Carbon Price Analysis Using Empirical Mode Decomposition

by Makari Krause

Zhu et al. (2014) aim to enhance the science on properly setting and forecasting carbon prices. To do so they examine the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) through empirical mode decomposition to better understand the formation mechanism of carbon prices. The EU ETS is the largest carbon market in the world, covering 12,000 installations and 25 countries. Over the past few years there have been a number of studies analyzing carbon prices in the EU ETS, that have generally fallen into one of two categories; structured models and data-driven models. Structured models analyze carbon price movement through the perspective of supply and demand and can help with understanding the generation of carbon prices. However, because of the unstable nature of the market, these models have been difficult to implement. Data-driven models, such as linear regressions, work well for short-term forecasting but fail to explain the driving forces behind carbon price changes. Continue reading

High Costs for Achieving Emission Reductions Targets without Nuclear and C.C.S.

by Cameron Bernhardt

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation is one of the primary means by which humans can mitigate global climate change. Employing nuclear power generation and carbon capture and storage (C.C.S.) are two methods for decarbonizing electricity generation processes, but the merit of these technologies is often debated. While these technologies are typically effective in lowering the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, they pose other environmental and economic threats that frequently limit their popularity and use. These realities have created some uncertainty regarding the future deployment of C.C.S. and nuclear power generation. Akashi et al. (2014) use a multi-scenario analysis to investigate the feasibility of the international emissions reduction target (holding the increase in the global average temperature below 2oC) in a future without nuclear or C.C.S. technology. The authors considered four different scenarios: baseline, standard 50 percent reduction, 50 percent reduction with no C.C.S. or new nuclear power plants being built, and a variant of the third scenario but with improved material efficiency. Continue reading

Large Trees Drive Carbon Sequestration in Degraded Tropical Forests

by Stephen Johnson

Deforestation is responsible for 15% of human-caused carbon release and hence is a key driver of global climate change. However, less known is the role that degradation plays. Forests become degraded by persistent human use or through selective logging, decreasing biodiversity and potentially hindering ecological dynamics. In the Amazon basin, degradation may account for up to 25% of carbon emissions by land use. Selective logging commonly targets the largest trees, which by definition contain the most biomass and carbon. By removing these, logging often substantially reduces forest carbon stocks. Relatively little is known, however, about how this disturbance affects biomass dynamics among size classes at a tree stand level. Sist et al. (2014) address this deficit by following biomass changes among trees of various size classes through 8 years after selective logging. They surveyed 18 experimental plots every two years, collecting data on biomass changes within individual trunk diameter categories and on mortality or morbidity in each category. They found that while small trees increased in biomass, large trees are the key drivers of ecosystem carbon storage. Large trees account for close to half of total carbon storage and experienced high post-logging mortality, which caused significant carbon losses. In order to compensate for this, the authors conclude that logging intensity may need to be reduced and a maximum diameter cutting limit should be adopted. Continue reading

Iceland’s Turning Greenhouse Gases Into Stone

by Hannah Brown

Positioned near the Hellisheidi Power Plant in Iceland, researchers at CarbFix, a $10 million project funded by Reykjavic Energy, the United States Department of Energy, and the EU, among others, combines water and carbon dioxide, compressed to the point that is in its liquid form, and injects the mixture thousands of feet down into balsatic rock, a reactive volcanic rock that makes up almost the entirety of Iceland’s foundation, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in general. The combination of carbon dioxide and water interacts with the rock as it releases calcium and magnesium and turns into the original mixture into limestone. Initially the model predicted that the process would take 5 years but CarbFix has found that it happens much faster than expected, essentially completing the transformation of carbon dioxide into limestone within one year. ( Continue reading

Changing Mindsets on CCS Technologies

by Caroline Chmiel

As “decarbonisation” as a world-wide initiative continues to spread, scientists and governments have an increased interest in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies. CCS technology involves capturing CO2 emissions at the industrial combustion sources, compressing it for transportation and transporting it (via pipelines) to an appropriate geological site into which it is injected for long-term storage. Focus groups in London reveal the psychology behind differing opinions on energy. Nuclear power strongly shapes the critical argument in these studies. The general consensus of these findings argues there is little public anxiety concerning this technology, but in private, opinions are overall negative. To start, research shows awareness of CCS amongst non-specialist groups is small. Once briefly introduced to the concept, perceptions immediately took a negative attitude revolving around the risks being higher than benefits. In addition, this paper defines the concept of a ‘moral hazard’ in regards to CCS as risks associated with technology or continued reliance on fossil fuels when investment needs to completely shift to renewable technologies. The UK national planning policy says that “CO2 emissions are not reasons to prohibit the consenting of projects which use these technologies” therefore endorsing the potential for technology beyond the demonstration stage. Returning to public opinion, when CCS is perceived in this manner of bridging technology that will not reduce investments in renewable technology, acceptance is at its highest. When people believe the government doesn’t have an interest in the outcome and public involvement is valued on the topic of climate change and CCS, people are also more open. Continue reading

Coffee Agroforests Can Store Significant Levels of Carbon

by Stephen Johnson

Over 40% of the world’s terrestrial surface is covered by agricultural activities, and approximately half of that area is agroforestry. Agroforests, agricultural areas that are at least 10% covered by tree shade, run the gamut from areas with a few exotic species to structurally complex, highly diverse ecosystems that mimic natural forests. Woody vegetation biomass is approximately 50% carbon, so incorporating trees into agricultural areas significantly improves the ability of these systems to sequester and store carbon. Given that agroforests cover almost half a billion hectares, they may represent a significant and underestimated carbon sink. The amount of carbon that can be stored is determined by a variety of factors, including the number of trees and the density of their wood. The type of and number of the trees present in turn depends on the individual management of the farm. In Ethiopia, Tadesse et al. (2014) investigated how different management regimes affected the species of trees present and the amount of carbon stored, compared to natural forests. They measured the density and species of trees in smallholder coffee farms, state-owned plantations, and forest fragments, and used these measurements to determine the carbon storage capacity of each forest. They also interviewed farmers to see how and why species are selected for inclusion in plantations. Tadesse et al. found that agroforests can store 50-62% of the carbon that natural forests can store. They also found that farmers tended to prefer and harvest denser-wooded species, though less dense species were used for some limited purposes. Continue reading

What can CCS learn from hydraulic fracturing acceptance?

by Alex Frumkin

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) faces potential obstacles when it comes to the development and deployment of the technology. Many of these challenges are strikingly similar to those faced by proponents of hydraulic fracturing, especially the challenge of social acceptance of this technology. Due to these similarities, Wolff et al. 2014 uses hydraulic fracturing as a comparison to identify potential strategies for future carbon capture and storage efforts. When using hydraulic fracturing industry as a comparison the authors consider not only the act of fracturing, but also the process of obtaining mineral rights and the waste removal process. This comparison is achieved by completing statistical analysis on the relationship between state demographics and the stringency of state regulations of the hydraulic fracturing industry. Ultimately, the authors find that states that are familiar with the oil and gas industry have less variable regulation of hydraulic fracturing. In addition, they recognize a disconnect between the regulations of hydraulic fracturing at the state level and at the local level. This tension suggests that carbon storage proponents should focus on local engagement not just on state level. Continue reading

Global Thermostat LLC.

by Devyn Parks

Global Thermostat (GT) is a new company founded in 2010 committed to reducing the effects of climate change through carbon sequestration (Global Thermostat). Co-founder and CEO Peter Eisenberger says that they came up with the idea for their technology by looking at products and inventions that were already in existence and thinking of new ways to use them. The best device for carbon sequestration was already in existence and called a monolith, the same type of instrument found in cars to clean exhaust, and GT took this concept and made it large scale. The GT technology can be attached to power plants, cement smelters, refineries and other industrial operations; and the heat emitted from these setups would be used as energy to capture CO2. The main problem with current carbon sequestration projects is the high cost due to the abundance of energy needed to carry out the process. GT’s technology addresses that problem by using the heat already generated from the facilities to power their monolith. Once captured the carbon can be stored underground, incorporated into materials such as cement and plastic, sold for carbon tax credits, or even sold to soda and oil companies for small-scale applications. Another option for the stored carbon is using it to create more fuel by feeding it to algae to enhance the production of ethanol and other biofuels. Global Thermostat is already working with a company in Alabama named Algae Systems to make this option a reality (Harris 2013). Continue reading

Barcelona Study Finds Impact of Urban Green Space Is Appreciable, but Small

by Dan McCabe

One aspect of urban ecology that is often overlooked in development is the biological benefit of vegetation in cities. In order to quantify the environmental impact of urban plants, Baró et al. (2014) analyzed the effect of green spaces on air quality and carbon sequestration in the city of Barcelona, Spain. The authors randomly selected nearly 600 small plots of land within the city limits and collected field data on the plant life and pollutant levels in each. This information, along with meteorological data, was then processed using i-Tree Eco software, which quantified the biological and economic effects of vegetation on both air quality and climate change. In this software model, green space is treated as providing two kinds of ecosystem benefits—defined as air purification and global climate regulation—as well as one harmful consequence, the emission of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs). For this case study, the model focused only on the levels of particulate matter (PM10) and NO­2 and no other pollutants that harm air quality, because Barcelona has recently had exceedingly high concentrations of these two pollutants. Continue reading

Measuring Carbon Changes and Future Deforestation

by Maithili Joshi

It is important to maintain tropical forests because of their role as carbon sinks, its vast biodiversity, and vital resources that we commonly use. These important features drive many United Nations policies that protect forests and their abundance of tree species. However, quantifying the usefulness of these polices is difficult. Gonzalez et al.(2014) aimed to quantify tree biodiversity, historical land cover and carbon changes and uncertainties, and lastly project potential future forest carbon changes and uncertainties. This study was conducted in Selva Central, Peru at the western end of the Amazon Basin. Continue reading