Quick action required on climate

Bill Hambidge

COLUMN

The discussion on science versus religion may have interest for some, but I think Bob Hughes summed the debate up for me, so far as climate change action is concerned, when he said “For Christ’s sake let’s get on with it”.

Human-generated greenhouse gases are mostly responsible for global warming and for more frequent extreme weather events. We must not only stop increasing GHGs in the atmosphere, but more importantly, we must radically reduce them.

Calculations following the Paris agreement show that if all the goals set by countries to reduce emissions are achieved, the world will still be 3 degrees Celsius warmer by 2100, perhaps sooner, and our planet will keep on warming long after that. So all nations, New Zealand included, must work harder to reduce GHGs and set more ambitious targets.

The trouble is 3C is only an annual average so some places, and some times of the year, will be much warmer than that. Already people are suffering temperatures where it’s not safe to stay outside during the day — witness Sydney’s 47.3C on Sunday. Coffee is becoming harder to grow in traditional areas, and rice and corn will become lower yielding as average temperatures rise. Cattle and sheep suffer with more frequent droughts. Even North America’s extreme cold event, currently causing great damage and anguish there, can be traced back to the lessening temperature difference between tropical and polar regions, allowing cold air to escape southwards.

We have made a start by electing a government that takes climate change seriously. Now we need to push them to act quickly, and to encourage our more influential neighbours, such as Australia, to play a bigger role. South Australia is already using renewable energy in a big way. In the nine months to March 2017, 57 percent of South Australia’s energy needs were met by wind and solar. This was made more reliable on December 1 when a 100M/Wh storage battery built by Tesla was switched on, to store excess wind power energy for times when the wind doesn’t blow. That’s the same size as the McKee gas power station, built near Waitara in 2013 for $100 million.

New Zealand is already using smaller versions of these batteries. We can easily make our energy system completely renewable now given the will, and finally do away with the Huntly coal and gas-fired power station. Studies in other countries have shown that any jobs lost in fossil fuel industries have been more than compensated for by extra jobs with renewable power companies. Renewable energy storage makes solar and wind power much more useful and removes the last competitive edge of fossil fuels.

We need to make our country more self-sufficient. We should legislate for all new buildings to be energy self-sufficient. This will not only help supply during disasters, such as the recent storms, or after earthquakes, but mass purchasing will also bring down the cost of such systems for existing houses. A completely electric rail system, which includes Gisborne of course, would remove many trucks from the roads, reducing emissions and making driving safer. Electric and hybrid cars and trucks would make road transport cheaper and cleaner. All of this would reduce NZ’s carbon footprint and help make New Zealand clean and green again.

Our government can only act if it has vocal support from all of us. We got them into power. Now tell them what sort of power we want.

The discussion on science versus religion may have interest for some, but I think Bob Hughes summed the debate up for me, so far as climate change action is concerned, when he said “For Christ’s sake let’s get on with it”.

Human-generated greenhouse gases are mostly responsible for global warming and for more frequent extreme weather events. We must not only stop increasing GHGs in the atmosphere, but more importantly, we must radically reduce them.

Calculations following the Paris agreement show that if all the goals set by countries to reduce emissions are achieved, the world will still be 3 degrees Celsius warmer by 2100, perhaps sooner, and our planet will keep on warming long after that. So all nations, New Zealand included, must work harder to reduce GHGs and set more ambitious targets.

The trouble is 3C is only an annual average so some places, and some times of the year, will be much warmer than that. Already people are suffering temperatures where it’s not safe to stay outside during the day — witness Sydney’s 47.3C on Sunday. Coffee is becoming harder to grow in traditional areas, and rice and corn will become lower yielding as average temperatures rise. Cattle and sheep suffer with more frequent droughts. Even North America’s extreme cold event, currently causing great damage and anguish there, can be traced back to the lessening temperature difference between tropical and polar regions, allowing cold air to escape southwards.

We have made a start by electing a government that takes climate change seriously. Now we need to push them to act quickly, and to encourage our more influential neighbours, such as Australia, to play a bigger role. South Australia is already using renewable energy in a big way. In the nine months to March 2017, 57 percent of South Australia’s energy needs were met by wind and solar. This was made more reliable on December 1 when a 100M/Wh storage battery built by Tesla was switched on, to store excess wind power energy for times when the wind doesn’t blow. That’s the same size as the McKee gas power station, built near Waitara in 2013 for $100 million.

New Zealand is already using smaller versions of these batteries. We can easily make our energy system completely renewable now given the will, and finally do away with the Huntly coal and gas-fired power station. Studies in other countries have shown that any jobs lost in fossil fuel industries have been more than compensated for by extra jobs with renewable power companies. Renewable energy storage makes solar and wind power much more useful and removes the last competitive edge of fossil fuels.

We need to make our country more self-sufficient. We should legislate for all new buildings to be energy self-sufficient. This will not only help supply during disasters, such as the recent storms, or after earthquakes, but mass purchasing will also bring down the cost of such systems for existing houses. A completely electric rail system, which includes Gisborne of course, would remove many trucks from the roads, reducing emissions and making driving safer. Electric and hybrid cars and trucks would make road transport cheaper and cleaner. All of this would reduce NZ’s carbon footprint and help make New Zealand clean and green again.

Our government can only act if it has vocal support from all of us. We got them into power. Now tell them what sort of power we want.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.

Bob Hughes - 5 months ago
Quite right Bill. Push our new government that now takes climate change action seriously to get cracking providing alternative energy sources and steering the country to self-sufficiency; drastically "reduce NZ's carbon footprint and help make New Zealand clean and green again". As well as the science, belief in our own abilities to achieve transformation is equally important. C'mon guys, let's get to it.

John Fricker - 5 months ago
Not that long ago Al Gore told us that the Arctic would be snow and ice-free by now. It isn't, I prefer to take notice of actual evidence. So much for urgency.
We didn't "get" this government into power, they did it themselves with a coalition from hell.
The sort of power I want is the sort that is plentiful and reliable. Cheap would be nice but that is no longer an option as greenies have saddled us with unnecessary cost and restrictions.
The rest of your stuff is just waffle.
The real world is a far nicer place to live than the wonderland your ilk inhabits.

John - 5 months ago
John Fricker is not only deluded, but he suffers from a 'blow you Jack I'm right' mentality. He whinges that he wants cheap power, while people in Bangladesh, the Pacific, Louisiana (need I go on) have left their homes because of climate change. Their homes are already under water. Half of Australia's Great Barrier Reef is dead from rising temperatures. Sure, Al Gore may have got his figures wrong by a few years, maybe even a few decades, but the inescapable trend is for the polar icecaps to melt, and because of that for methane to be spewing into the atmosphere ... but John Fricker calls discussion on climate change 'waffle'. The science is not that hard to understand. Or are you really so deluded that all you care about is cheap electricity? The world is indeed a nice place, as you say. Environmentalists and people of our 'ilk' want to keep it that way. If that means paying a little extra for power to maintain a habitable climate, is that so bad?

Peter Jones - 5 months ago
I would rather listen to a legitimate discussion on man-made climate change than be subjected to this waffle. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have military contracts worth billions with the NZ government. There is the source of your extreme weather events right there.
Don't insult our intelligence by deriding CO2. CO2 is one of the building blocks of life. Without it plant life withers and dies.
Renewable energy would be fine if it was renewable but it is just a ruse to stop the public from using fossil fuels.
I've been labelled a crackpot for years, so why should I become politically correct now? Most of what I have predicted for Gisborne is already happening. Somewhere there must be a tipping point where Gisborne people realise that they need the voice of someone like me to counteract the yes men they voted for instead of me. If you like static wages, rising debt levels, rising rates, rising rents and corporate dominance then maybe not LOL.