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Trading Carbon : November 2011
29 INNOVATORS a social network service hoping to use its social currency to boost demand for EU allowances. Hub Culture's VEN currency is in its infancy, but, Stalnaker said, if it is used at scale, the purchase of basket components could lead to increased demand for the carbon allowances. He did not give an indication of how large this demand could be. VEN currency was launched on Facebook in 2007, but in 2010 Stalnaker added carbon to its pricing basket. "We say the currency is green because at scale the inclusion of carbon in the basket is putting upward demand on carbon credits. As the currency grows, we would expect to begin purchasing credits in matching weightings," Stalnaker said. The currency pricing basket uses Thomson Reuters Point Carbon's spot EU allowance price assessment along with more traditional benchmarks, such as the US dollar and other commodities. In September, VEN became the first digital currency to be listed on Thomson Reuters, a further step to ramping up the scale of its use, Stalnaker said. l November 2011 Geoengineering is a term used to describe the deliberate manipulation of the earth's climate and ecosystems to try to counteract the effects of global warming. Methods generally fall into two main categories, technologies that remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and those that refect sunlight, and heat away from the planet. Ways to remove CO2 can be as simple as traditional methods, such as planting more trees, to newer ideas such as fertilising oceans to increase the amount of CO2 removing plankton living in the sea. However, methods to refect sunlight have more recently be gaining traction with scientists after studies about the effects of volcanic dust in the atmosphere. When large volcanoes erupt, fumes of sulphur dioxide are released into the earth's stratosphere (10--50 kilometres above ground level) which then turn into sulphuric acid droplets that refect sunlight, said Ken Caldeira, climate scientist at The Carnegie Institution for Science and a professor at California's Stanford University. In 1991, when Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, the blanket of sulphur it emitted led to a 0.5--0.6 Celsius drop in the Northern Hemisphere's temperature scientists believe. The same effect as the volcano could be created artifcially by pumping particles into the stratosphere directly, Caldeira said. “This could be done though a single (specially modifed) aeroplane at a cost of estimate of several billion dollars a year," he said. Compared with the $1.9 trillion a year in green tech investment the World Bank said in a June report is needed to avoid "planetary catastrophe", this seems a cheap option. In the coming months, a collaboration between the UK’s Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Oxford universities will fre a helium balloon into the air with a hose attached that can shoot particles into the stratosphere 20 kilometres above the ground. At the September launch of the feasibility study, Matt Watson from Bristol University, who leads the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering programme, said that along with testing the science, the idea of the scheme is to generate debate around this contentious technology. Those against geoengineering warn it could also lead to unforeseen or unintended risks -- for example, on local weather systems, or discouraging people and governments from taking action to reduce carbon emissions if they believe a quick fx is available. Carnegie Institute’s Calderia also said the political issues surrounding its use would make it extremely diffcult to employ. "What if one country used it (to lower temperatures in its part of the world) and then another region experienced droughts or foods and thought the action was to blame? It could lead to military confict,” he said. Another idea, investigated by scientists is cloud whitening. This process involves squirting sea water into the atmosphere which creates dense cloud matter that can refect solar radiation away from the earth. The idea is attributed to scientist John Latham -- who was most recently senior research associate at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in the US -- but it has not yet been trialled in practice. “These (Geoengineering ideas) are mostly just paper and computer models," said Caldeira, adding, however, that they could be developed further in the future. "In cases where you just need to spray (dust or seawater) there is really not much high- tech development needed," he said. Geoengineering conundrums The currency is green because at scale carbon in the basket puts upward demand on credits Stan Stalnaker, Hub Culture
December - January 2011