Welcome to our 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 articles to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
We start this Snippets with a look at politics in the UK. They have a general election in May 2015, and the three main political parties have agreed that, regardless of who wins the election, Britain will carry through with its obligations to try and halt global warming. They have agreed that this goal is above party politics. We see this as a very positive step, parties possibly putting their residents, country and world above party views.
Seeing all the changing mind-set that is taking place, do we need political agreement to tackle climate change? Two key steps to reducing the impact of global warming are (1) lowering current emission outputs, and (2) getting countries to act on implementing changes. Surprisingly a voluntary Climate Treaty could actually work. A country really needs to see it as an advantage to their best interests, and public support is important. If we look specifically at the Kyoto Agreement, this was a Treaty that was binding in writing, and voluntary in nature. It actually produced surprising results, where most countries met or even exceeded their pledges. Could they see it as an advantage, or the right thing to do? Possibly a combination of things that are explored further.
People around the world are beginning to wake up to some issues that are related to global warming and increasing emission levels, and the two steps to reducing their impacts
Brazil and its people have now started to realise the singularly most important impact of cutting down rainforests: NO RAIN! Our next article describes the severe implications of deforestation in the Amazon basin, leading to the current water shortages in San Paolo. There may also be other influences on these shortages - climate change, and the energy burnt in the city, but rainforests cannot produce rain if they have been razed to the ground. The people of San Paolo are facing days on end with no water supply, due to supply restrictions imposed to try and prevent the city’s water running out altogether, and are waking up to the problems deforestation is causing, calling for it to stop. We think they are showing a mindset change that is needed around the world.
A risk associated with carbon emissions is smog. Usually when people think of the worst case, they think of Beijing, but our next article reports that New Delhi’s air is often more polluted than Beijing’s. The type of particulate matter in the air in New Delhi makes it the most toxic in the world, and about 1 in 6 Indian deaths are due in some way to air pollution. The locals are becoming more aware of the short and long term impacts of this pollution, due to increased media coverage of the problem, and are becoming concerned about the future for their children. As well they should! Another example of a mindset change that we think is so necessary.
The way we think about food waste also needs to change as, with global warming and a rapidly increasing world population, there will soon not be enough food for everyone. As our next article suggests, if people weren’t so particular about how their food appeared, or if it had reached its “best before” date, or if they chose to eat less meat, there would be huge increases in currently available food, as up to half of the food already produced ends up as waste, and this could be reduced significantly. With global warming, and deforestation, the water required for growing the food in the future will also be an even more obvious problem. Do you always only choose the “perfect” fruit and vegetables when you go shopping? Why? We really need to change the way we do things or there just won’t be enough food in the very near future.
Climate change impacts manifest themselves in many ways. De-glaciation is another impact of global warming that will happen if people’s mind-sets don’t change. Our next article addresses the consequences of this ice melt at another angle: the lessening of pressure on the Earth’s crust will likely cause more volcanic eruptions on land, an impact on Iceland that the author, Fred Pearce, describes. This is also pertinent to us in New Zealand, with our very active volcanic areas, and the current retreat of our glaciers.
Despite the slow action by politicians, private business is taking the lead to tackle climate change. The Environmental leader reports that the Taiwan Stock exchange will be implementing a mandatory CSR reporting. In this way they hope to attract more capital while meeting new government regulations. Linking capital to more transparency and cleaner practices continues to be the sensible thing to do.
Kelly Tyrrell reports how a private sector led initiative to stop new deforestation in the Brazil succeeded, while legislated measures were ignored. Political will may be essential for legal action, but increasingly private companies and individuals are seeing the benefits associated with climate change action.
In the article by Will Nichols we see how Wiseman has established a bamboo based business which displaces timber and makes available fibre for textiles. At the same time the business takes into account local needs for employment and water management.
The environmental leader reports how Toyota has made available, free of charge, patents for hydrogen fuel cells. This is meant to accelerate the development of the technology in the face of a rapidly changing climate change risk. If giving away technology information is now seen as vital, how can the climate change deniers continue to exist?
We finish up with a look at plastic, and where a lot of it is ending up. Unfortunately due to poor waste management (recycling), approximately 8 million metric tonnes of plastic goes into the ocean each year. That’s equivalent to 16 shopping bags full of plastic for every metre of coast line (excluding Antarctica). The outlook is bleak. By 2025 there will be enough plastic to cover 5% of the earth’s surface in cling film each year! It’s not just bad for us, marine wildlife is already suffering. How do we sort this issue? One simple step could actually to be to put a value on waste plastic. This step would certainly encourage people to recycle, rather than to simply throw away or dispose of without much care and attention.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we 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.