Zero emissions day: What it is and why we need it

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Courtesy of Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTEC)

Today is September the 21st – a day that didn’t hold any particular significance until a simple observation occurred in the 1980’s. Ken Wallace, father of a newborn daughter, realized, after witnessing the local neighborhood pizzeria truck, parked, running and driverless, combined with the surrounding traffic that “Stopping all this for a bit would be most excellent for our world altogether.” Ken’s observation has now led to Zero Emissions day.

His message, posted in the 1980’s on Usenet – an emerging early Internet discussion system, was the start of his enthusiasm. Following the rapid growth of Internet social networks in the new millennium, his notion of creating a global celebration that would host benefit to the environment soon became a realistic possibility.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, a website was launched calling for a “Global Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Combustion on September 21”. The role of the website was to “Give our planet one day off a year.” The moratorium call, translated into 12 languages soon escalated into a Zero Emissions Facebook group, attracting international attention.

In recent years, the event now has its own domain name (zeroemissionsday.org) and Facebook page. It is known on twitter and has also been defined in the Urban Dictionary. Its moral “You have the power to benefit everyone and everything on our planet”, has been supported by many environmental and conservational organisations.

The four features of World Zero Emissions day are now:

  1. Don’t burn oil, gasoline, gas, or coal.
  2. Minimize or eliminate the use of electricity generated by oil or gas or coal.
  3. Don’t take it to extremes: essential and emergency services should operate normally.
  4. Do your best, simplify your activities, have fun, and enjoy the day.

As a responsible global citizen, Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation is dedicated to reducing our world’s dependency on fossil fuels. By “giving the earth a day off”, we really can make a positive contribution to both the environment and our own health and well-being.

Why is reducing the use of fossil fuels important?

To date, fossil fuel produced electricity is the most dominant contributor to air emissions in the United States, with fossil-fired power plants causing 67% of the nation’s sulphur dioxide emissions and 40% of human induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The concentrations of these emissions in our atmosphere pose real and immediate threats to all people – their deliverance of acid rain, smog and associated health and climate risks are tantamount to a self-inflicted global wound. Yet, countries all over the globe are kicking out dangerous amounts.

UK households are responsible for producing approximately six tons of CO2 on a yearly basis, which according to the Energy Saving Trust, would take a forest three and a half times the size of London to absorb in a year. Moreover, China releases 23% of all total global CO2 emissions, while India and Russia respectively release 5.83% and 5.72%. All of these countries combined, have pushed CO2 levels past the 400 parts per million (ppm) limit this year – the first time in three million years.

The consequences of the build-up of these emissions are increasingly evident in our daily lives. A study released this July in the journal PNAS found that airborne pollution in China may have shortened the lives of 500 million Chinese civilians. By examining pollution data released from coal burning, against respiratory-related death records, the study suggests that coal emissions has been a long source of air pollution – damaging the public health across northern China since the 1990’s. Meanwhile, a 2010 study by the Clean Air Task Force estimated that air pollution driven by U.S coal-fired power plants accounts for more than 13,000 premature deaths, 20,000 heart attacks, and over $100 billion in associated health costs every year.

Another substantial health risk accelerated by the burning of fossil fuels is that of climate change. With an increase in CO2 build up, solar radiation energy is becoming trapped in the earth’s atmosphere in larger quantities and being redirected back to the Earth – its warming effect is creating severe consequences on climate and weather patterns.

The summer of 2013 experienced unusually high temperatures across Asia, Europe and North America, leading to an acceleration in the spread of naturally occurring wildfires across a much larger range. This month, a paper released from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change found that some of the hottest days and coldest nights in parts of Europe this summer, have warmed more than four times the global average change since 1950.

Climate change is also boosting the risks of disease breakouts. The warming of our planet has started to melt down climatic barriers that geographically isolate diseases. Changes in weather are affecting the population sizes, ranges and transmission seasons of hosts. In general, the increasing warmer temperatures and greater moisture are predicted to extend the geographical ranges and seasons for vector organisms and insects. Malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever are some of the diseases that may potentially expand their ranges with an increasing warming climate.

Our food supplies has also been severely jeopardised due to intensive fossil fuel burning. In recent years, the effect of global warming on agricultural productivity has become more prominent and severe. Increased droughts are resulting in high levels of crop failure and loss of pasture grazing land for livestock. Increased heat waves are also endangering our livestock as heat stress reduces fertility and milk production while increasing vulnerability to disease. The Second National Climate Assessment, entitled Global Change Impacts in the United States, published in 2009 reported the death of 5,000 livestock animals across various U.S states from just a single heat wave.

Then of course, let’s not forget the environment – our home. A large news headline this week is the Arctic. Figures from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) have shown that ice cover in the Arctic has shrunk to the sixth lowest extent on record. The annual sea ice minimum of 5,099 million square kilometres reached on Friday the 13th of September was well below the 30-year average.

Climatic influences on our environment have already misplaced 20 million people, while some experts warn that this rate will exponentially grow. Leading economist and researcher, Lord Stern, the head of Grantham Institute for Climate Change, warned that hundreds of millions of people would become climate refugees in the coming decade as a result of intensified desertification and crop failure. Meanwhile, Chris Bryant, UK shadow immigration minister, warned in his speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, that millions of people around the world could be forced to leave their homes over the next few decades and move to countries less affected by environmental problems.

With the growth in global C02 emissions from fossil fuels over the past five years being four times greater than for the preceding 10 years, the timing for the call to action of Zero Emissions day has never been more needed. Dr Mike Raupach, chair of the Global Carbon Project, who compiled these latest figures said, “This is a very worrying sign. It indicates that recent efforts to reduce emissions have had virtually no impact on emissions growth and that effective caps are urgently needed,” reported The Independent.

With compelling evidence of the grave dangers of burning fossil fuels and consequent climate change related risks of disease, displacement and deaths, our ability to tackle emissions is now dependent upon each and every one of us taking to heart experts’ dire warnings that our immediate action is now urgently needed. With acceptance of this fact, comes our collective will and steadfast commitment to address the challenge.

Luckily, the consumption and demand of fossil fuels is something that each and everyone one of us can change. By addressing and welcoming alternatives, we can begin to decrease our dependency on fossil fuels and significantly reduce its risks.

Because renewable energy technologies produce significantly lower emissions than traditional power generation technologies, renewable energy is receiving increased attention by environmental policymakers, sustainable businesses and their investors. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is one such technology.

Recognizing that the world’s oceans can secure a safe and sustainable future, Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTE), with the support of 300+ individual investors, is globally commercializing a technology that taps into these renewable sources. With 80% of the sun’s solar energy stored by ocean surface waters – 4,000 times the amount of energy the world uses on a daily basis, OTE can utilize this fuel to produce clean renewable baseload (24/7) energy and fresh drinking water in many regions across the globe.

By providing two of the most life-sustaining resources on earth without burning fossil fuels, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) technology holds the capacity to promote economic development, environmental conservation and resource security. OTEC’s ability to tackle climate change is tremendous. Just one 10 MegaWatt (MW) OTEC plant, has been estimated to produce sustainable energy for approximately 10,000 people – saving the burning of 50,000 barrels of oil and release of 80,000 tons of CO2 per annum in comparison to fossil fuel based electricity.

Take Hawaii for example. The country burns five billion dollars worth of fossil fuel on a yearly basis for 85% of the state’s energy needs. However, the installation of a 100 MW offshore OTEC plant could provide enough electricity to power the entire Island, helping the Blue Planet Foundation reach its goals of transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2030 and declaring energy independence. Though a 100 MW OTEC plant will not be technically feasible for several more years, small 5MW-20MW appear to be both technically and commercially feasible today, particularly in many global locations paying exorbitant electricity prices ($0.30-$0.60/kWh) based upon imported fossil fuels. We must start somewhere…and there is no better day to start than today.

So let’s make today’s date known for Zero Emissions day. Spread the word! Send a tweet, email or message to your family and friends, encouraging them to support renewable energy technologies such as Ocean Thermal Energy. Additionally, why not challenge them to spend the day without the use of their car? Or minimizing their use of fossil fuel produced electricity for the day?

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