A climate action that worked

World-wide, thousands of people took part in the March for Science on Earth Day last Saturday.  The Guardian‘s headline declared “Global ‘March for Science’ protests call for action on climate change” as the reason for the marches.   Calls to action and defending scientists from attacks on the legitimacy of climate science, were the objectives.
First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection.  The wider goals of this demonstration are laudable, but I have two ‘howevers’ around the March for Science action.
First is the irony of the marches – significant volumes of new carbon were emitted to the atmosphere from the vehicles used by participants.
Using the average emissions factor defined by our Environment Ministry for petrol vehicles and an average distance travelled of 25km, each participant released around 6kg of new carbon dioxide.
The second ‘however’ is that actions, not more words are now needed if global warming is to not exceed 2°C.  That is the goal of the climate agreement that our government has committed to.
One of the few Earth Day events that actually achieved a reduction in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, was the Charcoal Fire event at St Andrews Anglican Church in Pukekohe last Sunday.
This event involved burning wood to make biochar.  The char was buried, inoculated  and two peach trees planted on top.
For each person attending that event, an estimated 3kg of carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere and buried away for a very long time.  Plus the new trees will sequester more carbon for many years.
It may be that the Marches for Science had an impact on US politicians.  It is clear that the Pukekohe event had an impact on reducing global warming.

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How does the carbon cycle work?
The carbon cycle is the movement of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans, soils, and plants.  
One part of that cycle involves trees and plants taking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere and converting it to carbon which becomes embedded within the tree, and to oxygen which is released back to the atmosphere.
When a plant dies naturally, much of it’s carbon is released back to the atmosphere, and becomes available to other plants to absorb and continue the cycle.
Soil contains one of nature’s largest stores of carbon which is slowly released to the atmosphere or locked away as fossil fuels.
This balance in the carbon cycle has been a feature of our environment for millennia. 
We humans upset that balance when we add new carbon to the atmosphere by tilling the soil, extracting and burning fossil fuels, and when we cut down forests.  We have been doing this for over 100 years, which is seen in the ‘hockey stick’ graph that charts rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

A win win win climate action

Last week’s cyclone-determined weather was mild for us in Pukekohe, but severe on our east coast and catastrophic further south in the Bay of Plenty.

It is likely that a future cyclone will deal equally severe blows to us and our west coast communities.

Whilst we cannot forecast severe weather impacts for specific areas, NIWA have warned North Islanders to brace themselves for more flooding events.

And scientists are finding more linkages between our carbon emissions and extreme weather events.  Last month, Nature.com published an article on the influence of anthropogenic – aka “human caused” – climate change on extreme weather events.

Are we, individually and collectively, prepared to take a punt on future catastrophic weather events bypassing us?  The people of Edgecumbe would give a different answer to that question from those not yet seriously affected.

Those who do not consider the risks are burying their heads in ever-warming sands, for one thing is clear: extreme weather events are now part of our future.

The Insurance Council agrees.  It was reported last week, that the Insurance Council and Local Government NZ have worked together for about three years to explore changes to building consenting processes.  Their goal is to minimise property damage during severe weather events.

But Prime Minister Bill English does not agree.  He was reported last week as saying that it does not matter “too much”, what is causing the weather we have experienced over the past three weeks.  He went on to say that climate change as the cause, is something he does not want to spend time thinking about.

It is our grandchildren’s future that he dismisses so casually.

So what can we as individuals do that our government do not want to think about?

One action is to reduce our household carbon emissions.  Which means travelling less, buying only what we need, reducing waste, saving energy and more.

The Charcoal Fire - A climate action.page1.jpgAn easy-do action, is for us to take carbon out of the atmosphere.

Atmospheric carbon now exceeds 400 parts per million, and to bring that back to a level that will keep global warming below 2°C, carbon needs to be removed from the atmosphere.

At The Charcoal Fire event on Sunday 23rd April, you can learn the means to achieve that.

Making and burying biochar is a win for carbon sequestration and a win for the fertility and water holding capacity of our garden soils.

And planting fruit trees on top of that biochar is a further win for growing healthy, nutritious food.

Join us at 18 Wesley Street in Pukekohe, anytime between 8 am and 11 am this Sunday (23rd April) to learn how to make biochar as a win win win climate action.

The Charcoal Fire - A climate action.page2.jpg

This climate action helps save the world

“Flash flooding is expected across the upper North Island over the next two days” trumpeted the news headlines last Tuesday morning.

What, again?  This is the third or fourth time this autumn that gutters and drains needed to be cleared of leaves in preparation for a deluge.

There was a time, not too long ago, that such flood warnings were issued for only “1 in 100” year events.

“1 in 100” does not mean that it occurs only once every 100 years.  It means that there is a one per cent chance of such an event occurring in a single year. Statistically, a 1 in 100 year event may occur many times in one year, but the average over a number of years, will be one.

It is wishful thinking to conclude that the next 500 years will therefore, be flood-free.

Given the clear impact that our carbon emissions have on global warming, we can expect only more extreme weather.

This may be why we no longer hear warnings of 1 in 100 year events.  The climate is changing so fast, that scientists have not been able to reassess their frequency.

One thing that science is getting better at, is the attribution of extreme weather events to man-made causes.

The World Weather Attribution Project is a collaborative project with Climate Central that aims to achieve near real-time attribution of extreme weather events around the world.

This week’s deluge, which should clear the country today, was described by a NIWA meteorologist as a “tropical torrent” and a “serious situation … arising in New Zealand.”

NIWA goes on to say that April, only six days old, is shaping up to be an abnormally wet month.  Five time the monthly rainfall was expected to fall in the last couple of days, with more heavy rainfall events expected.

So the Franklin ward, and Hauraki and Thames-Coromandel districts, should expect more damage from storms like that earlier in March that was declared a medium-scale adverse event.

How many times do we need “adverse events” to be declared before we realise that we need to take serious action on climate change?

Repeatedly clearing drains and gutters only normalises the situation.

The actions we must take must be focused on the dual fronts of reducing our carbon emissions, and on clawing atmospheric carbon back from our oceans and atmosphere.

A clear and strong climate action celebrating this year’s International Earth Day is planned for St Andrews Anglican Church in Pukekohe on Sunday April 24th.   Biochar will be created and trees planted at “The Charcoal Fire” event.  Join us – bring a gold coin or one kilogram of dry wood for burning anytime between 8:00 and 11:00 am.

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The early stages of biochar production in a kontiki-style earth kiln.

Introducing the new Sustainability Field Worker

Cherished Earth is a climate justice initiative of the Anglican Diocese of Auckland. This is about connecting faith with caring for creation and is the practical outworking of a commitment by the Anglican Bishops of Aotearoa,  New Zealand and Polynesia, to take action on climate change.

The initiative has its origins in 2007 when a group of lay  Anglican members formed the Diocesan Climate Change Action Group.  The goal is to help the Diocese’s churches and members move towards a more sustainable and carbon-neutral lifestyle.

Since 2007, the Action Group have conducted workshops around the Diocese and achieved the major goal of divesting the Church’s investments from fossil fuel industries.

In 2012, a part-time Sustainability Field Worker was appointed to implement a sustainability programme among the churches of the Diocese.  Yvonne Thompson provided a service that, through on-site building assessments and energy audits, assisted a number of parishes to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and so reduce costs as well as carbon emissions.

The appointment of a new Sustainability Field Worker (see the adjacent box) in 2016 sees this work continuing alongside some new sustainability and carbon emission mitigation initiatives.

The first of these initiatives is around sustainability in our food supply.  A programme establishing communal gardens or food forests in participating parishes will commence in early spring.  This will be complimented by waste minimisation actions (various composting methods) that any household can do.

A climate change mitigation initiative being developed is an on-line carbon footprint calculator designed to assist parishioners assess their personal contribution to global warming and compare that against national benchmarks.

Many more initiatives are in the gestation stage, along with an innovative means of funding them, that all go to give a practical expression of our faith in the context of caring for creation.

Please check out our progress and let us know your thoughts at our blog site  www.cherished-earth.org.nz or contact me direct using the contact form below.

Blessings
John Allen


Papakura Anglican

Papakura Anglican stained glass window

Sustainability News from Papakura Anglican
“Lent Discipline: an environmental challenge – Making your lifestyle count – A Lent programme for Christians who care about the environment”. Through this study Papakura challenged themselves to think more deeply about their use of water, energy, waste, transport, shopping and biodiversity. It asked the hard question, “the problem is too big, what impact could I possibly have?” and answered it with positive hope, “we see that small decisions add up”. For example, see how the decision not to drive one kilometre has a far wider ripple effect than our tiny action [click here]. The Lent Discipline series is part of the Eggs and Ashes resources from Iona, by Ruth Burgess and Chris Polhill, printed with permission. To download from the publisher [click here].

Papakura have also taken action. In their recent renovations they chose low flow flushing toilet cisterns and occupancy sensors to control the lighting in the bathroom areas. Renovations are an optimal time to incorporate modern water saving devices. An old single flush toilet uses up to 15 litres per flush in comparison with a modern dual flush using as low as 4.5 or 3 litres per flush. For more on water saving see the Sustainability Field Worker’s presentation on Water [download pdf].

 

 

 

St Peter’s, Onehunga

St Peter's Onehunga stained glass window

Sustainability News from St Peter’s, Onehunga
A timely focus on Care of Creation during Lent 2013 led to some big improvements in sustainability for St Peter’s. Through liturgy and after church seminars they looked at a range of issues including climate change and the environment and how faith impacts on our lifestyle choices. The comment was that they, “generated much interest and we have already begun to make a few changes”. After the Lent season they invited the Sustainability Field Worker to assess their buildings and operations to learn more practical steps they could take to improve their sustainability. For more on liturgical and educational resources [click here].

Since then they have completed the refurbishment of their bathroom areas. This was an opportune time to include sustainable features such as improving natural lighting and installing energy efficient lighting, dual low-flush toilets and low-flow taps. Their old hot water cylinder was very large, with long uninsulated pipe runs. They changed to smaller localised hot water cylinders, thereby improving efficiency. For more on recommendations to consider when carrying out a renovation [click here].

Another area is making better use of natural light. Some older skylights at St Peter’s had problems with leaks, which is not unusual. An alternative, modern solution for bringing light to dark internal spaces is to install a tubular skylight such as a Solatube. Maximising daylight is a simple way to reduce energy consumption from artificial lighting. St Peter’s did this by relocating an external sign that was blocking light to a window.

All Saints Church, Howick

Sustainability News from All Saints Church, Howick

“We were very interested to note that our lighting load had the greatest impact on our power usage”. Based on this knowledge from their electricity bill analysis, All Saints took action by replacing incandescent bulbs with efficient compact fluorescents (CFL) or light emitting diode (LED) bulbs as appropriate to the lighting required and upgrading their linear Fluorescents. They had already installed occupancy sensor switches in remote bathrooms to reduce power consumption from lights being left on. For more on lighting [click here] For more on how to analyse your electricity use for one year [click here]
The challenge of heating a large space efficiently is common to a lot of churches. The night store heaters in the main church and radiant heaters in the historic church are old and inefficient by modern standards. With rising electricity costs and Care of Creation motivating them, they were keen to explore alternatives. Far infrared radiant heaters are being considered. For more on heating [click here]
All Saints considered the possibility of generating electricity on their roof. A quotation for installing photovoltaic panels was received. It is not cheap! The cost of a photovoltaic system is like paying your energy bills of the future, up front. Therefore, further cost analysis is required to assess whether or not the investment is worthwhile.

St Andrew’s, Epsom

St Andrews Epsom exterior of historic church

Sustainability News from St Andrew’s, Epsom
St Andrew’s has a history of connecting sustainability with actions through their on-site Guide Garden, their youth involvement with the .350 movement for action on climate change, their recycling and their purchasing of 100% sustainable paper supplies for the office. In 2010 the renovation of the hall and kitchen resulted in reductions in electricity consumption due to the installation of energy efficient compact fluorescent lighting in the hall. The efficiency of the bulbs was further enhanced by the use of special lightshades. A more modern water boiler was installed in the kitchen.

In 2013, after investigating different options, they upgraded their heating in the old church to more efficient long wave (“black”) radiant heaters. Modern long wave heaters are a good option for church heating. They use radiant heat to warm bodies and solid objects rather than trying to heat the large volume of air in the church auditorium. In the Resources section you can read and download the paper, “Radiant Heating for Churches” for more information on the pros and cons of various types of heaters.

St Andrew’s also hosted a presentation by one of the Eco Design Advisors from the Auckland Council. At the meeting parishioners shared their own stories about improving the sustainability of their homes, once again connecting sustainability to practical actions. To find out about how the Diocese and the Auckland Council have worked together to assess Diocese homes [click here].

 

St Francis, Titirangi

Stand of trees at St Francis, Titirangi

Sustainability News from Titirangi Local Shared Ministry Unit, St Francis Church, Titirangi

Titirangi “were all intrigued to see how ‘green’ they might be” before inviting the Sustainability Field Worker to assess their buildings and operations at St Francis Church. They were pleased to learn that their upgraded heating, improved insulation and water saving fittings all got the green tick.
In 2007 Titirangi upgraded their heating to efficient Long Wave (Far Infrared) heating. Originally the panels were hung crosswise but later changed as the lengthwise mounting was found to distribute the heat better. They are careful to set the heater time clock to programme the heaters to turn on and off as efficiently as possible. For more on heating options for churches [click here].
The analysis of their electricity bill showed that they spent roughly ⅓ on their winter heating and lighting, ⅓ on their base building load throughout the year, and ⅓ on the fixed component of their bill. The fixed component of your electricity bill is proportionally higher when your total electricity cost is low. This fixed sum (line charges etc.) must be paid no matter how much electricity you save.
One area for action was to upgrade their old fluorescent tubes and fittings and Titirangi have now replaced all of the fluorescent lights in the main church area. If your church has fluorescent tubes that are “fat” (called T12 lamps, 38mm diam.) or flicker when you turn them on, then they should be upgraded to more modern and efficient lamps (called T8 or T5 lamps, 26mm or less) and ballasts. When choosing lamps, select a warm colour lamp for meeting areas. The lighting industry is currently going through a major change to even more efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) fittings and lamps. However linear LED tubes are not yet economic for replacing linear fluorescents. For more on lighting [click here]. For more on how to analyse your electricity use for one year [click here]