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.
Over the last year or so we have heard a great deal from the climate sceptics camp that man-made or anthropogenic climate change is a load of rubbish. We certainly have politicians who support this - the most prominent being the US Republican Party. Here in NZ we have the ACT Party, formerly led by Rodney Hide and now Don Brash – both climate sceptics. So could they be right?
Not according to 97% of climatologists who amongst the 3,146 earth scientists recently asked “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?” responded with a yes. Pretty emphatic statistics and these are the dudes who really should know what is going on as this is their particular point of expertise. And, its not as if they are trying to whip up a storm to secure continuing funding for research (as sceptics allege) as their models are conservative or as the next article puts it ‘dangerously optimistic’.
So if we are to heed the advice from the IPCC and the scientific community, we really need to be changing our ways. To do this effectively as our next article examines will need a whole new kind of capitalism.
Of course there are those who have it so good under the existing capitalist system that they simply can’t allow it to change. For example the Koch Brothers (pronounced Coke as in Coca Cola) in the US who actively use their immense personal wealth to defeat attempts to reign in the use of fossil fuels. Not only do they invest heavily in lobbying and creating pseudo-scientific organisations, they also seek to manipulate the oil markets for profit. So how do you deal with vested interests that play by their own rules and seem to have scant regard for humankind or anything but money, profit and power?
Well, you play them at their own game. None of the industries the Koch Brothers have interests in are what you might call carbon friendly. And whilst the Koch Brothers might have some US$40 billion between them, that is little compared to the US$7.6 trillion that a combined 34 fund investors manage. So when these fund managers place requests with the world’s largest 500 firms for detailed climate change action plans, they expect to be taken seriously. And the best way to lessen risks from exposure to carbon is to reduce fossil fuel use or to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources (green electricity). The Koch Brothers may continue to lobby, but industry will and is voting with their feet.
Examples of how these large firms are implementing climate change action plans include the introduction of supplier scorecards, such as the one by Proctor & Gamble.
And it needn’t be painful either, as the German software developer SAP demonstrates, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time as increasing revenue.
A sustainable business is nearly always an efficient business and a good business. It is therefore not surprising that green IT initiatives are moving up the corporate agenda. One of the most effective ways of levering efficiencies is through the implementation of more effective processes and business systems. Whether they be energy & utility management software systems such as our own e-Bench™ or through SCADA or BMS systems, all use technology to drive efficiency and improvements.
And some companies have ambitious plans in this regard. For example Intel is planning to make US$25 billion in efficiency savings, mainly through reductions in energy consumption. Another example is Citibank who has reduced its carbon use back to 2005 levels – again mainly through reductions in IT energy consumption. Simply put, sustainability pays dividends and is a far easier source of additional profits than finding new customers ever might be.
Of course sustainability isn’t just limited to business. How we live and the way our cities function are according to the UN, of substantially greater import. A recent UN-HABITAT report states that the world’s cities are responsible for up to 70 percent of harmful greenhouse gases while occupying only 2 percent of it’s land. In other words, it is where the real battle for climate change will have to be waged.
And it is a battle that will require local communities to accept responsibility for change. An example of what might be a glimpse of the future is in Tidy Street, Brighton – UK, where community initiatives include measuring and comparing energy use.
The shape of our cities may also have to change – probably vertically. Our next article examines a number of possible options for the building of the future –including one reintroducing cattle farming into the inner city and another catering for an increasingly mobile workforce by ‘containerising’ their dwellings.
Our final article comes courtesy of XKCD, which has collated Google’s predictions for the next century. It’s sort of dire, optimistic and weird including Nanotech making humans immortal by 2040, world population hitting 9 billion in 2043 and dropping back to 1 billion by 2082. Oh and being able to have sex with robots in 2050… Not sure who came up with this last one.
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.