Here is a mid-year newsletter with plenty of material if you have a wet day and want to browse. You may find one or two items of interest for you?
1) Marlborough District Council Long Term Plan 2021 - 2031 -
CKM made a submission to the LTP and also took the opportunity to speak at the LTP Hearings. Councillors were attentive and respectful and our input seemed to be well received. You can view the submission and the presentation made at the LTP Hearings session here -
2) NIWA Report presented to MDC councillors and staff -
This report on Climate Change projections and impacts for Marlborough was prepared for Council by NIWA (NIWA report 2121031WN) in order to inform Council of areas where Climate change impacts may require further investigation and actions. The report summarises likely changes in temperature, rainfall, drought, and sea level rise in the Marlborough District over the remainder of this century, and discusses the probable impacts of these changes on river flows, droughts, forestry, horticulture, and ecosystem and human health.
It was presented to the Environment Committee by Gregor Macara on April 22nd, 2021.
It's well worth looking at just to see the the Executive Summary. Drought potential is projected to increase across Marlborough, with annual accumulated Potential Evapotranspiration Deficit (PED) totals increasing with time and increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. By 2040, PED totals are projected to increase by 50-150 mm. By 2090, PED totals are projected to increase by 50-200 mm (medium concentration pathway) or 75-250 mm (high concentration pathway). Another significant projection is that mean annual low flow (MALF) magnitudes are expected to decrease across both greenhouse gas concentration pathways and future time periods for most catchments. A decrease in MALF is expected to exceed 50% for most of the river systems in the region with increased greenhouse gas concentration and time.
The full pdf file can be downloaded here -
3) Gravel Bed Rivers National Project Update to Council -
A declining trend in Wairau Aquifer levels has been observed at western Wairau Plain MDC monitor wells since 1973, which pre-dates the Marlborough wine industry. While the declining trend of around 1 metre over 50 years may not appear large at an average of 20 mm/year, the risk is if it continues over the very long-term, groundwater springs may dry up and ultimately there could be seawater intrusion of our coastal aquifers. Given the depleted storage volume of the Wairau Aquifer after a series of dry summers since 2014 and minor Wairau River activity through the past winter recharge period, current levels of consented abstraction are also compounding the issue. Identifying the drivers via the Gravel Bed Rivers Project (GBR) is a priority project for MDC, given the longer term regional scale implications for flood control, reliability of consented water consents, wetland health and security of coastal groundwater supply. The causes of the decline are known to be incremental and long-acting. These drivers have been actively investigated over the past decade, but research is challenging because most of what goes on is hidden beneath the surface with measurements often indirect in nature.
This is very interesting research for anyone concerned about the future reliability of water supplied from the Wairau Aquifer, as the impacts projected in the NIWA report take effect in the next few decades.
You can see the original report to the MDC Environment Committee from June 2020 on the MDC website here (Agenda item 5) and the update is available from the April 2nd, 2021 Environment Committee meeting here (Agenda item 4)
4) Another Stuff article from Tom -
Tom has just had another article printed in the local paper and on Stuff. The latest one is titled "Have you heard about the Climate Emergency?". It's well worth a read if you haven't already seen it.
You can check it out here -
5) Does Petroleum Industry Spying Really Matter?
Some of you will know Dr Terrence Loomis who was a CKM member until recently before moving back to the Gisborne area. He recently had an Opinion piece printed on the Scoop website of which there is an extract below.
Nicky Hager’s latest revelations about security firm Thompson and Clark’s ‘spying’ on climate activists and environmental organisations on behalf of the oil and gas industry and big GHG emitters makes entertaining reading.
But it does beg the question “So what?”
After all, most of this was already known from media coverage and academic research. Certainly environmental groups knew they were being watched and their communications monitored. Responses to Hager’s report seem to suggest this kind of clandestine information gathering was repugnant, immoral, even dangerous because the spies were photographing school children. Or because petroleum companies used it to thwart protest actions.
It IS about the exercise of power, I’ll grant you that.
The real reason such practices are dangerous and deserve exposure is what petroleum companies and PEPANZ actually do with the information besides preventing disruption to their conferences and business operations.
You can read the full Opinion piece here -
6) Our food is an existential threat beyond climate change -
This article was written by Jack Santa Barbara from Tasman who is a active member of the Nelson/Tasman Climate Forum.
Studies show our food system is unsustainable; it will not endure. We will only embrace the solutions if we first recognise the serious dilemma we have created with our economic success. The Climate Change Commission has received over 15,000 replies to its Draft Advice Report regarding how NZ can deal with climate change. This level of response bodes well for how many of us are engaged with this important issue.
But what about all the other existential threats that we continue to face which are not getting attention? In point of fact, there is not a single mainstream human designed system we rely on daily that is sustainable.
If something is unsustainable it means it will not last. If none of the systems we rely on daily are sustainable, what are the implications for our wellbeing if they cannot endure?
Take our most basic energy needs – food production. It takes more energy to produce our food than the food provides. Think about that for a moment. Our food system is unsustainable; it will not endure. This conclusion was reached by both a United Nations study, and another by the World Business Council for Social Development.
The full article is available here -
7) Food and Fossil Fuels -
The fossil fuels required to grow, harvest, process, and distribute food makes up a significant part of the food Footprint. Although it wasn’t always the case, today we are firmly in the age of fossil fuel. The fossil fuels used to grow our food are invisible when we are enjoying our meals, which is why we use infographics to reveal how much fuel it takes to provide the food on our plates. They depict how many calories of fossil fuel are used, from farm to store, for every calorie of food we consume. This does not include the additional energy required to transport the food from the store nor to power your lights, stove, refrigerator, or dishwasher at home.
Fossil fuels are everywhere, and they are one of the main reasons that humanity is in ecological overshoot. In industrial agriculture, crops are dependent on large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers, petroleum-based agricultural chemicals, pumps that run irrigation, diesel for machinery, and oil for food distribution across the world. The green revolution focused on creating exponentially higher crop yields with decreased dependency on human labor, but it also boosted our food system’s dependence on fossil fuels.
While our food system can provide more food, it is now more dependent than ever on finite resources and inexpensive fossil fuel energy. It is no wonder that, in many cases, our food is embedded with more “fossil fuel calories” than nutritional calories. For example, in Slovenia it takes 7 calories of fossil fuel to provide every 1 calorie of meat consumed. The number of calories of fossil fuel required varies by food group and among countries.
What does moving away from fossil fuel-dependent agriculture mean for us? It starts with recognizing that we cannot take our current situation for granted. Our current food and resource security is heavily subsidized by cheap and versatile fossil fuel, which has a “shelf life” that is about to expire. We can take our future into our own hands. With our forks. We can choose what food we’ll eat and the types of agriculture we’ll support. Together we can opt for a future where those who feed us are fairly compensated for their work, including the work of protecting and maintaining nature’s regenerative power.
You can read the full article and see the comparison between different countries here -
Unfortunately NZ is not one of the countries included on the list but it is still very interesting to check it out.
8) Better Futures Forum (BFF) Climate Commission submission.
I was very impressed with the BFF submission to the Climate Commission and highly recommend reading it. In their Overview they state -
"The impression we have from the advice report is that the Climate Change Commission is proposing a more or less ‘business as usual’ scenario, in which we simply replace our vehicle fleet with electric vehicles, use a bit more public and active transport, reduce the number of dairy cows on farms without changes to farming approaches, marginally reduce inorganic waste to landfill and increase carbon stores by planting native trees.
None of these ideas are revolutionary, nor transformative. We recognise that they do represent some level of change, that change can be challenging, and that there may be some public and, therefore, political resistance to transformative, systemic change. But the report must avoid contributing to a ‘cooling discourse’ on climate action, described by Sarah Monod de Froideville as communications that “settle concerns about harmful activity that are gathering momentum through acknowledging the harm and appearing to address the activity in some manner...so that harmful activity can continue or resume unopposed.” BFF’s view is that a ‘business as usual’ approach will not ensure our survival; particularly viewed in the context of the wide range of environmental challenges that stem from climate change. Transformative, systemic change is required for humans to continue to survive and thrive on this planet. That message, however difficult to hear, must be communicated: and it is the Commission that must do that."
You can access the full submission here -
9) Climate change activists' Mill Rd legal challenge 'a sign of things to come' -
Auckland councillor Chris Darby says a legal challenge against the $1.4 billion Mill Road project by climate change advocates All Aboard Aotearoa is a sign of what's to come. The group applied for a judicial review of the Waka Kotahi NZTA-led project in the High Court in Wellington on Thursday. (March 25th) The 21.5km proposed Mill Rd arterial route, which would provide an alternative road between Manukau and Drury, would run parallel to and east of State Highway 1. Construction was expected to start next year and be completed by 2028.
The proposed route of the $1.4 billion Mill Rd project. All Aboard Aotearoa is a coalition made up of Generation Zero, Lawyers for Climate Action, Bike Auckland, Women in Urbanism, Movement and Greenpeace and its stated goal is to decarbonise the country's transport by 2030. The group asked the High Court to set aside the decisions to fund and build Mill Rd, arguing it undermines the Crown’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and Zero Carbon Act, and because the Government and Waka Kotahi did not properly consider the greenhouse gas emissions impacts of the project.
“Allowing the status quo – climate inaction - is in fact direct action towards an unsustainable future in which our children face severe environmental degradation and exponentially rising costs,” said Jenny Cooper of Lawyers for Climate Action.
You can read two articles about the "All Aboard Aotearoa" group action here and here -
This project has now been dropped by the government, as of June 4th. More info here -
10) Some more myths busted about pollution associated with construction and operation of EV's compared to ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles -
This animated video produced by Mark Linthicum is very informative and at times quite funny. It illustrates how much energy is required for the drilling, pumping and transport of oil. It gives you the exact figures of how wasteful it is to make petrol cars. In the US, there are an estimated 435,000 oil wells that use pump jacks. The estimated energy for these wells is 4300 GWh each month. That's a lot of energy to only extract the oil out of the ground. If you were to use this electricity to power electric cars directly, you could power 15 million electric cars for a month. What about lithium mining? The video highlights that Australia is the number one mining country in the world. Australia’s concern is with oil mining that pollutes and causes more damage to the planet than any lithium mining that takes place.
You can see the YouTube video here -
11) Australian government refuses to address future liquid fuel risks -
This article looks at the unsustainability of the Australian oil-fuelled transportation system. It identifies major impacts to the Australian economy from inadequate recognition of the challenges arising from the transition away from fossil fuels.
The Commonwealth Government is planning to spend $90 billion on submarines. Submarines that may never be used in conflict, and in the event of a major war, are unlikely to change the outcome. Yet only a measly $200 million is allocated for something as important as powering/fuelling the nation’s future transportation system which we all depend upon every day in perpetuity. Clearly, there is an issue with the Government’s priorities.
The Commonwealth Government has recently released a Discussion Paper on its Future Fuels Strategy. It is perhaps reasonable to expect that such a strategy may seek to reduce Australia’s oil consumption, improve fuel security and reduce emissions in a timely fashion. The current strategy, even if successful in meeting the vague and ill-defined objectives contained therein, is unlikely to achieve any of these imperatives. Two words can describe the proposed strategy: woefully inadequate!
It is now apparent, based on the Future Fuels Strategy and other documents such as the Interim Liquid Fuels Security Report, that the Commonwealth Government has little understanding of the liquid fuel predicament that Australia faces. A predicament perhaps best described by Dr Simon Michaux:
“We think we are going to replace a complex industrial ecosystem that took more than a century to build with the support of the highest calorifically dense source of energy the world has ever known (oil) in cheap abundant quantities, with easily available credit, and unlimited mineral resources. At a time when we have very expensive energy, a fragile finance system saturated in debt, not enough minerals, and an unprecedented human population, embedded in a deteriorating environment.”
The full article can be viewed here -
12) Heat slows down plants - The implications for reduced carbon sequestration from growing trees highlighted in this article are sobering.
The results are a wake-up call, says one of the study’s authors, University of Waikato soil scientist Louis Schipper. “The biosphere has been harvesting our emitted CO2 and we assumed that would carry on. But this data shows the size of this terrestrial carbon sink will go down. It blows me away how near this is.” Add to this the increasing risk of wildfire and drought, and stressed plants’ lessened resilience to pathogens, and it’s clear, says Schipper, that we can’t count on “this idea of just planting trees”.
Plants are our best technology for soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but a new study shows the world’s forests and grasslands could flip over to become a source rather than a sink of CO2. Currently, the world’s green spaces absorb about a third of the emissions we produce by burning fossil fuels. But at the current rate of warming, plants’ ability to inhale more carbon dioxide than they exhale will slow down, then reverse, shrinking the carbon sink to almost half its size by as early as 2040.
A study published in Science Advances in January looked at the link between temperature and photosynthesis (the process plants use to turn carbon dioxide and the sun’s energy into oxygen and sugars for their growth) and respiration (which releases carbon dioxide). Researchers analysed datasets from a global network of meteorological sensors known as FLUXNET, which tracks a suite of atmospheric variables, including carbon fluxes above different biomes.
The study found that photosynthesis has a much lower ideal temperature, between 18°C and 28°C depending on the type of plant, than respiration, which means that as global temperatures continue to climb, photosynthesis will slow while respiration keeps rising. Some ecosystems in warmer parts of the world, including the Amazon, already reach this threshold during certain times of the year. Earlier studies on specific trees suggested that some would grow faster at higher atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, but this wider study found no such effect. Nor did it find any evidence that plants adjust to perform higher rates of photosynthesis at higher temperatures.
The Science Advances study can be viewed here -
And the full NZ Geographic article can be viewed here -
13) New battery technology for large scale renewable energy storage -
I’m very interested in new battery technologies. This video looks at the liquid metal battery which appears to have great potential for large scale storage for renewable energy production from wind farm and solar farms. They are very efficient and can cycle thousands of times and still retain over 99% efficiency. Also component parts are all readily recyclable.
You can watch the YouTube video here -
14) Some home truths about why divestment pays-
In a few months, a small British financial think tank will mark the tenth anniversary of the publication of a landmark research report that helped launch the global fossil-fuel-divestment movement. As that celebration takes place, another seminal report—this one obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the world’s largest investment house—closes the loop on one of the key arguments of that decade-long fight. It definitively shows that the firms that joined that divestment effort have profited not only morally but also financially.
The original report, from the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative, found something stark: the world’s fossil-fuel companies had five times more carbon in their reserves than scientists thought we could burn and stay within any sane temperature target. The numbers meant that, if those companies carried out their business plans, the planet would overheat
“Any investment fund looking to protect itself against losses from coal, oil, and gas companies now has the largest investment house in the world showing them why, how, and when to protect themselves, the economy, and the planet.” In short, the financial debate about divestment is as settled as the ethical one—you shouldn’t try to profit off the end of the world and, in any event, you won’t.
What would happen if the world’s largest investment firm issued that advice and its clients followed it? Fifteen trillion dollars plus twenty-five trillion is a lot of money. It’s roughly twice the size of the current U.S. economy. It’s almost half the size of the total world economy. It would show that a report issued by a small London think tank a decade ago had turned the financial world’s view of climate upside down.
The full article is available here -
15) Chasing Carbon Unicorns -
According to a new report, net zero targets many governments are pursuing are distractions from the urgent need to drastically reduce carbon emissions. Net zero targets rest on carbon capture and storage technologies. These technologies include direct air capture, bioenergy capture, mineralization, and enhanced weathering.
But net zero targets described by NDCs and businesses are “deceptions” and “distractions,” according to a new report by Friends of the Earth International (FoEI).
“Net zero is a trick because the assumption is that you can emit carbon so long as you have some solution to sequester the carbon,” said Meena Raman, legal adviser and senior researcher at the Third World Network (TWN).
“Corporations, especially those in the Global North that are already making billions off the climate crisis, get to take cover under ‘net zero’ to continue polluting,” added Jaron Browne, organizing director at the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ).
A recent, unrelated commentary published in Nature supports the same conclusions: “Sometimes the [net zero] targets do not aim to reduce emissions, but compensate for them with offsets.”
A foundational fallacy in net zero targets, the FoEI report claims, rests in a misrepresentation of the carbon cycle. The carbon cycle can be divided into two parts based on timescale. One is the biogenic cycle, in which carbon circulates between the atmosphere, land, and oceans. The other is the slower, nonbiogenic cycle in which carbon circulates between fossil fuels stored underground and the atmosphere. The biogenic cycle can occur within hours, days, and years. The nonbiogenic cycle takes hundreds of thousands, even millions, of years.
Net zero targets conflate the two cycles, the FoEI report claims. Targets assume all the carbon that’s already circulating in the atmosphere as well as all the carbon that will be emitted by fossil fuels can be safely and effectively sequestered. In other words, carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from fossil fuel use is in addition to “the carbon that is already cycling between the active pools. We are putting significant stress on all these pools by pushing them to take up additional fossil CO2.…We cannot just stuff the geosphere (i.e., CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels) into the biosphere,” the report says.
The FoEI report notes misrepresentations of science and technology, as well as the prominent presence of politics in determining net zero targets. It also identifies fundamental questions about whether such technologies can actually be developed at the required scale, identifying them as “carbon unicorns, fanciful imaginings of how we might solve the climate crisis without needing to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels” while warning that there are “no saviour ecosystems around the planet, nor fairy godmother technologies, that will suck up continued fossil fuel emissions.”
Check out the full article here -
16) Is ammonia a way to store hydrogen instead of storing it in it's pure H2 form.
Chemical engineers at UNSW Sydney have found a way to make 'green' ammonia from air, water and renewable electricity that does not require the high temperatures, high pressure and huge infrastructure currently needed to produce this essential compound. The new production method -- demonstrated in a laboratory-based proof of concept -- also has the potential to play a role in the global transition towards a hydrogen economy, where ammonia is increasingly seen as a solution to the problem of storing and transporting hydrogen energy.
You can read two different articles about this research here and here -
17) A wind turbine with a difference -
The giant windfarms that line hills and coastlines are not the only way to harness the power of the wind, say green energy pioneers who plan to reinvent wind power by forgoing the need for turbine towers, blades – and even wind.
“We are not against traditional windfarms,” says David Yáñez, the inventor of Vortex Bladeless. His six-person startup, based just outside Madrid, has pioneered a turbine design that can harness energy from winds without the sweeping white blades considered synonymous with wind power.
The design recently won the approval of Norway’s state energy company, Equinor, which named Vortex on a list of the 10 most exciting startups in the energy sector. Equinor will also offer the startup development support through its tech accelerator programme.
The bladeless turbines stand at 3 metres high, a curve-topped cylinder fixed vertically with an elastic rod. To the untrained eye it appears to waggle back and forth, not unlike a car dashboard toy. In reality, it is designed to oscillate within the wind range and generate electricity from the vibration.
The full article is available here -
18) Changes to giant ocean eddies could have ‘devastating effects’ globally.
Swirling and meandering ocean currents that help shape the world’s climate have gone through a “global-scale reorganisation” over the past three decades, according to new research. The amount of energy in these ocean currents, which can be from 10km to 100km across and are known as eddies, has increased, having as yet unknown effects on the ocean’s ability to lock-away carbon dioxide and heat from fossil fuel burning. Anchor One expert said the changes described in the research could affect the ability of the Southern Ocean, one of the world’s biggest natural carbon stores, to absorb CO2.
You can find the full article here -
19) The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Dalai Lama and 100 other Nobel Prize laureates have signed an open letter calling on world leaders to end the expansion of coal, oil and gas. In it they state -
We write today, on the eve of Earth Day 2021 and the Leaders’ Climate Summit, hosted by President Biden, to urge you to act now to avoid a climate catastrophe by stopping the expansion of oil, gas and coal.
We welcome President Biden and the US government’s acknowledgement in the Executive Order that “Together, we must listen to science and meet the moment.” Indeed, meeting the moment requires responses to the climate crisis that will define legacies. Qualifications for being on the right side of history are clear.
For far too long, governments have lagged, shockingly, behind what science demands and what a growing and powerful people-powered movement knows: urgent action is needed to end the expansions of fossil fuel production; phase out current production; and invest in renewable energy. This is a global initiative to phase out fossil fuels and support a just transition. Climate change, like nuclear weapons, is a major global threat.
Bold and immediate action is needed to address the climate emergency. The main cause of the climate emergency is fossil fuels. Coal, oil and gas are responsible for almost 80% of all carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution. Phasing out fossil fuel production, and fast-tracking progress towards safer and more cost-effective solutions, will require unprecedented international cooperation in three main areas – non-proliferation, global disarmament and a peaceful, just transition.You can read a copy of their letter here -
20) Cut methane emissions to avert global temperature rise, UN-backed study urges -
Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed report published on Thursday. The Global Methane Assessment outlines the benefits of mitigating methane, a key ingredient in smog, which include preventing some 260,000 premature deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits annually, as well as 25 million tonnes in crop losses. The study is the work of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), a global partnership of governments and non-State partners, and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide. The benefits to society, economies, and the environmental are numerous and far outweigh the cost”, said Inger Andersen, the UNEP Executive Director.
Methane is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, responsible for around 30 per cent of warming since the pre-industrial era. Most human-caused methane emissions come from three sectors: fossil fuels, such as oil and gas processing; landfills and waste; and agriculture, chiefly related to livestock.
The full article is available here -
21) May 26th, 2021 was a big day for Big Oil -
The environmental movement won so many campaigns against Big Oil companies on Wednesday 26th May, that it may go down in history as one of the most significant days of ending the age of fossil fuels! Here’s a round-up of what has happened:
Though the decision only applies in the Netherlands, it could have wider effects elsewhere. BBC Netherlands correspondent Anna Holligan tweeted that it was a "precedent-setting judgement". A Shell spokesperson said they "fully expect to appeal today's disappointing court decision" and added that they are stepping up efforts to cut emissions.You can read about these actions here, here and here -
22) Latest Sea Level Rise research extrapolating from the historical record -
Sea levels will probably rise faster than most climate models predict, according to a new study.
In 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations scientific body that reports on climate change, said that the global sea-level average would likely rise at least 2.00 feet (0.61 meters) by the year 2100, but no more than 3.61 feet (1.10 m). Those numbers come from models that account for climate change and ocean heating, ongoing greenhouse gas emissions and potential changes in human behavior to prevent more warming.
In this new study, researchers examined models of sea level through the lens of historical data. They looked at how fast sea levels rose in the past as Earth warmed and extrapolated to predict sea-level rise forward in time. They found that existing sea-level models tend to lowball sea-level rise when compared with more straightforward extrapolations from the historical record.
"This comparison suggests that the likely upper level of sea-level projections in recent IPCC reports would be too low," the researchers wrote in a paper published Feb. 2 in the journal Ocean Science.
The full article is available here and the research paper is available here -
23) The climate crisis requires a new culture and politics, not just new tech – Peter Sutoris
We are living through what scientists call the Anthropocene, a new geological age during which humans have become the dominant force shaping the natural environment. Many scientists date this new period to the post-second world war economic boom, the “great acceleration”. This rapid increase in our control over the Earth has brought us to the precipice of catastrophic climate change, triggered a mass extinction, disrupted our planet’s nitrogen cycles and acidified its oceans, among other things.
Our society has come to believe that technology is the solution. Electricity from renewable sources, energy-efficient buildings, electric vehicles and hydrogen fuels are among the many innovations that we hope will play a decisive role in reducing emissions. Most of the mainstream climate-change models now assume some degree of “negative emissions” in the future, relying on large-scale carbon capture technology, despite the fact that it is far from ready to be implemented. And if all else fails, the story goes, we can geoengineer the Earth.
But the problem with this narrative is that it focuses on the symptoms, not the causes of environmental decay. Even if the technologies on which we pin our hopes for the future deliver as expected and do not lead to much collateral damage – both of which are huge assumptions – they will not have fixed our mindsets. This is a crisis of culture and politics, not of science and technology. To believe that we can innovate and engineer ourselves out of this mess is to miss the key lesson of the Anthropocene – that dealing with planetary-scale processes calls for humility, not arrogance.
Our civilisation is underpinned by extractivism, a belief that the Earth is ours to exploit, and the nonsensical idea of infinite growth within a finite territory.
The full article is available here -
24) Untax labour and tax resource use.
To finish off I recommend this short animated video which makes lots of sense to me. Check it our here -
Taxing non-renewable resource use instead of human labour is a cure for many problems plaguing the world today. It looks at runaway consumption of scarce materials, pollution and climate change, as well as low wages and unemployment.
It's only 6 weeks since I sent out the last newsletter but I have a range of material I'm accumulating that I think is worthwhile sharing so here is some more reading for those who are interested.
Before we get into that material I wanted to let everyone know Earth Day Picnic is again going to be celebrated here in Marlborough after a break last year due to the Covid lockdown. The local event will be held from 10am to 3pm on April 18th at Pollard Park next to the playground. Thanks to Envirohub from Picton who are taking a lead role this time with the organising of the day. So please make a packed lunch and come along with family and friends on the day. There will a range of activities and interests for children.
1) Climate Commission submission extension -
The Climate Commission has extended the deadline for submissions to their Report, by 2 weeks to March 28th. If you haven't already done so we encourage you to put in a submission however brief. If you feel uncertain about submitting there are some good guidelines and advice you might find helpful on the Generation Zero website here or you can go direct to the Climate Commission website and make a submission here -
CKM has drafted a submission and a copy is available here if you're interested. You may find material in our submission that you can use in your own.
Feel free to send us feedback if you wish - email@example.com
2) Nelson/Tasman Climate Forum "Climate Action Book" -
Tom and I attended the launch of the Climate Action Book in Richmond last month. This has been a huge collaborative effort by the people of Nelson and Tasman and a testament to the commitment of a lot of people from their region.
In the introduction to the Book they say "The Nelson Tasman Climate Forum is a large, open group of volunteers dedicated to bringing our communities together to respond to this long emergency and create a positive future for us all. We also try to be a voice for all other elements of the biosphere in this region, seeing ourselves as part of the web of life."
The Book has sections on -
3) Open Letter to Boris Johnson -
James Hansen has written an open letter to Boris Johnson with a challenge for him to stand up and be counted at the next UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP 26 (Conference of the Parties) in Glasgow, hopefully this November.
In the covering note to his letter James says - "Young people are fed up – rightfully so. Boris Johnson has a choice. He and the COP can offer soothing ambitions, while continuing business-almost-as usual – in which case global emissions will rebound after Covid and remain high or even grow – and he will be vilified in the streets of Glasgow, London and around the world.
Or he can use his emergent humanity to help turn the world onto a different path, one dictated by science. The UK, where the industrial revolution and coal burning began, could now provide the blueprint by which other nations may proceed. The science shows that fossil fuel use will be phased out rapidly via a rising carbon fee with all funds distributed uniformly to the public. The effect is anti-regressive, as most wealthy people have a large carbon footprint. Seventy percent of the people come out ahead. Fee & dividend is a base that aids all other carbon policies.
The UK (like the US) is 5X more responsible for global warming than the average nation. With strong leadership from the PM, the UK parliamentary system is capable of adopting this year such a science-based system. Just as the industrial revolution moved from the UK to the US, so too could a proper way to put a price on carbon. The PM has the opportunity to earn a special place in history and the gratitude of young people. Let’s see if he can grasp it.
Note: with a sufficient, rising price on carbon, steel production need not be done with coal."
A full copy of the letter to PM Johnson is available here -
4) More on The Dasgupta Review -
I included information in the last newsletter about this recently released review in the UK.
Here is one small extract from a Guardian article that drew my attention and I wish to share - "The review is full of alarming statistics, of which perhaps the scariest is that in little more than two decades, between 1992 and 2014, there was a 40% fall in the stock of natural capital per person. That is the water we drink, the air we breathe, the soil we grow food in, and all living things shared among the global population. This really is capitalism for dummies, because any company that was as cavalier about its inventories of all other forms of capital – its machines, its IT systems, its buildings and its people – would soon go out of business.
Yes, the report notes, there has been growth. Measured by gross domestic product (GDP), the global economy is 14 times bigger than it was in 1950. There has been a massive increase in prosperity but it has come at a “devastating” cost to nature: the extinction of species; the depletion of fish stocks; the destruction of coral reefs; the shrinking of the rain forests. At current levels of consumption, we require an Earth 1.6 times larger than its actual size."
The full article is available here -
Kathryn Ryan from Radio NZ's Nine to Noon also did a half hour interview with Sir Partha Dasgupta, which is available here - In the interview he highlights that GDP is not fit for purpose.
“The problem with GDP is that it doesn’t include the depreciation of capital and one of the natural capital, or nature, which is somewhat different from buildings and roads in that you can really depreciate it very fast."
"We could depreciate building very fast too if we chose too, they do get depreciated if there is a war, but since we don’t think of war as being an actual state if affairs we think of about 4 to 5 percent as a depreciation allowance.
“But when it comes to natural capital you can actually completely wipe out natural capital pretty fast.”
We tend to subsidise the use of natural capital, he says. Nature’s goods and services are not free in fact the price is often negative.
“To the extent that it’s now about 4 to 5 percent of global GDP is in the form of subsidy."
“Now that is absolutely outrageous, you are not only regarding nature to be valueless, but you are saying it is actually a pest. You are paying yourself to destroy it.”
5) Will this be the end for Coal in Pakistan?
350.org had an item noting this recent announcement in Pakistan. It is clear from reading the article that there are unanswered questions about this new policy. Let's hope it results in real action that reduces emissions.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister announced during the virtual Climate Ambition Summit last weekend that the country won’t approve any new coal plants and by 2030, 60% of the energy produced in Pakistan will be generated through renewable resources.
Pakistan has taken steps to increase the role of renewables in its energy mix. In 2019 it reversed a three-year ban on investing in solar and wind that was put in place by the previous government. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicts that the share of renewables in power generation will rise to 86% globally by 2050, compared to 25% today, with 60% of that share coming from solar and wind.
Will Pakistan’s new statement pave the way for more countries in South Asia to declare No coal policies? Will India and Bangladesh follow suit? Only time will tell but we will keep a watch and keep fighting until the region embraces 100% renewable energy.
Full article available here -
6) Our Great Reckoning - Eileen Crist On The Consequences Of Human Plunder.
Eileen Crist is the author of a book titled "Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization". She was interviewed late last year about the book and the full text of that interview is available here -
Here is an extract from the prelude to the interview.
Eileen Crist knows more than a person should, more than seems healthy, about dying birds and dying watersheds. She’s keenly aware of the global crisis of biodiversity loss and ecological collapse, and she sees what’s driving it: direct causes like climate change and what she calls the “ultimate causes” — population growth, over consumption, and technological power. But the thing that really interests Crist, the thing that she’s been studying and publicizing for the past three decades as a professor and radical environmental thinker, is an even deeper question: Why is so little being done to address this planetary emergency?
She attempts, with a mix of intellectual rigor and lyrical passion, to provide an answer in her 2019 book, Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization. The cause of our inaction, she says, is “human supremacy,” a largely unconscious belief that Homo sapiens are the masters of creation rather than just one humble species among millions. This worldview sanctions not only factory farming, clear-cut logging, mountaintop-removal mining, and bottom-trawl fishing, but also more commonplace behaviors such as cruising along in cars that slaughter wildlife and emit carbon dioxide. As long as human supremacy prevails, Crist writes, “humanity will remain unable to muster the will to scale down and pull back the burgeoning human enterprise that is unraveling Earth’s biological wealth.”
7) Update on Ecocide campaign.
In an amendment to its report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2019, the European Parliament has voted to urge “the EU and the Member States to promote the recognition of ecocide as an international crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.
MEP Marie Toussaint, long-term campaigner for EU recognition of ecocide, said: “This is a real victory, a first major step towards the recognition of ecocide by the European Union. Member states must now speak out at the ICC and on the international stage. Climate change is accelerating, the loss of biodiversity is leading to planetary pandemics, the sea is rising: let’s move forward fast!”
Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation Jojo Mehta says: “This European parliamentary vote is hugely encouraging. The political world is rapidly waking up to what scientists have been telling us for decades and the indigenous world has been telling us for centuries: that humanity cannot destroy the natural world with impunity. There are consequences. We know now that tipping points are being crossed and we have a short time to act. Making ecocide a crime recognises this, providing a practical guardrail to prevent the worst excesses of damage that are pushing Earth’s life-support systems towards breaking point.”
Full item is available here -
Jojo Mehta from "Stop Ecocide" also co-authored an Opinion piece published in the Guardian last month which highlighted that only two countries in the world are on track to meet the 1.5C target.
"The science is clear: without drastic action to limit temperature rise below 1.5C, the Earth, and all life on it, including all human beings, will suffer devastating consequences.
Yet only two countries – Morocco and the Gambia – are on track to meet the 1.5C target. The largest emitters, including the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, are putting the world on course for 4C. At that rate, the polar ice caps will melt, causing dramatic sea level rise that will – in combination with other devastating effects like strengthening storms and droughts – cause mass famine, displacement and extinction.
Currently, much of humanity feels hopeless, but the establishment of ecocide as a crime offers something for people to get behind. Enacting laws against ecocide, as is under consideration in a growing number of jurisdictions, offers a way to correct the shortcomings of the Paris agreement. Whereas Paris lacks sufficient ambition, transparency and accountability, the criminalization of ecocide would be an enforceable deterrent. Outlawing ecocide would also address a key root cause of global climate change: the widespread destruction of nature, which, in addition to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, has devastating impacts on global health, food and water security, and sustainable development – to name a few.
Ecocide shares its roots with other landmark concepts in international law, including genocide. Indeed, ecocide and genocide often go hand in hand. Around the globe, ecological destruction is also decimating indigenous communities. Indeed, the meaning of ecocide is fully encapsulated by its etymology. It comes from the Greek oikos (home) and the Latin cadere (to kill). Ecocide is literally “killing our home”.
The full article is available here -
8) Climate Action Tracker -
The Climate Action Tracker website is a useful resource for identifying how well different countries around the world are progressing towards meeting their Paris Climate Accord targets. They have a useful analysis of how NZ is doing with their efforts.
9) Another legal win for the biosphere -
A court in Paris has ruled that France's government is guilty of climate inaction in a ground-breaking legal case.
The decision comes after a group of NGOs, with the support of two million citizens, filed a lawsuit against the French government for failing to meet the country's commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The legal claim was hailed as the "L'Affaire du siècle" or "the case of the century" by activists, who first started the dispute in March 2019.
Today, the court ruled that France has not done enough to meet its mandated goals to reduce greenhouse gases.
"Justice has just recognised that the state's climate inaction is illegal," said the campaigners behind the lawsuit. "This is a historic victory for the climate!"
France's commitment to curb global warming comes from the Paris Agreement, which was signed at COP21 in 2015. This international accord holds countries responsible for limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees more than pre-industrial levels.
The lawsuit is not about punishing the government now, but instead about ensuring French leaders are found to be legally culpable over climate inaction.
France already has an existing legal precedent of 'ecological prejudice', which was added to the French Civil Code in 2016. In cases relating to ecological prejudice, companies can be ordered to pay for the clean-up or repairs from whatever environmental damage has taken place.
Last year France took this a step further and made 'ecocide' a crime, punishable by fines of up to €4.5 million and up to a decade-long prison sentence.
The article is available here -
10) Nairobi Entrepreneur recycling plastic waste into bricks that are more durable than concrete.
Collectively, we use a staggering amount of single-use plastic each year—we buy one million plastic bottles each minute around the world—most of which ends up in landfills, oceans, and other natural spaces. Nzambi Matee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Nairobi, is combatting this global crisis by recycling bags, containers, and other waste products into bricks used for patios and other construction projects.
Prior to launching her company, Gjenge Makers, Matee worked as a data analyst and oil-industry engineer. After encountering plastic waste along Nairobi’s streets, she decided to quit her job and created a small lab in her mother’s backyard, testing sand and plastic combinations. Matee eventually received a scholarship to study in the materials lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she ultimately developed a prototype for the machine that now produces the textured bricks.
Made from a combination of plastic and sand, the pavers have a melting point higher than 350°C and are more durable than their concrete counterparts. Matee and her team source much of the raw product from factories and recyclers, and sometimes it’s free, which allows the company to reduce the price point on the product and make it affordable for schools and homeowners. So far, Gjenge Makers has recycled more than 20 tons of plastic and created 112 job opportunities in the community.
“It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter – a basic human need,” Matee said in a statement. “Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its afterlife can be disastrous.”
The full article can be seen here with another article about similar developments in Colombia here -
11) Tiny Costa Rica wants the world to take giant climate step.
In January, more than 50 countries committed to the protection of 30% of the planet’s land and oceans as part of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People, spearheaded by Costa Rica, which is a co-chair alongside France and the UK.
The coalition hopes the target will become the headline aim for an international agreement on halting biodiversity loss for this decade, set to be negotiated in Kunming, China, later this year.
“Our approach is to lead by example. As Mandela said, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’,” Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado Quesada told the Guardian. “Conservation is one of the key factors that scientists point out as relevant for protecting biodiversity and also for addressing the climate crisis. But working alone, it’s not as effective.”
The world has never met a single target to stem the destruction of wildlife and life-sustaining ecosystems. But the 41-year-old leader believes this time might be different.
The full article can be seen here -
12) Navigating Energy Descent Pathways.
Wikipedia - "Energy descent is a process whereby a society either voluntarily or involuntarily reduces its total energy consumption."
Here is an extract from a paper published last year looking in some detail at the whole issue of Energy Descent. This may well be something we all need to face in the years ahead so better to be informed than keep our heads in the sand.
"Much mainstream energy and sustainability discourse is based on a series of highly optimistic assumptions about future energy supply in a carbon-constrained world. The improbability of conditions aligning such that all necessary assumptions are borne out implies that the energy futures ahead will likely diverge significantly from those envisaged within this established discourse. This has potentially profound implications. The availability of energy in the right forms at sufficient rates is the lifeblood of any particular form of social organization. Energy-related factors are fundamental to how we shape our societies and pursue our goals, yet it seems most individuals and societies are making plans based on precarious expectations. One of the goals of the present analysis is to encourage readers to treat the prospect that these expectations will not be realized as, at the very least, a matter of plausibility.
In the event that mainstream expectations are thwarted, the consequences could range from the disruptive to the catastrophic. This is not a case against optimism, but rather of channelling it in directions that lie within humanity’s scope of influence.
All human societies exist interdependently with natural systems that are ultimately beyond human control. It is far preferable, we contend, that societies retain the greatest degree of agency possible in getting to grips with the dilemma of fossil fuel dependence. The alternative is to have our futures dictated to us by breakdown in natural systems that are beyond our capacity to control. Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) offers a means for societies to manage the reduction in fossil fuel use in an orderly and coordinated way, so that citizens retain as much scope as possible for choosing the forms that their post-carbon futures might take."
The full paper can be viewed here -
13) Tradable Energy Quotas.
In the paper from item 12 above TEQs are referenced. The Fleming Policy Centre in the UK has done considerable work on this method. They claim introduction of such a system would ensure fair access to energy for all, guarantee that a nation meets its emissions reductions targets, and support the active participation and cooperation of citizens and all other energy users in rapidly reducing reliance on fossil fuels.
Here is a brief outline of the main points about TEQs from their website.
14) The Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration -
They have some very interesting papers on their website including a recent one titled "CARBON BUDGETS FOR 1.5 & 2°C" which is available here -
The SUMMARY of this paper says -
The cryptocurrency’s value has dipped recently after passing a high of $50,000 but the energy used to create it has continued to soar during its epic rise, climbing to the equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of Argentina, according to Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, a tool from researchers at Cambridge University that measures the currency’s energy use.
Recent interest from major Wall Street institutions like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs probably culminated in the currency’s rise in value and an endorsement by Tesla’s Elon Musk helped drive its recent high as investors bet the cryptocurrency will become more widely embraced in the near future.
You can see the full Guardian article here and here is another article from Stuff on the same topic.
16) 350.org and their petition calling for ACC to stop investing in fossil fuels.
In the past week, ACC’s investments have made news headlines, following the story that Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has written to chairs of the Super Fund and ACC. The letters ask them to adopt ethical investment policies and sets an expectation that Government funds lead the way to achieve our shared target of being carbon-zero by 2050.
Grant Robertson hasn’t explicitly outlined where our public funds should or shouldn’t be investing. This means that as key stakeholders of ACC, through receiving care or contributing levies, all of us have an opportunity to raise our voices and set the standard we expect for ACC’s ethical investment approach.
Together we can use this moment to strengthen our call for ACC to stop investing in climate-wrecking fossil fuel companies.
ACC’s current investments funnel over $200 million of our public money into the hands of the fossil fuel industry. The most effective way we can stop the worst impacts of the climate crisis is by keeping polluting fossil fuels in the ground. In order to do this, we need to stop the flow of money that enables fossil fuel projects to go ahead.
If you want to support this campaign you can sign their petition here -
17) Earth Day 2021
I wanted to finish with a link to a short video trailer from a film by Joe Gantz called "The Race to Save the World" which is being released on International Earth Day, April 22nd. The trailer is available here and highlights the critical role that activists play in raising awareness of the major issues threatening the biosphere. The one and only biosphere that supports Earth's miraculous web of life.
Remember the local Marlborough Earth Day Picnic is on Sunday, April 18th at Pollard Park from 10am to 3pm.
Nga mihi nui, Budyong.
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.
Here are a few items of interest from over the last three months. (the bold type is my emphasis).
1) A report was presented to the MDC Environment Committee on October 8th titled –
Wairau Offshore Groundwater Geological Assessment.
It was prepared for Council by BECA in March 2020 and is – “a re-examination of the possibility of an ocean outlet for the Wairau Aquifer by an external technical expert showing that, based on recent offshore geophysical surveys, the geological formation hosting the aquifer extends well out into Cloudy Bay/Cook Strait and is exposed at the seabed, potentially allowing drainage of fresh groundwater to the sea.”
In the presentation it states – “An improved understanding of how groundwater exits the Wairau Aquifer was overdue given sea level rise and the declining levels in the Wairau Aquifer providing less throughflow to maintain the seawater interface in its current position.”
If anyone wants to see the full summary you can check it out here under Item 5 –
2) A presentation was also made updating the Committee on the recent Resource Management review undertaken by the Government.
The presentation outlined that key concerns promoting the review were:
First to repeal the RMA and replace it with the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBEA). This would have a substantially different approach but would incorporate some of the key principles of the RMA that are appropriate.
The focus of the NBEA would be on: enhancing the quality of the environment; and
achieving positive outcomes to support the wellbeing of present and future generations.
Introduction of new legislation called the Strategic Planning Act (SPA). The SPA would:
set long-term strategic goals; and facilitate the integration of legislative functions across the resource management system.
The concept of Te Mana o te Taiao (which refers to the importance of maintaining the health of our natural resources, such as air, water, and soil, and their capacity to sustain life) will also be captured in the NBEA.
Recognition of Maori and their rights in our freshwater resources has been reviewed. As a result, the Panel has recommended that the Crown and Māori address and resolve issues sooner rather than later as without such a solution, the allocation and use of water rights will continue to pose significant difficulties for all those involved in the system.
The Panel has emphasized that while the legislative changes proposed are vital, the success of the new resource management system will depend critically on the capacity and capability of all those involved in it. As a result, they have concluded that increased funding and resources need to be provided by both central and local government. The lack of sufficient resources and build capability has been noted as being one of the important reasons for the failure of the RMA to deliver its intended outcomes in the first place.
The Amendment Act also supports the need to improve freshwater management and respond to climate change in New Zealand. This is brought by way of a new freshwater planning process that regional councils and unitary authorities, like Marlborough District Council, must use for proposed freshwater provisions in regional policy statements and regional plans (excluding regional coastal plans). These new freshwater planning process provisions have been introduced to enable regional councils to make changes to their freshwater plans in a robust but more efficient way than those outlined in the current RMA planning process.
The full summary of the presentation can be seen here under Item 13.
3) Here is the summary of the updated report to council on the NZ Biodiversity Strategy.
Te Mana O Te Taiao, the Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020 (the Strategy) was launched in August 2020 and sets out a framework for the protection, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity or natural resources.
The document has been developed by the Department of Conservation, with specific input from other agencies, including councils and external experts. It is a compilation of existing data and published information in indigenous biodiversity, supplemented by examples from a matauranga Māori perspective.
The Strategy will guide the way all Aotearoa works to protect and restore nature and supersedes the Action Plan published in 2016.
The Strategy sets out a strategic framework for the protection, restoration and sustainable use of biodiversity or natural resources in New Zealand and makes direct connection to a thriving nature, ecosystem health and wellbeing of people and sustainable business. In terms of background, despite the importance of biodiversity, it continues to decline. Biodiversity faces a global crisis, as well as New Zealand, and our own region is not immune.
While there are success stories in conservation the main biodiversity pressures come from:
The three pillars are:
Te Mana O Te Taiao - Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020 is available here on the Department of Conservation’s website.
Reports such as the three I've highlighted in this newsletter are regularly given by MDC staff to the councillors. These reports are often very useful summaries for the lay person to get their head around particular issues.
4) Here is an interesting graph recently received from James Hansen. It shows an acceleration in global warming. In the past five years global temperature has jumped well above the trend which has been stable at about 0.18°C per decade for the past half century. This deviation is too large to be explained by unforced climate variability. James analyses various possibilities for why this is happening and excludes solar irradiance, ocean heating imbalance, an increase in the magnitude of fast feedbacks and sea ice cover. His conclusion is that it is due to a decrease in atmospheric aerosols. This is the one large unmeasured forcing that climate scientists are aware of. He highlights that it is intentionally unmeasured. I think that is due to inadequate funding and the complexity of the science required to quantify the effect of atmospheric aerosols.
You can find the full analysis here –
5) I listened to an interesting online talk on Pumped Storage organised by “Engineers for Social Responsibility” on October 21st. It was presented by Dr Alastair Barnett who says that recent proposals for pumped hydro storage ignore thorough planning work done in the 1970s. I must say his talk was enlightening and left me wondering whether people with his experience and knowledge are being listened to.
Here is an abstract of his talk for those who are interested.
Until the recent flurry of publicity about the Lake Onslow proposal, pumped hydropower storage had not been seriously considered in New Zealand since the 1970s. At that time the Tekapo canal was under construction to link the two main storage reservoirs (Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki) in the Upper Waitaki power development, and an obvious option was to design the canal to take pumped flow from Pukaki to Tekapo as well as gravity flow from Tekapo to Pukaki. The canal design was duly analysed, constructed and tested to have the required reverse flow capacity, but meanwhile developments of the recently discovered Maui gas field were found to favour use of the gas at a high extraction rate, making a strong case for expanded national reliance on thermal power generation at the new Huntly power station.
Accordingly design and installation of the necessary pumps at each end of the canal (the Tekapo A and B stations) was discontinued until the end of the productive life of Maui gas supplies, then projected to be at least thirty years away.
Subsequently the entire public works hydropower design team was disbanded, leaving no-one with institutional memory of a large scale hydro design team planning for the end of Maui gas supplies, although this continued to occur at close to projected rates. Even if a replacement can now be found for the Maui field, the threat of climate change demands an end to thermal generation. Yet until now a lack of action on hydropower development has forced our generators to resort to desperate measures such as large scale importation of coal for the first time, actually increasing our thermal emissions. Wind power and solar power offer a partial solution as new sustainable energy sources, but these continually fluctuate between surplus and deficit, making the smoothing effect of pumped storage even more critical.
Finally the disastrous outcomes of poor power planning seem to have been recognised this year, but the reaction appears to be one of panic, adopting the first scheme which comes to mind without any comparison with alternatives. In particular, paying to complete the final 10% of the exhaustively studied Tekapo-Pukaki linkage seems not to have been considered.
The contrast between the deliberate, intensively researched power planning of the 1970s and the impulsive gambles of the early 2020s was the subject of the presentation.
Here is a link to his submission to the Zero Carbon Act in 2018 focussed on Pumped Storage.
and here is a link to a very informative and relevant article my Molly Melhuish.
6) The Aussies are planning the largest solar and wind energy project in the world in the Pilbara region of WA with the aim of exporting renewable energy to Asia. It is planned to cover 6,500 square kilometres. The first stage would be capable of generating 100 terawatt-hours of renewable electricity each year. That equates to about 40% of Australia’s total electricity generation in 2019.
"The project is backed by a consortium of global renewables developers. Most energy from the Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH) will be used to produce green hydrogen and ammonia to be used both domestically, and for shipping to export markets. Some energy from AREH will also be exported as electricity, carried by an undersea electrical cable.
Another Australian project is also seeking to export renewable power to Asia. The 10-gigawatt Sun Cable project, backed by tech entrepreneur Mike Cannon-Brookes, involves a solar farm across 15,000 hectares near Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory. Power generated will supply Darwin and be exported to Singapore via a 3,800km electrical cable along the sea floor."
It does make me wonder about the impacts on the fragile desert environment in that area. Is this really the solution to our climate disruption problems? I’m sceptical of the whole push for “green” hydrogen production with some of the information available about its limitations. (more in the next item) It raises the whole issue of energy descent and the need to change our consumer lifestyles. (Energy descent is a process whereby a society either voluntarily or involuntarily reduces its total energy consumption.)
You can read more about this project here if interested.
7) I recently heard Susan Krumdieck from Canterbury University talking on National Radio about green hydrogen in the context of the proposed Tiwai Point closure. As usual she didn’t mince her words. Some CKM members are familiar with Susan as we did an online Transition Engineering course that she offered earlier this year.
Here’s a summary of the item.
The government should stop focusing on unproven hydrogen energy technology to tackle climate change, says an expert. Canterbury University professor of mechanical engineering Susan Krumdieck said the government was enthusiastic about the development of green hydrogen, but it was a waste of time and money. Proven technologies could be used to meet New Zealand's zero carbon goal by 2050 - and address transport needs at the same time, she said. Surplus energy from Manapouri should be used to develop a national transport system starting from Invercargill and extending throughout the South Island, before crossing Cook Strait. KiwiRail could be a key part of the development, which would provide thousands of jobs.
"The South Island becomes a net zero (carbon) island, one of the first ones in the world," Krumdieck said. "We have the capability in New Zealand to beef up our rail engineering and our power electric power engineering for transport."
She said it would take about 10 years to electrify the South Island's transport network.
Good to see her getting airtime on National Radio presenting a different view to the popular narrative about “green” hydrogen.
7) I was interested in this analysis of the possible impact of the recent White House action in the US where scientist Michael Kuperberg was removed from his job.
The White House has removed the scientist responsible for the National Climate Assessment, the federal government’s premier contribution to climate knowledge and the foundation for regulations to combat global warming, in what critics interpreted as the latest sign that the Trump administration intends to use its remaining months in office to continue impeding climate science and policy. Dr. Kuperberg’s dismissal appears to be the latest setback in the Trump administration for the National Climate Assessment, a report from 13 federal agencies and outside scientists that the government is required by law to produce every four years. The most recent report, in 2018, found that climate change poses an imminent and dire threat to the United States and its economy. A biased or diminished climate assessment would have wide-ranging implications.
It could be used in court to bolster the positions of fossil fuel companies being sued for climate damages. It could counter congressional efforts to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming. And, ultimately, it could weaken what is known as the “endangerment finding,” a 2009 scientific finding by the Environmental Protection Agency that said carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to human health and therefore are subject to government regulation. Undercutting that finding could make it more difficult to fight climate change under the terms of the Clean Air Act.
Here is a good article about it.
8) Following on from the item in our last newsletter about France's action in this area Belgium has also pledged diplomatic action to halt ecocide crime and Sweden is also discussing the issue. Wouldn't it be good to see our current government getting active in this area and taking some real and effective action.
The pledges follow Green (Ecolo) MP Samuel Cogolati’s proposal in July that the government support the initiative of Vanuatu and the Maldives, which both called last year for serious consideration of amending the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute to include ecocide. Cogolati is pleased with the government’s commitment, underlining the urgency of the global situation: “We must protect nature and future generations in much stronger, more enforceable ways... Because without water, without forests, without clean air, we cannot survive on Earth. The planet is our common home. It’s time for criminal law to urgently come to the rescue.”
Jojo Mehta from Stop Ecocide explains more about Ecocide: “While our working definition is in essence mass damage and destruction of ecosystems, committed with knowledge of the risks, an expert panel of international criminal lawyers, advised by top climate and environmental scientists, is currently being convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation. The panel’s remit is to draft a clear and legally robust definition which can be considered for proposal by states at the International Criminal Court. A full list of panel members will be made available in due course."
Sweden has become the latest European state this year to discuss criminalising ecocide. Two separate motions have been submitted to the Swedish parliament by a combination of three political parties.
MEP (Member of European Parliament) Marie Toussaint has also launched an initiative connecting parliamentarians around the world in a coalition for the recognition of ecocide crime. Beginning with 10 parliamentarians from Brazil to Belgium, this group is set to grow fast, and the Stop Ecocide group is looking forward to working together on progressing ecocide law.
If interested you can see more info here and here.
9) Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr spoke at the Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Conference recently where he said –
“Climate change is a key risk to the financial stability of the New Zealand economy. There was a need for transformational change and a collective and urgent response to climate risks. There is a lot to do and we are late in leaving port. Climate change is a risk that requires a collective response. Grounding a response in our collective knowledge, data and expertise will strengthen and compound the effects of our actions.”
He said assessing risks to banks and insurers, and the financial system as a whole, was the Reserve Bank’s core business and climate risk would sit within that. That would include the effect of drought and rising sea levels on the value of houses and farms.
“There are also risks associated with the transition to a low carbon economy, such as changing investor appetite and consumer demand. New Zealand being a small island nation with an agricultural-based economy means we will be impacted differently than others. And thus, we must keep our preparations in tune with our environment and resources, for our economy to prosper.”
10) The company Solidia has developed a new low carbon cement which looks promising. In 2016 world cement production generated around 2.2 billion tonnes of CO2 - equivalent to 8% of the global total. With current technology for every tonne of cement produced a tonne of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Because the cement is cured by CO2 rather than water the process has the added bonus of saving water resources.
Here’s an extract about it:
By changing the chemistry of cement, Solidia both lowers emissions at the cement plant and consumes CO2 in the production of concrete. Our cement reacts with CO2 instead of water. During curing, the chemical reaction with our cement breaks apart the CO2 molecules and captures the carbon to make limestone that glues the concrete together.
For production of precast concrete that is cured in kilns, when you combine the emissions reduction during cement production with CO2 consumption during curing, we reduce cement’s carbon footprint by up to 70%.
There is a different carbon delivery system developed for ready-mix. Since we can’t use CO2 gas at a construction site, we had to introduce it into our concrete in solid or liquid form. We are partnering with companies that are turning waste CO2 into a family of chemicals, like oxalic or even citric acid – the same one in orange juice. We use these acids to react with our cement and pack in as much as four times more carbon, resulting in carbon-negative concrete.
That means that, in just a few hours, one kilometre of road could permanently consume the same amount of CO2 that nearly 100,000 trees absorb in one year. Thanks to chemistry and waste CO2, we have the potential to transform concrete – the second most utilised material on the planet – into a carbon sink for the planet.
Sounds promising. Let's hope this results in real changes in cement production around the world. It's not clear to me what the economic comparisons are between the new and present technologies and how fast change might happen.
You can read more about this technology here
Did you know 50 – 60% of annual CO2 from fossil fuel emissions adds to atmospheric CO2 increases. 30% goes into the water and the remainder goes to soil and plants.
Nga mihi, Budyong
These newsletters are put together by Budyong Hill in an attempt to help keep Marlborough people informed of issues both global and local. The aim is help raise awareness of the myriad challenges facing the essential life support systems that our amazing planet provides for us every day.