Welcome to our Snippets newsletter which as always endeavours to provide coverage of developments in energy and environmental issues, from both here in New Zealand and around the world. We hope you continue to find our fortnightly collection of articles to be of interest in what is a rapidly evolving area.

Our opening article examines how scientists are grappling with the feasibility of limiting the COP21 agreed target rise limit of 1.5C. Whilst there has been much discussion about reducing fossil fuel use, there has been little about how we are to reduce the 30% of GHG emissions from agriculture and the production of food. This is a considerable challenge as demand for food is continuing to grow, with global farmland on average expanding at a rate of 10 million hectares per year over the last decade. We need to find a solution to our insatiable appetite and change farming practices, otherwise limiting warming to 1.5C is unachievable. [1]

Years of human tillage and farming have changed the way the landscape and its living things work. Humans have tilted the balance that thanks to other greenhouse gases, methane and nitrous oxides, from cattle, fertilizers, manure and agriculture – the terrestrial biosphere is actually accelerating change with a factor of two larger than the cooling effect resulting from the global land carbon dioxide uptake from 2001 to 2010.” Oops! [2]

It is not to say we can’t be farming with more care or thought as is demonstrated by a small cooperative in Veracruz, Mexico, where they farm carbon, i.e. practising agriculture that fights climate change while simultaneously meeting human needs. These ‘carbon farming’ practices — planting a suite of crops that sequester carbon while simultaneously meeting human needs — could play a critical role in preventing catastrophic climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere and safely storing it in soils and perennial vegetation. Here’s hoping anyway. [3]

We next take a look at developments in Netherlands, they have recently legislated that all new cars sold after 2025 must be zero emission. With the increased public awareness of global warming, this is something that car manufacturers around the world will need to consider carefully, as other countries could easily follow this lead. [4]

Sticking with zero emissions, Germany is taking the lead in another transportation area, creating “bike highways” for the steadily rising number of biking commuters. These will provide infrastructure and facilities that make cycling desirable, charging stations for the increasingly popular “pedelecs”, showers, refreshments and nice road surfaces. Germany is doing this with care and consideration for cyclists; maybe it’s something that could be reviewed by our local governments considering options in this area. [5]

Another smart way to address the future of commuting and limiting emissions is the creation of the “Ride” app for big businesses. This on-demand carpooling app, described as “Uber for commuters” for businesses with large numbers of employees all heading to one worksite at the same time, pairs up workers and splits costs, completing payments online. The companies involved only need to provide internal marketing and preferred parking for the commuters, and get a small transaction fee from all rides for providing these. [6]

Next to Singapore, which aims to become the world’s first smart city-state. Not only are they making transportation “smarter”, but their aim is to have the whole city linked through technology - smart energy grids, connected cars, remote health care, self-driving cars, Internet of Things sensors…constant connectivity is their aim. Singapore stands to be hugely impacted by both urbanisation and climate change, so is motivated to take a different approach to the future even without factoring in the possibility of financial gains from a smart-technology based society.[7]

We next take a look at fossil fuel. The Rockefeller Family Charity announced it was pulling all funds out of Exxon Mobil, describing the world’s largest oil company as “morally reprehensible”. The move follows the Rockefeller family organisation pulling its $45m investments out of the company. The charity acknowledged that it had made a lot of money from oil, however, “history moves on, as it must”. An example of significant shareholders taking sustainability very seriously and divesting out of oil companies. [8]

Coal has been thrown a lifeline through carbon capture. The process can involve storing the carbon underground or to enhance oil extraction and is being encouraged through tax credits in the US. This could prove to help reduce emissions from coal powered generation which, although not a final solution to the problem, it is a step towards greater sustainability, while fully utilising the very abundant and cheap Coal as a transitional resource to greener energy types. [9]

Exxon Mobil is in the limelight again, as the US Securities and Exchange commission ruled that shareholders must be allowed to vote on a climate change resolution. Exxon has tried to block the proposal. Exxon states that “(shareholders) are voting to make a stock they hold look more risky”. This says to us that Exxon, although stating that their reporting is comprehensive and adequate; do not actually believe that it is. Exxon is aware of the issue but is not willing to change or adapt. As a result the shareholders are being empowered to bring about change. [10]

We next look at excerpts from an interview with Jim Hansen, Director of the Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions program at Columbia University Earth Institute. He discusses, ‘What You Need to Know about the Irreparable Harm of Climate Change’.

A number of keys topics are covered. Ice melt, ocean circulation and superstorms! We find this interview to be very thought provoking and it’s summed up well, ‘this is a complex story, but one with important practical implications. I find that the public sometimes misinterprets our science discussions, how research is done. Skepticism is the lifeblood of science’. [11]

We finish up this week with a surprising development in Australia, Tony Abbott is now officially a friend of nature. After a number of months in the political wilderness, he has apparently had an epiphany. No longer in the coal camp, Tony sees a future that involves lots of wind farms, if only this was truly the case (original item posted April 1 2016). [12]

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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