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.

In the past week the Polar vortex has brought a record breaking cold snap to America that has people saying “How can global warming exist if we are getting such coldness?”. Laden explains the world is not getting cooler; the Arctic jet stream has shifted south for a few days leaving the artic unseasonably warm. America is getting temperatures below -32 degrees from the arctic Jetstream but other places are warming due to the Jetstream failing to contain the cold air in the weakening places over parts of Europe.

In Scandinavia the wildlife has altered their seasonal behaviours; bears are coming out of hibernation early, migratory birds have changed their timing and plants are appearing earlier and blooming. This phenomenon is a cast off effect from the Polar vortex, because the vortex has slipped south into America it has left Scandinavian countries in havoc and has altered their whole ecosystem. While this is just one mild winter there are signals that this will become a more regular occurrence.

Climate change is affecting all weather events; the event maybe a cold snap but it is happening in a warmer environment. New ways of measuring climate change are enhancing the ability to predict the future climate. Water vapour is distributed through different heights in the atmosphere causing clouds, with warming temperatures there are fewer clouds. Cloud coverage is crucial because they reflect sunlight and lessen global warming, less clouds means less natural defences against global warming. If the natural defence is diminished then the temperature will double what is predicted for the future. To avoid a future of uncertainty we must act now.

The next set of articles look at water related issues from a selection of countries. They investigate what issues these countries are facing and their planning and developments for better water management. For now there is enough water on our planet but it is being naturally distributed, many have no access to clean drinking water while others have pools in their backyards. New Zealanders are fortunate, many take this life essential for granted.

We begin with ‘5 reasons water technology will grow in 2014’. 70-95% of the World’s freshwater is used for irrigation and a 15 megawatt data centre uses 360,000 gallons of water a day. The priority shift is starting to change when some populations cannot even access clean water due to limited infrastructure. New infrastructure and technology is being introduced so people can have clean by using smart metering and implementing treated reused water. Monitoring water use has become financially beneficial for companies, the cost of water is on the rise and companies want to know they aren’t throwing their money down the drain.

Innovative designs and processes for wastewater use are steadily increasing. California is leading the way for water sustainability. Treated wastewater is being used for wetland restoration, irrigation and even being turned into drinkable quality water. By reusing water it is taking half the amount of energy compared to the imported alternative.

Although our next article is titled ‘India’s Dangerous ‘Food Bubble’   the real problem is water or in this case the rapidly dwindling groundwater supplies. In recent years 27 million wells have been drilled, meaning that 15% of India’s food is being produced by over pumped ground water. India’s government is looking at mapping aquifers to better understand water availability along with other measures to better manage their water resources. Aquifer mapping and the improving technology is becoming essential worldwide to better manage water sources.

Our final water related article discusses the cooperation between Israel, Palestinians and Jordan. The primary goal is to have more water available for all which includes building a 180 kilometer pipeline and a desalination plant. This is the first step to an even more ambitious plan to save the existence of the Dead Sea.

The next two articles talk about financing and big data challenges in 2014. Maybe we should look at them more as opportunities as every building has the potential to become more sustainable and to save money by doing so. Trends show continued momentum for PACE financing.

Talking about energy efficiency we look at retrofitting buildings, specifically deep retrofits. This article not only explains what is meant by deep retrofits but how to overcome the primary obstacles. One of the repeating themes we see with a lot of energy efficiency programs is the need of good monitoring both before and after projects have been put in place.

Our final set of articles explores how the sustainability industry has matured enough to acquire some unwanted trappings such as inventing its own jargon and becoming self-obsessed with attending their own conferences and workshops. This distraction is causing many in the industry to forget what should be the real task at hand, which is encouraging those outside their industry to change behaviour and become more sustainable. The following paragraph from Eric Hoffer captures it well. "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business and eventually degenerates into a racket." The sustainability movement has succeeded on the first two, but needs to be sure it can avoid the last one.

To do that, it needs to focus on what is material to people and the organisation and to walk the talk. Or as our final article puts it ‘Close the CSR Gap’ – the gulf between what consumers think companies should do and what they think they actually do. The rewards are significant, with 73 percent of consumers willing to recommend companies that are perceived to be delivering on their CSR programmes. Hard to beat a positive referral from a colleague and friends.

Thank you for taking time to read our SnippETS articles! The world is rapidly changing around us but with new technology and a vision for the future we are looking towards a brighter tomorrow.

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