Welcome to our 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 articles to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
Water is life, and climate change impacts on fresh water sources are increasingly being felt in many regions of the world. Scientists are finding that as surface water sources run dry, people overuse ground water. If strategic interventions are not implemented now, including drilling for water the way we have done for oil, there will be serious shortages of fresh water as climate change worsens. However, as droughts become more frequent, people become increasingly conscious of their day to day usage decisions, and how they invest their finances.
Researchers are finding that, with increasing awareness of water resource constraints, people are “putting their money where their mouth is”. Issues of personal interest are guiding choices in investment, as can be shown by investors in California favouring those companies that show sensitivity to water shortage. Companies proactive in addressing water shortages have the opportunity to benefit by increased investor attention. Expectations are that this trend will expand to cover other areas impacted by climate change. We have found some interesting examples of innovations in this area….
Ever thought of reading a book and living the experiences it describes? Well, this can now be done with the “Drinkable Book”. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon in USA have come up with a book on water safety whose pages can filter very contaminated water eliminating over 99% of bacteria, making it safe for drinking. Each book can be used to supply one person with drinking water for 4 years.
Businesses are also seeking solutions for water shortages. A health club owner in Mexico City has created a shower head that saves up to 70% of water compared to a traditional shower head. The project, posted on “Kickstarter”, raised $1 million in 2 days, 10 times their initial goal. California based Apple and Google CEO’s have both taken a financial interest in the project.
Water and food are closely linked, and water use in agriculture is an appropriate target for innovations in water conservation. Susan O’Shaughnessy of the US Department of Agriculture is developing new sensors to control centre-pivot irrigation devices, to minimise water consumption. The sensors, which help match irrigation to plant water demand, enable up to 90% of water applied to be absorbed by the plants. In another project, researchers in Australia hope to improve flood irrigation efficiency to be similar to drip irrigation. Something that would be useful in many countries.
Technology innovations may target the mainstream economy but the most vulnerable groups are those on the margins.
Youth could be seen as a vulnerable group as they are to inherit the harsh impacts of climate change. Mounting legal action against the US Federal Government for not doing enough in the fight against emissions is therefore a well justified approach by the youth. This questions the moral of the old adage “children should be seen and not heard”.
Another vulnerable group are “small nations”. Kiribati has a population of about 103,000 and will likely disappear with sea-level rise triggered largely by climate change. Their president, representing other small nations in similar situations, and about to address the UN General Assembly, has called on world leaders for a global and immediate moratorium on all new coal mines and coal mine expansions.
Communities within larger nations are also vulnerable. Have you ever heard of Babassu fruit? Well, it plays a large and traditional role in many thousands of Brazilians lives. The small hairless coconut grows wild and communities collect it for production of goods such as bread, cakes, cleaning materials, cosmetics, drinks, handicrafts, margarine, porridge and soap. It’s not a mainstream crop, and Brazil’s government is moving to develop mainstream agriculture in the areas where it is currently grown. Deforestation, and other land use changes, threaten its existence and hence that of the local communities.
It is not just the "little" person that has a lot to lose through climate change, businesses of all shapes and sizes could be impacted. We next look at 7 reasons businesses should fear climate change. Two key points: climate change will affect all sectors; and the damage will be permanent!
Action such as reporting your company’s carbon footprint can save many dollars. It’s not “just the right thing to do” - it should lead to better business practices. Firms that voluntarily disclose their greenhouse gas or CO2 emissions are enjoying more favourable lending conditions, with lower interest rates, than companies that don't. Environmental disclosure, coupled with a credible emission reduction strategy, can deliver hard cash benefits which might well convince more firms to take up the challenge. We certainly hope so.
Next, we turn to that previously considered “low carbon” fuel that many moved to when told petrol was not “climate friendly”. Diesel was considered to be better for the environment as it emitted less CO2 than petrol engines. Now we find that not only is petrol now similar in CO2 emission levels, but diesel also emits many other nasty toxins into our environment that petrol doesn’t. The British government are now being forced by their Supreme Court to curb diesel use or face huge fines, and the Mayor of Paris has admitted it was a huge mistake to promote diesel vehicles as being more “green”. The move to electric vehicles cannot come soon enough.
When you visit a coral reef you realise these are places that make you glad to be on this earth, with their absolute beauty, colourfulness and intrigue. They are also home to many species that feed into various ecosystems. Unfortunately, global temperature increases, pollution and overfishing are all having negative impacts on coral reefs, and in our next article Professor Pete F Sale regards the generally accepted 2oC COP target for temperature rise as too much, believing a 1oC increase is all coral can withstand. Already the quantity of coral in the Great Barrier Reef has apparently decreased to around 50% of its abundance of the mid 1970’s. A sobering thought.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we 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.