National Party Climate Change Spokesperson questions whether we are really faced with a climate crisis?Read Now
Stuart Smith’s talk to an audience in Ashburton in early August raises an important question for New Zealanders. Where does the National Party really stand on the issue of whether we are facing a climate crisis or not. Should we be concerned about the increasing incidence of extreme weather events? You can read about his talk here -
In my personal dealings with Stuart he’s given me the impression that he believes those who warn we are faced with a serious climate crisis are extremists. It is apparent that Stuart believes that the crisis is not nearly as bad as a large majority of the world’s climate scientists are stating. We have to face up to this crisis before we reach an irrecoverable situation. We may be very close to, or have already passed, climate tipping points. We won’t know for sure until we see the evidence in the rear vision mirror – that will be too late unfortunately.
If Stuart was just another local Marlburian who doesn’t accept we’re faced with a crisis I could easily agree to disagree but he is also the Climate Change spokesperson for the National Party and could conceivably end up being responsible for our countries climate change policies sometime in the future. And that is a worry.
So what is he basing his position on? In the above article he uses as evidence for his claim a report titled “The National climate change risk assessment: A case of science denial?” published in June this year by an outfit called “Tailrisk Economics”. Tailrisk economics is a Wellington economics consultancy. It specialises in the economics of low probability, high impact events including financial crises and natural disasters. Their report sets out to challenge the findings of the first National Climate Change Risk Assessment (NCCRA) released by the Ministry for Environment (MfE) in August last year. The full risk assessment is available on the MfE website here –
I’d point out that this assessment was put together with input from more than 400 people. They were from local government, central government, the private sector, primary sector, financial sector, iwi/Māori and universities/research institutes.
In the Tailrisk report they state - “The central message in the assessment is that the climate change risks are very serious, even in the relatively near term. Eight of the 43 sectoral risk assessments found that the consequences of climate change would be extreme by 2050. It is also argued that many risks need to be addressed urgently if the costs are to be mitigated, and that substantial resources need to be made available for additional adaptation research. Our review of the NCCRA found that for the most part, the assessments were not based on the ‘best available evidence’ and often consisted of little more than a recitation of the ‘five horsemen of the apocalypse’: more extreme weather events, more drought, more river flooding, higher sea levels, and more wildfires, followed by unsubstantiated claims that they will have either major or extreme consequences. Contrary to the picture painted in the assessment the science does not show that wind speeds will increase significantly, and river flood risk might actually fall overall. Droughts are likely to become more likely in drought prone areas, and there might be a few more wildfires, but these effects are likely to be outweighed by the positive impacts of climate change, including warmer weather and more fine days in summer, and the impact of carbon fertilisation on primary sector productivity. Sea level rise is a real issue but here the impacts in the NCCRA are overstated.”
You can see the full report here. It is 269 pages long so there’s a lot of material and I haven’t read it all but the summary gives a good idea of the basic thinking of the author/s of the report. The use of the term “catastrophist narrative” is commonly used in the report to describe the concerns expressed in the NCCRA assessment. I’ve picked out one statement from their report to highlight this difference. “RCP 8.5 is also often described as a ‘business as usual’ scenario, which can also be misleading. For most people business as usual is more likely to be interpreted as something like the current level of emissions not a strong growth in emissions.” For me this statement ignores the obvious. Anyone who honestly analyses the data knows that “business as usual” has seen a steady inexorable growth in emissions for the last hundred years at least. That’s exactly what “business as usual” is! You can check the stats here and here -
Over the past 20 years, global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels and industry have been steadily increasing. At the turn of the century, global emissions were roughly 23 billion metric tons, but by 2019 had reached a record high of 36.44 billion metric tons. Projections for 2020 show a reduction of two billion metric tons. The only other time during this period when emissions have dropped was in 2009, which was due to the economic downturn of the global recession.
So, the only time we haven’t had rising emissions this century was a brief flattening off in 2008/09 during the financial crisis and the current drop which took a full scale global pandemic to achieve. Business as usual is rising emissions! And rising emissions is serious cause for concern.
I’m left wondering why the National Party Climate Change spokesperson places so much weight on the Tailrisk report and chooses to place it’s conclusions ahead of those of the majority of reputable climate scientists and the IPCC, all of which are reflected in the NCCRA. Why does the National Party want to associate themselves with this minority viewpoint? I note that Ian Harrison, the Principal of Tailrisk Economic, was criticised in an article published in Newsroom in April last year in the midst of the hard lockdown. Tailrisk had published another report titled “Corona” in which they were highly critical of the Covid modelling being used by the Government. You can view the article here - and the full Tailrisk paper here -
Ian Harrison has used the same approach in both papers, of playing down the threats and criticising and even denigrating those reputable scientists who are voicing their very real concerns.
I have added this information in an attempt to highlight my deep concern about this sort of approach. Playing down the impacts of the climate crisis does not serve the best interests of our community and our country. The pandemic and the climate crisis are both examples of global threats where we are best advised to listen carefully to the scientists who work in those fields and take the contrary advice from economists and politicians with a grain of salt.
How many times have we heard the word unprecedented in the last few months? The European floods, the heat dome in Canada, the fires in Siberia, Turkey and Greece, the drought in Madagascar. Is this all hyperbole and catastrophism or are Stuart and Ian missing what is right in front of them?
This cartoon highlights the central issue. Should we be putting the conclusions of a little known Economics consultancy ahead of the warnings laid out in the National Climate Change Risk Assessment and supported by the findings of the IPCC? I know which view I’ll listen to.
I've also added below the cartoon a short further analysis by Tom Powell of the Tailrisk report. This has some important clarification in it.
Nga mihi, Budyong.
FURTHER ANALYSIS BY TOM POWELL
I’ve figured out how Stuart got so far off the science of climate change induced flooding in his Ashburton talk.
The Tailrisk report he references spends lots of time commenting on a 2019 NIWA report evaluating catchments and river flow in New Zealand. One of the quantities that they looked at was Mean Annual Flood (MAF) which can be estimated for different rivers based upon rainfall and catchment area and is also an output of the climate models. MAF is simply the peak flood flow of a river that can be expected in any one year. It is a statistical quantity that is useful in calculating 50 and 100 year floods, but it is not the same.
Ian Harrison of Tailrisk has confused MAF with flood severity, even though the authors of the NIWA report state that these two are not the same and caution readers about the utility of MAF numbers. They are really only useful to hydrologists who want to calculate flood severity using statistical methods.
The climate modelling in the NIWA report shows that MAF increases for a number of west coast rivers in the coming years (‘the wet get wetter’) but actually decreases in most Canterbury rivers. The decrease is likely due to predicted increasing drought in Canterbury. You can imagine that rivers might undergo a number of years of decreased flow due to drought, lowering their MAF, but still host large floods every few years.
Stuart then carried the misinformation from Tailrisk to the Ashburton meeting. Hopefully, when Stuart questions James Shaw in Parliament about the issue (which, in the article, he said he would do) James will know the mistake Stuart (via Ian Harrison) has made in interpreting the NIWA report. A phone call to a hydrologist would have easily clarified all this!
As everyone will no doubt be aware the Climate Crisis has been getting a lot of attention over the last few weeks. We've had the extreme weather events happening here in NZ with major floods in Canterbury, Buller and Marlborough and also unprecedented floods, heatwaves and wildfires occurring in many places around the planet. The stop banks were topped in several places but Marlborough seems to have dodged a bullet with the flood in the Wairau. This was the biggest flood ever recorded in the Wairau River peaking at just over 6000 cumecs at the SH1 bridge. The very heavy rainfall received in different parts of Marlborough resulted in major damage to roading and other infrastructure but it appears that the outcome could have been a lot worse. We can be thankful for the diligence of those responsible for our river defenses. I guess we are now faced with the next question though? Do we keep building our defenses higher and stronger with predictions for ongoing and more extreme rainfall events due to global warming? Or do we have to change our traditional view of river containment and flood management and give the river more room to move? Our local civil defense controller Richard McNamara was interviewed on Radio NZ on July 19th and had some pertinent words to say - "I'm not really interested in whether you believe in man-made climate change or not. The fact is our climate is changing, we're seeing wild extremes of weather, not only here, you only have to look overseas, look what happened in Germany in the last 5 days, and obviously the wildfires that have occurred in Australia and the United States and Europe etc. We are subject to the extremes of a changing climate and we as a country need to build resilience into that. We need to look at our infrastructure, we need to look at our lifelines, and we need to look at where our communities are located so that we can do our best to protect them and the livelihood that NZ depends on, so, if you're asking me a political question around whether we need to do more in the climate change space and the lifeline space which includes roading access, of course we do, from an emergency management perspective we need to do more because this isn't going to stop. This isn't the one in a hundred year flood which means we get one in a hundred years. It's not the one in a hundred year fire that you get one in a hundred years. These will be recurring and the legacy that we need to leave is one that we've recognised the danger and albeit we've left it a little late we need to work now."
1) Marlborough District Council Long Term Plan 2021-31.
You can see below the response we've received from Council to our submission and presentation at the LTP hearings.
"At the Council meeting on 8 June 2021 your submission was considered by elected members. The following was the outcome of this consideration and has been confirmed at the Council meeting on 24 June 2021:
There is $483,000 budgeted for Climate Change investigations. The group’s concerns are valid and are being taken account of in Council's planning, whether that be our resource management plan, infrastructure design or the broader planning issues involved in new development area considerations. There will be further work done on the benefits and costs of electric and hybrid vehicles to inform our next fleet renewal. The CE’s Council vehicle is a hybrid."
2) MDC June 10th Environment Committee meeting – A report was presented titled “Efficient use of water in Marlborough”.
Purpose of Report
1. To provide an update on addressing efficient use of water in the region through resource consenting and monitoring.
2. Inefficient allocation and use of water is potentially a significant issue in Marlborough, given that many water resources are at or are approaching full allocation.
3. The main efficient use model used by applicants in Marlborough is IrriCalc, which uses existing soils information and modelled climate data to provide estimates of water use for a list of different crop types and provides a reasonable use volume at daily, monthly and yearly rates.
4. To ensure efficient use of water for irrigation, the Council will generally not grant water permits to use water for irrigation purposes at a rate that exceeds the reasonable use calculation provided by IrriCalc.
5. All water take meters provide data via telemetry, manual submissions or on request. These meters should be verified every five years.
6. There are minimum flow requirements for many Marlborough Rivers, with restriction and rationing provisions included in consents to protect these minimum flows.
7. Inefficient allocation and use of water is potentially a significant issue in Marlborough, given that many water resources are at or are approaching full allocation. Once allocation limits have been reached, the Council is unable to continue allocating water to other users. To give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management (NPSFM), there are a number of Objectives and associated Policies in the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP) aimed to achieve efficient water use for any given activity.
It’s good to see that - “Under the proposed Marlborough Environment Plan the aquifer FMU’s also have minimum levels at which water permit holders can be restricted, and along the coast there are also conductivity limits to protect the aquifers from salt water intrusion.”
It’s also interesting to note that the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP) stipulates, in regard to water balloting that -
• Policy 5.9.1 of the PMEP outlines that once an allocation limit is reached and that part of the water resource is fully allocated, any water that subsequently becomes free to allocate to other users will only be made available to those users through a system of ballot.
• A ballot is considered by water users to be the most equitable way to determine who should receive the water given the likely competition for the water amongst existing users. It avoids the situation of a person gaining access to water in preference to other potential users based on the nature of the use or because they were first to make an application. The ballot system is yet to be established.
• The majority of the regions water resources are fully or over-allocated. The Wairau River is the main resource that has allocation available, as well as high flow water in other rivers that is suitable to be taken and stored in storage dams.
• It should be noted that some of the allocation limits set in the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan are under appeal, the outcome of which may have an impact on the status of water allocation in the relevant Freshwater Management Units (FMU’s) in the future.
The full report is available here. It is item 10 on the June 10th Environment Committee meeting Agenda.
3) Registration of interest – Bluegums landfill gas utilisation solutions -
The Marlborough District Council is seeking registrations of interest which offer cost effective and environmentally sustainable solutions for the utilisation of landfill gas. The purpose of this registration process is to ascertain market capability and to inform and assist the Council in making their decision as to the nature of further procurement processes (if any) to follow. The contract involves developing, supplying, installing and operating a system that maximises landfill gas destruction whilst putting the gas to a beneficial use such as electricity production.
The Council has included a report entitled Review of Landfill Gas Destruction Options to provide some background and contextual information. Registrations of interest close at 4.00 pm on Thursday 12 August 2021.
NOTE - The option of sending landfill gas to the hospital is no longer available, so that removes one of the main options. The report identifies issues with other options such as electricity or CNG production and leaves me with the impression that the end result of the process may be that the installation of a secondary flare is the likely outcome due to the size of the resource and issues associated with guaranteeing a reliable clean supply of gas.
Below is an extract from the report -
Landfill gas collected at the landfill is currently directed to an enclosed flare for destruction. We understand that as a result of recent issues with the operation of the flare, and in order to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Standard for Air Quality (NES Air) 1 , MDC is seeking options for an additional destruction mechanism for the site.
MDC has requested that the following options for additional landfill gas destruction at the site be considered:
The objective of this project is to assess potential options for destroying landfill gas and provide advice on the suitability of each option to the site. We understand that MDC’s drivers for the destruction of landfill gas are:
• Control of odour issues at the site.
• Destruction of methane to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the site.
• Compliance with regulatory requirements and management of ETS obligations.
We also understand that MDC is interested in achieving a beneficial use of the landfill gas, if practicable. This objective has also been built into the assessment.
You can download a copy of the full report here -
4) Climate Change page on MDC website –
The council website has a page here with information about MDC actions and policies in regard to Climate Change.
You can also see their regularly updated "Marlborough Climate Impact Report" which is available here.
There is also a link to a MfE website page titled “Climate Change Projections for the Marlborough Region” that has some useful information including further pages such as “Adapting to Sea Level Rise” and “Climate Change Adaptation and Central Government”.
5) CKM Co-chairperson Tom Powell in local news -
Tom Powell is an optimist.
The world might be in a climate emergency, but the Climate Karanga Marlborough member says his glass is always half full. “You probably talk to climate activists... there’s those that are pessimists, there’s those that don’t see much hope,” Powell said. “I’m hoping for the best, I’m hoping that we can turn this thing around so our children, and our children’s children, can have a future that was as good, maybe better, than ours was. Although, he admits he thinks it might be hard to grow up in a world better than when he grew up.”
The full article printed in Stuff can be viewed here -
6) Businesses for Climate Action - Climate Solutions for Te Tauihu Businesses -
CKM have been approached by Bruce Gilkison who’s involved with a group called “Businesses for Climate Action” (B4CA) that is based in Nelson/Tasman. We're planning to have a Zoom discussion with representatives from B4CA at our next meeting. Below is some info from their website and you can view the site here -
In Te Tauihu (the top of the south) local businesses are taking the lead in creating a zero carbon Aotearoa within a resilient sustainable economy, adaptable to both the opportunities and disruptions of climate change. Together we can transform our business community to create lasting, positive impact. The best place to start is to measure a business’s carbon emissions, so you know how big they are and where they’re coming from.Our aim is to have 1000 businesses across Te Tauihu measure their carbon footprint by the end of 2021. This is an ambitious target but slowing climate change is a big challenge. Businesses that measure their footprints will learn about their emissions – how large they are, and where they come from – and many of these businesses will be inspired to reduce them… perhaps even to ‘net zero’. So the greater the number of businesses that measure their emissions, the closer the whole region could get to zero. To that end, we’re facilitating workshops, seminars and events that provide connection, education and inspiration.
7) Woodbourne NZ Defense Force Coal boilers.
Last year the NZ Defense Force (NZDF) applied to the MDC for a resource consent to renew its permit to discharge to air from its operations at Woodbourne. This includes permission to discharge from two 1,172kW coal fired boilers. According to EECA these are the only two coal fired burners operated by the NZDF in NZ. CKM and Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) have been working together to investigate what plans the NZDF are making to replace these coal fired boilers with more a more suitable low emissions option. The current government agreed in November 2020 to establish "The Carbon Neutral Government Programme" They state - "This is a long-term work programme that aims to make a number of government organisations carbon neutral from 2025, and help them accelerate their emissions reduction journeys." This means these government organisations, including the NZDF will be required to offset emissions after 2025 to achieve carbon neutrality.
In response to an OIA request MBIE released information about progress with this program in June in which it states:
This overall ambition would reflect the intent of the Carbon Neutral Government Programme and our public announcements by:
The Government is making changes to resource management legislation which mean that greenhouse gas emissions can be taken into account, but these changes will not come into effect in time to influence the resource consent process.
Tim Jones of CANA has told us that he expects the NZ Defence Force will replace coal burning at Woodbourne with renewable energy sources long before the 35-year term of new resource consent application is up, but nevertheless, it's of great concern that it's still possible in 2021 for the use of coal to be consented for such a long period. "It's time to phase out the mining and use of coal everywhere in Aotearoa," Tim Jones said. "If this Government is serious about the climate emergency it has declared, it has to close the regulatory loopholes that let coal projects slip through the cracks." CANA is calling for the Government to announce a ban on new and expanded coal mines and is working with other groups for an end to exploring, prospecting and mining fossil fuels in New Zealand.
You can sign the "No New Fossil Fuel Permits or Expansions in Aotearoa" petition here -
This is an area we need to follow up on to check what progress has been made with phasing out the coal boilers.
You can view the full MBIE "Report on Implementation and Further Decisions on the Carbon Neutral Government Programme" here -
8) Forest and Bird report on forest damage caused by browsing animals.
Culling deer, possums, goats, feral pigs and other invasive mammals could let established native forests recover to the point where they sucked in 15 per cent of New Zealand’s yearly greenhouse gas emissions, says a report from Forest and Bird.
The conservation advocacy group has used a report by Crown science agency Scion, as well as independent estimates of the numbers of feral mammals and other information, to estimate how much eradicating pests could benefit the climate.
More than a decade of monitoring at native forest plots scattered the length of the country shows New Zealand’s established forests are in equilibrium – sucking in roughly as much carbon dioxide as they release.
The full article is available here. The scientific research paper is available here.
And you can listen to Kevin Hackwell from Forest and Bird talking about the report on Radio NZ here -
9) EV Enhanced and Kiwi Ingenuity -
I wanted to give a plug for the company "EV Enhanced" in Christchurch to highlight their efforts to extend the life of EV's and reuse EV batteries for solar systems when they are no longer suitable for vehicle use. They are a good example of Kiwi ingenuity.
On their website they state -
We are here to develop and offer upgrades that enable existing electric vehicles(EV) to remain useable, relevant and desirable as they age. By applying current technology, it is very feasible to make these vehicles significantly better, faster and with longer-range than when they were sold new.The intention is to extend the useable lifetime of these vehicles as much as possible, firstly for the early adopters that originally purchased these vehicles and then for the following owners as they are ready to embrace this superior technology.
You can check out their site here -
10) Who's insuring coastal New Zealand and will they continue?
That's the question posed by Canterbury University Lecturer of Civil Systems Engineering Tom Logan in a very informative piece for The Conversation. For those living in coastal properties around New Zealand, the threat of climate change is very real and Tom is asking where is the line for insurers? And who will be providing compensation if insurers balk at the risks?
He also talked to Jesse Mulligan on Radio NZ about the issues he's raised in the article. You can listen to the interview here -
This topic has been getting plenty of attention lately. There is also a very good article in the July 17 copy of the Listener. One of the ideas being discussed is that of “climate leases”.
This topic was also addressed in another RNZ interview in February this year.
Here's an extract from that interview -
Belinda Storey is a climate economist who suggests there should be a legal framework for properties to be converted from freehold to leasehold when escalating hazards from sea level rise leave homes suitable only for temporary use, or retreat. Legal frameworks for changing a property from freehold to leasehold haven’t caught up with climate change threat, she says.
“There is a time limit being put on locations that have escalating hazards, but at the moment our legal structures in terms of property rights assume that we can remain in place indefinitely.”
Under leasehold someone else owns the land and the house is owned by the buyer of the leasehold. To convert an at-risk property to leasehold would require some form of compensation to the owner, she says. The buyer of the land would most likely be local or central government – part of her ongoing research is to develop tools to assess what the value of such land is. Currently it is significantly over-valued and coastal properties continue to attract a premium, she says.
“The longer we leave it the worse the problem becomes, so the market isn’t taking into account these risks. “You’ve got this bigger and bigger accumulation of assets and unfortunately there is an expectation that when disaster strikes someone’s going to step in.” Governments feel powerless to not intervene when a disaster strikes, she says.
Even when land is deemed to have a limited life span because of erosion or flood risk – values don’t plummet, she says. “Everyone assumes that it plummets, what’s surprising about this, and this is partly why I think we need to intervene, is that we are really good at ignoring risks.”
Lisa Ellis, professor of philosophy at the University of Otago, told Nine to Noon she agrees with the leasehold idea.
“I love this idea of moving from freehold to leasehold because the fact of the matter is in the face of climate change we are not in fact relating to each other as independent freeholders at all. “We are facing these problems together, we rely on councils and central government for infrastructure.” The kind of transparency offered by leasehold would discourage risky developments, she says. “Right now people who are considering doing new developments in risky areas they are basically playing chicken with the rate payers and the tax payers, expecting that the lovely history of solidaristic support that New Zealand has will bail them out.”
11) NZ's first electric powered aircraft popular in Kapiti -
With the future of the Kāpiti Coast Airport up in the air and the Climate Change Commission's recent report on its 2022-2025 emissions reduction plan including some electrification of short haul domestic air travel in the demonstration path from 2030 onwards, the visit is hoped to help kickstart New Zealand's electric aviation revolution. The Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft Rerenga Hiko ('Flying Electric') arrived disassembled in Kāpiti on Friday, June 11 and has been fully booked by aero club members around the lower North Island and public passenger flights since its arrival.
At a Future of Flying event last Friday, Kāpiti Districts Aero Club president Tony Quayle said, "While this is the end of the aircraft's first trial at Kāpiti, it is only the beginning of electric aviation locally. Designed as a training aircraft, the lithium batteries last up to 90 minutes, and can be charged in under an hour.
With no petrol required and the only liquid in the aircraft being a coolant for the motor, the aircraft costs just $75 an hour to operate. "We are able to operate this aircraft at $75 an hour, whereas a Cessna 152, our standard training aircraft, is $200 an hour.
"There is a dramatic difference in cost in flying this aircraft."
Brought to New Zealand by ElectricAir owner Gary Freedman after finding he couldn't reconcile driving an electric car but flying in a petrol aircraft, Gary has found interest in the aircraft has been huge.
With Aotearoa having one of the highest rates of short haul flights in the world per capita and goals of achieving a 100 per cent renewable electricity grid, ElectricAir sees electric aviation as a no-brainer for New Zealand.
The full article can be viewed here -
12) Sounds Air plan to fly electric plane by 2026 -
Electric commercial passenger aircraft could be landing at an airport near you within five years. Electric aircraft will offer a smoother, quieter ride, with a smaller carbon footprint, and airfares are expected to cost the same as on a comparable gas turbine engine aircraft.
In its final advice to the Government on Aotearoa's roadmap to reducing carbon emissions, the Climate Change Commission said short-haul aviation, such as a trip from Wellington to Nelson, will begin converting to electric aircraft from 2030. Marlborough-based regional airline Sounds Air has even more ambitious plans, with a goal of flying electric passenger aircraft on regional routes by 2026.
To read the full press release, click here.
Below is an extract from the Sounds Air website and here is a recent statement from Sounds Air about the development -
In line with Sounds Air's goal to become the first New Zealand airline to offer zero-emission flights, attached is a 'Press Release from Heart Aerospace' dated 13th July 2021. This is a huge development milestone in the goal of achieving Zero Emission flights world-wide, and in New Zealand.
Sounds Air is very excited to be part of this world leading technology and the order for 200 ES-19’s by United Airlines cements the future of this project.
It is so easy to say "too hard" or "not in my lifetime" but Sounds Air says "if not us - then who"? As a board and company we are dedicated to being at the forefront of this technology in New Zealand and wish Heart Aerospace all success as they lead the way towards Zero Emission flight.
13) Report finds biogas a viable alternative for New Zealand -
This country has the potential to produce enough renewable gas to supply three quarters of all commercial users, writes Nicholas Pointon. A part-government funded report from the country's biggest gas distributor, First Gas, engineering firm Beca, and Fonterra, found that 4 percent of the country's energy related emissions could be avoided by low-emitting, renewable alternatives. One avenue being pursued is anaerobic digestion, whereby organic waste from kitchens and the farm is broken down and turned into biogas, which is then cleaned and upgraded into biomethane. This gas could then be easily transported within the current gas pipeline network, without the need for changes to the infrastructure. Beca's industrial sustainability lead, Eleanor Grant, said widespread use of biomethane would have significant environmental benefits.
The full article can be viewed here -
14) The Anthropocene: Where on Earth are we Going?
Will Steffen is a well respected scientist based at the Australian National University in Canberra. His research interests span a broad range within the fields of climate and Earth System science, with an emphasis on incorporation of human processes in Earth System modelling and analysis; and on sustainability and climate change, with a focus on urban systems. The Royal Society of Victoria recently released a video with Will speaking frankly about the challenges associated with the climate crisis that humanity are facing. I highly recommend you putting aside the 42 minutes required to listen to it. The video is available here -
Here is the preamble to the video -
Human pressures on the planet as a whole – the ‘Earth System’ – have now become so great that scientists have proposed that we have left the Holocene, the 11,700-year geologic epoch that has been humanity’s accommodating home, and have entered a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene, characterised by extremely rapid changes to the climate system driven primarily by human emissions of greenhouse gases and growing degradation of the planet’s biosphere, driven by a range of direct and indirect human pressures. Where is the Anthropocene headed? The current trajectory of the Earth System is a rapid exit from the Holocene, accelerating towards a much hotter climate system and a degraded, ill-functioning biosphere. Perhaps most concerning is a possible ‘fork in the road’ beyond which lies ‘Hothouse Earth’. The key element of this trajectory is a ‘tipping cascade’, in which a series of interlinked tipping points – the melting of polar ice, the conversion of forest biomes to grasslands or savannas, changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation – take control of the trajectory of the Earth System and move it to a much hotter, biodiversity-impoverished, but stable state. Professor Will Steffen (Climate Council of Australia, Australian National University) argues that avoiding this possible tipping cascade requires fundamental changes to human societies. These changes include not only advances in technologies but also more fundamental changes in societal structures and core values.
And here is a quote on the topic from the book “The Systems View of Life” by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi.
“...Our world today is dominated by a global economic system with disastrous social and environmental impacts – ‘predatory capitalism’…. We are the only species on Earth who destroys its own habitat, threatening countless other species with extinction in the process.”
15) Aboriginal Wisdom shared -
The previous item asking "Where on Earth are we going" and this item are strongly linked. I grew up in West Australia from the age of 3 until I left as an 18 year old. My early schooling was in a small country town in the wheatbelt called Pingelly where there was a large reserve on the edge of town where the local Noongar people lived. Noongar people are the traditional owners of the south west region of WA, but in our town were banished to the "Reserve". I knew the road that went to the "Reserve" but never went down that road. A white person couldn't go there without a permit.
We would all do well to listen to the simple but profound wisdom being shared by the aboriginal people. Humanity must rediscover it's "connection to Country" as they call it. Here is a quote from a Noongar elder published in the book, “Elders: Wisdom from Australia’s Indigenous Leaders.”
"We’re only here for a short amount of time to do what we’ve been put here to do, which is to look after the country. We’re only a tool in the cycle of things. ...(we) go out into the world and help keep the balance of nature. It’s a big cycle of living with the land, and then eventually going back to it…”
Here is a short 15 minute video clip with Marlikka Perdrisat giving her keynote address on "Country" to the recent Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Summit in Adelaide. Her presence is powerful and her message moving.
Here is a brief bio -
Marlikka Perdrisat is a Nyikina Warrwa and Wangkumara Barkindji woman and has attained her Bachelor of Commerce, completing her Juris Doctor in Law, with the promise of starting her Postgraduate Doctorate in 2022. Marlikka works across academia, film, and law to spread awareness of First Law, the guiding principles that First Peoples generated over aeons to govern the diverse bioregions within the land mass currently known as Australia.
Marlikka has been employed for the past four years with Gilbert + Tobin an award-winning Australian law firm, she is currently on secondment to the Environmental Defenders Office. Marlikka is also a digital storyteller and researcher with the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council, an alliance of Traditional Owners who have come together to stand with One Mind and One Voice as a united Council of Senior Elders from Traditional Owner Groups of the King Sound, Fitzroy River, and its Catchment.
16) Proposed Legal Definition of Ecocide released by Stop Ecocide Foundation -
The Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide convened by our foundation has completed its deliberations. The proposed definition of ecocide as a 5th crime under the Rome Statute is now available for states to consider - and for civil society to demand.
We think the drafting panel has achieved something remarkable - we love this legal definition! It’s well pitched between what needs to be done to protect ecosystems and what will be acceptable to states - it’s both bold and workable at same time. Governments and activists alike will take it seriously.
Here is a copy of the draft definition of Ecocide.
1. For the purpose of this Statute, “ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.
2. For the purpose of paragraph 1:
a. “Wanton” means with reckless disregard for damage which would be clearly excessive in
relation to the social and economic benefits anticipated;
b. “Severe” means damage which involves very serious adverse changes, disruption or harm
to any element of the environment, including grave impacts on human life or natural,
cultural or economic resources;
c. “Widespread” means damage which extends beyond a limited geographic area, crosses
state boundaries, or is suffered by an entire ecosystem or species or a large number of
d. “Long-term” means damage which is irreversible or which cannot be redressed through
natural recovery within a reasonable period of time;
e. “Environment” means the earth, its biosphere, cryosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and
atmosphere, as well as outer space.
This is a very encouraging development after a lot of effort from many people. Hopefully this draft is adopted and the people of our planet get the opportunity to hold to account those who do serious and long lasting damage to the environment that all life depends on for survival. You can read more about this on the Ecocide Law website here -
17) The upcoming moon wobble and what we can expect -
I found this item from RNZ recently very interesting. Research shows that the regular moon "wobble" will exacerbate sea level rise impacts for a period of about 18 years after 2035.
A new study on high tides and flooding in the US made headlines this past week.
But rather than blaming the usual villain, climate change, coverage of the study instead pointed the finger at the Moon - the study has mentioned a "wobble" in the moon's orbit that could have a significant impact on the number of natural disasters the world faces. The Moon wobble is a regular occurrence climate scientist Professor David Noone told Jesse Mulligan.“The idea of the wobble is not that the moon itself actually wobbles, but the way in which the moon influences and affects our tides that changes with time,” Prof Noone says. It’s part of a regular cycle that happens every 18 to 19 years, he says.
“On that 18-year cycle there are times when the high tides and low tides are much more different from one another. “And there are other times in that cycle where the high tides and low tides are quite similar so the magnitude of the tides are large or small.” We are currently on a downward trend, he says. “The difference between our high tides and low tides, it's actually quite large at the moment. So, we're headed into a period where the difference between a high tides and low tides will be more modest.” What the researchers at the University of Hawaii have done is connect this natural phenomenon and seas level rise, he says. “The idea there is quite simple that if sea level is slowly but surely rising, and then on top of that the high tides are particularly high. They're the moments when we would expect coastal flooding to be most likely.” Because we are going into a phase of decreasing high tides at the moment, it almost exactly offsets the increase in tidal height overall by sea level rise, Prof Noone says.
“What's really quite problematic that this new research has pointed out is that after about 2035, these two effects sea level rise and the now increasing rates of high tides will combine and we get a double whammy. “The higher tides are increasing, as well as the tides overall are increasing because of sea level rise. And we see a dramatic change in the likelihood of flooding because of that combination.”
You can listen to the full interview here -
18) World ‘must step up preparations for extreme heat’ -
The world needs to step up preparations for extreme heat, which may be hitting faster and harder than previously forecast, a group of leading climate scientists have warned in the wake of freakishly high temperatures in Canada and the US.
Last week’s heat dome above British Columbia, Washington state and Portland, Oregon smashed daily temperature records by more than 5C (9F) in some places – a spike that would have been considered impossible two weeks ago, the experts said, prompting concerns the climate may have crossed a dangerous threshold.
“We thought we knew what was going on … Then this heatwave came which was way above the upper bound. With the knowledge of last year this was impossible. This was surprising and shaking,” he said. “We are now much less certain about heatwaves than we were two weeks ago. We are very worried about the possibility of this happening everywhere but we just don’t know yet.”
The full article can be viewed here -
19) Climate Reality Check 2020.I had an item in the March newsletter earlier this year about the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration based in Australia. They have now set up a website called CLIMATE REALITY CHECK which has some very good information and resource material available on it.
Climate Reality Check 2020 draws together current climate research from around the world to present 20 critical observations, insights and understandings to help inform and guide the stark choices that now stand before us.
Here are a couple of quotes from scientists who have endorsed the Climate Reality Check information.
“If we continue down the present path "there is a very big risk that we will just end our civilisation. The human species will survive somehow but we will destroy almost everything we have built up over the last two thousand years.”
PROF. HANS JOACHIM SCHELLNHUBER. DIRECTOR EMERITUS OF THE POTSDAM INSTITUTE.
“Ten years ago, this Climate Reality Check report would have been seen as alarmist. The fact that it would now be seen as a reasonable statement of the current situation should be a wake up call for all the Nero’s watching as Rome burns. The Climate Reality Check brings together multiple lines of evidence that together point at a Climate Emergency. A significant part of an appropriate response to this emergency is to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible, not as soon as convenient”.
Professor A.J. Pitman. Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, The University of New South Wales, Sydney.
Recognise the Impact | Recalculate the Risk | Reframe the Action
Climate Reality Check draws together current climate science research to present 20 critical understandings, observations and insights to help inform and guide the stark choices that now stand before us.
Climate Reality Check is a resource designed to help climate practitioners, advocates, journalists, business leaders and policymakers better understand and address the alarming mismatch between the current climate risks and considerably inadequate level of climate action.
The underestimation of the seriousness of the climate reality today poses grave consequences for the safety, health and well-being of our societies, the capacity of governments to protect the people, and regional and global stability.
• Presents a sound scientific foundation to increase vital awareness and help frame effective strategy.
• Highlights major trends and impacts to emphasise urgent and severe vulnerabilities.
• Confronts risks and threats with rigour and unrestrained honesty.
• Identifies critical action gaps essential for global security and protection.
The full report is available to download or view online here -
20) UK failing to protect against climate dangers, advisers warn.
The UK government is failing to protect people from the fast-rising risks of the climate crisis, from deadly heatwaves to power blackouts, its official climate advisers have warned.
The climate change committee said action to improve the nation’s resilience is not keeping pace with the impacts of global heating, many of which are already causing harm. The CCC’s experts said they were frustrated by the “absolutely illogical” lack of sufficient action on adaptation, particularly as acting is up to 10 times more cost-effective than not doing so.
They said climate change was here now. In 2020’s heatwave, 2,500 people died in the UK, but the CCC said the government had not heeded their warnings for more than a decade that homes must be made easier to cool, such as by using shutters.
Cutting carbon emissions remained vital to avoid the worst climate impacts, the CCC said, but some were inevitable. It highlighted a series of risks that required action within two years at the latest. These included damage to woodlands and peatlands by high temperatures and drought that would prevent the UK meeting its goal of net zero emissions by 2050, because these areas would be unable to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
The full article is available here -
21) Joint NASA, NOAA Study Finds Earth's Energy Imbalance Has Doubled.
Researchers have found that Earth’s energy imbalance approximately doubled during the 14-year period from 2005 to 2019.
Earth's climate is determined by a delicate balance between how much of the Sun's radiative energy is absorbed in the atmosphere and at the surface and how much thermal infrared radiation Earth emits to space. A positive energy imbalance means the Earth system is gaining energy, causing the planet to heat up. The doubling of the energy imbalance is the topic of a recent study, the results of which were published June 15 in Geophysical Research Letters.
The full article can be found here -
22) Carbon Fee and Dividend support -
The famous climate scientist James Hansen has been a strong proponent of the Carbon Fee and Dividend approach to carbon management. He recently posted this item. Fareed Zakaria is a presenter from CNN.
"Fareed Zakaria attracts high level guests to his program because of its reach and objectivity. He lets his guests have the last word on their topic. Yet Zakaria’s interpretations of issues of the day – which he labels as “his take” – stand out as especially penetrating and insightful.
On Sunday this week Zakaria ended his program with a concise description of an effective approach to address climate change – in just a few minutes he described how carbon fee-and-dividend could be made near-global. I won’t try to summarize his take – it’s impossible to match his clarity and brevity, which includes great illustrations.
In contrast to carbon fee-and-dividend, most governments prefer the “red-tape” approach: increased government regulations with the government picking technology winners and losers.
Governments have followed the red tape approach for three decades, ever since the Framework Convention on Climate Change was approved by almost all nations in 1992. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement are designed to allow all nations to follow the red tape approach within their countries. As a result, global carbon emissions have continued to rise.
The red tape approach cannot work because it ignores economics. It lets the fossil fuel industry continue to use the atmosphere – somewhere – as a free dumping ground for carbon waste. Fossil fuels might be regulated away in some nations, but the fuels will be burned elsewhere.
Fossil fuels are amazingly effective in raising living standards; one gallon (3.7 liters) of gasoline (petrol) contains the work equivalent of 400 hours of labor by a healthy adult. That beneficial property of fossil fuels – we now realize – carries with it an existential threat.
Continued carbon emissions will make low latitudes of Earth uncomfortable if not uninhabitable. Coastal cities worldwide will begin to go underwater during the lifetime of today’s young people. Emigration pressures from low latitudes and coastal regions may make the planet ungovernable, and autocratic governments will be more likely to gain and retain power."
The full statement by Fareed can be viewed here -
The full release from James Hansen can be downloaded here - It is available under the heading “Public Square – Global Problems require a Global Solution.” posted on June 24th.
23) Bottom Trawling and carbon dioxide -
New science shows that bottom trawling is not only extremely damaging to ocean biodiversity but it also releases more carbon dioxide than global aviation (at pre-Covid levels)
It’s been well established by now that the agricultural systems producing our food contribute at least one fifth of global anthropogenic carbon emissions—and up to a third if waste and transportation are factored in. A troubling new report points to a previously overlooked source: an industrial fishing process practiced by dozens of countries around the world, including the United States, China, and the E.U.
The study, published in the scientific journal Nature, is the first to calculate the carbon cost of bottom trawling, in which fishing fleets drag immense weighted nets along the ocean floor, scraping up fish, shellfish and crustaceans along with significant portions of their habitats.
According to calculations conducted by the report’s 26 authors, bottom trawling is responsible for one gigaton of carbon emissions a year—a higher annual total than (pre-pandemic) aviation emissions. Not only does the practice contribute to climate change, it is extremely damaging to ocean biodiversity—the “equivalent of ploughing an old-growth forest into the ground, over and over and over again until there is nothing left” according to lead author Enric Sala, a marine biologist who is also National Geographic’s Explorer in Residence.
The full article can be viewed here -
24) Mining holds the key to a green future – no wonder human rights activists are worried -
The extract below is from an article written by Kevin Watkins who is chief executive of Save the Children UK and highlights one of the issues we all need to face as we try to decarbonise. For me it also highlights the fact that we can't keep consuming unhindered on the assumption that the energy required to feed our addiction can be replaced from renewable sources. The question has to be asked "can we reduce our consumption and effectively manage a program of energy descent to save our planet?"
"Can we decarbonise power and transport in time to avoid climate catastrophe? That will depend partly on the governance of a global mining sector tarnished by accusations of human rights abuse, environmental damage and financial corruption.
Expanding renewable energy is a mineral intensive enterprise. Nature might provide the solar radiation and wind providing renewable energy, but the arteries through which the electricity flows are made of copper – and lots of it. Wind turbine gearboxes need manganese, platinum and rare earth magnets. EV batteries are made with lithium, cobalt and nickel. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a mid-century zero-carbon world will take a sixfold increase in the production of these and other transition minerals by 2030. Prices are already surging.
The supply chains through which transition minerals flow are highly concentrated. Small groups of countries – the Democratic Republic of the Congo (cobalt), Indonesia and the Philippines (nickel), Australia and Chile (lithium) – dominate production. But Chinese mining companies are rapidly increasing investments.
In processing, China is the main game in town. Its refining companies account for more than half of the world’s cobalt and lithium production. Global value chains for EV batteries are dominated from top to bottom by Chinese suppliers. They account for more than 80% of the raw materials for advanced battery materials.
Cop26 provides an opportunity for the EU, US and China to forge a new multilateralism. The starting point should be a shift towards mandatory human rights due diligence reporting. The EU has already announced an intent to move in this direction, potentially opening the door to sanctions against companies for breach of due diligence and legal redress for communities. The US Securities and Exchange Commission is similarly planning to make environmental and human rights disclosures mandatory.
None of this is a substitute for effective national governance. But mandatory human rights reporting, allied to strengthened disclosure on shell companies and ownership of offshore enterprises, would help raise reporting standards and strengthen the hands of local communities and others defending human rights. The alternative is a wave of activist protest, legal challenge and investor hesitancy that will slow the development of the mineral resources needed to secure our climate future.
That is an outcome none of us can afford. With the right governance we can ensure that the green revolution in energy does not become a new resource curse for the poor – without it, we all lose.
The full article can be viewed here -
25) Big oil and gas kept a dirty secret for decades. Now they may pay the price -
After a century of wielding extraordinary economic and political power, America’s petroleum giants face a reckoning for driving the greatest existential threat of our lifetimes.
An unprecedented wave of lawsuits, filed by cities and states across the US, aim to hold the oil and gas industry to account for the environmental devastation caused by fossil fuels – and covering up what they knew along the way.
Coastal cities struggling to keep rising sea levels at bay, midwestern states watching “mega-rains” destroy crops and homes, and fishing communities losing catches to warming waters, are now demanding the oil conglomerates pay damages and take urgent action to reduce further harm from burning fossil fuels.
But, even more strikingly, the nearly two dozen lawsuits are underpinned by accusations that the industry severely aggravated the environmental crisis with a decades-long campaign of lies and deceit to suppress warnings from their own scientists about the impact of fossil fuels on the climate and dupe the American public.
The full article can be viewed here -
26) How to Live in a Climate ‘Permanent Emergency’ -
This is a very interesting article written by David Wallace-Wells looking at the Permanent Emergency that is now happening around us and the challenges of adaptation arising from the emergency. Here’s an extract from the article.
Simply because tens of millions of people in Canada and the U.S. are living through the heat dome, however many thousands die from it, and will survive the fire season to come, however much they choke on its smoke, it would be criminal to look back on what is happening now and will happen in the months ahead and think, “We managed.”
For years now, hyperbolic headliners have used those kinds of disasters of warming to declare that the age of climate change had arrived. This year suggests the possibility of a new arrival — the age of adaptation, or what climate-and-energy researcher Juan Moreno-Cruz yesterday called “climate realism.” Alarmism, he said, was “useless,” and even efforts to decarbonize have served as a kind of distraction. “Stop dreaming up climate solutions, think of climate managing strategies,” he admonished.”
“Talking climate solutions has left us unprepared for actual climate change. We keep running models and fighting over which “solution” is the best, but we have done nothing to address the impacts of climate change. Managing climate change is not as sexy as solving climate change, but it’s what we need. Yes, we need real action to achieve deep decarbonization in our economy. There is no amount of adaptation we can do if we don‘t get emissions under control. But we already baked in so much warming we need to deal with it now. We painted ourselves into this corner, and we need to navigate our way out of it. Dreaming about a future carbon-free system will do nothing for people in India and Pakistan today.”
The full article is available here -
That's it for this newsletter.
Nga mihi nui, 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.