Daily Archives: March 23, 2012

China commits to providing drinking water access to rural areas

The Chinese government has passed a 5 year plan to solve problems concerning drinking water safety for 298 million rural residents from 2011-2015….click here for news article..

Delaware drinking water loan program to fund water systems

State loan programs to fund drinking water system construction highlight the fact that a financially sustainable water system is only possible in a healthy economy. Click here for the situation in Delaware.

Consider this quote from the article

“Without the DWSRF, funding of necessary capital infrastructure projects would have halted in the recession.”

The degree to which the loan fund programs must rely on an infusion of federal capitalization grants each year, is the degree to which the program is financially unsustainable. Do cities and states really think their citizens will be better off by paying for water system improvements using money borrowed from China (or elsewhere) just because the interest rate may be a little lower?

New Delhi (India) to reuse wastewater as drinking water source

Times of India report that the Delhi Jal Board and the government of Singapore will sign a memorandum of understanding. Singapore will fund the entire consultancy for Delhi, including preparation of a detailed project report and tendering of the project.

40 MGD of treated effluent at the Coronation Pillar sewage treatment plant will be treated to a tertiary level and released into the Yamuna river to return to Delhi as its raw water source.

Click here for news report….

 

“Carbon Footprint” an inadequate measure of “sustainability”

This paper confirms what many of us have argued for a long time…that the idea of a “carbon footprint” is meaningless when it comes to “sustainability.” There is no justification for promoting or forcing changes to a “carbon” free society….such an idea is irrational, and should be abandoned. In addition, the term “sustainability” is poorly defined. What is it about the environment that man, who is part of the environment, is to sustain?….These terms sound good, but are not useful in policy discourse without a clear definition…..as ambiguous as “climate change” and “evolution.” “Sustainability” and “carbon footprint” are regulatory constructs with no solid scientific foundation….being used to push an ideology. 

Alexis Laurent, Stig I. Olsen, and Michael Z. Hauschild. Limitations of Carbon Footprint as Indicator of Environmental Sustainability. Environmental Science and Technology. DOI: 10.1021/es204163f

Greenhouse gas accountings, commonly referred to with the popular term carbon footprints (CFP), are a widely used metric of climate change impacts and the main focus of many sustainability policies among companies and authorities. However, environmental sustainability concerns not just climate change but also other environmental problems, like chemical pollution or depletion of natural resources, and the focus on CFP brings the risk of problem shifting when reductions in CFP are obtained at the expense of increase in other environmental impacts. But how real is this risk? Here, we model and analyze the life cycle impacts from about 4000 different products, technologies, and services taken from several sectors, including energy generation, transportation, material production, infrastructure, and waste management. By investigating the correlations between the CFP and 13 other impact scores, we show that some environmental impacts, notably those related to emissions of toxic substances, often do not covary with climate change impacts. In such situations, carbon footprint is a poor representative of the environmental burden of products, and environmental management focused exclusively on CFP runs the risk of inadvertently shifting the problem to other environmental impacts when products are optimized to become more “green”. These findings call for the use of more broadly encompassing tools to assess and manage environmental sustainability.

Click here for the paper (fee).

Reported increases in tree ring width may not be due to CO2

These researchers confirm the work of others that detecting the effects of CO2 from tree ring thickness is unreliable. Yet, this approach underlies the infamous and now discredited hockey stick.

R.J. Brienen, E. Gloor, and P.A.  Zuidema. Detecting evidence for CO2fertilization from tree ring studies: The potential role of sampling biases. GLOBAL BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLES, VOL. 26, GB1025, 13 PP., 2012
doi:10.1029/2011GB004143

Abstract: Tree ring analysis allows reconstructing historical growth rates over long periods. Several studies have reported an increasing trend in ring widths, often attributed to growth stimulation by increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration. However, these trends may also have been caused by sampling biases. Here we describe two biases and evaluate their magnitude. (1) The slowgrower survivorship bias is caused by differences in tree longevity of fast- and slow-growing trees within a population. If fast-growing trees live shorter, they are underrepresented in the ancient portion of the tree ring data set. As a result, reconstructed growth rates in the distant past are biased toward slower growth. (2) The bigtree selection bias is caused by sampling only the biggest trees in a population. As a result, slow-growing small trees are underrepresented in recent times as they did not reach the minimum sample diameter. We constructed stochastic models to simulate growth trajectories based on a hypothetical species with lifetime constant growth rates and on observed tree ring data from the tropical tree Cedrela odorata. Tree growth rates used as input in our models were kept constant over time. By mimicking a standard tree ring sampling approach and selecting only big living trees, we show that both biases lead to apparent increases in historical growth rates. Increases for the slow-grower survivorship bias were relatively small and depended strongly on assumptions about tree mortality. The big-tree selection bias resulted in strong historical increases, with a doubling in growth rates over recent decades. A literature review suggests that historical growth increases reported in many tree ring studies may have been partially due to the big-tree sampling bias. We call for great caution in the interpretation of historical growth trends from tree ring analyses and recommend that such studies include individuals of all sizes.

Click here for the full paper (fee).