Geoff Bennett - Editor

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.

It is always nice to have the opportunity to share good news, especially when it includes a mention of your own business. So, it is with pleasure we announce the strategic partnership between carboNZero and ETSL. The partnership will allow ETSL to offer operational savings of up to 15% to carboNZero clients through e-Bench™ and a more effective monitoring and reporting system, as well as offering e-Bench™ subscribers reputational benefits associated with carboNZero and CEMARS programmes. Wins all round.

We also look at another NZ first, with the installation of “green” refrigeration technology into a NZ supermarket. The refrigeration system, called a Transcritical System uses CO2 as its refrigerant rather than synthetic refrigerants. Waste heat from the system also provides hot water and general winter heating to the ambient shopping area.

This week we examine the impact of increasingly erratic weather on crops. The worst droughts since 1956 in the USA has already seen prices for corn, soy and wheat rise to record levels. South America too is in the grips of a drought which is likely to impact on their soy bean harvest. The opposite is the case in both the UK and Russia, where rain and flooding is negatively impacting on their wheat crops. Given that this comes on the tails of the previous two poor harvest years of 2008 and 2011, much of the world’s emergency food stocks will already been exhausted.

And it is not just the lack of rain, it is the heat waves that accompany a parched land devoid of vegetation. The next article examines how the droughts of the future will be much hotter than their predecessors, with fire storms raging on an almost unthinkable scale. It appears we are on the brink of a significant shift in weather events, most likely on a global scale. But then why should we be surprised, as this was being predicted all along…

Of course with rising temperatures, comes the continuing loss of ice in the Arctic. A new study concludes that the causes behind the loss of Artic sea ice are somewhere between 70% and 95% attributable to anthropogenic activity.

Another question is how much anthropogenic activity might be responsible for long term warming of the planet? According to the latest study into Orbital Forcing, not as much as the IPCC thinks it might have. The study using tree-ring data going back over the last 2,000 years concluded that solar insolation changes, resulting from long-term oscillations of orbital configurations posed a force four times greater than the 1.6W m2 attributable to anthropogenic sources. This however is averaged over a 2,000 year period and it is very clear that the level of anthropogenic activity in 1750 would be significantly less than what it is in 2012. In other words, whilst the study can rightfully determine the historical averaged impact of orbital vs. anthropogenic forces, it cannot determine the impact of anthropogenic activity now. Oh and if you are interested how climate denialists might spin this – follow this link

That is not to say that others are not becoming convinced. Professor Richard Muller, a physicist and climate change sceptic who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project is now convinced that anthropogenic activity is almost entirely the cause for the Earth warming by 1.5C over the past 250 years. The results from his own research surprised him so much that he now considers himself to be a “converted sceptic” and that his views had undergone a “total turnaround”. The irony is that his research was part funded by one of the Koch Brothers (leading climate deniers).

Changing tack, we examine how green home labels can add significant financial value in the housing market. Research undertaken by the University f California found that a green home label, adds on average a 9% price premium for single-family homes in California. Based on an average California home price of $400k, homes with a green label sell for an average of $35k more than comparable homes without a green label. This trend is also supported by evidence from house sales in the Australian Capital Territory (which has a mandated home energy rating certification scheme), where homes with a good energy rating attract up to a 5% premium over those with a poor rating.

Of course increases in capital value are not just restricted to the residential market. Recent studies undertaken by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the world's leading professional body for qualifications and standards in land, property and construction revealed that commercial property with a green star rating of five or more stars attract a rental premium of 6% and capital value of 14% more than comparable property without a green star rating. This enhanced value is why it is both good for landlords to refurbish or build property capable of attaining a high green rating and for tenants to want to occupy them, due to the enhanced reputational benefits and lower running costs. This landlord and tenant win is why busting the barriers to improving energy efficiency and overcoming the split incentives should become easier to meet.

Our next article questions our sense of value. Could a proposed copper mine in Alaska with $500b in recoverable ore be worth more than a pristine lake and critical salmon fishery? It has certainly split their community and questioned the relationship with other species and the environment.

Next up is the news that honeybee decline has been linked to a killer virus and how this is being transmitted by the Varroa Mite. It is certainly something NZ needs to be aware of given our reliance on bees for pollination in what is an agriculture dominant economy.

Our last article examines how Brazilian prison inmates can qualify for a reduced sentence by generating electricity through cycling. For every three eight-hour days they spend on the bikes, the inmates get one day taken off their sentence. Certainly saves on the gym fees.

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.

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