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.
This week we look at how to meet the cost of tackling climate change. Surprisingly this is not very expensive if we follow the reasoning by Fred Pearce and others who say we can divert the current subsidies to fossil fuels. Apparently there is $500 billion per year in subsidies and $400 billion already committed for renewables. That is quite close to the $1 trillion needed to fight climate change.
Who should lead this process? In Alice Korngold’s opinion this is best done by Corporations. Contrary to their identity as drivers of unsustainable development many are finding great solutions to some sustainable development challenges. They have technology and resources and they understand the issues to be able to find solutions. They are also not as limited by borders and elections as governments.
Corporations are good at planning for profit. If the value of natural resources was accounted for in monetary terms we could get more corporates to participate in saving them. The value of coastal marshes and corals is in avoided artificial storm barriers. Ecosystem services have a direct contribution to value of investment by reducing cost of providingsecurity against disasters.
The article by Rory Carrol shows how investors are helping prioritise and distribute water in California. Those with water rights put them on the market and sell to the highest bidder. Suddenly the application with highest economic value gets the water. Obviously legal provisions have to protect social services and general human security.
Barret writes in GreenBiz that understanding the water, food and energy nexus is important for solving some of the major challenges. Ecosystem services purify water which provides energy and food which are all interdependent. Companies need to help manage the nexus as it is a major factor in their survival.
Electronic devices cost about $80 billion per year of power in standby mode. This can be reduced and all this energy, equivalent to that used by UK and Norway, could go into productive use. Again Corporations hold the key to the technology solutions.
Our next two articles focus on an issue people are becoming increasingly aware of: the overuse of neonicotinoid insecticides, the effect of these on the global production of food and those creatures vital in this industry. The neonicotinoids are usually used to treat seeds, and therefore are taken up by every part of a growing plant, providing multiple ways for creatures to be exposed. They harm bees ability to navigate and damage their immune systems, and affect worms ability to tunnel. Where will we be without our natural soil cleansers and pollinators?
A study at Newcastle University is looking to create a 'biopesticide' that may be a solution to the problems of neonicotinoids. Using funnel web spider venom and the snowdrop plant, they have had early success in creating a biopesticide, with tests showing it as effective on 'pests' without any negative effect on bees. Let’s hope this may become successful commercially.
We next take a look at the effect 'Dark Snow' can have on accelerating glacier melting. Nearly invisible particles of 'black carbon' resulting from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels from diesel engines are being swept thousands of miles from industrial centres in the US, Europe and south-east Asia, as is dust from Africa and the Middle East, where dust storms are becoming bigger as the land dries out, with increasingly long and deep droughts.
This dust and particles settles on pristine white snow and ice and absorbs heat from the sun causing accelerated ice melt, an unexpected and difficult problem to stop when the source is thousands of kilometres away.
In our final two articles we look at transportation from two different angles, first up Daimler’s first autonomous truck.
The system uses four radar sensors and a 3D camera to assess the area within 60m (200 ft) of the truck, with wireless connections to other vehicles and the road infrastructure providing additional information. This, along with traffic and topographic data, allow the vehicle to operate autonomously when the driver passes over control to the system. This allows the driver to relax or work on other tasks while the system provides updates on a touch-screen tablet.
The system is designed to assist a driver more so than be a full replacement. If it makes driving safer it can only be a good thing.
We wrap up this Snippets with a look at the exciting world on Formula E.How does
having a music interlude to highlight when a crash has occurred or when a passing manoeuvre has happened sound? Well, we are a bit unsure ourselves, but if this formula advances electric car technologies and makes them more main stream then we are all for it.
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.