7 ways smart cities can improve urban life

Imagine stepping out of a restaurant onto the sidewalk after having dinner with friends. Since traffic on the road is heavy, the dynamic curbs automatically move back several feet to open up another lane. You approach a bus stop and get onto an electric, driverless bus. On the way home, streetlights illuminate the road as the bus approaches them, automatically switching off as it passes. During the ride, stationary cameras as well as drones monitor the road to detect any threats to safety. After the bus finishes its shift, it plugs into a charging station where its battery is used to store electricity generated from solar and wind. This is the vision of smart cities that some firms and municipalities anticipate in the coming decades. Continue reading

The truth about climate activism

Ideally, people would care about the catastrophic potential of global warming.

Ideally, people would act on what they say they believe.

Polling data indicate that people care about climate change. According to a 2018 survey, 61% of Americans say that the US government should be doing “a lot more” to combat climate change. “A lot more”. So that means they’re willing to pay a lot more, right? Give up a lot more? In economic terms, these ideas are synonymous.

But if you dig through that survey a bit further, you’ll find the following sentence:

“That said, three-quarters of Americans express concern that efforts to address the issue will raise prices on things they buy and just two in 10 are very confident that those efforts in fact would reduce global warming.”

So we’re back to square one. Global warming: big problem. But people don’t want to change their behavior to solve it.

Some believe that climate activism can encourage others to go green. Here’s why that’s misguided. Continue reading

Why climate policies are useless without border carbon adjustments

The most worthless climate policy is one that generates a lot of public debate, imposes serious costs on consumers and businesses, but ultimately, doesn’t put a dent in global emissions.


A great example is the Paris Agreement of 2015. World leaders got together and decided (again) that, yes, we should do something about climate change. Based on the science, we should not exceed 2 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels. OK. So what did they do? All participating nations drew up non-binding, “nationally determined contributions”, which are basically emissions reductions goals by a certain year. And if certain nations don’t meet their goals? They should be “named and shamed” by the rest of the world. In summary, the media made a big deal about an expensive and publicly-funded government summit while oil and gas companies continued their assault on the atmosphere. There wasn’t even any agreed upon policy. Ultimately, the US (historically the most egregious polluter) dropped out of the deal less than two years later. See what I mean by worthless?

The only way climate policy can be effective is with border carbon adjustments, and this post explains why.
Continue reading

Flexible solar panels: expectation vs. reality

You’ve heard of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. You might have heard of concentrated solar power (CSP). But what about flexible solar panels?

In my experience as an energy consultant, clients often lament the slowing growth of solar capacity in Germany. As the government phases out subsidies for solar, households simply do not want to pay the high cost of purchasing and installing conventional panels. Flexible solar panels could help to provide them with an affordable alternative, and they offer serious upside. Continue reading

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