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.
The IPCC has just released their Fifth Assessment Report and needless to say it paints a dark picture of climate change. We start with Brian and Andrea presenting a graphical representation of the potential impacts. Hopefully more people can understand from these images the extent of the threat of climate change in different parts of the globe.
At the receiving end of climate change impacts is wild life which has to colonise marginal zones in an attempt to survive. The IPCC report discusses how polar bears in Canada and butterflies in the UK are all losing their habitat and having to move. Vegetation is dying back and species incapable of migrating face extinction. In more dramatic cases, turtles may become feminized by rising temperatures, hence less able to sustain viable populations. Population crashes will also occur when the primary diet for some species dies off.
The IPCC report also points out that economic growth may be stunted even as the world population grows. More people will become increasingly desperate for resources and the effects can only be imagined. Even though the IPCC report already paints a pretty dire picture, the UN scientific Panel that produced the report indicates that the findings are actually quite conservative and the impacts will most likely be worse than portrayed. There is no community that is immune to climate change impacts and the time for action is now.
John Vidal discusses how the UK food security will be affected by climate impacts in other regions. Traditional food exporters will become keen to build own reserves hence reducing exports. Where other populations find the going hard in their parts they will tend to migrate towards countries they view as more secure. The UK may add a population of 10 million in the next 40 years while agriculture faces higher costs. This will surely not be the only country to be affected this way.
Where then is New Zealand in this scenario? Alex Fensome makes a clarion call for action by New Zealand. He notes that threats are well known, but preparedness to respond is only conceptual. Central Government is leaving action to local leadership.
The contrast with the United States couldn’t be starker. Their Federal Government has embarked on a program to inform local leadership on climate change and responses they can adopt. DeConcini and Tompkins report on the White House data backbone being built as a support mechanism for decision makers. Data in impacts and possible actions will be made more available for local planning and action.
In our next series of articles we look at a number with water as the primary theme. We start with a CDP report that argues for broad, locally relevant water based strategies. It is noted that experts predict global water demand will increase by 55% between 2000 and 2050 due to the global population continuing to rise. Manufacturing alone is expected to present a 400% increase. Companies such as Coca Cola are taking a proactive approach to water use and the impact it has on the local water supplies by committing to improve water efficiency. It makes sense as water is such an important part of their product - no water no Coca Cola.
We also look at ways to fix the 10 worst wastes of water. Some examples given include textile dyeing, where 100 to 150 litres of water is used to process 1 kilogram of textiles. Also in the top ten is bottled water, with American sales in 2012 worth around $11.8 billion, representing an average annual consumption of 116 litres per person.
Our next article examines how Boeing is using saline water for the production of biofuels. The joint venture with the Masdar Institute of Science & Technology has found a class of plant that can grow in the desert on salt water. These plants are extremely robust and with their tolerance to saline conditions means they don’t displace arable crops, as has happened with biofuel ethanol in the US.
We wrap up these water related articles by examining a washing machine that uses 70% less water than a conventional machine. It primarily uses plastic pellets that can absorb stains and be reused for 500 washes. In the UK 132 million washes are carried out every week, consuming 343 billion litres of water a year. If this new technology was used by every household or laundry service, imagine the water saving!
You may have heard of Microgrids, now even smaller Nanogrids (very small grids serving a particular function or a single building), are increasingly appearing in the latest smart buildings and smart transportation areas. The Navigant report identifies what they are and why they are changing the thinking of designers and investors.
Once thought to be the saviour of petroleum based industry, and the scourge of the world for using desperately needed food stocks, biogas is now being generated from a number of different sources, many of them sustainable. This report identifies that significant growth in the biogas market has been a reality in the past few years and will likely continue as there are many untapped sources available, plus they attract subsidies in the form of feed-in-tariffs.
We end this week with a quick note wishing our best wishes for the effort of an ex employee, Tyler Byers as part of the Wellington City Council sponsored Smart Energy Challenge. You can read more about this in the link on this page.
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.