January 2022Read Now
Welcome all to a new year. What will 2022 have in store for us? My feeling is that the one thing we can be certain of is that there will be further unexpected surprises that will continue to challenge our communities, society as a whole and each one of us as individuals. Hope you can find some things of interest to you from the following selection. I've started this newsletter with a range of info looking at the discussion around the pros and cons of using wood biomass and/or electricity for process heat.
1) Talleys receive "Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund" (GIDI) grant -
Successful applicants for the second round of the GIDI Fund were announced by Minister for Energy and Resources Dr Megan Woods on September 30 last year. Twenty-three projects will receive government co-investment from Round Two of the $69m GIDI Fund. The recipients will receive $28.7 million and will match this with $54.5m of their own funding.
The local Talleys factory received a one million dollar grant. The project will replace three diesel and two coal boilers
with a new 6MW wood pellet fired boiler. The steam reticulation system will also be improved with a new steam distribution header
that will improve energy efficiency.
It is interesting to note they have chosen wood pellets as their new energy source. Research done by Tom and myself last year came to the conclusion that users of process heat who decide to use biomass would be be best placed to install boilers that could burn a range of wet and dry biomass fuels rather than limiting themselves to a single dry product such as wood pellets. In many instances there is also a good case for using electricity directly. Our research resulted in us concluding that New Zealand needs to plan the whole biomass supply and demand process very carefully, otherwise we could easily find ourselves having expectations of biomass that can't be met or result in undesirable consequences.
You can read all about it in our article printed by Stuff.
2) Biomass clear favourite for decarbonising SI process heat.
Biomass is the clear favourite for industrial process heat users in the South Island looking to decarbonise their operations, according to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. Initial EECA data indicates that 90 per cent of high-temperature boiler operators in Canterbury and Southland prefer biomass to electrification because of cost considerations. Electrode boilers have much higher capital costs than thermal boilers and expose users to changes in wholesale electricity prices. It is much cheaper and easier to convert existing boilers to run on biomass while retaining coal as a backstop.
DETA Consulting is leading the primary data collection for EECA’s regional heat demand database project. DETA managing director Jonathan Pooch told an EECA decarbonisation workshop on Friday that this “clear, dominant bias” towards biomass for the southern process heat sector is understandable. Electrification is expensive, and natural gas and geothermal options aren’t available in the South Island. The upshot is dramatically increasing demand for woody-biomass fuels in a part of the country where the bioenergy manufacturing and supply-chain is less developed than in the North Island. “There is a broader conversation that needs to be had, probably as part of a broader energy strategy, about forestry and biomass,” he says. “It’s not an insurmountable challenge, but it is a challenge.” This presents many challenges – particularly when coal remains the cheapest option overall even as prices rise through the Emissions Trading Scheme. “The brutal reality is that the ETS still needs to do some heavy lifting to price coal. It’s going in the right direction – but coal is still the lowest-cost option available.”
Pooch estimates large-scale conversion to biomass would require about 13 per cent of the South Island’s annual forest harvest. He thinks there are enough raw materials in the South Island to meet this demand, but the question remains whether the market can tolerate the high prices that diverting those volumes of fibre from existing uses would have. Existing supply is also dominated by waste product and there is comparatively little in the way of higher-energy products like wood pellets. Increased competition for raw materials would require more planting, including short-rotation crops. “We’ve got to see a rapid evolution of this biomass market into something that’s perceived as low risk compared to the baseline of coal and the supply chain that’s been around for 100 years or more.”
Check out the full article on the DETA website.
3) NZ replacing coal boilers with wood pellets but some say it slows carbon neutral progress.This article and this interview from RNZ provide some good extra information on this topic and support careful analysis when deciding where the use of wood or electricity is the best option for process heat.
Here's an extract from the article -
Professor Andrew Blakers from Australian National University said a problem with wood pellets was they depended on the felling of pine trees every 20 to 30 years. A much larger amount of carbon would be soaked up if that same land was instead planted in natives and left alone.
"Wood pellets are a very bad way to allegedly reduce your carbon footprint. If the forests are being used for wood pellets, you're better off to convert that area of land to native forests, let it soak up carbon for the next 200 years and get up to 250 tons per hectare of carbon."
This was up to five times as much carbon as that soaked up by a pine plantation harvested every two decades, he said.
However Massey University's professor emeritus Ralph Sims, who was a regular contributor to the International Panel on Climate Change, said wood pellets did have a role, especially at filling the gap between now and when cheap renewable energy became available.
"High temperature heat can be produced by electro thermal technologies, but they tend to be a bit expensive at the moment, but that's an alternative. But if we've got a waste product, like our forest residues lying on the ground as an energy source which is storable, then why not collect it and use it."
However Ralph Sims said wood pellets were only a good idea if they were made from wood waste, not, as was happening in North America, whole trees, which were turned in to pellets and exported to Europe. "The worst thing possible is deforestation of any forest whether it's in New Zealand, North Carolina, or the Amazon or Indonesia. We don't want to touch those forests. We want to encourage their survival and enhance their growth if that's possible, as well."
4) Anne Salmond: NZ’s climate planting asking for trouble.
New Zealand’s strategy for responding to climate change is fundamentally flawed. Much of the nation’s carbon debt is to be addressed by ‘off-setting’ – planting trees to sequester carbon, either at home or abroad. On one hand, the government proposes to spend billions of dollars on international carbon credits – in other words, paying people in other countries to plant trees to sequester the carbon emitted in New Zealand. On the other hand, the Emissions Trading Scheme has been designed as a ‘market’ for the owners of trees in New Zealand to sell the carbon they sequester to buyers who want to offset the carbon they generate.
Since most of the plantations in New Zealand are owned offshore, we’re paying even more to people in other countries to sequester the carbon we’re emitting. The ETS is a spreadsheet designed in a silo, and an ecologist’s nightmare. It privileges the planting of monocultures of exotic conifers in New Zealand, while failing to assess their social, cultural, ecological and economic impacts on local communities and landscapes.
Check out the full Newsroom article.
5) The Biomass Industry Expands Across the South, Thanks in Part to UK Subsidies. Critics Say it’s Not ‘Carbon Neutral’.
Hundreds of scientists around the world have been arguing that biofuels policies and practices are often far from climate friendly, and that European subsidies propping up the industry are, in fact, dangerous. While the industry generally maintains that it only uses wood waste or low-value trees to make pellets, critics have issued reports with photographs that they say show destructive logging practices and the conversion of entire trees to wood pellets.
The argument centers on how quickly new tree growth can absorb the carbon dioxide that’s emitted from power plants that burn wood pellets, given an increasing sense of urgency over the speed with which global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
“Burning wood puts more carbon dioxide in the air right now, today, with certainty, than the fossil fuels you were burning,” John Sterman, a professor of management and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Inside Climate News.
Bluntly, the scientists including Peter Raven, director emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Society and former President of the American Association for Advancement of Science, wrote: “Trees are more valuable alive than dead both for climate and for biodiversity. To meet future net zero emission goals, your governments should work to preserve and restore forests and not to burn them.”
The scientists maintain that subsidies have escalated tree harvesting for energy production at a rate that is creating a “carbon debt” that eventually might be paid back by regrowth—but not nearly fast enough. “Regrowth takes time the world does not have,” the scientists argued in their recent letter. Numerous studies, they pointed out, have shown that “this burning of wood will increase warming for decades to centuries. That is true even when the wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas.”
Check out the full article for more detail.
6) Summary of Biofuel vs Biomass.
This article gives a good summary of the difference between biofuel and biomass.
7) Te Uru Rākau Publishes the State of Knowledge Report on Transitioning Plantations to Native Forest.
The Ministry of Primary Industries commissioned a review of (1) the state of knowledge on the topic of transitioning exotic plantations to native forest and (2) of the existing data and research approaches for addressing knowledge gaps for forest carbon aspects of transitioning plantations.
If you're interested check out the abstract and full research paper.
8) Local Marlborough company Carbonscape update -
Chemical engineer Ivan Williams believes the worldwide ‘megatrend’ of electrification could mean big business for CarbonScape, the company he runs which is headquartered in Blenheim and which aims to supply a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries: graphite. He says “We hold the key to a tech which can make batteries greener, cheaper. Our mission in a sense is decarbonisation through renewable battery material. We’re nearing the end of validation with a major player and that will be the end of a small Marlborough story and the beginning of a global success story for sustainable battery technology.”
The full article is available in the online magazine, NZ Entrepreneur.
9) MDC Waste Calculator info.
MDC have made a "Waste Calculator" available on their website.
The calculator will work out costs associated with fees paid, time involved and distance travelled in relation to both your recycling and refuse. Once you have completed the questionnaire you will be sent the results of the calculation by email. The results are based on how you answered the questions. You might be surprised at the amount of money you are paying each year.
Generally, people don’t take into account their own time or the distance travelled but these should be included if we want an accurate estimate of what you are spending. The calculator will also provide an indication of the distance you travel and the amount of emissions you produce.
10) What can NZ learn from the EU?
In this article "Our Climate Declaration" member Pat Baskett looks to the EU's Green Deal for inspiration on how NZ should be addressing climate change. The Green Deal sets up an Energy Efficiency Directive to reduce overall energy use, cut emissions and tackle energy poverty. Its ambitious binding annual target for reducing energy use at EU level aims to almost double the annual energy saving obligation for member states.
11) Climate Action Tracker on NZ’s inadequate climate response.
New Zealand is at a turning point, which provides an opportunity to set ambitious policies to decarbonise all sectors. The country’s newly-established Climate Change Commission has reviewed the government’s climate policies, and published recommendations on a carbon budget.
New Zealand is one of the few countries to have a net zero emissions by 2050 goal enshrined in law, its Zero Carbon Act, but short-term policies cannot yet keep up with that ambition. New Zealand is increasingly relying on the mitigation potential of the land use and forestry sector to meet its target rather than focusing efforts on reducing emissions from high emitting sectors.
Although included in the Act, methane from agriculture and waste (over 40% of New Zealand's emissions) is exempt from the net zero emissions goal, and has a separate target (at least 24-47% reduction below 2017 levels by 2050), not yet covered by significant policies. Overall, Climate Action Tracker rates New Zealand’s current climate targets, policies and finance as “Highly insufficient”.
12) Documents reveal scale of change needed to cut emissions -
The massive scale of the nationwide changes needed quickly to cut climate gas emissions was laid bare in government documents released last November. The Ministry for the Environment succinctly pulled together advice the Climate Change Commission gave the government. It said the commission's pathway to slash emissions shows the "clear departure from business as usual", and indicates the "scale and pace of change" required from key sources of emissions.
The full article is available here -
NOTE - New Zealand’s first three emissions budgets were planned to be set by 31 December 2021 but this has now been extended to May this year.
13) Emissions Reduction Plan discussion document joint response from Sustainable Business Council and the Climate Leaders Coalition.
You can download their full Emissions Reduction Plan discussion document response titled "Transitioning to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future".
In the foreword they state - "This first Emissions Reduction Plan is our opportunity to truly put our climate ambitions into action and
ensure New Zealand gets on track to be a low-emissions country by 2050. The time is now for a bold plan that sets out that pathway, and crucially, mobilises all New Zealanders – government, business, NGOs and civil society alike – to meet the challenge of our times.
The document provides recommendations for key policies the Government should pursue in the Emissions Reduction Plan. Critically, it also identifies the need for genuine partnership between government and business if we are to bend the emissions curve in the short amount of time we have left."
14) Report from the future: Aotearoa New Zealand is looking good in 2040 – here’s how we did it.
This article printed recently in The Conversation imagines Aotearoa NZ in 2040 and what we might have done to secure our survival and avoid catastrophe. It provides some good food for thought and begs some questions.
15) The NZ Footprint Project. Dr Ella Susanne Lawton was the primary researcher for the New Zealand Footprint Project in 2013. The project looked at how different lifestyles and urban forms consumed differently and the types of changes needed to live within each person’s fair earth share. The project team was also interested in understanding the role that policy could play in the development of urban forms that support individuals and communities to reduce their individual and collective footprint. Ella is a generalist specialist with a passion for connecting people to their natural environment. She believes that science is failing to give people an honest insight into the resource constrained future we are headed for.
16) ‘ACC – Accelerating Climate Change’ report launched by 350 Aotearoa.
350 Aotearoa recently relaunched their ACC Go Fossil Free campaign in December 2021. Here is the full report.
"ACC – Accelerating Climate Change" exposes the relationship between the fossil fuel industry and our public fund that is investing against the public good. Find out more about ACC’s investments in the major players, the greenhouse gas giants, and the companies whose activities have most directly affected the people of Aotearoa, Pacific Islanders, and frontline communities across the world.
17) Para Kore.
I came across this initiative working towards living in a world without waste recently and wanted to share it with you. On their website they say -
Our vision is for a thriving natural environment that nurtures our communities, marae, and whānau, who in turn contribute to the collective wellbeing of Papatūānuku and Ranginui. Through indigenous knowledge and values, Para Kore encourages re-normalisation of zero-waste, closed loop living practices and philosophies across Aotearoa. Our values of manaakitanga, whakapapa, kaitiakitanga, māramatanga and rangatiratanga guide our activities and our work with others.
Our mission at Para Kore is to educate and advocate from a Māori worldview for a world without waste.
18) Pest-free NZ islands suck more carbon - international study.
Many pest-free islands are sucking noticeably more carbon since introduced predators were removed, according to a study that looked at 130 New Zealand islands.
Researchers used remote satellite sensing and artificial intelligence to track whether removing invasive pests from islands had boosted tree cover and density on 460 islands globally, including Little Barrier, Motiti, Raoul, Great Mercury and Campbell islands.
Check out the full Stuff article.
19) Fortescue Future Industries to investigate repurposing parts of New Zealand oil refinery.
Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Refining NZ (RNZ) have agreed to investigate repurposing facilities at the RNZ Marsden Point oil refinery to produce green hydrogen and green hydrogen products.
FFI and RNZ have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to study the commercial and technical feasibility of producing, storing, distributing, and exporting industrial-scale green hydrogen and green hydrogen products from the decommissioned RNZ site as it transitions to an import-only fuel terminal.
“Green hydrogen production at Marsden Point will potentially deliver energy security, good local jobs, and the decarbonisation of local heavy industry – all while reducing emissions for New Zealand,” Dr Forrest said.
Check out the full statement on their website.
Here's an extract from another statement about developments by FFI, this time at their facility in WA.There are several dominoes that have to stack up to make green hydrogen work. One is cheap energy and the other is cheap electrolysers. Australia has abundant sunshine to provide the energy. Now, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) is working on the next piece of the puzzle, electrolysers, making hydrogen using an electrolyser designed and built by the FFI team. They succeeded in this 10 days ago, producing industrial-grade hydrogen for the first time in their Western Australia facility.
For those interested in more information about the hydrogen revolution that some see as an essential component of reducing our fossil fuel use quickly this article and this one are both worth a read.
20) New Zealand company that could revolutionise carbon capture gets $1m funding.
A company spun out of the University of Canterbury has raised $1 million from private investors to progress methods that could sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide. The process starts with a common mineral called olivine. Capturing all the Earth’s carbon emissions for 2021 would require 16 per cent of the olivine deposit located in Red Hills, near Nelson.
An olivine deposit in Oman is large enough to sequester all man-made carbon emissions for the next 1000 years, according to Dr Allan Scott, an associate professor of civil engineering at the university. Olivine can be processed into magnesium hydroxide, which has long been recognised as an efficient carbon capture material. This means that carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas, is converted into a different substance and does not become CO2 again. The method would most suit industrial-level carbon emissions, Scott said.
In this future scenario, a powdery form of magnesium hydroxide would be transported to a factory and combined with its CO2 emissions to produce a “safe carbonate substance which can be repurposed for a variety of uses from masonry construction blocks to cement additives,” he said. “Our method is capable of significantly reducing CO2 emissions that is not only environmentally friendly, but is also scalable and profitable,” said Scott. “We’ve not found any other method out there right now that comes close.
Yet olivine has been overlooked in the rush to explore ways of tackling climate change, van Dongen said. "It absorbs CO2 very easily," van Dongen told Dezeen. "One tonne of olivine sand can take in up to one tonne of CO2, depending on the conditions. You just have to spread it out and nature will do its job." European climate initiative Climate-KIC estimates that olivine could capture 850,000 tonnes of CO2 if it was used in small-scale projects in Rotterdam alone. Potential uses include fertiliser and a replacement for sand and gravel in landscaping projects.
Van Dongen said that the potential of natural materials such as olivine is being ignored as researchers and startups rush to develop more complex ways of reducing atmospheric carbon. "One problem is the fact that research institutes that have or receive funding for CO2 absorption can’t patent the spreading of a mineral," she said. "We are so stuck in thought patterns of industrialisation and capitalism that naturally occurring reactions can't win against the tech solutions."
You can see more info in this Stuff article, this article and the Project Vesta website, which looks at the potential of "Coastal Carbon Capture". Their "process aims to accelerate the natural chemical weathering of the mineral olivine by spreading large amounts of ground olivine-containing rock onto coastlines where it can dissolve in seawater, thereby increasing the rate of CO2 absorption by the ocean (Bach et al. 2019). When olivine dissolves in water, it drives the below reaction to the right, thus increasing CO2 uptake, increasing pH, and generating alkalinity. As a result, this process has the potential co-benefit of counteracting ocean acidification."
I haven't gone into the detail of the Project Vesta in depth but do wonder about what the net gain in CO2 sequestered by the process would be, after allowing for what I presume would be considerable use of fossil fuels to mine, grind and then transport the Olivine rock to suitable coastlines to be deposited. I couldn't see any analysis of this but the science of using Olivine rock to sequester CO2 is certainly interesting.
21) World total energy supply by source.
I found it quite sobering looking at the graphs on the International Energy Agency (IEA) website showing the relative energy use from different sources over the last 40 years and the proportions of that energy which comes from renewable sources, fossil fuels and nuclear.
If you're interested too you can check it out on their website.
22) An interesting graphic showing the steady rise in reported disasters over the last few decades.
23) Scientists watch giant ‘doomsday’ glacier in Antarctica with concern.
Twenty years ago, an area of ice thought to weigh almost 500bn tonnes dramatically broke off the Antarctic continent and shattered into thousands of icebergs into the Weddell Sea.
The 1,255-sq-mile (3,250-sq-km) Larsen B ice shelf was known to be melting fast but no one had predicted that it would take just one month for the 200-metre-thick behemoth to completely disintegrate.
Glaciologists were shocked as much by the speed as by the scale of the collapse. “This is staggering. It’s just broken apart. It fell over like a wall and has broken as if into hundreds of thousands of bricks”, said one.
This week, ice scientists meeting in New Orleans warned that something even more alarming was brewing on the West Antarctic ice sheet – a vast basin of ice on the Antarctic peninsula. Years of research by teams of British and American researchers showed that great cracks and fissures had opened up both on top of and underneath the Thwaites glacier, one of the biggest in the world, and it was feared that parts of it, too, may fracture and collapse possibly within five years or less.
For more detail check out the full Guardian article.
24) Poorer countries spend five times more on debt than climate crisis.
“Heidi Chow, executive director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said lower income countries will be raising the impact of debt on their ability to tackle climate change at Cop26 meeting in Glasgow this weekend. Lower income countries are handing over billions of dollars in debt repayments to rich countries, banks and international financial institutions at a time when resources are desperately needed to fight the climate crisis,” she said. "In Glasgow, wealthy polluting nations need to stop shirking their responsibilities and provide climate finance through grants, as well as cancel debts.”
Check out the full article.
25) World's most powerful tidal turbine -
This short 12 minute video is about a Scottish system to harvest tidal power first trialed last year. It seems quite innovative and simple. The world's oceans hold almost unimaginable amounts of energy, but harnessing that energy in a way that can provide a predictable and reliable source of electrical power has proven to be very difficult. Now a jumbo jet sized floating platform supporting two large turbines has been launched off the coast of Scotland, providing new hope for a potentially influential industry.
The producer of the video has a YouTube channel focussed on climate and sustainable energy called "Just Have a Think". He has a wide selection of videos on new battery and energy technologies that are relatively short with good graphics for anyone interested.
26) Gelion Energy.
Australia-based Gelion, whose non-flow zinc-bromide battery technology was spun out of the University of Sydney, has signed a deal that could see it supply hundreds of megawatt-hours of battery systems for power projects in Papua New Guinea, starting next year.
Gelion’s battery technology uses an electrolytic gel that is inherently fire retardant. In a recent test by the company’s tech team, the battery did not catch fire, and even continued to operate, while being heated on a barbeque plate at about 700 degrees for half an hour. On a practical level, this means the Endure battery systems can operate at temperatures up to 50°C without the need for air-conditioning systems.
Other advantages include that the batteries can be discharged to zero volts without impacting performance, are more energy dense and last longer than traditional lead-acid batteries, and offer a safe and recyclable alternative to lithium-ion batteries for stationary storage. “Gelion’s robust and scalable zinc-bromide Endure batteries, coupled with large-scale solar energy could provide remote PNG communities with an affordable, renewable and robust solution for their energy needs,” said Mayur managing director Paul Mulder.
Check out the full article.
27) News Corp’s climate pivot perpetrates a new fraud and draws us closer to climate catastrophe.
Dr Bronwyn Kelly is the Founder of Australian Community Futures Planning (ACFP) . She is the author of "By 2050: Planning a better future for our children in 21st century democratic Australia".
Here is an extract from a recent article she wrote.
Not only does News Corp’s new climate change campaign come after years of spreading climate misinformation, it is also simply replacing its last fraud with another. For the past decade, stalwarts of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp have claimed that climate change is a hoax and a fraud perpetrated on the Australian people. News Corp has orchestrated a campaign of climate misinformation so successful that it has resulted in some of the most harmful policy decisions imaginable for a 21st century developed country.
That the misinformation was deliberate is obvious from the fact that it was stubbornly sustained as an editorial direction running contrary, year after year, to the vast majority of scientific findings. Hypocrisy and lies were even proudly admitted to by some commentators.
28) You can’t beat climate change without tackling disinformation.
Over more than a century, PR firms built and fine-tuned a machine to deceive the public, writes Amy Westervelt for The Nation.
In the past month or so, climate disinformation has been making its way into the news more than usual. There was the House Oversight Committee’s climate disinformation hearing in October, and then, just days later, leaked documents from Facebook revealed its role in spreading climate denial. The Oversight Committee’s investigation continues, as does the work to fully understand social media’s role in disinformation, about climate and otherwise.
But for all we know about disinformation and how dangerously effective it can be, tackling the problem rarely makes its way into conversations focused on climate solutions. This raises the question: How are you going to implement new green technology or policies without eliminating the obstacle that’s helped block both for decades?
We don’t necessarily have a solution to climate disinformation yet. But it’s clear it will not be dismantled by a company policy here and a congressional investigation there. A problem this large and complex requires concerted effort to solve—and we can’t even start until a critical mass of people realise that doing so is critical to the success of any climate solution.
Check out the full Newsroom article.
29) Airlines flying near-empty ‘ghost flights’ to retain EU airport slots.
This article highlights the ultimate in human stupidity and ignorance of the crisis we are facing. European airlines forced to fly empty planes so they can retain their landing rights at different airports!
30) WA State Government to unlock land for renewable energy and economic diversification.
Exciting new large-scale carbon farming opportunities on Crown and pastoral land.
Lands Minister Tony Buti today announced proposed changes to Western Australia's Land Administration Act to introduce a new, more flexible form of land tenure for unallocated Crown land and pastoral land.
The changes mean WA will be better placed to leverage opportunities in the rapidly-growing renewable energy sector which requires large areas of land for operations like carbon farming, wind farms, solar energy and hydrogen production.
Check out the full media statement.
31) The role of energy demand reduction in achieving net-zero in the UK.
This study was undertaken by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS), and provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the role of reducing energy demand to meet the UK’s net-zero climate target. This report highlights the critical importance of developed countries reducing their energy demand if we are to have any chance collectively of meeting a 2050 net zero target.
In the report they state -
Without energy demand reduction we will not achieve the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget target in 2035 of 78% below 1990 levels, or our 2050 net-zero target. None of our Low Energy Demand (LED) scenarios compromise our quality of life. Instead, they seek to enhance it with numerous co-benefits associated with healthier diets, active living, clean air, safe communities, warm homes, rebalancing work and driving down inequality. All this is possible while halving the UK’s energy demand. There are clear advantages associated with energy demand reduction in achieving our path to net-zero compared to other options.
Lowering energy demand has five important effects:
Check out the full report on the CREDS website.
32) Belgian parliament votes to recognise international crime of ecocide.
There is ongoing steady progress towards the crime of ecocide being adopted internationally thanks largely to the efforts of the Stop Ecocide group.
The Belgian parliament has adopted, by a strong majority, a resolution by the Ecolo-Groen parties aimed at recognising an international crime of ecocide.
By adopting this resolution, the parliament is making three demands of the Belgian government.
1. to "initiate a new international treaty of the most proactive countries (a 'coalition of the willing') to prosecute and prevent ecocide at the international level";
2. to "propose an amendment to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of The Hague to include the new crime of ecocide" (in the same way as crimes against humanity); and
3. "to report to parliament on the upcoming expert opinion on the inclusion of the crime of 'ecocide’ in the Belgian penal code ".
33) Half world’s fossil fuel assets could become worthless by 2036 in net zero transition.
$11tn fossil fuel asset crash could cause 2008-style financial crisis, warns new study. About half of the world’s fossil fuel assets will be worthless by 2036 under a net zero transition, according to research.
Countries that are slow to decarbonise will suffer but early movers will profit; the study finds that renewables and freed-up investment will more than make up for the losses to the global economy. It highlights the risk of producing far more oil and gas than required for future demand, which is estimated to leave $11tn-$14tn (£8.1tn-£10.3tn) in so-called stranded assets – infrastructure, property and investments where the value has fallen so steeply they must be written off.
Check out the full article.
34) Why The "War" on Climate Change is Bipolar.
For those who are reading this newsletter and have reached this far I want to finish with some further items relevant to the information in our last newsletter looking at "Limits to Growth" and "Overshoot". This first item is a blogpost from Erik Michaels printed just before COP26. Here is an extract.
"...reductionist thinking (focusing on climate change instead of ecological overshoot, the cause of climate change) has led a broad portion of society to focus on emissions. Emissions are caused by energy use — the more building, manufacturing, and transportation that takes place, the more energy use occurs. The more consumption that occurs, the more energy use occurs. The entire economy operates courtesy of energy use, so the more jobs there are, the more energy use occurs. So, building new infrastructure and creating new jobs is an excellent way to RAISE emissions, not lower them. This is because increasing energy use also increases ecological overshoot. Some people claim that in order to reduce emissions, we must invest in new technology and raise efficiency of the technology we use. Unfortunately, this actually produces MORE emissions through the process of Jevons Paradox (aka the “rebound effect”). In reality, there is only one way to reduce emissions — and that is to reduce energy use. LESS technology, not more, is the answer. Of course, nobody wants to hear that or think about it.
One thing which has become more and more clear as time has moved forward is that the messaging on climate change is bipolar (contradictory; incongruent; hypocritical) in its assessment. More and more articles talk about how we need this and how we need that in order to "fight" climate change DESPITE the facts that climate change is caused by ecological overshoot and building more products (especially building materials) only increases ecological overshoot. Some articles discuss ideas which have already been proven by science to be impossible.
35) The Enigma of Climate Inaction: On the Human Nature of Policy Failure.
I highly recommend this talk by Professor Bill Rees. It is one of the best I've listened to recently. He is a bio-ecologist, ecological economist and former Director and Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. His early research focused on environmental assessment but gradually extended to the biophysical requirements for sustainability and the implications of global ecological trends. Along the way, he developed a special interest in modern cities as ‘dissipative structures’ and therefore as particularly vulnerable components of the total human ecosystem.
You can learn more about him on his "Post Carbon Institute" website.
His talk is a very insightful analysis of how human behaviours have resulted in the predicament we find ourselves in. He says the modern human mind has a limited capacity to cope with complexity pointing out that climate change is only one of many symptoms of ecological overshoot and that the human enterprise is using resources and generating wastes in excess of the regenerative and assimilative capacities of the ecosphere.
36) Do the Math - Using physics and estimation to assess energy, growth, options – by Tom Murphy.
Tom Murphy is a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. Following his natural instincts to educate, Murphy is eager to get people thinking about the quantitatively convincing case that our pursuit of an ever-bigger scale of life faces gigantic challenges and carries significant risks.
….ignoring physical limits is unwise when suddenly 8 billion people are scooping out the inheritance of Earth’s finite one-time resources as fast as humanly possible. We have not seen the full consequences yet, and can no longer take the foundation for granted, as we have already used up a shocking fraction of Earth’s offerings in the blink of an eye on timescales of evolution or even of civilization. We are chewing on the power cord to our life support machine, as if it’s just another fun choice on the menu. It’s the worst choice we could make, as exciting as Amazon deliveries might be.
If you want to see more check out Tom's full blogpost.
37) The real state of the economy.
"Surplus Energy Economics" is another interesting blogsite with regular contributions from Dr Tim Morgan. Here is an extract from a recent blog to give you a feel for the content. It highlights a recurring theme for those of us who are concerned about overshoot and it's implications. We must face up to the inescapable fact that there are limits to what resources the planet can continue to provide us.
We understand two central realities that are neither known to, nor accepted by, the orthodox approach to economics.
First, we are aware of the critical distinction between the ‘real’ economy of goods and services and the ‘financial’ economy of money and credit.
Second, we recognize that the real or material economy is an energy system, in which prosperity is a function of the availability, value and cost of energy.
This understanding enables us to define the current economic predicament. The financial economy has grown rapidly, driven by unprecedentedly expansive credit and monetary policies.
The real economy, meanwhile, has decelerated towards de-growth, because the energy equation has become progressively more unfavourable.
This has opened up a gap between the ‘two economies’ of energy and money. The wider this gap becomes, the greater are the forces trending towards a restoration of equilibrium. The take-off in inflation is a logical sign of the return of equilibrium, because prices are the point of intersection between the real economy and its financial proxy.
In terms of anticipating the future, the forced restoration of equilibrium between the financial and the material economies is critical.
The energy economy, shaped by physical realities, cannot be made to align itself with its financial counterpart.
Therefore, the return of equilibrium must involve shrinking the financial system back into proportion with the underlying economy.
38) Understanding Collapse - Exploring some of the key ideas surrounding collapse.
Here is a short description of the FAN Initiative group from their website -
The FAN Initiative is a set of colleagues deeply concerned about what we see as breakdowns in bio-physical and societal systems.
Science can and should guide our response to this predicament. Others with their hands on the levers of governance, education, economy, and worldview shaping belief systems should at least have the scientific information readily available.
We collect and contribute information to this site. This site is our contribution.
The FAN helps us navigate the threat of catastrophic collapse even as deep fissures and fractures become evident.
Here is an extract from a recent posting on their site titled "Understanding Collapse".
To the best of our knowledge, humanity faces an unprecedented global crisis within a timescale that calls for a different approach than simply addressing it as a potentially soluble set of isolated problems. Our civilization is an extraordinary thing. Compared to other civilizations in the past (say, the Maya or the Roman Empire), ours is vastly, vastly more colossal and intricate than any of these.
We should be mindful that whatever the anxieties of the moment, our human system – our civilization – is not yet broken. It is highly organized and coherent, being remarkably efficient at solving problems. We have transportation, food supply chains, raw materials and manufacturing, public security, the financial system, sanitation, health and welfare, energy generation, power grids and many other things that are intact and functioning incredibly well. The fact that we can buy food in the supermarket tomorrow or plan a meeting at the other end of the planet and reasonably expect to be there half a year from now, implies a casual acceptance of the stability of highly complex conditions. We have this tighter and tighter, more efficient machine running under the hubcap of our normal lives. It has brought us many benefits. We don’t notice it, because it works. But it is building a vulnerability within itself.
As civilization evolves, it is increasing in complexity, interdependence, the speed of processes and delocalization of the systems we have come to depend upon.
39) Beware: Gaia may destroy humans before we destroy the Earth.
Here is an extract from an article written by James Lovelock and printed in the Guardian late last year. James is now 102 years old and still contributing. Good on him!
I don’t know if it is too late for humanity to avert a climate catastrophe, but I am sure there is no chance if we continue to treat global heating and the destruction of nature as separate problems. That is the wrongheaded approach of the United Nations, which is about to stage one big global conference for the climate in Glasgow, having just finished a different big global conference for biodiversity in Kunming.
This division is as much of a mistake as the error made by universities when they teach chemistry in a different class from biology and physics. It is impossible to understand these subjects in isolation because they are interconnected. The same is true of living organisms that greatly influence the global environment. The composition of the Earth’s atmosphere and the temperature of the surface is actively maintained and regulated by the biosphere, by life, by what the ancient Greeks used to call Gaia.
I am not hopeful of a positive outcome at Cop26, knowing who is participating. I was not invited to Glasgow, though that is hardly a surprise. As well as being 102 years old, I am an independent scientist, and the university academics have never been comfortable with that.
But my fellow humans must learn to live in partnership with the Earth, otherwise the rest of creation will, as part of Gaia, unconsciously move the Earth to a new state in which humans may no longer be welcome. The virus, Covid-19, may well have been one negative feedback. Gaia will try harder next time with something even nastier.
Nga mihi, Budyong.
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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.