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Climate Change in the Arctic & around the globe

Fresh wind for the climate?

My colleague Gero Rueter chairing the panel, here with Syliva Pilarsky-Grosch, vice-president of the German Bundesverband WindEnergie and Ulrich Kelber, member of the Bundestag and SPD expert on environment and energy issues.

 

The World Wind Energy Conference started in Bonn today, focusing attention on the role of decentralized wind power. It’s an interesting topic at this particular time with a big debate going on here in Germany over the role large offshore wind parks should play in securing a renewable energy supply. At a kick-off panel discussion organised last night by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the World Wind Energy Association, one of the main conference organisers, the speakers provided plenty of arguments in favour of smaller, decentralized systems with different ownership models, from citizens’ groups to local authorities, rather than large offshore parks run by big industry. At today’s official opening ceremony in the Bonn Conference Centre, a federal government representative, Secretary of State in the Environment Ministry Jürgen Becker, made the case for having both. The main problem with the big offshore parks at the moment is how to successfully connect them to the grid and get the power from Germany’s North Sea coast to where it’s needed farther south. Interesting discussions ahead. There are large delegations from China and Canada attending the conference, countries with a key interest in wind power. I bumped into a colleague from Japan this morning, who said he was covering the conference because of the urgent need to develop renewables in Japan after Fukushima.

 

 

Date

July 3, 2012 | 10:40 am

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Greenpeace on the streets to save Arctic


 

Greenpeace Volunteer Lukas

Greenpeace Volunteer Lukas talking to me in Bonn

Interest in the Greenpeace Arctic info stand

Interest in the Greenpeace Arctic info stand

Greenpeace have launched a “Save the Arctic” campaign to stop oil drilling in the Arctic.

Putting the finishing touches to the Arctic oil rig in Bonn

Putting the finishing touches to the Arctic oil rig in Bonn

Activists have been out on the streets around the globe today – including in Bonn! I dropped by to see what was going on and record some interviews for Living Planet, our radio magazine. It was great to see the Arctic featuring in Bad Godesberg centre on a sunny morning with the shoppers out and about. I talked to Ulrike and Lukas, two different generations, both out to tell people about the dangers of oil drilling in the pristine Arctic environment. Lukas is 20 and really into environment protection. Tune in this coming Thursday evening to hear Lukas and Ulrike talk about their work. They – and all the other Greenpeace volunteers out around the planet – are collecting signatures for a petition to protect the Arctic. The signatures will be put together into a sealed container and deposited near the North Pole – where the Russian submarine put a flag a few years ago.

Polar bear in Bonn? Nice poster, Greenpeace!

Polar bear in Bonn? Nice poster, Greenpeace!

The Arctic doesn’t belong to one country, is the message – we need to protect it for all of us. Good work guys, thanks for spending your free time doing this and I hope you got lots more attention at your stand!

More Arctic stories:

China’s Arctic Ambitions spark concern

Energy giants cooperate for Arctic resources

Scientists raise Greenland climate threat

Greenpeace helps scientists research Arctic ocean

 

 

Date

June 23, 2012 | 2:36 pm

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Rio 20 years on – and where’s the climate now?

Greenpeace dinghy Arctic

Greenpeace is regularly out and about in the Arctic, here off Spitzbergen. No wonder the activists are disappointed with Rio so far

I’ve just been working on an article on the record high CO2 concentration measured in Arctic Alaska in May. And it really brings it home to me that since the famous Earth summit in Rio in 1992 set the alarm bells ringing and the wheels in motion to tackle climate change – we have not really achieved very much. Now I am generally an optimistic person, but given that CO2 emissions were up again in 2011, the UN climate secretariat is still struggling to get countries on board for a Kyoto follow-up agreement, the USA still resists any binding targets and China and the other emerging countries are understandably unwilling to compromise their development to start solving a problem we industrialised countries caused – it is hard to work up enthusiasm for the Rio meeting. Copenhagen showed us all what can come of having expectations that are too high. Basically, the draft declaration from the meeting (sometimes I think it makes a bit of a farce of the huge meetings themselves that the draft has to be ready beforehand, but I understand the political and economic realities behind this) has already polarised response: on the one hand, the politicians who (have to?) say they would have liked more but we are lucky to get even this meagre document, on the other the ngos and activists who have expressed huge disappointment or even disgust. Let me give you a short quote from Kumi Naidoo’s blog, he’s executive director of Greenpeace International:

“The Future we Want is nowhere to be found in the already agreed Rio+20 outcome text, which world leaders are now rubber stamping and Greenwashing. The spin cycle has begun. At the same time some 20,000 people marched on the streets of Rio in protest with an air of despair but clinging to hope.”

Let’s keep hoping…

Date

June 21, 2012 | 2:40 pm

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Renewables Grid: Protect the climate at the cost of the environment?

wind farm

Renewables and countryside - conflict unavoidable? (I took this pic at Whitelee windfarm in Scotland)

The transition to renewable energy here in Germany has sparked off a discussion about the electricity grid. A similar discussion has been going on in the UK. One of the challenges is to get power from areas where it is produced – wind or marine energy from the coast, for instance – to the industrial and population centres, where it’s needed most. When this means new power-lines in areas enjoying nature protection, for instance habitats for particular plants and animals, or even just areas of great natural beauty, there is bound to be conflict. Germany’s federal economics minister and leader of the German Liberal Party the FDP Philip Rösler made the headlines this morning calling for environmental protection legislation to be temporarily shelved in some cases to make way for a quicker extension of the grid.  I think this is a conflict we are going to face more and more often as the effects of climate change become more evident and the need to switch to renewables ever more urgent. Would it be too cynical to suggest some industries might want to put off the transition and benefit from a relaxation of environmental standards as the politicians become more desperate to meet emissions requirements? Perhaps. The Economics Minister is certainly laying himself open to criticism by conservationists who accuse him of taking advantage of the climate problem to help industry get round environment legislation. The German ngo NABU says Minister Rösler risks losing public support for the energy transition by suggesting this sort of course. They also stress that there is a “European Grid Declaration on Electricity Network Development and Nature Conservation in Europe“, signed by grid operators and ngos from across the continent.

Interesting times ahead.

 

Date

June 15, 2012 | 11:23 am

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North East passage opening up early this summer?

Yacht Peter I seeking a passage through the ice (2010)

Yacht Peter I seeking a passage through the ice (2010)

The North-East passage, the sea route that goes along the northern coast of Russia, looks as if it will be free of ice at a very early stage this summer, according to scientists from Germany’s AWI, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. Towards the end of last winter, the scientists found large areas of the Laptev Sea covered by ice which was only a maximum of 50 cm thick. This, they say, is unlikely to last long once the summer sun comes out. Previous measurements in 2007/2008 had recorded ice thicknesses of up to a metre around the same place . Dr. Thomas Krumpen, the expedition leader, said the team has been surprised by the measurements, taken by a special ice-depth sensor dangled from a helicopter. Dr. Krumpen says the wind is probably responsible. When the wind is blowing from land out on to the sea, it forces the pack ice from the Laptev Sea northwards. This leaves open areas of water at the coast, which cool out fast and form thin ice. But the scientists were not previously aware that the areas could be this big. In some places they flew a good 400 kilometres over thin ice. The team want to use the measurements to calibrate satellite data.

More information on the AWI website, but I’m afraid the English version of this story doesn’t seem to be available yet.

 

 

 

 

Date

June 8, 2012 | 2:42 pm

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