Monday, October 24, 2016

6 ideas to aid the world water crisis

How important is clean drinking and potable water for household use? 1/3 of the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean drinking water. Water used for cooking, cleaning and bathing must also be clean, as many diseases (especially in developing countries) are water-borne diseases, from bacteria or other microorganisms in unclean water (see: climatechange/health_impacts/waterborne_diseases/). Household (or village) is not currently safe for most of the world's developing countries. In fact, over 10% of the world’s population doesn’t even have access to clean potable water. Meanwhile, over 70% of the earth is covered in water.
water nano-water filter
1(a). The most immediate way to help the world water crisis is to provide filters to people who lack clean water, primarily to the 3rd world and low-income people of the world. This takes relief funds, both established by governments and private charities. There are many promising and emerging water purification technologies such as LifeStraw. "LifeStraw technology was originally introduced in 2005 as an emergency response tool to filter water..." (see: lifestraw)
(more clean water technologies are described here: water-purification-new-technologies-change-world)
Established, available filter technologies also range from: activated charcoal (or other carbon-based materials) to new nanotechnologies which use materials such as graphene, silver and titanium which are made into microscopic filtration membranes. There are a variety of very promising uses of graphene in newly designed and developed filters -(can-graphene-make-the-worlds-water-clean).
More media on nanotechnologies (including graphene materials used in combination with other nanomaterials):
Another great example of the use of graphene in water filters and water systems comes from the company G2O: g2o
“G2O’s graphene filter technology addressing a $2Bn market and reducing energy costs by up to 97%. In addition to use in filter technologies, this company sees applications for its graphene technology in:
  • Environmental maritime applications in aquaculture and oil & gas production
  • Drain water and waste water management
  • Desalination of seawater”
1(b). Develop more water treatment (storm water, river/ stream/ lake water, industrial use water, sewage) plants (waste-water/treatment)
clean_waterdrop_Fotolia2. Improve and create new rainwater collection systems such as the ones found here: rainharvest
3. Water reclamation:
desalination
4. Develop more desalination plants...(please check the desalination article on our website: desalination-clean-water-for-a-thirsty-world and also desalination-quest-quench-worlds-thirst-water
5. Improve water infrastructure (reservoirs, aqueducts, piping networks…) and 6. Utilities (especially in 3rd world countries) to further develop the use of micro-payments via mobile/ smart phones (also great for solar electricity, in addition to water)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Incentives for Energy Efficiency: A Look at Global Practices

Globally, it is undeniable that there has been a proactive approach towards promoting sustainability. Different nations, their respective governments, as well as private organizations, have been incessantly searching for the best ways to protect the environment and promote what is best for it, specifically through the use of renewable energy. In fact, federal and state subsidies have been common in many developed countries, which is a way of encouraging businesses and citizens to be contributory in the quest towards having a cleaner world.

In the rest of this post, we will have a quick look at some of the various federal and state programs to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, including tax incentives and subsidies that are in place in different countries. These programs are meant to attract governments, states, businesses and entire countries, into considering alternatives to promote clean energy.

United States

When it comes to providing tax incentives for the use of green energy, United States is perhaps one of the best. The Solar Investment Tax Credit is one of the most popular examples of such. This will provide tax credit of up to 30% to eligible residential and commercial users. It is in place until 2023, which means that businesses in the solar industry can expect steady growth in their finances. There is also a Production Tax Credit for those who are engaged in the production of electricity using renewable sources. In addition, there are also various federal and state subsidies that are in place. The US Department of Agriculture, for instance, has a program that helps in energy generation and transmission in rural communities. More so, under the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit, combining 20% of biodiesel in various equipment can make an organization eligible for further tax credits.

Clean Energy Incentive Program - The EPA is providing a Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) to reward early investments in renewable energy generation and demand-side energy efficiency measures that generate carbon-free MWh or reduce end-use energy demand.  State participation in the program is optional.   

The Clean Power Plan is no different, as state participation is optional, based on the level of desire for participation in this program. This Plan was stayed by the Supreme Court until further litigation is resolved. However, it will see its day in court and EPA remains fully confident in its legal merits. The Plan rests on a strong legal and technical foundation and is consistent with Supreme Court decisions, EPA’s statutory authority, and air pollution standards that have been put in place to tackle other pollution problems. More info. on the Clean Power Plan:

Germany

China

Sweden

In order to demonstrate their concern towards environmental sustainability, a plan has been enforced since 2005, which has mainly been aimed towards improving energy efficiency and included more than 180 power-intensive companies. In exchange for their participation in the reduction of their energy use, they have been provided tax credits. The government also provides a fee-based system in order to recognize businesses that have been actively pursuing strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada

The country’s government has expressed its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by 2030 compared to its level in 2005. By the same year, the government has vowed to source 90% of its electricity from clean sources. There are various tax incentives in place to encourage wide-scale participation. For instance, there is an Investment Tax Credit for companies performing research and development concerning the use of green energy. The Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance and Canadian Renewable and Conservation Expense are open for eligible businesses, which can effectively lessen their income tax in exchange for the use of renewable energy sources.

Iceland

In this country, the renewable energy that is produced is five times more than what can be consumed by the current population. This means that there is a lot that has yet to be utilized, especially in the form of geothermal and hydro energy. To promote the use of green energy, the country is offering tax credits to investors. BMW is one of the biggest companies to have taken advantage of such. The company noted that their operating costs were reduced to as much as 83% because of the incentives provided by the national government. This was mainly due to the profit tax being reduced from 20 to 15% due to their use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Denmark

Under the Green Growth Strategy, the government envisioned protection of the environment and promotion of the agricultural sector. To do this, the government has released 32 billion DKK annually in order to fund planting costs of farmers. They also provided starter fund for organic biogas production. Such federal and state subsidies reflect efforts of the government to help promote green energy in the country. Tax incentives are also in place for users of renewable energy sources, including solar panels and wind turbines.

Please also see: www.greencitytimes.com/Sustainability-News/feed-in-tariffs-simple-incentives-to-further-renewable-energy.html

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Injustice of the Dakota Access Pipeline



It is fair to say that the injustice presented by the Dakota Access pipeline is the most prominent example of big oil versus our most cherished communities today. Even though the Obama administration halted the construction of the pipeline for now, damage had already been done.

The pipeline was originally proposed to go through Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota, but was rerouted to go through the Standing Rock Sioux tribal sacred grounds south of the capital. This was done because an oil spill near the capital would endanger the water supply near the capital, and it was seen as posing less potential damage in the case of a spill, to move the pipeline route near the tribal reservation.

The Army Corps of Engineers designated tribal land as "needed" for shipping crude oil through the Dakotas to Illinois. The land has been the site of construction of the Dakota Access pipeline that began to take place, and subsequently was stopped by the Obama administration, this September. 


The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is land west of the Missouri River in South Dakota (standingrock.org/history). A portion of this Native American land in South Dakota was designated for the pipeline, without consent from the Standing Rock Sioux, and without yielding to the concerns of the EPA and two other federal agencies.
"The EPA, the Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation echoed those concerns [of the tribe] in public comments on the Army Corps' draft environmental assessment." dakota-access-pipeline-standing-rock-sioux-army-corps-engineers-approval-environment

Prior to the Obama administration's actions to stop the pipeline, bulldozers had already begun to go over the tribe's sacred ground in the area. This is damage done to the Native American's land already.
"Dakota Access Pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners brazenly used bulldozers to destroy our burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts," Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said. 
"They did this on a holiday weekend, one day after we filed court papers identifying these sacred sites. The desecration of these ancient places has already caused the Standing Rock Sioux irreparable harm. We're asking the court to halt this path of destruction."full story
We need clean energy not more dirty fossil fuel infrastructure and energy, and this pipeline would provide nothing but damage to this land, endanger the water in the Missouri River, on which the surrounding population depends, and further the destruction brought by climate change. People in Washington, including politicians and lobbyists, need to take action to get the stay on the Clean Power Plan lifted, and stop construction for fossil fuels now. 
Clean energy is the way of the future, providing more tenable jobs and a more viable, vibrant future. Fossil fuel infrastructure will soon be outdated, as the clean energy revolution reaches full steam. This pipeline and all proposed pipelines show humanity the route backwards, not forwards. Clean energy is the wave of the future, not fossil fuels. renewables-replace-fossil-fuels
Oil pipelines already scar the earth with their antiquated, outdated means to provide humanity with energy. Native Americans have used renewable energy sources for centuries, thousands of years even, and it's up to for the rest of the human population on the earth to catch up. Native Americans have lived in harmony with nature successfully for millennia
"Renewable energy – low-tech or high, large-scale or small – harnesses the natural forces upon which much of traditional Native American culture revolves, Henry Red Cloud, a pioneering Native American renewable energy advocate and entrepreneur, points out. Akin to solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal energy, 'Our language, our song, our cultural traditions are based on the Sun, the winds, the Earth and its waters,' Red Cloud, a descendant of Lakota-Northern Cheyenne chiefs, said." environmental-justice/native-americans-renewable-energy-environmental-justice/

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Elements of The Clean Power Plan still move forward

I
Republicans in the House and Senate deny climate change exists, that it is man-made, or that it is significantly influenced by man-made events, to the tune of over 50% of their party members in Congress. Due to that political environment (among many other poor justifications for this action, or, rather, inaction), the Supreme Court has issued a stay (pending further legislation) on The Clean Power Plan.

There is no sound excuse for this stay. Republicans in Washington and elsewhere say that The Clean Power Plan threatens coal and oil jobs. Jobs relating to fossil fuels are a dying prospect, and it serves these workers to get re-trained now in clean energy, the job producer of the future.

Jobs such as manufacturing, distribution, construction and management abound in the clean energy and clean transportation industries. Just creating a wind or solar farm, biomass/ biofuel plants, sustainable mass transit for cities, alternative fuel for cars and buses, and working on the development of an alternative fuel infrastructure, involves hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs from each of those sectors in clean energy industries. Jobs are created as the energy farms are constructed and the energy harvesting mechanisms are developed and transported. More jobs are created as the energy farms are maintained and energy efficiency concerns on the farms are addressed.


Many jobs which are produced by efforts from states to comply with The Clean Power Plan actually remain in the fossil fuel industry. One example is combined cycle and combined heat and power plants (which often use natural gas, or a gas/ renewable energy mix). Another is carbon capture and sequestration/ carbon capture use and storage (coal and petroleum).

This Clean Power Plan was originally proposed by the Obama administration and the EPA, and in effect last year from August 2015 until it was paused by the Supreme Court in Feb. 2016. The CPP limits the carbon pollution produced by fossil fuel power plants when the plan is implemented and enforced as well as incentivising the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. The Court should lift the stay, so that The Clean Power Plan can move forward with its full intent.

However, the EPA is still rewarding states that move forward with elements of The Clean Power Plan. The EPA is incentivizing states that implement early action to limit carbon pollution from fossil fuel plants (coal and petroleum) by implementing energy efficiency standards and/ or states that begin switching to natural gas (still a fossil fuel, but cleaner* than coal and petroleum) and renewable energy. 

Early acting states get extra credit toward their overall emissions targets. The exact targets will be determined by further legislation as the stay is lifted (assuming the stay is lifted sometime soon after Democrats do well in the upcoming election, which is a pretty safe assumption).

Elements of The Clean Power Plan are still being moved forward upon, and the momentum from before the Supreme Court stay is being continued, despite the stay, by as many as 20 states. These elements include carbon pollution reduction/ limits for existing fossil fuel power plants, increase in development of carbon capture and storage in new plants, the use of natural gas combined cycle plants (vs. traditional fossil fuel plants), the expansion of renewable energy projects and carbon neutral construction. The reduction of coal burned in power plants, in general, is an important factor: utilities-cut-coal-use-amid-clean-power-plan-fight

For example, California is leading the way with a statewide goal to run on 30-50% renewable energy (even up to 100% in some cities), as well as committing to aim for zero-net energy (ZNE) buildings for all new construction within the next 10-15 years. Many utilities, also, such as Duke energy in North Carolina, see the light, and are setting ambitious goals for including 25-40% of renewable energy sources in their energy mix. SDG&E in San Diego, California, offers 50% and 100% solar energy programs to their customers as options for their energy source from the utility. This program is surely an excellent example of the future of energy in the states.

*over the long-term, natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil; but the short-term release of methane into the atmosphere from the burning of natural gas is a much more potent (shorter lifespan) greenhouse gas than CO2.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

European green building is leading the way forward



It often seems like smaller countries are doing the most to tackle climate change; nations like Switzerland and Austria have some of the best recycling systems in the world, while the likes of Bhutan and Costa Rica are doing more than anyone to become carbon neutral nations. However, there are some major Western European nations that are making interesting attempts to improve their carbon footprints.

In 2015, France made it a legal requirement for all new buildings in commercial zones to cover part of their rooftops in plants or solar panels. This helps reduce the amount of energy it takes for these buildings to be heated in the winter, or cooled in the summer. The law could have gone further, and was watered down from original plans to cover the whole roofs of every new buildings in such a fashion, but this is still an inventive and hugely productive way to make buildings more energy efficient. 

The United Kingdom has made a legally binding commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 80% come 2050. Currently, the UK Green Building Council is running an exciting project to refurbish its office in a creative, clever, and environmentally friendly fashion. 

It hopes this office will have the lowest measured fit-out carbon footprint in the UK, as well as to use 98% recycled materials over the course of the redesign. They have also worked to encourage major cities in the UK to take on environmental challenges, helping places like Manchester and Birmingham embrace innovative, refreshing green design. 

Some of the most impressive green buildings in the world are to be found in Germany. The city of Freiburg boasts several of them, including the Solarsiedlung (Solar Settlement) and the Sonnenschiff (Sun Ship), which is a small, vibrant community powered entirely by solar energy in the city district of Vauban.  

What's particularly impressive is just how energy efficient the Reichstag (Germany's parliament) is- the building generates 80% of the energy it uses itself, and there is a special insulation system to prevent unnecessary heat loss. It all comes together to make the Reichstag one of the world's most energy efficient major buildings. 




Stefano Boeri's jaw dropping 'Bosco Verticale,' or 'Vertical Forest,' consists of two skyscrapers with trees planted on special platforms. These skyscrapers are tall enough to sustain more trees than an entire hectare of forest could. On a bright, sunny day, the Bosco Verticale really is one of the most stunning things in Milan, as lush vegetation springs confidently forth from the skyscrapers, turning the skyline a delightfully vivid green. 


Of course, there is a practical purpose to this as well, as the extra trees guzzle up CO2 and dust particles and emit clean oxygen, as well as bringing natural warmth to the building, and protecting people and houses from sustained exposure to harmful sun rays. Gutsy projects like this may make all the difference in the future in ensuring our cities remain appealing places to live.


Top 5 recycling nations - RANKED


Many countries pay lip service to the importance of recycling, but which ones do it best? Here are the five nations who recycle the greatest percentage of their overall waste...

5) SWITZERLAND: The Swiss national character places a high value on order and cleanliness- you can spend a couple of nights in jail simply for taking the recycling out on the wrong day- so it's no surprise they are among the best recyclers in the world. It actually costs a Euro to simply throw your trash away rather than recycle it. The government don't just bribe and coerce people to recycle though; there are also bottle banks at every supermarket, and free paper collections once a month. Switzerland are busy creating a culture where it is actively unusual not to recycle. 

4) SOUTH KOREA: South Korea spends 2% of it's GDP on a Green Growth Plan, hoping to deliver environmentally friendly economic prosperity. Its recycling industry is booming, and major companies are on board. Each apartment block has a fastidious recycling system similar to the Swiss model, where recycling is free but merely throwing items in the trash costs you a small amount of money. Wherever you are in the world, it seems economic incentives are an effective way of convincing people to care about recycling.

3) BELGIUM- 
Some people consider Belgium's recycling program to be the best in Europe. The Flemish part of Belgium has the highest waste diversion rate on the continent, with nearly three quarters of its waste getting recycled or composted. What's more, the Flemish economy has grown significantly since 2000, yet the level of waste generation has remained consistently low; usually economic growth goes hand in hand with a rise in the production of waste. 

2)
GERMANY: Happily living up to their stereotype of efficiency, Germany does the best job of recycling its waste of any country on the planet. An average house will have five different types of bin, with four of them dedicated to categories of materials that can be recycled. The system can often prove daunting for foreign visitors, which goes to demonstrate just how much more advanced Germany is compared to the rest of the world in its attitude towards recycling. Indeed, with four of the countries on this list being in Central Europe, it seems that area of the world is setting the best example for everyone else.

1)
 
AUSTRIA: Austria has taken a comprehensive approach to encouraging its citizens to recycle. The combination of economic incentives, the successful implementation of education and training programs, and memorable advertising campaigns have thoroughly convinced Austrian citizens of the value recycling, and helped turn Austria into the biggest recycler in the world. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

The REAL Motive Behind Trump’s wall…in Ireland


Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, in County Clare, home of Doonbeg Golf Links course, a course Trump owns in Ireland.


Donald Trump wants to build a seawall to protect one of his golf courses (in Ireland) due to, of all things, the rising sea levels that will undoubtedly result from climate change. He is a huge climate change denier, but global warming will cause rising sea levels and an increase in extreme weather events that will, in all certainty, threaten his ocean-front golf course in Ireland -(http://time.com/4345367/donald-trump-climate-change-golf-course/).

Yet, global warming is a “hoax”? Hmmm, how does THAT work?

Donald Trump and his campaign is entirely reactive and then pandering. Of course global warming is a hoax because many of his voters believe it’s a hoax. But his rhetoric is more like a bad tick. Many of his voters are xenophobic, or even outright bigots (sorry to those Donald Trump supporters who are sincerely what you would call good people) - (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/06/racial-anxiety-is-a-huge-driver-of-support-for-donald-trump-two-new-studies-find). 

If he and his campaign feel that his supporters will like a speech that day around anti-immigration, or “closing off the borders”, that’s what they will do. If his completely ignorant views on climate change seem like good fodder for his supporters, that day, that will be included in the day’s speech. Facts notwithstanding.

Facts are not apparently important to Donald Trump or Trump’s campaign. Money is. Power is. The truth behind Trump’s motive to try and defund climate initiatives and play ignorant to climate science is that, that is what his voters want to hear. Science, facts and even common sense play no role in Trump’s rhetoric. He plays off people’s ignorance, gullibility and fear – entirely.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Natural Gas vs. Coal, A Clear Choice (and the winner is...)

                                Natural Gas vs. Coal

Gas is Cleaner

Natural gas is extremely abundant, and burns far cleaner than coal. With the recent advances in the drilling technology known as hydraulic fracturing (often called “fracking"), vast new resources of natural gas are being brought forth on practically a daily basis. How much cleaner is natural gas than coal? The difference is dramatic. According to the Worldwatch Institute, natural gas produces just over half the quantity of greenhouse gasses than coal, in general, over the course of the production and use of the energy source. 

That figure includes taking a variety of factors into account, such as methane "flares and leaks” associated with natural gas extraction (which must be included in the assessment). Another advantage is that natural gas rigs tend to be less obtrusive within the environment when compared to strip mining and the large-scale terraced pits of major coal operations.

Big Greenhouse Gas Reductions

In the past five years, the United States has actually reduced its greenhouse gas emissions back to 1996 levels, or by more than 12%. Much of the credit has been attributed to a significant shift to natural gas to power major U.S. electrical utilities. Coal has fallen from supplying just more than 50% of U.S. total energy output to just below 35%, while natural gas increased from 15% in 2005 to around 35% by 2015. Because natural gas burns far cleaner than coal, this shift has undoubtedly been a factor in the reduction of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere. 

Note that other factors have reduced the overall production of greenhouses gases as well. Examples are the increased use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, as well as a flat economy in which industry was using less energy, people driving less in general; choosing sustainable mass transit options, car sharing, carpooling or biking. In addition, the use of more efficient cars has helped to reduce GHGs. Still, the reduction of coal usage and the increase of natural gas is a primary influence.

Controversy

Of course, the boom in natural gas production has not been without controversy. The process of hydraulic fracturing has spawned widespread protest, especially from environmental groups, who say the process has not been proven to be safe. Fracking uses dangerous chemicals in the extraction process. Other factors also detract from the benefits of natural gas. For example, hydraulic fracturing requires large amounts of silica sand and enormous quantities of water to accomplish the task. 

Many areas are being mined for sand, as well as the shale rock the fossil fuel is trapped in. As a result, many local citizens are alarmed about the numerous sandy pits that are opening gaping holes in once pristine landscapes as well as the damage caused near productive farmland given over to natural gas production. In addition, ground water has been polluted by methane leaks. In general, however, the advantages of natural gas over coal are significant across the board when all factors of economics, energy production and ecology are considered.


Green City Times is a resource on sustainability, urban planning, renewable energy, sustainable mass transportation, energy efficiency and green building. Find facts on renewable energy including: hydroelectric (from dams, mills, waves, currents and tides), solar, wind, geothermal, biomass (and biofuel). Also get info. about everything from recycling to clean coal…
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Sunday, May 15, 2016

The great features of a plug-in hybrid car


Plug-in hybrids use roughly 30% to 60% less petroleum than conventional vehicle, and with the advanced drive designs in most cutting-edge hybrids, the fuel efficiency is up to 3x higher (or more). Especially in light of the historic COP21 conference in Paris, and the worldwide drive toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG's), hybrid cars are gaining global importance. Here are few things the driving public should know when deciding whether or not to buy a hybrid car:

The average reduction of the most environmentally harmful GHG's is 50% in hybrid cars vs. standard gasoline burning cars. Much of the public is well aware of how good the hybrid is for the environment, but are concerned about the safety of these cars. 
Autos with electric motors must adhere to guidelines detailed in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and typically require less maintenance than their gasoline-only-fueled counterparts. The batteries in the best-selling hybrid and electric car, the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf, have historically failed in less than 0.01% of the cars. Also, the entire battery is recycled – when it does reach the end of its useful life.
There are definitely a few other promising modes of sustainable transportation, but hybrid cars remain the best bet for the day-to-day needs of families that must commute, but are not satisfied with local public transit options, or that have young children.   



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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sign up with the Rainforest Alliance!




Take the first step toward helping the Rainforest Alliance in their mission to preserve threatened ecosystems, protect wildlife and provide benefits to forest-dependent communities around the world—all while curbing climate change and encouraging companies to behave responsibly. 

Become a Sustainable Giver by signing up for monthly donations with the Rainforest Alliance! Help to provide the crucial, ongoing support they need to partner with more communities and safeguard the ecosystems that make it possible for us all to live healthily and happily. The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization that works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Where did "normal" weather go?


Since when does every winter bring catastrophic cold fronts causing life to come to a standstill? Summers now are expected to bring hellish wildfires and drought? The world now has to expect epic hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding. And all this is normal these days?

The USA is a mid-latitude, temperate country. We have, or are supposed to have, a relatively mild climate, especially compared to countries in less favorable latitudes. Wiki defines a temperate climate as:
"Average yearly temperatures in these regions are not extreme, not burning hot nor freezing cold. Temperate means moderate."

Temperate means mild, moderate. If you're a temperate person, you are calm, reasonable.

How “calm and reasonable” have extreme weather events, brought about by the planet’s rejection of the virus of fossil fuels, been as of late? Let’s review:



Meanwhile, the mainstream media continues to bury its head in the sand and act like this is a surprise; this unusual, freakish, weather that upsets human life everywhere, including America? Well guess what? Man-made climate change doesn’t care where you live.


Why did Hurricane Patricia (pictured below) get to be the strongest hurricane on record? The answer is human-caused climate change - greenhouse gas emissions brought about by the burning of fossil fuels.