Attenborough’s call for “a million sustainable innovations” to solve climate change

Thanks to euronews.green (funded by European Union) for this mashup of Attenborough’s speech, past footage, and related imagery.

Inspired this week by Sir David Attenborough’s “rewrite our story” speech at the start of the climate conference (COP26), I see opportunity for young innovators (like my kids) during their lifetimes, and wonder again if I should shift my attention from saving whales and studying marine bioacoustics to working more directly on climate change as an “issue of our time.” The common thread for me is population — of Southern Resident killer whales (SRKWs) on one hand, and of human beings on the other.

In my lifetime, I expect to see either the extinction of SRKWs, or possibly the beginning of a recovery. When I chose to work on SRKWs instead of hydrothermal vents and the origins of life back in 2003 I imagined we’d soon see something like the 2.9% growth rate by 2020 that NOAA set as a target, but that definitely didn’t happen and is looking unlikely for decades due to the SRKW population structure and failure to recover salmon along the west coast of the U.S. and Canada.

Source: Puget Sound vital sign: SRKW population indicator

For humans, there’s a small chance I may get to witness humanity “getting over the hump” — just starting to experience a global population decline and stabilization — but it’s much more likely that only the next generation or two may bear witness to that. Interestingly, researchers right here in Seattle at the University of Washington (UW) have offered new forecasts recently (see 2020 Lancet paper) which build upon the 2019 UN and other recent forecasts.

Might we hope to see some inflection by 2050?! (source: 2020 Lancet paper)

Based on this breakdown of population history and forecasts by continent/region (below, from the Pew Research Center), it seems my chances of seeing human population peak and start to decline will hinge primarily on how population growth in Africa is handled, and secondarily in Asia. That continent may be a prime landscape for innovations that improve the living and education standards, especially for women (specifically the “educational attainment and contraceptive met need” components of the UW forecast model), and that — ideally, simultaneously, secondarily — turn the knob on climate change (e.g. reducing deforestation,

Another figure in the Lancet paper shows the year in which countries will have their net reproduction rate fall below the replacement level. If the goal is slow Africa’s contribution to global population growth as soon as possible, this figure may suggest where in Africa innovation could be of greatest benefit. Zimbabwe, Somalia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Chad are highest priorities. Secondary foci could be Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, and Algeria.

Source: 2020 Lancet paper

Of course, the population density in each of those countries in Africa, and others around the world, is also important in generating significant change. The final figure of the Lancet paper that wowed me is the ~1 billion person range in Nigeria’s population trajectories:

Source: 2020 Lancet paper

Billy Frank on leadership

“if you want to be in charge, act like you’re in charge.”

— Billy Frank, as paraphrased by David Troutt (27 Oct 2021)

David’s take-home message from Orca Network’s orca-salmon webinar: “We now have >900 acres of the Nisqually River restored. We’ve gone from about 4% of the river permanently protected in 1989 to nearly 80% now.”

Biodiesel is way better than fossil diesel: a 1998 life-cycle analysis

After 15 years of burning B100 in our 2003 VW Jetta TDI, it’s nice to have happened upon the helpful insights within this 1998 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Reductions in Petroleum and Fossil Energy Consumption

As one component of a strategy for reducing petroleum oil dependence and minimizing fossil fuel consumption, the use of biodiesel offers tremendous potential. Substituting 100% biodiesel (B100) for petroleum diesel in buses reduces the life cycle consumption of petroleum by 95%. This benefit is proportionate with the blend level of biodiesel used. When a 20% blend of biodiesel and petroleum diesel (B20) is used as a substitute for petroleum diesel in urban buses, the life cycle consumption of petroleum drops 19%.

In our study, we found that the production processes for biodiesel and petroleum diesel are almost identical in their efficiency of converting a raw energy source (in this case, petroleum and soybean oil) into a fuel product. The difference between these two fuels is in the ability of biodiesel to utilize a renewable energy source.

Biodiesel yields 3.2 units of fuel product energy for every unit of fossil energy consumed in its life cycle. The production of B20 yields 0.98 units of fuel product energy for every unit of fossil energy consumed. By contrast, petroleum diesel’s life cycle yields only 0.83 units of fuel product energy per unit of fossil energy consumed. Such measures confirm the “renewable” nature of biodiesel.

Reductions in CO2 Emissions

Given the low demand for fossil energy associated with biodiesel, it is not surprising that biodiesel’s life cycle emissions of CO2 are substantially lower than those of petroleum diesel. Biodiesel reduces net emissions of CO2 by 78.45% compared to petroleum diesel. For B20, CO2 emissions from urban buses drop 15.66%.

In addition, biodiesel provides modest reductions in total methane emissions, compared to petroleum diesel. Methane is another, even more potent, greenhouse gas. Thus, use of biodiesel to displace petroleum diesel in urban buses is an extremely effective strategy for reducing CO2 emissions.

It’s refreshing to see a clear flux diagram showing how soybean carbon cycles!

Other interesting bits:

  • A barrel of typical (1995) crude provides about 100 kg of liquid fuel. Upon combustion each kg of fuel generates 3.15 kg of CO2. (ref)
  • Union of Concerned Scientists: “Oil is Changing” site

Throw off the bowlines

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain
Barnacle Betty exults in being alone with the wild coastline, up close and at her own pace.
Fastest traditional outrigger canoes on the planet.
Elegant simplicity.

The symmetry of life

Raising kids as you and your parents grow old & older illustrates vividly the surprising number of similar experiences humans have when they are very young and very old. Today Shel Silverstein reminded me of that with this poem: “The little boy and the old man.”

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”

Said the little old man, “I do that too.”

The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”

“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.

Said the little boy, “I often cry.”

The old man nodded, “So do I.”

“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems

Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”

And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.

“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.

Starving sea pandas at the Festschrift of Russ McDuff

My PhD advisor Russ, celebrated his career by inviting all his students to give ignite talks in Oregon for the Festschrift of Russ McDuff. This is my 5-minute presentation in his honor with 20 slides advancing every 15 seconds as required:

We might be able to get this to display better using some sort of modal that can “pop-up” the WP post content, or part of it, with appropriate dimensions (1080 pixel height)… This WP Post Modal plugin might help.

Ric Bradley’s 1947 high Sierra backcountry ski trip from Tioga Pass to Tuolomne Meadows

Ric Bradley’s footage from a 2-month-long (!) back-country skiing adventure in Tuolomne Meadows (Yosemite National Park, CA, USA) via Tioga Pass just after World War II (Feb-Mar, 1947). Narration added by Ric Bradley in 2002.

Ric taught my parents and me to telemark when we reached Colorado from Chicago around 1972. Thanks to him, his wife Dorry, and long-lost friends like Randy Bobier, I continue to seek out hut-to-hut style adventures in the Pacific Northwest akin to the great outings Ric catalyzed, often threading together powder-covered 10th Mountain Division huts.

Flipping out above Scottish Lakes cabins.

2017 increased refrigerator and in-wall oven efficiency

Replacement fridge

Old fridge

Fridge set to 3 (5 oC); freezer set to A (-14 oC)

Power demand after reaching target temperatures:

33W closed

98W right and left open

73 left (freezer) closed; right (fridge) open

57 left open; right closed

R+L = 65; R=~40; L=~24 (probably mostly the wattage of the light bulbs)

Power demand with compressor at work:

Watts

330 Compressor starts

300 >30s

298 >60s

292 >180s

290-95 >10min (steady state while working to reach target temperatures)

Watt-up measurements of old fridge:

10.54 kWhr for 60:27 hr

= 174 W

Watt-up measurements of new fridge:

Fridge set to 3 oC; deli drawer set to 3 oC; freezer set to -19 oC (changed to -15 oC on 11/16/17)

5.62 kWhr for 80:15 hr

= 70 W

~ 40% of old load

New oven