Here is another selection of items from Marlborough, NZ and worldwide for your interest.
I would like to start with a thought provoking quote from the Surplus Energy Economics website.
"No amount of financial stimulus, and no rise in price, can produce resources which do not exist in nature. We can lend and print money into existence, but we cannot similarly create the low-cost energy without which the economy cannot function. The reality is that prosperity is a material concept, understandable only in terms of resources in general, and of the “master resource” of energy in particular.
As a recent reappraisal by Gaya Herrington confirms, the authors of The Limits to Growth (LtG) were right when, back in 1972, they modelled the Earth as an inter-connected system, and found definite material limitations to expansion. In the narrower fields of economics and finance, it’s becoming ever clearer that we have been living through a quarter-century precursor zone during which the potential for further growth has been exhausted. What we are experiencing now is the disruption which attends the ending of this transitional phase, and the onset of involuntary economic contraction."
1) Gravel Bed Rivers (GBR) research on Wairau River and Aquifer.
A presentation was made to the MDC Environment Committee on June 15th providing them with the latest information arising from the GBR research program which started in 2019. The purpose of this latest report was "To provide an update to the Committee on research results from the national Gravel Bed Rivers project investigating the hydraulic connection between braided gravel rivers and alluvial aquifers."
In their Executive Summary they state - "The prime reasons for the ongoing decline in Wairau Aquifer well levels is less Wairau River water
available for recharge and a reduction in the capacity of the natural pathways to move water from the river into the aquifer. This is compounded by demand in some drier seasons."
This is not really an unexpected conclusion when we know the river has been modified severely from it's original natural course and is now contained within stopbanks. It is interesting to note that the research team think that water extraction from the river and aquifer is not a major contributor to the ongoing decline trend and that it is the reduced recharge that is of the greatest significance.
The research team have proposed - "Having established a conceptual model of how the river-groundwater system work, the river-groundwater system will be modelled more accurately than previously. A model will be used to test the sensitivity of the river-groundwater water balance to riverbed elevation, scouring, and floodway width. The results will be used as a basis for a cost-benefit analysis to see how changes to current river management would impact the local economy."
If effective solutions can not be found to stop the decline in the aquifer the consequences for those growing and processing grapes and others who rely on this water for their operations and livelihoods will, in time, be considerable. Add to this the prediction that we are likely to experience hotter and drier summers due to global warming and it is not hard to imagine serious impacts for Marlborough in the decades ahead.
I recommend reading the full Executive Summary if you wish to understand more clearly the dynamics of the reduced aquifer recharge process proposed by the research team.
It is of further concern to read that "The decline in Wairau Aquifer levels is consistent with widespread deepening of wells over the past
35 years at least. Deepening wells improves individuals access to groundwater but will not prevent aquifer fed springs from drying up as they rely on shallow groundwater breaking the surface for their existence."
At the same meeting MDC Groundwater Scientist Peter Davidson also presented the annual Groundwater Quantity State of Environment report. One bit of information from the report (page 12) stood out for me. Peter believes that "based on an extrapolation of the current rate of flow recession, Spring Creek will recede to State Highway 1 by about the year 2100 and by association all of the springs including in Blenheim." I see this as concerning information. One thing our communications with MDC staff have highlighted is that there is not enough evidence of the actual volumes of water being drawn out of the aquifer by water users to ascertain yet how much this water use is impacting the declining trend in the aquifer, as actual water use has only been metered for the last 5 years or so.
The lower Wairau aquifer has 3 Freshwater Management Units (FMU's). Levels are set, that if reached, will trigger restrictions for water users in those areas. For anyone interested you can view the Graphs showing the cut-off levels for the Northern (Wratts Rd), Central (Mills and Ford Rd) and Urban (Murphy's Rd) springs FMU's. You can also access the graphs showing long term data from the monitoring wells on the council website here. I have analysed some data supplied by MDC and it is interesting to note that in the dry years of 2015, 2019 and 2020 the aquifer level in the Northern (Wratts Rd) monitoring bore was only 50 - 60mm above the restriction level. This is the bore closest to the Spring Creek headwaters and therefore the best indicator of likely impacts on the springs. In communication with council staff we have learned that there are restrictions on all Wairau Aquifer Sectors except for the Lower Wairau and what they call the Recharge Sector of the main aquifer, which is a large proportion of the total aquifer. The reason the Recharge Sector has no restrictions currently is that MDC weren’t confident at the time of writing the MEP (Marlborough Environment Plan) that they had sufficient understanding of whether reducing cumulative abstraction would result in any benefits on downstream groundwater fed spring flows. They also say the pMEP restrictions are currently 100 % reliable but due to the declining trend in Wairau Aquifer levels restrictions are likely to become permanent at some point in the future, which is why MDC is focusing on what they call “alternative approaches to managing seasonal and boundary effects.” We are not clear what that actually means so will need to do some more research to learn more. It seems that any actions arising from the GBR research, to try and reduce or stop the declining trend in the aquifer are likely to be very expensive and to take decades to prove their worth. Suffice it to say it seems clear that this issue will be ongoing and not easy to resolve. The pMEP restriction regime is currently subject to appeals which should be heard some time in 2023.
Maia Hart has also done a good article on the GBR report in Stuff where she says - "New research suggests historic work to narrow the Wairau River could be contributing to declining levels in the recharge aquifer – one of Marlborough’s main water sources. The Wairau aquifer is the main groundwater system underlying the Wairau Plain and a source of irrigation, drinking and stock water. Water seeping from the Wairau River into the aquifer is the main ways it is recharged. Its levels have dropped since 1973, at rates unable to be explained by irrigation."
2) Wairau Aquifer no longer over allocated.
MDC put out a media release on June 1st announcing "The Wairau Aquifer Freshwater Management Unit (FMU) allocation status has recently changed from over allocated to having allocation available. This change in allocation is a result of recent water take permit expiries and the application of reasonable use calculations through the provisions of the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP)."
CKM have had some communications with council and staff about the wisdom of allocating any extra water that becomes available from the aquifer. We wondered if it would be prudent to apply the precautionary principle and have a moratorium on new water allocations until the GBR research is completed, and recommendations and decisions are made about the amount of water reasonably available without seriously impacting the springs and whether the current restrictions levels set in the aquifer may need altering. Unfortunately we have been informed that if water becomes available under current settings they have a legal obligation to make it available.
3) Communications with new F&B Top of the South manager, Scott Burnett and Environment Minister David Parker.
I recently wrote a letter to David Parker asking him if there was any allowance in the Resource Management legislation for a moratorium on water allocation for the Wairau Aquifer.. Here is an extract from his reply - "As the Minister for the Environment, I am responsible at a high level for freshwater, however any regulations are the responsibility of councils who determine what consents to issue in accordance with their current regional plan rules. The Marlborough District Council is progressing with the requirement to give effect to the NPS-FM (National Policy Statement - Freshwater Management) in their plan by December 2024, and when they notify their updated plan ahead of that date, I encourage you to make a submission as that is the best mechanism to formally have your say."
CKM will want to look at putting a submission in to the council when the time arises.
I also met with Scott Burnett who has recently been appointed to replace Debs Martin as the Top of the South manager for Forest & Bird. It was good to meet and establish a connection and we've agreed to work together and network when appropriate. Scott is keen to connect us with the F&B national Freshwater advocate Tom Kay. When the time comes to submit to council on the NPS-FM it would be good for us to combine knowledge and resources. Tom is currently working on a "Room for the River" campaign for F&B and the Wairau would be a perfect example of the detrimental consequences that can result from river containment.
I have also received an email from a CKM member, James Wilson, with a link from the Newsroom website to a long and interesting article on this topic, titled "NZ on the cusp of a rivers revolution". You may be interested to see it and read James' contribution in the "comments" section at the bottom.
4) CKM presentation on The Treaty of Waitangi and the 1835 Declaration of Independence.
CKM member Don Quick gave a very informative and well received presentation at a recent monthly meeting. For anyone interested you can access the recording here - The password is: PH2!^$ex
5) Top of the South Organic Waste Mapping Study.
Have you heard about "insect conversion technology"? Here is some info about an initiative for the Top or the South region to better utilise our food waste.
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Organic waste management is currently a significant cost to the Top of the South community and could be reduced by embracing a multi-sector collaborative upcycling strategy across the region, according to a recent study. An organic waste mapping study jointly funded by Marlborough Research Centre (MRC) and Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust (AGMARDT) found that total volumes in the Top of the South are in excess of 700,000 tons per year. “We now have a comprehensive inventory of the available bio-resources (waste streams) which is a valuable starting point from which to develop regional strategies and multi-sector business opportunities to reduce and upcycle waste,” says MRC’s Chief executive Gerald Hope.
The study was led by Plant & Food Research.
“The study covered the Marlborough, Nelson and Tasman regions and its purpose was to identify what organic material the Top of the South has to offer for bioconversion technologies and the key stakeholders,” says Project Leader Dr Damian Martin, Science Group Leader -Viticulture & Oenology, Plant & Food Research, who is based at MRC’s Budge Street campus. “The conclusions of the report are promising with respect to the opportunity for an insect bioconversion project in the Top of the South.”
Key figures -
6) Sea level rise: we have less time to act than we thought, by Tim Naish.
The Nelson Tasman Climate Forum "Climate Action Week" grew out of a response to the Emissions Reduction Plan released earlier this year. One of the guest speakers they organised was Tim Naish who is Professor in Earth Sciences, at the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University. He has leadership roles on the world climate research programme, the scientific committee on Antarctic research and the Antarctic science platform. He has extensively researched sea level rise resulting from global warming of oceans and ice melting, including melting of the Antarctic ice sheets. Tim co-leads the NZ Sea Rise Research Programme working with 30 experts to provide specific estimates of expected sea level rise. This work connects vertical land movement data with climate-driven sea level rise data to forecast locally relevant sea level changes. It includes site specific forecasts for Nelson and Tasman. (I had an item on this in the last newsletter).
In this webinar Tim clearly explains the implications for Nelson and Tasman of sea level rise and land movement. Though he did not focus on Marlborough the information is still very interesting for better understanding some of the impacts expected in Te Tauihu.
7) Wireless electricity for the masses could become a reality thanks to Kiwi startup.
"Wireless electricity may sound like science fiction - but the founder of a Kiwi startup says one day it may be as common as receiving a text. The technology could allow remote areas like Stewart Island to receive electricity from the mainland, or a homeowner in Germany to buy New Zealand electricity. About 15 minutes from New Plymouth, Auckland-based startup Emrod, with the support of NZ’s future energy centre, Ara Ake, and Powerco, has begun construction on its first outdoor demonstration site for wireless power-beaming technology. Electricity will be converted into an electromagnetic beam between two antennas a few hundred metres apart at the site which is expected to be running by the end of June."
This is an interesting technology though I do wonder what the outcome for innocent birds flying through the energy beam would be and whether there might be other unforeseen consequences?
They say in the Stuff article - "...the technology has layers of safety, including being placed up high to avoid people crossing through the beam, and having a ‘safety curtain’ that will switch the beam off if anything crosses it."
8) National Climate Adaptation Plan released.
Long-term adaptation goals.
A summary is available on the MfE website and the full Plan can also be downloaded there.
MBIE have also published information on their website where they say -
We need to change how we do things so we can thrive in a different climate to the one we've had in the past. Some areas in New Zealand won't be suitable for building and decisions need to be made about how to limit damage to existing buildings. This will require some changes to the way the building and construction sector operates.Over the next six years, the Building for Climate Change programme will lead the following actions in the National Adaptation Plan:
9) Co-creating a pathway to survival.
The Pathway to Survival website has some interesting info and webinars available. It has been set up by a group of people from within Extinction Rebellion (XR) groups in Aotearoa who want the government to take urgent decisive action on the intersecting crises of ecosystem collapse, climate and social injustice and colonisation.
10) Hospital Retires Coal Boilers for Health.
DETA Consulting were recently commissioned to assess the best option for converting the Timaru Hospital from burning coal for their process heat requirements to a low emissions alternative. Below are are some extracts from their report on the DETA Consulting website about this project. This is a good example of how a mix of technologies can be used to replace coal burning for process heat.
Even before the New Zealand Government mandated carbon neutrality (under the Carbon Neutral Government Programme) – the Facilities team at Timaru Hospital were committed to replacing the 1970’s vintage coal boilers with a low carbon alternative. All the hospital’s process heat requirements were supplied by the boilers, needing more than 2,000 tonnes of coal per year, leading to carbon emissions of more than 4,500 tCO2-e.
Starting with an Options Study, DETA quickly identified that:
11) Why are we still burning coal?
NZ Geographic recently published a comprehensive article providing an excellent analysis for those interested in this topic. It looks at the issues driving continued coal use and hindering conversion to alternative fuel sources for large industrial coal users.
They say - The crux of the issue is that “Anything that relies on power from the current New Zealand electricity market is going to be substantially more expensive than coal”. According to Fonterra, which burns coal at nine of its 29 dairy plants, the fossil fuel is 3.25 times cheaper than electricity as a source of process heat. The dairy giant says converting to electricity at scale would cripple its bottom line.
A 2021 report for the Ministry for the Environment investigated four coal-intensive industries and found that all beneficiary companies were receiving more free carbon units than their actual climate liability—some by three times as much.
In 2020, New Zealand Steel was handed 2,030,166 free New Zealand Units (NZUs) worth $30 million more than it actually needed to cover its emissions. New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Limited (Rio Tinto) got 1,558,268 NZUs, yet emitted just 637,000 tonnes in the year to June 2021—effectively a subsidy of almost $60 million. Turners & Growers Fresh Limited received more than 19,000 NZUs to grow tomatoes.
When you recall that a tonne of coal releases twice that amount of CO2-e, what at first seems merely a loophole quickly reveals itself to be a gushing rupture. Critics say that industrial allocations are practically a subsidy to wreck the climate—and the government isn’t denying it. In July 2021, it released a discussion document seeking views on how to put a stop to this ill-conceived largesse.
Check out the full article for more information.
12) Carbon Sequestration by Native Forest - Setting the Record Straight.
Well-managed planted indigenous forest is better at sequestering carbon and faster growing than commonly considered. The Pure Advantage group have published research on this topic. This research is a first for planted native forest using methodology comparable to that used for planted radiata pine forest in New Zealand, and is now presented in an informative free e-book which can be viewed free online.
13) How not to solve the climate change problem.
This article from "The Conversation" written by Kevin Trenberth at Auckland University is a straightforward and easy to understand analysis of the problem and the major constraints associated with some proposed solutions.
When politicians talk about reaching “net zero” emissions, they’re often counting on trees or technology that can pull carbon dioxide out of the air. What they don’t mention is just how much these proposals or geoengineering would cost to allow the world to continue burning fossil fuels. There are many proposals for removing carbon dioxide, but most make differences only at the edges, and carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have continued to increase relentlessly, even through the pandemic.
14) Wishing for fairy dust – why the NZ Biofuels Obligation is the worst kind of magical thinking.
Below is an extract from an excellent analysis, produced by Jake Roos and published on the Low Carbon Kapiti website, of the unintended negative consequences of introducing a biofuels mandate in NZ.
He says - Wouldn’t it be great if wishes came true, and all your problems just went away? If all you needed to do is ask for something and it materialised out of thin air before you? Of course it would, but the world doesn’t work like that. But it seems the NZ Government is in the thrall of such magical thinking when it comes to ‘sustainable’ biofuels.
15) Young people go to European court to stop treaty that aids fossil fuel investors.
Five people, aged between 17 and 31, who have experienced devastating floods, forest fires and hurricanes are bringing a case to the European court of human rights, where they will argue that their governments’ membership of the little-known energy charter treaty (ECT) is a dangerous obstacle to action on the climate crisis. It is the first time that the Strasbourg court will be asked to consider the treaty, a secretive investor court system that enables fossil fuel companies to sue governments for lost profits.
Check out the full article here.
16) The world's first operational 'sand battery' can store energy for months.
The Interesting Engineering website had an article last month about research looking at the viability of using a sand battery to store energy as heat. In their report they say - "A team of researchers from Finland has set up the world's first commercial-scale 'sand battery' that can be used to store power generated from renewable sources for months at a time to solve the problem of year-round supply, BBC reported.
The push for renewable power has meant that researchers are looking for new ways to store energy over the long term. While batteries made using lithium and other earth minerals can be purposed to work as energy farms, the solution becomes unsustainable if the whole world shift to renewables.
Recently, we reported how Switzerland spent 14 years repurposing its natural reservoirs as giant water batteries. While this uses the centuries-old concept to tap into the potential energy of water stored at a higher level, the construction of such facilities can cost millions of dollars. The Finnish solution could be a much cheaper alternative."
17) The exponential rise of CO2 in our planet's atmosphere.
In 1949, it took 20 years for atmospheric Co2 to rise by 20 ppm, in midlife 1980, it took 15 years to rise 20 ppm, now, it has taken 10 years to rise 20 ppm.........
18) We cannot adapt our way out of climate crisis, warns leading scientist.
I have a lot of respect for climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe and was encouraged to see this Guardian article highlighting the importance of keeping our focus on emissions reduction, and that this must be our priority if we wish to maintain a liveable planet Earth. What she says is hard hitting and confronting but I believe has to be said. Here is an extract from the article -
The world cannot adapt its way out of the climate crisis, and counting on adaptation to limit damage is no substitute for urgently cutting greenhouse gases, a leading climate scientist has warned. Katharine Hayhoe, chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy in the US and professor at Texas Tech University, said the world was heading for dangers unseen in the 10,000 years of human civilisation, and efforts to make the world more resilient were needed but by themselves could not soften the impact enough.
“People do not understand the magnitude of what is going on,” she said. “This will be greater than anything we have ever seen in the past. This will be unprecedented. Every living thing will be affected.” Hayhoe said the IPCC findings had not been broadly understood by many people. “This is an unprecedented experiment with the climate,” she said.
“The reality is that we will not have anything left that we value, if we do not address the climate crisis.”
19) Have you heard of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ipbes)?
As readers of this newsletter will be aware CKM members are just as concerned about threats to biodiversity as they are about global warming. The existential crisis facing life on our planet is multi-faceted and cannot be addressed in a piecemeal fashion. To quote from the Dasgupta Review from two years ago - “Nature’s value must be at the heart of economics”. The major report recently released by Ipbes is equally as important as the IPCC reports on Climate Change.
The Ipbes report provides compelling evidence that humans are overexploiting wild species and habitats. Harmful activities, including habitat destruction, poor farming practices and pollution, have altered ecosystems significantly, driving many species past the point of recovery.
It's amazing that a report by this organisation, which is critical to helping us understand the biodiversity crisis facing Mother Nature, is so little known about. If you're interested check out the full article where you can also access the report.
20) Tipping Point risks for critical climate systems.
The Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration in Australia has published a new report written by David Spratt and Ian Dunlop with a foreward by Professor Sir David King FRS.
"Climate Dominoes: Tipping point risks for critical climate systems, outlines the scientific evidence that critical climate tipping points face grave risks in Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland Ice Sheet, Amazon rainforest and for coral reefs. It concludes that as a result of climate denial and inaction, the Great Barrier Reef, along with coral reefs worldwide, is in a death spiral even at today’s 1.2oC average global temperature increase."
This article outlines the focus of the report.
It says - "The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Reports (AR6) are the most important analyses of humanity’s future on Earth to date. As Professor Sir David King FRS says in his foreword to “Climate Dominoes”: “Never before have we had so much scientific evidence demonstrating that we are in the midst of a global climate emergency.”
AR6 provides a stark warning that humanity’s chances of outrunning the devastating impacts of climate change are uncomfortably low. The fact that these reports have been ignored by our political leaders is an abrogation of their primary responsibility to ensure the security of the Australian people.
Unfortunately there is a blind spot in the AR6 analysis, in that the severity of human impact on our planetary ecosystems is leading us toward a range of irreversible tipping points. These are the greatest risks of climate change, for the process does not necessarily progress in a linear manner correlated with increasing atmospheric carbon concentrations. Instead, at certain points, it may “tip” abruptly from one relatively stable state to another far less conducive to human prosperity or survival.
The “Climate Dominoes” report has reviewed the latest science and concludes that tipping point risks are greater than previously thought:
21) The ultra-polluting Scarborough-Pluto gas project in West Australia.
An article written by Bill Hare of Murdoch University in West Australia claims this one project alone could blow through the new Australian Labor government's climate target – and it just got the green light."The Albanese government has this week thrown its support behind what’ll be one of Australia’s most polluting developments: the Scarborough-Pluto gas project in Western Australia. Our analysis last year found the full Scarborough-Pluto project will emit almost 1.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases over its lifetime. That’s over three times Australia’s current annual emissions, and around 14 times WA’s annual emissions. We calculate that the emissions from this project and all of its related activities will add about 41 megatonnes per year to Australia’s national emissions by 2030. That is a materially relevant number – it’s nearly 7% of our emissions in 2005, which is the year we use as a baseline for emissions targets. To put it another way, it’s nearly twice as much as the emissions avoided by all the rooftop solar panels in Australia each year."
22) Former Australian chief scientist to head review of carbon credit scheme after whistleblower revelations.
The former Australian chief scientist and senior academic, Prof Ian Chubb, has been appointed to head a thorough review of Australia’s carbon credit scheme as experts escalate calls for a complete overhaul of the system.
Chris Bowen, the climate change minister, announced on Friday that Chubb, a neuroscientist and former vice-chancellor of the Australian National University, would lead the six-month review of the scheme, after a respected whistleblower described it as a fraud and waste of taxpayer money.
Carbon credits are bought by governments and businesses as an alternative to cutting carbon dioxide emissions. While their use to help meet emissions targets has significant support – particularly among polluting companies promising to offset their impact on the planet – critics have raised concern about whether credits issued in Australia represent real emissions cuts beyond what would have happened anyway.
This article outlines major deficiencies in the Australian carbon credit scheme. Why are we not surprised?
23) A huge Atlantic ocean current is slowing down. If it collapses, La Niña could become the norm for our part of the world.
This article from the Conversation highlights the latest research looking at the slowing down of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation and the likely impacts for Australia. NZ will of course be similarly impacted and Marlborough just experiencing it's wettest month on record is an example of what they are predicting.
"Climate change is slowing down the conveyor belt of ocean currents that brings warm water from the tropics up to the North Atlantic. Our research, published today in Nature Climate Change, looks at the profound consequences to global climate if this Atlantic conveyor collapses entirely. We found the collapse of this system – called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation – would shift the Earth’s climate to a more La Niña-like state. This would mean more flooding rains over eastern Australia and worse droughts and bushfire seasons over southwest United States.
East-coast Australians know what unrelenting La Niña feels like. Climate change has loaded our atmosphere with moister air, while two summers of La Niña warmed the ocean north of Australia. Both contributed to some of the wettest conditions ever experienced, with record-breaking floods in New South Wales and Queensland.
Meanwhile, over the southwest of North America, a record drought and severe bushfires have put a huge strain on emergency services and agriculture, with the 2021 fires alone estimated to have cost at least US$70 billion.
The oceans are the flywheel of Earth’s climate, slowing the pace of change by absorbing heat and carbon in vast quantities. But there is payback, with sea level rise, ice melt, and a significant slowdown of the Atlantic overturning circulation projected for this century.
Now we know this slowdown will not just affect the North Atlantic region, but as far away as Australia and Antarctica. We can prevent these changes from happening by growing a new low-carbon economy. Doing so will change, for the second time in less than a century, the course of Earth’s climate history – this time for the better."
24) State of the Global Climate 2021 Report.
The recent release of the World Meteorological Organisation's State of the Global Climate 2021 report is available.
The summary below is an extract from an article on the Australian website "Pearls and Irritations".
Every year the World Meteorological Organization issues ‘State of the Global Climate’, an authoritative report covering the latest global climate indicators, the year’s high impact events (heatwaves, floods, droughts and the like) and assessments of risks and impacts (e.g. food security, population displacement, effects on ecosystems). The 2021 edition confirms current problems and future risks:
The WMO has produced an excellent interactive online ‘storymap’ that summarises the results, and contains lots of pictures, graphs, 1-2 minute explanatory videos of various phenomena and quiz questions. This is a valuable resource for anyone needing access to an up to date and thorough summary of the state of the global climate.
25) Methane much more sensitive to global heating than previously thought.
I found a recent study discussed in this article very interesting. It highlights an undesirable impact on global methane levels arising from increased wildfires worldwide. A link is available in the article to download the full study.
About 40% of methane emissions come from natural sources such as wetlands, while 60% come from anthropogenic sources such as cattle farming, fossil fuel extraction and landfill sites. Possible explanations for the rise in methane emissions range from expanding exploration of oil and natural gas, rising emissions from agriculture and landfill, and rising natural emissions as tropical wetlands warm and Arctic tundra melts.
The predominant way in which methane is “mopped up” is via reaction with hydroxyl radicals (OH) in the atmosphere.
“The hydroxyl radical has been termed the ‘detergent’ of the atmosphere because it works to cleanse the atmosphere of harmful trace gases,” said Redfern. But hydroxyl radicals also react with carbon monoxide, and an increase in wildfires may have pumped more carbon monoxide into the atmosphere and altered the chemical balance. “On average, a carbon monoxide molecule remains in the atmosphere for about three months before it’s attacked by a hydroxyl radical, while methane persists for about a decade. So wildfires have a swift impact on using up the hydroxyl ‘detergent’ and reduce the methane removal,” said Redfern.
26) A Case Study of Fossil-Fuel Depletion.
This is a long but very relevant case study by Blair Fix, a political economist, using the Alberta, Canada oil and gas industry as the study area.
Here are some extracts -
If you had to choose one word that describes human history since the industrial revolution, what would it be? I’d vote for ‘exponential’.
Over the last two centuries, so many things have grown exponentially that it’s hard to keep track. Less discussed is the corollary of exponential growth, which is exponential depletion. The two dynamics go hand in hand. When one thing grows exponentially, another thing must deplete exponentially. This fact follows from simple conservation laws. If you want your stock of A to grow, you must deplete your stock of B. There is no alternative.
Since the industrial revolution began, humans have been expanding our stock of technology by depleting the Earth’s stock of fossil fuels (among other resources). Energy return on investment is not the only way to measure the easy-to-getness of a resource. Another option is to look at the size of the reserve being exploited.
Let’s use water to illustrate the principle. Consider the difference between the following scenarios:
The same principle applies to the extraction of oil and gas. The low-hanging fruit consists of the enormous reserves that can be tapped with a single well. The hard-to-get fruit(s) are the tiny reserves that are numerous yet diffuse. According to the low-hanging fruit principle, we ought to tap the biggest reserves first.
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.