Welcome to a new year. 2020 was one to remember. I suspect 2021 will also have it's fair share of surprises. It seems to be the times we are living in. So "Expect the Unexpected!"
I feel a need to apologise in advance for the tone of some of this newsletter. On completing it I felt some of the items have a "doomster" feel to them. Unfortunately, when analysed they appear to be very real and well supported by scientific evidence so we need to take them seriously. I believe they do reflect the very real challenges we all face in regard to the wide ranging threats to the planetary ecosystems and climate. Thankfully all the items are not negative and I have been able to finish with something beautiful. So, if you choose to read none of the items below I encourage you to at least go to number 9 if you feel like being uplifted. There is a link to a 4 minute YouTube clip of Amanda Gorman, who is the current "Youth Poet Laureate of the United States" where she recites a poem about Climate Change. She has the ability to move people's hearts and bring tears to your eyes on an issue that is so critical to the future of our beautiful planet Earth.
As she says so eloquently - "The time is now, now, now..."
1) MDC has secured funding for the Te Hoiere Catchment Project.
Funding totalling $1,000,000 has been allocated from the Ministry for the Environment’s Freshwater Improvement Fund over the next five years. This funding provides start-up funds for the Te Hoiere Project and will enable the completion of a Catchment Condition Survey and commencement of on-ground restoration work.Council applied in December 2020 to the Freshwater Improvement Fund to enable work to begin on the Te Hoiere Project. The application was successful in receiving $1,000,000 in funding to accompany $100,000 of existing Council funding. Ministry funding is spread over five years from June 2021 (although a Deed of Contribution will enable work to commence immediately).
On-ground work will include up to 30 km of riparian and significant Wetland fencing work, 6 hectares of riparian planting, planting of 20,000 riparian plants, four education workshops per year and introduction of up to 50 farm packs of dung beetles.9. The funding is expected to generate approximately 22,000 person hours of work (11 FTE) as part of the Jobs for Nature programme. The funding also provides for a part-time project manager to implement the work.
More info is available here if you're interested. It is item 4 on the Environment Committee agenda.
2) Global Temperature in 2020 - Analysis from James Hansen and others.
Global surface temperature in 2020 was in a virtual dead-heat with 2016 for warmest year in the period of instrumental data in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) analysis. The rate of global warming has accelerated in the past several years. The 2020 global temperature was +1.3°C (~2.3°F) warmer than in the 1880-1920 base period; global temperature in that base period is a reasonable estimate of ‘pre-industrial’ temperature. The six warmest years in the GISS record all occur in the past six years, and the 10 warmest years are all in the 21st century. Growth rates of the greenhouse gases driving global warming are increasing, not declining.
Full article available here -
3) Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of EcocideThe Stop Ecocide Foundation, at the request of parliamentarians from the governing parties in Sweden, has convened an Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide. The Panel is tasked with drafting a definition which may be considered by interested state parties for possible proposal to the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as a potential 5th crime under that Statute.
The Panel is seeking to consult interested stakeholders in all regions, in order to obtain a wide range of perspectives to inform the drafting process.
Responses are being sort by February 18th. More info available here -
4) Global ice loss accelerating at record rate, study finds.
The melting of ice across the planet is accelerating at a record rate, with the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets speeding up the fastest, research has found.
The rate of loss is now in line with the worst-case scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on the climate, according to a paper published on Monday in the journal The Cryosphere.
Thomas Slater, lead author and research fellow at the centre for polar observation and modelling at the University of Leeds, warned that the consequences would be felt around the world. “Sea level rise on this scale will have very serious impacts on coastal communities this century,” he said.
About 28tn tonnes of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017, which the authors of the paper calculate would be enough to put an ice sheet 100 metres thick across the UK. About two thirds of the ice loss was caused by the warming of the atmosphere, with about a third caused by the warming of the seas.
Over the period studied, the rate of ice loss accelerated by 57%, the paper found, from 0.8tn tonnes a year in the 1990s to 1.2tn tonnes a year by 2017.
Full article available here -
I'm always interested when reports such as this come out providing evidence which is in line with IPCC worst case scenarios. Of course it goes without saying that if we continue to follow worst case scenario trends the outcomes will be serious for the planet's future. This is something those reading this newsletter all understand. When these scenarios were first laid I suspect many people made the inference that there is a low chance of worst case scenarios eventuating and yet, as time passes and more evidence accumulates. the trends continue in the wrong direction. Very sobering!5) Release of first Climate Commission advice.
Most people will be aware The Climate Commission released their first package of advice for public consultation on February 1st. The advice covers the first three carbon budgets (out to 2035) and provides a detailed plan on how to achieve them.
Robert McLachlan, who is a professor in applied mathematics at Massey University, has written a good article in the Guardian here - It is headed, "New Zealand will need a policy revolution to meet climate commission's brief", and covers the main issues in the release. It concludes that the changes called for will require rapid and sweeping regulation in all areas of society from transport to forestry.
If you are interested in more detail you can listen to Dr Rod Carr (Chair of the Climate Commission) delve into the detail of the Commission’s advice on the steps Aotearoa must take to reach its climate targets, and what this could mean for New Zealanders. The Climate Commission has this webinar and an excellent range of other sessions available on their website here -
Some of those sessions are -
6) A useful article was printed on the Stuff website a week before the Climate Commission release.
It was headed "The change that'll make Rogernomics 'look like a trial period'" and in it they said -
"The biggest economic transformation since the 1980s is coming – and many of us don’t even know it.
The shifts required to run our economy without fossil fuels will make the economic changes of the late 1980s “look like a trial period”, in the words of Climate Change Commission chair Rod Carr.
This time, Carr and his fellow commissioners (and the governments that receive their advice) will need to succeed where leaders of the 1980s failed, by transforming the country without the mass pain and job losses that accompanied Rogernomics.
That’s the plan, but how will we do it? We’ll get our first glimpse on February 1, when the Climate Change Commission releases a draft blueprint to the public.
The headline of next week’s release will be three draft carbon budgets, each putting a cap on how much greenhouse gas the entire country can emit during a five-year period, starting this year and ending in 2035.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw has said he thinks many people will be shocked by how much New Zealand needs to cut its emissions.
But the alternative – inaction and climate catastrophe – would be worse."
The full article is available here -
7) The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review.
Here is an article about another report released in the UK on February 2nd, highlighting that a worst case scenario outcome is imminent for our planet's biodiversity and that if we are to have any chance of addressing this challenge we must completely change our economic systems."Our economies, livelihoods and wellbeing all depend on our most precious asset: nature. We are part of nature, not separate from it.” These are the opening lines of a newly published landmark review of the economics of biodiversity.
Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history and the review aims to create a new economic framework, grounded in ecology, that enables humanity to live on Earth sustainably. “Our demands far exceed nature’s capacity to supply us with the goods and services we all rely on. We would require 1.6 Earths to maintain the world’s current living standards,” says Prof Sir Partha Dasgupta in the review, which was commissioned by the UK Treasury.
“Humanity faces an urgent choice,” he says. “Continuing down our current path presents extreme risks and uncertainty for our economies. Choosing a sustainable path will require transformative change, underpinned by levels of ambition, coordination and political will akin to, or even greater than, those of the Marshall Plan [under which Europe was rebuilt after the second world war].”
Jennifer Morris, CEO of the Nature Conservancy, said: “Science shows us that nature is teetering on a knife-edge. The upcoming UN summits on climate and biodiversity in 2021 provide an unparalleled opportunity to redefine the relationship between people and nature. Our shared planet is counting on all of us to step up and protect our natural world for generations to come.”
Nina Seega, at the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership, said: “The review’s focus on completely rewiring mainstream economic and financial models is key to moving the nature debate on to the agenda of governments, financial regulators and individual financial firms.
“It is especially pertinent to take the opportunity presented by the Covid-19 crisis to align the underpinnings of our economic and financial system with a sustainable future.”
The Dasgupta review concludes: “To detach nature from economic reasoning is to imply that we consider ourselves to be external to nature. The fault is not in economics; it lies in the way we have chosen to practise it. Transformative change is possible – we and our descendants deserve nothing less.”
The full article is available here -
Online copies of the full 600 page review and an abridged version are available here -
8) Top scientists warn of 'ghastly future of mass extinction' and climate disruption.
The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises.
The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood.
"The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.
The delay between destruction of the natural world and the impacts of these actions means people do not recognise how vast the problem is, the paper argues. “[The] mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation.”
“Ours is not a call to surrender – we aim to provide leaders with a realistic ‘cold shower’ of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future,” it adds.
Dealing with the enormity of the problem requires far-reaching changes to global capitalism, education and equality, the paper says. These include abolishing the idea of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing environmental externalities, stopping the use of fossil fuels, reining in corporate lobbying, and empowering women, the researchers argue.
The full article is available here - And the report itself is available in full here -
9) 24 Hours of Reality: "Earthrise" by Amanda Gorman.
I'm relieved to be able to finish this newsletter with something so positive and heartwarming.
You can listen to her poem here -
"It is a hope that implores us at an uncompromising core to keep rising up for an Earth more than worth fighting for."
Nga mihi nui, Budyong.
The Blog posts are a collection of opinion articles written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim.