Chris Laidlaw interviewed the new Director of the British Antarctic Survey, Professor Jane Francis, in his Sunday Morning programme on National Radio in the weekend. I thought the discussion worth drawing attention to as an exemplar of the kind of thoughtful interviewing climate science deserves but only occasionally receives. The listening public also deserves such interviews from the media if it is to understand the weight of the scientific consensus on climate change. Respect is due to Laidlaw’s understanding of the basic thrust of climate change and its implications, making him well equipped to elicit from Professor Francis a very clear account of her work on Antarctic forest fossils and more generally on the threatened sea level rise from melting in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Francis has a fascinating story to tell of her work on fossil plants in the Antarctic and the evidence from the fossils that the continent some 100 million years ago was forested in a period when the globe was in a warm period sufficient to melt polar ice. She discussed with Laidlaw the ways in which trees probably coped with the months of cold but not freezing darkness each year by moving into a kind of dormancy.
Continue reading “Sunday morning Antarctica, and the future of transport”
Welcome to the eleventh post in the Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air – A New Zealand Perspective series. After our previous posts on hydro power, geothermal and wind (and a summary on the big three), solar, biofuels, marine and waste energy, we’re now looking at answering the question:
How can we achieve a BIG reduction in our personal and national energy consumption?
We covered the breakdown of where we use this energy in the last post. Today we’re dealing with our biggest chunk of energy use: road transport.
A few notes before we begin: as before, the units are in kWh/day/person – ie. if you ran a 40W lightbulb for 24 hours, it’d take ~1 kWh over the space of a day. We then divide it by person to give you a sense of the scale of the resource proportionate to the size of the population. Be sure to check out the methodology. For reference – we’ve been looking to replace around 55 kWh/d/p of energy currently generated by fossil fuels.
About a third (31kWh/d/p) of our total energy use is spent on vehicle travel, which is high by international standards. (This figure also includes some diesel purchases by small farmers and transport operators that are not adequately captured by other statistics.) Incidentally, one litre of petrol contains ~10kWh of energy, so at a national scale, we’re all using around 3 litres of petrol/person/day. By comparison, the average UK citizen spends 14 – 16kWh/d/p on personal vehicle travel. Consider that the average NZ car drives 18,000km in a year. If all were medium SUVs (0.9kWh/km) with 2 people in them, then this would translate into only 22kWh/d/p. It is clear then that we must make a lot of single-passenger trips in inefficient vehicles. Worse, this works out at a staggering 46kWh/d per vehicle (excluding mopeds, but including trucks)!
Continue reading “Sustainable Energy NZ #11: How can we make road transport more efficient?”
A new study published in Energy Strategy Reviews this month affirms that sourcing 95 percent of our energy from sustainable sources by 2050 is possible, using already available technologies. The authors are from the Dutch renewable energy consultancy Ecofys. Their paper includes technical detail, but the general salient points are well identified and clear to the non-expert reader. Familiar themes are sounded and buttressed with careful and sensible analysis.
Efficiency and electrification are two key requisites on the way to the 2050 goal. The scenario proposed by the study envisages a slightly lower power demand in 2050 than in 2000, even allowing for established forecasts of population growth and GDP growth. It surveys demand under three sectors – industry, buildings and transport – indicating in each case the prospects of much lower demand from the application of efficiency measures as compared with current business as usual (BAU) practices. The electrification which plays an important part in lowered demand occurs primarily in the buildings and transport sectors.
Continue reading “Going renewable doable by 2050, new analysis suggests”
Business pages don’t often carry articles about the need to forsake the growth model. I was somewhat startled to come across one prominent in the NZ Herald business supplement last week. Journalist Chris Barton wrote about the ideas of Chandran Nair, author of Consumptionomics and a speaker at this year’s Auckland Writers & Readers Festival There’s a Kindle edition of Consumptionomics so I was able to read it over the next couple of days, which I did with considerable interest.
Nair, a Malaysian of Indian descent, is founder and chief executive of the Asian think tank Global Institute for Tomorrow and writes for Asian audiences. His basic intent in Consumptionomics is to urge Asian countries not to follow the pattern of Western models of economic growth, consumption-driven and built on the exclusion of environmental and social costs. While the West may have got thus far by leaving those costs out of account there is no way in which the much larger populations of Asia can aspire to the same kind of economic development. The economic model only more or less worked when a relatively small proportion of the world’s population was using it, and then only by excluding the long-term damage to the world’s environment which now confronts us. It is folly to think that consumption-driven capitalism can be realised across the vast populations of Asia. Instead he calls for sustainable ways of living which will pass on to future generations an environment with rainforests, with biodiversity, with adequate resources, with fish in the oceans, with cities that are a pleasure to live in and with a climate that is not running out of control.
Continue reading “Consumptionomics”