At the Earth Day Party last April at A&P showgrounds, Richard and Madison queried, “The problem of climate change is overwhelming. What simple things can I do to make a difference?”
There are many sources of advice on how to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the changing climate ahead. Climate Karanga Marlborough suggests these to be the top seven for people living on the top of the South Island:
1. Try to cut your fossil fuel consumption. According to the latest Ministry for the Environment (MfE) inventory, carbon dioxide emissions from transportation and energy (electricity generation) made up 40% of New Zealand’s emissions in 2016. Electricity here on the South Island is almost entirely renewable, so electric power here creates minimal emissions. In order to cut fuel use, try driving less and carpooling if you can. If you haven’t used it, get to know your local public transport systems; it may be a good alternative to taking the car. Consider riding a push bike or an e-bike for local trips; it’s good for your health, saves emissions and it’s fun! Consider an electric car if your commute is suitable; and you will save significantly on fuel.
2. If you do need to drive a petrol car and fly, consider purchasing carbon offsets. These are certified programs in which you can purchase carbon dioxide uptake in forestry or other emissions saving projects to offset your emissions. Air New Zealand offers offsets for its flights. EKOS in Takaka and Enviro-mark Solutions of the US offer carbon offsets for a wide range of emissions.
3. Buy local goods and produce. Needless to say, there are fairly large emissions associated with international air and sea shipping. Buying local also helps your local economy.
4. Cut back on meat and dairy. It is an unfortunate fact for New Zealand that cattle, sheep and deer create methane in their digestive systems, which is a much more intense greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Fertiliser application and urine from cattle also create nitrous oxide emissions, which are an even more intense than methane and also help to destroy the ozone layer, increasing the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. According to the MfE, agriculture accounted for 49% of New Zealand’s emissions in 2016. While ongoing scientific research is looking for ways to reduce emissions from farming, cutting back on meat and dairy is a quick way to accomplish this in the meantime.
5. Look for opportunities to sequester (capture and store) carbon dioxide on your land and in your community. These might include tree planting and preservation, and farming practices designed to sequester carbon dioxide in soils, such as “regenerative” farming.
6. Get active. Encourage local councils, businesses, friends and relatives to cut emissions. Submit on the local and national government’s climate change action plans and legislation. There is only so much individuals can do in their personal lives to limit emissions. In order to be fair and effective, action to address climate change will need to be a coordinated and spread throughout our economy, in a national effort.
7. Participate in community preparedness. With wild weather expected in the years ahead, we’ll all need to know our neighbours and be ready when disaster strikes. New Zealanders are already pretty good at this already, thanks to earthquakes, but we’ll need to up our game. I was in Santa Rosa, California, during the firestorms of October 2017 that destroyed 5,300 homes. Neighbours knocking on doors in the middle of the night saved many lives.
One further recommendation is to calculate your family’s carbon footprint. The MfE website has a link to an ecological footprint calculator hosted by Global Footprint Network. Go to: “We all have a role to play”/”What you can do”. Unfortunately, the calculator doesn’t give you a breakdown of your individual emissions sources but you can discover this by running separate test cases (e.g., setting all activities to zero while testing one activity, such as air travel). Enviro-Mark Solutions offers a calculator with which you can purchase offsets.
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.