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 first take a look at Switzerland. Ahead of climate deal talks later this year, that country has become the first to formally communicate to a UN climate deal. 50% greenhouse gas cuts, on 1990 levels, by 2030. The reduction will be dominated by local action in a country that does not have many easy options. 30% of the cuts will be domestic, and 20% will be through carbon markets. It must be noted that this isn’t some token effort, but a significant pledge. In an email to RTCC, Switzerland’s chief climate negotiator, Franz Perrez, described the submission as “ambitious and forward-looking”.
We next look at what’s happening in the United States. President Obama is ordering the federal government to slash greenhouses emissions, to 40% below 2008 levels within 10 years. Some of the presidential directives: cut energy use in federal buildings by 2.5% per year over the next decade; reduce water use by 2% per year; purchase more plug in hybrids for federal fleets.
Meanwhile in NZ we wait for our leaders to make a commitment to GHG reductions….
We now turn our attention to the sustainability of food supply. A recent report from the USA 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee includes a section on a “sustainable diet”. Bob Langert writes that sustainability and food security are linked. The food choices we make have an impact on the environment, and sustainable supply chains are essential. It’s about balancing nutrition, health and the ecosystem. Action is needed to eliminate the unsustainable processes we use for food production.
Recent research shows that people in many countries would like us to change in the way food is produced and consumed, so a growing world population can be fed. Tove Malmqvist reports on a survey that shows people in Africa and South America are keen to see major changes while people in South Korea and Japan are less inclined towards change. The issues of food production and sustainability affect both the rich and the poor.
In our next article we see how poor policy choices have allowed food production to ruin the ecosystem in parts of China, damaging food security and sustainability. Increasing food production levels are paralleled by increasingly poor environmental conditions. Once the ecosystem fails, food security suffers in many ways. And changing diets have led to production in China now being insufficient to feed the population. As China has to import food, global demand increases, and impacts as rising prices in other countries, making food less affordable to locals. A bad situation all round.
Another issue with food production and security is the lack of natural pollinators. We have heard about the decreasing number of bees these days, but now we hear that numbers of pollinating birds and mammals are also decreasing. Our next article discusses how these are moving up the endangered species list towards extinction. Pollination services are estimated to be worth $215 billion globally. It appears to be poor production processes and unsustainable agricultural practices that are threatening these services. The ultimate threat is to us humans.
An article by Tim McDowell discusses how climate change impacts can motivate insecurity and terrorism. When people are threatened by drought after drought (and hence lack food security) they become stressed, destabilised and potentially violent. Impacts of droughts in the Middle East have been shown to be a major driver behind terrorism. Once people are displaced they become vulnerable to influence, and also raise national security threats.
Food production relies on water supply. If
people can reliably produce food, then they tend to be more
resilient to climate change. Israel (and others) are increasingly using desalination plants, as rain and ground water sources are no-longer reliable. David Talbot writes about the Megascale desalination plant built near Tel-Aviv. The plant uses innovative solutions to increase capacity, but efficient use is important
as producing water this way is expensive. Surely it would be better if people lived in areas of plentiful water supply?
So for those with limited water supply, or those just wanting to conserve water, in our next article we are told we can “shower like an astronaut”. Medilyn Manibo reports on Orbital Systems who have come up with a shower that recycles water as it is used. You still get clean, as the system senses when the water is too dirty, and fresh water is added to replace it as necessary. This means both water and energy are reused. A clever solution.
In our next article we again look at the Amazon forest, and how it’s remaining trees' ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere fell by almost a third last decade. Trees in untouched areas of the forest have been dying off at an increased rate, plus tree growth produced by higher CO2 levels has levelled off. It’s been suggested that more CO2 in the atmosphere was, counterintuitively, leading to trees dying younger. A worrying trend, as if this great forest can’t continue it’s good work, it pushes the requirement back on to us to step up to control CO2 emissions even more.
We finish up this Snippets with a look at an article here in NZ. A NZ industry group is pushing for a ‘Renewable Highway’ the length and breadth of our country. Electricity Networks Association has formed a working group, with partners Contact Energy, Drive Electric and Mighty River Power, to undertake a scoping study, expected to be completed by the end of July. Imagine being able to confidently drive an electric vehicle the length or breath of NZ without suffering from ‘Range Anxiety’. A solid charging network can only increase consumer’s willingness to purchase an electric vehicle and at the equivalent of 30 cents per litre, it will surely make it an even more attractive option.
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.