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RSNZ report – Transition to a low-carbon economy

Written By: - Date published: 11:43 am, April 27th, 2016 - 30 comments
Categories: climate change, global warming, science, sustainability - Tags: , , ,

Earlier in April the Royal Society of NZ released a report – Climate Change Implications for New Zealand, see also the media release:

Key findings – New Zealand’s sensitivities to climate change

Coastal Change: New Zealanders live mainly near coasts

Shoreline ecology, public infrastructure, residential and commercial assets, community values and the future use of coastal-marine resources will be severely affected by changes to coasts due to sea level rise, and storm surge, and secondary effects such as erosion and flooding.

Flooding: many New Zealanders live on floodplains

Damaging flood events will occur more often and will affect rural and urban areas differently. At and near the coast, floods will interact with rising sea levels and storm surges. Increasing frequency and severity of high intensity rainfall events will increase these risks.

Freshwater resources: New Zealanders rely on the availability of freshwater

Increased pressure on water resources is almost certain in future. Decreasing annual average rainfall in eastern and northern regions of both main islands, plus higher temperatures, are projected to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts and the risk of wild fire. At the same time, urban expansion and increased demand for water from agriculture will result in increased competition for freshwater resources.

The Ocean: New Zealand is surrounded by sea

Changes in ocean temperature, chemistry, and currents due to climate change will have impacts on New Zealand’s marine life, fishing, aquaculture and recreation use.

Ecosystem change: New Zealand has unique ecosystems

Over half of New Zealand’s more than 50,000 species are found nowhere else in the world; over three quarters of the vascular plants, raising to 93% for alpine plants, and over 80% for the more than 20,000 invertebrates. Existing environmental stresses will interact with, and in many cases be exacerbated by, shifts in mean climatic conditions and associated change in the frequency or intensity of extreme events, especially fire, drought, and floods.

International Impacts: New Zealand is affected by impacts and responses to climate change occurring overseas

The ways in which other countries are affected by and will respond to climate change, plus commitments New Zealand makes to international climate treaties, will influence New Zealand’s international trade relationships, migration patterns and specific domestic responses.

Today the second shoe dropped with a new report – Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy for New Zealand, see also the media release:

The report identifies opportunities in the sectors of:

• heat supply
• electricity supply
• transport
• buildings
• industry
• agriculture
• forest and other land-use.

It also considers the interactions between technology, policy and behaviour and considers factors that either limit or provide opportunities for change, and gaps in our knowledge.

The report outlines important context on each area, but in brief the opportunities to reduce emissions include:

• Reducing fossil fuel use
• Increasing renewable electricity
• Using low carbon transport, eg electric cars, buses, rail
• Managing energy use in buildings
• Improving energy efficiency
• Considering trade-offs in agriculture
• Planting forests (may only be an interim solution)
• Supporting low-carbon choices.

More ambitious action needed now

There is a clear case for immediate action. New research and technologies will continue to emerge but many mitigation options are already well-understood and achievable. Delaying actions would result in a greater amount of emissions overall, given that CO2 emissions accumulate in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years.

This is great work from the Royal Society. When Paula Bennett is back from signing the Paris Agreement I hope she is planning to read both reports from cover to cover. THEN ACT ON THEM. Sorry for shouting.

The Herald coverage of the report put together this useful infographic:


30 comments on “RSNZ report – Transition to a low-carbon economy ”

  1. Macro 1

    The 10 things we should be doing now is a good plan of action, but it also needs an underlying platform of an effective price on Carbon – sort of suggested in principle 9 of the plan – but far too wishy washy. (Can’t have the Herald suggesting a Carbon Tax can we! Oh my goodness no! ) They have gone far enough already with a Land Tax!

    The thing is, none of this will happen without Govt direction and regulation. They cannot rely on the market to sort this mess out because it was a “pure” market economy (if ever such a thing existed – shall we say Laissez-faire economy to be more precise,) that got us into this mess, and it sure as hell, is not going to get us out! The underlying question therefore has to be – have they the balls to implement this plan, and the answer must surely be a resounding NO!

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      The underlying question therefore has to be – have THEY the balls to implement this plan, and the answer must surely be a resounding NO!

      Hmmm, who are the “THEY” that you are referring to here?

      • Macro 1.1.1

        The current gov’t CV.
        I can’t say whether an incoming Govt will address the Plan it depends on the outcome and the composition.

        • Colonial Viper

          No sense changing governments if the incoming government will be largely as ineffective on transitioning to a low carbon economy.

          BTW I am picking a near-comprehensive “transition” to a low carbon economy within the next 40 or so years anyways, regardless of government action or inaction.

          • Macro

            Cannot disagree moreso CV!
            We have a highly corrupt government in power at the present time who see nothing wrong with disabusing their position for the furtherance of their own self interests (SIS I’m looking at you). The fraud and laundering of Carbon Credits would see them in the High Court were they a private citizen. As for the scams in Saudi Arabia and Nuie well they are just the tip of an iceberg. The canning of the democratic process in Canterbury so their mates could drain the aquifers and pollute the waterways is another example. And then we have the ditching of healthy food in schools as one of their first actions and the recent “rubbishing” of a sugar tax by their mates the NZ initiative. They need to be gone!
            The only Party that has a strong policy on Climate Change is the Green Party and you will hear more on this over the next 18 months. Just how effective they can be at implementing the changes needed to effect action on Climate Change depends primarily on the support from voters. Let me assure you that Green party members will be doing everything they can to ensure a good representation in Parliament.
            You maybe right wrt to a low carbon economy – but there is enough coal in the ground still to fry the Earth many times over.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2


      We could probably get to and maintain 100% renewable power generation ex transport by 2025 if the government decided to do it. But that does mean that the government would have to nationalise power again and get rid of the faux competition model that’s costing us so much.

      • Macro 1.2.1

        “We could probably get to and maintain 100% renewable power generation ex transport by 2025 if the government decided to do it.”

        Yep! sooner if they pulled their finger out.

        As for transport the sooner we transition away from trucks on our highways the better for all of us. The cost of maintaining them would drop substantially meaning more could be invested in public transport – the truckies would simply move from shifting logs to moving people. Hybrid buses initially and transitioning to full electric.

        • Colonial Viper

          “We could probably get to and maintain 100% renewable power generation ex transport by 2025 if the government decided to do it.”

          How are you going to maintain hydrodams and generators without diesel powered machinery and equipment, petroleum derived lubricants and oils, motorised vessels for dredging operations, etc.

          • Andre

            The diesel powered maintenance machinery can mostly be readily changed to electric power – either it gets cable-supplied or quick-change battery packs (apparently the Tesla Model S battery pack can be swapped in 90 seconds) or quick-charge stations. Not as cheap or convenient as diesel at the moment to be sure, but if diesel is not longer an option then a way will be found.

            Petroleum based lubricants (and plastics) don’t contribute to climate change. We need to solve the climate change issue by stopping burning fossil fuels long before we’re likely to run out of oil.

            • Colonial Viper

              Yes factories have been using electric forklifts and conveyors forever. The basic tech might be there but the application may not have been developed as yet.

              The Tesla battery pack technology could eventually be made available for wider industrial use but I haven’t heard any plans for that to happen.

          • Draco T Bastard

            By using electricity powered ones instead. Hell, they’re even right next to the bloody generators so supplying them with the power isn’t a problem.

            By the way, long before machinery used mineral oil for lubricants they used vegetable oil. Vegetable oil can even be used to power a diesel engine if one is still actually needed (which they aren’t).

    • Bill 1.3

      The ‘plan’ is inadequate.

      • Macro 1.3.1

        Of course it is Bill! And way too late. Anyone who knows anything about this knows that 2 degrees of warming is most likely in the rear view mirror and we are looking at metres of SLR not just a metre – just when, and how soon is the issue.
        However, never say die. Hope springs eternal, and who knows maybe there will be some way of sequestering Carbon in massive amounts in the future.
        As for the Plan I have already indicated it lacks a sufficiently solid price on Carbon, and one has to start somewhere. First steps are always the smallest and most difficult. But once they are mastered the child is soon up and running.

  2. mickysavage 2

    All good stuff but hell you would think that our Government would be the one coming up with a plan.

    • Bill 2.1

      No. It’s not good stuff. It’s not based on existing science and technology and exhibits the usual highly fucking dangerous and irresponsible sojourn into magical thinking.

      The problem is easily understood and the solution is remarkably simple… but kind of shite from a political angle. Cut fossil related emissions by ~15% every year. That’s what climate change and existing science and technology informs us we must do. Be at zero fossil related emissions by around 2030 and throw everything at cutting land use emissions as much as possible at the same time.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Can you point out the magical thinking that they’re using?

        • Bill

          Negative carbon scenario via BECCS. (see my comment, No 5 below and also the link I put on open mike this morning – the one with the vid embedded).

          Fuck it. Re-embedding the vid here. Watch it.

  3. When Paula Bennett is back from signing the Paris Agreement I hope she is planning to read both reports from cover to cover. THEN ACT ON THEM.

    Ha! Good luck! A Nat cabinet minister at climate change negotiations is like representatives of the Saudi Arabia, North Korea or Zimbabwe governments at a human rights convention – so inappropriate it’s almost comical.

    From the government’s perspective, as long as it can get away with using fake Ukrainian and Russian carbon credits to claim it’s meeting its declared emissions targets, no further action is required. I can’t see Paula Bennett rocking that boat – it will take external pressure to force change.

  4. Bill 4

    Reality check.

    From that Transition to a low carbon economy’ report…(p11 of the Summary Report)

    Commercial Buildings will, at best, achieve zero emissions in the medium to long term
    Electricity supply will, at best, achieve zero emissions in the medium term
    Freight Transport will, at best, achieve zero emission in the long term
    Heat Supply will, at best, achieve zero emissions in the medium to long term
    Industry will, at best, achieve zero emissions by the longer term
    Passenger Transport will, at best, achieve zero emissions by the long term
    Residential Building will, at best, achieve zero emissions by the longer term

    So, unless longer term is 15 years and medium to long term 10 – 15 years…then the whole thing’s an inadequate piece of shite. Given that they talk of 90% renewable electricity by 2025, I’m guessing their medium term is somewhat beyond or, at best, around 15 years.

    Also picking (though I haven’t had time to go it properly yet) that they’re basing scenarios on IPCC modeling which, as we know assume negative emissions at some point in the future when carbon capture and storage is rolled out…that is, colossal infrastructure built to accommodate a technology that has not been developed and that may well not work beyond the laboratory.

    Send the fuckers back to the drawing board and make them come out with suggestions that relegate economics below science and that adhere to actually existing science and technology…then they might be able to suggest some stuff that’s adequate to keep us below +2 degrees. That report is orally expelled bowel content. (But look! – they say – it’s roses!!)

  5. Bill 5

    Aw, fuck me. Box 5.1 on p83 of the report contains a BECCS wank.

    Many integrated assessment models show this is necessary in order to keep global temperature rise below 2oC unless more ambitious immediate reductions can be implemented.

    I think it’s all integrated assessment models, not ‘many’, but that as it may be.

    Lets pin our hopes on a technology that hasn’t moved beyond the lab, may not ever be able to be moved beyond the lab, and ignore that the total land mass required would be one to three times the total land area of India; an area that would have to be planted out and harvested year after year after year. Ignore the detail that we’re talking of something like 36 billion tonnes of CO2 every year that would need to be captured, transported and buried…somewhere. And while we’re at, why not ignore the (by mid-century) 9 billion people needing to be fed from the land as well as the aviation and shipping sectors wanting to grab chunks of that there bio-mass.

    I mean, it seems it’s easier to indulge in wishful or magical thinking and certainly more politically palatable than getting serious about making the reductions in emissions that reality is demanding.

    • adam 5.1

      Bill I put this interview on open mic. http://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-27042016/#comment-1165317

      It talks a lot about crossing the Rubicon, and what that means for people like you, me and others. Odd how much like the Americans we have become, especially in the way we don’t want to talk about the hard stuff. My guess – most people are scrolling straight past your posts, as they in the – “too hard basket”.

      • Bill 5.1.1

        My guess – most people are scrolling straight past your posts…

        Yup. That’s my guess too. And yet those same people are (I’m guessing) happy enough to get all indignant and occasionally pipe up about how ‘something must be done’…as long as ‘the something’ doesn’t have to be done by them.

        Oh. That, and they (I’m guessing again) are really quite addicted to being ‘tucked in at night’ after a nice ‘happy ever after’ bed-time story.

        • adam

          If you don’t have it all wrapped up in pretty ribbons, then you just ‘ant doing it right.

          It is easy to despair though. It is harder to confront, or even accept the world is about to change in a major way. It’s hard to hear that we are beyond doing anything to stop that change. And we are at the point were we need to make some major moral choices.

          We could keep our head in the sand, but anyone who thinks that is a waste of time, one simple thing you can do – get connected. Get interconnected with people, organise and change your life.

      • weka 5.1.2

        I watched a bit of that vid earlier on my phone. The man being interviewed seems intelligent and thoughtful and I’m impressed he went to jail over his CC activism. Problem is, most people can’t meet him where he is. Ditto Bill. Which doesn’t mean him and Bill and others should change, we definitely need those voices. But we also need voices that can bridge that gap. It’s not enough to have the scarey information and the forceful statement that we have to change. We have to also offer people solutions that they can work with. Most people will change in response to dire news only when it’s in their face, and climate change isn’t yet. It’s in the news, but people aren’t experiencing it directly yet. So the scarey shit alone won’t be enough until much later.

        I know plenty of people that want to change but who feel powerless to do so. Others, it’s that they can’t yet conceive of things like getting past mortgages and jobs and how to buy a new car. Those are two big challenges, how to meet those people where they are so that they can change. Bill will no doubt say that that is pandering to them, and they should just change anyway. But the point is they’re not changing, and we have to create the ways that enable them.

        • adam

          Watch the whole video – it will answer many of your questions Weka. I was thinking of you when I put it up, and yes it is hard going in the middle, but the last 5-10 minutes is well worth it.

          • weka

            Thanks Adam, that was very interesting. Great to see some men talking about the need to develop skills in how to cope emotionally and spiritually. I disagree with his position on international refugees, and while I appreciated the spiritual aspects I know many here on ts won’t. The bit right at the end about it’s not about what we can do but what we can become even had me rolling my eyes 😉

            However, the video doesn’t address what I brought up in any way at all, which makes me wonder if you misunderstood what I meant. I’m saying that people need to be presented a pathway to change. Telling them we’re all going to die if we don’t isn’t going to work. Telling people about the seriousness of the situation AND presenting them with ways they can change, that’s where my thinking is at. The video speaks to the converted (you, me, Bill), it’s not going to speak to my upper middle class family or many NZers who know what CC is but don’t know what to do.

            I also think that the international situations are important to understand but not that relevant to NZ. Each place needs to find its own way and each place will have the solutions within that locale. Much of what DeChristopher was covering was about the US situation, and while there are some superficial similarities, I think it’s just so different here. For this reason I limit what I expose myself to in terms of media etc. (The stuff he was talking about about lakes drying up and there being no electricity generation, in the US most of that is due to industrial agriculture, I don’t think the CC aspects have really hit yet. We should take heed, but we are in a very different situation, not having gone down that path very far yet)

            I also liked the dude talking briefly about The Climate Disobediance Centre. That’s where we need to be going. And it does beg the question for those of us concerned that other people aren’t changing, why are we not engaging in civil disobedience?

  6. CoroDale 6

    Is RSNZ report suggesting austerity? Bit of perspective and positive projection required here. It’s not just geo-tech options that are being under-played; accounting solutions are key to finding steady-state economics, and then emission reductions will come automatically.

    Just for example; NZ has endless reserves of Thorium and Titanium. What if we used Sovereign Money to finance a mini-reactor. Waikato Uni where offered a nuclear reactor back in the 50’s/60’s (“Atoms for Peace Programme”, the Russians and US where fight over who could be NZ’s best friend) Waikato turned it down because a small nuclear reactor would require 20 full-time employees, so too expense on the running costs! Ok, if you’re not a nuclear chemist, you’re probably not going to follow this Thorium thinking.

    Re: vid (Hunt, Anderson)

    Solar radiation management!

    My Climatology Professor said “photochemical smog and GHGs are approx in balance regarding net energy capture.” (anthropological context)

    This weather control tech was active back in the 60’s already.

    “Concerns about the perception!” says Prof in vid. Yip, sounds like smoke n mirrors to me.

    I saw some amazing CONtrails here last week. Over the German/Dutch boarder. It was a perfect diamond in the sky. With just one on the four planes leaving a long trail heading east (to Berlin I’m hoping). Crop circles from above!

    RSNZ are certainly diplomatic, but with so much fear porn flying in media, we don’t need science beating on the austerity-drum too.

  7. Lulu 7

    “Genesis Energy has extended the life of its coal-fired Huntly units until December 2022.”

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