Bennett - Editor
Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
The 2013 World Economic Forum ended on the 27th January feeling possibly for the first time, the pressing reality of climate change. In economic terms it has been recognised that climate change is costing US$1.2 trillion or 1.6% of global GDP. In the USA alone, the price tag for weather-related disasters in 2012 was over US$110 billion. Perhaps the proverbial penny is closer to dropping and that to attempt to ignore climate change for much longer is fast becoming futile. About time to get the head out of the sand?
Especially so as Lord Stern, the well regarded and respected economist, and the author of the 2006 Review, appears now to believe he should have been more blunt about the threat to economies from temperature rises. He also now believes that without strong action that temperature rises of 4C are much more likely than the 2C he forecast in the Review. As he puts it “This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.” Scary word – existential – the ability to exist, especially from a human perspective.
Sir David Attenborough goes even further with his comments “We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth, or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now”.
As if we needed any further proof just out of touch we are with the reality of it all, our next article from Greenpeace provides information on 14 planned giant fossil fuel projects that will increase global emissions by 20%. The study labelled the “Point of No Return” forecasts that these 14 new projects will add an additional 6.3 gigatonnes of CO2e a year in 2020 – as much as the entire US emits annually. Even without these new projects, emissions are still rising steeply, with China and India the main culprits.
Our next article is courtesy of Neville Peat – a renowned NZ author and former Otago regional councillor. Neville is of the opinion that New Zealand seems to have abandoned its intent to be sustainable and instead is now following the GDP growth at any cost model. He refers to the Govt. desire to go flat out to increase extraction – from oil, coal and gas to offshore fishing – anything that might be worth an export dollar. And to disguise what it is doing and the damage to the environment, the NZ Govt. has ordered the Ministry for the Environment to abandon the five-yearly State of the Environment round-up report.
The contrast with Australia is startling. Whilst the Australian economy is still largely dependent on extractive industries, the Gillard Govt. has shown that it is prepared to take tough calls on becoming more sustainable with the introduction of their Carbon tax last year. Furthermore as our next article explores, it might be possible for Australia to be 100% renewable in ten years. The report issued by the Melbourne Energy Research Institute, sets out a blueprint to create self-sufficiency energy supplies for the country with an investment of only $8 per household per week. In my estimate, this is a bargain at that price and possibly something that could be funded from the Carbon tax.
Our next article examines some really neat and innovative ways we are harnessing the power of nature. A couple of examples that stood out to me include using lightning to recycle concrete, self-healing concrete, a self-filling water bottle and capturing energy from train track vibrations. We include an article that takes a closer look at the way track vibrations can be used to generate electricity and supply remote signals and monitoring equipment.
Our final article takes a peek at the world of telepresence robots and how they allow employees to ‘beam’ into work. Whilst nascent and expensive at the moment, the possibilities into the way we work and interact are mind boggling. In many ways it is heading into the realms of science fiction and the worlds created in the films of Avatar and The Matrix.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.