Tell a Story – 2016 Class Archive

Foreign species, local threats in Baltic

-by Tommy Palmgren

Likely to have been brought to the Baltic waters via ships’ ballast shifting, the Round Goby fish ( Neogobius melanostomus) is spreading through the Baltic Sea coastal areas.

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The Round Goby fish – an invasive species in the Baltic Sea

The authors of Helcom Baltic Sea Environment Fact sheet 2012[1] points out
that the Round Goby is an invasive species[2], taking over the ecological site of the indigenous Gober niger , perfectly thriving in brackish environment and feeding on a variety of mussels, arthropods and small animals therefore also competing with other fish like flatfish and eelpout. It has also ousted Perch and Pike.[3] Itself being important prey for cod, perch, cormorants and Grey heron. Also actually considered tasty by Polish fischermen. It has in a few year spread along the Baltic first reported from The gulf of Gdansk and can now be found all the way from the Danish straits to eastern side of the Bothnian bay. It quickly has spread wherever introduced in brackish waters[4]
It has depleted or diminished locally the mussel banks.

In his article Increased spread of the fish round goby in the Baltic Sea, Magnus Thorlacius argues that it has been established that the new populations outside Gotland and Åland of Round gober consists of more active and aggressive individuals compared to the older from Hel and Swarzewo one of them just outside Gdansk. Round gober usually become very numerous in invaded areas. They investigated stress hormones in these populations and compared them to already long term- established ones. Surprisingly although they multiply to extreme densities in a few years individuals held in very high densities seem to have lower levels of stress hormones. It all complies to that this species will spread at a very high rate probably altering the ecology in costal marine areas.

Authors:
Monika Michalek – Departement of Aquatic Ecology, Maritime institute, Poland
Riikka Puntila – HELCOM Secretariat; Solvita Strake. Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology
Malin Werner – Swedish Institute of Agricultural Sciences,Department of Aquatic Resourcesm, Institute of   ..Marine Research.
“Abundence and distribution of Round Goby”
Accessed 5 july 2016 [http://helcom.fi/Baltic-sea-trends/environment-fact-sheets/biodiversity/abundance-and-distribution-of- round – goby]
[1] In Swedish waters alone over 20 million tonnes ballastwater is discharged but on a worldscale three to four billion tonnes are shifted between different parts of the world.
Bernes, Claes. (2005). Changes beneath the surface-An in-depth Look At Sweden´s Marine environment. P 146
The Swedish Evironmental Protection Agency

[2] Ponto-Caspian origin

[3] Bernes, Claes(2005). Ibid p 148

[4] Also for instance to the Northamerican lakes with the ballastwater of freighters.
source the second article written by Magnus Thorlacius:
“Increased spread rate of the fish round goby in the Baltic Sea”
http:phys.org/news/2015-12-fish-goby-baltic-sea.html

[5] Thorlacius, Magnus (december 16,2015) Increased spread of the fish round goby in the Baltic Sea.

Old problems and new threats

-by Jesper Nyberg

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Eutrophication leads to algal bloom in the Baltic Sea. Credit: Image courtesy of the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE

For many decades, the Baltic Sea has been thoroughly destroyed by the people living around it. Sometimes this has been due to ignorance, sometimes due to indifference and ruthlessness. The environmental status of the Baltic Sea is now amongst the worst in the world. Some of the biggest problems are chemical pollution with toxic substances, eutrophication (an excess of nutrients), oxygen depletion (too little oxygen in the water) and biodiversity loss (a loss of species in the ecosystems). This sorry state of the water has many reasons. The agriculture around the Baltic Sea leaks nutrients into the water, leading to eutrophication. The eutrophication then leads to an increase of biomass in the water, and the microorganisms that decompose it can use up all oxygen that is available. The chemical pollution in the sea comes from many different sources. These changes in the Baltic Sea have had a negative impact on the diversity of its ecosystems.

In addition to the pressure from human activity, the Baltic Sea is uniquely vulnerable. The turnover of water is slow, which leads to problems with oxygenation. The environmental impact from the 85 million people living around it is therefore concentrated to an enclosed and shallow sea. The brackish water is neither suitable for saline nor freshwater species, which stresses them. It is this unfortunate combination of high pressure and natural vulnerability that has led to the state of the Baltic Sea today.

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Water treatment plant in the Swedish city of Helsingborg. Credit: NSVA

Efforts to improve the environmental status of the Baltic Sea has been made, and the levels of several known toxic chemicals have decreased. But at the same time new chemicals have been introduced to the market and is now being released into the water. The effects of these chemicals on the ecosystem, and on humans, are often unknown. An example of a new type of pollution is microplastics, plastic particles with a diameter of less than 5 mm. In the water, they are eaten by small sea creatures. Some sources of microplastics are personal care products such as shower gels and cosmetics. Examples of other possible threats to the Baltic Sea not captured by the water treatment plants are PFAA (a name for substances used for example in electronics and to waterproof textiles) and pharmaceuticals released from our bodies after we have consumed them.

The increased awareness of the pollution and other environmental problems in the Baltic Sea gives reason to hope for improvements in the future. The phasing out of microplastics, for instance, has begun. It is important that our knowledge and legislation are kept up to date with the new threats that the Baltic Sea faces. Historically, the problem with pollution has been met with some success, and the most dangerous substances have in many instances been phased out. We must continue to monitor for emerging problems and ideally abolish the hazardous substances. New techniques for waste water cleaning may be necessary in order to deal with the release of pharmaceuticals into the environment, although the cost can be substantial. But with enough political will, no threat to the Baltic Sea is impossible to manage.

References

Centrum Balticum. “Pharmaceuticals in the Baltic Sea Environment.” 13 July 2016. Web. <http://www.centrumbalticum.org/en/events/pharmaceuticals-baltic-sea-environment&gt;.

Hamren, Henrik. “Great Media Interest in Baltic Eyes New Data on Microplastic.” Great Media Interest in S New Data on Microplastic. Stockholm University Baltic Sea Centre, 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 05 July 2016. <http://www.su.se/ostersjocentrum/english/baltic-eye/great-media-interest-in-baltic-eyes-new-data-on-microplastic-1.233461&gt;.

Naturvårdsverket. ”Miljöfarliga ämnen i havet.” 21 June 2016. Web. 13 July 2016. <http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Sa-mar-miljon/Vatten/Miljofarliga-amnen-i-havet/&gt;.

Naturvårdsverket. ”Mikroplaster – uppdrag att identifiera viktigare källor och föreslå åtgärder.” 19 Apr. 2016. Web. 13 July 2016. <http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Miljoarbete-i-samhallet/Miljoarbete-i-Sverige/Regeringsuppdrag/Identifiera-och-foresla-atgarder-mot-utslapp-av-mikroplaster-i-havet/&gt;.

Wardi, Nicolas. “Hope for the Baltic Sea.” Hope for the Baltic Sea. Helsinki Times, 10 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/finland/finland-news/domestic/13857-hope-for-the-baltic-sea.html&gt;.

New technology for a sustainable future

-by Kimberly Berglöf

We know that climate change and a changing environment is inescapable but with new technology it will be easier to make the transition in to a more sustainable future smoother.

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Picture of a cyanobacterial bloom in the Baltic Sea taken with ESA’s Sentinal-2A Satellite. Image credit: Copernicus Sentinel data/ESA

Finnish scientists have been working on a modelling system, a kind of computer program that can predict both the future and the past, based on information from marine sediments in the Baltic Sea. They can with the help of this get a clearer picture of the past sea surface temperatures, sea ice coverage and eutrophication through history. They know from this that the Baltic Sea has been both warmer and more oxygen depleted than it is today. It has however been able to recover due to a decrease in temperature. But with a growing population and more anthropogenic impact the temperature is now increasing again and we are again starting to see vast areas in the Baltic Sea that lack oxygen. We call these dead zones since almost no life can survive here. These computer programs, or models, can also predict what the future might look like. This is however a hard thing to do since we are now facing a lot of threats to the Baltic Sea and the rest of the plant which are often indirectly effecting the Baltic Sea. The INFLOW project, which are building these models, base them on data going back to the medieval times and are calculating in several modern threat, which will give us a clearer picture of what we can expect in the Baltic Sea region in the future and with this information make plans for how to utilise the area in a sustainable way.

New technology cannot only show us what happened thousands of years ago but also right this second. A new satellite; the ESA’s Sentinel-2A satellite can provide us with very high resolution images that can tell us exactly how the sea is looking at a large scale without us having to be there. With ships we can only see a small piece at the time but with high quality pictures like this we can track movements of harmful algal blooms (HAB’s) in real time. HAB’s are like fast spreading clouds of toxic bacteria that can be devastating for whole ecosystems, the aquaculture industry and tourism since they can be harmful to both plants and animals, including humans. With new technology we can not only see this blooms live but also see in what directions they are moving and with this information prevent unnecessary harm.

With new technology like computer modelling systems and high resolution satellite pictures we will have a chance to prepare for the changing world that we live in and plan for a more sustainable future where we can deal with issues before they get out of control.

References

http://www.sci-news.com/space/science-sentinel-2a-algal.storm-03217.html

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110215081924.htm

http://projects.gtk.fi/inflow Retrieved 2016-07-13

Nerve Gas in the Baltic – Should We Be Nervous?

-by Jessica Sellin

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Munitions dump in the Baltic Sea. Image courtesy: flickr.com

It is estimated that about 15.000 tonnes of chemical agents were dumped in the Baltic Sea shortly after the Second World War. Over the years, the casings containing the chemical agents have rusted away leaving the toxic substances exposed to water.

If you don’t die from the contact with the chemical agents like nerve gas, sulfur mustard and white phosphorous, you will most probably be severely injured. Either will they paralyze your organs, burn your skin off your bones or create blisters inside your lungs.

These chemical agents pose a threat mostly to the crews on fishing boats when the agents are trapped in bottom trawlers and brought to surface. Although the encounters are decreasing, there are still a couple of findings made each year, and with an increasing activity on the sea bottom (offshore wind farms, pipelines, sea cables and so on), the numbers of unwanted findings could increase again.

The most common chemical agent, sulfur mustard, as well as white phosphorus are not very soluble in water. This makes them on the one hand safe as long as they are trapped under surface, but they are on the other hand long lasting and pose a threat to the surrounding organisms once they are exposed to the atmosphere. Nerve gas however dissolves within days when it is exposed to water, which makes it less harmful.

Little is still known about the effects of chemical warfare agents and the degradation products towards the marine organisms since no thorough on site investigations has been conducted in the Baltic Sea. The few minor studies that have been made in the Baltic Sea suggest that the widespread impacts are small whereas studies in other marine regions have indicated the opposite.

Based on this incomplete understanding of the effects on the ecosystem the Helsinki Commission (the Baltic Sea states forum for cooperation) has presumed that the attempts to recover the chemical agents would be too risky. Therefore the old rusting weapons will we left on the bottom of the sea, leaving the next generation to encounter some unwanted surprises from the depth.

References:

Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) (2013). Sea dumped chemical munition. http://helcom.fi/baltic-sea-trends/hazardous-substances/sea-dumped-chemical-munitions (accessed 2016-07-14).

Bernes, C. (2005). Change Beneath the Surface. Swedish environmental protection agency. Monitor 19.

Picture: Flickr (2011). Munitions dump. flickr.com/photos/underwatermunitions/ (accessed 2016-07-14).

Can deep-water Oxygenation bring back life into Baltic ‘dead zones’?

-Reinecke Van Tol

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Satellite image of a Nodularia bloom in the Baltic Sea – EOS-MODIS

Swedish scientists are testing an ambitious idea to pump oxygen (O2) into the Baltic sea’s so called ‘dead zones’ in order to restore the ecosystems. Not all scientists however are convinced of the success of this Baltic deep-water Oxygenation (BOX) project. Some say that only banning the sources of nutrient waste can save the Baltic. That something has to be done may though be evident. The Baltic is known to contain the largest man-made ‘dead zones’ of all seas and oceans in the world. But, will oxygen pumping really breathe life into the Baltic’s dead zones? Or do we simply need to ban the sources of eutrophication?

The past decades the Baltic has been contaminated accelerative by inflow of mainly fertilizers, sewage and industrial pollutants. The amounts of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in these contaminants are causing a constant nutrient supply, resulting in algal blooms that consume all the oxygen that is available, a phenomenon called ‘eutrophication’. Oxygen consumption as well as primary production have doubled in the period from 1970 to 2009 and is still increasing (Stigebrandt & Kalén, 2013). What is left is an extended aquatic ‘dead zone’ that hardly facilitates any life.

A main threat for the Baltic is at first the human induced pollution through industries, agriculture, deforestation, private homes, shipping and tourism. Waste or erosion water due to these practices, contains lots of N and P that stimulate primary production. Also rising sea water temperatures due to global climate change make the oxygen availability even worse, since less O2 can be dissolved in warmer water (USGS, 2016). Moreover, also pharmaceutics or other artificial chemical substances that end up in waste water contribute for a great deal to the dead zones. Not directly by inducing primary production, but maybe even worse; the toxins they contain can either directly kill marine life or add up in the food chain and cause health troubles. Also reproductive success can be affected by certain chemicals.

In an attempt to stop the eutrophication and bring back life into dead zones, Swedish scientist came up with the idea of engineered re-oxygenation of the Baltic’s ‘dead zones’. Pumping relatively oxygen rich water from the surface into deeper anoxic layers, hereby breaking through the oxycline and allowing the water to mix again, must safe the Baltic according to the BOX project (Forth, 2015).

Facilitating nature to restore itself, instead of only focussing on banning the resources, could accelerate the battle against eutrophication in the Baltic. However, many scientists are sceptical about the idea. Prof. Conley (Lund University) mentions that there might be unforeseen consequences that could change the whole ecosystem. He also mentions that oxygenation could affect the reproductive success of some fish species. That’s indeed true, but Koster et al. (2005) found that increased O2 – levels actually improve the reproductive volume of at least cod, which thus makes it a benefit.

Apart from the costs of the BOX project, another point for consideration is the fact that treating the consequences instead of the sources might cause ignorance to obligations that try to reduce waste dumping, since it will be cleaned anyway.

Are these problems still relevant? The whole idea started many years ago. In the mean time Forth et al. (2015) showed in a pilot project over 3 years in the Swedish Byfjord near Udevalla that bacterial communities in deep waters do change from anoxic to common aerobic communities as a result of oxygen supply. Engineered oxygenation of ‘dead zones’ seems thus to be possible and can at least restore communities at the microbial level. It is reasonable but not yet demonstrated that the further marine ecosystem could restore itself as well via a bottom-up principle in the food chain. If the resulted restored microbial community will last on the long term is however still unknown and should be investigated by further research.

In my opinion, BOX could be a very good addition in order to restore the Baltic ecosystems, but the project alone is not going to solve the problem unless you reduce the nutrient waste being dumped in the Sea in the first place.

References

Forth, M., Liljebladh, B., Stigebrandt, A., Hall, P. O. J., & Treusch, A. H. (2015). Effects of ecological engineered oxygenation on the bacterial community structure in an anoxic fjord in western Sweden, The ISME journal, 9(3), 656–669. http://doi.org/10.1038/ismej.2014.172

Köster, F.W., Möllema, C., Hindrichsen, H., Wieland, K., Tomkiewicza, J., Kraus, G. et al. (2005). Baltic cod recruitment – the impact of climate variability on key processes, ICES journal of marine sciences, 62 (7), 1408-1425.

Levitt, Tom. “Can Oxygen pump breathe life into ocean ‘dead zone’?” CNN. Cable News Network, July 17th 2012. Web. July 5th 2016. http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/17/world/europe/dead-zone-baltic-oxygen/

Stigebrandt, A., & Kalén, O. (2013). Improving Oxygen Conditions in the Deeper Parts of Bornholm Sea by Pumped Injection of Winter Water. AMBIO, 42, 587–595. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-012-0356-4

USGS (May 2th 2016). Water properties: Dissolved oxygen. Retrieved on July 7th 2016 from: http://water.usgs.gov/edu/dissolvedoxygen.html

Photo: Satellite image of a Nodularia bloom in the Baltic Sea EOS – MODIS 2005-07-11, NASA, processed by SMHI’s oceanography unit.

Cleaning up the Baltic Sea would boost Sweden’s economy by $4 billion  per year

-by Alexander Hoffmann

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Image: http://www.dw.com/en/leaders-pledge-urgent-action-to-clean-up-baltic-sea/a-5237048

A study by the Boston Consulting Group for WWF found that cleaning up the Baltic Sea would result in enormous economic gains. Sweden would profit by 3.98 billion dollars a year, and all countries around the Baltic Sea together even by 44.2 billion dollars, the consulting report suggests according to Radio Sweden (2014, July 14). 70,000 new jobs could emerge in Sweden, foremost in the sectors of tourism, fishing and agriculture. Environmental minister Lena Ek welcomed the report, which shows ways to bring together environmental and economic gain.

Action appears urgent as the bottom of the Baltic Sea is soon to be dead and algal blooms start earlier every year, scientists from Stockholm University found. It may be due to the warming climate that blue-green algae appear three weeks earlier than 35 years ago. The potentially poisonous algae called cyanobacteria thrive in waters over-fertilized by runoff from farms, such as the Baltic Sea.

The new findings join earlier data that have shown that large parts of the Baltic have an unacceptable status for plants and animals, and that 59 species are threatened. These entail all marine mammals, many birds and even common species like the bladderwrack. Despite efforts by the Helsinki Convention (HELCOM), which is a governing body to protect the Baltic marine environment, some species even became extinct. The economic viability of a clean-up shall give new support and financial backing to community clean-up programs, new clean-up technologies like drones, and investments in abolishing sources of pollution. Building sewage treatment plants in places identified as pollution hotspots by HELCOM, for instance, has proven to be a successful tool to improve water quality.

Sources:

Eye on the Arctic (14-06-2014). “Baltic Sea studies: Cleanup would benefit region’s economy, algal blooms arriving earlier.“ Radio Sweden, reproduced by http://news.algaeworld.org/2014/07/baltic-sea-studies-cleanup-benefit-regions-economy-algal-blooms-arriving-earlier/

HELCOM (14-12-2015): “Six pollution hot spots cleaned up in the Baltic Sea”. http://helcom.fi/news/Pages/Six-pollution-hot-spots-cleaned-up-in-the-Baltic-Sea.aspx

Auer, Matthew R. & Nileneder, Eve (2002): “Cleaning Up Hotspots in the Baltic Sea Area Basin: An Appraisal of the Joint Comprehensive Environmental Action Programme”. The NEBI Yearbook 2001/2002. pp 81-102

BalticSTERN (2013): “State of the Baltic Sea”. Havs- och vattenmyndighetsrapport 2013:4. Stockholm Resilience Center. http://stockholmresilience.org/download/18.416c425f13e06f977b14a55/BalticSTERN_State+of+the+Baltic+Sea.pdf

Climate change + the Baltic Sea = Uh-oh!

-by Emma Davies

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Cyanobacteria bloom in the Baltic Sea close to Landsort, 27 July 2008. Credit: Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute

In today’s society global warming and climate change are critical environmental problems. However, their exact effects on the Baltic Sea and its ecosystems are not thoroughly known. With salinity and oxygen concentrations decreasing and the sea temperature rising, it is vital to find new methods to investigate the effect of climate change and other environmental problems on regional ecosystems. This is the reason why a group of scientists from Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Denmark and Germany teamed up to create a new model to illustrate the severe effects of global warming on marine life in the Baltic Sea. These researches combined several existing models, such as the global General Circulation Model, a regional climate model and biochemical models to create a multi-model ensemble simulation for the Baltic Sea.

The team concluded that climate change has affected the marine ecosystems and food webs in the Baltic area. One example of this is the decrease in cod biomass in the region. Assuming the current greenhouse gas emission scenarios become true, water temperature at the end of the 21st century will be higher and salinity and oxygen concentrations will be lower than any values since 1850. This is why it is vital that these results are taken into account when developing management plans, not just in the Baltic area, but all over the world.

Resource: Kalaugher Liz. 2012. Climate Change Is Bad News for the Baltic Sea.” Environmental Research Web.

Are We Soon Swimming in the Microplastics Soup?

-by Eeva Hammar

We use and consume plastics in our everyday life. Since the “plastic revolution” from the days of when plastic was first invented we have learned to use plastics in various ways. When we consume something there would be probably more or less waste as well. The part of this plastic waste unfortunately ends up in the world’s oceans. This same problem is here in the Baltic Sea too. Marine litter, especially plastics, are a growing threat to the Baltic Sea.

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©Eeva Hammar Small plastic particles found in the boat’s engine filter. The eastern Gulf of Finland National Park, Ulko-Tammio, August 2014.

There are many kinds of marine plastic waste like empty bottles and plastic bags. But there are new – or perhaps not so new – things in the water column, so-called microplastics (or microbeads). Microplastics come from the plastic waste that has been broken down into smaller and smaller pieces over time by mechanical grinding and crushing of rocks and sand along with waves and UV-light. The origin of microplastics can also be from the cosmetic products and fleece clothes, which then enter the sea via sewage water. These tiny little things are a huge problem to solve. Are they entering to the food chain as well? Are we eating soon plastics too?

Some studies indicate that microplastics may transfer within planktonic food web from one trophic level to a higher planktonic level. In these studies many planktonic taxa (mysid shrimps, ciliates, and polychaete larvae) were ingested with microplastic particles.

Plastics may contain several harmful compounds which may be toxic to organisms from the planktonic to the higher trophic levels like seals and marine birds. If these microplastics really do transfer along the food web then the harmful compounds may accumulate at some trophic level.

It’s too late if these microplastics reach the sea. It’s impossible collect them out once they have entered the vast ocean. The most important solution is to prevent them to entering there in the first place. The microplastics (and toxins they may carry) is not only concerning about the environmental status but also do have impacts for instance on human health and economy as well.

The implications of climate change and our oceans chemistry

-by Emily Skibenes

Global warming poses an extreme threat to our world’s oceans. This tremendous ecosystem is a major component in the carbon cycle. Our vast ocean waters already absorb one-third of carbon emissions resulting from human activity. Although we know how the oceans cycle carbon, there is little known about the ecological effects due to rising temperatures and ocean acidification. As atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, the ocean’s chemistry will be altered as a result. Studying the primary producers of our oceans may give an indication of the changes to come and their implications.

A study conducted at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University found that a temperature increase of 2-6 degrees Celsius decreased the solubility of atmospheric carbon into the water surface by up to 31% and produced more dissolved organic carbon than particulate organic carbon. This impacted the sequestration of carbon therefore weakening the biological carbon pump. These observations could affect the transfer of primary produced organic matter to higher trophic levels in the marine food chain.

Dissolved organic carbon is an important component within the aquatic food web but it is also a contributor to acidity and the ability for light penetration. The results of the experiment suggest that rising temperatures will produce more dissolved organic carbon and therefore can alter the pH and decreasing light availability for photosynthetic organisms.

Although the oceans ecosystems are tremendously complex, experiments like these are important reminders of how delicate certain biological systems can be. If we draw conclusions based upon the vulnerability our primary producers it draws attention to the fact that we are dependent upon their survival and efficiency. Understanding how human activity impacts the global ecosystem is more important than ever and is a reminder that we must move forward to a more sustainable future.

Kalaugher, Liz. “Hotter Plankton Breathe Faster.” Environmental Research Web. Environmental Research Web, 20 Apr. 2009. Web.

http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/news/38740.

BALTIC SEA(LS)

-by Christy Winer

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The endangered Harbour Seal, Öland. c. salmotrutta.se

The HELCOM ad hoc SEAL expert group are studying the populations’ progress and its threats. The water quality and human activities impact their habitats and influence their population size. For example, organochlorides are polluting the sea and resulting in reproductive disorders in the seals. Organochlorides are a classification of compounds that can range from relatively harmless to extremely toxic. Splenda is one weak organochloride, but harmful ones include chloroform, insecticides, and more forms that could even be used as chemical weapons if someone wanted to.

Another threat is hunting. Money can be made by selling their skins as waterproof clothing, their meat as food, and oil from their blubber for dietary supplements. The ringed seal and harbour seal species have been classified as threatened while the harbour porpoise is considered critically endangered. The grey seal is a “least concern.” Therefore, the Baltic Sea Action Plan was implemented to improve the conservation of these animals by 2015. Since then, the group has analyzed the populations’ recoveries, and the results are promising yet not as good as what they hoped for. The experts consist of scientists who are very knowledgeable of the issues. People from Finland, Sweden, and Germany lead teams that study population size, distribution, and health and analyze the data that has been collected.

HELCOM SEAL focuses on developing monitoring programs to assess the seals’ status and establish protected areas for conservation. Once habitats are designated, they must maintain the health of the area to sustain the populations by keeping an eye on the water quality. They will also brain storm ideas on how to fix any issues that arise. As the years go by, more and more information will be collected and hopefully these species can be preserved for generations to come.

Source:

http://helcom.fi/helcom-at-work/groups/state-and-conservation/seal

The Blue Planet Needs a Blue Economy

-by Bruce Duane

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At the 2012 United Nations summit on sustainable development, there was much discussion about the need for a “Green Economy”. This is a great idea, but many believed that this idea was too small. After all, 72% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. We cannot ignore all that the oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers have to offer. Thus UN leaders developed the term “Blue Economy”.

People have been utilizing the sea for economic gain as long as they’ve walked the Earth, but if we are to sustain our growing societies, the sea is going to have to play a much bigger factor in the world economy. For a process to be sustainable, it must be circular. While it appears that our use of water is circular by dumping what we don’t use back into the sea. Our use of the sea is hurting our eco-system below the surface and is therefore not sustainable. Our current economy relies heavily on the ocean and this will only increase with time. Coastal tourism, oil and gas consumption, and global aquaculture are all expected to double by 2030. Shipping will quadruple by that time as well. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we need to prepare for this growth by improving the economic system that supports it.

There is a lot of conflict regarding how to utilize the sea’s resources more without hurting the ecosystem. Europe has already gone a long way in solving this problem with research in aquaculture, coastal tourism, ocean energy, biotechnology, and seabed mining. Ocean energy is particularly interesting to me. The business sector of offshore wind has grown by 20% between 2008 and 2010. Between offshore wind and tidal waves, a lot of power can be generated by the sea without compromising any limited resources. In the Baltic Sea, 127,000 jobs are created by coastal tourism, while only 2,000 jobs are created by coastal wind. If the coastal wind sector were to expand at the expense of coastal tourism, pollution would decrease and renewable energy would increase. This is the kind of relationship we must consider if we are to move towards a more sustainable Blue Economy.

Works Cited

All Hands On Deck. N.p.: WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme, Oct.-Nov. 2015. PDF.

Mo’ Protein, Mo’ Problems

-by Matt Tarasiewicz

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Baltic Sea Eutrophication – Source: Jawan Harryman, Earth Science

Eutrophication in the Baltic would be significantly reduced if the population ate less meat, specifically meat. There is a strong positive correlation between the amounts of high-protein eaten and the amount of emissions of phosphorus and nitrogen in the Baltic Sea. The extra nutrients cause large growth of algae cyanobacteria. Eventually the bacteria sinks to the bottom of the sea, decomposes, and uses up oxygen, causing “dead zones” throughout the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea is greatly at risk for this phenomenon because it receives wastewater from over 80 million people, does not get exchanged often, and it is a comparably tiny body of water.

Luckily, changes in eating habits can help this problem. If everyone reduced their protein consumption from 80 grams to 60 grams, the phosphorus and nitrogen levels would be reduced by 40% and 50% respectively. If this were to happen, the amount of phosphorus emissions in the next 5 years would be reduced by 400 tons. This is a goal that Sweden promised to accomplish while at the Helsinki Convention this past year.

Overall, Poland produces the most emissions out of all of the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. This is because of all of the Polish citizens who actively farm. While the most emissions come from Poland, Sweden is still affected the most from local emissions from the Swedish coast. So, while Sweden’s promise of protein consumption may not fix the entire Baltic Sea, it would still improve the state of Sweden’s coastlines.

Since 1970, Sweden’s consumption of protein from animals has increased by 55%. This number was calculated by the wetlands and limestone ditches that were constructed next to farms to absorb the nutrients from agriculture emission. A typical person from Sweden consumes approximately 108 grams of protein a day even though the body only needs about 58 grams per day. Overall, lamb, beef, veal, and pork cause the greatest amount of emissions.

Surprisingly, if everyone were to replace their normal diet with only chicken and vegetables, it would not reduce eutrophication by much. This is because it takes a large amount of land to grow vegetables such as beans and peas and food spill gets bigger. So, the key to reducing emissions is to lessen protein intake. Additionally, food additives create additional eutrophication. Abandoning these additives would cut back phosphorus discharge by 60 tons per year.

The Baltic Sea was originally a nutrient-poor water body. But due to population increase, agriculture, sewage, and boat traffic, the Sea has become much richer with nutrients. It is estimated that almost 15% of the surface is a “dead zone,” more than 10 times the amount in 1900. Action has been taken to attempt to get the Baltic Sea improve the ecological status to good by the year 2021.

Threat of Eutrophication

Some good news about eutrophication is that many of the worst sources have been improved. Wastewater treatment facilities have been improved and industry runoff has been addressed. The amount of nutrients coming from these sources has decreased significantly.

Additionally, agricultural runoff contributes to the nutrient overload in the Baltic Sea. The development of agriculture near the Baltic region will continue to worsen if action is not taken. Also, a lot of the phosphorus that has already been released into the Baltic Sea is stored in sediments in the deeper areas of the sea. This is considered an environmental liability and oxygen free zones of the sea increase the amount phosphorus released from the sediment. This problem has been known for many years now.

Work Cited

Harryman, Jawan. “Changes in Eating Habits Can Make Baltic Sea Better.” Changes in          Eating Habits Can Make Baltic Sea Better. Science NewsHub, 25 May 2016.      Web. 05 July 2016. http://newslodi.com/earth-science/252296-changes in  eating-habits-can-make-baltic-sea-better.

“Threat of Eutrophication A Widespread and Persistent Problem.” Panda. WWF

Global, 2016. Web. 14 July 2016.

Society’s Involvement is Crucial to a Sustainable Baltic

-by Emily Weaver

Society possesses a huge part in protecting the health of the Baltic Sea and dangerous situations that could occur in it. Scientists from the ESBALT organization have been asking regular citizens to report any observations or suspicious activities they see while casually boating or fishing. This initiative is called BONUS and its based off the belief that these people might notice things that scientist would otherwise not be aware of. This allows for more eyes to “be on deck” which leads to more reports and insight, which then leads to more opportunity for discovery.

Also, an article on ScienceDaily stated that although there is a lot of scientific information on how to improve the Baltic Sea, the sea is still in bad shape. The article believes that this issue stems from the fact that although discoveries and resolutions are made, since they are not implemented and followed, no changes are occurring. Therefore, citizens’ participation in the initiatives is vital to the success of cleaning up the Baltic Sea. I believe that the BONUS initiative, which asks for regular citizens help, will cause more people to directly feel like their help is needed. People will begin to feel more involved in cleaning up the Baltic and put in more efforts elsewhere.

One scientific initiative that society needs to accept and put into action is controlling the amount of Nitrogen Oxide emitted into the sea through shipping. The Helsinki Commission (HELCOM) has a plan to reduce the release of this chemical, which causes extreme cases of eutrophication. If the International Maritime Organization passes the proposal for this plan, HELCOM believes it will reduce Nitrogen Oxide emission by at least 7 kilotons per year. This is an example of scientific discoveries that could help clean the Baltic, however, since the initiative is not being carried out yet, no improvements will occur.

Source:

Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland). “Citizens can help to enhance safety in the Baltic Sea.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 June 2016.

Fishy Behavior

-by Alex Rubin

Pharmaceuticals are one of the hallmarks of modern medicine, being used to treat everything from acne to allergies to anxiety. Since their advent they have revolutionized the way we treat disease and mental illness. However, these drugs are having unintended side effects beyond what it says on their warning labels. Scientists are finding significant amounts of common pharmaceuticals, of which there are hundreds if not thousands, in waterways across the world and they’re having serious effects on wildlife and ecosystems.

As discussed in the article “Psychiatric Drugs Changing Fish Behavior” from Inside Science, scientific research regarding the antianxiety medication Oxazepam has produced concerning findings. The study discussed involved behavioral changes in European perch exposed to the drug in an ecosystem downstream from a Swedish sewage treatment plant. The fish were found to be less social, and bolder than normal. This is especially alarming since perch normally swim in schools and are easily frightened. Furthermore, exposed fish were also found to have more voracious appetites.

FISH-TOP-SLIDER
An European Perch, (Perca fluviatilis). Image credit: Image Courtesy of Bent Christensen Rights information: http://bit.ly/LDFc85

The ecological implications of this changed behavior are extremely serious and far-reaching. Perch feed on zooplankton, which are microorganisms that feed on algae. Algae, although vital to almost all aquatic and marine ecosystems, has the potential to overgrow in massive algal blooms, overwhelming and decimating an ecosystem making life for other organisms extremely difficult. If perch are eating more, the amount of zooplankton will almost surely decrease allowing algae to grow at a dangerous rate. Additionally, bolder perch are more likely to be less wary of predators, which could negatively influence perch population density.

This study examined the effects of just one drug on just one type of fish in a controlled environment. There are innumerable types of fish, marine mammals, birds, insects, invertebrates microbes, and plants that are being exposed to hundreds of different types of pharmaceuticals everyday. The effect of these drugs on wildlife is largely unknown, as are their chemical interactions with each other and the environment. These drugs include things like hormones, immune suppressors, and painkillers, which are easily dissolved in water and just as easily absorbed by aquatic organisms. Furthermore, many water treatment plants lack the capability to remove these drugs meaning that pharmaceutical pollution and contamination has the potential to affect human drinking water.

The best way to combat this growing problem is to identify specific types of drugs that are detrimental to fish and wildlife, and equip water treatment facilities with the capability to remove them before they are discharged into the environment. This is easier said than done though. Retrofitting existing treatment plants without compromising function and safety can be difficult and expensive. Additionally, anticipating the effects various drugs will have on wildlife requires extensive research on a massive scale. However, in an age where humans are increasingly aware of how our actions alter the environment, it is imperative that action is taken to address this emergent issue.

Source:

https://www.insidescience.org/content/psychiatric-drugs-changing-fish-behavior/939

New Ways to Reduce Eutrophication

-by Joseph Comparini

One solution to combat eutrophication is to promote sustainable farming and land management. Some farmers have already taken measures to try and be more sustainable, but that has been proved to not be enough. Overall policy reform is required on a large scale to actually make a difference; the current subsides in place do not promote sustainable practices. The World Wide Fund [WWF] is working together with governments and various agriculture sectors to promote development of sustainable polices as well as trying to change behavioral practices such as daily consumption and product choices. Currently as the Common Agriculture Practice [CAP] is structured, farmers receive substantial financial support without being sustainable. It is WWF’s view that subsides should only be awarded to farmers who can prove that they have taken measures to be more sustainable. The WWF also suggests that the public money should only be spent on public goods, such as sustainable water management, preserving biodiversity and rural employment. Also that each subsidy needs be evaluated to see if it promotes sustainability. They also suggest that all payments should be public information so that there is complete transparency of the use of public funds.

Eutrophication in the Baltic

Eutrophication is one of the main reasons why the Baltic Sea is greatly polluted. Eutrophication is caused by an excess of nutrients. Specifically nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are particularly more abundant today than they were 100 years ago. There is five and eight times more nitrogen and phosphorus in the Baltic Sea today comparatively. These are two common chemicals found in fertilizer used by farmers. The excess in nutrients in turn allows uncontrolled algae blooms that coat the surface of the water and suffocate life below. There has been some improvements recently in two of the worst point sources of pollution. Now waste water facilities and industry runoff are targeting these nutrients specifically and the amount of nutrients has been decreased substantially. Unfortunately the main point source is due to agriculture runoff from five major rivers; Neva, Nemunas, Daugava, Vistula, and Oder. The condition of the Baltic will not improve unless agriculture runoff is dealt with in some way. Agriculture land development is constant and appears as though the current condition will only worsen if we continue on the current path. As if the runoff was not enough, some of the phosphorus that is already in the Baltic is being stored in the sediment. When the water becomes oxygen-free the sediment releases the stored phosphorus making it possible for even more algae blooms.

BONUS For a Better Baltic

-by Jack Chapman

The EU Parliament is investing 500 million krona and all of the countries around the Baltic Sea including Russia are collectively matching that investment with another 500 MSEK. 1 billion krona is being invested in total to fund this project with the objective of securing sustainable practices in the Baltic Sea. With an 8:1 conversion, that would be about 125 million U.S. dollars.

site_logo                  One hundred million peoples’ lives would be affected by any major changes that might occur to that area. Some of the pollutants taken in by the Baltic Sea are mentioned, and they also share the fact the Sweden has the longest coastline and the largest catchment area. Therefore, Sweden bears the largest responsibility in keeping the Baltic Sea sustainable for the future.

The Baltic Sea faces a wide range of problems in terms of it remaining sustainable for the way it is currently used by humans. The sea is shallow, has a low diversity of species, is surrounded by human activities, and face serious eutrophication which leads to dead bottoms and large algal blooms.

The Helsinki Convention was signed about forty years ago, and in 2007, agreed on a “Baltic Sea Action Plan” which demands a maximum amount of discharged nutrients into the sea by each country. An attempt to optimize research is being made by the surrounding nations to effectively keep the sea sustainable, but effective collaboration between them has only been occurring for a few years. The European Research Area Network was made to finance communication of such research. The article ends by mentioning three grant application calls that were to take place in 2011-2012.

BONUS is the institution that is working towards research for the betterment of the Baltic Sea. The three main categories of project that are in the process of implementation include innovation, viable ecosystem research, and sustainable ecosystem services research projects. There is a conference in Stockholm this upcoming August that has the purpose of learning and sharing of evidence-based environmental management.

Source:

http://helcom.fi/baltic-sea-action-plan

Global warming lengthens tourist season

-by Haoruo Chen

Nowadays, global warming is becoming more and more serious. However, it may not only has disadvantage but also incur some benefits.

For instance, global warming can promote the summer activities. During the summer holiday, people always go swimming or sunbathing on the beaches. These activities require high temperatures and sunshine, so the climate change will do some positive effects.

What’s more, the climate change can prolong the travelling season. That’s extremely good for the tourism. The longer tourist season will bring a lot of benefits to the travel agency.

However, if we did nothing with the environment, the benefits would come to nothing.

Although climate change will make it more pleasant and comfortable when people enjoy the beaches, the algae may break them. No one would like to enjoy swimming and sunbathing with the blue-green algae. The overgrowth of algae will drive out the tourists and even the buyers of summer houses. So the eutrophication should be controlled or the algae blooms may decrease the positive effects of the warming climate.

Therefore, some problems will also be caused by the greenhouse effect to the tourism. It may increase the rain and even the extreme weather. Tourists are unwilling to go travelling if the weather is too rainy or stormy. And they may take the risk of some unpleasant or dangerous circumstance.

To sum up, it is hard to say whether the global warming has positive effect or not, but it is sure that control the eutrophication is an urgent matter we should deal with.

Source:

https://ilmasto-opas.fi/en/ilmastonmuutos/vaikutukset/-/artikkeli/51d0c5f5-349b-4ffa-9419-7a78d612c17e/suomen-talous.html

Prevalent problem requires joint attention (HELCOM)

-by Kifle Yessab

HELCOM refers to Helsinki commision or the Baltic Marine environment  protection commission. It is an intergovernmental organisation which have nine Baltic sea state members such as Danmark, Estonia,Germany,Finland,Lativia, Lithuania, Pland, Russia and Sweden. HELCOM is governing body of the convention on the protection of the marine environment of the Baltic sea and conducts annual response exercises.

It is largest maritime pollution drill of its kind in the baltic sea area, one of  the most vulnerable and busiest sea area in the world.

Most famous are the BALEX DELTA exercises. BALEX DELTA exercises take place each year since 1989 and are hosted by the Contracting Parties according to a schedule agreed.

However regional cooperation on preparedness and response to pollution incidents was began in 1974 Helsinki convention and permanent HELCOM activities started in the early 1980s. The first meeting of the expert groups took place in 1977.

This year the annual HELCOM  Balex Delta was hosted by the Maritime Rescue Coordination centre of the Lthuanian Navy.Ten cubic meters of popcorn played the leading role of large oil slick today offshore Klaipeda, Lithuania,in the annual Baltic sea pollution response exercise Balex Delta 2016. Fourteen ships from eight Baltic coastal states formed the HELCOM ships simulating real life disaster response in a collision between an oil tanker and trawler. They are involving in an event having a risk of damaging the nearby highly sensitive nature areas with 5,000 tons of crude oil.HELCOM says a large-scale national onshore exercise was organised simultaneously for deployment of the clean-up units as well as coordination between all the actors involved.

The response vessels of HELCOM ships were successfully deploying oil restrain booms and skimming equipment.

Generally such kind of activities and response exercise would help to react quit immediately any kind of damaging accident that could  happen in the Baltic sea. Precisely, It will play leading role in the implimentation of sustainablilty of natural environment of Baltic sea.

Because ,HELCOM is an ambitious programme to restore the good ecological status of the Baltic marine environment.

A healthy Baltic Sea environment, with diverse biological components functioning in balance, resulting in good environmental/ecological status and supporting a wide range of sustainable human economis and social activities.

Som extra references:

www.helcom.fi/action…/helcom-balex-delta-and-other-exercise.

www.helcom.fi/news

Kifle Yessab

The aviation biofuel project might go to waste

-by Jessica Sellin

Currently we can run our cars on conventional fuel mixed with fuel derived from crops growing on the fields (e.g. sugar or corn). Some claim that these so called biofuels are the fuels of the future, produced with no net emissions of carbon dioxide. Others are not convinced since the cultivation of crops as well as the production of fertilizers and pesticides comes with an extensive energy usage. That is why a new generation of biofuels have been developed that are made from a sustainable feedstock, for example algae, inedible plant matter – or from waste.

In recent years there have been attempts to use biofuels in airplanes as well. Since 2011 limited numbers of test flights with biofuels have been conducted, but in March 2016 United Airlines was the first airline to start using a mix of 30 % biofuel and 70 % conventional fuel for regular scheduled flights. Developed technology has made it possible to purify and create high quality liquid fuels comparable to diesel fuels, and hence it is also possible to blend it with the conventional aviation fuels.

united biofuel
image source: http://www.bidnessetc.com

This summer the same company will fill an airplane with fuel generated from organic farm waste alone. The usage of waste as a source of biodiesel makes it less energy consuming and solves the food vs fuel issue. The international air transport association (IATA) has set up sustainability goals that are meant to be reached through integrating 6 % biofuels in 2020. Although the United Airline investment in biodiesel is unprecedented, the actual amounts of biofuel that will be purchased represent only 0.13 % of the total amount of used fuel per year in the company (18.9 million vs 14.8 billion liters).

So, will there be an aviation that partly runs on biofuels from waste in the future, or will this project only be a footnote in the history of green environmental development? As it is today, it is still too cost inefficient to run the airplanes on biogas, and there are limits to how much fuel that can be produced from waste since waste also is a limited source. But the family of the more sustainable “second generation biofuels” stretches far beyond waste. So with more investments and development of techniques, biofuels may have a chance to be one of the pieces that eventually will make the airline industry more sustainable.

References:

Biofuel UK (2010). Types of biofuels. http://biofuel.org.uk/types-of-biofuels.html (accessed 2016-07-20).

Harvey, C. (2016). United Airlines is flying on biofuels. Washington Post. 2016-03-11. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/03/11/united-airlines-is-flying-on-biofuels-heres-why-thats-a-really-big-deal/ (accessed 2016-07-20).

Mouawad, J and Cardwell, D. (2016). Farm waste and animal fats will help power a United jet. New York Times. 2016-06-30.

Building for the future – A new sustainable cement industry

-by Jesper Nyberg

Greenhouse gas emitters like cars, airplanes and fossil fuel power plants get a lot of media attention regarding their part in global warming. But another big contributor to climate change is the cement industry, which is the source of approximately 5-8 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are problematic, in a way even more so than the greenhouse gases coming from the combustion of fossil fuels. Around 60 percent of the carbon dioxide from the cement industry doesn’t come from fossil fuels, but are released from limestone in a chemical reaction called calcination during cement manufacturing. You cannot get rid of these emissions by switching to renewable fuels. So what should we do about it? We need cement, but given the immeasurable threat of global warming, doing nothing is not an option.

jesper_wct2
“Creative Commons Tanks at Vattenfall Carbon Capture Storage at Schwarze pumpe, Germany” by Vattenfall is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One possible solution to this problem is CCS, Carbon Capture & Storage. This is a name for different techniques to capture carbon dioxide emissions and store them, instead of letting them reach the atmosphere. CCS in the cement industry is of special personal interest to me, since this was the subject of my bachelor’s thesis. CCS gives us the means to capture the carbon dioxide from the cement industry and prevent it from contributing to global warming. But is this a feasible option?

CCS is often criticized for justifying the use of fossil fuels and locking society into a system where we continue to depend on them. I agree that the continued use of fossil fuels for energy generation is very problematic, even if the carbon dioxide emissions are captured. A society doing that is not a truly sustainable one. But capturing the carbon dioxide from the cement industry is not quite the same thing. As said before, the bulk of the industry’s emissions cannot be eliminated by the use of renewable fuels, so other measures are needed.

Some activists in the environmental movement have expressed concern that it is “unnatural” and wrong for us to move forward with CCS. They are very skeptical of these kinds of “geoengineering” projects. Geoengineering is “the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change” (Oxford Geoengineering Programme, 2016). These people would be more open to projects like storing carbon in soil. Due to agriculture, between 50 and 100 gigatonnes of carbon have been released from the world’s soils since the industrialization. Through a new land management, the soils could instead be made to take up carbon from the atmosphere.

In my opinion, CCS in some form has a future, and will be important for keeping the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere at a safe level. But how we will go about it, with capture of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, from the cement industry or through soil carbon sequestration, I can’t predict. There are a staggering amount of variables; political, economic and technical, that must be taken into account. One could argue that CCS won’t make the cement industry sustainable in any case, since limestone isn’t a renewable resource. But CCS in the cement industry would be a step towards making a damaging business less harmful for the environment, and is therefore worth consideration.

References

International Energy Agency Greenhouse Gas R&D Programme. (2008). CO2 capture in the cement industry (2008:3).

Ontl, T. A. & Schulte, L. A. (2012) Soil Carbon Storage. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):35. Retrieved 2016-07-19, from http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/soil-carbon-storage-84223790

Oxford Geoengineering Programme. (2016). What Is Geoengineering? Retrieved 2016-07-19, from http://www.geoengineering.ox.ac.uk/what-is-geoengineering/what-is-geoengineering/

Walker, B. “Can Cement Clean up Its Act?” China Dialogue. June 10, 2016. https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/9001-Can-cement-clean-up-its-act-

MSC – Fishy Labelling

-by Kimberly Berglöf

Imagine that you are at your local supermarket. You really want fish for dinner. In front of you are two options; a normal cod fillet and one that has a sustainability label on it, this one does however cost €1 more. Which one would you go for?

In early 2016, an extensive survey, with close to 17000 participants from 21 different countries was conducted about peoples view on sustainable seafood. To sum it up: the majority of people think that it is important to buy sustainable seafood and they are willing to pay extra for it. This is fantastic! But how does it really work? Can we trust that what we pay for is what we get?

MSC, the Marine Stewardship Council and the most recognisable label for sustainable seafood are trusted by 86% of the people that have heard about the organisation. I found this very interesting and decided to do some research in the field, and especially the 14% that were not that trusting.

msc fisheries standar
source: http://www.msc.org

Turns out eco-labelling is not as easy as it seems. MSC does not do the labelling themselves, the work is done by independent contracting companies, something that is very costly for a fishery that wants to achieve a sustainability label. This makes it almost impossible for small-scale fisheries to achieve such a status.

MSC has been questioned quite a bit for some of the so-called sustainable fish stocks. We have the Ross Sea Antarctic tooth fish fishery that many scientist claim are very poorly understood and nowhere near studied thoroughly enough to make a claim if the way we fish it is sustainable or not, yet labelled sustainable by the MSC. The Pacific pike population has declined by 89% since late 1980’s, yet labelled as a sustainable fishery by the MSC, so has the Eastern Bering Sea Pollack stock which declined by 64% between 2004-2009. The Canadian swordfish fishery kills 2 blue sharks for every 1 swordfish they take up but also this is seen as sustainable.

Looking at MSC’s fisheries standards, we can see that the first two principles are that the fishery must be able to continue their work indefinitely and that the fishery needs to be managed so that productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem are maintained.

Can we really say that this is the case for the examples above? If we don’t know much about a species can we then say with certainty that it is not affected by the way we fish it? If a stock declines for decades, is it then likely that we can keep fishing this way indefinitely? If the by-catch is larger than the actual catch is this not affecting the structure of the food web? As a biologist, I certainly would not call this sustainable.

As we saw from the survey the majority of people think it is important to buy sustainable seafood, but unfortunately the supply is not big enough. MSC critics have pointed out that maybe the demand for sustainable seafood is so high that the organisation has had to stretch their guidelines a little. Rupert Howes, the Chief Executive at MSC said that “We want to see oceans fished sustainably forever. We’re not going to achieve that by becoming a small niche organization that engages with a handful of perfect fisheries.” They are however somewhat aware of the problem, James Simpson, also employed at the MSC have said “For some of our critics, the MSC test of sustainability is not high enough but there is evidence of real environmental benefits occurring – many of them driven by fisheries’ desire to attain and keep their MSC certificates.”

I am not saying that the MSC or any other eco-labelling is a bad thing. The idea behind it is great and a good way of steering consumers in the right direction. However, it needs to work. If it doesn’t, then what’s the point in having it at all?

References

http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/stakeholder_trends_insights/sustainable_brands/majority_global_seafood_consumers_putt

https://www.msc.org/about-us/standards/fisheries-standard/msc-environmental-standard-for-sustainable-fishing

http://web.archive.org/web/20110920003643/http://www.sierraclub.bc.ca:80/quick-links/publications/seafood-oceans-1/Response%20to%20MSC%20certification%20of%20sockeye.pdf

http://www.fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?monthyear=&day=22&id=35267&l=e&special=&ndb=1%20target=

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/sustainable-sockeye-eco-fraud/article1437794/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jan/06/fish-marine-stewardship-council

Food or Fuels?

-by Reineke van Tol

reinecke wct 2 cartoon

Biofuels are a hot topic when it comes to sustainability. Since carbon emissions need to be cut down to zero within a few decades, they seem to be the perfect alternative for polluting and ending energy resources such as coals and oil. A biofuel is produced by biological processes such as plant growth or anaerobic digestion by micro-organisms, rather than geological processes that have formed the common coals, oils and petroleum. The big difference is the timescale on which both processes act. Burning of the so-called non-renewable resources emits carbon into the atmosphere that has been stored millions of years ago, thereby disturbing the CO2 fixation-emission balance. Biofuels on the other hand only release the carbon that the original plants fixed in the same time span. For that reason they are commonly known as CO2 – neutral fuels. But is that entirely true?

Biofuels are for a major part produced out of crops, such as maize, rape or sugar cane, from trees or from biomass waste. Biofuel production thus competes for the already scarce and degrading land we have left for agriculture or other purposes and accelerates the problem of deforestation. Since the use of biofuels is expanding, also the problem of land availability and quality becomes more urgent. That the production is carbon neutral is therefore also a very ignorant statement, since burning biomaterial that would otherwise continue to capture CO2 , causes a reduction of the carbon storage capacity.

Sustainable energy sources that do not have these problems, such as wind, water or solar power are also available. So why don’t we use these instead? The problems seem to be the costs of implementation and a certain lack of willingness to invest in the future. Policy makers see little opportunity for a better alternative, since they are forced to act immediately to meet the goals set for the coming decades. The European Commission (2016) stated that CO2 – emissions must be cut by 80-95% in 2050 in order to keep the global warming below 2˚C. With current technology and prices of wind, water and solar power and the budget of the EU for sustainability, it is impossible to meet the goals without use of biofuels, as was also stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Cutting down energy use could however solve part of the problem as well, since a lot of energy is wasted.

In the end it thus seems a matter of choosing between food or fuels. A main question this debate is: Does combatting climate change require burning the world’s forests and crops for fuel? According to Prof. Faaij (University of Groningen, The Netherlands), there is no need to worry about this. If the productivity of land use worldwide would be converted to developed country standards, we could feed seven times our world population he says. Since there is no need to feed so many people, a major part of the available land could be used for biofuel production. Also, investing more in use of organic waste material instead of crops and trees would solve a great deal of the problem.

There are though alternative biofuels that do not require land. Apart from organic waste material, algae could be used as a source for biofuels. A study of Olofsson et al. (Linaaeus University Kalmar, Sweden, 2015) that outlined the results of the Algoland pilot project, gives an elegant example of using local microalgae communities for both carbon capture and biofuel production. The Algoland group cultivates local microalgae from the Baltic Sea, using CO2 emissions from the nearby Cement factory (Cementa AB, Degerhamn, Öland) as a resource. The produced biomass can be harvested and used for biofuel production or many other valuable purposes, thereby providing solutions to a variety of major environmental problems at the same time. Another example of such an integrated system is the Wetlands – Algae – Biogas (WAB) project in which macro algae that cover the Baltic Sea as a result of eutrophication are collected and used as a biofuel source. This both helps cleaning the Baltic Sea and provides a sustainable biofuel resource. Such initiatives exist all over the world. The problem is however to make these projects feasible on large scale. In our current economic model and with the current technological equipment, this is not yet possible.

To reach the goals of sustainability it thus seems both necessary and technically and economically feasible to use biofuels as a step towards even cleaner resources. This should however be done as sustainably as possible, for example by using biomass waste or algae that do not require valuable areas of land. The road towards a sustainable world will thus not necessarily require cutting down trees or using valuable land. We don’t have to choose between food or fuels. The only thing that must be done is investing in sustainable ways of biofuel production as a step towards complete renewable energy.

References

European Commission (2016). EU climate action. Retrieved on 17-7-16 from http://ec.europa.eu/clima/citizens/eu/index_en.htm

Olofsson, M., Lindehoff, E., Frick, B., Svensson, F., & Legrand, C. (2015). Baltic Sea microalgae transform cement flue gas into valuable biomass. ALGAL, 11, 227–233. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2015.07.001

Porter, E. (2015, Feb 10th). A biofuel debate: Will cutting trees cut carbon? New York Times.

South Baltic Cross-Border CO-Operation Programme 2007 – 2013 (3rd Call). Wetlands Algae Biogas project (WAB), Poland. Accessed online on July 21th via http://wabproject.pl/en.summary.html

Picture from http://old.ethanolrfa.org/pages/policy-positions-food-vs-fuel

Don’t let your cash vanish into thin air

-by Alexander Hoffmann

Staying-Warm-And-Eco-Friendly-In-Winter-e1353426660496
Source: http://www.greenwerkspro.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Staying-Warm-And-Eco-Friendly-In-Winter-e1353426660496.jpg

A recent report by the European Commission about sustainable heating and cooling in private houses, shops and industries found that there is enormous potential for savings. For example, about half of the boilers throughout Europe are older than 24 years, wasting large amounts of energy and thus money. Average households could cut back their heating bills to a forth by using more efficient technologies and renewables, the Commission states. While solar thermal power is best for domestic hot water, geothermal energy could power your heating and photovoltaic energy could generate your electricity (BMWi, 2016).

Similarly, the industry wastes too much energy, roughly more than all private houses throughout Europe would require. This does not only mean high costs, but also a low energy security, meaning dependence on unreliable supplier countries, as well as harm to the environment. Air pollution, especially in urban areas, just as carbon dioxide emissions could drop, e.g. by 135 million tons of CO2 from boiler replacement alone. Simultaneously, citizen health would improve and twice as many jobs would be created when the new EU legislation takes effect.

The technology required for this move is already available, as many EU member states are global leaders in environmental technology, and the new EU measures suggested will further advance this development. For instance, Sweden will export its knowledge as world leader in public district heating and cooling, which runs on 80% energy that otherwise have been wasted (Swedish Clean Tech, 2016). Also cost-sharing schemes between landlords and tenants, information campaigns, and heat exchange in and between factories shall lead the continent to having carbon-free buildings by 2050. Public buildings will serve as role models on this path, the Commission announces, and will begin by modernizing at least 3% of its buildings per year (DG Energy, 7/10/2015).

Sources

European Commission Fact Sheet (02-2016): Towards a smart, efficient and sustainable heating and cooling sector. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-311_en.htm

BMWi (German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy) (2016): Energy efficiency made in Germany – Buildings. http://www.efficiency-from-germany.info/ENEFF/Navigation/EN/Energyefficiency/BuildingEfficiency/building-efficiency.html

Swedish Cleantech (2016): Energy efficiency. http://www.swedishcleantech.se/english/cleantechsectors/energyefficiency.4.32e88512143a838073927d4.html

DG Energy (07-10-2015): Energy Efficiency Directive. https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-efficiency/energy-efficiency-directive

Purifying dairy wastewater – where chemistry and sustainability meet

-by Tommy Palmgren

Kemira Water Treatment replaces the polymer and coagulant and gets 15% increased biogas production with 20 % less polymer , uses flotation techniques for fats but gets odor-reduction and lower H2S- levels in biogas.[1]

Volatile fatty acids were taken down to less than 500 ppm in the remaining sewage water*1 which was a required level not to be exceeded if wastewater is to be processed in municipality treatment plant.
tommy

[1] Biogas can be used for heating steam and water used in the diary or it can be integrated in vehiclegas
http://www.civitas.eu/sites/default/files/malmo205-2.pdf

tommy 2

References:

[1] Kemira Water Treatment. “Holistic optimization at dairy plant. Improving efficiency in flotation, dewatering and biogas production”               June 2016

[2] [2016-07-19
http://www.biogasportalen.se/BiogasISverigeOchVarlden/GodaExempel/Industri/Norrmejerier]

Biofuel – Economically feasible, but environmentally sustainable?

-by Haoruo Chen

Recently, three companies formed a partnership for the use of biofuel renewable isooctane for specialty fuel applications. Many companies have in recent years taken this approach. It indicates that the biofuel may become the common source of energy for future sustainability uses in a variety of industries.

Biofuel is a kind of energy come from the living things, which can replace the gasoline and cleaner than it. What’s more, it is renewable.

The materials of biofuel are animals’ faeces, crops and organic industrial waste. Nowadays, with the development of the technology, biofuel is cheaper and more efficient than before. It can not only raise the benefits to the companies, but can also bring a good reputation to them because it is renewable and environmentally friendly. So it soon catches many enterprises’ eyes.

However, biofuel still faces many challenges.

First, it can’t meet the social needs of energy. The research shows that it can only achieve 10% of the gasoline demand even if we use all the crops in America to produce the biofuel. However, the crops should be the food first, but not the biofuel.

On the other hand, biofuel mostly come from agriculture. And agriculture needs water and many other resources. It also consumes huge amount of water resources and electric energy when we produce the biofuel. If it is only for saving the non-renewable resources, it may be equal in “rob Peter to pay Paul”.

Energy Global. “Companies form partnership for biofuel.” Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle. July 12 2016.

From farm to fork

-by Emma Davies

With the UN forecasting that the world’s population is set to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, issues related to food are becoming increasingly important. This causes major conflicts globally, including the issue of the looming question: how can we feed the ever-increasing population? One of the greatest threats affecting the food and agricultural industry is global warming and climate change. Large companies, such as Kellogg and Unilever, are faced with finding new ways to produce their products in a sustainable, yet profitable way. These companies have pinpointed one phase in their production chain that should be improved: primary production of raw materials.

Almost all food companies are highly dependent on raw materials. Therefore, it is important to source these materials as sustainably as possible. Global companies such as Knorr, Unilever and PepsiCo, alongside several others have taken measures towards more sustainable primary production methods. These methods include supporting smallholders, using sustainably grown raw materials and setting sustainability standards and goals for both the farmers and the companies themselves. For example, Unilever has set an ambitious target to source 100% of agricultural raw materials sustainably by 2020. According to the company’s most recent report in 2015, 60% of the company’s raw agricultural materials were locally produced. Using sustainable raw materials also has positive direct social, economic and environmental impacts, as the large companies successfully create an increasing amount of job opportunities and effectively decrease their carbon footprint.

A key element to sourcing sustainable raw materials in the food industry is encouraging the agricultural suppliers to undertake sustainable management practices. This could be done by using, for example, software which enables farmers to systematically monitor and improve the sustainability of their production chain. The software also acts as a tool to carry-out self-assessment. Farmers receiving subsidies should be pressured by the organisations or governments, as well as their buyers to use more sustainable farming methods and give reports on measures that have been taken towards sustainability in their operations.

unilever farmer
A Unilever farmer using sustainable methods in the Philippines.

Consumers must also be encouraged to change their buying habits to support companies that produce sustainable food products. It extremely challenging, but could be done by highlighting the positive impacts that sustainability has on the lives of the farmers, the environment and the consumers themselves. As of 2014, according to a survey, more than three-quarters of Europeans believe that mankind has a responsibility to look after nature, and it is important to stop biodiversity loss. Governments along with companies are developing and testing new methods on how to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable food production globally and educating the consumers. With this attitude for change and the cooperation between global food companies, agricultural producers and consumers, we will be one step closer to feeding all hungry mouths around the world.

Resources:

Michapoulous, S. 2015. Food Industry Focuses on Sustainable Sourcing to Mitigate Climate Change. EurAktiv.com

Unilever. Unilever Sustainable Living Plan: Progress 2015. p. 8 www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/sustainable-living-news/reports-and-publications/

Grunert, K., Hieke, S. & Wills, J. 2014. Sustainability labels on food products: Consumer motivation, understanding and use. Food Policy: Volume 44. p. 177.

Food Web: Sharing and Recycling Food via the Internet

-by Eeva Hammar

Today many websites offer useful information on how to prevent food waste. The simple idea of these websites is that you should plan better your shopping and think what you really need to buy. They also teach you how to store food correctly in the refrigerator for optimal temperatures to increase the time that food will remain edible. Finally, websites show how to use leftovers or find the recipes and make the meals from the things you already have at home.

Samsung-Family-Hub-Smart-Fridge-01
Samsung Smart Fridge

New tech innovations have come to market to help people shop for groceries smarter, and to create edible food waste as little as possible. “Smart fridges,” for example, keep detailed information on the contents of your refrigerator, and give you a notification when use-by dates are close, preventing you to over-buy items. Intelligent colour-changing food labelling like “leftover labels” reminds consumers to use their leftovers before it’s too late.

Many of these innovations use mobile smart phone technology to help the consumers. For example, Olio, a free food-sharing application attempts to motivate people in the same area to share leftover food. Social media-based “Food sharing”-groups focus on sharing and exchange food items you don’t anymore need but are still edible and has not gone past its use-by date. These groups work typically inside a specific area or city. There you can also ask for help and give food tips to other group members whatever you may want know about food (where to buy organic food or in close-proximity produced food). The idea also is that you don’t use any money to use this. Everything is free to use and share.

Consumers have a choice for eating and drinking in the most sustainable way possible. For example in Australia there is a website (and phone application) called Fair Food Forager which offers information about cafes, restaurants, grocers and suppliers and grades how sustainable they are. This ranking is based on the information about ‘How the food is produced?’ ‘How the waste and plastic is handling and taking care of?’ Or if you want know ‘If it’s local produce food and drink?’ It gives you information also is it cruelty-free food.

On the other hand, to prevent and to limit the food waste doesn’t always require high tech innovations. Public awareness educating people to buy and use food in more sustainable way is the right way to the more sustainable food production and food consumption. In Finland there have been many successful public events about preventing food waste. The idea of these events is to make meals from leftover food and share it for everyone for free. The food items are usually donated by the local supermarkets, thereby participants from local restaurants, students and even the professional chefs preparing the food. Total meals per each of these events can reach 5 – 6,000.

you may eat
“You may eat” – event in Helsinki 2014. http://www.saasyoda.fi/saa-sy%C3%B6d%C3%A4-tempaus-2014

References:

http://www.saasyoda.fi/tempaus

http://www.saasyoda.fi/saa-sy%C3%B6d%C3%A4-tempaus-2014

Concrete Goals for Sustainability

-by Emily Skibenes

A major step in combating global climate change is to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. In order to take a step in the right direction, large industries must be revolutionized to fit a sustainable model. The global cement industry is a huge contributor to carbon emissions. Concrete constitutes the building blocks of our society and with increasing urbanization throughout the world the demand for concrete will continue to rise. Degerhamn Cementa, a cement plant located in Öland, Sweden has plans to take the leading role in terms of sustainability within their industry.

The European Commission has addressed the issue of major industries and their sizable carbon emissions. They have proposed to cut emissions by 43% by 2030, but Degerhamn Cementa has more ambitious plans. Their vision is to have zero carbon emissions by 2030. This challenging plan has led the leaders of this initiative to define sustainability within the framework of the cement industry. They have addressed the fact nature and its resources need to be preserved and therefore we must be leaders in innovation to protect our environment.

Algoland logo

One way in which Cementa has been working to achieve these goals is with the partnership in a collaborate project known as Algoland. Algoland is a project combining industry and ecology to reduce the impact of carbon emissions and eutrophication. This initiative uses algae as a resource for the uptake of carbon emissions that would otherwise be released into the environment and to convert the algae biomass to valuable products such as animal feed. Although this is still pilot-scale research, the results look promising. The researchers were skeptical whether or not the algae would be affected by toxic elements contained in the flue gas, but their results indicated healthy growing algae. The success of this research has led to four more bio-reactors added.

Projects and initiatives like these are extremely important in terms of global sustainability. It’s inspiring to see powerful companies such as Cementa taking responsibility and setting goals that surpass regional legislation. It’s all too common to see companies that just get by regulations and have no ambition to do better. Hopefully their success will inspire others to engage in sustainability!

Littlefield. C. “Degerhamn Cementa Takes ‘The Natural Step’ Towards Total Sustainability by 2050.” To Be Submitted. 2016.

eHighways: Next Exit

-by Bruce Duane

ehighway-technology-teaser
image: siemens.com

The International Transport Forum estimates that emissions from road freight transport will grow from 1.1 gigatons of CO2 in 2010 to 4.5 gigatons by 2050 (Siemens). This is a shocking number that does not even include passenger transport. However, if we act now, this number can be reduced dramatically or even reduced to zero. An article on Forbes’ website entitled “Sustainable eHighways For Trucks Could Be The Answer To The Increase In Freight Transport” discusses how electronic highway systems could be the answer to this problem. If eHighways are not the final answer to the problem of increasing freight transport, then they are at least a step in the right direction towards zero-emissions transport.

The idea of eHighways being used to lower carbon emissions in trucks is relatively new. Electronic train systems however are not new. These systems use pantographs that connect the vehicle to powerlines, giving the vehicle self-sustainable power while connected. The difference with eHighways is that the pantographs are able to connect and disconnect with the truck at any speed to maintain the flexibility of using fossil-fuel powered trucks. The system can also save power for hybrid use when the truck is not on roads with a power line. With the hybrid system, there are very few disadvantages to using eHighways other than added maintenance and unappealing power lines.

The first eHighway system on a public road was inaugurated by the Swedish government on a 2 km stretch on the E16 highway north of Stockholm. This was done with the help of the German company Siemens. This was an essential step forward because some goods will always need to be transported by road, and electric highways are the best way to maintain this. Siemens is also helping test this near Los Angeles, California where many trucks travel a short distance. Tests will continue in 2017, and hopefully they will encourage other companies to invest in this technology.

Being from the US, I have seen some electric train systems in certain cities, but I never imagined this being done on the roads. It sounds like one of those ideas that works in theory but lacks practicality. Who knows how practical eHighways really are on a large scale, but I think they are absolutely worth investing in. Electronic systems could also be the key to solving the fossil-fuel crisis with passenger transportation. I do think another system would have to be developed for small cars. Perhaps the power source could be on the road instead of above it. I really appreciated this Forbes article but wish they had gone more in depth.

Source:

Guerrini, F. “Sustainable eHighways for Trucks Could be the Answer to the Increase in Freight Transport.” Forbes.

Putting Our Trust Into Biofuels

-by Matt Tarasiewicz

Recent news in green energy hails the Pacific Biodiesel-owned Keaau Biodiesel refinery as the first United States plant to receive an official certification of sustainability. The Hawaiian plant takes animal fats, cooking oils, fruits, and seeds and turns them into biodiesel fuel. The plant creates almost 13,000 gallons of fuel each day. The refinery was established with the ideology of conserving water and energy while avoiding environmental damage at the same time.

After four years of operation and $20 million in costs, the main question about the plant was still there: do biofuels actually lower the amount of carbon emissions? A lawyer who specializes in climate change was worried that the efforts to increase biofuels are ultimately causing more damage than it is fixing. The Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance preformed an audit on the plant to test their sustainability, and concluded that it is reducing carbon emissions! This made it the very first biofuel plant in the United States of America to be labeled as sustainable. This allows their customers to know that their product is green and does not harm the environment. When choosing between two products, customers will typically select the one that is better for the environment, so the Hawaii plant has seen an increase in demand for their product.

About 10 years ago, America began to see the potential that biofuels had. It helped cut back the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and slowly reduced the amount of fossil fuels that the country was using. In 2005, the American government approved a bill that required biofuels to be blended into the gas supply. This helps increase the volume while cutting back on emissions. But unfortunately, ethanol was used a lot which drove up the price of food and animal feed, as well as it released more carbon dioxide into the air. Farmers also had to begin to grow more crops to keep up with the increasing demand. Eventually, people moved on to using “advanced biofuels.” These do not compete with the food supply, but its price has made it less attractive to be using. Climate specialists say that there is not enough agricultural waste to create biofuel without causing any environmental issues. Also, the debate over whether or not biofuels are actually reducing gas emissions has increased.

In Hawaii, they make their biofuel from local waste, such as macadamia nuts and restaurant cooking oil. The plant is also looking for ways to convert their waste, such as glycerin and potassium salt, into fertilizer. Additionally, the plant does not have to transport their fuel anywhere far. Almost all of the plant’s customers are in Hawaii. The plant is also looking to get into the cattle industry. The Hawaiian plant wants to reinvent agriculture in the state.

I really admire the plant in Hawaii. If more plants like this were to pop up around the country, we could really reduce our impact on the environment. It is great to see the plant focus on the environment rather than only on profits.

Work Cited

Cardwell, D. “A Biodiesel Plant in Hawaii is First to be Certified as Sustainable.” New York Times. May 13 2016.

Green Goals

-by Emily Weaver

växjö
source: http://www.växjö.se

Many city governments understand that changes in their citizens’ ways of life must be made in order to keep the city sustainable. There is a lot of talk about how to become “green”, but in most places there is not much action and initiative. However, Växjö, Sweden is changing this trend. Led by mayor Bo Frank, Växjö is attempting to become the first fossil-fuel free city by 2030. This city of 89,000 people is the first place in the world to make this promise and attempt this challenging feat.

Ever since this initiative was introduced in 1991, changes have been occurring. For example, CO2 emissions have dropped by 48% since 1993. It is also important to note that although the city of Växjö is changing the way it runs, there is not a trade-off between being green and having a successful economy. The average income per person in the city increased 90% between 1993 and 2012.

The city is using many different sources of energy in order to get the amount of heat and electricity needed. It gets 90% of its heat by burning “waste wood” from nearby forests. This wood comes from fallen branches or left over wood from trees cut down for commercial use. The amount of CO2 released when burning the wood is much less harmful than letting the biomass rot. Rotting wood releases a dangerous greenhouse gas called methane. Also, while little electricity is gained from burning this waste wood, the majority of the electricity for the city comes from hydro, wind, and solar energy and biogas.

Unfortunately, although the city is able to generate heat and electricity through green methods, 2 tons of the 2.4 tons of CO2 released in the city in 2014 was from transportation. City buses are run on biogas; however, there are many commuters that travel in and out of the city using cars run on gasoline. There are plans to reduce the amount of car traffic. These include adding more bike trails to promote cycling and increasing the use of electric cars.

There are many successful initiatives being carried out in Växjö in an attempt to make the city green. It still has a long way to go before it possibly becomes fossil-fuel free by 2030. However, hopefully many other people see these initiatives and begin to put them in action in their own cities. It is going to take awhile to see monumental changes everywhere, but the green race is marathon not a sprint.

Savin, T. “What can the world learn from Växjö, Europe’s self-styled greenest city?” The Guardian, 25 November 2015.

Dope Threads

– by Alex Rubin

Pot isn’t just for smoking anymore. With the dawn of marijuana legalization and decrimilinization in states across America, a new sustainable market is developing for a close relative of that “sticky icy”, to quote Snoop Dogg. Hemp, although low in THC (the active component in pot), has been classified as a Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act due to its close relation to actual cannabis for decades. Now however, as regulations are changing, hemp is increasingly available and spurring new economic and agricultural growth.

farming-hemp
source: http://www.hemp-technologies.com

Hemp fibers are an excellent raw material for manufacturing clothing, and in fact are stronger than even cotton. Furthermore, hemp is better for the environment. Cotton is known to severely deplete soil nutrients and nitrogen. It also requires yearly crop rotation in order for soils to recover. Hemp, on the other hand, actually puts nitrogen back into the soil. Additionally, hemp uses less water than cotton while producing more plants per acre. This is especially true when one considers that climate change is causing droughts in many places commonly used to grow cotton, such as California.

Hemp advocates argue that hemp fibers are strong enough to bind communities together. Hemp farmers in Kentucky and throughout Appalachia see hemp as way to help preserve their environment through sustainable farming, as opposed to industries like mining, which destroy the landscape and are on the decline. Hemp is also spurring many entrepreneurial endeavors to build a grass roots supply chain.

Hemp still has a long way to go however, before replacing your favorite cotton shirt. There are still several governmental hurdles to cross before it can be legally and openly farmed nation-wide. Additionally, as with new industry there will be growing pains. Hemp has been banned for so long that the US market has a long way to go to before being able to hold their own internationally. Entrepreneurs remain confident in their product though, and one thing is for sure, the age of American hemp is just beginning.

Chhabra, E. “Hemp is Eco-Friendly: So Why Won’t the Government Let Farmers Grow It?” The Guardian. June 25 2016.

The Green Options

-by Joe Comparini

Last year corporate US companies combined to purchase 3,200 megawatts of solar energy, three times the amount they purchased in the year 2014. Slowly companies are making the transition to becoming energy efficient. It is a difficult process for some companies but 10 years down the road they could be 20 percent energy efficient. This transition to renewable energy is driven because of the now lower prices for renewable energy and as a way to boost their company’s image among the public. For example, wind power prices fell to $29 per megawatt per hour from 2012 to 2015, which is about 27%. Total investment in renewable energy has risen 5% in 2015 to $285.9 Billion.

Companies are constantly looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, last year Caterpillar partnered with First Solar to make a new type of solar panel. They are expecting these new panels will cut 33% of their exhaust emissions. Also some companies are now even providing subsides to employees who own electric vehicles.

Not only can companies switch to using renewable energy, they can make sure all of their appliances are updated. CA Technologies replaced their current bulbs with high-efficient LED bulbs and cut the energy they used on lighting by 50%. Additionally a company located in San Diego called Qualcomm is pursing switching streetlights to use LED’s. This is projected to cut energy consumption by 60 million kilowatt hours. Another way companies are looking to preserve the environment is to limit waste. Limiting waste starts at the source of the waste which according to a study done by Michigan State University, 30% of all municipal waste comes from packaging. Currently firms are working with companies who use non-biodegradable materials to package to switch to a material that will decompose.

Additionally companies are limiting waste by either recycling or selling the waste to other companies that can use it for their own business. For example, Procter & Gamble manufactories have not created waste since 2013. They have done this by selling their waste to a company in Mexico where they us it for flooring tiles and turn their other waste into upholstery fillings. The good news for the world is that the trend to become green and sustainable among corporations has just started.

References:

Washington Post: “Green Tech Helps Top Businesses Reach Sustainability Goals.” April 28 2016.

Baltic Sea environmental threats: Cormorant doo-doo making a boo-boo and fish with a hint of chemical warfare

-by Jack Chapman

Droppings from the cormorant bird are having a harmful impact on some predatory fish in the Baltic Sea, according to a study from the University of Turku. With the Baltic Sea already dealing with increasing amounts of eutrophication, this species of bird guano goes to show that we need to focus on more than just the nutrients we humans are wasting into the sea in order to keep it clean. However, the magnitude of the impact the birds are having is not a large as the human’s contribution.

cormorant
image: Jarmo Kumpula, Kemijärvi

The cormorant bird droppings mainly affect the Finnish coastline. The higher the bird population in a specific area, the larger the impact they have. The main impact they have on the affected areas is on the algal communities, due to the additional nutrients they expel. The density of the bird population in certain areas has a direct impact on the algae and seaweed species, and that also has a direct impact on the rest of the community. They have a small impact when you look at the bigger picture of the Baltic Sea fish, and that is only because they eat the majority of the fish that live near their colonies. Overfishing by them can directly affect the rest of the community, though.

Fishing guidelines in the Baltic mention certain areas that should not be fished in because of the chemical warfare chemicals from WWII that were dumped in and around those areas. The fish could be highly dangerous to consume if they absorbed any of those chemicals. They also warn the fishermen about safety precautions and first aid actions in case they become exposed to these dumped chemicals with their fishing.

If they even suspect that they have run into something dangerous, they are advised to immediately start taking first aid action, even if they don’t immediately feel any of the effects. They need to wear safety equipment when near these already marked areas, and if they find anything that is suspicious of such chemicals, they need to alert the national contact point immediately on what they saw and their opinion on the matter.

This is very dangerous to have around for the fisherman, or anybody who exposes themselves to those certain areas of the sea. I think that it is very important that some sort of remediation method is devised and put into place as soon as possible. The people who dumped these clearly were unaware of the problems that they would be causing for the future, but it is still very important that they fix the problems before they start hurting unsuspecting civilians over their mistake.

Works Cited:

http://yle.fi/uutiset/study_cormorant_guano_damaging_baltic_sea/8916114

“HELCOM Guidelines for Fishermen.” Guidelines for Fishermen. HELCOM, n.d. Web. 01 July 2016. <http://helcom.fi/baltic-sea-trends/hazardous-substances/sea-dumped-chemical-munitions/guidelines-for-fishermen&gt;.

Sustainable environment means sustainable life

-by   Kifle Yessab

The environment is something you are very familiar with. It’s everything that makes up our surroundings and affects our ability to live on the earth, the air we breathe, the water that covers most of the earth’s surface, the plants and animals around us, and much more.

In recent years, scientists have been carefully examining the ways that people affect the environment. They have found that we are causing water and air pollution, deforestation, acid rain, and other problems that are dangerous both to the earth and to ourselves. These days, when you hear people talk about “the environment”, they are often referring to the overall condition of our planet, or how healthy it is.

Based on the above reasons, ¨Solberga farm¨ has major goals to become environmentally- friendly. As one of the oldest farms in Öland (Sweden), the farm once was one of the wealthiest on the island, and one can still sense 400 years of history of this place. Solberga farm grows only organic vegetables since 1988 including asparagus, garlic, pumpkins and a wide range of other plants as well as pigs, sheep, rabbits, cats and horses.

With their goal of producing locally organic food is very interesting and it is one of the major objectives everywhere at this time. However depending on what we are dealing now, is it sustainable, comparing with their size of production and increasing demand? Demand for organic food is growing at a much faster rate than ever before, but not without numerous operational challenges. Farmers and food processor manufacturers are looking to promote their supply. But, I think it requires prolonged time because soil and natural fertility building are important parts of organic farming.

Sustainability is their greatest concern for Solberga farm:-

The farm minimizes the consumption of electricity, water, detergents, fertilizers, consumables and generates as little waste as possible. Additionally, they generate their own electricity with solar panel. My opinion here, it is advisable to change fuel energy source to Solar energy or hydro power in the context of environmental impact compared to its limitations. Example. it has no pollution, cleaner and green energy, renewable, (unlike gas, oil and coal) no   ongoing cost, flexible, portable and sustainable and helping protect our environment. Meanwhile, I suggest that it would take a major part of the farmland in order to produce sufficient amount of solar energy (require a much bigger area of solar panel). As a result their efficiency of production could be affected.

For their own on-site mobility, they would have to use an electric car. This could help reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Electric cars are environmentally friendly and they could have a positive impact at influencing people to use electric cars as well. However, petrol cars are faster, easier to re-fuel and cheaper than electric cars. In my point of view electric cars are not economically sustainable and most people do not prefer to have them. Unless further modification is needed to make electric cars are economically and environmentally sustainable.

They use only sustainable, certified products for cleaning rooms and bathrooms. It is well preferred to use environmentally worthy cleaners as they do, instead of using and inhaling dangerous as well as toxic chemicals that could affect human health. A few safe, simple ingredients like soap, water, lemon juice can take care of most household cleaning needs. And they can save you lots of money wasted on unnecessary for specialized cleaners.

All waste in Soberga farm is separated as much as possible. There are a lot of benefits that the entire world can gain when everyone just practice waste segregation and proper disposal. This would encourage and play positive impact on facilitating and intensifying of recycling campain. Up-cycling and reused all old furniture are greatly practiced according Solberga farm major goals. There are certain recycling facts that could give us brief picture of recycling advantages. More than 30 million trees are counting down to produce a year’s supply of newspapers. A ton of paper made from recycled paper saves: 26,500 litres of water, between 17 and 31 trees and 27 kg of air pollutants. Based on the above facts I could say that, Instead of throwing things away, it is better to find ways to use them again as they did.

In terms of energy consumption, Solberga farm has been remarkably successful. For example, in Eritrea the biggest issue is lack of available and sustainable energy power throughout the country. The government has supreme power of delivery for all energy. Usually they import fuel from foreign countries. It is not advisable in terms of cost, amount of demand and the supply amount fluctuates depending upon the political and social phases with the supplier of the nation itself. In addition to this the government did not educate or enhance the society to replace all their energy consuming apparatus with new and lower energy consuming ones. As a result, they are facing problems in energy supply. Even though its initial cost of construction is very high it is fair to install wind and solar energy as it does not have so big ongoing cost when we compare to fuel energy.

Monitoring and feeding of animals at Solberga remains sustainable in practice, by feeding them only organic food. Otherwise, modified and wide current feeding practices may lead to adverse human health impacts. However they could get some difficulties on feeding their animals on naturally based feed on its sufficiency. Discussing with their suppliers and partners could help receive environmentally sustainable goods and they are helping directly outside their farm at expanding and widening their awareness of ecological aspects as well as sustainability.

References:

http://www.factmonster.com/science/environment/recycling-facts.html

http://www.solbergagard.se/index.php/en/solberga-gard/our-solberga

https://saferenvironment.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/solar-power-%E2%80%93-sustainable-green-energy-to-protect-our-economy-and-environment/

http://www.rapidwasteanddisposal.ca/benefits-of-proper-waste-segregation-and-disposal/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1867957/

Let’s get exhausted!

-by Reineke van Tol

reinecke wct 3

The shipping industry accounts for approximately 90% of the global trade, not only transporting industrial goods but also all the private goods we order online from all over the world. Although shipping is the most effective way of transporting goods, it’s contribution to global emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) is enormous. These gases mainly affect the environment by creating so called ‘acid rain’ that affects buildings and moreover cause acidification of soils and surface waters that lose important functions for both humans and ecosystems. The greenhouse gases also contribute to global warming. Reducing ship’s emissions could thus be considerably helpful in combatting climate change and pollution of resources. In 2013, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has therefore sharpened the regulations for exhaust gas emissions from ships. In order to meet the new goals, the shipping industry has to come with revolutionary technologies for reducing polluting emissions.

One of the promising new technologies comes from scientists from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) that together with Sembcorp Marine Ltd and Ecospec Technology Pte Ltd (Singapore) have developed an exhaust gas treatment system that removes SOx and CO2 from ships’ diesel engine and boiler exhaust systems. The so called cSOx system uses Ultra Low Frequency (ULF) wave treatment of sea water to remove SOx and CO2 from exhaust gases. The ULF waves create an electrolysis reaction, leaving the gases as safe components in the water after treatment. It makes the use of chemicals and additional fresh water unnecessary. Two systems were developed; one open system in which seawater is discharged back into the sea after treatment and a closed loop system that only leaves a sludge residue that is stored in a tank. The water is being recycled. According to Ecospec, both systems are completely ecofriendly.

So, what about the NOx emissions? That’s what Ecospec must also have thought; they clearly missed something in the process. Recently, Ecospec has updated its system to a more advanced version, called CSNOx, that not only takes care of SOx and CO2, but is also able to remove NOx from exhaust gases. Moreover, the ULF treatment could also be applied to clear ballast water from pollutants and potential invasive species.

The details of the treatment systems remain however somewhat shadowy, since Ecospec patented the technology. For example, what is the effect of the altered discharge water after treatment? Discharge water will contain high levels of dissolved components of CO2, SOx and NOx when released back into the sea. Increased uptake of these gases by oceans, which already happens due to rising levels in the air, is shown to cause ocean acidification and promotion of toxic algal blooms. On it’s turn, this affects marine life over all levels of the food web. Isn’t it thus ignorant to clean the air from these gases, but instead bring it into the ocean immediately?

Also if the closed loop system is applied, in which no water is eliminated to the sea; what will happen with the sludge residue? Somehow we still have to cope with the polluting substances. In the end it seems no solution to treat the consequences, emissions should rather be prevented. Fuels that emit harmful gases should be banned over time and replaced by completely green alternatives. Why not planting windmills or solar panels on ships? Food for thought if we really want to exhaust the emissions in the shipping industry.

Nonetheless, the technological development of tis research group is stunning and promising for the future. It once more stresses how complicated, but also how important it is to clean the shipping industry. Implementing the CSNOx cleaning system would be a huge step forward to a sustainable shipping industry. At least the sharpened regulations for emissions could be met this way. A great job, but to get really exhausted, this is not enough. Completely exhausting the emissions requires simply banning the resources of pollution.

References

GreenFacts (n.d.). Acid rain. Retrieved on 27-7-16 from http://www.greenfacts.org/glossary/abc/acid-rain.htm

NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Carbon Group (n.d.). Ocean Acidification: The Other Carbon Dioxide Problem. Retrieved on 27-7-16 from http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) (2016, June 24). Exhausting our green shipping options. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160624140601.htm

Ecospec Global Technology Pte Ltd (2015). CSNOx online brochure. Retrieved on 27-7-16 from http://www.ecospec.com/marine-csnox

Photo: World Maritime News http://worldmaritimenews.com/archives/82653/ctg-supplies-water-monitors-for-ship-exhaust-gas-cleaning-systems/

Norway shipping goes greener

-by Tommy Palmgren

The Norwegian government has assigned DNV GL for developing a plan for environmentally friendlier vessels to be engaged in the coming years.
Shipping on a world basis is expected to increase by 250% in the coming 40 years. Considering that it contributes on a world scale to approximately 3 % of the total greenhouse-gas emissions at present it will likely be a harder pressure for shipping to reduce emissions. So far the industry itself has not embraced much new green technology but Norway could lead and be first according to Narve Mjøs, DNV GL program director. “The program is about emission reductions. It is about green jobs. Norwegian maritime industry can be an important green growth industry.”
The first hybrid ships are in the study and planning phase; there is also a study on the electrification of an entire harbour at Risavika in Norway.
At present there are 70 LNG (Liquid natural gas) ships in operation, 80 are under construction. Mjøs predicts that in 2022 there will be more than 1000 LNG- ships around the world reducing CO2- emission by 20% per ship in comparison with present diesel fuel.

Electricity is cheap, renewable and available in Norway and Siemens has developed a ferry that carries 120 cars and 360 passengers for crossing the fjords. They define 50 routes in Norway that can utilize this kind of technology. Charging stations at both ends provide the energy.
Due to reducing sulphur – oxides, nitrogen-oxides, fuel costs and complying with demands for low- emissions in new ships, more efficient technology and also embracing possible biofuels, the IMO (International Maritime Organization) says it has already up to date emissions that are 20% lower than in 2005 and will continue to fall. Koji Sekimizu, secretary general of IMO claims this and doesn´t want to see any international regulations.
Mjøs has no problems with whatever measures enforced internationally as his company’s policy is to take the lead in environmental technology. “As we say in Norway, the polluters should pay.”
Norwegian state secretary Lars Andreas Lunde says the industry as a whole will need international regulations before it becomes more environmental friendly. “Regarding requirements and regarding a sustainable future of their company, the industry as whole will speed up their green investment.”

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Ship owner Norled operates on the ferry link across Sognefjord between Lavik and Oppedal, Norway. The fully electric ferry travels six kilometers across the fjord 34 times a day, with each trip taking around 20 minutes.

In conjunction with Fjellstrand, a Norwegian shipyard, Siemens has developed the technology for the world’s first electric-powered car ferry. The fact that the ferry, which entered service in early 2015, causes no carbon dioxide emissions is in part due to Norway’s electricity mix[2], mostly based on hydro-electric power.
“By contrast, a conventional ferry traveling the same route consumes around one million liters of diesel fuel and emits 2,680 tons of carbon dioxide and 37 tons of nitrogen oxide each year. Nevertheless, the real reason for the positive environmental balance is the electricity mix. “The electricity in this area is generated exclusively by hydroelectric plants,” says Odd Moen. “This makes the energy the ferry uses cheaper than diesel. It also means the ship doesn’t emit even one gram of carbon dioxide, directly or indirectly.”[3]

Hybrid diesel electric vessels are already in operation and also cuts down emissions, Odd Moen talks about this in another article. [4]
Siemens has been using this technology since 1996. The Skandi Marstein, a supply boat for drilling platforms, was the first vessel with a diesel-electric drive in the North Sea. “That ship was a milestone for us,” says Moen. On a three-day cruise, the Skandi Marstein used 35 percent less energy than a diesel vessel.”

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Over the years, the diesel-electric principle has changed very little. However, the use of state-of-the-art components can still improve vessel efficiency. “The complexity of a project grows as the complexity of the individual components increases,” explains Moen. Starting in 2016, exactly 20 years after the Skandi Marstein entered service, four pipeline-laying ships with diesel-electric drive technology will be launched — the largest contract in the history of Siemens Marine & Shipbuilding in Norway.

Quite impressing and it shows the potential for improved future technology!

Sources:

[1] [2016-07-21] Casey,Michael. Norway Is building an Environmentally Friendly Fleet of Ships. VICE News.
www.https://news.vice.com/article/Norway-is-building-an-environmentally-friendly-fleet-of-ships

[2] [2016-07-24] http://www.siemens.com/innovation/en/home/pictures-of-the-future/mobility-and-motors/electromobility-electric-ferries.html

[3] Odd Moen, engineer, responsible for ship solutions sales at Siemens, Norway

[4] http://www.siemens.com/innovation/en/home/pictures-of-the-future/mobility-and-motors/electric-mobility-hybrid-electric-ships.html

The ships sail again

-by Jesper Nyberg

Today’s ships used for transportation of goods between countries run on heavy fuel oil. It’s a cheap, low-grade fossil fuel, and has its disadvantages. The high sulphur content in heavy fuel oil leads to large emissions of SO2 from the shipping industry, causing acidification and creating PM (secondary particulate matter). Ships also emit NOx and carbon dioxide. By polluting the air, shipping is responsible for the premature deaths of 50 000 Europeans every year.

With problems like these, and the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels, it’s obvious that the shipping industry must decrease its use of heavy fuel oil. One possible way to achieve this is by a very old method of propelling ships: wind. The return of wind propulsion might be here. This doesn’t mean a return to the days when the large vessels had wind in their sails as their only driving force. Instead, constructions like the Flettner rotor may be used.

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“Creative Commons The both Flettner rotors at the bow of the German RoLo cargo ship E-Ship 1” by Carschten is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 DE


A Flettner rotor is a tall, rotating cylinder placed on a ship. The rotation of the cylinder propels the ship due to something called “the Magnus force” when it’s hit by wind. Why a rotating cylinder can drive a ship forward may be somewhat difficult to understand, but it’s a proven concept and can save fuel. But it’s not as simple as to just install Flettner rotors, sails, kites or other methods of wind propulsion on existing ships, and thereby saving fuel and cutting emissions. The ships may have to be redesigned in order to perform optimally under these new conditions. For example, the shape of the hull might need to be altered.

Current research is developing models as to how wind propelled ships will behave, how much fuel they will save and how they should be shaped. But this is difficult to do without enough data, and data is hard to obtain if these kinds of ships aren’t built. This means that the shipping industry has to take the initiative and invest, if wind assisted cargo vessels are going to get built. It’s important to decrease the emissions from shipping, especially in the polluted and vulnerable Baltic Sea. But clean and renewable as it is, wind propulsion can hardly abolish the use of heavy fuel oil and the use of fossil fuels altogether. In the end, this is what is needed. So in order to create a sustainable shipping industry, much more work need to be done, and drastic changes are a must. Even if renewable fuels were used exclusively, the problems of invasive species in ballast water, noise pollution, toxic anti-fouling paint would still remain.

References

Deutsches Museum. (No publication date). Flettner Rotors. Retrieved 2016-07-25, from http://www.deutsches-museum.de/en/information/young-people/inventors-trail/drivetrains/flettner-rotor/

The Motor Ship: “Predicting wind power.” 18th July 2016. http://www.motorship.com/news101/engines-and-propulsion/predicting-wind-power

Transport & Environment. (No publication date). Air pollution from ships. Retrieved 2016-07-24, from https://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do/shipping/air-pollution-ships

Transport & Environment. (2012). Sulphur in marine fuels. Retrieved 2016-07-24, from https://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/sulphur-marine-fuels

WWF – Australia. (No publication date). Common impacts of the shipping industry. Retrieved 2016-07-27, from http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/saving_the_natural_world/oceans_and_marine/marine_threats/commercial_shipping/impacts/

The dark side of shipping

-by Kimberly Berglöf

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Port of Los Angeles. Both the largest port in the US and Southern California’s largest air polluter. Photo: FLICKR/JOEL KIRALY

Shipping can be one of the more environmentally friendly ways of transporting gods from one place to another since it has the capacity to carry large quantities of gods, yet the ports can be the complete opposite.

The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest container port in the US and is the single largest air polluter in Southern California. The transport within the port is based mainly on trucks, container vessels and cargo moving equipment run on diesel. The port made environmental promises to regulate their air pollutants by using natural gas vehicles, better cargo handling equipment and more, a promise they have not lived up to. After pressure from different community and environmentalist groups, they will now form the 10 member strong Sustainable Freight Advisory Board. The board has representatives from various fields: the shipping industry, environmentalists, labourers and air quality agencies. The goal from the board is to come up with options for the city-owned port so that they can change to cleaner trucks, trains, ships, cargo handling equipment and other more sustainable solutions, with the goal of using zero-emission technology.

Port of Los Angeles. Both the largest port in the US and Southern California’s largest air polluter. Photo: FLICKR/JOEL KIRALY

There are ports around the world that the Port of Los Angeles could learn a lot from. The DP World London Gateway in the UK was just awarded a prize for its work toward a more sustainable port. Thus far, they have changed to more high-tech equipment to make the day-to-day work run smoother, change all lights to LED, started using automatic stacking-cranes and has manage to recycle all waste that was previously going to landfills. They are not satisfied yet but will try and change all on-land transport to electric cars along with other more sustainable solutions to even further reduce their carbon emissions. There are many small changes that together can have great effects in a large set up such as an international port. It would be great to see an advisory board, just like the one in Los Angeles, but that could advice all ports world-wide. Since some ports are making large progress towards sustainability, learning from these would be a great advantage as this would save time and money from each individual port to plan their own strategy.

In the Port of Los Angeles all the solutions will be voluntary. Incentives will be given to companies that switch to more sustainable means of transport but no new rules or regulations will come in to place. The port will however have monthly open door meeting and quarterly open houses where they public can come and find out about the progresses and air their opinions. The public will also have access to the advisory board’s reports so one can hope that these measures together will put enough pressure on the Port of Los Angeles to change the way it is run today in to a more sustainable port for the future.

References

http://www.govtech.com/fs/Port-of-Los-Angeles-Appoints-Sustainable-Freight-Advisory-Board.html

http://www.joc.com/port-news/us-ports/port-los-angeles

http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/dp-world-london-gateway-port-is-first-in-the-world-to-be-awarded-the-planet-mark/

The heavyweight gives way to cleaner options

-by Jessica Sellin

Heavy fuel oil is among the dirtiest of fuels, yet it is the most common of marine fuels, and has been so ever since the motor ship started to dominate in the mid-1900s. This toxic sludge of residual oil is high in particulate matter and sulfur, both of which can lead to acidic rains and diseases such as lung cancer. The emissions from the shipping industry are expected to double by 2050 if no steps are taken to reduce them. So why does the maritime industry still use this fuel then? The reasons are money and lack of regulations.

Seagoing ships have long been excluded from the ever stricter regulations of sulfur content in road transport fuels, resulting in a maritime industry that runs on fuel containing about 3 000 times more sulfur than road fuels. The IMO (International Maritime Organization) finally took action to decrease the levels of sulfur emissions from ships through the MARPOL convention, which entered into force 2005, and step by step the permitted content of sulfur is decreasing. In 2015 the sulfur limit in sensitive areas called Sulphur Emissions Control Areas (such as the Baltic Sea and the North Sea) decreased from 1 % to 0.1 % and in the rest of the world the limits will decrease from 1.5 % to 0.5 % in 2020.

The stricter regulations have forced the maritime industry to transform its fuel use. The main alternatives are firstly to use the already available cleaner distillate fuel oils, secondly to clean the exhaust gas from the heavy fuel oil by so-called scrubbers or thirdly to use alternative fuels such as methanol or liquid natural gas (LNG). The latter alternative is the most promising option according to EU, and the commission is supporting the transition to more LNG-fueled ships. But such transitions are not always smooth and do not always go hand in hand with economic gains or other environmental goals.

The obstacles the branch has to deal with are, for example, to get loans for the investments needed. Although the shipping industry is in urgent need of money, it received only 4 % of the EUs transport lending between 2010 and 2014 and on top of that there is a financing gap of about 20 % that has to be covered up by commercial lenders. Another obstacle is its sensitivity to economic crises and fuel prices that lately have been roller-coastering. When the large LNG-equipment is installed, there will also be less of the valuable space that is needed for cargo.

LNG is a promising alternative since it contains almost no nitrogen and sulfur and produces 20-25 % less carbon dioxide emissions. But to deal with future carbon dioxide emissions in a sustainable manner, I am not convinced that the shipping industry will be able to use fossil fuels much longer. The extraction of LNG through hydraulic fracturing is also worrying from a sustainability perspective. To be able to convert into greener propulsion, there will have to be a more diverse fuel mix probably containing LNG as well as biofuels and renewable electricity along with energy efficiency measures.

The IMO regulations are important to lead the markets away from unsustainable options. But in order to keep the maritime infrastructure and industry alive there must be “carrots” (i.e. subsidies and lending opportunities) that lead the industry into a more sustainable direction. The problem is only that it’s easy to tell what’s unsustainable, but it’s trickier to know what will be the least unsustainable alternative for the future. That’s why spreading the risks among different fuels probably is the best alternative we have today.

References:

European Commission (1) (2016). LNG for shipping. https://lngforshipping.eu/about-lng (accessed 2016-07-27).

European Commission (2) (2016). Reducing emissions from the shipping sector. https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/news/shipping-sector-emissions-alternative-fuels-marine-and-inland-waterways-transport (accessed 2016-07-27).

International Maritime Organization (IMO) (2016). Sulphur oxides (Sox) – Regulation 14. http://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/environment/pollutionprevention/airpollution/pages/sulphur-oxides-(sox)-%E2%80%93-regulation-14.aspx (accessed 2016-07-27).

Kravets, E. Green Shipping: Good or Bad for the Bottom Line? The Maritime Executive. 2016-06-17.

Tell a story3_pic_Jessica Sellin
Picture: Safety4sea (2011). http://www.safety4sea.com/co2-control-measures-for-international-shipping-to-be-considered-at-imo-environm/ (accessed 2016-07-27).

Ships’ carbon targets dumped overboard

-by Alexander Hoffmann

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Image: http://www.greenport.com/news101/Regulation-and-Policy/shipping-sulphur-targets-could-prove-harmful

Though ships are among the largest single emitters of greenhouse gases, their fuel burning will remain unregulated for the years to come. This is the result of a recent meeting of the IMO, the UN’s maritime organization in London in April. Despite the ambitious climate goals of Paris of December, two major industries remain without UN emission reduction targets: shipping and aviation. A number of countries, foremost the emerging BRIC economies, blocked a mandatory target, NGO reporters said. Instead, the countries determined consumption data of ships to be collected and reported expectedly from 2018 on.

Reactions were mixed to this further delay of a carbon target for the shipping industry. While some claimed that the high fuel price would be incentive enough for shipping companies to invest in efficiency gains, others see the reputation of the industry suffering. Certain companies fear that an external regulator might even take over legislation in the sector and prescribe aims, as the EU had done, for sulfur contents in fuels. In fact, the European Commission considers including the shipping’s CO2 in its Emissions Trading System.

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative now wants to move forward by collaboration and innovation, advocating for voluntary projects. Among them are futuristic air lubricator systems to reduce the ships’ friction with the water and better collaborative schemes between competitors. These would also help to circumvent problems in the enforcement of regulations.

The emissions from shipping matter alone make up 4 % of the entire greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. All international shipping together accounts for as much carbon emissions as a country like Germany. The industry has grown by 70% since 1990, and is expected to more than double again in size by 2050. The first IMO report on the feasibility of emissions reductions already dates back to the year 2000, but no targets have yet been set. With regard to other emissions, the maximum level of sulfur has recently been limited worldwide to 1%.

Sources:

Cuff, Madeleine (2016): “Maritime industry refuses to change emissions course”. Text. GreenBiz. May 2. https://www.greenbiz.com/article/maritime-industry-refuses-change-emissions-course

European Parliament News (28-04-2015): Ships’ CO2 emissions: MEPs approve new reporting rules. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20150424IPR45728/Ships%E2%80%99-CO2-emissions-MEPs-approve-new-reporting-rules

Sampson, Helen; Bloor, Michael; Baker, Susan, & Dahlgren, Katrin (2016): Greener shipping? A consideration of the issues associated with the introduction of emission control areas. Maritime Policy & Management, vol. 43, 3/2016, pp. 295-308 (14)

Transport & Environment (30-01-2016): Shipping must be covered by ETS or climate fund – MEPs. https://www.transportenvironment.org/news/shipping-must-be-covered-ets-or-climate-fund-%E2%80%93-meps

Zhang, Hui (2014): Towards Global Green Shipping: The development of international regulations on reduction of GHG emissions from ships. International Environmental Agreements, vol. 16, 4/2016, pp. 561-577

Ship efficiency: Vital to economic and environmental sustainability

-by Haoruo Chen

Shipping is the most important industry in worldwide trade. Ships carry almost 90% of everything in the world. Every day, a large number of ships travel in the ocean. The efficiency of the ships is the main factor for a company to be competitive. So many enterprises begin to pay more attention on the energy efficiency.

There are two aspects to optimize the energy efficiency of the ships.

  1. Hardware

Improving the hardware of the ships in a way that is both economically and environmentally feasible. For example, reform the engines, optimize the design of ship body, replace the paint coat and use the low-friction paint.

  1. Software

The sailor should be trained and improve the ability to control the ship, make sailing plan and maintain the ship. According to the research, a reasonable sailing plan and good operation can improve 9% of the energy efficiency.

From my point of view, the optimization of software should be more important than the hardware, but it always be forgotten. Once the sailors learn the skill, they will use it forever no matter how the ships will be. We should improve both the hardware and software so as to achieve the good energy efficiency.

Wärtisla International Shipping News. “Energy efficiency is impacted by choices made throughout a vessel’s lifecycle.” 12 July 2016. http://www.wartsila.com/media/news/12-07-2016-energy-efficiency-is-impacted-by-choices-made-throughout-a-vessel-s-lifecycle

Sustainable sailors make sustainable seas

-by Emma Davies

Did you know that 90% of the things you are wearing and objects around you have been on a ship? The shipping industry is one of the world’s most critical industries, as it operates every single day delivering food and merchandise globally. Though it is the least environmentally damaging form of commercial transport, the shipping industry still faces several issues with sustainability.

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Picture: Pixabay

To find methods to further develop the sustainability of shipping, a coalition of 19 companies, the WWF and the Forum for the Future formed the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI). The main ambitious aim of the charity is to help the industry be both profitable and fully sustainable by 2040. Members of the SSI have systematically taken measures to reach its goals: two-thirds of the members have carbon reduction targets and report their CO2 emissions and half use sustainability criteria in procurement decisions and focus on the sustainability of their supply chains. Vitally, the SSI wants to highlight that there is a clear link between sustainability and improved business performance. One of the tools created to further develop sustainable shipping is the “save as you sail” plan, or SAYS. This finance instrument designed to share the fuel cost savings from investing into energy-saving technologies between the ship owners, the charterer and the finance provider. SAYS and other methods developed by the SSI demonstrate how efficiency upgrades and sustainable investments on their ships will directly positively impact their business.

One of the challenges that the SSI faces, includes making sure that not only companies, but also individuals fully adopt and implement their sustainable methods. The organisation also wants to improve communication between stakeholders in the shipping industry, address poor labour conditions on ships and share a live Roadmap, which showcases the progress towards the sustainability goals of 2040. The SSI definitely has ambitious goals concerning sustainability in the future, but the organisation has the right mind-set: an industry with long-lived assets, needs long-term thinking.

Resources:

Beavis, L. 2015. Increasing shipping’s sustainability. The Guardian.

Forum for the Future. Sustainable Shipping Initiative. http://www.ssi2040.org/about-the-ssi/

International Chamber of Shipping. Shipping Facts. http://www.ics-shipping.org/shipping-facts/shipping-facts

Wärtsilä. 2010. Wärtsilä joins global Sustainable Shipping Initiative, a taskforce to shape the future of shipping. http://www.wartsila.com/media/news/15-12-2010-wartsila-joins-global-sustainable-shipping-initiative-a-taskforce-to-shape-the-future-of-shipping

Can we cruise sustainably?

-by Eeeva Hammar

Shipping is the world’s most important and efficient way to transport the goods but there are many negative side effects as well like increased sea traffic and accident risk (oil spills etc.). It also has many environmental impacts like increased amount of the greenhouse gas emissions (the biggest is sulphur dioxide), sewage water and marine litter, different kinds of pollutants and chemicals (like antifouling) to name of the few.

I will take a closer look about passenger shipping. The amount of the passenger shipping which includes cruising has increased significantly; Finns especially are avid cruisers around the Baltic Sea. The most common destinations from Helsinki and Turku are Tallinn and Stockholm. But passenger shipping unfortunately causes serious environmental impacts. Can we improve this?

Two of the biggest cruising companies in the Baltic Sea are Tallink Silja (former name Silja Line) and Viking Line. These companies have taken a challenge to go “more greener” in their business. Tallink Silja cooperates with WWF Finland to protect the Baltic Sea. Their common goals are to increase the knowledge about Baltic Sea and it’s environmental vulnerability. Recycling on ships has been increased and enhanced and attempts have been made to reduce emissions.

Tallink Silja has been made cooperation also with the Finnish Environmental Institute (since 1993). The Project name is Alg@line and the main goal is to collect information about the Baltic Sea’s current water state (the amount of green algae, salinity/ temperature and CDOM values). These cruise ships (Tallink Silja is one of them) are traveling over and over again cross the Baltic via many harbors, and the project has installed automatic measurement equipment under the boats’ hulls to measure constantly. This cooperation saves the research (and taxpayer’s) money and work and the same time gives valuable timely information what’s going on in the Baltic sea’s ecosystem (see pictures).

Viking Line has quite same environmental goals as Tallink Silja does. Viking Line is trying to use the best and the latest possible technology to enhance sustainable shipping. Viking Line has received an ISO 14001 environment certificate in their efforts for improved environmental status. One of the main standard of ISO 14001 is reduce and minimize environmental impacts.

In addition, Tallink Silja and Viking Line have both won the annual International Skål Sustainability Award. Tallink Silja for their partnership in the Baltic Sea Environmental Program (in year 2005) and Viking Line in transportation category (in year 2015). In the future it’s really important to continue cooperation with the companies with have something to do with the Baltic Sea. But in the end it involves action from all of us.

We sure need new better regulations and laws but also mutual understanding and common goals that sustainable shipping could evolve and maintain.

References:

  • Scott, Mike 2014. Sustainable Shipping Is Making Waves. The Guardian, August 1.
  • Environment.fi. Joint website of Finland’s environmental administration. http://www.ymparisto.fi/fi- FI/Meri/Mika_on_Itameren_tila/Itameren_kauppalaivojen_mittaamat_ravint%2831481%29
  • ISO Quality Services LTD. ISO 14001 Environmental Management System.

http://www.isoqsltd.com/iso-standards/iso-14001-environmental-management-certification/

Putting together the pieces of shipbreaking

-by Emily Skibenes

Shipbreaking is a term used to describe the demolition and salvage of a ship that is at the end of its operable life and is no longer economical to operate. This labor-intensive process, considered one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, involves stripping a ship made to withstand extreme environmental conditions to its bare bones. You can imagine the colossal amount of material that is contained within a ship, from the steel armor to the enormous engines, generators, fuel, electronics and abundance of chemicals. It’s no surprise that this is considered an extremely dangerous, expensive and potentially disastrous task.

This industry is a lucrative market for underdeveloped countries such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, where regulations are sparse and labor is cheap. This causes developed countries where regulations are more stringent to take the loophole approach and re-flag their vessels so they can be disposed of in other countries’ shipbreaking yards.

The European Union currently requires all EU flagged vessels to use an approved recycling facility, although this does not prevent these ships from using a “flag of convenience,” a flag not recognized by the European governments.

The European Commission has proposed legislation that would incentivize sustainable ship recycling. This would require a ship-recycling license for all ships using EU ports that would accumulate capital throughout the life cycle of a ship in order to cover the cost of using a sustainable recycling facility at the end of the ship’s term. The last owner of the vessel would receive the accumulated capital if they were to responsibly recycle the vessel in an EU approved sustainable facility. Regulations do already exist; the IMO Hong Kong Convention requires an inventory of hazardous materials onboard and an approved list of recycling facilities. Many feel that the proposed legislation by the European Commission may counteract the measures already enforced.

Shipbreaking is a significant threat to the environment, our oceans and human health and safety. It has even been considered a tourist attraction in Bangladesh due to the unbelievable nature of the task. Hundreds of men swarm towards colossal ships filled with toxic and flammable chemicals with sledgehammers and torches. These chemicals leach into the beach and water surrounding and pollute the bodies of the laborers. It’s no surprise that this industry needs reform, but for underdeveloped countries this industry serves as a livelihood, and for corrupt ship owners these shipbreaking yards are a cheap way to slip through sustainable recycling regulations.

For an inside look at the industry of shipbreaking in Bangladesh check out this video produced by National Geographic: https://youtu.be/WOmtFN1bfZ8

Citations:

“European Commission Report Recommends ‘Ship Recycling License.” 2016.

gCaptian. July 7. http://gcaptain.com/european-commision-report-recommends-ship-recycling-license/.

“PRESS RELEASE – EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPORT RECOMMENDS THE INTRODUCTION OF A SHIP RECYCLING LICENSE.” 2016. Jenssen. July 6. http://www.shipbreakingplatform.org/press-release-european-commission-report-recommends-the-introduction-of-a-ship-recycling-license/.

“The Ship-Breakers” 2014. Peter Gwin. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/05/shipbreakers/gwin-text/.

(Carg)Oh, We’re Half Way There

-by Christy Winer

Peel Ports is a group that owns a collection of shipping ports in the United Kingdom. They have started an initiative called Cargo200 that aims to involve 200 companies in cutting 200 million transportation miles over 5 years. They are accomplishing this by calling for importers and exporters that begin or end their journeys in the north of UK to instead use ocean freights to/from Liverpool ports. This plan cuts carbon emissions, decreases congestion both at sea and on land, and lowers transportation costs by up to 400 euros per container.

Liverpool is the most centrally located national port, and about 35 million people live within 240 kilometers of the city. So far, out of the targeted 200, 100 companies have committed to program and have even stated that they enjoy avoiding the uncertainty and delays associated with longer road or rail journeys. Ultimate Products has also claimed that their participation has increased turnover from 50 million euros to 80 million. The investments in infrastructure, including a new port called Liverpool2, demonstrate that this change is realistic and the city can handle the increase in traffic flow.

However, from a marketing point of view, I believe improvements could be made to bring more attention to the plan and help achieve their goal of 200 committed companies. The main issue I see is the initiative’s name. Cargo200 is also the name of a Russian thriller movie about the soviet war in Afghanistan in 1984 where dead soldiers were shipped home in zinc coffins under the code name Cargo200 (Cargo300 referred to wounded soldiers). Due to this, when Cargo200 is searched on Google, almost all of the first few pages focus solely on the movie rather than the initiative. We live in a day in age where people that are curious about something will pull it up on their computer and usually not look past Google’s first page, or even the first few links. If Peel Ports can’t deliver easily accessible material that sticks out online rather than gets lost in a sea of information, it will be difficult to bring awareness to their great ideas and intentions and achieve their goals. I believe that they can and will attain their goal, if not in the 5-year timeline, then soon after.

Resources:

100 Cargo Owners Sign Up For Campaign To Cut Haulage Miles | Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide.” 2016. Accessed July 21. http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/100-cargo-owners-sign-up-for-campaign-to-cut-haulage-miles/.

Holy Ship! That’s a lot of Carbon!

-by Bruce Duane

Shipmap.org contains a very intricate and vibrant map which is the product of at least 2-3 years of research. Anyone can go to this website and see merchant shipping traffic anywhere on the planet in the year 2012. While this may be slightly outdated, shipping routes hardly ever change, and the fact remains that shipping is one of the most effective and essential ways to transport goods across the world. The article entitled “Researchers Use 250 Million Data Points to Track Ships (and Carbon Emissions)” by Melissa C. Lott, gives an overview of the map that has been used by many to show how globalized the shipping industry has become and the challenges we face as a result of this.

Screenshot 2016-08-03 16.35.33
Screenshot from shipmap.org

250 million data points is a lot, but that sounds about right when trying to map out global shipping traffic for an entire year. The goal of the researchers at the University College London’s Energy Institute was to give everyone a clear and dynamic visual of shipping traffic, with a large emphasis on the amount of carbon emissions as a result of this traffic. The most unique part about the map is that the user can filter the data into types of shipping vessels which indicate the goods that are being transported. For example, it makes sense that a lot of oil tankers are shown around the Middle East and a lot of container vessels with manufactured goods are shown around China.

For data analysts, many hours could be spent looking at the map with different viewpoints and settings in order to draw various conclusions. Users can also embed this map in their own PowerPoints or websites. They can even purchase their own map for display in museums or homes. I think it’s great that people have access to resources such as this so that the public can be more educated about our global economy and understand where goods are coming from. Hopefully, more efforts will be made to reduce the 796 million tons of carbon emissions as a result of this map.

Works Cited

Lott, Melissa C. 2016. “Researchers Use 250 Million Data Points to Track Ships (and Carbon Emissions).” Scientific American Blog Network. Accessed July 21.

Life for Seafarers Has Never Been So Great

-by Matt Tarasiewicz

A group of companies in the shipping industry from all around the world called the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) has introduced a new concept to improve the welfare of seafarers. The charter that they introduced is called the ‘Seafarers On-Board Charter.’ This bill improves the seafarer’s conditions beyond the previous standards of the Maritime Labor Convention (MLC). This is important because a seafarer plays a critical role in driving the global economy.

The idea behind the ‘Seafarers On-Board Charter’ came from research done by the SSI. They spent time studying the quality of life of the seafarers as well as what can be done to improve their living conditions while living on the ship. The goal of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative’s charter was to encourage owners of ships to go beyond the mandatory minimum of the MLC in five separate categories, accommodation, recreation and social activities, communication and social support, food and catering, and management and policy. Ship owners that provide good conditions to their seafarers show their recognition to the seafarer’s value to the enterprise as well as their commitment to the seafarers. By creating better living conditions to these workers, they get more efficiency and productivity from the seafarers. Ultimately, it is good for business to follow along with the ‘Seafarers On-Board Charter.’

The subcategories of the ‘Seafarers On-Board Charter’ are as follows:

Accommodation: improving indoor environmental quality factors

Recreation and Social Activities: providing recreational space for activities while at sea

Communication and Social Support: providing internet access and observing worker satisfaction

Food and Catering: creating standards for testing water to ensure its quality

Management and Policy: making sure there are equal opportunities for all workers on-board and encouraging a working environment that is harmonious

To promote ship owners to adopt the charter, the SSI would recognize the owners and operators and favor those who do so. This will allow seafarers to see which companies place more value on their staff. The ‘Seafarers On-Board Charter’ is in line with the SSI’s vision for a completely sustainable shipping industry by the year 2040. The charter will allow the industry to create a reputation that it is a trusted and responsible partner with the communities where it does its business.

Since its creation, the Maritime Labor Convention has made a great impact in regards to ensuring workers have a safe workplace and decent living conditions. While many companies already have taken on the ‘Seafarers On-Board Charter,’ there is still more work to be done to improve the conditions of these workers. It will improve the seafarer’s satisfaction and productivity. This is vital because they are the backbone to the shipping industry and they are necessary to the vision of a future sustainable shipping industry.

Work Cited

Sustainable Shipping Initiative. “The Sustainable Shipping Initiative Develops           Concept for SEAFARERS On-Board Charter. 24 June 2016.            http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/the-sustainable-shipping-initiative-  develops-concept-for-seafarers-on-board-charter/

Green Initiatives at Sea

-by Emily Weaver

Carbon emission is a huge issue in the shipping industry and there is very limited progress in improving this. However, DP World London Gateway, which is an advanced deep-sea container terminal in the UK, is taking it upon itself to become green and improve its efficiency. Deep-sea container terminals are used to transport huge amounts of cargo between roads, railways, and the sea. DP World London Gateway is already closely monitoring its emissions, using hi-tech equipment such as automatic stacking cranes, LED lighting, and completely eliminating waste that would go to landfill. The company’s current goal now is to reduce the emissions they produce through energy and water use and waste disposal.

planet mark
The Planet Mark Award is a “sustainability certification available for all businesses, buildings, and projects that are committed to improving their sustainability”

From these groundbreaking initiatives, DP World London Gateway Port has been given the Planet Mark Award. The Planet Mark Award is a “sustainability certification available for all businesses, buildings, and projects that are committed to improving their sustainability” (http://www.planetfirst.co.uk/). Planet Mark wants European trade to grow economically while still keeping the environment clean.

This award validates the measures DP is taking to become sustainable. It is continuing its efforts in the future by planning to construct a third deep-sea berth to add to its existing two berths. The company is also investigating the use of hybrid shuttle carriers and training their employees in sustainability and efficiency. This training is vital in order to ensure the initiatives being put into place are actually being carried out. The monumental efforts being made by such a big company is also creating a green chain effect. This is done because DP helps reduce the carbon footprint of companies whose products it is shipping.

“Planet First – Sustainability Certification.” Planet First – Sustainability Certification. Planet First, n.d. Web. 25 July 2016. <http://www.planetfirst.co.uk/&gt;.

“DP World London Gateway Port Is First in the World to

Be Awarded The Planet Mark.” London Gateway : Press Release. DP World London Gateway, n.d. Web. 26 July 2016. <http://www.londongateway.com/news/press-releases/dp-world-london-gateway-port-first-world-be-awarded-planet-mark/&gt;.

Surrendering their own people for being at the economic top

-by Kifle Yessab

When most of us think about air pollution, we imagine smog emitting from cars, trucks, and power plants. However oceangoing ships are also a major source of pollution around the world, and according to a new study, they are emitting toxic chemicals that can cause major health problems.

Emissions from ships can be even more dangerous than emissions from cars and trucks, causing damage to cells in our bodies that can lead to serious diseases like lung cancer, heart problems, and diabetes. In a study published by the Public Library of Science, researchers said ship engines that burn heavy fuel oil, the cheapest and most common kind of ship fuel, emit heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and carcinogenic fine particles. East Asia has the most rapidly growing shipping emissions of both CO2 and toxic air pollutants.

The production capability of East Asian countries has multiplied over the past decades and so have the trade ships docking in East Asian ports. Eight of the top ten global container ports are located in East Asia, as the region continues to dominate. Shipping volume in East Asia is expected to grow in the near future as well.

However, the increased trade comes at a price. The growing fleet of shipping vessels visiting East Asia is pumping greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the air, causing more than 24,000 premature deaths a year, according to Chinese-led study. At the same time, it can be argued that low product prices and the world economy could be affected if we try to minimize shipping activity or applying strict control measures at any time. Because 90% of trade is carried out by shipping, the effect on developing countries is enormous.

According to a study published in the journal nature Climate Change, satellite data-tracking of almost 19,000 vessels along East Asian coasts are causing devastating environmental problems. Could it be worth restricting those who have lower quality management and obsolete ships which intensifies the stress of shipping traffic, pollution as well and allowing those who follow a sustainable agenda to carry more goods?

yangshan port
Goliath global trade: The container pier at Yangshan Port, which forms part of the Port of Shanghai, handling nearly 740 million tonnes of goods last year

East Asian countries, notably China, are severely lacking in terms of their efforts in decreasing air pollution from ships. The International Maritime Organization, or IMO, could institute strict international regulations on ships. However,if we look at the history of all the developed countries, we will see periods where they had incredible amounts of industrial pollution, from shipping, resource extraction, industrial plants, agriculture, etc. And the same is true for many developed nations today. One way or another, all developing nations, are going to grasp their path through industry and manufacturing and there is going to be an environmental cost to that until they reach a point where they feel they can afford to care more about their air and water and lifespans.

I do hope especially China is smart enough to learn from their mistakes and minimize the period of time in which such pollution is tolerated and the country is driving forward toward sustainable investment and sustainable economy nowadays as well. All east Asian countries together with other world should take major protective actions toward this big environmental issues as much as possible to save their own people. Biofuels is one of the options to lower carbon intensity in the propulsion of ships and to reduce the effect of emissions to local air quality.

A circular economy based on recycling, reuse, and local sourcing is the only way to ensure further economic development. In the future, the race for sustainability and environmental care could get massive attention. Otherwise, any trade or economic development could not be assured without it. Companies or countries that do not try to apply such kinds of positive measures could be outdated and could not be compute in the marketplace. Basically our lifestyles could play direct roles either to increase or reduce impacts on the environment and the need for shipping goods around the world.

In addition to this, I would like to say that, humans may also need to re-evaluate what needs to be shipped and what can be homegrown to minimize shipping traffic as well.

References

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/06/study-pollution-ships

https://www.google.se/search?q=busiest+chinese+ports&safe=active&biw=1920&bih=971&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiBo-ON25LOAhXlPZoKHQP1AC0Q_AUIBygC#imgrc=_0PdaKOQspYyLM%3A

http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/07/19/486151324/the-smoggy-seas-cargo-ships-bring-pollution-health-risks

http://www.airclim.org/air-pollution-ships

From Norwegian Wood to Norwegian Biofuel

-by Alex Rubin

One of biggest problems faced by countries as they move toward greener, more sustainably-based economies is that posed by shipping and marine transport. Ships account for much of the world’s pollution and green house gas emissions due their dependency on diesel fuel and oil, and there is currently no reliable or effective biofuel that can maintain the scale of shipping that occurs on a daily basis across the globe. That however, will hopefully change as researchers continue to investigate sustainable sources of biofuel.

One of the most promising current sources of biofuel production may actually come from right here in Scandinavia. Norwegian forests are being studied by British scientists as a way to make biofuels for shipping. While it may seem counterintuitive, using a forest as fuel source has the potential to be extremely sustainable if done properly. Norwegian forests are carefully managed so that they can sustain logging without damaging the overall environment, thus allowing scrap wood and unusable wood waste from logging to be used as a basis for biofuel production.

As often is the case in scientific research however, nothing goes as planned. Turning wood into biofuel is no easy task. The wood must undergo pyrolysis, which is a process of burning that takes place in the absence of oxygen and creates pyrolysis oil. This product however, cannot be used to directly power shipping because it is extremely volatile. Therefore, pyrolysis oil must be mixed with regular diesel and a surfactant in order to be useful. This means that wood-based biofuels will still depend on diesel but will use significantly less than current fuels translating to lower and cleaner emissions.

Researchers are currently still examining biofuel quality to determine its effectiveness and the science still has a ways to go before being implemented in a commercial market. Regardless, the use of wood based biofuels still raises some concerns. For example, there has yet to be any research concerning how sustainable wood based biofuel will be if used by the entire global shipping industry. Similarly, there is very little available quantitative data examining the environmental impact of wood based biofuels versus traditional fuel sources, meaning we have yet to know how much better wood based biofuel exactly is and if it will be worth it’s production cost in a commercial context. Ultimately, regardless of the outcome of the research into wood based biofuel, the solution to making global shipping sustainable is multi-faceted and will not be solved by just one thing. It will take integrated approaches from science, law, and education as well as changes in behavior to make any real move towards sustainability on the open ocean.

Non-sustainable Shipbreaking

-by Joe Comparini

Ship owners need to be held responsible for their ships not only during their time on the sea but also when their sea-life is over. Shipbreaking is the act of beaching a ship, oftentimes in a developing country, and cutting it with torches to break it down. As it sounds, this is a dangerous and non-sustainable way of dealing with old ships. Injuries are common during shipbreaking and sometimes even death. In the NGO shipbreaking Platform annual report India has had at least six workers die in shipbreaking yards in 2015. Even with these reported deaths, no yard owner has been held accountable as they pressure the law enforcement to drop the charges.

The NGO shipbreaking platform also looked at the shipbreaking beaches in Chittagong, Bangladesh. What they found there was a severely polluted work area without waste treatment or storage facilities. They also reported that at least 16 people died on the beaches of Chittagong while 20 more were severely injured. In Pakistan, workers break ships on a beach that does is not suitable for this type of work. The beach does not have any impermeable and drained working areas that protect not only the workers but also the sea and beach from hazardous pollution. The NGO report did say that Turkey and China have taken strides towards sustainable ship recycling. The Chinese have banned the beaching method but need to upgrade their hazardous waste facilities.

Meanwhile, shipbreaking companies in Turkey have applied to the EU for approved shipbreaking facilities due to the current dangerous nature of the shipbreaking occupation. The issue really starts with the ship owners, they should not make a money grab and just pay for their ship to be recycled properly. Shipbreaking yards can be transformed into a modern and safe ship recycling yard according to many business stakeholders. It will require participation from ship owners and the industry to not just take the easiest/cheapest way to do things. There needs to be standards for dismantling a ship in order for it to be done safely and sustainably. The health of the workers and the environment need to be protected, and currently that is not a priority in this industry today.

Sustainable Transport in the near Future

-by Jack Chapman

The European movement towards a low carbon, circular economy has developed a low emission mobility strategy, mapping out what guidelines should be met, and actions that should be taken by all of the countries involved in this mission.

The strategy involves increasing the efficiency of the transport system, which would increase the use of digital technologies and favor low emission methods of transportation. This also includes speeding up the research process on the usage of biofuels. They are also pushing towards the implementation of zero emission automobiles.

While the movement towards lower emissions is in place, it is also important to continue to stimulate the economy and continue making jobs. They will attempt to create more jobs in researching the types of fuels to be used, and the energy and fuel suppliers will be able to plan investments in new and more efficient energy sources. Transportation workers will be educated in the new low emission transportation methods as well. A total EUR 70 billion is invested in the fields of research for transport and low emission mobility.

The plan to promote the efficiency and attractiveness of transport involves improvement of communication links between vehicles and vehicles and infrastructure. Promoting efficient links between different modes of transport plays a role in this movement’s success. The EU still depends on oil for 94% of its transportation needs, and incentives to innovate are required to motivate people to come up with ways of lowering that. Member states are going to be implementing universal methods of charging electric vehicles, so that using the more efficient methods of energy are less complicated.

By 2020, the EU wants low emission and electric vehicles to have a substantial market share, so that these methods will be more attractive to the general consumer. The commission will be launching a consultation program with legislature to change the framework of vehicle standards.

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