SciBlogs

Posts Tagged emissions

NZ government climate policy: look, a squirrel! Gareth Renowden Dec 16

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Two major new government reports on New Zealand’s emissions projections and the expected impacts of four degrees of warming on NZ agriculture were released without fanfare last Friday — the timing clearly designed to minimise media fallout from reports that highlight the paucity and ineffectiveness of current climate policy settings.

Climate change minister Tim Groser dutifully issued a press release welcoming the release of New Zealand’s Sixth National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol, the first such report since 2009. Groser praised government policies, but failed to draw attention to the fact that his own report shows NZ emissions failing to meet the government’s targeted cuts, or that current policy settings will do little to reduce them — let alone achieve reductions by comparison with 1990 levels. This graph1 of actual and projected net emissions out to 2030 tells the story of the Key government’s abject policy failure:

The blue line is actual emissions up to 2008, “with measures” — that is, as affected by policies to reduce emissions. The red line is emissions projected out to 2030 assuming no action to reduce emissions, the green line the emissions that will result after current policy settings are taken into account. Both green and red lines rise substantially up to 2030, and end up at the virtually the same point2 — more than double NZ’s net emissions in 1990.

In other words, Tim Groser and his cabinet colleagues have created a suite of policies designed to increase New Zealand’s emissions at a time when they are supposed to be being reduced, and which will miserably fail to meet the government’s own target of a 5% reduction in emissions (using the 1990 baseline) by 2020.

The second report released last week is much the more interesting of the two, and makes grim reading for anyone trying to play down the seriousness of the likely changes that confront NZ and its farmers and growers. Four Degrees of Global Warming: Effects on the New Zealand Primary Sector (full report and summary available here) was placed on the Ministry of Primary Industries web site last Friday, but was spotted by TV3 News today.

The report is the first study to consider the likely impacts of warming at the upper end of global expectations, and projects climate impacts across the country and on pasture and forest productivity based on two different climate model projections. The pattern of changes is much as described in previous studies — warming spreading down from the north, wetter in the west and drier in the east, greater rainfall intensities, bigger floods and longer droughts — but with much sharper increases in these parameters.

Under the four degrees of warming scenario:

  • frosts are expected to disappear from all but the highest parts of the North Island and much of the coastal South Island
  • the amount of rain falling in extreme events is expected to increase by 32%
  • river flows will experience seasonal changes as snowfall declines
  • periods of maximum irrigation demand are likely to coincide with extended periods of low flows in major catchments
  • a massive increase in the growing degree days experienced in all regions, with Canterbury almost as warm as Northland
  • fruit crops requiring winter chilling (apricots, kiwi) will have to move south
  • wine growing regions will move and different grape varietals will be required
  • significant increase in heat stress on dairy cattle

The report finds that the most positive impact will be on forestry, where a combination of warming and CO2 fertilisation is expected to increase yields in both Pinus radiata and eucalyptus plantations.

This is more than a little ironic, given that the Emissions Trading Scheme policy settings and low carbon price have reduced the attractiveness of forestry planting as a carbon sink. The one thing that might do well in a warmer NZ is the one thing the government seems unable to incentivise with a handout. Perhaps James Cameron could make a film about it?

  1. From p126 of the report
  2. 88 Gg CO2e without measures, 84 Gg with.

While they sleepwalk in Warsaw: icebergs calve, emissions climb, “pause” disappears Gareth Renowden Nov 20

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

PIG B31

Warsaw has seen a deluge of important climate-related information released — so much that it’s been difficult to keep up — but still not enough to steel negotiators to reach an equitable arrangement that gives us all a chance at a reasonable future climate. And at the same time, the planet has been sending signals that it’s not happy. The Pine Island glacier has finally calved the giant iceberg that first started to shown signs of cracking away from the ice stream a couple of years ago. Iceberg B-31 has been described as being the size of Singapore (about 700 km2), but isn’t likely to move far from Pine Island Bay in the near future. NASA Earth Observatory coverage here and here; see also Telegraph (UK) and Antarctic Sun.

The Global Carbon Project announced earlier this week that greenhouse gas emissions are projected to reach the highest level in human history this year — 36 billion tonnes. There are some encouraging signs that the rate of growth may be slowing, but nowhere near enough to enable the planet to avoid hitting a two degree rise in the first half of this century. There’s an excellent visualisation of national emissions at the Global Carbon Atlas (and at the Guardian). See also The Age, Think Progress.

All that carbon has to go somewhere, and the global oceans are doing us a big favour by absorbing a lot of it. Unfortunately, there’s a big downside: the oceans are becoming more acidic, and at a rate faster than at any time in the last 55 million years. The prospects for marine ecosystems look bleak if we can’t kick the fossil fuel habit, according to a Summary For Policymakers [pdf] released by the Intergovernmental Oceangraphic Commission last week.

Regular Hot Topic readers will know that I’ve never been much persuaded by talk of a “pause” in global warming’s progress. If global warming stopped in the 1990s, why has the last ten years been the warmest in the long term record, and why has the ice kept on melting? To put the final nail in the pause’s coffin, Kevin Cowtan from the University of York and Robert Way from the University of Ottawa (both stalwarts at Skeptical Science), looked at global temperature records and found ways of compensating for the temperature data missing from the Arctic and Africa. Here’s Cowtan, explaining what they did.

Net result: existing temperature data series underestimate recent warming by half. If that’s all straightforward enough, take a moment to consider what will happen to warming when the factors that have been acting to restrict warming swing to the opposite phase. We’ll be heading into the unknown, and at high speed. See Real Climate, Dana Nucitelli at the Guardian, and Science Daily.

And finally: this is the time of year when the World Meteorological Association releases its preliminary look at the weather and climate events of the current year. It’s not a pretty sight. 2013 is tracking along to be the 7th warmest year in the long term record. WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud noted: “the coldest years now are warmer than the hottest years before 1998.” Another reason to kiss the pause meme goodbye. See Climate Central, Guardian.

Polish Government and Big Coal kick own goal in Warsaw cindy Nov 19

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Greenpeace banner on Polish Ministry of Economy.  Photo: 350.org

Greenpeace banner on Polish Ministry of Economy. Photo: 350.org

I’m not sure if the Polish Government really meant this to happen.

In the run-up to the climate talks, they had scurried round and found a bunch of largely fossil fuel and car sponsors to help them out.  Thanks to these sponsors, we’ve all been given coal-coloured bags with a big oil service company logo on it. Such a contrast from Durban where we had lovely cloth bags made from recycled fabric, made by people from villages across South Africa.

But in Warsaw today, he Polish Government and the coal industry must have been so pleased with their idea of setting up the World Coal Association “Coal Summit” at the same time as the climate talks. They even managed to persuade the UN Climate Convention’s Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres to speak at it, much to the fury of the youth, whose invitation she turned down.

But that’s when it all started to unravel.

First up was a press conference early this morning, organised by the European Climate Foundation where top scientists spelt out the  message that if we carry on using coal the way we’re going, we’ve got no hope of staying below 2degC of warming. Unabated coal use cannot continue and its financing and rise needed to be stopped now. They released a paper setting out their detailed scientific arguments for this, signed by a number of the world’s most qualified scientists on the subject.

The "Cough for Coal" lungs in the streets of Warsaw.  Photo" 350.org

The “Cough for Coal” lungs in the streets of Warsaw. Photo” 350.org

Next, out on the Warsaw streets, was the “Cough4Coal” rally outside the coal conference.  They had a rather gruesome-looking, but pretty effective, set of lungs, highlighting the problems that coal presents for the people living around the mines and breathing in the air from the burning of it.

At the same time, Greenpeace activists climbed on top of the Polish Ministry of Economic Affairs and hung a big fat banner down the front of it with the message: “Who Rules Poland? The Coal Industry or the People?”

Things were really not going too well for the coal industry at this stage.  But still, they’d got the UNFCCC’s top honcho.    While some weren’t happy with bits of her messaging, she basically told the coal industry it had to leave most of the world’s coal reserves in the ground. I’d love to have seen their faces as she delivered her speech.

To top it all off, the activists then came into the Polish National Stadium, with a smaller protest (unfortunately the lungs were too big to deploy in the building), where they  proceeded to “kick coal out of the climate talks.”

So thanks to the Polish Government’s plan to highlight its favourite industry in the middle of the climate talks, pretty much the only thing the media focused on today was how bad coal is for the climate, how it wasn’t welcome in the talks, and how it needed to stay in the ground.

Activists had a field day. Everyone had been trying to find a way to really hook the coal message into this meeting, and they were handed it on a platter.

Kicking coal out of the COP.  Photo: 350.org

Kicking coal out of the COP. Photo: 350.org

From scientists, to environmental groups, activists and the head of the UNFCCC, the coal industry got it in the neck from all sides.

Now’s the time to run one of the puns around the fact we’re in the stadium: the Polish Government kicked an absolute cracker of own [coal] goal on this one.

TDB today: no clue, no plan, no future Gareth Renowden Oct 30

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

There’s a huge gap between the emissions reductions the New Zealand government says it wants to achieve, and what its current emissions trading scheme settings will deliver, according to modelling by the Ministry for the Environment. In this week’s post at The Daily BlogNo Clue, No Plan, No Future — I examine the disconnect between words and actions — and the lack of common sense on display on the government benches. Comments over there, please…

100% useless: NZ government announces pathetic 5% emissions target Gareth Renowden Aug 16

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Climate change minister Tim Groser has finally got around to announcing that New Zealand’s emissions reduction target for 2020 will be a 5 percent reduction on 1990 levels — a significant step back from NZ’s previous conditional commitment to make cuts in the 10 to 20 percent range. Since the Key government refused to join the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol last year, this target is being adopted under the wider UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and therefore has no penalties (or incentives) attached. Groser’s announcement claims:

The target is affordable and demonstrates that New Zealand is doing its fair share to address global climate change. In deciding this target, the Government has carefully balanced the cost to New Zealand households and businesses against taking ambitious action to tackle climate change.

This is an unconditional target to take responsibility for our emissions, and gives certainty to domestic stakeholders.

Groser also claims that the new target “compares favourably with our traditional partners’ actions” — but fails to note that it’s way out of line with UK and EU commitments to cuts of 30% and 20% over the same period.

The announcement will come as little surprise in the context of recent government actions — in particular Groser’s reckless mismanagement of the emissions trading scheme, which is now leading to huge and expensive dislocation in the forestry sector.

Further context for Groser’s approach to climate policy came in a reply to a series of questions from Green Party climate spokesman Kennedy Graham at Question Time on August 8th. Asked to reconcile sanctioning a new West Coast coal mine with climate action, Groser made himself completely clear:

We will not sacrifice everything to the altar of climate change.

Failing to take climate change seriously — by failing to cut emissions and doing nothing to encourage prudent adaptation — will sacrifice the entire country to the effects of climate change. By refusing to bite the bullet, Groser and his cabinet colleagues put easy money now ahead of our future wellbeing. Or, perhaps, any future worth having.

Generation Zero’s NZ speaking tour asks: What’s the holdup? Gareth Renowden Jul 19

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Youth-led climate campaigners Generation Zero have just finished the first week of their nationwide What’s The Holdup? speaking tour1 — an attempt to start a national conversation about action to reduce emissions. Here’s what the group has to say about the tour:

In between extreme weather and rising oil prices, countries around the world are making a shift towards renewable energy – but New Zealand is lagging behind. Tackling climate change for many Kiwis feels like an impossible task. But together, we can create the movement to change this and bring forth a thriving New Zealand we are proud to hand on to future generations.

The facts say that it’s 100% Possible to move beyond fossil fuels – but we need leadership at every level, from entrepreneurs and business leaders, from communities, and from the politicians we elect.

Generation Zero will initiate a conversation with the country. New Zealanders young and old are invited to hear young people and experts talk about the solutions to climate change, and what each one of us can do to make a difference.

It’s 100% possible to create a thriving New Zealand beyond fossil fuels. So what’s the holdup?

Here’s the schedule for the remainder of the tour:

  • Wellington – Monday 22nd July, Ilot Theatre, Town Hall 111 Wakefield Street
  • Palmerston North – Tuesday 23rd July, Massey Uni, Ag Hort 1 Lecture Theatre
  • Wanganui – Wednesday 24th July, Wanganui Museum, Davis Theatre
  • Havelock North – Thursday 25th July, Havelock North High School Auditorium
  • Tauranga – Tuesday 30th July, Bongard Centre, lecture theatre 104, the Bongard Centre, 200 Cameron Rd
  • Hamilton – Tuesday 30th July, Waikato University Lecture Theatre S1.04
  • Thames – Wednesday 31st July, Life Equip Church, 507 MacKay St
  • Whangarei – Thursday 1st August, Whangarei Girls High School theatre
  • Auckland – Monday August 5th, Auckland Uni Engineering building, room 401
  • Waiheke – Tuesday August 6th, venue Onetangi Community Hall

All events start at 7pm. For more information, sign up here.

  1. Apologies for not posting in time to promote this week’s South Island events.

TDB Today: Tim Groser’s utter nonsense Gareth Renowden Jun 26

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

At the National Agricultural Fieldays earlier this month, climate change minister Tim Groser claimed that including agriculture in the emissions trading scheme would be “utter environmental and economic madness”. At The Daily Blog today, I explain why Groser is talking utter nonsense, and agriculture needs to be included in the ETS as soon as possible. Comments at TDB, please…

NZCCC 2013: Andy Reisinger on mitigating emissions in New Zealand Gareth Renowden Jun 10

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Day two of last week’s climate change conference kicked off with a keynote from Andy Reisinger, the deputy director of the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre on New Zealand’s wedges – a balanced meal? I grabbed ten minutes with him to explore some of the issues he raised.

Symptoms too serious to ignore: a call to face up to NZ’s critical risks Gareth Renowden Feb 25

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

A loose affiliation of New Zealand’s great and good will launch an appeal to parliament next week, asking for a dispassionate and non-partisan risk assessment of the “unprecedented threats to our collective security” facing the country as a result of climate change, fossil fuel extraction and economic uncertainty. The Wise Response group features poets, writers, All Blacks, academics, surgeons and scientists amongst its first 100 supporters1, and will launch its appeal at a public meeting in Dunedin on March 8th.

In its appeal the group identifies critical risks in five areas:

1. Economic security: the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged financial crisis. Such a crisis could adversely impact upon our society’s ability to provide for the essentials, including local access to resources, reliable supply chains, and a resilient infrastructure.

2. Energy and climate security: the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Progressively restricting their extraction, importation and use could promote a switch to genuine renewables and encourage smarter use of existing energy and energy systems while creating better public transportation. Such responses would simultaneously lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

3. Business continuity: the risk exposure of all New Zealand business, including farming, to a lower carbon economy. To mitigate this risk, all businesses could explore both market and job opportunities in reducing the human ecological footprint, finding substitutes for petroleum-based goods and services, increasing efficiencies and reducing waste in food and resources. This would position New Zealand as a market leader in low-carbon technologies and living arrangements.

4. Ecological security: the risks associated with failing to genuinely protect both land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes. We believe that such protection is essential for both the maintenance of indigenous biodiversity and ultimately, all human welfare.

5. Genuine well-being: the risk of persisting with a subsidised, debt-based economy, preoccupied with maximising consumption and GDP. An alternative is to measure progress by means of indicators of community sustainability, human well-being, more equitable wealth-sharing and environmental resilience, and to incorporate full-cost pricing of harmful environmental impacts.

The group is looking to build support both inside and outside parliament for a detailed risk assessment of how these issues might impact New Zealand, and is hoping this will lead to:

…robust cross-party strategies and policies to avert these risks and give future generations the very best chance of security, peace, social justice and opportunity for all.

There’s much to like in the group’s appeal statement, but what I find most encouraging is that a diverse group of prominent New Zealanders is looking to make our politicians face up to the harsh realities of the modern world. I don’t imagine that John Key and his government will pay much attention — they’re too wedded to the all growth, all the time dogma for that — but with luck and persistence, the group may be able to start building a consensus around the things that we really need to do as a nation. That’s something I’m only too happy to support.

  1. The Otago Daily Times lists Brian Turner, Wayne Smith, Fiona Kidman, Glenn Turner, David Thom, Philip Temple, Anne Salmond, Julian Dean, Owen Marshall, Morgan Williams, Chris Trotter, Bruce Burns, Richard Langston and Anton Oliver amongst others.

Symptoms too serious to ignore: a call to face up to NZ’s critical risks Gareth Renowden Feb 25

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

A loose affiliation of New Zealand’s great and good will launch an appeal to parliament next week, asking for a dispassionate and non-partisan risk assessment of the “unprecedented threats to our collective security” facing the country as a result of climate change, fossil fuel extraction and economic uncertainty. The Wise Response group features poets, writers, All Blacks, academics, surgeons and scientists amongst its first 100 supporters1, and will launch its appeal at a public meeting in Dunedin on March 8th.

In its appeal the group identifies critical risks in five areas:

1. Economic security: the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged financial crisis. Such a crisis could adversely impact upon our society’s ability to provide for the essentials, including local access to resources, reliable supply chains, and a resilient infrastructure.

2. Energy and climate security: the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Progressively restricting their extraction, importation and use could promote a switch to genuine renewables and encourage smarter use of existing energy and energy systems while creating better public transportation. Such responses would simultaneously lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

3. Business continuity: the risk exposure of all New Zealand business, including farming, to a lower carbon economy. To mitigate this risk, all businesses could explore both market and job opportunities in reducing the human ecological footprint, finding substitutes for petroleum-based goods and services, increasing efficiencies and reducing waste in food and resources. This would position New Zealand as a market leader in low-carbon technologies and living arrangements.

4. Ecological security: the risks associated with failing to genuinely protect both land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes. We believe that such protection is essential for both the maintenance of indigenous biodiversity and ultimately, all human welfare.

5. Genuine well-being: the risk of persisting with a subsidised, debt-based economy, preoccupied with maximising consumption and GDP. An alternative is to measure progress by means of indicators of community sustainability, human well-being, more equitable wealth-sharing and environmental resilience, and to incorporate full-cost pricing of harmful environmental impacts.

The group is looking to build support both inside and outside parliament for a detailed risk assessment of how these issues might impact New Zealand, and is hoping this will lead to:

…robust cross-party strategies and policies to avert these risks and give future generations the very best chance of security, peace, social justice and opportunity for all.

There’s much to like in the group’s appeal statement, but what I find most encouraging is that a diverse group of prominent New Zealanders is looking to make our politicians face up to the harsh realities of the modern world. I don’t imagine that John Key and his government will pay much attention — they’re too wedded to the all growth, all the time dogma for that — but with luck and persistence, the group may be able to start building a consensus around the things that we really need to do as a nation. That’s something I’m only too happy to support.

  1. The Otago Daily Times lists Brian Turner, Wayne Smith, Fiona Kidman, Glenn Turner, David Thom, Philip Temple, Anne Salmond, Julian Dean, Owen Marshall, Morgan Williams, Chris Trotter, Bruce Burns, Richard Langston and Anton Oliver amongst others.

Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer