lørdag 28. april 2012

Climate change post

Thanks to guest blogger Schalk Cloete!

Check out this very cool animation about water and think a bit about how much we take this precious resource for granted.

Climate change has a massive impact on water security in regions which are dependent on glacial runoff water in the dry season. A large portion of China gets its dry season water from melting glaciers in the Tibetan plateau. Various other countries in Asia, South America and Africa are also dependent on glacial runoff. Unfortunately, due to global warming, vitally important glaciers around the world have already shrunk by 20-80%.

Then there is the effect of our rapid increases in consumption. Agriculture uses about 70% of the global freshwater supply. A juicy 500 g steak, for example, needs a whopping 8000 litres of water to produce. Due to the rapid increase in population and meat consumption, global water demand is projected to exceed supply in two decades' time. Wonder what we will do then…

There are some sound reasons why some doom prophets project WWIII to break out over water. We should do our best to prove them wrong.

tirsdag 17. april 2012

Climate change post: Consumerism and happiness

Our modern day society is tainted by one great myth: excessive consumption brings happiness. Fortunately, this myth has been proven false through various scientific studies. Unfortunately, too few are aware of this fact...

Over the past few decades, the amount of stuff that the average person consumes has increased tremendously, but subjective happiness scores seem to stay very constant within most developed countries. The only things that really seem to be taking off together with our consumption are stuff like depression, divorce, violent crime and teen suicide.

Things scientifically correlated to happiness include health, relationships and job satisfaction. Beyond that which is needed for a comfortable life, material wealth is a very weak indicator of happiness.

In summary, consumerism makes first world citizens consume like we had five planets and leave carbon footprints ten times that which is sustainable. It ruins personal health, finances and relationships. And, of course, it brings absolutely zero happiness. So in order to be happier and help us reach a sustainable society: watch this video, think, share and care!

Thanks to Schalk Cloete for contribution.

lørdag 31. mars 2012

National student conference!

This is a snapshot from the surroundings of the national Start conference in Ålesund! A fantastic experience where I went together with my friends from Start NTNU, representing the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

We learned more about innovation and entrepreneurship, national collaboration and business development. It´s wonderful to meet so many engaged and hard working students. Impossible to leave without renewed motivation!

fredag 30. mars 2012

Palm oil causes deforestation

Did you know that palm oil is one of the worst contributors to deforestation and climate change? Palm oil is used in a wide range of factory-produced food types.

In addition to having a negative impact on human health, palm oil is produced by replacing rainforests with palm oil plantages, contributing to comprehensive deforestation.

Palm oil is often displayed as "vegetable oil", making it sound very healthy. In fact it´s the opposite, as the high contents of saturated fat gives high risks of cardiovascular diseases.

The good news is the we as consumers can steer the market. If we want healthier food for ourselves and the planet, we can start buying products without "vegetable oil" in the table of contents.

To find out which types of food contain palm oil (prepare for a shock), click here.
To support the Rainforest Foundation´s campaign for food without palm oil, sign up here.

lørdag 17. mars 2012

Mixer completed!

I´m part of the organizing committee that has worked on the non-profit event Mixer through Start NTNU. Yesterday was the big day! It was a wonderful evening with excellent speakers, food and mingling between students, academia and business representatives. Apart from a few technical problems the event proceeded fairly smooth!

Berit Svendsen held a great presentation about how to be the leader of one of the largest companies in Europe, Telenor. I was backstage at the time, so only got to hear the start though...

Ailo Gaup (left) contributed with his fantastic story of overcoming challenges and pain to follow his passion: FMX. Pain being very literal, as he has suffered several bad injuries through his sport: breaking 35 bones is just one example... As a world champion in motocross, he mesmerized the audience with his story of never giving in and keep chasing his dreams against all odds. Visit his website here.

Francois El-Safadi (right) shared his experience and wisdom, transferring his endless energy to all 500 participants. He works actively against injustice and to help the weakest in society. The wonderful passion for helping others, living in the present, building relations and the "just do it"- mentality are important values to remember from his presentation! A quote I found on his website sums up his striking personality:

"Weather is a metaphor for life - sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, and there's nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella".

lørdag 10. mars 2012

Climate change post 14: Food security

We take our supermarkets completely for granted. Food just magically appears on the shelves week after week after week. But is that really what happens? And will it last?

Today, as Asian growth is just getting into its stride, world food production is already under pressure. Food prices are rising rapidly and, although it is nothing but an annoyance to us, it has a massive impact on poor people who spend the majority of their income on food. Close to half the world's population survives on less than $2 a day. Compare that to your daily food intake to get some perspective.

Grains provide half of the world's caloric intake, but yet, we currently feed a third of our grains to livestock and use a sixth of it for biofuels. Global food demand will triple by 2050, Chinese meat consumption is doubling every seven years and biofuels might be our only hope when peak oil hits. Oh, and then there are of course the potentially disasterous effects of climate change on agricultural output…

Eating and living sustainably saves lives. And your own health, which is a decent bonus...

Climate change post 13: Planetary boundaries

Scientist and guest writer Schalk Cloete continues with the climate change post series:

Our planet has unmovable physical boundaries – fixed maximum rates at which it can generate the resources we consume and process the wastes we produce. And unfortunately, humanity's massive exponential growth has already broken through a number of these boundaries.

This is very dangerous. Every planetary boundary we cross affects the others and reduces the rate at which our planet can generate resources and process wastes. If we keep this up, the death phase of the bacterial growth curve discussed in the previous post is inevitable. This is an irrefutable scientific fact.

We still have a choice though – a rather obvious one. It's just that I sometimes wonder if we will ever be bothered to make it…

Climate change post 12: Exponential growth

We have only one home – planet Earth – and this planet has a finite amount of resources, a fixed boundary that cannot be crossed.

Humans seem totally oblivious to this fundamental limitation, however, and we have created for ourselves a society that is completely dependent and totally addicted to exponential growth. I'm sure you have learnt about the fate of this kind of society in high-school biology when you grew a bacteria culture in a little Petri dish…

The bacterial growth curve has four main stages: a lag phase, an exponential growth phase, a stationary phase and a death phase.

We are certainly not respecting the boundaries of our little planet Earth even though all the evidence suggests that we should have slowed down years ago. Seemingly oblivious, we simply to consume resources and excrete wastes at an ever increasing rate.

If you look at the human population growth history, we are now at the start of the stationary phase. You know what comes next…

torsdag 1. mars 2012

Climate change post 8: Methane hydrate tipping point.

Beneath the oceans lies more methane than we can ever imagine, frozen under low temperatures and massive pressure. If the oceans warm, however, these methane hydrates will become unstable, return to gaseous form and rush to the surface to cause all sorts of havoc.

Methane is a 22 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Large scale methane hydrate release would almost certainly push the earth to the 6 degrees doomsday scenario and keep it there for centuries.

Methane is also flammable at relatively low concentrations and a massive concentrated release can be ignited by natural phenomena like lightning to explode with the force of several nuclear bombs, vaporizing everything within a radius of several kilometres.

Methane hydrate release is speculated to become an irreversible climate change driver at 5 degrees of warming. For the sake of future generations, let's make sure we never get there.

Climate change post 7: The Siberian permafrost tipping point

Many climate scientists fear this one the most. The amount of greenhouse gasses locked up in the vast expanses of permafrost in the high northern latitudes is in the order of 100 years' worth of human emissions.

In the video attached to post 4, we saw the disproportionate amount of heating taking place within the Arctic Circle due to the melting ice and large land masses in this area. The permafrost time bomb is therefore very inconveniently located and is projected to explode irreversibly at 4 degrees of warming.

The term "irreversibly" means that we will be powerless to stop it. The massive source of carbon will release more greenhouse gasses than we ever could and, in order to have any chance of maintaining a functional society, we will have to do insane sounding things like launch millions of mirrors into space or paint our entire world white.

A much better idea would be to avoid the tipping points in the first place...

tirsdag 21. februar 2012

Climate change post 6: The Amazon rainforest tipping point

I have witnessed the effects of the Amazon rainforest tipping point myself. The prolonged dry season back in 2007 caused a water level in the flooded forests five meters below normal. Changes in the precipitation patterns also causes sudden droughts, confusing the natural ecosystems established over hundreds of centuries.

The indigenous people of Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon, were deeply worried about climate change. Rightly so, as increased temperatures causes changed precipitation patterns, withdrawing glaciers in the Andes mountains and unpredictable water levels in the Amazon river. Check out the first two minutes of this video for some more info!

Passing over to research scientist Schalk Cloete:

"The Amazon contains about half of the entire planet's biodiversity, produces about a fifth of the world's oxygen and contains about a fifth of the planet's fresh water. Quite an impressive repertoire…

Unfortunately though, the Amazon is already threatened by climate change. Two recent droughts, one in 2005 and another in 2010, have killed almost 4 million km2 of trees, releasing in the order of 10 billion tons of CO2 – a third of the annual human contribution.

The ecosystems within the Amazon are tightly interconnected, meaning that, if one or two crucial constituents fail, the entire system unravels. As a result, it takes only a 3 degree rise in temperature to wipe out the greatest biodiversity treasure on earth, releasing 10 years' worth of human carbon emissions."

lørdag 18. februar 2012

Climate change post 5: tipping points

Again, thanks to Schalk Cloete for contributing with the climate change posts! Here is number 5:

What really scares me is the sheer number of these things. Here are just a few: Melting polar ice increasing heat absorption, collapse of the Amazon rainforest causing massive CO2 emissions, thawing of Siberian permafrost releasing megatons of methane, deep-sea methane hydrates exploding to the surface, and anoxic oceans releasing further (poisonous and flammable) greenhouse gasses.

Each of these tipping points kick in at a different level of temperature rise and it is theorized that, once we cross enough of these tipping points, it will set off a self-strengthening cascade into oblivion. For example, the total collapse of the Amazon is projected at 3 degrees, which will push us over the Siberian permafrost tipping point, which will push us over the methane hydrate tipping point, which is projected to cause nothing short of a global cataclysm.

Enjoy the attached video of reasons to avoid all of this. The video also contains a very apt description of Homo sapiens: "A species fast in developing, but slow in maturing."

We really need to grow up…