Why I’m feeling a little more confident about climate change

If you read the news there are a lot of terrifying climate change reports being published but a new global resurvey of clean energy just out should give us some hope.

Last year was a record year for clean energy globally according to the latest annual Renewables Global Status Report published this week. We are investing in and installing record levels of renewables internationally. It’s all the more important and positive because it is happening at a time of low fossil fuel prices and despite the hundreds of billions of dollars that go into subsidising fossil fuels annually. It’s critical we decarbonise our energy sector if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change and that’s starting to happen.

As a father I often worry what the future will be for my kids and their generation but it’s heartening to think perhaps we are reaching a global tipping point away from polluting fossil fuels like coal and oil towards a clean sources like wind and solar. Clean energy is delivering millions of jobs and providing electricity to those who have gone without which is fantastic.

While I’m positive about the global outlook it is disappointing New Zealand’s major electricity news of the last year was the Government and electricity industries concerted campaign against solar, and support of burning coal at Huntly. While the world marches ahead we seem stuck at 80% renewable, while better than many, is lower than what we had in 1980 and 1990. Meanwhile National continues to offer tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and their long-awaited electric vehicle policy was well pedestrian.

My vision is a smarter electricity grid utilising our wealth of renewable resources and getting to 100% renewable electricity. We are blessed with a wealth of clean energy sources and coupled with Kiwi know-how not only could we get there and grow jobs doing it, we could also export our solutions, expertise and IP to a world who is clearly crying out for renewables. The world is moving away from fossil fuels, let’s not be a laggard, let’s lead the charge.

19 Comments Posted

  1. CoroDale, I’ll put something out for your consideration – if there is a group/cabal/conspiracy (whether you consider it one cohesive organised group or lots of small groups and individuals) comprised of people who are working knowingly and rationally to oppress and control the general population for the enrichment of themselves through various ways in both the commercial and political arenas, then aren’t you playing exactly into their hands with your outbursts which they can so easily hold up as the scary green/socialist boogieman that they are working diligently and largely altruistically to protect the public from?

    In a calm and reassuring voice they can say “look at what the greenies/socialists really want, to destroy money, to nationalise and close down any business they disagree with, to end farming, to control what you eat, but don’t worry, we’ll take care of it, look how easy it is to get credit to buy that new tv, phone, ute etc. We’ll protect you from them, just keep doing what you are doing and it will all be ok.”

    I’m not going to debate what you believe vs what I believe, but if you credit your ‘enemy’ with the ability to keep the truth about contrails from public knowledge I think you need to consider a different approach to combating them, one that might be more persuasive to the general public rather than ammunition to be used so easily against you.

  2. If John is right. And he basically is. Then why don’t we use Te Awa to educate Greens?

    Once we’ve educated ourselves, then we can get active. It’s high time to target banks with informative protests. This is the renewable energy that Greens should be focused on.

    “Lies and Financial Corruption! End the Debt Slavery! Local Economies, Local Money! People First, Bankrupt Banks back to the State!” Outside the banks on a friday afternoon. Hamilton seems a strategic city to radicalise with truth. Dairy farmers losing there land could join in, if our cards are played well. Easy to move a protest team up to AKL Queens St, at the next big thing.

    Media Offices should be targets. “Lies Lies Lies, End the Media Monopoly!” This could be more specific and informative to include current events.

    Bank Fonterra at their masonic HQ in Auckland is another obvious target. Dig out the facts on who they have given their astronomical amounts of debt to… (from memory, that’s ANZ and friends) …wants a few tractors outside the building towing trailer signs.

    Greens are well over-due for a Te Awa “Financial Special Edition” Positive Money, Jane Kinsley, include John Pilger articles on WW3 Info Wars… start by educating ourselves.

    Keen for a spring uprising? Count me in!
    D

  3. Agreed that more of the public are sorting out likely fact from the denial and dark fiction, but there are people / groups in positions of power who are actively working against the public having knowledge that may hinder ongoing obscene wealth collection by the few, at cost to all us planet dwellers.

    Elements of the Australian Govt have a campaign to dismantle their highly rated scientific institution the CSIRO. Up until recently run by scientists who follow research into the bigger picture.

    Initially Abbott set out to sack 118 of their staff but that was the tip of an iceberg set on course to sink the CSIRO. The official website has been stripped of a treasure trove of scientific information and reference material , all paid for by the public but now not available.

    The cuts continue and deepen.

    http://climateadaptation.tumblr.com/post/145164378784/australia-fires-350-climate-scientists-csiro

    Other searches will cover the gagging campaign.

    Our DSIR was killed off years ago and now no NZ govt body provides a platform for wide ranging scientific research that is not linked to short term business “goals”
    .
    Even NIWA has been subject to behind the scenes constraint and spokes persons muzzled.

    We don’t have to look far to see the enemies of our grand children and the Earth.

    Yet some believe them and the honey words about protecting the economy. For whom.

    They lie.

    The NZ Royal Society has pressure upon it not to rock the boat while the IPCC is heavily constrained and the groups writing sections of the report are obstructed to the point that the meaning of various sections are sanitised and loose the crux of the message.

    It is restoring the environment not exploiting it that is needed immediately.

    Loss of business opportunity, scrapping of GDP as a measure and replacing it with a population reduction program coupled with a much simpler lifestyle to meet basic needs of food and shelter without excess. The “economy” has to be about collectively surviving and restoring as much of the damage done as possible without doing more in the process. A large cooperative element is needed in setting up frugal resilient self sufficient communities, but net working is essential to keep direction from being hijacked.

    Business NZ is not about that.

  4. I feel encouraged by the increasing numbers seriously engaging, even if just to learn at first. I went to a Royal Society public talk in Hamilton (part of a series). About 30 to 40 people for a lunch time talk about the outlook for coastal areas, a mixture of citizens getting informed and professional people. No denial amongst the audience but just thought and sharing. People are engaging and the more that do the greater pool of good answers generated, none perfect, but incremental. The buses seem fuller lately, the choices are being made. We might have a shit fight coming up but more and more are giving a damn and it all has to help.

  5. RichH notes:

    I can’t see anything which is coming along at the rate (both in terms of development and implementation) and depth (in terms of displacement of greenhouse gas emissions) which will have much impact on the current warming path that we are on.

    I think you are absolutely right, and if we assume that to be the case, then, basically, we’re all fucked. Well, actually, we are not, we’re OK(ish), but a few generations down the line, our decedents are all fucked.

    I’m hoping that the steps that are being taken by the likes of China will reduce the rate of change of the fucking a bit, and delay it by a few years, and perhaps give our decedents a bit more time to try and figure something out. For it is our collective choice that leaving this problem to our decedents is what we are choosing to do. Jam today. Let the good times roll.

  6. While the rate of increase in renewable electricity production is positive the real question is the rate at which it is impacting on greenhouse gas emissions and whether that is at a fast enough rate to make any real change in the speed that we are heading towards a climate which is entirely outside the range in which our current civilisation can continue.

    I can’t see anything which is coming along at the rate (both in terms of development and implementation) and depth (in terms of displacement of greenhouse gas emissions) which will have much impact on the current warming path that we are on. Given the warming spiral which I assume most have seen and the graph that shows how neatly our transition from small groups of hunter gatherers to the pretty settled civilisation we are today fits into a very stable period of climate I can’t see us avoiding widespread civilisational catastrophe.

    Today it’s expensive seaside houses falling into the sea in Sydney, in a few years it’s storms damaging houses and infrastructure all over the place at a faster rate than we can make repairs. Not to mention that food won’t be so easy to grow.

    But, in one way at least the numbers are all pointing pretty clearly in one direction (to me anyway) and that means you can plan for it and do what you can to make the transition. Hence, the kids are learning to grow food, bow hunt and fish and in our house Nerf gun fights are about conserving ammunition, finding good cover and aiming for centre mass. I hope this is all just fun and not required training for their future but I’m not optimistic.

    If Gareth’s note of positivity (which you realistically have to have in his position) could be described as ‘light green’ then I’m going to stake out the ‘dark green’ corner where it isn’t so sunny.

  7. I agree that technology change is only a part of the answer and the key element is the recognition we are only players in a process of nature far larger and more complex than we are, and thus must take heed of the natural processes and give over the arrogant belief we lead the change, except by using less and sharing more, till our needs are sufficient. In Fred Soyka’s book “The ion Effect” he talks of the adrenal type reaction when our environment is too acid, where we don’t really see the trigger for our compulsion to act is based on a need to find good alkiline air, I think triggered by an imbalance of seratonin. Like the Eagles song says, we need to “Learn to be still”.

  8. We cannot buy time. Change would have needed to happen decades ago to reshape the human activity towards avoiding disaster and collapse.

    So much damage has now been accumulated, NNRs depleted, population overshoot well outside of any sustainable model, yet still the collective human mind alters reality to provide some form of hope . Typical retreats from reality are to put store in the market forces or eulogise on technological redemption. In one way or another this reaction is decades old and invalid as it has always been.

    It is human behaviour and ultimately what we collectively believe that has to change. Catastrophe still will not be avoided as it is too late to make the significant changes needed for such avaodance. The damage is done and we await the consequences which will be beyond our control in significant measure. We lack an acceptance of intelligent change.

    Gareth is sound in attempting to foster an attitudinal shift and while such a shift will not bypass the impending consequences, there is a hope that understanding may slow the rate of continuing damage as we leave behind dangerous ideas about providing a largely unchanged pattern of living.

    The imperative is not how can we mitigate to keep what we are used to, but what changes are overdue and need to be immediately made so the surviving humans have a some chance in a damaged world comparatively devoid of the resources our forebears relied on.

    Dismiss it as doom if you really can’t handle it. Many can and don’t shy away from trying to understand a path forward.

    Changes in technology alone will not provide a solution. The changes needed are social.

    A short summary
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHGdjdcGWUA

    A bit more depth .
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2oyU0RusiA

  9. Yes, raising human consciousness is the required goal.

    Remain positive, as Gareth says. While we disagree on technicalities, I always like Gareth’s positive spin.

    Reconstruction is via a moderate path. Full revolution was traditionally hijacked by the controlling Elite into uncontrolled violence.

    Long-term reductionist thinking can buy us time; an improvement on short-term profiteering. Talking to educated Eastern Europeans (ie. Polish and Latvian computer scientists), I hear the message, “Give our people time.”

    New Zealanders also need time to digest new freedoms and truths. Consumption in small and nutritious doses is certainly the aim. With the knowledge-belly so empty, a full dose of truth would be physically-rejected.

    Time for leadership! What truths are the Greens offering? I find nothing in these blogs that requires digestion. But I’ll remain positive; hollow-positivism may a healthy start.

  10. Nuclear and thorium are somewhat reductionist attempt to supply a long term solution to human energy squandering. No amount of energy available will compensate or bypass the shrinking Non Renewable Resources mankind has squandered at an increasing rate parallel and linked to harvested energy.

    While humans are bound to research various options to satiate energy demands, it is those manufactured demands we would be better to address. They are the driving force to nowhere.

    The human population expansion and NNR harvesting leaves us in a fragile position limiting our future options and also limiting long term human population numbers. A substantial analysis of this has opened reliable multi disciplined correlation of our energy use, NNR depletion, population, food supply, industrialisation and pollution.

    It is foolish to analyse future energy generation without an in depth understanding of a raft of consequences and interaction across the spectrum of civilisations destructive footprint.

  11. Yes, there are hopes, but they aren’t vote winners. eg. China are also working toward the ecologically wiser Thorium option.

    The 100% renewable target says more about voters than energy options.

    (note: private money creation and banking cartels, this is still the brick wall blocking every political dream of all major political parties. And the industrial-military-complex, and that dark quest to lower the human consciousness.)

    Truth out,
    D

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/thorium.aspx

    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/542526/china-details-next-gen-nuclear-reactor-program/

  12. Gareth is misrepresenting the position of the other major electricity generators when it comes to Huntly.
    See:
    https://www.meridianenergy.co.nz/about-us/our-power-stations/agreement-with-genesis-energy

    Meridian supports keeping Huntly operational, rather than keeping it operating. They support this because they recognise Huntly’s role in providing dry year reserve and helping to meet peak demand should there be a problem at one of the other power stations or with a major transmission line. I am still waiting to hear Gareth’s plans for meeting the North Island’s peak electricity demands on winter evenings without using fossil fuels, or how he would ensure that we can meet our energy needs during dry years without starting up fossil fueled power stations.

    I am also waiting to hear his plans for moving other fossil fuel consumers off their fossil fuels and onto renewable energy. So far little seems to be changing in that regard, and new houses are still being build with gas fires and gas hot water.

    Trevor

  13. Tony – unless the new solar PV is being installed in areas with significantly lower capacity factors (i.e. less sunshine), the graphs of solar PV energy generated per annum would look very similar to the graphs of PV capacity. Even if the lower costs of new solar PV encouraged solar PV to be installed in areas getting less sunshine, the graphs would not look much different.

    Trevor

  14. Capacity graphs aren’t particularly useful. What are the numbers for actual power generation from solar PV and other renewables? I couldn’t find that in the REN21 report which, I suspect, is because the graph wouldn’t look quite so rosy.

  15. PV, wind, tides, energy storage and nuclear – all are not emission free.

    While fossil fuels poison the environment with catastrophic consequences, nuclear presents a nightmare. There is no free lunch

  16. You do realise that “renewables” are not zero emissions, don’t you? If we are to get to a zero carbon society then we’d need negative carbon technologies to offset the emissions from renewables infrastructure and those activities that can’t be powered by renewables.

  17. Hand in hand with the developments in renewable power are developments in energy storage. As dbuckley observed, it is hard to make use of large amounts of renewable capacity. Energy storage is the key to being able to make use of that capacity, and China is helping to lead the way. Recently it was announced that the world’s largest battery would be deployed in the Dalian peninsula in northern China – a 200MW, 800MWH vanadium flow battery.

    China are also adding to their transmission network big time.

    dbuckley’s numbers also illustrate the quality of New Zealand’s wind resource compared to other countries. Our windier sites achieve capacity factors of over 40% whereas the rest of the world is lucky if sites get much above 30%. That is why China’s wind farms account for 8.6% of their total power but supplied only 3.3% of their energy. (Curtailment may also have been a factor.) In New Zealand – the land of the long white cloud – it is solar that has the poor capacity factor, typically around 15%, while a number of other regions have solar capacity factors exceeding 20% or more. Low capacity factors mean that a higher peak generating power output is needed when the resource (sun or wind) is available, but that makes it harder to integrate. If storage is used to accept these peaks, then it too needs high peak power handling ability, which adds to the cost.

    Therefore New Zealand is better off expanding our wind farms rather than trying to use solar power. Either way, the North Island is going to need access to more storage – whatever form that might take – if we are to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

    Trevor.

  18. You should be excited Gareth, but not for the content of that report. No, the real news is China. China is the world’s biggest emitter, but they are also getting a wiggle on doing something about it.

    [Nuclear Power in China]

    Mainland China has 32 nuclear power reactors in operation, 22 under construction, and more about to start construction. Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world’s most advanced, to give more than a three-fold increase in nuclear capacity to at least 58 GWe by 2020-21, then up to 150 GWe by 2030, and much more by 2050. The impetus for increasing nuclear power share in China is increasingly due to air pollution from coal-fired plants.

    Most of mainland China’s electricity is produced from fossil fuels, predominantly from coal – 73% in 2015. Two large hydro projects are recent additions: Three Gorges of 18.2 GWe and Yellow River of 15.8 GWe. Wind capacity in 2015 was 8.6% of total, but delivering only 3.3% of the electricity.

    In August 2013 the State Council said that China should reduce its carbon emissions by 40-45% by 2020 from 2005 levels, and would aim to boost renewable energy to 15% of its total primary energy consumption by 2020. In 2012 China was the world’s largest source of carbon emissions – 2626 MtC (9.64 Gt CO2), and its increment that year comprised about 70% of world total increase. In March 2014 the Premier said that the government was declaring “war on pollution” and would accelerate closing coal-fired power stations.

    Now that is action that is going to make a difference.

    China is also typical of the stuff the report does mention; there a lot of renewable capacity going in, but in reality, its actually quite hard to make use of it, so there is more theoretical capacity than useful output, and thus not as much displacement of carbon as the small scale renewable supporters would have us believe.

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