1) Media articles written by CKM member Tom Powell since the last newsletter.
17/05/2023 - Opinion article: The Newest thing - Tesla Bashing.
28/07/2023 - Opinion article: Taking out the Greenwash.
2) Assessing Marlborough’s landslide risk.
A report was presented at the July MDC Environment and Planning Committee meeting.
“Weather events in 2021 and 2022 caused major environmental and property damage as well as significant trauma to residents. A detailed report prepared by GNS Science presented to Council’s Environment and Planning Committee illustrated the number of landslides and looked at ways of improving landslide hazard management in future.
Environmental Scientist Matt Oliver said the report had significant implications for how Council managed things going forward. Mr Oliver said work in the Marlborough Sounds following the storms had been challenging. “The level of damage to property as well as the human trauma sits heavily with me,” he said. “The rainfall from both storms caused significant property damage and disruption to people’s lives.”
Following the storm events and landslide related reports received in past years, it seemed such phenomena were a common hazard in the Marlborough Sounds landscape, he said. With increased intensity and frequency of storms forecast under climate change, the GNS report recommended Council investigate landslides further as part of a natural hazards programme.”
The full report can be seen on the MDC website - July 13th meeting - Item 3.
Marlborough floods a year on; new report suggests human behavior a major cause - It is also worthwhile listening to Kathryn Ryan's interview on RNZ with Matt Oliver, environmental scientist at MDC and Kenepuru Heads farmer Emma Hopkinson.
3) Wairau Aquifer science & management update for Climate Karanga Marlborough.
Dave, Don, Pete and Budyong had a two hour meeting at MDC offices on Wednesday, August 23rd. Peter Davidson, MDC Groundwater Scientist organised the meeting to give us a presentation bringing us up to date on the latest research about the aquifer and its decline and sharing some of their thinking about how they might better manage the water allocations being extracted from the aquifer. Other staff attending were Pere Hawes, Sarah Pearson and Clementine (Clem) Rankin. I have put together this report using the material from the presentation for anyone interested in this topic.
4) Friends of Nelson Haven and Tasman Bay Annual Report.
This report has a range of interesting information relevant to Marlborough and in particular to the Marlborough Sounds for anyone interested.
5) Marlborough Biodiversity Forum.
The theme for the forum meeting in May was "Dramatic weather events - Effects on biodiversity and mitigation measures." I wanted to highlight some important thoughts shared that day.
"Resilience means more that stability. It's the ability of an ecosystem to return to its original state following a disturbance or other perturbation."
Te Korowai - An Ecosystem approach.
6) Inquiry into community-led retreat.
The Minister for Climate Change has asked the Parliamentary Environment Committee to open an inquiry into community-led retreat and adaptation funding. You can download from the MfE website, the "Community-led retreat and adaptation funding issues and options" paper and the "Report of the Expert Working Group on managed retreat".
In the media release from the Beehive the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said “Severe weather events such as Cyclone Gabrielle cause immense damage. Climate change is likely to bring more frequent and more severe events in the future. Decisions we take now, about how to prepare and adapt, will have a lasting legacy. Community-led retreat is a carefully planned process, that can mean anything from relocating homes, to cultural sites, to playgrounds, out of harm’s way, before a severe event, like a flood, happens. I have asked the Environment Committee to hold an inquiry so we can hear a broad range of views on how to develop an enduring system. An inquiry would explore how community-led retreat, including communities choosing to relocate away from areas of high risk, could become part of our adaptation system, and how the costs could be met.”
7) The planet is on fire. Are the Chrises not listening?
Will 'bread and butter' solutions or a Ministry of Hunting and Fishing help save our children's future? As global warming tips into global boiling, Dame Anne Salmond asks if our leaders are honest and long-sighted, or cynical and expedient.
Check out the full article on the Newsroom website.
8) Pumped Hydro – It’s already built!
The Sustainable Energy Forum Inc. (SEF) recently sent an Open Letter to the Minister of Energy and Resources the Hon Dr Megan Woods, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton, the Energy spokespersons of all parliamentary parties and copied to representatives of the media.
In the letter they said - "The mission of SEF is to assist “Facilitating the use of energy for economic, environmental, and social sustainability”. As such, we feel compelled to contribute vital information to the currently unfocused and unproductive discussion around the New Zealand Battery Lake Onslow project, and the proper application of pumped hydro technology within a future-proof New Zealand electricity system. The consensus among SEF members, many of which have decades of electrical, structural, environmental or civil engineering expertise, is that pumped hydro energy storage is a highly valuable and important technology for a sustainable New Zealand energy future, but that the current NZ Battery Project proposal for Lake Onslow is woefully inadequate, ill-targeted, and above all - obsolete. The project should therefore be abandoned sooner rather than later, as it is unfitting and too expensive to provide electricity back-up for genera on shortfalls occurring on the decade scale. All other features expected from Lake Onslow, including buffer and back-up capacity for the integration of more intermittent renewable genera on and price peak modulation ability, can alternatively be provided from New Zealand’s already built, tested, but unused pump hydro scheme on the Pukaki-Tekapo canal.
We trust that this SEF contribution will add value to the discussions and the decision making process around the future of pumped hydro energy storage in New Zealand."
You can download a copy of the full letter from the Scoop website if interested.
9) NZ Battery Project update.
The August newsletter from the NZ Battery Project states that the MBIE team is seriously looking at a “portfolio” option for back up electrical power during a “dry year”, when hydro-generation is not expected to meet power demand, along with the here-to-for favoured option of a $16 billion pumped hydro scheme at Lake Onslow in Central Otago. The portfolio option would include biomass and geothermal energy and possibly other sources that the energy market might provide.
There is no mention of the above mentioned Pukaki/Tekapo option. Tom makes the following comments in that regard.
"It apparently has a generation potential of only 90 MW. It could be part of a wider portfolio of energy projects, though. With National coming out against Lake Onslow, I think this is the direction the government is heading (toward the Portfolio option, rather than Lake Onslow). Even if it isn’t part of the NZ Battery Project, it has merit just stabilising prices on the wholesale electricity market, as the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) has pointed out. As the nation develops more intermittent renewables, there is going to be greater need for energy storage. And, given the huge difference in present wholesale electricity prices between peak usage in the mornings and evenings and overnight, there is an opportunity for companies to make money on pumped hydro storage alone."
The newsletter also announced that energy storage in green hydrogen will not be progressed further for Crown investment.
You can read more about the NZ Battery Project and a full copy of the MBIE August E-news can be downloaded on their website.
10) Closed loop pumped hydro.
This news release for a journal article on closed loop pumped hydro, energy storage is from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US. It is closed loop because it is separate from the traditional river dams. The article suggests that closed loop hydro has the least lifecycle emissions of four other large scale energy storage options they investigated. Three battery technologies and compressed air.
Some type of energy storage is needed to make intermittent renewable power, such as wind, tidal and solar, viable and in New Zealand’s deregulated power market, it would help to stabilise peak power prices. Cheap night-time power could be used to pump water up hill and then be available for the morning and evening power usage peaks. There will be the usual environmental problems with building and flooding upper and lower reservoirs, however.
11) Te Waikoropupū Springs Water Conservation Order.
I wanted to include this item because I see it as being an important legal precedent that the WCO supports the applicants submission that the Springs have a sacredness that is unique and spiritually renewing and hence outstanding. I have included a statement below from the "Save Our Springs" (SOS) group.
"The recommended Water Conservation Order (WCO) for Te Waikoropupū Springs has just been finalised and sent by the Environment Court to the Government. This is a major step forward in the campaign to protect the Springs. The full Recommended Order is publicly available from the Environment Court website. It’s important to understand that the WCO process is not yet complete. There are fifteen working days in which a legal challenge to the draft can be made; i.e. by the 18th of August. Assuming it is not appealed, it usually goes to Parliamentary Counsel Office for checking; then the Minister for the Environment – assuming he agrees – will recommend to the Governor-General that it be adopted.
One exciting part of the recommended draft is that the Court has officially accepted SOS’s spiritual evidence. Marion Sanson, from our Committee, and I brought evidence that Te Waikoropupū Springs have ‘Outstanding Spiritual Characteristics’ for Pākehā (non-Māori). Ngāti Tama had already proven that the Springs have ‘Outstanding Spiritual Characteristics’ for the Māori people. This means it has now been legally proven that Te Waikoropupū Springs have ‘Outstanding Spiritual Characteristics’ for all visitors. This strengthens the grounds for the ongoing protection of the Springs. During Save Our Springs' (SOS’s) final submissions, the group's lawyer Sally Gepp asked the Court to formally record their response to our evidence. They have done so. Here is their response (from paragraph 54):
“We accept the evidence of Mr Moran and Ms Sanson on these matters. They explained how they find the Springs to have a sacredness that is unique and spiritually renewing and hence outstanding. In essence, their experience was that the subject waters are extraordinary in those terms. Those are of course personal experiences. Nevertheless, our site visits enabled us to appreciate how the special qualities of the Springs include the way people experience them as spiritually rejuvenating and renewing. It is associated with the vibrancy and purity of the waters in their peaceful setting. We adjudge that the Springs have outstanding spiritual values.” This is an epic moment for the campaign. It is the first time the Environment Court has accepted a waterway as having ‘Outstanding Spiritual Characteristics.’ It thus creates legal precedence. I’m especially happy for the Mohua (Golden Bay) community who can now say their local springs have been legally acknowledged as having ‘Outstanding Spiritual Characteristics;’ i.e. that they can be experienced as Sacred."
Here is an extract from a further letter received from SOS on Augusty 22nd.
Friday, the 18th of August, was the cut-off day to appeal the Te Waikoropupū Water Conservation Order (WCO). There can now be NO APPEAL to the High Court. No appeal is very, very good news! The WCO now needs to be checked by the Environment Ministry. When this is complete the Environment Minister, David Parker, will (hopefully) give it the thumbs up. It then goes to the Governor General to be signed into law. This process takes time. SOS’s priority is that the Te Waikoropupū Springs Water Conservation Order be passed into law before the election.
The WCO ensures that the kaitiaki, Manawhenua Ki Mohua, will be working equitably alongside the Tasman District Council to protect the springs. The equal involvement of the kaitiaki is vital for the long-term protection of the springs. With this in mind, we are concerned a National/Act party coalition government could endanger the WCO. We want to make certain this does not happen. This week we will be contacting David Parker asking that passing the WCO into law before the election be given a high priority. We will also send an open letter to the Minister with media cc’d in. We will note that the Court, in the concluding paragraph of its report, asked the Minister to promulgate the WCO at the earliest possible opportunity.
12) Beyond Growth Aotearoa conference - Sep 16-17.
This information comes from Degrowth Aotearoa. They say -
"Following the successful European Beyond Growth 2023 Conference, we are ready to continue this kōrero in Aotearoa New Zealand.
This interactive event will provide a forum to share the latest knowledge and insights related to ecological economics, resource scarcity and the planned response measures that could be taken to strengthen resilience and maximise future opportunities.
Day 1 will cover opportunities and challenges at a systems level, Te Ao Māori perspectives, government policy and business strategies.
Day 2 will explore practical action drawing on community, local government and ethical, circular business perspectives.
There will be opportunities to network with experts, peers, and decision-makers faced with similar challenges."
If you are interested to attend you can book tickets here.
13) F&B Room for Rivers national campaign.
As a follow up to the item in the last newsletter about this topic you can also listen to a good informative interview on RNZ. The F&B Freshwater Advocate Tom Kay has been traveling around NZ giving presentations to local bodies and communities and was interviewed about this on the Saturday Morning show.
14) A new paradigm shift, indeed.
Tom Powell wrote a rebuttal article to the Rural News publication, following a member’s alert to an article published on 1 August (Could the paradigm be shifting?) which claimed that the climate impact of methane is so low as to be disregarded. This would be welcome news to the farming community if it were true but an examination of the claim shows it not to be. The claim was made by an American physicist on a road tour of New Zealand, based upon a research paper by a pair of climate scientists in North America.
The research paper in question was never peer-reviewed, which is standard procedure for scientific research, and so there is no way to verify its findings. In addition, the paper was published by an avowed climate sceptic organisation, making it more suspect.
Beyond the science, Tom points out that the paradigm is changing but not how the author expects. Overseas markets are demanding that exporters reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing emissions is not just good for the environment, it is good for business too.
You can read the full rebuttal article on our website. If you're interested in more detailed information check out this document with the initial research done by Tom.
15) New emissions reduction plan will future-proof NZ’s largest export sector.
This is the headline from the recent media release from the Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. It's a big claim and I personally think it will need a lot more than this to future proof our largest export sector, but after much talking and consulting a step has been taken towards trying to address this very difficult issue. We will have to wait until after the election to know if it has any meaning. The Hipkin’s government with this announcement of their agriculture emissions reduction plan are moving ahead with He Waka Eke Noa but have delayed it to the last quarter of 2024 (for reporting) and 2025 (for levys) rather than the 1 January, 2024 dates in the Climate Change Response Act (CCRA.)
According to Tom, our CKM expert on the ETS, it is a good outcome that on farm sequestration will go through the ETS, rather than be a discount on the methane levy. He says the fact the government are selling this partly based upon the emissions reduction requirements of overseas buyers is a paradigm shift, indeed.
Check out the full media release for more info.
16) A Redesigned NZ ETS Permanent Forest Category.
In this consultation, the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) asked how to define “permanent forests” and what tree types should qualify for permanent forests. Permanent forests are those planned to last more than 50 years and never be clear cut. The MfE consulted on this topic last year but realised that the issue was more complex than anticipated and the responses from submitters didn’t give them a clear way forward. In this consultation they ask for definitions and rules for permanent forests, as well as how to manage “transition forests”, which are forests planted in fast growing exotic trees (such as radiata pine) in order to earn carbon credits quickly and then, as the exotic trees age and reach maturity, replace them with indigenous and more long lived trees.
CKM’s submission stressed the importance of indigenous forest as habitat for wildlife and protection against erosion. We also stressed the importance of drought, disease and wildfire resistance and non-wilding tree types. We argued against wilding and fire prone species like radiata. We supported mechanisms that would incentivise indigenous forests in the early years after planting, so as to offset the incentive to plant exotics and attempt to transition these forests to indigenous forests later. On the other hand, we supported the imposition of strict management regimes and accountability for transition forests.
Our full submission is available on our website.
17) Review of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.
In this consultation, the MfE asked how forestry should be “disincentivised” in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) so that the abatement of gross greenhouse gas emissions (i.e., those from the burning of fossil fuel) are prioritised in the coming decade. Right now in the ETS, gross emissions can be offset one-for-one by credits for carbon sequestered in forests. The Climate Change Commission has pointed out that the existing high price of carbon credits has incentivised the planting of new forests and within a decade a surplus in forestry credits will drive the price of carbon credits too low to incentivise continued reduction in gross emissions by industry. In other words, there will be so many forestry carbon credits around, that the carbon credit price on the ETS will drop and industries will simply buy cheap credits rather than upgrade their processes to emit less greenhouse gas.
The MfE gave 4 options for reforming the ETS with respect to forestry credits. CKM’s submission supported the option to remove forestry credits entirely from the ETS and set a separate price for those credits. This option aligns with the Climate Change Commission’s advice and will give government better control over its acclaimed goal of “right tree, right place”. This option also allows for different prices for different types of forests – i.e., a premium could be paid for indigenous forests and enhanced protection of biodiversity, over exotic forests.
Our full submission is available on our website.
18) Government partners with more industrial users to lower emissions.
Below is an extract from a recent media release from the Beehive -
"Minister of Energy and Resources, Dr Megan Woods, has today announced support for 17 industrial energy users to help them stop using fossil fuels faster through the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry (GIDI) Fund.
“We are seeing some of the country’s largest food processors and manufacturers, like Alliance and Open Country Dairy, make further commitments on multiple, large decarbonisation projects at the same time. There is real momentum building in pushing fossil fuels out of the energy system and lowering emissions through renewables and energy efficiency. We’ve come a long way in the last three years GIDI has been operating. Aside from our large partnership agreements with NZ Steel and Fonterra, this is the largest allocation of GIDI: Industrial funding to date. Businesses from one end of New Zealand to the other are stepping up to the challenge of lowering their emissions. The projects announced today will reduce carbon emissions by 67,300 tonnes each year, which is equal to taking approximately 25,000 cars off the road. That’s a great result for the environment and helping us meet our climate goals,” Megan Woods said.
“New Zealanders and export markets want lower-carbon products and services, and GIDI support is helping them switch sooner to low emission options, proving again that businesses don’t have to deindustrialise, to decarbonise."
Round 5 of GIDI commits $33.3 million in government investment and leverages private funding of over $62 million.
19) Transition HQ.
In 2018, Grant Symons and Fiona van Petegem were introduced by Professor Susan Krumdieck at the University of Canterbury. She was developing a branch of engineering called transition engineering, an emerging interdisciplinary methodology of large-scale systems change that would facilitate a future state of reduced emissions, materials and energy use. Grant and Fiona saw how essential Susan’s research was and understood that it urgently needed to be shared with the public in an accessible way. Drawing on Grant’s background in strategy, project and change management and organisational capability development, and Fiona’s background in engineering, manufacturing and process engineering, they created Transition-HQ. It became a registered company in New Zealand in 2019 and has been steadily growing ever since.
While there is much debate about what New Zealand’s future could and should be, what is still missing from the larger conversation is how we do the work of innovating, engineering, and enabling the real transition.
You can learn more about Transition HZ on their website. I was interested to read an item titled Magic Blue Droplet from their recent newsletter written by Grant. He puts into context and gives us all a timely reminder of the life giving role water plays on our planet and how critical it is for us to protect that water.
20) Global fight to end fossil fuels.
Here is some info about a global action happening in September.
On September 15 to 17, millions of people around the world will take to the streets to demand a rapid, just, and equitable end to fossil fuels.
This wave of global mobilisations will include the March to #EndFossilFuels fast, fast, forever in New York City on September 17, as world leaders attend the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit. This is a call to solidarity with Indigenous and First Nations across the world who have been fighting the deadly fossil fuel industry and its enablers for decades.
We need all hands on deck to keep building a fossil fuel-free world: youth activists, civil society organisations, social movements, feminist and migrant rights groups, trade unions, faith institutions, academic centres, health institutions, families and peoples of all genders and backgrounds, everywhere, all voices matter!
21) Global Workshops organised by Climate Action Network.
This information has come through from the Climate Action Network office in Kenya. These workshops could be worthwhile for anyone interested in these two topics. The eastern time works best for us here in NZ, as we are 12 hours later than the notified time (i.e., 6:00 am UTC on 28 August is 6:00pm NZ time 28 August).
Zoom links are provided, so there appears to be no need to register.
We are pleased to invite you to two consultative workshops on Green Hydrogen and Critical Minerals on Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th August 2023. Eastern and Western times are available for both.
These workshops are aimed to facilitate network-wide discussions on these two key and timely subjects, ahead of consultations and further progress on a comprehensive energy package of asks/demands, particularly at COP28.
Please find below the schedule of the workshops:
Green Hydrogen Workshops
Eastern Time: Monday 28th August 2023 at 06.00am to 07.30am UTC (Zoom link)
Western Time: Tuesday 29th August 2023 at 12.00pm to 13.30pm UTC (Zoom link)
Critical Minerals Workshops
Eastern Time: Monday 28th August at 07.30am to 09.00am UTC (Zoom link)
Western Time: Tuesday 29th August 2023 at 15.00pm to 16.30pm UTC (Zoom link)
22) UN advises against offsets for carbon removal technologies.
Billions of dollars are pouring into tech-based solutions to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere but the UNFCCC says they are unproven and pose unknown risks. The United Nations climate body has cast doubt over technologies that aim to suck carbon pollution from the atmosphere, calling them “unproven” and potentially risky.
In a briefing note, unnamed authors from the UN’s climate body (UNFCCC) said these removal activities are “technologically and economically unproven, especially at scale, and pose unknown environmental and social risks”. It concludes they are therefore not suitable for offsetting carbon emissions under the upcoming UN’s global scheme. The UN assessment has angered the growing industry, which is seeing billions of dollars of investment from governments and corporations.
The UN document does not spell out why these carbon removal technologies do not contribute to sustainable development and the industry disputed this. “We would be pleased to connect you with carbon removal leaders advancing projects in Kenya, Kiribati, India, Brazil and other locations around the world where Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) is contributing directly to local regional economic development”, their letter said.
The Center for International Environmental Law called carbon removal “a dangerous distraction”. The NGO argued that relying on removal technology, “both delays the immediate reduction of emissions and presents independent risks to human rights and the environment, some of which remain poorly understood”.
Check out the full article for more info.
23) Batteries are the environmental Achilles heel of electric vehicles – unless we repair, reuse and recycle them.
In other words, the answer to the question of “Are electric vehicles really eco-friendly?” largely depends on how we manage the downsides associated with their batteries. Changes in how we design, produce, use and recycle electric car batteries are urgently needed. These changes can ensure that, in solving the problem of fossil fuel emissions, we also minimise other environmental harms.
The long list of benefits of giving electric vehicle batteries a second life, then recycling their materials, is enticing. Given the scale of the potential economic and environmental gains, along with the countless jobs such work can create, batteries could be more generous in their afterlife than in their first incarnation in electric vehicles.
This is an area I am particularly interested in. As EV use grows let's hope there are adequate incentives to ensure the precious resources used in the batteries are reused and then fully recycled. Check out the full article which details ways we can significantly reduce demand and hence the emissions associated with EV battery production, simply by fully utilising the batteries before recycling.
24) Young Montana residents bring climate change case to court.
This court case was filed in March 2020 in the US and is the first constitutional climate trial in that country. This article gives some background information about the trial.
“We’re asking the government and the courts to do their job and protect us, along with the rest of Montana’s citizens and our incredible home state; this case is one big opportunity for the state to become a leader in preserving a safe, beautiful and prosperous future for Montana,” Grace Gibson-Snyder, a 19-year-old plaintiff, said.
Advocates hope the trial could set precedent for similar cases to move forward and that it could inspire legal action in other states. The state’s constitution has since 1972 guaranteed that the “state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations”. By propping up fossil fuels, the plaintiffs argue, the state has failed to uphold this responsibility.
The case closed on June 20th and Judge Seeley who presided over the case recently issued her 103 page order in favour of the complainants.
This article calls the decision a "Gamechanger". Hopefully it provides some impetus for further similar cases.
Among the policies the challengers targeted was a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) barring the state from considering how its energy economy impacts climate change. This year, state lawmakers amended the provision to specifically ban the state from considering greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews for new energy projects. That provision is unconstitutional, Seeley ruled.
“By prohibiting consideration of climate change, [greenhouse gas] emissions, and how additional GHG emissions will contribute to climate change or be consistent with the Montana constitution, the MEPA limitation violates plaintiffs’ right to a clean and healthful environment,” Seeley wrote.
This YouTube video from Democracy Now also has info about the case and this Guardian article looks at some implications of this case.
25) Fungi Lock Away Over One-Third of Annual Global Fossil Fuel Emissions In the Soil, Study Finds.
This is some very interesting research giving preliminary information about the role of underground fungi in carbon sequestration. More research is needed to confirm how accurate their calculations are but this initial work indicates we need to gain more understanding of the processes involved and do whatever is necessary to avoid harming these fungal networks.
Fungi stores a third of carbon from fossil fuel emissions and could be essential to reaching net zero, new study reveals.
Professor Katie Field, Professor of Plant-Soil Processes at the University of Sheffield and co-author of the study, said: “Mycorrhizal fungi represent a blind spot in carbon modelling, conservation, and restoration - the numbers we’ve uncovered are jaw-dropping, and when we’re thinking about solutions for climate we should also be thinking about what we can harness that exists already. Soil ecosystems are being destroyed at an alarming rate through agriculture, development and other industry, but the wider impacts of disruption of soil communities are poorly understood. When we disrupt the ancient life support systems in the soil, we sabotage our efforts to limit global heating and undermine the ecosystems on which we depend. More needs to be done to protect these underground networks - we already knew that they were essential for biodiversity, and now we have even more evidence that they are crucial to the health of our planet.”
Check out the full article for more information.
26) The Spanish Government favours promotion of initiatives to make Ecocide an international crime.
Jojo Mehta, Stop Ecocide International’s Co-founder and Executive Director, says: “This is a very encouraging response from the Spanish government and shows it is now unequivocally time for ecocide law to be progressed at national as well as regional and international levels. It responds to the growing global awareness of how downright dangerous it is to destroy the ecosystems upon which we entirely depend - for lives and livelihoods, for sustaining crucial and threatened biodiversity, and for regulating climate on our shared planet. There is no stopping this direction of travel - it is now only a matter of time before legal recognition of ecocide becomes the norm around the world.”
For more info go to the Stop Ecocide website.
27) Degrowth: Is There Any Alternative?
This article from the Truthdig website offers a thought provoking critique of an essay published in May in the New York Times. I appreciate critical analysis of big claims made in the main stream media that paint a rosy picture of our predicament when in fact the reality is much more complicated. The expectation that we can get ourselves out of the mess we have created on our planet without making major changes to our lifestyles and economic systems is a pipe dream in my opinion, so I have a lot of sympathy for the view expressed in the Truthdig article and recommend reading it in full. Here is an extract -
To slow climate change and rescue key ecosystems from the brink, a new economic paradigm is needed.
In a May 30 essay for the New York Times titled “The New Climate Law Is Working. Clean Energy Investments Are Soaring,” one of the architects of last year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Brian Deese, wrote, “Nine months since that law was passed in Congress, the private sector has mobilized well beyond our initial expectations to generate clean energy, build battery factories and develop other technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
There’s just one problem. Those technologies aren’t going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The only way to reduce emissions fast enough to prevent climate catastrophe is to phase out the burning of oil, gas, and coal by law, directly and deliberately. If, against all odds, the United States does that, we certainly will need wind- and solar-power installations, batteries, and new technologies to compensate for the decline of energy from fossil fuels. There is no reason, however, to expect that the process would work in reverse; a “clean-energy” mobilization alone won’t cause a steep reduction in use of fossil fuels.
I think top leaders in Washington are using green-energy pipe dreams to distract us from the reality that they have given up altogether on reducing US fossil fuel use. Societies must decide: do we want a growing GDP or a livable future? We can’t have both.
28) Nate Hagens - Reality Roundtable series.
These are roughly 90 minute long forums with Nate and usually 3 other participants. The three topics so far have been "Electric Vehicles," "Deep(er) Ecology" and "Unlearning Economics." Highly recommended if you are wanting to think about the bigger issues around how we got into this crisis and about the challenges that are emerging, as we attempt to deal with it. We found the Deep(er) Ecology session very interesting. The Unlearning Economics session is pretty technical in places but still worth the effort if you're interested in understanding the deep seated obstacles to change embedded in our current economic system.
If interested you can check out the full series on YouTube.
29) Why science needs art according to Professor Tim Jackson.
Sustainable economics expert Professor Tim Jackson is from the University of Surrey in England.
In this RNZ interview he says we need less growth to put less demand on the planet's resources and slow down climate change, but we need more art, more plays and works of fiction to bring both sides of that argument to life. More is not always better. He's the Director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity at the University of Surrey and the man to bring these two worlds together as a scientist, playwright and philosopher.
30) Earth cries! We are the gods that must step up to the biggest crisis in history.
Ben Okri is a Booker prize-winning author and poet. His book Tiger Work, a collection of stories, essays and poems about the climate crisis, is published by Head of Zeus. His poem "Earth Cries" was published recently in the Guardian. In it Ben calls for bold action in this era of wildfires, overheated oceans and shrinking biodiversity. My suggestion is that you take the time to read it our aloud to anyone who is willing to listen or just to yourself.
31) Why ideas of ‘planetary boundaries’ must uphold environmental justice.
How many biophysical boundaries does our planet have? What are the limits of, say, carbon dioxide emissions, ocean acidification, chemicals and air pollution beyond which existence becomes unsafe for Earth and its inhabitants?
Back in 2009, a team of researchers led by environmental scientist Johan Rockström grappled with these questions in an article published in Nature . In the researchers’ view, planet-altering human activities could be assembled into nine groups. Thresholds were calculated for most of them, beyond which the result could spell danger for the planet and its people. The scientists concluded that humanity has crossed three of these nine ‘planetary boundaries’, and that the remaining six would also be crossed unless remedial action was taken.
A gap in the original concept was that it lacked environmental justice and equity — it needed to take into account the fact that everyone, especially the most vulnerable, has an absolute right to water, food, energy and health, alongside the right to a clean environment.
Rockström, together with sustainability scientist Steven Lade and a team of researchers, have modified their original concept to incorporate justice alongside the biophysical boundaries. The resulting findings, which build on a study published in March in Nature Sustainability, show that seven out of eight thresholds have been crossed: the eight are climate, natural ecosystem area, ecosystem functional integrity, surface water, groundwater, nitrogen, phosphorus and aerosols.
Check out the full article in "Nature".
32) Global temperature rises in steps – here's why we can expect a steep climb this year and next.
This article from the Conversation, written by Kevin Trenberth, climate scientist at Auckland University, is the one item in this newsletter highlighting how truly unprecedented (overused word now isn't it) several climate parameters are this year. The global sea surface temperature (measured between 60 degrees north and 60 degrees south), the global 2M air temperature and the Antarctic sea ice extent graphs are all showing large anomalies, so much so that scientists are struggling to understand why. In the article there are two of those graphs for early July but if you wish to monitor them for yourselves and see their ongoing trajectory you can do so on the Climate Analyzer website. Click on the "Climate Data" tab at the top to access the different graphs.
The explanation Kevin provides for the step nature of global temperature rises is worth reading. Here's an extract from the article -
Now, in 2023, all kinds of records are being broken. The highest daily temperatures ever recorded globally occurred in early July, alongside the largest sea surface temperature anomaly ever. June had its highest global mean surface temperature, according to preliminary analysis. The extent of Antarctica’s sea ice has been at a record low. Meanwhile, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations continue to increase at rates that show no sign of slowing.
Evident consequences include torrential downpours in some parts of the world which contrast with excessive heatwaves and wildfires in other locations, notably recently in Canada. But global mean surface temperature does not continue relentlessly upwards. The biggest increases, and warmest years, tend to happen in the latter stages of an El Niño event.
Human-induced climate change is relentless and largely predictable. But at any time, and especially locally, it can be masked by weather events and natural variability on interannual (El Niño) or decadal time scales.
The combination of decadal variability and the warming trend from rising greenhouse gas emissions makes the temperature record look more like a rising staircase, rather than a steady climb.
33) Uh-Oh. Now What? Are We Acquiring the Data to Understand the Situation?
The recent blog posting from James Hansen is worth a look if you're interested in the latest science regarding the unprecedented global heating happening this year and referred to in the previous item. I appreciate James' postings. They are technical but he is always blunt and direct in his assessment of the latest data. At the end of the blog post he says -
"A new climate frontier. The leap of global temperature in the past two months is no ordinary fluctuation. It is fueled by the present extraordinarily large Earth’s energy imbalance (EEI). EEI is the proximate cause of global warming. The large imbalance suggests that each month for the rest of the year may be a new record for that month. We are entering a new climate frontier.
When the first author gave a TED talk 10 years ago, EEI was about 0.6 W/m2, averaged over six years (that may not sound like much, but it equals the energy in 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day, every day). Now EEI has approximately doubled. Most of that energy is going into the ocean. If Southern Hemisphere sea ice cover remains low, much of that excess energy will be poured into the Southern Ocean, which is one of the last places we would want it to go.
That does not mean that the problem is unsolvable. It is possible to restore Earth’s energy balance. Perhaps, if the public finds the taste of the new climate frontier to be sufficiently disagreeable, we can begin to consider the actions needed to restore a propitious climate."
You can download a pdf of the full post from his website.
34) Beware ‘blue carbon’ bold, but uncertain claims.
This article from Newsroom advocates asking the hard questions and undertaking sound scrutiny when it comes to some of the claims made to entice investors.
Forests of seaweed grow much faster than forests of trees and so absorb carbon dioxide far more rapidly. That is leading to some bold claims for the potential for seaweed to solve climate change. And it’s being matched with bold actions – Microsoft, Shopify and Stripe are already buying seaweed-based carbon removals.
Is this boldness justified? The biggest challenges do not always bring out the best in people, companies, or nations. There is an inevitable temptation to make bold claims based on little evidence, especially when disproving those claims is hard. This temptation keeps being realised for claims about emissions and emissions reductions.
The best solution, as always, is solid science that reveals the truth of those claims. That science takes time. That creates a gap between claims and truth that allows for hogwash to proliferate.
New Zealand’s current climate strategy is broken – we’ve under-invested in clean technologies, we’re planting permanent forest as fast as we can, and we plan for two-thirds of our emissions reductions to come from overseas forestry credits but we don’t know where or when, or how much they will cost, or whether those credits will be real. Given those uncertainties and the fact of New Zealand’s long coastline and huge Exclusive Economic Zone, blue carbon projects look like a life raft we can grasp onto.
Certainly they have the potential to play a much larger role in our emissions reductions than for other nations. However, we don’t yet know if those projects will turn out to be a life-saver or a straw.
The science is always improving, with remote observation offering promising insights. The message here is caution. Investments and policy should not outpace science. We need to avoid falling into the trap of making and believing audacious claims without solid evidence, especially when those claims purport to serve our national interest. It’s too easy to find credulous customers and investors for emissions reduction projects that lack credibility, additionality, or permanence.
For blue carbon, investors should be asking the hard questions and scrutinising the science before opening their wallets.
35) Contributions from CKM members.
Here are links to some articles sent in by CKM members with topics that may be of interest.
The first is an article titled "I’m a climate scientist. Here’s how I’m handling climate grief".
"For me, healing comes in the form of spending my time outside work enjoying the world around me, rewilding hard-to-access land, writing letters to congresspeople and protecting migrating birds. I’ve spoken to many others who have planted gardens for native pollinators, eaten from local farms and advocated for change with local policymakers. Although small actions might not solve the climate crisis, they remind us that we are intrinsic parts of the world and its ecosystems."
The second is an article titled "Collapse is not a dirty word" by NZer Catherine Knight and published in Newsroom.
"To assume our continued destruction of the planet’s life-supporting systems could lead to any other outcome than collapse is irrational. But, as writes Catherine Knight, the prospect of a 'great unravelling' does present an opportunity." and "Above all, the prospect of collapse is an opportunity. Just like a life-threatening illness, it should stop us in our tracks, to fundamentally re-evaluate what really matters in our lives. For most of us, it will be sustenance, warmth, connection with those we love, and the ability to find joy and laughter in everyday things. We can have all this with much simpler lives which don’t cost the earth."
The third is an article titled "Despair is a luxury we can’t afford": This is from Canadian David Suzuki, on fighting for action on the climate crisis.
"Amid the gloom, Suzuki sees cause to keep fighting. He traces humanity’s plight back to the Renaissance, when he says we lost the idea that we are embedded as a strand of nature dependent on everything around us – plants, animals, air, water, soil and sunlight – and instead placed ourselves at the top of a pyramid with everything else beneath us. He says this idea has only strengthened since the Industrial Revolution, but can be reversed."
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.