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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Extremely potent greenhouse gas 4 times more prevalent than thought

A greenhouse gas that is 17,000 times more potent that carbon dioxide is at least four times more prevalent in the atmosphere than previously estimated, according to a team of researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Using new analytical techniques, a team led by geochemistry professor Ray Weiss made the first atmospheric measurements of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), which is thousands of times more effective at warming the atmosphere than an equal mass of CO2. The gas is used by manufacturers of flat panel televisions, computer displays, microcircuits, and most worryingly, solar panels. Its use is growing rapidly. The researchers therefor suggest taking NF3 up into the (post-)Kyoto Protocol.

The amount of NF3 in the atmosphere, which could not be detected using previous techniques, had been estimated at less than 1,200 metric tons in 2006. But the new research shows the actual amount was 4,200 metric tons. In 2008, about 5,400 metric tons of the gas was in the atmosphere, a quantity that is increasing at about 11 percent per year.

Accurately measuring small amounts of NF3 in air has proven to be a very difficult experimental problem, but the researchers are very pleased to have succeeded in this effort, professor Weiss said. The research will be published Oct. 31 in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Emissions of NF3 were thought to be so low that the gas was not considered to be a significant potential contributor to global warming. It was not covered by the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions signed by 182 countries. However, the gas is 17,000 times more potent as a global warming agent than a similar mass of carbon dioxide and it survives in the atmosphere about five times longer than CO2. Current NF3 emissions, however, contribute only about 0.15 percent of the total global warming effect contributed by current human-produced carbon dioxide emissions. But use of the gas is increasing rapidly.

Nitrogen trifluoride is one of several gases used during the manufacture of liquid crystal flat-panel displays, thin-film photovoltaic cells and microcircuits. Many industries have used the gas in recent years as an alternative to perfluorocarbons, which are also potent greenhouse gases, because it was believed that no more than 2 percent of the NF3 used in these processes escaped into the atmosphere.

The Scripps team now analyzed air samples gathered over the past 30 years, working under the auspices of the NASA-funded Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) network of ground-based stations. The network was created in the 1970s in response to international concerns about chemicals depleting the ozone layer. It is supported by NASA as part of its congressional mandate to monitor ozone-depleting trace gases, many of which are also greenhouse gases. Air samples are collected at several stations around the world. The Scripps team analyzed samples from coastal clean-air stations in California and Tasmania for this research.

The researchers found concentrations of the gas rose from about 0.02 parts per trillion in 1978 to 0.454 parts per trillion in 2008. The samples also showed significantly higher concentrations of NF3 in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern Hemisphere, which the researchers said is consistent with its use predominantly in Northern Hemisphere countries. The current observed rate of increase of NF3 in the atmosphere corresponds to emissions of about 16 percent of the amount of the gas produced globally.

In response to the growing use of the gas and concerns that its emissions are not well known, scientists have recently recommended adding it to the list of greenhouse gases regulated by Kyoto:
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As is often the case in studying atmospheric emissions, this study shows a significant disagreement between 'bottom-up' emissions estimates and the actual emissions as determined by measuring their accumulation in the atmosphere. From a climate perspective, there is a need to add NF3 to the suite of greenhouse gases whose production is inventoried and whose emissions are regulated under the Kyoto Protocol, thus providing meaningful incentives for its wise use. - Professor Weiss

This result reinforces the critical importance of basic research in determining the overall impact of the information technology industry on global climate change, which has already been estimated to be equal to that of the aviation industry. - Larry Smarr, director of the California Institute for Telecommunications at UCSD

Michael Prather is a UC Irvine atmospheric chemist who predicted earlier this year that based on the rapidly increasing use of NF3, larger amounts of the gas would be found in the atmosphere. Prather said the new Scripps study provides the confirmation needed to establish reporting requirements for production and use of the gas.

I'd say case closed. It is now shown to be an important greenhouse gas. Now we need to get hard numbers on how much is flowing through the system, from production to disposal. - Michael Prather

Co-authors of the paper are Scripps researchers Jens Mühle, Peter Salameh and Christina Harth.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at UC San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. The National Research Council has ranked Scripps first in faculty quality among oceanography programs nationwide. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today in 65 countries. The institution has a staff of about 1,300, and annual expenditures of approximately $155 million from federal, state and private sources. Scripps operates one of the largest U.S. academic fleets with four oceanographic research ships and one research platform for worldwide exploration.

Weiss, R. F., J. Muhle, P. K. Salameh, and C. M. Harth (2008), Nitrogen trifluoride in the global atmosphere, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2008GL035913, in press.


Blogger rufus said...

So, in 60 years we'll be up to One Part per TRILLION!

I don't know whether to laugh, or cry.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Biopact team said...

Rufus, all bits help!

11:19 AM  

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