Written By: - Date published: 6:38 pm, August 1st, 2016 - 8 comments
Categories: climate change, energy, Environment, global warming, political alternatives, science, transport, vision - Tags: alice bows, aviation, climate change, global warming, Kevin Anderson, shipping
Neither international shipping nor aviation is included in any country’s CO2 emissions totals. Both sectors have been allowed to self regulate. Neither sector has done a damned thing about reducing emissions.
A fair bit of what follows is based on study undertaken by Alice Bows-Larkin and published in an open source format All adrift: aviation, shipping, and climate change
or Executing a Scharnow turn: reconciling shipping emissions with international commitments on climate change
In 2011, the aviation industry in NZ emitted about 3.3 million tonnes of CO2e. The split between international flights and domestic flights was something like 1 million tonnes from domestic flights and 2.3 million tonnes from international schedules.
There are some current technologies that can reduce airline emissions through gains in fuel efficiency (eg – open rotor engines and geared turbo fans) but essentially the game’s up. The first hydrogen fuelled aircraft, the Tupolev Tu-155 flew in 1988, but the aviation sector chose not to pursue that route of zero GHG emissions, and as recently as 2010, the BBC reported “the promised “green” fuel for powering flights of the future has been quietly shelved in favour of biofuels and more fossil fuel-sipping aviation.”
The reason was simple enough. The pursuit of profit and shareholder dividends came before the pursuit of human welfare and well being.
The only way to bring aviation emissions down fast enough now, given the absence of hydrogen fuelled aircraft, is to reduce demand. That means cutting flight numbers. Here’s a way to achieve that.
Rescind all permissions for private jets entering NZ air space.
Place a moratorium on the establishment of any new international routes.
Instruct the industry to reduce its international air miles by 1/12th of the necessary annual reduction in emissions every month, and to base that calculation on the sum total of domestic and international air miles. (ie – 1/12th of a 10 – 15% annual reduction)
And of course, construct a compliance regime around all of that. In other words, nothing unusual – just the implementation of regulatory framework that’s been informed by science and that recognises our need to get to zero carbon very quickly.
The reason for targeting international flights over domestic flights, is that should NZs bio-fuel capacity be successfully up-scaled for shipping (see below), then suitably refined excess could be allocated for the purposes of domestic air travel…at least until around 2030.
I know that what I’ve just written sounds draconian. That’s because it is. This industry has had over 25 years worth of access to appropriate technology that would have hammered its emissions but it has chosen to do nothing.
Assuming the adoption of similar regimes on a global scale, then we have a bright side to look at. They say necessity is the mother of invention. With the sudden need to do something in the face of a 10 – 15% annual contraction in their business, I wouldn’t be surprised if the design of that hydrogen powered Tu-155 gets dusted off and viewed with a renewed enthusiasm alongside a ‘can do’ attitude.
Now I admit to being quite drawn to the idea of lazy, battery powered airship travel. But that’s just romanticism and beside the point I guess. Airships will likely be used for shifting seriously large loads from point a to point b.
In 2008 New Zealand’s sea freight industry consisted of thirteen ships, including the five Cook Strait vessels. I dare say it’s not much larger today – we’re probably talking no more than handful or so of coastal freighters. In 2011, coastal shipping in New Zealand emitted about 300 000 tonnes of CO2e. (Very roughly, that might equate to about 100 000 tonnes of fuel)
New Zealand only has a nascent bio-fuel capacity. Z energy hopes to produce around 20 000 tonnes per year. How much that capacity would have to be increased depends on how many other technologies the shipping sector adopts. But whatever, after 2030, and in line with achieving a necessarily zero carbon energy supply, bio-fuel can’t be used as a source of energy.
Here’s the thing, the shipping sector could have used any one of a number of various technologies that have existed for years and years to bring its emissions down. But it’s done nothing.
Flettner rotors have been around since the 1920s. The E-Ship 1, a cargo freighter that’s about the same size as NZ coastal freighter, was launched in 2010. Granted, the energy source for the flettner rotors of the E-Ship 1 is diesel, but there’s no obvious reason as to why that source couldn’t be bio-fuel on retro-fitted freighters until 2030, or a mix of battery and bio-fuel or whatever until 2030 before completing the switch to a zero carbon fuel source.
Aside from flettner rotors and battery powered ships, there are fixed and rigid sails that have been around ‘since for-ever’. Add in kites and solar panels and we get a fair menu of options that the shipping industry could retro-fit to existing vessels and use in a variety of combinations to achieve zero carbon shipping.
International shipping coming into NZ waters is a bit beyond our control, but if we assume that the UK’s template for international shipping is roughly comparable to NZ, then we might be looking at somewhere in the region of half of international shipping coming into NZ being tankers carrying fossil fuel. So by 2030 (and with some caveats), emissions from international shipping might be down by some 50% (from 0.8 million tonnes to 0.4 million tonnes) without taking any direct action on international shipping.
Of course the shipping sector, like the aviation sector, has shown no enthusiasm for doing the right thing, where the right thing impacts on profit and shareholder returns. But I’d hazard that if the shipping sector lifted its gaze to rest on an aviation sector being given no slack whatsoever by a government serious in seeking to uphold its international obligations with regards global warming, and determined to do the right thing by its citizenry, then they might toe the line.
Add in the potential pressure of a mobilised citizenry who’ve elevated the protection of the future to be their number one priority, and I’m thinking the pressure would be irresistible. Bringing that huge shift about isn’t the subject of the next post, but the shift would arise as a consequence of the scenario it lays out.