social sciences, six credits of sciences, four credits of world languages, and three credits of college-preparatory courses for incoming freshman. The deadline for automatic academic scholarship and selective scholarship consideration is Nov. 1. Applications received after April 1 are considered on a space-available, case-by-case basis.

People in this Swedish town gather in a ‘Solar Egg’ sauna instead of having town halls

Thanks;Leanna Garfield

Published ; Jun. 21, 2017, 5:41 PM

The Solar Egg by Bigert & Bergström.Jean-Baptiste Béranger

On the western border of Kiruna, Sweden, the state-owned mining company, LKAB, has been extracting iron ore from the Kirunavaara mountains for over a decade. But the long-term mining has caused fissures that are creeping closer to the city center of Kiruna.
Now, LKAB — which also founded the Arctic town in 1900 — is funding Kiruna’s relocation nearly two miles east, so that it can continue mining in the mountains.
Moving an entire town is no easy task and requires lengthy discussions with officials, the mining company, and residents. Local architects from Bigert & Bergström have designed one place where those talks can take place: a golden, egg-shaped sauna. 
Completed in late April, the sauna is a place for locals and officials to unwind and discuss questions and concerns about Kiruna’s relocation, the firm told Business Insider.

Located in Kiruna, Sweden, the Solar Egg is a sauna that’s free for anyone to use.

Visitors can book time in the saun ~>

By Jean-Baptiste Béranger

Its exterior is made of reflective sheets of plexiglass that were painted gold.

By Jean-Baptiste Béranger

The interior walls are made of pine ….

… and the benches from aspen wood. In the center, there’s a wood-powered stove made from iron and stone. The temperature inside can range from 167 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit (75 to 85 degrees Celsius).

Jean-Baptiste Béranger

The space, which fits up to eight people, is meant to serve as a local meeting place to discuss Kiruna’s relocation plan. “The egg shape seeks to symbolize rebirth and new opportunities at the start of Kiruna’s urban transformation,” the architects said.

Jean-Baptiste Béranger

To avoid being swallowed by the mine, Kiruna will need to move nearly two miles east. The Stockholm-based firm White Architects will be in charge of moving the town, where approximately 23,000 people live. Below is a rendering of what the new city center may look like:

Producing 90% of all iron in Europe, Kiruna’s mine has become the world’s largest iron ore extraction site. LKAB is also the biggest energy consumer in Sweden.
“It’s a dystopian choice,” Krister Lindstedt, a partner at White Architects, told The Guardian. “Either the mine must stop digging, creating mass unemployment, or the city has to move – or else face certain destruction. It’s an existential predicament.”Jean-Baptiste Béranger/Source: The Guardian

Later this summer, the Solar Egg will move to Nikkaluokta, a Swedish town about 45 miles west of Kiruna.

Three nations plan 500% increase in global offshore wind

Thanks;Sami Grover Sami Grover (@samigrover)

Published;June 12, 2017
When governments put their minds to it, big things can happen.

Offshore wind advocates cheered recently at news that a German wind farm is going to be built entirely without government subsidy. That said, however, it seems likely that government support—whether in the form of direct subsidies or more generally favorable policy/planning policies—is likely to be a major factor in the success (or not) of offshore wind for some time to come.
That’s why it’s encouraging to hear from Steve Hanley over at Cleantechnica that three nations—Germany, Denmark and Belgium—have signed on to an agreement to support a 5-fold increase in installed offshore wind capacity in the next decade. They’re not just talking about their own capacity either; the target is a global one, meaning an increase of capacity from today’s 13.8 gigawatts to more than 60 gigawatts.
Just imagine what would happen if every nation with suitable shoreline made a similar commitment. (I’m looking at you, USA.)
According to Steve, there’s hope that the agreement will eventually be signed on to by a broader coalition of ten nations who had previously pledged their support for offshore wind energy expansion. At least one of those nations, Great Britain, is currently in a state of political and environmental uncertainty as the world waits to see what its surprise election results really mean for government policy.
Either way, with China and India making more progress on emissions reductions than originally expected, France jockeying hard to seize climate leadership, and large swathes of the United States still pledging to honor the Paris Agreement, this is one more encouraging sign among many that a coalition of the willing could keep climate action well on track, even if there are efforts to sabotage progress in other parts of the world.

Paris agreement or not, solar employment looking brighter than coal

Thanks;Andrea Riquier

Published: June 2, 2017 1:20 p.m. ET

Nearly 400,000 people are employed in solar, more than double the number of coal workers

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign supporting coal during a rally at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on October 10, 2016.

As he introduced President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden yesterday, Vice-President Mike Pence said the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord was his way of putting “forgotten men and women” first.

And if anyone had any doubt who those “forgotten” souls were, the president himself departed from his prepared remarks to riff, “I happen to love the coal miners”But observers of the energy industry say it’s not that coal miners are forgotten. Instead, a perfect storm of workforce automation, a glut of natural gas, and consumer preferences has combined to make them obsolete.

“There are huge tectonic trends that are almost all mitigating against any near-term recovery of coal,” said Mark Muro, director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “It simply is not needed given the onset of extremely cheap and clean natural gas and the onset of renewables.”
On Friday, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn was asked about the administration’s emphasis on employment in a shrinking industry. Cohn told CNBC, “At some point in the cycle, coal will be competitive again. We want to keep coal available, we want to be in the coal business.”

But observers of the energy industry say it’s not that coal miners are forgotten. Instead, a perfect storm of workforce automation, a glut of natural gas, and consumer preferences has combined to make them obsolete.

“There are huge tectonic trends that are almost all mitigating against any near-term recovery of coal,” said Mark Muro, director of policy at the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “It simply is not needed given the onset of extremely cheap and clean natural gas and the onset of renewables.”
On Friday, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn was asked about the administration’s emphasis on employment in a shrinking industry. Cohn told CNBC, “At some point in the cycle, coal will be competitive again. We want to keep coal available, we want to be in the coal business.”  

But modern technology – particularly in the large-scale open-pit mining centers of the west, far from the Rust Belt – means that “even if demand for coal returned, the jobs wouldn’t. It’s pretty devastating,” Muro told MarketWatch.

It’s very challenging to break out how many people are employed in any part of the energy industry, in part because there are so many different components to each. There are jobs created in the initial energy generation process, and then there are support categories: manufacturers and installers of rooftop solar panels, for example. The Labor Department classifies many of those installation jobs within the construction industry, for example.
The Labor Department reported Friday that 51,000 people were employed in coal mining in May. But BLS doesn’t break out employment in other forms of energy production in any way for comparison.
In January, the outgoing Obama administration Energy Department released a report on energy and employment that showed that over 370,000 people were employed in the solar industry, compared to 86,000 in the coal industry. Over 101,000 people work in the wind power generation industry.
It’s worth noting that solar is so labor-intensive now in part because it’s just gaining a foothold. About 37% of solar electric generation jobs are construction and installation, the Energy Department’s report noted. So it’s likely that over time, solar won’t be as much of a job creator as it is now.
In 2011, Brookings released a substantial research report on what it termed the “clean economy,” which delved more deeply into job categorizations, among other things. The researchers noted that green energy efforts are beneficial in many ways, including by being manufacturing and export intensive. In 2009, the authors wrote, 5.3% of all U.S. goods exports were from “clean economy establishments.”
The clean economy also “offers more opportunities and better pay for low- and middle- skilled workers than the national economy as a whole,” the report noted.
In May, the International Renewable Energy Agency said the number of people working in the renewables sector internationally could more than double in the next 13 years, “more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world.”

Event Preview: InnoPack F&B Confex 2017

PUBLISHED; March 18th, 2017


The Packaging industry continues to post strong growth in India. Packaging for Foods is the largest industry in the overall industry. India has continued to be the third largest market globally for Food Packaging in terms of Retail/off-trade Unit Volume. The region also is the eight largest in beverage packaging in terms of total volume.

Given the opportunities it presents we have partnered with UBM India for the 2017 edition of InnoPack F&B Confex organised by UBM India. This is scheduled on the 11th – 12th April, 2017 in Gurgaon, India. This event strives to present a platform for F&B professionals to network, exchange ideas and knowledge, form future alliances and forecast new opportunities for the F&B packaging industry, in the dynamic economic environment.


In addition to demographic changes, the packaging industry in India is also having to respond to changes in the way consumers shop. Strategies have to be adapted to suit urban and rural areas, and also vary across regions in India. Many lower-income demographics are paid on a daily basis and can only afford to shop daily preferring local convenience stores as opposed to shopping on a weekly basis in city centre supermarkets.

Several more consumer specific trends will be addressed by the industry with discussions on – Understanding the F&B packaging based on consumer purchase decisions and Recent updates on the regulations in food and beverage packaging.


As the world consumes more resources than it can produce, there is an impetus to push away from a linear economy based on a make/use/dispose model and towards a circular economy based on a reduce/reuse/recycle model that focuses on minimizing waste and recycling or reusing all end products.

A focused conversation – Evaluating different ways to implement sustainable packaging and sustainable printing for food and beverage Industry will also be part of the two day event.


The health and wellness trend also encouraged the use of packaging innovation by brand owners in flavoured milk drinks, cheese, processed meat, and fruit and vegetables in developing a snacking product. Strengthening of the snacking trend, led to biscuits, snack bars, confectionery and baked goods overall providing the biggest incremental growth for packaging in foods. Flexible plastic, as a widely used snack pack solution for products such as toffees, caramels, nougat and sweet biscuits, will benefit the most to 2020.

Some of the conversations which would deliberate further on trends include – Exploring the new ways of packaging designs used for food and beverage packaging to attract the customers and Maximizing brand image through packaging.

How ‘guerilla’ start-ups can make the world a better place

Thanks;  & Word Economic Forum

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REUTERS/Thomas Peter

At the Stockholm Tech Fest this year, Swedish entrepreneur Niklas Zennström issued a rare and refreshing call to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their next startup idea. As founder of Skype, he knows a thing or two about opportunity-spotting.

The UN goals involve complex problems, but when it comes to clever startups, a lot can happen between now and 2030. After all, some of the most exciting ideas in recent decades have come from the “guerilla” startups rather than from the “gorilla” corporations; use of the guerilla’s creativity could help to find solutions to sustainable development problems.

However, it is important to ask: Is Zennström’s call to action just fluff, or is there are a deep enough bench of entrepreneurs with robust ideas? Are there resources to support such startups through different phases of growth?

Historically, keeping the growing body of “social” entrepreneurs nourished has largely fallen to impact investors, foundations, NGOs and a few progressive government agencies. so far, the track record of guerillas has not been stellar; far too often it is the same handful of examples that make the rounds. This is a field that, while not starved for people or ideas, is in need of fresh sources of nourishment. Getting big “gorilla” corporations to work with the “guerilla” startups could provide this nourishment.

Findings from our Inclusion, Inc. research initiative suggest that large corporations are well-placed to unblock startups’ path to wider impact.


How do we find ideas?

There is a growing pool of budding social entrepreneurs; the Skoll World Forumevent alone offers an encouraging and uplifting glimpse of the many guerillas in our midst. We are experiencing a surge in interest and ideas on university campuses. At UC Berkeley, the Blum Center has highlighted examples of businesses and people already helping to fulfil the goals.

Closer to home, The Fletcher School’s collaboration with the One Acre Fund’s D-Prize draws numerous contestants with ideas for social enterprises that take on “poverty solutions”; in recent years, we have funded a startup that used bus networks to distribute solar lamps to far-flung communities in Burkina Faso; a venture finding sponsors for girls’ high school education; and a ground transportation brokerage to serve as “the connective tissue” between smallholder farmers and transporters.

A second piece of good news is that capital is ready to be mobilised. A 2014 study by J.P. Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) identified $46bn in impact investments under management, with annual funding commitments estimated to increase by 19% in 2014. Sir Ronald Cohen, chair of the Global Social Impact Investment Taskforce, believes the impact investing market can grow to match the “$3tn of venture capital and private equity.”

According to Judith Rodin and Margot Brandenburg of the Rockefeller Foundation: “Aspirational estimates suggest that impact investments could one day represent 1% of professionally managed global assets, channeling up to hundreds of billions of dollars towards solutions that can address some of our biggest problems, from poor health to climate change.”

What are the bottlenecks?

So, why does all this good news not translate into more meaningful outcomes? Two bottlenecks are worth highlighting. The first is what a Monitor and Acumen study calls the “pioneer gap”. Their 2012 study, From Blueprint to Scale, observes that pioneer firms are starved of capital and support at very early stages in their development.

The second choke point occurs in the phase of actually getting to scale. A second report, Beyond the Pioneer, identifies a chain of barriers to scale, ranging from those within the firm and the industry to those in the domain of public goods and the government.

These bottlenecks represent different forms of market failures. An approach to the first of them involves “de-risking” early stage social ventures. However, a key source of risk is the chain of barriers to scale in later stages. If we can make meaningful advances on lowering the barriers, it helps in de-risking and also supports early-stage startup development.

Given the breadth of the barriers to scale, impact investors, NGOs and foundations would find it challenging to facilitate end-to-end solutions. Apart from funding and convening, such organisations have few other levers. Large corporations, on the other hand, can tackle business model and managerial issues within the firm and help boost negotiating power within the value chain or the public sector.

The biggest questions, of course, have to do with whether the gorilla corporations can ever be organisationally and culturally compatible with the startups. Given the potential for value creation these gaps are worth taking on.

The Monitor and Acumen study lists potential barriers: “firm level” barriers, which include weak business models, propositions to customers/producers, leadership and managerial and technical talent and a lack of capital.

Eye Mitra, launched in 2013, had trained over 1,000 young entrepreneurs and reached 150,000 people by the end of 2015. The business helps individuals to set up eye care provider businesses in rural communities using low-cost products.

According to a study by Dalberg Global Development Advisors [pdf], the programme added $4m a year in impact across the six districts surveyed; with Essilor’s scaling resources, Eye Mitra could represent the potential to unlock economic impact of $487m a year across India.

“Value chain barriers”

There are also value chain barriers which include lack of suitable labour inputs and financing for bottom-of-the-pyramid (BoP) producers and customers, weak sourcing channels and weak distribution channels involving BoP producers and customers, and weak linkages and support service providers.

Corporations with experience have become adept at finding creative ways around barriers in the value chain. Consider Unilever’s Project Shakti, which enables rural women to become entrepreneurs by distributing goods to hard-to-access rural communities.

Over 70,000 Shakti Entrepreneurs distribute Unilever’s products in more than 165,000 villages, reaching over 4m rural households. At the other end of the value chain, Coca-Cola’s Source Africa initiative facilitates sustainable and financially viable supply chains for key Coca-Cola agricultural ingredients, e.g. mango production in Kenya and Malawi and citrus and pineapple production in Nigeria.

In another sector, when Saint-Gobain builds a plant in a new country, it trains the local workforce in collaboration with YouthBuild. The latter trains disadvantaged youths in professional skills, while Saint-Gobain adds training in construction science.

“Public goods barriers”

Then, there are the public goods barriers: Lack of hard infrastructure; lack of awareness of market-based solutions; lack of information, industry knowhow and standards.

Olam offers a good illustration of a company’s deep involvement in a nation’s hard infrastructure. Olam jointly owns Owendo, a port in Gabon and is a key partner in the country’s special economic zone. On the “soft” public goods front, Janssen, a unit of J&J, works with multiple stakeholders to increase access to medicines and has formed the Janssen Neglected Disease Task Force to advocate for legislation to support new research into treatments for neglected diseases. It also coordinates a consortium to support HIV patients and their caretakers in managing the disease.

Fourth and finally, there are the government barriers: inhibitory laws, regulations and procedures; inhibitory taxes and subsidies; adverse interventions by politicians or officials.

MasterCard and its growing collaboration with the Association for Financial Inclusion to educate public officials about issues relevant to financial inclusion. This includes technical capacity building, developing national-level public-private engagement strategies, research and best practices to inform policymaking and exposing officials to innovative products, business models and approaches.

Combining global reach with entrepreneurial creativity

Perhaps the best mechanism for bringing gorilla and guerilla together is through a corporate venture or impact investing fund. Consider Unilever Ventures as an example. It has invested in a range of enterprises, including ones that focus on water management as part of its “sustainable living” portfolio, e.g. Recyclebank, a social platform that creates incentives for people to take environmentally responsible actions, WaterSmart, that develops tools for water utilities to help customers save water and money or Aquasana, Voltea and Rayne Water that develop water purification, desalination and filtration technologies.

Gorillas have the global reach and scale but they need the proximity to the problem, local knowledge and the entrepreneurial creativity of the guerillas. Zennström’s call-to-action requires guerillas and gorillas to dance. It is, no doubt, an awkward coupling; but it can – and must – happen for guerilla entrepreneurs to have gorilla impact on the world’s hardest problems.

Engines of the Future: How Tiny Bacteria Could Power Your Smartphone

A team of scientists has discovered that bacteria could power micromachines such as smartphones by harnessing energy from its movement. (Photo : Flickr/Creative Commons/NIAID)

Thanks;Monica Antonio 

Jul 12, 2016 07:15 AM EDT

Can you imagine your phone being solely powered by microscopic bacteria?A team of scientists from Oxford University has devised a way to harness energy from the natural movement of bacteria, which, they say, could power man-made micromachines.

According to the study published in the journal Science, these bacteria powerplants have a big potential to power various micromachines.

To test their theory, the team created computer simulations that showed how the movement of dense active matter, like swarms of bacteria, could be arranged in a cylindrical form to produce energy. The researchers noted that it is important that these bacteria are dense enough in order for them to be organised for power extraction, Science Daily reports.


Dr. Tyler Shendruk, co-author of the study, said harvesting power from biological systems has a lot of great potential. It does not need any pre-designing in order to function, as the swarm of bacteria could assemble itself into a form of a windfarm without any human help.

The swarm of bacteria not only self-assemble, but can also spin in the opposite direction, just like what a windfarm does.

“When we did the simulation with a single rotor in the bacterial turbulence, it just got kicked around randomly. But when we put an array of rotors in the living fluid, they suddenly formed a regular pattern, with neighbouring rotors spinning in opposite directions,” Shendruk said.

TechRadar notes that even though the amount of power produced by bacteria is limited, it still opens the doors for more study of its use in sensors and microscopic robots.

Also, the new discovery is a costless and effortless way to harness energy–there’s no need for mechanical work as the bacteria reassemble themselves to continually generate power.

“Nature is brilliant at creating tiny engines, and there is enormous potential if we can understand how to exploit similar designs,” said Julia Yeomans, senior author of the study.

Biodegradable Plastic Won’t Help Ocean Pollution

Thanks; Sarah T 

Published ;May 25, 2016 01:17 AM EDT

Even the biodegradable plastics are not the best solutions for plastic litters in the ocean. 

(Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Biodegradable plastic does not mean a perfect solution to ocean waste problems, according to an environmental scientist.

A United Nations environmental scientist warned the public that biodegradable plastics, shopping bags, and bottles are a false solution to the current problem of litter in the ocean.

According to a UN report published on Monday, plastics are extremely durable, and the series of throwing plastics in any bodies of water like a river and canal, will lead into large plastic debris and spreading of “microplastics” via currents of ocean from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

Greener plastics were introduced to the public as a sustainable alternative that could reduce a huge amount of plastic litter that usually ends up to the sea after being dumped. However, Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the UN Environment Program said this alternative is not the solution to reduce plastic waste problems.

“It’s well-intentioned but wrong. A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of 50C and that is not the ocean. They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down,” McGlade told The Guardian.

Meanwhile, UN Environment assembly has been officially open in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, Aljazeera reports. Expected attendees are environment ministers and representatives from 173 countries, campaigners, scientists, and industry executives.

“We are holding this assembly against a backdrop of great strides in greening our economies. A global conversation will take place this week to discuss policies and practices that advance environmental sustainability,” Steiner said in a report by English CRI.

The aim of this gathering is to tackle the major issue about the environment including air pollution and illegal trading of wildlife, and talk about immediate action to improve human being environment and human health.

UNEA-2 session will continue through May 27.

China’s Environmental Crisis

THANKS: Eleanor Albert, Online Writer/Editor, and Beina Xu
Updated: January 18, 2016


China’s environmental crisis is one of the most pressing challenges to emerge from the country’s rapid industrialization. Its economic rise, in which GDP grew on average 10 percent each year for more than a decade, has come at the expense of its environment and public health. China is the world’s largest source of carbon emissions, and the air quality of many of its major cities fails to meet international health standards. Life expectancy north of the Huai River is 5.5 years lower than in the south due to air pollution (life expectancy in China is 75.3 according to 2013 UN figures). Severe water contamination and scarcity have compounded land deterioration. Environmental degradation threatens to undermine the country’s growth and exhausts public patience with the pace of reform. It has also bruised China’s international standing and endangered domestic stability as the ruling party faces increasing scrutiny and public discontent. More recently, amid waning economic growth, leaders in Beijing appear more determined to institute changes to stem further degradation.
A History of Pollution

While China’s economic boom has greatly accelerated the devastation of its land and resources, the roots of its environmental problem stretch back centuries. Dynastic leaders who consolidated territory and developed China’s economy exploited natural resources in ways that contributed to famines and natural disasters, writes CFR’s Elizabeth C. Economy in The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future. “China’s current environmental situation is the result not only of policy choices made today but also of attitudes, approaches, and institutions that have evolved over centuries,” Economy writes.

It wasn’t until the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment that China began to develop environmental institutions. It dispatched a delegation to the conference in Stockholm, but by then the country’s environment was already in dire straits.

Economic reforms in the late 1970s that encouraged development in rural industries further exacerbated the problem.

“China’s current environmental situation is the result not only of policy choices made today but also of attitudes, approaches, and institutions that have evolved over centuries.”—Elizabeth C. Economy, Council on Foreign Relations

Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping implemented a series of reforms that diffused authority to the provinces, creating a proliferation of township and village enterprises (TVEs). By 1997, TVEs generated almost a third of national GDP, though TVEs have since declined in relative importance to the Chinese economy. But local governments were difficult to monitor and seldom upheld environmental standards. Today, with a transitioning Chinese economy fueled by large state-owned enterprises, environmental policies remain difficult to enforce at the local level, where officials often priotize hitting economic targets over environmental concerns. Despite the government’s stated goals, actual change to environmental policies and effective implementation will require revisiting state-society and state-market relations and China’s bureaucratic power structure, writes CFR’s Yanzhong Huang.

China’s modernization has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and created a booming middle class. In some ways, the country’s trajectory of industrialization is not unlike those of other modernizing nations, such as the UK in the early nineteenth century. But experts say China’s environmental footprint is far greater than that of any other single country.
How Bad Is It?

China is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, having overtaken the United States in 2007, and was responsible for 27 percent of global emissions in 2014.


The country’s energy consumption has ballooned, with reports from late 2015 implying that it consumed up to 17 percent more coal than previously reported. In January 2013, Beijing experienced a prolonged bout of smog so severe that citizens dubbed it an “airpocalypse”; the concentration of hazardous particles was forty times the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). In December 2015, Beijing issued red alerts for severe pollution—the first since the emergency alert system was established. The municipal government closed schools, limited road traffic, halted outdoor construction, and paused factory manufacturing. At least 80 percent of China’s 367 cities with real-time air quality monitoring failed to meet national small-particle pollution standards during the first three quarters of 2015, according to a Greenpeace East Asia report. In December 2015, the Asian Development Bank approved a $300 million loan to help China address the capital region’s choking smog.“>

Coal is largely to blame for the degradation of air quality. China is the world’s largest coal producer and accounts for about half of global consumption. Mostly burned in the north, coal provides around two thirds of China’s energy mix, however demand for it appears to be declining. China’s National Energy Agency claimed that coal use dropped to 64.2 percent of the mix in 2014, down almost two percent from 2012. This drop in coal demand also comes as China’s economy is slowing, with its central bank forecasting that annual growth  will only expand by 6.8 percent in 2016, down from 6.9 percent a year earlier. Still, doubts linger of China’s commitment to wean itself from coal. In 2015, China’s coal power plant capacity increased by 55 percent in the first six months, 155 new coal-fired plants were approved, and China admitted that it had underreported its annual coal consumption since 2000.

There were  a record 17 million new cars  on the road in 2014, further contributing to China’s high emissions.  Car ownership was up to 154 million, according to China’s Ministry of Public Security,with compared to roughly 27 million in 2004, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. Another trend compounding air problems has been the country’s staggering pace of urbanization, a national priority. The government aims to have more than 60 percent of the Chinese population living in cities by 2020, up from 36 percent in 2000 (53.7 percent of the population in 2015 lived in urban areas). Rapid urbanization increases energy demands to power new manufacturing and industrial centers.

Experts also cite water depletion and pollution as among the country’s biggest environmental challenges. China is home to 20 percent of the world’s population but only 7 percent (PDF) of its fresh water sources. Overuse and contamination have produced severe shortages, with nearly 70 percent of the country’s water supplies dedicated to agriculture and and 20 percent of supplies used in the coal industry, according to Choke Point: China, an environmental NGO initiative. Approximately two-thirds of China’s roughly 660 cities suffer from water shortages. Former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao has said that water shortages challenge “the very survival of the Chinese nation.”

Industry along China’s major water sources has polluted water supplies: in 2014, groundwater supplies in more than 60 percent of major cities were categorized as “bad to very bad” and  more than a quarter of China’s key rivers are “unfit for human contact.” And lack of waste removal and proper processing has exacerbated problems. Combined with negligent farming practices, overgrazing, and the effects of climate change, the water crisis has turned much of China’s arable land into desert. About 1.05 million square miles of China’s landmass are undergoing desertification, affecting more than 400 million people, according to the deputy head of China’s State Forestry Administration. Water scarcity, pollution, and desertification are reducing China’s ability to sustain its industrial output and produce food and drinkable water for its large population.

Cost of Environmental Damage

Environmental depredations pose a serious threat to China’s economic growth, costing the country roughly 3 to 10 percent of its gross national income, according to various estimates. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection calculates estimates the cost of pollution at around 1.5 trillion RMB ($227 billion), or roughly 3.5 percent of GDP, according to 2010 figures. Due to the sensitivity of the topic, the ministry only releases such figures intermittently.

Data on the toll of China’s pollution on public health paint a devastating picture. Air pollution contributes to an estimated 1.2 million premature deaths in China annually. Epidemiological studies conducted since the 1980s in northern China suggest that poor air quality in Chinese cities causes significant health complications, including respiratory, cardiovascular, and cerebrovascular diseases. Pollution has also been linked to the proliferation of acute and chronic diseases; estimates suggest that around 11 percent of digestive-system cancers in China may stem from unsafe drinking water.

Recent studies have reported that emissions from China’s export industries are worsening air pollution as far as the western United States. China’s neighbors, including Japan and South Korea, have also expressed concern over acid rain and smog affecting their populations. Environmental ministers from the three northeast Asian countries agreed to boost cooperative efforts to curb air pollution and to protect water quality and the maritime environment in 2014.

The damage has also affected China’s economic prospects as it continues to pursue extractive resources abroad, such as oil and other fossil fuels. Its economic partners, particularly in the developing world, face costly environmental burdens attached with doing business with China, write CFR’s Economy and Michael Levi in By All Means Necessary, their book on China’s quest for resources.

Citizen Outrage

Environmental damage has cost China dearly, but the greatest collateral damage for the ruling Communist Party has likely been growing social unrest. Demonstrations have proliferated as citizens gain awareness of the health threats and means of organized protest (often using social media). In 2013, Chen Jiping, former leading member of the party’s Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs said that environmental issues are a major reason for “mass incidents” in China—unofficial gatherings of one hundred or more that range from peaceful protest to rioting. Environmental protests in rural and urban areas alike—such as those in Guangdong, Shanghai, Ningbo, and Kunming—are increasing in frequency. The number of “abrupt environmental incidents”, including protests,  in 2013 rose to 712 cases, a 31 percent uptick from the previous year.


CFR’s Economy points out that one of the most important changes in China’s environmental protest movement has been a shift, beginning in the late 2000s, from predominantly rural-based protests to urban-based movements. The issue has worried the top leadership, which views the unrest as a threat to the party’s legitimacy. “Air pollution in China has turned into a major social problem and its migitation has become a crucial political challenge for the country’s political leadership,” write Center for Strategic and International Studies’s Jane Nakano and Hong Yang.  Yet the government has responded to public outcries: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang declared a “war on pollution” in March 2014; in May of the same year the government strengthened the country’s Environmental Protection Law for the first time in twenty-five years. Such moves reflect “a changing understanding within China about the relationship between economic development and societal wellbeing,” Economy and Levi write.

The Internet has played a crucial role in allowing citizens to spread information about the environment, , placing additional political pressure on the government. In March 2015 Under the Dome, a TED Talk-style documentary on China’s air pollution went viral, attracting hundreds of thousands of views before Internet censors blocked access, and in 2013 the discovery of thousands of dead pigs in the Huangpu river also spread rapidly online. However, experts say the jury is still out on the current government will implement meaningful reforms, which has shown more resolve in cracking down on public dissent than implementing environmental measures.

What’s Being Done?

The government has mapped out ambitious environmental initiatives in recent five-year plans, although experts say follow-through has been flawed. In December 2013, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the top economic planning agency, issued its first nationwide blueprint (PDF) for climate change, outlining an extensive list of objectives for 2020. Since January 2014, the central government has required fifteen thousand factories, including large state-owned enterprises, to publicly report real-time figures on air emissions and water discharges. The government also pledged to spend $275 billion over the next five years to clean up the air and $333 billion for water pollution. In a November 2014 joint statement on climate change with the United States, China committed to hit its peak carbon emissions by 2030 and to have renewables account for 20 percent of its energy mix by 2030. More recently, President Xi Jinping, on a state visit to Washington, announced that China would initiate a national cap-and-trade program in 2017.

“What we’re seeing now is an entirely new administration with an entirely different outlook on climate change.”—Li Shuo, Greenpeace East Asia

China is one of the biggest investors in renewables, investing nearly $90 billion in 2014 as part of its pledge to cut its carbon intensity (far outspending the United States’ $51.8 billion). Some analysts have predicted that China is on track to overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of wind energy by 2016. Meanwhile, Chinese firms continue to invest in and partner with international companies to develop renewable energy technologies.

Though policy implementation has been inconsistent, the environmental NGO community has grown to push the government to stay on track. Thousands of these groups—often working with U.S. and foreign counterparts—push for transparency, investigate corruption, and head grassroots campaigns. Friends of Nature is one of its oldest; Global Village and Green Home are among other well-known NGOs. Despite state support, these organizations inevitably face constraints from government fear that their activities could catalyze democratic social change.

Despite the political reforms needed to catalyze any real change in the environmental sphere, the response to China’s crisis has triggered some optimism about the future. “What we’re seeing now is an entirely new administration with an entirely different outlook on climate change,” writes Greenpeace East Asia’s Li Shuo. China, once reluctant to take a stand on environmental issues and climate change, emerged as a leader in negotiations at the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris where 195 countries signed a breakthrough accord. While China deserves due credit for its ambitious efforts to curtail its own environmental crisis, Economy says it cannot be assumed that Beijing will follow through on its promises. “The proof will be on the ground—and of course, in the atmosphere.”

Additional Resources

This 2015 Asian Development Bank report (PDF) explores the risks of the implications of climate change in China.

This recent PEW Research Center study measures the views of Chinese people on pollution and climate change.

Under the Dome, journalist Chai Jing’s TED Talk-style documentary, investigates China’s air pollution and its related hazardous to health.

The EIA’s 2015 country report analyzes China’s energy sources and consumption trends.

Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources (PDF) explores the quality of China’s air and its health implications.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting published this ebook on China’s environmental crisis in August 2013.

This September 2013 Financial Times Magazine feature spotlights China’s environmental activists.