Thursday, December 4, 2008

Adaptation tech and rural communities in Developing countries

Like everyone else has been saying, there is far too little time to accomplish everything here in Poznan. Every time you decide to do something, you end up skipping out on two other very interesting meetings/events. It is exhausting.
So much has happened since my last blog… For this one I guess I will talk about adaptation.
Today I went to probably my favorite side event yet that discussed adaptation strategies used in the arid climate of Israel. The first speaker talked about various technologies utilizing solar power (Israel is quite dry making it a good climate for solar) and how they are being improved by Israeli scientists. These solar technologies would probably technically be filed under mitigation technologies but the speaker gave several reasons why they could be considered adaptation too. First, he said that Israel’s fossil fuel output is very low compared to other areas and countries. They would not have a huge effect on lowering greenhouse gasses even if they mitigated emissions completely. In my opinion every bit counts but, as a nation that does not produce emissions to any scale even close to larger developed countries, Israel’s mitigation policies will most likely not echo those of the European Union or (hopefully soon) the US. One reason solar technologies are used by the people is because small, developed countries become polluted more quickly than larger countries because the pollution is much more centralized. This pollution would include air pollution caused by traditional power generation. The speaker also said that by using solar technologies, Israeli people are adapting to their harsh climate. Solar water heaters are widely used because they are efficient (50% efficient use of solar energy), simple (no need for complicated active systems like we need in Ithaca because of the worry of frozen pipes) and because of their simplicity, are very inexpensive (only about $1000). The government does not give them subsidies like we receive here because, in Israel, the payback period is an almost garunteed 5 years. This is because each year the water heating systems save about 2000kwh or $200 worth of electricity. The systems are usually warrentied for at least 8 years. What a sweet deal. Although there is heavy use of solar water heaters, there is very little use of photovoltaic panels (PV). This is mainly because, in their current form, they take up a lot of space (much more than water heaters), are relatively inefficient and are very expensive. The speaker said that to install PV systems of 1kwh on 1 million roofs would only offset 3% of Israel’s electrical usage. Israel’s electric demand raises I think 6% per year. Instead, new technologies called concentrated PV are being created that use mirrors to magnify the sun 1000x (wow) and shine it on a small solar converter. These systems can be small and, because they are super efficient, cost only about $1 per watt; an amount close to equivalent to that of conventional power sources. These new systems must be cooled.. a process that created lots of hot water! Solar power and heated water at once. These new systems work best in desert-like conditions but are still better in almost any climate than traditional PV. They are already starting to be created. These could definitely help toward reducing GHGs worldwide. Hopefully, once they are produced in larger numbers (right now they are expensive because they are brand new) these can be brought to rural areas in developing countries that often are without electricity as a way to help them adapt by, for example, powering refrigerators to keep cool vaccines. Hooray.
Another speaker also discussed drip agriculture systems that have begun to be implemented in Israel as a way to help with the water shortage that the country has been dealing with. These systems along with the solar systems have been invented and refined in Israel. Drip agriculture conserves water by watering just the plants. About 98% of water actually reaches the plants compared to a much lower number from traditional agriculture. They also greatly increase crop yields. These systems are pretty sweet but there are problems bringing them to developing countries like LDC’s because they cost some money (the least expensive type that still would greatly conserve water and increase yields, costs around $200) and there is little funding. A delegate from Africa asked how these could be brought to African countries and the delegates had no real answers. Hopefully adaptation technologies will make it more into the climate bill for 2012 but it is difficult to allocate money to give to governments because this money is often used in unintended ways. For now, it seems that the best way to do this is through private humanitarian organizations that can directly fund programs and see that money is received and used in the correct fashion.
I can’t believe I wrote so much… I’m late!

No comments: