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.

With the COP21 talks just about here, there is more demand than ever for these talks to recognise the cost of carbon. Earlier this year it was some major oil companies asking for a carbon price, and now Banks are getting involved, also requesting a carbon price. Scientists and an increasing number of companies have also called for this to happen, arguing that no real dent in carbon emissions will happen until people and businesses have it hit their back pocket or their bottom line.

Imagine if 35 years ago we were all made to understand that Climate Change was being impacted so severely by human behaviour, by burning fossil fuels. What difference could that have made? According to our next article, Exxon were well aware at that time and had validated findings on global temperature rises, but didn’t do anything to slow the process. Imagine if they had invested in alternative fuel technology way back then, when first aware of this. But they didn’t, and now the fossil fuel problem could have more than just a Climate impact.

According to the Governor of the Reserve Bank of England, if we try and change to renewable energy too rapidly, the impact on the global economy may be chaotic and create major instability in the banking system, and possibly cause another “Crash”. Governments need to manage the transition in a way that won’t cause market shocks, and stranded assets. Setting a carbon price would allow investors to see how the companies emitting most carbon dioxide would be affected.

But it won’t be just fossil fuel companies that will have stranded assets - those downstream companies using fossil fuels will be affected too – car manufacturers, aeroplanes and airports, even plastic bag companies will all bear the brunt of a switch to more renewable products.

The main reason for all this concern is climate change, and even now we can see climate change happening in our back yard. The current El Niño weather pattern is of concern, but now these El Niño weather patterns are happening far more frequently (about twice as often as “usual”), and causing even more severe extremes than before. We look at a couple of articles on the effects of El Niño now, how it affects the people of the Pacific, their water supplies, and their ability to grow food– floods near the equator, droughts further south, and changes in timing of the rainy season. We also look at how it is affecting crop farmers in the USA. Those in California are eagerly anticipating some much needed rainfall, whereas other States are less eager, where conditions for growing rice and other crops are the worst possible.

California has been desperate for water for nearly five years now, and with the Sierra Nevada range snowpack the lowest it’s been for 500 years, the rainfall from the El Niño is welcome – hopefully it won’t cause flooding of the dry parched land. And hopefully it will provide more snow to the Range – but this is unlikely with the warmer temperatures El Niño brings.

The island Pacific Nations that are being affected by El Niño, are also at great risk from the effects of climate change, and are asking the wealthier nations in their region of the world to help their people migrate and find work if they are forced to leave their islands. These islands are particularly susceptible to sea level rise, especially those living on coral atolls. Their leaders are not impressed with the responses so far from the wealthier countries in the area.

These Pacific Islanders are not only susceptible to El Niño, and climate change effects on their land, but also to collapsing fisheries. Marine food chains are at risk of collapse from ocean warming and acidification, and pollution, and, as these people rely very heavily on fishing to survive, it is just another “nail in the coffin” for them.

Maybe some of the negative effects of climate change on the food supply of these island nations and the world could be mitigated by allowing, and welcoming, GMOs? Our next article takes an interesting look at the case for allowing GMO’s. Food for thought.

Changing topic now, and as you have probably heard, VW diesel cars have lately been making the news for all the wrong reasons. Up to 11 million of their vehicles may have been fitted with a device that can “cheat” during emission testing, making them appear to perform better, from an emissions standpoint, than they actually are. What does this mean for VW? So far, 200 lawsuits, and a potential cost to the car maker of $40 billion to cover refits, regulatory fines and these lawsuits, according to some analysts.

Is this a one off manufacturer issue, or an industry wide issue? It looks like manufacturers other than VW may be in the firing line on this, not because these other manufacturers have fitted cheat devices, but more so that they have designed their vehicle engines to past testing requirements, but out in the real world of day to day driving, some of these vehicles emissions are much worse than at the testing stage. Although these car manufacturers have done nothing technically wrong (VW aside), you have to feel for the people who purchased these vehicles. Thinking they have made the right choice to make a difference when entirely the opposite is the case. A relook at testing procedures seems the next best step.

We wrap up this week with a look at hand dryers. Hand dryer maker Dyson released an e-mail linking to a video that demonstrates how one of its competitor’s hand dryers potentially can blow washroom air containing bacteria, viruses and even faecal matter onto your hands, nice! We think it’s fair to say not all hand dryers are created equal. High tech ones have some clear advantages over more basic models (which in our experience tend to just warm the water on your hands, anyway) and paper towels. They are energy efficient, have less waste and less germs.

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.

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