Fonterra’s coal-fired climate folly

By Jeanette Fitzsimons

Cross-posted from Coal Action Network Aotearoa 

Why would Fonterra spend several million dollars on a process lasting nearly a year, seeking planning consent for a huge new milk drier that it knows will never be built? Perhaps that’s not a lot of money to them – after all, one million is only three months’ salary for their CEO.

Fonterra’s proposed Studholme project, just outside of Waimate in South Canterbury, would see two new spray driers powered by two immense coal boilers – one 65MW, the other 50.

one lump or twoThis is the biggest new coal burning project in the country, with the hearing happening just as our Minister for Climate Change is about to travel to New York to sign the Paris agreement where we undertook to reduce our greenhouse emissions a totally inadequate 11% below 1990 levels. (It’s even more inadequate when creative accounting turns this into more like +10%).

Fonterra is already the second biggest coal burner in the country and grew its coal use by 38% between 2008-2013. They pay lip service to climate change but in practice are totally wedded to coal. Continue reading “Fonterra’s coal-fired climate folly”

Coming soon: RSNZ reports on NZ climate impacts and mitigation options

Expert panels to deliver up-to-date overview of climate risks and mitigation options

Last year the Royal Society of NZ set up two panels to look at what our current understanding of climate change means for New Zealand, and the findings are due to be published over the next two weeks. The first report, Climate Change Implications for New Zealand, will be released on Tuesday, April 19th. It was put together by a team led by VUW’s Prof Jim Renwick, with a brief to:

“prepare a succinct summary of existing New Zealand information around the risks associated with recent and projected trends in greenhouse gas emissions, and the likely consequences for New Zealand in future decades and centuries.”

The second report, Climate Change Mitigation Options for New Zealand, was prepared by a panel led by Prof Ralph Sims, and will be published on April 27th.

The Implications report will be launched at the RSNZ in Wellington at 11 am on Tuesday (free admission, register here), and the Mitigation report will be launched at the same venue in Wellington on the 27th (register here), and in Auckland on the 29th (register here). The RSNZ has also arranged a series of talks by international experts Prof Jean Palutikof (Co-chair of IPCC 5th Assessment Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) and Prof Jim Skea, co-Chair of IPCC Working Group 3, on to accompany the reports. Details here.

I’ll have more on what the reports have to say after their release, but they promise to provide a very useful overview of what we’re confronting, and how we might move forward to address the problem. At the very least they should offer a concise framework for policy-makers and politicians to work with.

Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: Hansen on his magnum opus

Why ice sheets may melt faster than expected, and what that could mean for our near future

In this video Jim Hansen provides a “video abstract” of his latest — and longest — paper, Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous, published this week after a lengthy period in review. He, and his stellar list of co-authors, have also provided an “abbrievated” version of the paper, which I strongly recommend you read.

My abstract is a bit shorter: fresh water from melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica is beginning to change the way that heat moves around in the global ocean, setting up feedbacks that will melt the ice faster. This in turn will lead to much more rapid sea level rise than suggested in the recent IPCC report, and much bigger temperature contrasts between warm and cold oceans in the North Atlantic and around West Antarctica — which will drive the mid-latitude superstorms of the paper’s title.

Not a pretty prospect. And if you think it’s unlikely, consider this. There are already “cold blobs” in the North Atlantic and off West Antarctica, Atlantic storms are becoming much more vigorous , and there are hints of an acceleration in the rate of sea level rise.

Hansen has been right before. I hope, for all our sakes, that this time he’s not.

February’s global temperature spike is a wake-up call

This is the largest warm anomaly of any month since records began in 1880.

This article, by Steve Sherwood, of UNSW Australia and Stefan Rahmstorf, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, currently working in Australia, first appeared at The Conversation.

Global temperatures for February showed a disturbing and unprecedented upward spike. It was 1.35℃ warmer than the average February during the usual baseline period of 1951-1980, according to NASA data.

This is the largest warm anomaly of any month since records began in 1880. It far exceeds the records set in 2014 and again in 2015 (the first year when the 1℃ mark was breached).

In the same month, Arctic sea ice cover reached its lowest February value ever recorded. And last year carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere increased by more than 3 parts per million, another record.

What is going on? Are we facing a climate emergency?
Continue reading “February’s global temperature spike is a wake-up call”

Amid NZ coal mine closures, layoffs, do we need two new mines?

Cross-posted from Coal Action Network Aotearoa

Last week was a bad week for coal mines on the West Coast.

esc 4
Work on the Denniston Plateau has now stopped.

Early in the week Solid Energy announced 24 workers would lose their jobs from the Stockton mine, and by the end of the week Bathurst announced that it is putting the Denniston mine on hold, laying off 12 workers – terrible news for those workers and their families.

At the heart of this is the same issue that sent Solid Energy under: plummeting coking coal prices – a price that has continued to fall, and was again cited as the reason for Solid’s new layoffs.

Over on the Denniston Plateau, Bathurst’s woes have stemmed, in the first instance, from the long-signalled closure of the Holcim plant in Westport, its biggest client. Bathurst has had to seek domestic buyers for its high grade coking coal, because of the low international price.

Continue reading “Amid NZ coal mine closures, layoffs, do we need two new mines?”