Archive for the ‘Express 169’ Category

As the Tropics Move Northwards, the Arctic Sea Opens Up for Business

Posted by Ken on June 27, 2012
Posted under Express 169

The effects of air pollution have manifested in various ways, one of them the expansion of the tropics northwards, creating a drier sub-tropic region. This has been attributed to black carbon particles and ozone emitted by human activities, writes Michael Richardson. And The Economist, in a landmark report, draws attention to the shrinking of the summer Arctic ice. While potentially opening up the Arctic sea to major economic ventures, but could also be ecologically catastrophic for the world at large. Read more

By Michael Richardson for The Straits Times (21 May 2012):

The tropics are expanding. The zone of heat and wetness, where Singapore is anchored by geography, has widened by approximately 0.7 degrees of latitude per decade in recent years, or more than two degrees since 1979.

Ozone depletion in the stratosphere, caused partly by global warming gas emissions from human activity, is known to be the primary driver of tropical expansion in the southern hemisphere.  (The stratosphere is the second major layer of Earth’s atmosphere, just above the troposphere that rises from ground and sea level to a height of between 10 and 15 kilometres.)

However, reasons for the extension of the tropics into the northern hemisphere, where the bulk of the world’s population lives, have been a mystery – until last week. Researchers in the United States and Australia now say tropospheric ozone and tiny black carbon aerosol particles, a major component of soot, are most likely to be pushing the boundary of the tropics polewards in the northern hemisphere.

Robert J. Allen, Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Riverside, who led the study, summarised its findings and consequences: “Both black carbon and tropospheric ozone warm the tropics by absorbing solar radiation. If the tropics are moving poleward, then the sub-tropics will become even drier.”

His team’s findings highlight the increasing attention being given to the role in climate change of so-called short-lived pollutants – black carbon, methane and hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in refrigerants.

Ozone is not directly released into the atmosphere. It is formed by the action of sunlight on other gases, including methane and carbon dioxide. In the stratosphere, ozone is considered to be beneficial as it protects life on Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

But at ground level, tropospheric ozone is an air pollutant harmful to human health and ecosystems. It is a big component of urban smog and “haze”, the mixture of smog and smoke from forest fires that periodically cast a pall over Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia.

A threefold rise in ozone concentration in the northern hemisphere in the past 100 years has made it the third most important contributor to the human enhancement of the global greenhouse effect, after carbon dioxide and methane.

So cuts in these two greenhouse gases have the potential to substantially reduce both tropospheric ozone concentrations and global warming.

The expansion of the tropics also highlights the role in global warming of the Asian growth belt. There, a combination of some of the world’s most populous nations, such as China, India, Bangledesh and Indonesia, and rapid economic development are generating climate-altering substances that are less well-known than carbon dioxide, the main long-lasting greenhouse gas.

In 2011, a team of scientists from the US space agency, NASA, working with UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program, sorted through more than 2,000 soot and methane control measures. They found that just 14 practical steps would deliver nearly 90 per cent of the potential benefits, including restraining global warming by about 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, while avoiding as many as 4.7 million premature deaths caused by smog and haze pollution.

They also concluded that application of these steps would raise crop yields by as much as 135 million tonnes due to cuts in ground-level ozone, which blights crops in China, India, Brazil, the US and elsewhere.

In addition, stopping soot emissions could help maintain monsoon patterns and protect endangered ecosystems, such as Asian mountain glaciers and Arctic Sea ice where soot carried by winds from the Asian growth belt has been deposited, absorbing heat from the sun and hastening melting.

Soot results from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, wood and other biomass. It can be reduced by measures like installing filters on diesel engines, replacing traditional cooking stoves with more efficient models, modernising brick kilns, and banning the open burning of agricultural waste.

Methane, the main component of natural gas, can be captured from oil and gas wells, leaky pipelines, coal mines, municipal landfills, wastewater treatment plants, farm manure piles and wet rice fields.

All 14 measures selected by the scientists can be applied using existing technologies, and in most cases existing air pollution laws and existing institutions at both national and regional levels. Economic analysis indicates that many of these steps provide more value in benefits than they cost to implement, though the benefits do not necessarily accrue to those who have to apply them.

Another key characteristic of short-lived global warming gases and aerosol particles is that they remain in the atmosphere for only a relatively short time, from several days to three decades. So emission reductions yield a short-term benefit for the climate, health and food production. By contrast, carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

As a result of this and other research, the US and 12 partners have formed a Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The grouping held its first meeting last month and will meet again in July.

The aim is to increase funding and support for cutting short-lived climate pollutants. But it will only be really effective if India, China, Indonesia and more Asian nations that produce much of the pollution participate in the program.

This will now happen. Leaders of the G-20 leading economies announced at the end of their summit at Camp David in the US at the weekend that those of them not already part of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition had agreed to join.

 The writer is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies.



By The Economist (16 June 2012):

NOW that summer is here, the Arctic is crowded with life. Phytoplankton are blooming in its chilly seas. Fish, birds and whales are gorging on them. Millions of migratory geese are in their northern breeding grounds. And the area is teeming with scientists, performing a new Arctic ritual.

Between now and early September, when the polar pack ice shrivels to its summer minimum, they will pore over the daily sea ice reports of America’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre. Its satellite data will show that the ice has shrunk far below the long-term average. This is no anomaly: since the 1970s the sea ice has retreated by around 12% each decade. Last year the summer minimum was 4.33m square km (1.67m square miles)—almost half the average for the 1960s.

The Arctic’s glaciers, including those of Greenland’s vast ice cap, are retreating. The land is thawing: the area covered by snow in June is roughly a fifth less than in the 1960s. The permafrost is shrinking. Alien plants, birds, fish and animals are creeping north: Atlantic mackerel, haddock and cod are coming up in Arctic nets. Some Arctic species will probably die out.

Perhaps not since the 19th-century clearance of America’s forests has the world seen such a spectacular environmental change. It is a stunning illustration of global warming, the cause of the melt. It also contains grave warnings of its dangers. The world would be mad to ignore them.

Less feedback, please

As our special report shows in detail, the Arctic is warming roughly twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Since the 1950s the lower atmosphere has warmed by a global average of 0.7 degrees Celsius; Greenland’s air has warmed by 1.5 degrees. The main reason appears to be a catalytic warming effect, triggered by global warming. When snow or ice melt, they are replaced by darker melt-water pools, land or sea. As a result, the Arctic surface absorbs more solar heat. This causes local warming, therefore more melting, which causes more warming, and so on. This positive feedback shows how even a small change to the Earth’s systems can trigger much greater ones.

Some scientists also see a tipping-point—another feared term in the climatology lexicon—in the accelerating diminution of the sea ice. The term describes the moment at which the planet shifts from one environmental state to another: in this case, from an Arctic with summer sea ice to one without it. By the end of this century—perhaps much sooner—there will probably be frequent summers with no sea ice at all.

Arctic peoples have also noticed what is going on. Inuit hunters are finding the sea ice too thin to bear their sleds. Arctic governments are starting to see a bonanza in the melt. The Arctic is stocked with minerals that were hitherto largely inaccessible, including an estimated 30% of undiscovered reserves of natural gas and 13% of undiscovered oil reserves. A combination of high commodity prices, proactive governments, technological progress and melting ice will help bring these to market. Encouraged by Arctic governments and dwindling reserves elsewhere, oil companies are flocking north like migrating geese to explore the continental shelves of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia. Canada and Russia also hope to develop their Arctic shipping-lanes, which the melt is making accessible. Russia’s Northern Sea Route, hugging the Siberian coast, cuts the normal distance between Europe and Asia by more than a third. It will help ferry Russia’s Arctic resources to Asian markets, and could one day be a wider boost to world trade.

These exciting developments carry risks, however. Many fear for Arctic cultures—a Canadian Inuit argues despairingly for her “right to be cold”. Others foresee conflict between Arctic countries scrambling for the region’s resources. Greens warn of environmental risks in developing them: a big oil spill would be disastrous for fragile Arctic ecosystems.

The igloos have gone

Such fears are reasonable, but often exaggerated. Traditional Arctic peoples have been changed far more by Westernisation than they will be by melting ice. None lives in an igloo these days. And everywhere except Russia their rights have been recognised. Nor is conflict much of a worry. The Arctic is no terra nullius. Most of it is demarcated, and Arctic countries have a commercial incentive to keep the peace. Last year Russia and Norway settled an old dispute over their maritime border; soon they will open the border region to oil firms.

The risks of pollution from bilge water, mining effluent and spilt oil are real. Yet the Arctic is not unprotected: it is, by and large, among the most regulated oil provinces. Its development will also be slower and more cautious than greens fear. Even with little sea ice, the Arctic will remain forbiddingly cold, remote, stormy and therefore expensive to operate in.

The worry that needs to be taken most seriously is climate change itself. The impact of the melting Arctic may have a calamitous effect on the planet. It is likely to disrupt oceanic circulation—the mixing of warm tropical and cold polar waters, of which the Gulf Stream is a part—and thawing permafrost will lead to the emission of masses of carbon dioxide and methane, and thus further warming. It is also raising sea levels. The Greenland ice sheet has recently shed around 200 gigatonnes of ice a year, a fourfold increase on a decade ago. If the warming continues, it could eventually disintegrate, raising the sea level by seven metres. Many of the world’s biggest cities would be inundated long before that happened.

Some scientists argue that the perils are so immediate that mankind should consider geoengineering the atmosphere to avert them (see article). They may turn out to be right, but there could be enormous risks involved. A slower but safer approach would be to price greenhouse-gas emissions, preferably through a carbon tax, which would encourage the adoption of cleaner technologies (see article). That shift would be costly, but the costs of inaction are likely to be larger.

In the end, the world is likely to get a grip on global warming. The survival instinct demands it. But it is likely to lose a lot of the unique Arctic first. That would be a terrible pity.

Go to the for the Special Report on The Artic by James Astill, who says:

“The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. The retreating ice offers access to precious minerals and new sea lanes—but also carries grave dangers.”

Electric Dreams For BMW, But Nightmares for BYD

Posted by Ken on June 27, 2012
Posted under Express 169

Electric and electric-hybrid vehicles have been touted as the more sound choice for commuters seeking to reduce their impact on the environment. All is not smooth sailing, as evidenced by the recent troubles of China electric car maker BYD, who saw their stocks plummet due to safety concerns and increasing competition. But nothing is stopping the the German car maker, BMW, with its new electric driven, zero emission vehicles, to meet the demand for sustainability and mobility. Read more

By Keith Bradsher for International Herald Tribune (31 May 2012):

HONG KONG — Four years ago, the BYD Company promoted the electric battery technology it was developing as a way to help China transform the automobile. No less an investor than Warren E. Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, boasted about the company’s prospects and bought a 10 percent stake.

But recently, nothing has gone right. BYD’s stock is down 43 percent from its high on Feb. 8 as investors and analysts have questioned whether the company has the technology or the manufacturing quality to be an enduring competitor in the Chinese market.

BYD’s sales of gasoline-powered cars, the company’s commercial mainstay, have wilted this spring as Chinese buyers have moved toward more expensive but better-quality cars from its rivals. At the same time, BYD now accepts that the future of the auto industry is more likely to lie in hybrid gasoline-electric cars, a technology in which it lags Japanese manufacturers, and not in all-electric cars, which still face issues of battery range and recharging time.

And on Sunday, new questions arose about the company’s battery technology when a Nissan GT-R sports car traveling at more than 110 miles an hour slammed into the back of one of BYD’s electric taxis in southern China and set the vehicle aflame.

The taxi, an e6 battery-electric sedan, spun across three lanes of traffic, hit a tree and turned into an inferno, killing all three occupants. Photos of the blazing wreck quickly spread on the Internet in China and sent the stock down sharply on Monday, prompting BYD to issue a long statement on Tuesday emphasizing that no car, electric or otherwise, would have been likely to survive such an impact.

“We don’t know what happened — the battery pack burned or the high-voltage gear burned or the fabric was lit or maybe some other reason,” said Paul Lin, the company’s marketing director, adding that neither the police nor the company had determined yet whether the high-speed impact or the ensuing fire caused the deaths.

Chinese news media reported that the sports car driver was a drunken man accompanied by three women. The occupants of the sports car were not seriously hurt and the driver fled.

Although BYD’s shares bounced back on Tuesday as investors appeared to accept the company’s explanation, BYD’s longer-term challenges remain.

When Mr. Buffett bought 10 percent of the company in September 2008, using a subsidiary of his main company, Berkshire Hathaway, BYD had plans to start exporting electric cars to the United States within two years. Those plans quickly stalled, partly because of the global economic slowdown, but also because BYD, like many automakers, has since concluded that gasoline-electric hybrids are more promising.

“More and more companies are certainly going to do it like this,” Wang Chuanfu, BYD’s founder and chairman, said in an interview last autumn at his company’s headquarters in Shenzhen, while not ruling out a future for electric cars in China.

BYD’s biggest troubles in the last few months have been in the market for gasoline-powered cars. The company had grown rapidly over the last five years as a manufacturer of cheap, very basic cars for China’s rapidly expanding middle class.

But over the last year, middle-class car buyers in China have become a lot more discerning — and more prone to choose multinationals’ offerings than locally designed cars. Although other Chinese automakers are also struggling, BYD has been among the hardest hit.

BYD’s car sales fell 8 percent in the first four months of this year even as the overall Chinese car market grew 6 percent. In April alone, the company’s sales slid 19 percent as the market grew 18 percent.

Part of the problem is a sharp shift in government policies.

The city of Beijing, which had been the country’s largest municipal car market, cut by two-thirds last year the number of license plates it issues annually and created a lottery for distributing them. With license plates in short supply, buyers have tended to put them on expensive foreign-brand cars instead of locally manufactured economy cars.

The national government, in December 2010, ended two separate programs that had stimulated sales in 2009 and 2010. One policy had sharply reduced the sales tax on cars with very small engines, while the other had subsidized vehicle purchases by residents of rural areas.

Chinese manufacturers, particularly BYD, tend to make cars with small engines, and sell them disproportionately to rural buyers and other customers with relatively low incomes.

The Chinese government hinted on Monday that it might help the auto industry with a “cash for clunkers” program, providing government subsidies for people who trade in used cars for new cars, as part of a broader move by Beijing officials to stimulate the country’s faltering economy.



BMW i Born Electric Tour makes first stop in Rome

22 June 2012

Rome. The BMW Group inaugurated the BMW i Born Electric Tour at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni located at Via Nazionale 194 in Rome. The worldwide tour will go on to visit six other major cities over the next 12 months: Dusseldorf, Tokyo, New York, London, Paris, and Shanghai.

BMW i was introduced by the BMW Group last year and is now in the process of preparing for the launch of vehicles under the brand in coming years. The models will be characterized by extremely low environmental impact and designed for the express purpose of reconciling the demands for individual mobility and sustainability.

Two prototypes are being presented at the event: the BMW i3 Concept and the BMW i8 Concept. With its zero-emissions all-electric engine and a range of about 150 km, the BMW i3 Concept was designed expressly for city use. True to BMW, it also offers a dynamic driving experience.

“We are very proud,” stated Franz Jung, President and Managing Director of BMW Italia S.p.A., “that this world tour is starting out from Italy and from the city of Rome. This major urban city is predestined for innovative solutions and we wanted to confirm our commitment to sustainable mobility. Furthermore, we believe that the automobile represents an asset for society in terms of contributing to the creation of value, and at the same time, represents an irreplaceable means of individual mobility.”

The presentation in Rome is designed to demonstrate the BMW Group’s holistic approach to future mobility, not only in terms of products displayed, but also in terms of networking information, technologies, and transportation systems. The initiative also benefits from collaboration with the Italian architect and designer, Fabio Novembre. Through collaboration with the Officina Design and Driade, he will create his interpretation of the city and be the first of seven major world-class artists engaged to offer their visions of the urban context.

To underline the integrated approach of the event, other local designers and businesses working in the field of sustainable luxury goods, were selected to develop products representing “Next Premium”.  For example the high-fashion eyeglass frames W-eye™, the Etcetera-Design furniture brand, jewellery designer Alice Visin, and the Italian Catellani & Smith brand of lamps.

The event in Rome is scheduled to cover four days from the 20th to 24th June. Yesterday, a series of workshops open to public provided a platform to exchange views with international experts including Jessica Scorpio (Getaround), Benoit Jacob (BMW i), Oriana Persico (AOS), Andrea Granelli (, Federico Ferrazza (WIRED), Carlo Ratti (MIT), Francesco Lipari (OFL Architecture), Fabio Novembre and Joseph Grima (DOMUS). On 22 and 23 June, the exhibit will be open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The detailed program of meetings can be found at

With BMW i, the BMW Group is consolidating its position as the most innovative and sustainable automobile manufacturer in the world and is responding to the challenges of the future in terms of eco-sustainable mobility. Together with its premium electric vehicles, BMW also offers a range of services for mobility. These are services aimed at optimizing the use of parking spaces, the utilization of navigation systems that can access local information, intermodal road maps, and car-sharing schemes such as DriveNow.

BMW i recently acquired an interest in MyCityWay and ParkatmyHouse web portals. ParkatmyHouse makes it possible for private persons to rent their personal parking space when it is not in use, via the internet or a specific smartphone application.


For further information please contact:

BMW Group Italia

Roberto Olivi

Corporate Communications Manager

BMW Group Corporate Communications

Cypselus von Frankenberg

Technology Communications, Spokesperson BMW i

Source: and

The BMW Group

The BMW Group is one of the most successful manufacturers of automobiles and motorcycles in the world with its BMW, MINI, Husqvarna Motorcycles  and Rolls-Royce brands. As a global company, the BMW Group operates 29 production and assembly facilities in 14 countries and has a global sales network in more than 140 countries.

In 2011, the BMW Group sold about 1.67 million cars and more than 113,000 motorcycles worldwide. The profit before tax for the financial year 2011 was euro 7.38 billion on revenues amounting to euro 68.82 billion. At 31 December 2011, the BMW Group had a workforce of approximately 100,000 employees.

The success of the BMW Group has always been built on long-term thinking and responsible action. The company has therefore established ecological and social sustainability throughout the value chain, comprehensive product responsibility and a clear commitment to conserving resources as an integral part of its strategy. As a result of its efforts, the BMW Group has been ranked industry leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for the last seven years.


A New Green Vision of the World

Posted by Ken on June 27, 2012
Posted under Express 169

Is it a sign that environmental news is finally making the mainstream and getting the TV treatment that it deserves?  When you see the quality and extent of ecological and green programming on the likes of BBC and CNN – on top of the on-going good work of Discovery channel – you can only assume that it must be worthwhile. Companies are coming on board as sponsors and advertisers because the viewer numbers are there. So it is encouraging – heartening even – to see a new development from Australia with EcoTV now going out to a global audience. Read More

Carbon Market Pty Ltd, owners of EcoTV, EcoNews, EcoVoice and Eco Daily Deals, has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with ASX-listed GoConnect to provide environmental news and eco-lifestyle content to its IPTV network.

GoConnect is a global media communications company, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Established in1999, GoConnect is a forward thinking organisation, whose core business is focussed on the online delivery of interactive audio/video content through its unique and proprietary technologies.

GoConnect will enable environmental news and current affairs show, Eco TV together with the full stable of Carbon Market news offerings, to be available to a global audience via smartphones, connected TVs using the Sony BRAVIA Internet Video Service and LG Smart TV worldwide.

Carbon Market’s publications are the media partners of The Banksia Foundation, Conservation Volunteers Australia, Keep Australia Beautiful, Environs Australia, as well as many other high profile and credible environmental organisations.

Tim Landgon, co-founder of Carbon Market said that he was delighted to join forces with GoConnect and the access it provides to its large audience.

Environmental groups in, particular, will benefit enormously from this global licensing agreement.

“Never before have environmental groups such as Keep Australia Beautiful and The Banksia Foundation had a global platform,” Mr Langdon said.

“Now through the arrangements Carbon Market has been able to negotiate these organisations can spread their conservation and environmental messages to a global audience in a way that will make a real difference.

“Whether you are in Australia, China, Japan, South Korea or elsewhere in the world, you will be able to access our publications via the rapidly growing market for these smart devices.

“Smart devices are also the perfect platform for showcasing clever green solutions.

“We encourage anyone working in this space to get in contact with us so that we can help to deliver their message and create a truly collaborative ‘voice of many’ to enhance our natural environment.” Mr Langdon added.

Richard Li, Executive Chairman, GoConnect said, “GoConnect is currently restructuring and expanding the program mix of to include a much wider range of program types and genres including subscription services.

“Eco TV provides a useful addition of not just unique and compelling content but also help to attract for, a new global audience and commercial sponsors.

“In a world that has been affected by global warming, climate change, and all kinds of environmental disasters, the addition of Eco TV to our program lineup provides essential and compelling infotainment to our audience.

“Eco TV will join the new within the next few weeks,” Mr Li added.

GoConnect distributes Content via its IPTV network including the web on,, smartphones on, and major brands of internet connected TVs.

GoConnect has entered into global distribution agreements to distribute its content on via connected TVs of Sony BRAVIA Internet Video Service, and LG Smart TV worldwide.

Discussions at different stages are currently being held to expand the distribution of to other major Smart TV brands and to expand the audience reach globally.

Carbon Market Pty Ltd manages and operates five business units including: Eco TV, EcoNews, Eco Voice, Eco Daily and Carbon Market.



Providing viewers with the latest environmental news headlines, sustainable lifestyle tips and interviews with industry thought leaders and eco-minded celebrities. Eco TV aims to engage, educate and entertain viewers on all things green.

Eco Voice –


One of the leading environmental news platforms in Australia, with tens of thousands of subscribers receiving the monthly newsletter. It is free to subscribe.

Eco News –


Eco News is a major source of “as it happens” news articles, from an Australian perspective. It also distributes a daily newsletter to more than 13,000 subscribers. Make it your daily source of environmental information. It is free to subscribe.

Eco Daily –


Provides ‘clever green savings’ via a daily deals platform.

Carbon Market –


Provides an online platform for suppliers of environmentally friendly goods and services to promote and sell their products using ANZ’s secure e-gate facility.