The first cars were electric, and they’re coming back

The first cars were electric, and they’re coming back

Even though the electric car arrived on the public scene first, it proved to be an unworthy competitor to the fuel powered vehicle, which was cheaper, faster and more reliable. But electric cars are taking centre-stage again.

Contrary to what most people believe, the electric car is not an invention of modern times. In fact, American and Dutch inventors first worked on small electric car models as far back as the 1830s. A few decades later, William Morrison from Iowa created the first successful electric vehicle in the US – a model that looked similar to the old-fashioned carriages. By the end of the 19th century, electric cars became successful (particularly in cities), being sometimes preferred over steam or gas-powered vehicles, as they emitted less pollutants and were quieter. In the early 20th century, electric cars accounted for about one third of the number of cars in circulation in the US. However, with the invention of Ford’s gas-powered Model T car – more affordable and more powerful – sales of electric and hybrid cars declined.

But since a few years, the electric car is taking another go at it, this time with better, more reliable engine technology. The new electric car industry, having learned from the mistakes of the past, now has technology on its side. Following the invention of the lithium-ion batteries, the electric car saw its second chance emerge. 

A case in point for the revival of the electric car is ‘Tesla Inc.’, founded in 2003. The first tesla was delivered to the market in 2008, having lithium-ion battery cells and being able to last for longer journeys, per charge, than any other electric car before it. With continued, ceaseless improvements being made to these cars, the technology improved and so did the sales, leading the company to be ranked 8th among global carmakers in 2017.

Tesla proves that the electric car is gaining traction. Stock prices show that Tesla has overtaken giants of the car industry like Ford and Fiat. With electric cars providing a more environmentally friendly, sustainable and efficient vehicle, it is no longer a competitor to fuel cars, it is the clear champion. Other automotive brands, like ‘Porsche’ and ‘Audi’ have noticed the re-emergence of the electric car and, they too are developing their own electric alternatives.  

Electric cars will lower carbon emissions, reducing damage to the ozone layer and reducing smog. Ultimately, bettering our planet and public health. But there are some challenges to it. For example, the sourcing of critical materials for the vehicles like lithium and cobalt, and the carbon extensive process of production, which calls the electric car’s sustainability into question. However, through further developments, these challenges are likely to reduce. Another barrier to the adoption of electric cars is its high price: to date, these models remain unaffordable for many households.

Changes in infrastructure will also have to be made to accommodate the electric car: more charging stations, changes in the electric grid, etc. But, in return, it promises less strain on our planet. 

 

 

Photo by Andrew Roberts on Unsplash

 

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Did the Greta effect fail in the US?

Did the Greta effect fail in the US?

 

With Trump’s administration, talking constructively about climate change on US soil is not an easy task. Ask Greta Thunberg. However, advocates of a Green New Deal are not backing down…

 

 

The Greta Thunberg’s effect in the USA

On the 18th of September, Thunberg took the floor in front of the US Congress. With a clear reference to Martin Luther King, she stated: “I also have a dream: that governments, political parties and corporations grasp the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis and come together despite their differences”. In a country where climate change is “being discussed as something you believe in, or not believe in”, “It is time to face reality, the facts, the science.” As she emphasised the necessity to address climate change as the emergency that it is and recalled that there was no way to cut a deal with Mother Nature, some listened carefully while others rolled their eyes.

A few hours later, what sounded more like a good ad than a “short-film”, starring herself and the journalist Georges Monbiot, was released. Through it, they intended to promote their “Protect. Restore. Fund.” slogan and to show that more can be done thanks to “natural Climate solution”. In the video, we learn that only 2% of the funding granted to the decrease of CO2 emissions is invested in natural tools, such as replanting enough trees.

On Friday, global climate strike day, Thunberg stood in front of about 250.000 strikers in New-York’s Battery Park. “We will make them hear us”, “we are a wave of change”, “this is what people power looks like” she said, as her speeches seems to become more and more revolutionary.

A few days later, Thunberg spoke at the Youth Climate Action Summit, held on the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. Thunberg was one of the lucky activists who was given a visa on time and could indeed talk in front of the Assembly. She hammered that “we are at the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” In the end, “Change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

About what could be expressed at the Summit, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, was clear to world leaders: there is no need to take the stage if it’s not to develop “concrete and transformative” plans. “We had enough talk”, “this is a climate action summit” (emphasis added). “Nature is angry”, so it’s about time to implement the Paris Agreement. 

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, said that “Germany sees its responsibility on the international stage and on the national stage”. This is a lot more than we would never hear from the United-States President, Donald Trump, who tried as hard as he could to avoid attending the summit, and finally stayed 15 minutes without saying a single word. 

Later on that day, 16 children including Thunberg, aged between 8 and 17, coming from twelve different nations, filed a complaint to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. According to them, Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey breached the most widely ratified treaty in history, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by letting children’s lives being impacted by the climate crisis. These nations are amongst the most polluting countries. One may wonder why the United-States, the historical biggest polluter, and China, the current biggest polluter, aren’t on the dock. The reason is simple: those two states never ratified the Third Optional Protocol of the treaty which allows children, or adults representing them, to seek justice for alleged violations.

 

 

US presidential campaign & the Green New Deal 

The Green New Deal (GND) is a ten-year plan aiming at economic justice while addressing climate change. It has already been discussed in the American political sphere. After being rejected by the Senate in March 2019, some Governors adapted and implemented the Deal in their State.

While Republicans resolutely oppose the GND, Democrats embrace it. So far, Trump’s campaign only states that he had done an incredibly good job in increasing the oil and gas exploitation and exports. He also congratulates himself for undoing the Clean Power Plan. Nothing eco-friendly to be found here… As for the other Republican candidates for the 2020 presidential elections, they still have no idea what their election platform will be like, except for advocating not being Trump.

On the Democratic side, election manifestos are actually written, and each includes a point about climate change. All claim wanting a fair transition to a neutral emission State. Some of the candidates even have co-sponsored the GND in the Senate. 

As the campaign moves forward, it will surely be interesting to see the place climate change gets in the national debates. 

 

 

Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

 

 

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‘’Keep the Carbon in the soil, no more coal, no more oil!’

‘’Keep the Carbon in the soil, no more coal, no more oil!’

‘’When you were my age did you know what climate change meant?!’’ These were the cries from an eight year old climate activist standing in front of close to 10,000 of protestors assembled in Merrion Square last Friday 20th September. Those present nodded and cheered passionately, brandishing posters with angry declarations chastising the government for their apparent apathy towards the climate crisis and lack of affirmative climate action. The sentiments ranged from ‘’Grandparents for Climate Action!’, ‘’I can’t believe I’m protesting FACTS!!’’ to ‘’I’m missing my lessons to teach you a lesson!’’.

The Irish crowds were not alone, as across the world approximately 2,300 Strike for Climate protests were staged in over 130 countries. The assembly of climate protestors seen in Dublin last Friday occurred in solidarity to Greta Thunberg, the young activist behind the school strike for climate global movement. 

It all started about a year ago, when Swedish teen Greta, then an unknown 15 year old school girl,decided that she would skip school and protest outside the Swedish government buildings, disillusioned with the government’s insufficient action regarding climate change. Her reasoning? If the adults leading the world don’t care about her future, then why should she? Her actions garnered attention and a new climate movement was born: Fridays for Future. The idea is that students will continue to strike every Friday, reflecting Greta’s message. Greta’s honesty regarding her feelings of despair, anxiety and anger in the wake of her understanding the effects of anthropogenic activity on the natural world resonated with the burgeoning number of climate activists. Greta served as a catalyst for the explosive expansion of the youth voice in the climate change debate.

It has become glaringly apparent that age has nothing to do with lack of understanding of the urgency of climate change. While protestors as young as seven shouted, cried and stomped their feet for a brighter future, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was busy opening a new runway in Dublin airport. While An Taoiseach is the leader of the Irish political climate, his actions show a clear lack of direction regarding our changing climate.

One could despair at the irony of our own Taoiseach supporting the expansion of the Irish aviation industry, one of the most carbon polluting industries, while citizens flood the streets in frustration over the lack of stern action on climate. However, this is the kind of hypocrisy that led to these protests. As Greta Thunberg highlighted when addressing the EU Commission earlier this year: “We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, and the extinction rate is 10,000 times faster than what is considered normal, with up to 200 species becoming extinct every single day.’’

“Erosion of fertile topsoil, deforestation of our forests, toxic air pollution, loss of insects and wildlife, the acidification of our oceans; these are all disastrous trends being exhilarated by a way of life that we, in our financially fortunate part of the world, see as our ‘right’ to simply carry on,” she added.

If last Friday’s protest demonstration and indeed the ongoing public debate regarding climate change are anything to go by; it is clear that citizens are listening to the warnings from scientists and turning their fear and despair into anger and action. 

The protests mark the beginning of a week of heightened climate activism from September 20th-27th as people urge governments to double their efforts for climate action. In the wake of increasing pressure being placed upon governments regarding climate action world leaders have gathered in New York for a Climate Action Summit. An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was set to address the summit on Monday 23rd September. The current Climate Action Plan for Ireland, according to Friends of the Earth director, Oisin Coghlan leaves much to be desired in realistically achieving the goals set out by the Paris Agreement. Climate activists may get some solace over the next week as details emerge of the new climate action plan for Ireland and the near 200 other countries represented at the summit. 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made a clear statement to those world leaders attending; ‘’Don’t come with a speech. Come with a plan.’’ A sentiment that any climate activist can identify with. 

The science of climate change is no longer limited to scientific journals as citizen scientists and activists have taken the role of advocating for the scientists whose message has been undermined for decades. The science may finally be taken seriously and perhaps someday soon, our government leaders will also repeat the chant of the Irish protesters; ‘’Keep the carbon in the soil. No more coal. No more oil!!’’

 

 

WATCH: some footage and interviews made during Galway and Dublin’s strikes

Climate week in Ireland: here’s what happened

Climate week in Ireland: here’s what happened

This week was a busy one for climate action in Ireland. From the Courts to the streets, citizens made their voices heard, pressing the government to take more ambitious actions to reduce our country’s impact on the climate and the environment. If you missed all the buzz, read on to find out what happened.

 

 

 DRESS TO PROTEST

On Wednesday evening, citizens, students and NGOs gathered at the Tara building to get creative. From two-year-olds to pensioners, students and young workers, all hands were on deck to rehearse and get properly dressed for Friday’s Global Climate Strike. Cosy atmosphere, lots of colours, and many good slogans were to be found. This bright gathering was co-hosted by Climate Case Ireland, Friends of the Earth Ireland and Swapsies, groups that will be on the front line for the following events of the week.

 

 

 

CLIMATE CASE IRELAND JUDGMENT

Earlier this year, Friends of the Irish Environment brought the Irish Government to Court in a bid to make the Government review its National Mitigation Plan (2017), alleged to be too weak to allow the country to achieve its national transition objectives set by the Climate Act (2015). 

This Thursday was the big day: the judgement was finally delivered. A huge crowd gathered in front of the Four Courts and took a group picture, showing the massive support to the action brought by Friends of the Irish Environment. Around 2PM, everyone went to Courtroom number 1 to hear the judgement’s reading. After an hour delay, some people went home, but the Courtroom was still filled with people from every age, every horizon and different countries, to hear the judge putting a lot of emphasis on the climate emergency and recognising that there is a climate crisis: “We must fully commit to climate change as a society”. But, when it came to the core of the case, the Court said it couldn’t conclude to a breach of Constitutional law. According to the judge, the Court must respect the principle of separation of powers. Therefore, the Judiciary power can’t dictate to the Executive the content of bills and must respect its policy choices and preferences, even if it adopts some really vague documents. “It’s not the Court’s role to second-guess the government opinion on this issue”. Regarding the alleged Human Right violation, the Court conceded there is actually a breach of the right to life protected by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Right, yet not due to the Mitigation Plan itself.

The Climate Case team said it couldn’t announce whether or not they will appeal that decision until they received the judgement in written form. However, they assured that “they won’t rest until change is done”. The Climate case saga is to be continued… 

 

 

 

CLIMATE STRIKE

On Friday, young people around the world joined a global strike for climate action. Many adults showed their support and joined the thousands of marches happening in major cities around the globe. Several Irish cities went on strike, such as Cork, Galway and Limerick. In Dublin, the Greta effect worked, thousands of protesters assembled in front of the Custom House around noon. Many placards and banners were to be admired, some with powerful messages such as: “the climate is changing, why aren’t we?”, “seas are rising and so are we”. “What do we want? Climate action. And when do we want it? NOW.” were shouting citizens from various age while marching to Merrion Square so the Government would hear their demands. 

Students aged from 12 to 16 took to the stage in front of this massive crowd, reaffirming how important it is to take action now and talked about how much blood we already have on our hands. A mom went on stage too to express that parents were also there and supported the students. At 1.49PM, a minute of silence was observed for the dying planet. Ten minutes later, the protest was dismissed, and some students went back to school for the rest of the day. To the detractors of the strike, the students simply answered, “I would be in school if the planet was cool”, because “there is no planet B, neither C”.

 

 

Photos by Rachel Husson

 

 

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How innovation can help lower the aviation industry’s carbon emission

How innovation can help lower the aviation industry’s carbon emission

Greta Thunberg’s recent journey across the Atlantic by ship has brought the environmental shortcomings of aviation to light. Research shows that a large airport consumes as much electricity as a city of 100,000, as context there are only 3 cities in Ireland with over 100,00 people, Dublin, Cork and DúnLaoghaire. With such a sizable carbon footprint, changes must be made. According to the Landmark Climate Change Agreement in 2016, by 2027 international flights must offset emissions beyond 2020 levels.

As a result of the industry taking steps to be more efficient, due to innovation, C02 emissions have reduced by over 80% since the first jet aircraft in 1939. Through improvements in engines, and aircraft material, airlines have benefited in operational gains. As air travel is affected by climate change due to unpredictable weather, it’s in their best interest to combat climate change.  

However, the downward slope of plane emission tilts down too slowly to reach their carbon goals. Especially, considering the steep increase in passengers, as there is projected continual growth in those able to travel by commercial air and growth in those able to fly privately. It is estimated that passenger numbers will double over the next two decades. The slow-moving environmental steps currently being taken are not equally balanced to the fast-paced growth in customers the industry will be experiencing.

More extensive moves must be made, if aviation wishes to meet its environmental goals. An answer lies in the development of innovative ideas. Ideas that already exist but need further progress in order to make them commercially viable such as biofuels, new wing models that lower fuel usage, improving engines thereby making them less fuel guzzling, using lighter materials in construction of planes and making crafts more aerodynamic. The aviation industry has a lot of options available to help it take the necessary steps to meet its goals and greatly lessen its adverse effects on our planet, it just means that resources, time and minds must be committed to these options. 

The safety net provided by the potential to purchase credits in the carbon market, if airlines don’t manage to offset their emissions by their deadline, is a loophole that will not help their industry and will not help our planet. While the aviation industry has shown initiative by constantly lowering its carbon emission through developments in its planes and flight techniques, it still has a long way to go and a lot more effort to apply in order to meet its goal.

 

If you would like to read more about green aviation: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/urban-expeditions/transportation/green-aviation1/ 

 

 

Photo by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird on Unsplash

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox.

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