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.
Humans have destroyed a tenth of Earth’s remaining wilderness in the last 25 years and there could be none left within a century if trends continue, according to an authoritative new study. Researchers found a vast area the size of two Alaska’s – 3.3m square kilometres – had been tarnished by human activities between 1993 and today. We can’t seem to help ourselves and as things stand the biggest threat to human (any!) life on earth is us, and what’s all this in aid of, Progress, GDP and investor returns? As the human population grows, so does our seemingly unending appetite for earth’s resources.
It’s not just land based wilderness either, we are doing a great job of plundering the world’s oceans. Humanity is driving an unprecedented extinction of sea life unlike any in the fossil record, hunting and killing in a way that will disrupt ocean ecosystems for millions of years, scientists have found. New analysis of the five mass extinction events millions of years ago discovered there was either no pattern to which marine species were lost, or smaller species were the ones that disappeared. As we enter the ‘sixth extinction’ humans are solely the cause. We certainly face some challenges, but we look at some other approaches and issues that could make a clear different as we continue through this Snippets.
Looking next at red meat, our next article addresses the implications of offering industrially-produced meat in American restaurants. Surprisingly, they found a 1% increase in industrially-produced beef offered to diners correlated with a 1.4% decline in shareholders returns. The study itself is not conclusive, due to its small sample size, but some trends were noted. Specifically, diners are becoming more willing to pay a higher price for higher quality beef, or to skip the beef altogether! Although industrially produced beef is not in NZ, the changing opinions, of diners away from beef altogether, is something we cannot ignore.
As we all know, agriculture, specifically beef production, makes up a large portion of earth’s global emissions (nearly 15%). This realization has lead researchers to look for alternative products to compete in the dairying space, in this case alternatives to cow produced milk and cheese products. A San Francisco company believes it has found the solution for dairy products, which taste like dairy products, without the cows! Using a combination of yeast, cow DNA and plant nutrients ‘Perfect Day’ claims to have created a product identical to cow’s milk. This is a game changer globally, with a scheduled release at the end of 2017. NZ look out!
With the continual cycle of migration and continuing refugee crisis around the world, a seemingly endless stream of people are heading towards cities. The International fund for Agricultural Developments president has said that specifically targeting the world’s rural poor will lead the way towards ending poverty and achieve food security. It is estimated that around 13% of people are living in extreme poverty, yet inequality between rural and urban areas has increased. Small farms support 2.5 billion people worldwide and account for up to 80% of food produced in Asia and Africa. This means, to secure food supply and improve the wellbeing of our populations, investment must be made in the rural areas.
Going green is going to cost green, according to many stakeholders in the financial community. But is there any avoidance of finally paying the bill for externalities which have long been avoided? It seems there is no way around the eventual cost of carbon. The question is: who will put the price tag on our mess: businesses, politicians, or nature?
Some industries aren’t waiting around for mother nature to stick them with massive financial bills created by climate change. A recent report by the IEA showed that in 2015, investments in renewables power generation were greater than conventional fossil fuel power generation, signalling a positive outlook for electricity infrastructures across the globe. Appropriately enough, sources of electricity generation which were once deemed ‘alternative’ are now more mainstream than the ‘conventional’ technologies.
But the greening of society in which we live might get stuck, too. Rare earth metals are a seldom discussed component of the low-carbon future. They are the lynchpin in making sure renewable energy technologies are affordable and abundant. Unfortunately, metals like neodymium and praseodymium, which are critical for both wind turbines and hybrid vehicles, are also exceedingly rare and difficult to extract and process. These supply side factors, coupled with growing demand, could create a bottleneck for certain technologies in the low carbon future.
With Rare Earth Metals being less available for rolling out low carbon technologies, there needs to be a shift in public perceptions from the “all chemicals are all bad” outlook. Biomaterials may provide a more environmentally friendly and economically viable way forward. There have been some huge steps forward, and some innovative biological alternatives for production are becoming available. Not just biofuels, but bioplastics and biominerals.
Another way of changing the way forward to a lower carbon future is to digitise business processes, according to SAP, and not only save trillions of dollars, but also cut greenhouse gas emissions from business by 7.6 gigatonnes by 2030. Digitising and smart metering will be important tools for cutting emissions in businesses and countries, especially as the Internet of Things grows.
For businesses wanting to become more energy efficient, finding office space that embodies their ideals is important, and there is now a tool available to help with this. The Green Lease questionnaire and calculator can save your business money by being energy efficient, but also leads to savings from avoided costs, with a healthier workspace leading to happier and healthier staff.
We finish this week with a look at Blockchain Technology which can ‘reinvent’ the power grid. The article focuses on the outback of Australia but would easily transfer to any isolated area serviced by mains electricity. Sensors of all power line posts, communicating with each other and more importantly the service providers. Any issue is communicated and dealt with quickly, where presently more time is required to find any issue, let alone fix it.
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.