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.
This week we have limited SnippETS to only three articles, the first of two are from Naomi Klein, the Canadian author and journalist. Such are her poignant insights into the society we all form part of, we didn’t want to dilute their impact by distracting the reader.
We would encourage all of you to take the time to read both articles, that whilst long, are rewarding and if you are not as captured as we were by her journey of discovery and growing awareness, we will be very surprised.
Naomi asks why we have not acted on climate change already and what might be wrong with us? Her answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and would benefit the vast majority – are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.
The three policy pillars of this era are familiar to us all: privatisation of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sector, and lower corporate taxation, paid for with cuts to public spending. Much has been written about the real-world costs of these policies – the instability of financial markets, the excesses of the super-rich, and the desperation of the increasingly disposable poor, as well as the failing state of public infrastructure and services. Very little, however, has been written about how market fundamentalism has, from the very first moments, systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change.
Governments and scientists began talking seriously about radical cuts to greenhouse gas emissions in 1988 – the exact year that marked the dawning of what came to be called “globalisation,” with the signing of the agreement representing the world’s largest bilateral trade relationship between Canada and the US, later to be expanded into the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) with the inclusion of Mexico.
What that means is that our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature. Hard to disagree with any of the above.
Our third and final article is no less poignant and discusses how researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examined ten years of data taken between 2000 and 2010 on Alaska's North Slope and in Oklahoma. The instruments at each location examined the concentrations of carbon dioxide and the effect of "radiative forcing," which occurs when more radiation from the sun is absorbed than is reflected back into space.
Researchers saw "the fingerprint of carbon dioxide" trapping heat in action, said the study author Daniel Feldman. According to Feldman, no other researcher had looked in the atmosphere for this type of proof of climate change before. "We see, for the first time in the field, the amplification of the greenhouse effect because there's more CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb what the Earth emits in response to incoming solar radiation," Feldman says. "Numerous studies show rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but our study provides the critical link between those concentrations and the addition of energy to the system, or the greenhouse effect."
The increase in energy to the atmosphere is about 0.2 Watts per square meter per decade. And while this may seem insignificant, the surface of the Earth is 196.9 million square miles, so this figure adds up.
For the first time hard evidence betweenCO2 and the additional of energy has been proven. Not models, but hard evidence. This is very significant, as it undermines many of the climate deniers allegations that CO2 isn’t linked to temperature increases.
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.