UN Panel on Climate Change Releases Scary Report & We Need To Do More

Just two years ago, amid celebrations and excessive PR, the Paris climate accords were signed and we discussed the topic on this very website at the time of the event itself— bringing optimism across the globe, as to the future of climate change and how we, as a planet, would tackle the challenge and make efforts to secure our future on earth.

The goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius was almost immediately shot down by experts as too much and that target itself was completely inadequate.

Now, it’s 2018 and in those two short years, optimism was dropped. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming new report, alluding to how a 1.5° C raise as opposed to 2° C would make a massive difference. A difference that would affect the lives of millions of people. Continuing on our current path, the 1.5° C rise will happen by 2040! It will manifest itself in extreme weather events as well as other drastic changes. All coral reefs would die out, wildfires and heatwaves would sweep the planet and the fluctuations between drought and flooding would severely impact our ability to produce food.

Even here in Ireland, we are seeing these changes happen and the damage they cause. Take our storms over the last 18 months, they are packing more of a punch and happening more often.

Avoiding all of this can’t happen slowly. 2040 is a lot closer than we think! 22 years from now. Remember Riverdance in 1994, that was 24 years ago… You hear people say “where does the time go?” – well, it just passes. With time passing, things tend to passively happen. We cannot passively let our economies continue in the manner that they do. The solar PV grant was announced this year and the household micro-generation it supports is a small measure that can help Ireland towards neutralising and eliminating our carbon footprint, but so much more has to be done.

We need to embrace change. We need to embrace technology. We need to embrace these challenges all over Ireland, together. It is one of the only truly global issues that no one country can eliminate for themselves and not for others. Countries can solve housing issues, poverty, food shortages, wars and more despite the fact that the same issues can exist right across their nearest border. Climate change, global temperatures, extreme weather events will all happen unless we all work towards a cleaner future. It’s unfortunate that other issues can bring the world closer together but our climate challenges cannot. I suppose everyone has to start somewhere, be it renewable energy, cutting down on waste by recycling, burning fewer fossil fuels, using less. That is what we should aim for in Ireland for now. The Irish government has started with renewable energy grants such as this year’s Solar PV and pre-existing supports through the SEAI but this progress should only be backed up with more progression and give citizens the tools and resources to tackle climate change the length and breadth of Ireland, from Mizen Head to Malin Head, Dublin Port to Westport.


Stumbling Towards Solar PV Incentives In Ireland

As a key stakeholder in the Irish Solar Industry, this week is a very interesting one indeed.

Today I travel to a number of meetings with many like-minded people within my industry, to see if we can form a strong, stable and exciting incentive to help us move past the label of Europe’s solar laggards.

Tomorrow I travel to Munich, to Intersolar 2018, where I can discuss with our peers in Europe, suppliers and engineers alike on the deemed successes of solar throughout the continent in the past and the products and strategies of the future.

To see where our industry sits at this moment in time we should see the successes achieved both by us and by our nearest neighbours – Northern Ireland. SEAI have done a great job spreading the word of sustainability throughout Ireland, with grants for almost every useful upgrading measure available. To this end, energy conservation and renewable production has almost become glamorous! You need look no further than Diarmuid Gavin on a Sunday afternoon on RTE to realise that triple glazing, insulation and heatpumps are the fashionable things to go for. When it comes to Solar Thermal, SEAI have truly done their part also. We have upgraded thousands of homes through the grant scheme, and thousands of others simply through the knock on effect of testimonials, advocating the effectiveness of established solar homes. Great products, services and savings are infectious, but sometimes need a push to get over the hump of inertia. In this context, Northern Ireland have taken an approach to incentivise Solar PV. From simply driving the road from Dundalk to Castleblayney, you can see the effects from one incentivised region to another.

For those not familiar with the N53, it turns into the A37 (NI) for 5.4 kilometres. As you drive this small stretch of road, you can see what a difference the PV incentive has made. You will see both social and private housing with systems installed, as well as numerous businesses from petrol stations to bars and shops. All reducing the electricity purchased from the grid, saving money and doing their bit for the environment. Then as you move further down the road onto the N53 again you can see domestic customers availing of solar thermal again in the Republic.

A small PV incentive, similar to that which homeowners can obtain for solar thermal in Ireland would put us in a position to catch up with our European counterparts in the renewable stakes. We already have the governing body in place, along with mechanisms to roll this out extremely efficiently. We have checks in place for trade specific qualifications and insurances to ensure the customer is using a properly vetted company. We already have the vehicles in place to do quality insurance inspections to ensure only high quality installers remain on this grant list. We even have an efficient way of trading carbon credits which could also subsidise installation costs in place. Leaving us with 2 roadblocks;

  1. The lack of an incentive in place for solar PV
  2. The lack of planning foresight for Solar PV, as we are still working from exemptions with solar thermal in mind

Change is difficult. Enacting mass change is harder again. Indecision, plodding progress and fear of change is what has us as Europe’s laggards. On a technology that has proven itself throughout European countries for over a decade now. This stumbling progress to date, has left us second from bottom on a list produced by Europe’s largest NGO coalition Climate Action Network (CAN) on Monday just past (18th June 2018) of countries and their progress toward their 2020 goals. However, the aforementioned structures and processes that we already have in place, allows me to look at the current solar landscape and our ability to move forward with solar PV with positivity.

Ciaran Marron
CEO


Post Ophelia & Beast From The East: New Data Confirms Increased Frequency of Extreme Weather Events

Further action urged by European National Science Academies on climate change adaptation.

EUROPEAN ACADEMIES' SCIENCE ADVISORY COUNCIL

 

New data unveiled this week show that extreme weather events have become more frequent over the past 36 years, with a significant uptick in floods and other hydrological events compared even with five years ago, according to a new publication, "Extreme weather events in Europe: Preparing for climate change adaptation: an update on EASAC's 2013 study" by the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC), a body made up of 27 national science academies in the European Union, Norway, and Switzerland. Given the increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, the EASAC calls for stronger attention to climate change adaptation across the European Union.

Brexit may be taking up a lot of Irish – European discussions, but we must not only raise the issue at that level, we must act on it intrinsically and support renewable energy sources and climate change efforts here in Ireland itself before lecturing elsewhere. It is up to our leaders and policy-makers to improve the adaptability of our own infrastructure and social systems to a changing climate. I think the appetite in Ireland for this is growing given the recent effects of both Storm Ophelia and the “Beast From The East”.

Natural Disasters Graph

Trends in different types of natural catastrophes worldwide 1980-2016 (1980 levels set at 100%)

Around the world, according to the new data released, the number of floods and other hydrological events have quadrupled since 1980 and have doubled since 2004, highlighting the urgency of adaptation to climate change as the frequency worsens! Climatological events, such as extreme temperatures, droughts, and forest fires, have more than doubled since 1980. Meteorological events, such as storms, have doubled since 1980, you can see this in the photo above. These extreme weather events carry substantial economic costs. In the updated data, thunderstorm losses in North America have doubled - from under US$10 billion in 1980 to almost $20 billion in 2015 and yet the USA and the Trump administration, which we criticised in the past here at Activ8, continue to cut funding for the EPA and climate change initiatives as well pulled out of the Paris COP 21 agreement. On a more positive note, river flood losses in Europe show a near-static trend (despite their increased frequency), indicating that protection measures that have been implemented may have stemmed flood losses. Once again, it may be up to Europe to lead the way.

Professor Michael Norton, EASAC's Environment Programme Director states, "Our 2013 Extreme Weather Events report - which was based on the findings of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute - has been updated and the latest data supports our original conclusions: there has been and continues to be a significant increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, making climate proofing all the more urgent. Adaptation and mitigation must remain the cornerstones of tackling climate change. This update is most timely since the European Commission is due to release its evaluation of its climate strategy this year."

Is a contemporary shutdown of the Gulf Stream (AMOC) possible?

The update also reviews evidence on key drivers of extreme events. A major point of debate remains whether the Gulf Stream, or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), will just decline or could 'switch off' entirely with substantial implications for Northwest Europe's climate. Recent monitoring does suggest a significant weakening but debate continues over whether the gulf stream may "switch off" as a result of the increased flows of fresh water from northern latitude rainfall and melting of the Greenland icecap. EASAC notes the importance of continuing to use emerging oceanographic monitoring data to provide a more reliable forecast of impacts of global warming on the AMOC. The update also notes the recent evidence which suggests an association between the rapid rate of Arctic warming and extreme cold events further south (including in Europe and the Eastern USA) due to a weakened and meandering jet stream.

For us here in Ireland, the devastation that these recent weather events have caused show go a long way to showing us that everyone is being and will continue to be effected by global warming and climate change as a result. If everyone can recognise as much, maybe it's time we all collectively demanded better climate change action from those in power and make the decision to help improve things on a smaller scale. We can't pawn this problem off to future generations, we need to tackle it as quickly as possible. If not today, or tomorrow, maybe The Day After Tomorrow (Pun intended).


Climate Change & The Winter Olympics: How You Can Help From Your Home

I don’t know if you’re the same as some of us here in Activ8 Solar Energies, but we’ve found the Winter Olympics as some great late night TV viewing. All though we sometimes complain about the weather here in Ireland, it’s never quite cold enough to allow us to become Winter Olympics ready. Nonetheless, we watch in awe and the speed and fearlessness that some of the events showcase. We also find ourselves following some of the subplots surrounding the games, renewable energy within the setup being one, but also how climate change is affecting not only this Winter Olympics but also future iterations of the games.

Irish jet-setters generally hit the slopes of Europe for their snow expeditions, rather than the slopes of South Korea. Greenhouse gases emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution has so far warmed the world by roughly 1ºC, on average. But the effect has been greater in the ever popular Alps, which has warmed by about 2ºC. Here you will find the Marmolada glacier and with the intensity of these effects mostly in the summer months, the Marmolada glacier is melting and at an alarming rate. Forget the summer for a second, the effects of global warming has also started to have profound effects on winter months and the winter-sports industry as a result.

Daniel Scott of the University of Waterloo, Robert Steiger of the University of Innsbruck, and others, have looked at this future warming in the context of the cities chosen to host the Winter Olympics, from Chamonix in 1924 to Pyeongchang in South Korea currently hosting the event and Beijing in 2022. Even if emissions are cut to meet the target of the Paris climate agreement of 2015, only 13 of the 21 host cities look certain to be cold enough to host snow-sports at all in the 2050s.

The biggest argument against such figures can be the one-off storms, large snowfalls. This is part of the climate change argument also with more extreme weather events happening from time to time as delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year found out with a large snowfall. But the long-term trends are sobering.

In 2007 the OECD, a rich-world think-tank, sounded the alarm. It projected that, of 666 Alpine ski resorts, roughly 40% would no longer get enough snow to operate a 100-day season (a rule of thumb for making money) if the region warmed by another 2°C. Roughly 70% might go if it warmed by 4°C. The German Alps were especially vulnerable. In North America, projections suggest that resorts close to the western seaboard, especially in California, face a ruinous loss of skiing days. Skiing in Australia looks all but doomed.

So while we sit and watch and wonder at the spectacle of it all, we can all make a difference. We might not be able to land the quadruple cork 1980 trick or whatever the man on the TV called it, but we can do our bit for the Winter Olympics starting in our own home by making it more environmentally friendly.


While Donald Messes It Up Again, Let’s Make The Planet Great Again

Trump Pulling America Out of The Paris Agreement

Donald Trump is making a mockery of our planet, its future and also the underlying theme of “Make America Great Again”. By pulling America out of the Paris Agreement, he is making America’s outlook on science, technology and green energy “draconian”. The word he used to describe the measures within the agreement itself. After America making exceptional progress in clean energy through solar, wind, tidal and many others, Donald Trump is hell bent on turning back the clock in America. But in doing so, he is completely contradicting what made America a great nation in the past.

History of America Investing In Science & Technology

He refers to making America great “again”, but the reasons for which America was once considered a great nation, is because they invested and championed scientific and technological innovation. There are many examples of this, but one in particular brings us a timeline of how American investment in these areas has brought us to this point in time. Some of America’s most successful and brightest minds, who now publicly lead the calls for investment in clean energy were created through similar scientific and technological investment more than 50 years ago.

I recently read a book called Creativity Inc. In it, author and co-founder of Pixar, Ed Catmull talks about how decades ago in the face of global unrest, tensions with Russia and other global issues that troubled America and allies, the American government decided that it would become great through science, engineering and technology. Ed Catmull himself ended up going back to grad school at Utah and participated in ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“The creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was authorized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1958 for the purpose of forming and executing research and development projects to expand the frontiers of technology and science” - Dwight D. Eisenhower and Science & Technology, (2008).

They poured millions of dollars into ARPA and similar initiatives that sponsored post-graduate collegiate programmes such as the one Ed Catmull found himself in. The definition above outlines their focused ambition on science and technology. They also did this, without giving specific direction. Instead, they trusted the budding young minds and leadership skills of scientists and entrepreneurs across America. These were the people tasked with moving America forward. Making it great even.

With Ed Catmull, he ended up making advancements in computer graphics and soon after, we ended up with Pixar. I presume the American government didn’t have computer graphics on the top of their list of priorities, but it became a global leader in a new market. Within this context, but covered in another fantastic book (Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell), the advancements made in computer science through this investment led to an opportunity for 3 men born within 6 months of each other in 1954 and 1955 – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Bill Joy. The opportunities they had in their late teens was to continue the revolution for America in these areas. The great technology feats of these men have directly led to a lot of technologies we use on a daily basis. You’re reading this on a device using technologies they’ve built or helped shape and more than likely through the internet, a technology that Bill Joy shaped with his UNIX servers.

It’s a long-winded explanation, but of the men I’ve just named above, two are alive and both of them are thought leaders and real champions of clean energy, with Bill Gates strongly advocating solar energy. And that brings us to right now. Donal Trump wants to make “America Great Again” and Emmanuel Macron has hit back with the notion that we need to come together to “Make Our Planet Great Again”.

But outside of this political jousting, we need to listen to our brightest minds, the people at the forefront of present science that are desperately trying to forge a future for the science and technologies that truly will make our planet great.

So while Donald misses the point of what made America a great nation in decades past, we need to look to those who were involved in the advancements of yesteryears breakthrough technologies. Because right now, the technologies we need are in clean energy, sustainable energy systems and beyond.

We will do this with or without the United States of America, but the underlying context of division and “sovereignty” Donald Trump is leading is disappointing and unsettling.

In the face of global climate change fears, just like many other global issues we face today; unity is what we really need.


Increase In Energy Use In 2015 But Increase In Renewable Energy Too

The official body for sustainable and renewable energy here in Ireland, the SEAI, released their official national energy statistics on November 23rd. The report shows that there had been significant growth in energy use across almost all sectors of the Irish economy in 2015. Energy in Ireland 1990-2015, illustrates the first significant growth in energy use since 2010 at almost 5%. In line with this figure, energy-related CO2 emmissions increased by 6%. Both of these figures are understandably put in the context of strong economic growth in 2015 within the report.

Greenhouse Gas Emmissions

When looking at greenhouse gas emmissions, energy accounts for about 60% of the total. This puts a greater emphasis on the importance of developing low-carbon solutions in this industry for Ireland. Here at Activ8 Solar Energies, we’re obviously already providing this in terms of solar thermal and also solar PV, but we’ll continue to look at developing technologies and how we can help Irish homes make improvements in energy efficiency.

Renewables

Over 9% of Ireland’s energy use came from renewable energy souces, which is great. But we’re still quite a bit off our 16% target which needs to be reached by 2020. Looking at the 9% figure however, this has resulted in almost 4 million tonnes of CO2 being avoided as well a cut-down in over €400m of energy imports.

When it comes to electricity alone, over a quarter of our electricity needs were provided through renewable energy including wind, hydro, landfill gas and bioenergy – with our solar electricity levels at a very low level in comparison to countries with similar climates and circumstances to us. There is optimism that this will grow significantly in the next couple of years. In addition, renewables contributed 5.7% to energy use in transport and 6.5% in the heating sector.

On the SEAI website, Jim Gannon, SEAI Chief Executive said:
“The publication of these energy figures is a timely and pertinent analysis of Ireland’s energy usage following the conclusion of COP22 in Marrakech last week and Ireland’s ratification of the Paris Agreement earlier in November. We are seeing good progress on renewable energy and energy efficiency, however, this needs to be further accelerated to keep pace with higher economic activity and demand for energy. The Government is already responding to this challenge with significant increased funding committed to energy efficiency and renewable heat in Budget 2017. This allows us to build on the progress to date and continue to decarbonise our energy system which will reduce costs, improve energy security and reduce environmental impact.”
Jim Gannon continued: “In 2015 the average household emitted 5.5 tonnes of CO2of which 61% came from direct fuel use in the home and the remainder from electricity use. The transition to a sustainable, low-carbon energy system requires the participation of citizens and communities in both decision-making and action. It is vital that we have an informed debate about the choices for Ireland as we move to a low-carbon economy. SEAI is committed to the provision of timely, robust and transparent data to ensure that policy development, decision-making and our energy transition is based on high quality data and evidence.”


What Donald Trump Win Means for Climate Change in Ireland

The Climate Change Fallout of a Trump Presidency

With our friends across the Atlantic Ocean flocking to the polls and electing Donald Trump, the planet and the environmental issues that face us both in the present and the future were not important enough for consideration when Americans were deciding which candidate they voted for. Not only is the election of Donald Trump a disaster for environmentally conscious people in America, it is a disaster for climate change globally. After the tentative but progressive COP 21 event in Paris and subsequent agreement, this is not what our planet needed. We needed forward thinking governments, with like-minded leaders to help move the planet forward with an environmentally friendly, sustainable approach to governing. For all of us in not just the solar industry, but beyond, this election result does not bode well.

Could Donald Trump have been any clearer when we called global warming "a Chinese hoax", before definitively stating that he wants to scrap all of the major regulations that US President Obama put in place to reduce carbon dioxide emissions for the USA. With a republican congress, he has the power and ability to pass bills to stop a lot of the progress made in the previous presidency. Anyway, why does this matter to us here in Ireland?

Firstly, we all share the same planet, the same atmosphere and the same melting ice caps. What happens in America affects us all. Not only that, if one of the most powerful western countries in the world scraps their climate change efforts, that doesn’t set a great example for smaller western nations like ourselves. If the USA takes Donald Trump's lead and decides to denounce climate change, you can be sure that R&D efforts will drop, clean energy research will drop and future progress in this regard will be slowed. Unfortunately, Donald Trump openly stated he was going to repeal all federal spending on all of these things, such as solar, wind, nuclear power and electric vehicles. With R&D dropping in America as well as future demand for such, it may see the end of the slowly lowering alternative energy prices around the world, including here in Ireland.
The underlying reality is that a Trump presidency will lead to more coal burning, pollution and more CO2 emissions.

Is all hope for clean energy, solar and Irish renewables lost?

No.

Solar Energy in Ireland Will Continue To Grow and It Won't Be Alone

The reality is, solar power, wind power and electric cars have been getting cheaper and cheaper over the past decade and although that has slowed, these renewable energy pillars have become very affordable here in Ireland, so the American federal government won’t be able to change this anytime soon, bad news on that front would be slow. In which case, you would hope the proliferation of all these technologies would outpace such federal resistance in America.

It is also possible, just like past obstacles, that opposition to a figure such as Trump will help galvanise the next generation of clean energy advocates here in Ireland and abroad. Where there is a will, there is a way and people fighting for and towards Irelands obligations in 2020 and beyond will continue to do so with an eye on the COP 21 agreement, rather than the actions of the 45th US President.

It is undeniable that the landscape has changed with one single leadership change, but the reality is, we must continue our renewable energy efforts here in Ireland and keep working with our own government in order to effect change here in Ireland. The support for solar and other clean energy technologies is continuing to grow. With politics changing to a popularity contest, the more popular climate change becomes in Ireland, the more it will seep into Leinster House.

The Irish solar market is in a very healthy state, can we say the same about external optimism for America today?

No.