Welcome to another fortnightly review of energy and environmental events and developments from New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what is a rapidly evolving area.
Opening this week we explore two articles discussing recent extreme weather events, and broader developments in the world in which we live. They discuss how adapting to changes needs to occur now, or at least sooner rather than later, and how these changes don’t necessarily need to be drastic in order to improve safety.
For example, many building are not built to withstand the rigors of high intensity and extreme weather events. Hardly surprising, as they were never envisaged when planning or in construction. Some basic modifications to established building practices are therefore required to ensure the structural integrity of houses is maintained. Measures such as roofs latched to walls and walls latched to foundations are two simple ways structural integrity can be improved. While it is estimated that a typical home in the US would require several hundred latches at a $1 apiece, in the big scheme, the few extra hundred dollars is not a lot to pay to keep a house together.
In addition to construction practices, natural features can be altered to increase safety. Natural vegetation such as Mangroves or wetlands that once may have acted as a weather break may have long since been removed to improve access to beach fronts or for food production. Replanting or allowing these to grow back will this again reinstate these natural barriers and will come to be seen as a very cost effective measure compared to the costs of rebuilding.
We next look at climate adaption and how these adaptations are changing ‘business as usual’ practices, as well as other aspects of people’s daily lives. Adaptation starts at home and whilst many of these changes might be a local issue, when aggregated can have a global impact.
In our next article we look at manmade global warming emissions and their sources. You may or may not be surprised to learn that household names like BP and Shell are two of 90 companies responsible for two-thirds of global emissions. Overwhelmingly the private and public industries represented here are based in energy production. But as consumers of these products we are ultimately responsible for these emissions and therefore need to adapt to more sustainable alternatives.
Many developed nations have reached ‘peak waste’, where it is expected that rates of waste production will level out, or even decline in the future. Despite this, the world is on course to triple waste levels by the end of the century. Reducing waste is important, as it means fewer resources used, and less energy used to create what we are putting in our bins.
Cropmobster is a website that is eager to help with the waste problem. The site is intended for all organisations, big or small, to advertise excess or unsalable food so there is less wastage. In the last seven months, 100,000 pounds of food has been distributed through the site. There have been some areas that haven’t worked so well, as in instances where produce is too large to move, but the overall benefits (include tax benefits) have been an example of how the food waste crisis can be transformed.
Waste also occurs in the seafood industry. Fish 2.0 is a Dragon’s Den-style competition for sustainable seafood that has been created where entrepreneurs meet investors and compete in four elimination stages to win a first place prize of $40,000. The concept is to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and investors so that it can have an impact on improving sustainability in the seafood industry.
One of the outcomes from the recent UN Climate Change negotiations in Warsaw was to set up a new branch in the UNFCCC to deal with 'loss and damage' from climate change. This is the international community conceding that there will be losses and damage caused by climate change, and goes some way to developing processes to deal with these costs. And yes Australia inspired by the new direction from the Abbott led coalition government managed to get plenty of attention – for all the negative reasons. For once China and the US looked good in comparison.
In response to bad press about fossil fuels, the coal industry has come out and said 'look we are green too'. In so doing, they have provided a set of figures showing that coal can fix all of the world’s energy and sustainability problems. If you like reading some imaginative spin, then it is probably worth a read. That all said, we still need coal to play its part as we transition away from fossil fuels as Christiana Figueres, the United Nations top climate official, put it in a speech directed at coal CEO's “that it is time for them to be part of the solution’.
Cheater Capitalism, developed by Randy Hayes, is where individuals are in a “free” dog eat dog market but where large corporations receive considerable government support and bail outs. This contrasts to the generic version of capitalism where the “intelligent” succeed. This article goes on to explain that change must happen away from Cheater Capitalism, because the world is changing and global warming is impacting on this planet. The answer, according to Hayes, is in sustainability to form regenerative capitalism and create a resilient economy. It is a long read, but a worthwhile one.
To end this week, is a story about cicadas and lavender. Here in New Zealand the clicking of the cicadas symbolizes summer and the outdoors. In Provence, Southern France the sound has a grimmer meaning. The cicadelle population has bloomed due to global warming which is not good news for lavender. The young insect feeds on lavender roots and the adult insect feeds on the plant. It is projected that if nothing changes in 20-30 years, Provence will no longer have any lavender and the industry will disappear. Whilst the lavender industry is now looking at a micro-bacterium resistant lavender to combat the ciadelles, we need to find a solution to the cause of this which is global warming.
Thank you for taking time to read our Snippets articles! Global warming and sustainability has an impact on every aspect of our lives, so let’s plan today for a brighter future tomorrow.