Apr 29, 2015

[INFOGRAPHIC] Why the Hyperloop is the answer to a lot of our problems

Climate Change
3 min
The transportation sector uses a lot of energy. That’s not some startling revelation— we’ve known it for some time. But as...

The transportation sector uses a lot of energy.

That’s not some startling revelation— we’ve known it for some time. But as the last few decades have seen increased gasoline consumption as more and more people worldwide enjoy heightened standards of living, the last few years have introduced an interesting new trend as cars become more efficient.

In addition to the overall energy drain this presents, these vehicles are also massive polluters, with the transportation sector making up an estimated 31 percent of the United States’ annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

These are truly global problems for us as a species. Aside from the staggering implications of climate change, the energy costs associated with our modes of transportation hint at a time when we simply won’t have enough fossil fuels remaining to support our standards of living, with estimates typically placing that point between 2050 and 2080 at our current rate of consumption.

It’s difficult to say that our modes of transportation haven’t changed much in the last century— they’ve made strides.  But these advances have been incremental: a more efficient engine, faster cars, jets over biplanes, electric cars, etc. But it’s really pretty realistic to say we haven’t seen a true revolution in transport technology since the birth of commercial aviation.

Even the wave of electric vehicles making their way onto the market now comes with a host of limiting factors, such as the facts that they are still cars and inherently are limited to traveling in certain ways and at certain speeds. And while electric cars themselves don’t produce greenhouse gases, they do still more often than not recharge on grids supplied by fossil fuels.

One thing is clear when leaning back and looking at the full picture: we desperately need a new form or transport, not just for the planet, but for industry in an increasingly globalize world.

There may be one contender: the Hyperloop.

The brain child of celebrity-billionaire businessman Elon Musk, the Hyperloop has the potential to carry passengers across the United States from Los Angeles to New York in the time it would take to watch an episode of Archer— or for those less familiar, roughly one-third of the Dr. Oz Show (with commercials).

For those crunching the numbers, that’s about 20 minutes. Imagine the economic impact that a not only electronically, but practically geographically connected country the size of the United States would have on world trade.

As for its own energy sources, the Hyperloop would likely be solar powered and has been suggested to generate more power than it uses, all while generating no greenhouse gases.

To learn more about the (admittedly, theoretical) Hyperloop, we bring you this infographic from gocompare.com and developed by VisualCapitalist.com.

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Jun 25, 2021

UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC

Dominic Ellis
5 min
The UK must put an end to a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices warns the Climate Change Committee

The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.

While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.

"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."

The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.

  • Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
  • Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
  • Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
  • Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
  • Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.

In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies. 

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”

Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society. 

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."

Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).

Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.

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