When we talk about emissions these days, we typically talk about cutting them back for the good of the environment. However, the climate system is a complex beast, and one we’re still learning to understand.
As it turns out, cutting back on emissions may have unexpected or undesirable effects. Some scientists are concerned that cuts to human-induced sulfur emissions may actually be warming the Earth.
Continue reading “Reduced Sulfur Emissions Could Cause Climate Shock” →
Where today we talk broadly of climate change and it’s various effects, the conversation was once simpler. We called it “global warming” and fretted about cooking outside in the summer and the sea level rise that would claim so many of our favorite cities.
Scientists are now concerned that sea level rises could be locked in, as ice sheets and glaciers pass “tipping points” beyond which their loss cannot be stopped. Research is ongoing to determine how best we can avoid these points of no return.
Continue reading “Sea Level Rise From Melting Ice Sheets Could Soon Be Locked In” →
Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is not nearly as infamous as CO2, with the latter getting most of the blame for anthropogenic climate change. Yet while measures are being implemented to curb the release of CO2, for SF6 the same does not appear to be the case, despite the potentially much greater impact that SF6 has. This is because when released into the atmosphere, CO2 only has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1, whereas that of methane is about 28 over 100 years, and SF6 has a GWP of well over 22,000 over that same time period.
Also of note here is that while methane will last only about 12.4 years in the atmosphere, SF6 is so stable that it lasts thousands of years, currently estimated at roughly 3,200 years. When we touched upon sulfur hexafluoride back in 2019 in the context of greenhouse gases, it was noted that most SF6 is used for — and leaks from — high-voltage switchgear (mechanical switches), transformers and related, where the gas’ inert and stable nature makes it ideal for preventing and quenching electrical arcing.
With the rapid growth of highly distributed energy production in the form of mostly (offshore) wind turbines and PV solar parks, this also means that each of these is equipped with its own (gas-filled) switchgear. With SF6 still highly prevalent in this market, this seems like an excellent opportunity to look into how far SF6 usage has dropped, and whether we may be able to manage to avert a potential disaster.
Continue reading “Sulfur Hexafluoride: The Nightmare Greenhouse Gas That’s Just Too Useful To Stop Using” →
If there’s one thing humans hate, it’s exercising willpower. Whether its abstaining from unhealthy foods, going to bed early, or using less energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we’re famously bad at it. Conversely, if there’s one thing humans love, it’s a workaround. Something that lets us live our lives as the carefree hedonists we are, and deals with the sticky consequences so we don’t have to.
One such workaround for the issue of climate change is a doozy, though — blocking out the sun’s rays in order to cool our warming planet.
Continue reading “Blocking Out The Sun: Viable Climate Countermeasure Or Absolute Madness?” →
It was 1999 when Smash Mouth dropped the smash hit All Star, stating “The ice we skate is getting pretty thin, the water’s getting warm so you might as well swim.” Since then, global temperatures have continued to rise, with no end in sight. Political will has been unable to make any grand changes, and the world remains on track to blow through the suggested hard limits set by scientists.
As a result, heatwaves have become more frequent, and of greater intensity, putting many vulnerable people at risk and causing thousands of deaths each year. This problem is worse in cities, where buildings and roads absorb more heat from the sun than natural landscapes do. This is referred to as the heat island effect, with cities often being several degrees warmer than surrounding natural areas. It’s significant enough that experts are worried some cities could become uninhabitable within decades. Obviously, that’s highly inconvenient for those currently living in said cities. How bad is the problem, and what can be done?
Continue reading “Design Solutions For The Heat Crisis In Cities Around The World” →
Every summer you go down the shore, but lately you’ve begun to notice that the beach seems narrower each time you visit. Is that the sea level rising, or is the sand just being swept away? Speaking of sea levels, you keep hearing that they rise higher every year — but how exactly is that measured? After all, you can’t exactly use a ruler. As it turns out, there are a number of clever systems in place that can accurately measure the global sea level down to less than an inch and a half.
Not only are waves always rippling across the ocean’s surface, but tides periodically roll in and out, making any single instantaneous measurement of sea level hopelessly inaccurate. Even if you plan to take hundreds or thousands of measurements over the course of weeks or months, taking the individual measurements is still difficult. Pick a nice, stable rock in the surf, mark a line on it, and return every hour for two weeks to hold a tape measure up to it. At best you’ll get within six inches on each reading, no matter what you’ll get wet, and at worst the rock will move and you’ll get a damp notebook full of useless numbers. So let’s take a look at how the pros do it.
Continue reading “Sea Level: How Do We Measure Global Ocean Levels And Do Rising Oceans Change That Benchmark?” →
There’s been a constant over the last few weeks’ news, thanks to Elon Musk we’re in another Bitcoin hype cycle. The cryptocurrency soared after the billionaire endorsed it, at one point coming close to $60k, before falling back to its current position at time of writing of around $47k. The usual tide of cryptocurrency enthusiasts high on their Kool-Aid hailed the dawn of their new tomorrow, while a fresh cesspool of cryptocurrency scam emails and social media posts lapped around the recesses of the Internet.
This Time It’s Different!
The worst phrase that anyone can normally say about a financial bubble is the dreaded phrase “This time it’s different“, but there is something different about this Bitcoin hype cycle. It’s usual to hear criticism of Bitcoin for its volatility or its sometime association with shady deals, but what’s different this time is that the primary criticism is of its environmental credentials. The Bitcoin network, we are told, uses more electricity than the Netherlands, more than Argentina, and in an age where global warming has started to exert an uncomfortable influence over our lives, we can’t afford such extravagance and the emissions associated with them.
Here at Hackaday we are more concerned with figures than arguments over the future of currency, so the angle we take away from it all lies with those power stats. How much energy does Argentina use, and is the claim about Bitcoin credible?
Continue reading “What Uses More Power Than Argentina But Doesn’t Dance The Tango?” →