“Vatican Announces Major Summit On Climate Change” – ThinkProgress, 16 April 2015

Pope Francis has made climate change one of the cornerstones of his papacy, recently hosting a climate change summit at the Vatican, which he hopes will bridge the gap between climate change and religion.

The conference, called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity. The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development,” was held on April 28 and featured prominent leaders, like the Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Jeffrey Sachs, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who gave the opening speech.

Pope Francis hopes that his followers — and followers of other religions — will see the connection between their faith, environmental conservation, and the future of people. The pope’s upcoming encyclical, to be published in either June or July, will focus on the environment.

During Francis’ inauguration in 2013, he gave a moving speech that fixated on climate change, even calling abuse of the environment a sin. The following year, in 2014, he hosted a five-day conference that targeted sustainability, which brought microbiologists, economists, legal scholars, and various scientific experts to the Vatican to discuss our worsening climate.

April’s summit at the Vatican also hit close to home for Americans. As we all know, many conservatives and members of the GOP have rejected the concept of climate change and have found fault with Francis for being pro-green. Francis is slated to talk to Congress this coming September, and it’s certainly likely that he’ll bring up environmental conservation.

According to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 56 percent, or 169 members, of our current Congress are skeptical of the science backing climate change. Moreover, thirty-five of those 169 members recognize themselves as Catholic. It will be compelling to see if these Congress members’ faith — and the pope’s influence — can sway any of the Congressmen and women.

However, in the final analysis, it is not religion but economic — supply, demand, availability, and prices — environmental, and societal pressures, and technology issues, such as cost and effectiveness, that will determine the final outcome. Having said that, Vatican’s proactive approach will sway public opinion, which could be very significant.

(From ThinkProgress)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 17, 2015

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“Climate change is here, action needed now, says new White House report” – CNN, 6 May 2014

The White House released a new climate change report in early May, as part of President Obama’s attempt to ready the US for the effects of climate change. Obama has made climate change awareness a cornerstone of his second-term, primarily by taking it upon himself by using executive action to implement his Climate Action Plan. The White House report details reasons why Obama wants the US to take precautionary measures against our growing sea levels and progressively unpredictable weather.

However, Obama has been butting heads with conservatives, the fossil fuel industry, and their allies over the debate of whether or not climate change is indeed real, and if carbon emissions from power plants, factories, and cars—or human activity—are the biggest culprits. Conservatives view the report as a means for Obama to push his own agenda, which they believe would damage the economy, and place the burden on middle-income families.

While polling shows that Americans believe that climate change is a result of human activities, they are less concerned about environmental issues than they are about the economy, for instance.

A Gallup poll from March produced interesting results: 34% of those surveyed believe climate change is a “serious threat” to the earth, while 64% didn’t believe that. Over 60% believed climate change is currently happening or going to happen.

The report clarifies the approach of counteracting climate change into two strategies: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation calls for curbing the effects of climate change by reducing the cause; adaptation calls for preparing for the consequences that are currently or likely to occur. The report also analyzes the US by region, pinpointing specific impacts to each region.

The report identifies three major concerns: rising sea levels, increased droughts, and a longer fire season. The report foresees sea levels growing by one to four feet by the end of the century. Those living on tropical islands and on the coast will be the hardest hit. Miami, for example, is spending hundred of millions of dollars to prevent massive flooding. The Great Plains, too, will suffer from prolonged droughts and heat waves, which is likely to cause more wildfires and endanger agricultural and residential areas.

The report upholds regulations that limit carbon emissions, and encourages investing in programs that stop climate change in its tracks.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

May 24, 2014

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“Will All-Aluminum Cars Drive Metals Industry?” – Wall Street Journal, 13 January 2014

Obama’s 2010 mandate that obligates car manufacturers to double new-car average fuel economy by 2025 has pushed the car industry to produce more fuel efficient cars at a faster rate. Ford’s next F-150 — the US’s largest selling vehicle — is currently being redesigned and rebuilt with an all-aluminum body, a huge helping hand to both Obama’s fuel efficiency mandate and the aluminum industry.

Two big players in the Ford’s aluminum round-up are Alcoa and Novelis, the nation’s top aluminum sheet producers. In 2013, both companies spent $1 billion in opening new aluminum sheet factories, tailored to the auto industry. Raw aluminum prices have dropped by more than a third since 2011 — Alcoa and Novelis are hoping their new investments increase their profit margins.

The aluminum industry is making a huge bet. While aluminum is lighter, and better for fuel efficiency and the economy, it might not be better for pocketbooks — aluminum costs almost three times more than steel, the traditional metal used to manufacture cars. Moreover, using aluminum to produce vehicles requires new machinery; machinery used to manufacture cars from steel isn’t compatible with aluminum.

Only Audi and Jaguar — cars that a majority of the public can’t afford — have created all-aluminum vehicles. Ford’s new endeavor will likely trim 700 pounds from the currently-5,000-pound truck; this reduction will allow for a 7% growth in the truck’s fuel economy.

The aluminum market is now only valued at almost $300 per year. If more car companies choose to manufacture all-aluminum cars, then the market can skyrocket to $7.5 billion by 2025, a huge blessing for the aluminum industry, which is undergoing oversupply and low raw aluminum price issues.

The car industry is urging every aluminum company to invest, asking different manufacturers to produce different parts so there isn’t one that could dominate pricing. There is more than enough business for everyone: one contract for a mass-produced part can be valued at more than $50 million.

The question is, will there be enough raw aluminum materials and fabrication capacities to successfully undertake this venture, even though time has come to further enhance recycling and production of recycle-friendly automotive aluminum alloys in commerce? See a publication on this subject by Dr. Das – “The Development of Recycle-Friendly Automotive Aluminum Alloys“.

See also:
A Clean Car Boom
GM Planning Strict Diet for New Pickup Trucks

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 13, 2014

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“Aluminum Can Continues Leadership in Sustainable Packaging as Most Recycled Beverage Container” – PR Newsire, 24 October 2013

The aluminum industry hopes that our recycling rate will reach 75% by 2015, and we are well on our way. According to a report by the Aluminum Association, Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) and Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the rate of recycling for used beverage cans (UBCs) in the US continued to increase in 2012 to 67%, the highest recycling rate since the 1990s and the second highest since 1972.

According to the report, in 2012, the aluminum can industry was able to recycle almost 62 billion domestic and imported cans, and ship 92 billion cans across the US. This also means the US saved energy, equivalent to 19 million barrels of crude oil, enough gas to run 1.7 millions cars for one year. UBCs are great for both the economy and environment because they can be recycled a limitless number of times — a UBC can be back in the store in as few as 60 days.

Our recycling success can be attributed to the importation of cans to the US, from countries like Mexico, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Poland, etc. —  importing cans helps us to bulk up our recycling stream. A lot of money can be made from recycling UBC; it’s become a very attractive enterprise for recycling companies.

Recycling aluminum uses far less energy — 5% — than creating primary aluminum. Still, thousands of cans, amounting to $900 million, are wasted by going to the landfill, affecting our economic and environmental prosperity. The aluminum industry promotes recycling by supporting the Curbside Value Partnership, which helps to bolster participation in curbside recycling programs in the US.

A lot of work has already been done to achieve this 68% recycling rate , more dedicated work  still needs to be done to achieve the self-imposed goal of 75% recycling rate and still lot more to be done to achieve  world champion on Brazil’s  rate of 98%.

A lot of hard work is still to come, and with a lot more rewards — economic, environmental and most importantly, a favorable public opinion. We should be looking for sustainable packaging among the many alternatives.

Useful Related Links:
Phinix Blog
Brazil Remains Aluminum Can Recycling Champion
Aluminium Circle
Brazil remains leader in aluminum can recycling
Novelis hopes to raise US recycling rates with its ‘evercan’ Project

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

November 11, 2013

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