1) Media article written by CKM member Tom Powell since the last newsletter.
12/03/2023 - Opinion article: Electric rail should be the future of domestic transport
2) Earth Day Essays.
CKM ran an Earth Day Essay challenge in 2020. Finally many of the entries have been published in a small booklet called "Earth Day Essays - A Child's Perspective". The theme for students was "It is important to have Earth Day because...." and many of the resulting entries were thought provoking, thoughtful and delightful. The winner of the competition was Sophie Kole who is now a Year 11 student at Marlborough Girls College (MGC). She has written a small piece for a recent MGC newsletter about her entry which you can read if interested. If anyone wants to purchase a copy for $15 please contact us and we can organise to get it to you.
We are running another Essay challenge for students this year which will be publicised in June. The challenge this time is to write a letter to the Prime Minister of NZ saying - "What I'd like you to do for Papatuanuku is...."
3) MDC Environment and Planning Committee meeting – March 9th.
You can download the full agenda if interested - March 9th agenda.
A) ESMG report.
There was a comprehensive report from the Environmental Science and Monitoring Group (ESMG) about their functions, key areas of responsibility and challenges.
“The core activities of the ESMG focus on state of the environment monitoring, reporting, investigations and collection of environmental data. In addition, the ESMG delivers several environmental programmes that provide for both economic, and social wellbeing of the community and help protect and restore our natural environment. The collection of high-quality environmental data managed over the long term is a prerequisite to sound decision making for policy development, hazard management and achieving a range of community outcomes including resource consent requirements.”
An important focus for them is consolidating the resilience of their data network and this is currently being reviewed. They recently lost access to some of their monitoring network for about 6 days due to a lightning strike on the repeater on Mt Riley.
B) Wairau Plain Land-Use Intensification Modelling.
Peter Davidson gave a presentation on the Wairau Plain Land-Use Intensification Modelling work they have been doing. The aim was to design a Wairau Plain nitrate-nitrogen predictor tool and provide forecasts of nitrate-nitrogen concentrations leached to groundwater for potential future crop types.
There are currently 14,000 Ha of vineyards growing over the Wairau Aquifer. They have determined the leaching rates in this area from the lysimeter data which feeds into their model. This shows that nitrate-nitrogen levels are around 1.2ppm which is very good compared to many other agricultural areas in NZ. It does tend to increase as you move from the river up towards New Renwick Rd. The model shows that nitrate-nitrogen levels north of Rapaura Rd would be about 3ppm for dairying. This would increase to about 7ppm at New Renwick Rd due to reduced flushing of the aquifer.
C) Submission on Natural and Built Environment Bill and Spatial Planning Bill.
For anyone interested here is a copy of the full submission.
In the introduction they provide the following summary.
MDC’s submission focusses on key areas of importance to Marlborough.
It is also interesting to note - “MDC supports the concept of combining plans at a regional level. It promotes efficiencies and enhances useability for the public. The Randerson Report identified a lack of vertical integration between the hierarchy of regional and district planning documents as one of the key drivers for recommending combined plans.
The Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan’s (PMEP) structure is the very model the Randerson Report recommended. It is a combined regional policy statement, a regional coastal plan, a regional plan, and district plan, with the one planning document containing all regional and district provisions in an integrated way. This structure, authorised by s 80 of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), is unique in the country.”
D) Regional Sea Level Rise Modelling.
The National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) has been engaged to undertake ‘first pass’ Sea Level Rise (SLR) inundation modelling for the region. The SLR modelling will use the latest national sea level rise projections, vertical land movement data, and recently updated national SLR guidance material (MfE, August 2022).
The project is a specific action within the MDC Climate Change Action Plan 2020 (action 2.(b)).
This ‘first pass’ will help to identify which stakeholders should be involved in the next level of investigation, and provide the basis for community engagement, while helping Council decision makers to get resources, support, and future commitment.
It’s important to highlight to the committee that this ‘project’ integrates with Climate Change policies, objectives, and methods that have already been actively developed with the community as part of the proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP)
All appeals on the ‘Climate Change’ Topic, Issues, Objectives, Policy, and Methods have now been resolved. This is an important factor as having the MEP framework beyond challenge means that we have a strong connection to several strategic elements of the MfE DAPP process and the 10-step decision making cycle. While this is giving effect to the MEP implementation it also sets up the need for a future ‘Coastal Hazard’ longer-term strategic response.
Once MDC has the information on SLR and coastal hazard assessments we can begin a process of linking work streams together, creating community awareness of the MfE DAPP process and next steps for Council, creating greater clarity around the SLR work, and efforts underway in the climate change topic.
The calls for action for this focus area include.
Finally this Stuff article by Maia Hart on the SLR report provides a good analysis -
4) Slow Water: how to combat floods and droughts.
This 25 minute interview on Radio NZ in March deals with a matter that has risen a lot in people's consciousness over the last few months with the multiple extreme rainfall and flood events we have experienced in Aotearoa.
"Treating water management as an engineering problem ignores the complex systems in which it operates, a US author says. Just as floods and droughts are the first obvious sign of climate change, we are making things much worse by the way we manage or mismanage water, award-winning independent journalist and author Erica Gies says. In her book Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge, she travels the world, examining ‘slow water’ systems where wetlands, floodplains, high altitude grasslands and forests soften flood peaks, store water for droughts, and keep natural systems healthy."
Tom Kay from Forest and Bird also gave an excellent presentation recently on the topic of giving "Room for Rivers" at Blenheim school. I have highlighted this info before but for anyone interested here is the link again to the F&B "Room for Rivers" campaign.
5) Why I strike: A student's plea for action.
This hard hitting opinion piece written by Petra Graney from Nelson Girls College and published in Stuff is well worth a read.
"Earth is not at any risk from damage caused by humans. It’s been around for 4.5 billion years, witnessing thousands of versions of creation, existence, and life. It will be around for billions more, no matter what we do - or do not do. Planet Earth will be fine.
What I’m worried about is everything on it, that we know and rely on and love. Oceans, forests, biodiversity, culture, cities and people. All these things are so heavily integrated into everything we do that we can't even imagine existence without it, like a subconscious denial. And if we can’t have the foresight to see the version of Earth that we are hurtling towards, how can we take action to stop it? "
6) Climate Adaptation calendar from Nelson Tasman Climate Forum.
The Nelson Tasman Climate Forum people have produced a Climate Adaptation calendar to help build community resilience. You can download a copy on their website.
7) Rod Carr talk at EDS annual conference.
This video recording is of a talk given by Rod Carr, the Chair of the Climate Commission at the recent annual conference of the Environmental Defense Society (EDS). To be honest I'm a little in awe of Rod's ability to share critical information in such a coherent and succinct way and highly recommend listening to this talk titled "Jointly addressing Aotearoa's Climate and Biodiversity Crises."
Here is an example from his talk when Rod was highlighting the delusional reality of planning to meet our Paris commitments by buying carbon credits offshore.
"....It is not surprising that we believe in global markets and the efficiencies that can be derived through specialisation. We also therefore extrapolate that if somewhere in the world there is somebody we assume can abate their emissions at lower cost than us, why would we suffer the cost for local abatement rather than pay others to do it more cheaply? The theory appears sound. The practice however is highly problematic. For offshoring to work, that is paying another country to do more than it would have done, so that it is truly additional, truly permanent, truly measurable, and here's the kicker, truly enforceable reductions, is a mechanism yet to be determined. And yet by the end of this decade we're assuming we will be able to acquire 100 million tonnes equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions from someone yet to be identified, at a price yet to be determined, that is truely enforceable. Good luck!"
8) Health checks on the carbon in New Zealand's native forests were halved despite warnings over the risks.
"Roughly every five years, conservation workers go deep into the forests of Aotearoa to count animal droppings, birds and carbon. This data is a health check for our native forests. But government funding for the task has quietly been halved, meaning the checks are happening less thoroughly. Stuff's Climate Change Editor Eloise Gibson set out to find out why."
You can listen to a 12 minute podcast from Radio NZ and/or read this Stuff article for more info.
9) We planted pine in response to Cyclone Bola – with devastating consequences. It is now time to invest in natives.
This article written by David Norton, Emeritus Professor at Canterbury University. In it he writes -
With more than 40 years experience researching forest ecology and sustainable land management in Aotearoa, I believe there are four key areas where we need to urgently act to address these issues.
i) As a country we need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rapidly increase the draw-down of CO2 out of the atmosphere. These are national issues and not confined to Tairāwhiti but as a nation we seem to be sleepwalking in our response to the climate emergency.
ii) We need a comprehensive catchment-by-catchment assessment across all of Tairāwhiti (and likely other areas of Aotearoa) to identify those plantations that are located in the wrong place in terms of potential harvesting impacts. There should be no further harvesting in Tairāwhiti plantations until this exercise has been completed. We also need to identify those areas that currently lack plantations but should never be planted in exotic tree crops (for any purpose).
iii) The government then needs to buy out the current owners of these plantations and embark on a programme of careful conversion to native forest. This will come at a cost, but it needs to be done. We already have models for this in Tairāwhiti where the Gisborne District Council has started converting pine forests in its water supply catchment to native forests.
iv) Finally, we need to establish substantially more native forests throughout all Tairāwhiti, and Aotearoa more generally, to help build resilience in our landscapes.
Here are some further items of interest on this topic now that the hard hitting Ministerial Inquiry looking into slash damage in Tairāwhiti/East Coast has been released.
The press release from the Beehive with a link to the "Outrage to Optimism" Report.
From Aaron Smale of Newsroom - Scathing slash report takes aim at multiple parties.
From RNZ - Forestry report urges immediate halt on wide-scale felling.
Iwi call on government to commit to forestry report recommendations.
The Detail also has a 24 minute podcast available titled "Forestry's uncertain future on the East Coast" for anyone interested in a more in-depth analysis.
10) The new climate denial: adaptation over mitigation.
Cindy Baxter from Coal Action Network wrote an article on this topic available on the CAN website. She lives in Piha so witnessed plenty of devastation during the Auckland floods. She says "What’s also lurking behind my tears is the fact that I’ve been working to stop climate change for 30 years and the same old arguments keep coming up: that it’s too expensive to act on. For years we’ve been pushing the government to do the work to understand the costs of climate impacts, to weigh them up against the costs of action, of cutting emissions and moving to a low-carbon economy. Because if the only numbers you have are the costs of action, it bolsters all those who object to taking the strong action we need. The Climate Change Commission didn’t have the numbers either. The work on the cost of climate impacts just hasn’t been done. Perhaps we should start with the bill from Gabrielle.
And now we’re hearing a new kind of climate denial – most ridiculous claims from people like Chris Trotter, and Matthew Hooton, arguing that it’s now too late to act on climate change, now we just have to get on with adapting to it. Act’s Brooke Van Velden joined the fray on TVNZ Breakfast. Hooton has spent decades trying to (incorrectly) spin New Zealand’s lack of real climate action in favour of planting pine trees as somehow being world-leading. It isn’t and has never been the case. The question they haven’t looked at is how much you can adapt to: and when it simply becomes what the UNFCCC views as “loss and damage.”
11) ‘Slipping through our fingers’: New Zealand scientists distraught at scale of glacier loss.
There is a grief in watching the ice melt. Some of these scientists have been monitoring these glaciers for decades, returning every year to take their pictures. They know each by name, and have their personal favourites. Some of the glaciers they used to record have vanished over the last decade. Mackintosh and Lorrey occasionally lean over their grey vinyl seats to exchange observations, gazing out the shuddering windows. “She looks like shit,” one of them says.
“It’s interesting as a scientist, and a bit challenging as a human being to see that change,” Mackintosh says. “There’s a kind of conflict: of fascination in how the system can change so rapidly, combined with the emotional response of seeing the loss of ice that’s such an important part of the landscape, and so beautiful and so culturally important.”
Checkout the full article.
12) Are New Zealand's marine heatwaves a warning to the world?
"As seas around Aotearoa heat at an unparalleled rate, scientists are starting to understand what it might mean for marine ecosystems.
New figures provided to the Guardian by scientists studying ocean temperature shifts show that on average, over the year to April 2023, New Zealand’s coastal waters sat stewing in marine heatwave conditions for 208 days. Some southern regions experienced marine heatwave conditions for more than 270 days during the period. In the north island’s Bay of Plenty, the waters remained in heatwave for an entire year.
With little respite for species to recover between the waves of heat, scientists warn that some ecosystems are reaching tipping points under the surface, with effects that will be felt years into the future. No one yet knows what it will mean for the fish, seabirds, whales, dolphins, and New Zealand’s multi-billion dollar fishing industry. As scientists and communities begin to reckon with the impact, the conditions hitting Aotearoa provide a preview of the future of the world’s oceans under climate change: waters around the world are projected to rise by about 4C on average by 2100, if the world maintains its course on global heating. Heatwaves around New Zealand are already seeing spikes that high, giving a glimpse of what it can do to species under the surface.
In Marlborough’s fish farms last year, the fish had died in their thousands, unable to survive the rising temperatures around them. In warmer areas, about 42% of total fish stock died. The country’s largest salmon producer, NZ King Salmon, announced it would have to shut down some of its farms as the climate heated waters around the sounds. “When I joined this company, I never heard of the term ‘marine heatwave’,” said CEO Grant Rosewarne, as the company reckoned with the losses. “Recently, there’s been three of them. “We thought we had more time,” he said. “Climate change is a slow process. But faster than many people think.”
Check out the full article which includes some excellent graphics showing the increase in marine heatwave conditions over the last few decades.
13) Dealing to Climate Change - Professor Jonathon Boston and Climate Minister James Shaw.
The Fabians hosted a public meeting recently where Jonathon Boston and James Shaw had a session about managed retreat. There was some very interesting discussion and questions from a large audience. Worth a listen if you want to understand more about some of the current thinking regarding the dynamics, obstacles and options for managed retreat in NZ.
14) A Case for a United Parliament to manage NZ's response to Global Warming and Climate Change.
This paper written by Robert Simpson, an old friend of Lesley and mine from our time living on the West Coast in the 1970's and '80's, is an excellent, well thought out proposal stating what so many of us know is essential if we are to collectively and constructively manage the challenges arising from the climate and biodiversity emergency. In the paper Robert says - "This paper proposes a new, effective, encompassing concept for addressing the Global Warming catastrophe. It will not be actioned today. But it opens and brings to consciousness an idea that may gather momentum and influence because it makes sense. Hopefully before it is too late."
Robert also shared a poem he wrote to express his deep seated sorrow for the predicament we find ourselves in.
There’s nothing I can do.
I raised you on my bosom
but what you’ve set in motion
I cannot heal.
It’s only you.
My golden tribe
in whom I had such hope
wrenched the divine
from the earth
what would come to pass.
15) New study helps solve a 30-year-old puzzle: how is climate change affecting El Niño and La Niña?
The Conversation recently printed an article highlighting this new study. It's very topical after the flooding events in Australia and NZ over the last three La Nina years.
"Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions mean strong El Niño and La Niña events are occurring more often, according to our new research, which provides important new evidence of the human fingerprint on Earth’s climate. For more than 30 years, climate researchers have puzzled over the link between human-caused climate change and El Niño and La Niña events. We set out to bridge this knowledge gap. Climate scientists have long observed a correlation between climate change impacts on our oceans and atmosphere, and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Our research examined when this activity may have started to make El Niño and La Niña events more extreme. Our deep analysis found a relationship between human-caused greenhouse gas activity and changes to El Niño and La Niña. Our findings were five years in the making. They help us understand how El Niño and La Niña will change as the world warms in the future."
16) ‘Everyone should be concerned’: Antarctic sea ice reaches lowest levels ever recorded.
This Guardian article published on March 4th said - "For 44 years, satellites have helped scientists track how much ice is floating on the ocean around Antarctica’s 18,000km coastline. The continent’s fringing waters witness a massive shift each year, with sea ice peaking at about 18m sq km each September before dropping to just above 2m sq km by February. But across those four decades of satellite observations, there has never been less ice around the continent than there was last week.
“By the end of January we could tell it was only a matter of time. It wasn’t even a close run thing,” says Dr Will Hobbs, an Antarctic sea ice expert at the University of Tasmania with the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership.
“We are seeing less ice everywhere. It’s a circumpolar event.” In the southern hemisphere summer of 2022, the amount of sea ice dropped to 1.92m sq km on 25 February – an all-time low based on satellite observations that started in 1979. But by 12 February this year, the 2022 record had already been broken. The ice kept melting, reaching a new record low of 1.79m sq km on 25 February and beating the previous record by 136,000 sq km – an area double the size of Tasmania."
17) ‘Headed off the charts’: world’s ocean surface temperature hits record high.
The temperature data referred to in these articles is the world average sea surface temperature between the latitudes of 60 degrees N and 60 degrees S, measured by satellite and ocean buoys.
"The temperature of the world’s ocean surface has hit an all-time high since satellite records began, leading to marine heatwaves around the globe, according to US government data. Climate scientists said preliminary data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) showed the average temperature at the ocean’s surface has been at 21.1C since the start of April – beating the previous high of 21C set in 2016. “The current trajectory looks like it’s headed off the charts, smashing previous records,” said Prof Matthew England, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales.
A study last year said the amount of heat accumulating in the ocean was accelerating and penetrating deeper, providing fuel for extreme weather. England, a co-author of that study, said: “What we are seeing now [with the record sea surface temperatures] is the emergence of a warming signal that more clearly reveals the footprint of our increased interference with the climate system.”
Check out the full article.
This second article published about 3 weeks later said -
"Temperatures in the world’s oceans have broken fresh records, testing new highs for more than a month in an “unprecedented” run that has led to scientists stating the Earth has reached “uncharted territory” in the climate crisis. The rapid acceleration of ocean temperatures in the last month is an anomaly that scientists have yet to explain. Data collated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), known as the Optimum Interpolation Sea Surface Temperature (OISST) series, gathered by satellites and buoys, has shown temperatures higher than in any previous year, in a series stretching back to 1981, continuously over the past 42 days."
Check out the full article.
For anyone interested you can see the ongoing trend updated every 2 days on the Climate Reanalyzer website. As of May 29th it was slowly descending but still well above any previous records.
18) Antarctic alarm bells: observations reveal deep ocean currents are slowing earlier than predicted.
"Antarctica sets the stage for the world’s greatest waterfall. The action takes place beneath the surface of the ocean. Here, trillions of tonnes of cold, dense, oxygen-rich water cascade off the continental shelf and sink to great depths. This Antarctic “bottom water” then spreads north along the sea floor in deep ocean currents, before slowly rising, thousands of kilometres away. In this way, Antarctica drives a global network of ocean currents called the “overturning circulation” that redistributes heat, carbon and nutrients around the globe. The overturning is crucial to keeping Earth’s climate stable. It’s also the main way oxygen reaches the deep ocean.
But there are signs this circulation is slowing down and it’s happening decades earlier than predicted. This slowdown has the potential to disrupt the connection between the Antarctic coasts and the deep ocean, with profound consequences for Earth’s climate, sea level and marine life. Our new research, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, uses real-world observations to decipher how and why the deep ocean around Antarctica has changed over the past three decades. Our measurements show the overturning circulation has slowed by almost a third (30%) and deep ocean oxygen levels are declining. This is happening even earlier than climate models predicted."
Check out the full article.
19) The Current Mass Extinction Is Already Far More Dire Than We Realized.
"Ambitious targets intended to slam the brakes on our current mass extinction may already be slipping out of reach barely a year after they were established, new research suggests. Data on birds and mammals reveal there's a huge time lag between environmental change and its impact on animal populations, of up to 45 years depending on the species and the drivers of change. This means the historic 'peace pact with nature' pledged at the United Nation's Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in December last year may already be out of date, as the extent of this lag was not taken into account in projections of future losses.
"There is wide recognition that time is short for the integrated, ambitious actions needed to stop biodiversity loss by 2050," write Natural History Museum zoologist Richard Cornford and colleagues. "This work shows that time is even shorter than had been thought."
The good news is that active management of protected areas does mitigate the threats from direct use of wildlife like hunting, which is important for the livelihoods of many people. This can continue if sustainable limits are maintained like hunting quotas.
What's more, taking the effort to manage and restore habitats has direct benefits for human health too, as healthy, functioning ecosystems are less likely to spill diseases into human populations. Conserving biodiversity is a massive win-win for ourselves, the wider ecosystems we live within, and for climate change mitigation. Our actions had better be fast and meaningful if we're serious about saving what remains."
Check out the full article.
20) The coming EV batteries will sweep away fossil fuel transport, with or without net zero.
This looks like the real deal! Maybe finally we have a breakthrough in new battery technology that is sustainable and can help drive down transport emissions? The good news is that it is a solid state battery that needs no cobalt and can potentially be made with sodium instead of lithium. Sodium is a plentiful resource. This should be good news for renewable energy and bad news for hydrogen proponents.
"The Argonne National Laboratory in the US has essentially cracked the battery technology for electric vehicles, discovering a way to raise the future driving range of standard EVs to a thousand miles or more. It promises to do so cheaply without exhausting the global supply of critical minerals in the process.
The joint project with the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) has achieved a radical jump in the energy density of battery cells. The typical lithium-ion battery used in the car industry today stores about 200 watt-hours per kilo (Wh/kg). Their lab experiment has already reached 675 Wh/kg with a lithium-air variant. Prof Curtiss said the current prototype is based on lithium but does not have to be. The same type of battery could be developed with sodium. It will take more time, but can be done,” he said. Switching to sodium would halve the driving range but it would still be double today’s generation of batteries. Sodium is ubiquitous. There are deposits in Dorset, Cheshire, or Ulster. The US and Canada have vast salt lakes. Sodium can be produced cheaply from seawater in hot regions via evaporation. There is no supply constraint. This knocks out another myth: that the EV revolution is impossible on a planetary scale because there either is not enough lithium, or not enough at viable cost under free market conditions in states aligned with the Western democracies. (The copper shortage is more serious, but there may be solutions for that as well using graphene with aluminium)."The study is peer-reviewed and has just appeared in the research journal Science. Their solid-state battery has achieved the highest energy density yet seen anywhere in the world.
Check out the full article for more info.
21) Revisiting The Limits to Growth.
There was a reference in the preamble of the August newsletter last year to the report prepared by KPMG Director Advisory Gaya Herrington in which she analysed the original Club of Rome "Limits to Growth" report from 1972. Here's a quote from Gaya - "Given the unappealing prospect of collapse, I was curious to see which scenarios were aligning most closely with empirical data today. After all, the book that featured this world model was a bestseller in the 70s, and by now we’d have several decades of empirical data which would make a comparison meaningful. But to my surprise I could not find recent attempts for this. So I decided to do it myself."
The full report can be downloaded on the KPMG website for anyone interested.
I recently came across a blog by Andrew Curry on the resilience.org website. Andrew works for the the School of International Futures in London and has done a useful brief critique of Gaya's paper.
He says - "In her paper, Gaya Herrington has taken four of those scenarios to find out how they are playing out against actual data, and what that means for likely outcomes over the next couple of decades. The four scenarios she chose are, Business As Usual (BAU); Business as Usual 2 (BAU2), which is a revised later version of BAU; Comprehensive Technology (CT); and Stabilized World (SW).
Both BAU and BAU2 are catastrophic; global industrial decline in the near future followed by population decline. And when you look at the slowing growth rates and declining productivity rates that keep perplexing economists, it’s maybe a sign that we are already on the runway for this outcome. Comprehensive Technology has an industrial decline, while population stabilises. In Stabilized World, industrial output and population both stabilise. In comparing outcomes with the Limits projections, Herrington finds that BAU2, and CT track the actual outcomes closely: BAU quite a lot; SW not so much."
Andrew concludes by stating - "There’s one more point here that’s relevant. Economists such as Branko Milanovic argue that flattening out growth—whether that’s “post-growth” or “de-growth”—is not going to be possible because people won’t accept it. But that’s not the choice. The choice is that either we end up with unmanaged decline, which would be catastrophic, or a managed levelling out of our economies, shaped by a shift in social values and expectations. We need some politicians who are willing to be honest about this."
On a positive note (because I worry about too much doom and gloom) you may also be interested to know that the Club of Rome published a book last year titled "Earth for All – A Survival Guide for Humanity". On their website they say "Earth For All is both an antidote to despair and a road map to a better future."
The Canberra Times also printed a review of the book if you want to check it out.
22) Post-growth Europe: 400+ experts call for wellbeing economy.
"There is no empirical basis indicating that it is possible to globally and sufficiently decouple economic growth from environmental pressures. The pursuit of endless economic growth by high income nations is a problem as it either reduces or cancels the outcomes of environmental policies. The current climate chaos and unraveling web of life on which our society depends is an existential threat to peace, water and food security, and democracy.
Advancing to a post-growth economy is not only to survive, but also to thrive. This calls for a democratically planned and equitable downscaling of production and consumption, sometimes referred to as ‘degrowth’, in those countries that overshoot their ecological resources."
For those who are interested you can read the full Open Letter.
23) Time to pay the piper: Fossil fuel companies’ reparations for climate damages.
I personally see some variation of this type of redistribution of wealth as being essential if we are to find a way to a world with a lot less conflict and a lot more co-operation and compassion.
"The calls for climate reparations are rapidly growing in the scientific literature, among climate movements, and in the policy debate. This article proposes morally based reparations for oil, gas, and coal producers, presents a methodological approach for their implementation, and quantifies reparations for the top twenty-one fossil fuel companies.
Human-caused climate change has long been acknowledged as essentially an ethical issue that threatens humanity and ravages the planet. While the Global North’s historical carbon emissions have exceeded their fair share of the planetary boundary by an estimated 92%, the impacts of climate breakdown fall disproportionally on the Global South, which is responsible for a trivial share — Africa, Asia, and Latin America contribute only 8%—of excess emissions.
At the same time, the world’s richest 1% of the population contributed 15% of emissions between 1990 and 2015, more than twice as much as the poorest 50%, who contributed just 7% but who suffer the brunt of climate harm.
This inequity is exacerbated by poorer societies’ lack of resources to adapt to climate impacts and by the persistent reluctance of the Global North to provide them with the necessary funding and assistance as required by the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC) of article 3 of the UNFCCC.
Considering fossil fuel companies as moral agents of the global climate system and attributing them financial reparations help balance the distribution of burdens and benefits. The proposed framework for quantifying and attributing reparations to major carbon fuel producers will inform future efforts to direct payments to harmed parties. While this will not indemnify them from current or prospective climate litigation, it may, for companies that pay reparations and show strong progress on reducing operational and product emissions, defer or even avoid being named as defendants in future lawsuits. The focus on the fossil fuel industry, despite persistent market distortions, governance, and policy failures common in the fossil fuel world, will help bridge the divide between “the rich” and “the poor” worlds that still hampers climate progress. It would also lead to a fairer distribution of the burden of fighting climate change among the various responsible agents, while at the same time providing necessary funding to mitigate emissions, fund adaptation, and compensate subjects more vulnerable to climate harm such as climate migrants and refugees, Indigenous peoples, racial and ethnic minority communities, people with disabilities, and people who are socially and economically disadvantaged."
Check out the full article on the One Earth website and more info from this Guardian article.
24) Global fresh water demand will outstrip supply by 40% by 2030, say experts.
"The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40% by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit. Governments must urgently stop subsidising the extraction and overuse of water through misdirected agricultural subsidies, and industries from mining to manufacturing must be made to overhaul their wasteful practices, according to a landmark report on the economics of water. Nations must start to manage water as a global common good, because most countries are highly dependent on their neighbours for water supplies, and overuse, pollution and the climate crisis threaten water supplies globally, the report’s authors say.
Johan Rockstrom, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, and a lead author of the report, told the Guardian the world’s neglect of water resources was leading to disaster. “The scientific evidence is that we have a water crisis. We are misusing water, polluting water, and changing the whole global hydrological cycle, through what we are doing to the climate. It’s a triple crisis.”
Check out the article which has a link to the full report.
25) Joelle Gergis - Humanity's Moment - A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope.
Here is a positive experience for those needing a boost and to foster some hope. This webinar from March with Dr Joelle Gergis dives into the subject of climate reality, emotion, self care and hope. It was organised by the Psychology for a Safe Climate group and at 1 hour 22 minutes is a long session but both Lesley and found it very worthwhile putting aside the time to listen to it. The Psychology for a Safe Climate group aims to support people emotionally in facing the climate reality and they state that their purpose is to contribute psychological understanding and support within the community, helping people face the difficult climate reality.
26) Top lawyers defy bar to declare they will not prosecute peaceful climate protesters.
This is an interesting development in the UK and highlights the tension between the state trying to maintain an illusion of being in control and members of the public trying to raise the alarm about the emergency that is right in front of us.
"Leading barristers have defied bar rules by signing a declaration saying they will not prosecute peaceful climate protesters or act for companies pursuing fossil fuel projects. They are among more than 120 mostly English lawyers who have signed a declaration vowing to “withhold [their] services in respect of supporting new fossil fuel projects and action against climate protesters exercising their right of peaceful protest”. Noting that climate breakdown represents “a serious risk to the rule of law”, the so-called “declaration of conscience” calls on legal professionals “to act urgently to do whatever they can to address the causes and consequences of the climate and ecological crises and to advance a just transition.
Tim Crosland, the director of the environmental law pressure group Plan B, which together with Maugham’s Good Law Project coordinated the declaration, said “behind every new oil and gas deal sits a lawyer getting rich. Meanwhile, it’s the ordinary people of this country, taking a stand against this greed and destruction that the British legal system prosecutes and imprisons, jailing them just for talking about the climate crisis and fuel poverty. The rule of law has been turned on its head. Lawyers are responsible. It’s time to take a stand.”
Check out the full article if you're interested.
27) The Carbon Brief Interview: ‘Loss-and-damage’ finance pioneer Robert Van Lierop.
As countries negotiated the world’s first climate change treaty in 1991, the Pacific island state of Vanuatu made a momentous proposal. It called for “industrialised” nations to pay for the “loss and damage” that islands expected to face as rising sea levels engulfed their lands. The idea was immediately rejected. Yet 31 years later, at the COP27 summit in Egypt, developing countries finally secured agreement on a new fund to deal with loss and damage. The man behind that 1991 proposal was Robert Van Lierop, a US civil rights lawyer who had been enlisted, a decade earlier, to represent the newly-independent Vanuatu at the UN.
Here is a question from the interview with Robert.
Q. As for the loss and damage fund itself, we have this agreement where the funds will be set up, but should there be concerns given developed countries have missed climate finance targets in the past?
A. RVL: Absolutely. That’s always the problem with the developed countries…They are very prone to make all kinds of promises. It doesn’t matter if it’s to Indigenous populations, small-island countries or former colonies…They make grandiose promises, but then there are always excuses why they can’t deliver. They like to trot out the political pressures that they face at home, as if the developing countries don’t also have political pressures at home – political pressures to get results, and to get justice. The fight for justice is barely beginning, globally.
Check out the full interview.
28) CEO of biggest carbon credit certifier to resign after claims offsets worthless.
"David Antonioli to step down from Verra, which was accused of approving millions of worthless offsets used by major companies.
The head of the world’s leading carbon credit certifier has announced he will step down as CEO next month. It comes amid concerns that Verra, a Washington-based nonprofit, approved tens of millions of worthless offsets that are used by major companies for climate and biodiversity commitments, according to a joint Guardian investigation earlier this year."
Check out the full article.
29) The Rising Chorus of Renewable Energy Skeptics.
This thought provoking and challenging item is a follow up to one I put in the March newsletter looking into the issue of availability of minerals required to supply the renewable energy transformation of our energy infrastructure.
“It’s doubling down on the wrong thing: propping up and accelerating the machine that’s eating the planet alive. Barrelling forward on renewable energy is the last thing Earth’s critters would vote for, and would be considered one of the more disruptive decisions we could make. Our quest for a more ecological growth model has resulted in intensified mining of the Earth’s crust to extract the core ingredient — rare metals — with an environmental impact that could prove far more severe than that of oil extraction. Our quest for a more ecological growth model has resulted in intensified mining of the Earth’s crust to extract the core ingredient — rare metals — with an environmental impact that could prove far more severe than that of oil extraction.”
Unfortunately this item begs the question - Are we just exchanging the devastating impacts on our climate from burning fossil fuels for the devastating impacts on our environment and biodiversity from mining rare metals? I believe it is critical that we face these questions openly so we can collectively make the best decisions for the future of all lifeforms on our wonderful planet.
30) Enzyme found that turns air into electricity.
"New Zealand and Australian scientists have made a fairly startling discovery - an enzyme that turns air into electricity. After studying bacteria in soil that can oxidise hydrogen, scientists discovered the enzyme that could offer a new clean source of energy, the only by-product of which is water. Otago University's distinguished professor Greg Cook is part of the team studying this enzyme."
Check out this 5 minute podcast interview with Professor Greg Cook from Otago University if you want to know more about this fascinating new development.
This article on the SciTech Daily website has more details about this discovery. In the article they say "Australian researchers have uncovered an enzyme capable of transforming air into energy. The study, which was recently published in the prestigious journal Nature, shows that the enzyme utilizes small amounts of hydrogen in the air to generate an electrical current. This breakthrough paves the way for the development of devices that can literally generate energy from thin air. In this Nature paper, the researchers extracted the enzyme responsible for using atmospheric hydrogen from a bacterium called Mycobacterium smegmatis. They showed that this enzyme, called Huc, turns hydrogen gas into an electrical current. Huc is a “natural battery” that produces a sustained electrical current from air or added hydrogen. While this research is at an early stage, the discovery of Huc has considerable potential to develop small air-powered devices, for example as an alternative to solar-powered devices."
I'd like to finish this newsletter by continuing our previous investigation into the pros and cons of hydrogen as an energy source.
31) Opinion: Green hydrogen is 'escapey, explodey expanded polystyrene'.
These last three items are a continuation of our previous investigation into the pros and cons of hydrogen as an energy source.
This article printed in Stuff was written by Tom Powell and Tim Jones of Coal Action Network. Yes, that's the same Tom Powell who is also co-chair of CKM.
"Green hydrogen – “Escapey, explodey expanded polystyrene”. This is how technology advisor Michael Liebreich recently described hydrogen in Threadreader. In some renewable energy circles, green hydrogen is all the rage. It can be made from ordinary water and electricity. It can be burnt like fossil gas but without the greenhouse gas emissions. And, it can be used in fuel cells to make electricity again. What is there not to like? Quite a lot, it turns out. The usual argument against using green hydrogen for energy is the abysmally poor efficiency of turning electricity into hydrogen and then turning it back into useful energy. Presently, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle gets back only about 30% of the electrical energy used to make the green hydrogen in powering the vehicle. A typical battery electric vehicle gets back around 80% of the electrical energy used to charge its batteries."
Check out the full article.
32) Is hydrogen really a clean enough fuel to tackle the climate crisis?
Here's a couple of items on the ongoing topic of the pros and cons of using hydrogen as an alternative fuel. The first is a Guardian article attempting to separate the hype from the facts. It's conclusion is that there is a role for hydrogen but it is a limited one. It says -
"But for most forms of transport (cars, bikes, buses and trains) and heating there are already safer, cleaner and cheaper technologies such as battery-run electric vehicles and heat pumps, so there’s little or no merit in investing time or money with hydrogen. Howarth said: “Renewable electricity is a scarce resource. Direct electrification and batteries offer so much more, and much more quickly. It’s a huge distraction and waste of resources to even be talking about heating homes and passenger vehicles with hydrogen.”
33) The link between hydrogen leaking into our atmosphere and methane accumulation.
This final item is concerning. It looks at new research highlighting the importance of hydroxyl ions in breaking down atmospheric methane and the role fugitive hydrogen plays in this cycle. It looks at a recent study claiming that "Potent clean fuel hydrogen could lead to methane accumulation" and "New Hydrogen Research Reminds Us Humanity Just Can't Win With Fuel Alternatives".
In the study they say -
"Hydrogen's potency as a clean fuel could be limited by a chemical reaction, potentially leading to accumulation of methane in the lower atmosphere, according to new research. This is because hydrogen gas easily reacts in the atmosphere with the same molecule primarily responsible for breaking down methane, a potent greenhouse gas. If hydrogen emissions exceed a certain threshold, that shared reaction will likely lead to methane accumulation in the atmosphere - with decades-long climate consequences, the research from Princton University, US and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association said."
I recommend reading these articles as they contain some critical new information that needs to be further investigated before we humans rush into a new technology thinking it might help save us from our self-inflicted predicament.
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.