A Climate Emergency?

So, Auckland Council have declared a “Climate Emergency”.

In the words of Councillor Penny Hulse, chair of Auckland Council’s Environment and Community committee, this declaration is “a call to action for Council to take seriously, its role in climate change.”  She went on to say that Council needs to “… make sure that all policies we set and budgets we set, are set with a climate change lens in mind.”

That is signalling a clear intention to take action.  But it’s not actually taking action is it?

If the emergency were say, seismic readings indicating an increased likelihood of a volcanic eruption, then for sure, Civil Defence would be activated and we would see real actions aimed at protecting Auckland’s population and property.

To be fair to Council, they are taking some actions around climate change.  They have drafted a plan – the Auckland Climate Action Plan (ACAP) – that will go out to public consultation in July/August.  They adopted the Auckland Plan and Unitary Plans adopted in 2018.  Then they have plans in development around: Strategic Asset Management; Measuring Asset Performance; establishing a Landslide remediation fund; profiling spatial dimension community asset risks (flooding); a Natural Hazards Risk Management Action Plan; a Natural Hazards Research Plan and plans for Coastal Compartment Management.

They have implemented a Live Lightly programme, a Sustainable Schools Plan and a Waste Management & Minimisation Plan. 

The current state of Council’s Climate Change mitigation and adaptation actions is an impressive list of plans but contains little in the way of what is needed – actual climate mitigation actions.

Some people will leap to Auckland Council’s defence and say that I am being unfair, that the thinking and planning work needs to be done before actions are implemented.  They are right, that desktop work does need to be done.  But.

Actually, action is required to mitigate the drivers of global warming.
(excerpt from Auckland Council report “Climate Change Risks in Auckland”

Can we afford to wait to see if these plans and intentions translate to an actual reduction in Auckland’s emissions?  If the emergency were say, seismic readings indicating an increased likelihood of a volcanic eruption, then for sure, Civil Defence would be activated and we would see real actions aimed at protecting.

Perhaps Council see no hope for mitigation actions having an impact worthy of going for.  That seems so in the framing of this header in their risk assessment report.

This may be why their report Climate Change Risks in Auckland focuses more on adaptation and less on mitigation.  Perhaps that too is unfair on Council, for the report is a risk assessment and as they say in the report, “Understanding the climate change risks and impacts on vulnerability for Auckland is imperative to both mitigate and adapt to climate change and to inform planning and decision making.”  

If it leads to a new climate change lens, where the word “URGENT” is writ large across it, then perhaps we will do what needs to be done – to reduce fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

Actually, taking mitigation actions is not that difficult.  As we have experienced in many of the St Andrews events and projects this past year or three:

  • Our Earth Day events have been carbon negative – we have sequestered more atmospheric CO2 than was emitted in the running of the events plus that emitted by all the people attending them.
  • Our communal food garden has
    • provided food-miles-free food
    • not required any artificial fertilisers
    • used no town-supply water even given the particularly dry summer we just had
    • reduced wastes going to landfill with kitchen waste from parish events going to the worm farm plus garden waste going to the compost
    • provide an opportunity for local people to gather as Friends of St Andrew’s Food Garden
  • Six “Grow Your Own Food” courses have taught many people how to increase their self-resilience.

These are all real climate actions that any parish can implement. For advice on how your parish can do similar things, call the Sustainability Fieldworker, John, on 021 46 36 86.

Celebrating World Earth Day 2019

Please come and celebrate World Earth Day 2019 with us on
Saturday 27th April at St Andrews Anglican Church, 43 Queen St, Pukekohe or on
Sunday 28th April at Footbridge Estate in Bombay, 59 Chamberlain Road, Bombay.

With the impacts of climate change being increasingly felt here in New Zealand and around the world, not only do we need to reduce carbon emissions from our human activities, we need to also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Earth Day is on 22nd April each year.  For each of the past two years, we have had small scale events – at St Andrews, Pukekohe. in 2017, and at St Paul’s, Buckland, last year.

The Charcoal Fire nearing the time to extinguish it to create the biochar.
The Charcoal Fire nearing the time to extinguish it to create the biochar.

Time to extinguish the 2017 fire so that the char we want is not all burned to ash. The young ladies had some fun with that and no one got wet.

Jan Wallace, vicar of At Andrews extinguishing the 2018 Charcoal Fire under the supervision of the local fire brigade.

For our 2019 Earth Day event we aim to sequester 1-2 tonnes of atmospheric CO2 in the biochar we will bury plus an additional 14 tonnes over 10 years with the fruit trees planted atop the biochar.  That will make this event more than carbon neutral.
So come on the Saturday with your children (little eco-warriers) to experience the Charcoal Fire
Or come on the second day (Sunday 28th April) to learn more about our climate actions in the seminar series:
 
Innovations & Sustainability Seminars (3pm – 4:20 pm)
  1. Biological treatments of agricultural pests and diseases
    Dr Stephen Ford
  2. New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions economy
    Rod Oram
  3. The need to sequester atmospheric carbon and biochar’s role in achieving that
    John Allen
  4. Ecotheology: Climate Action from a Church perspective
    Dr. Nicola Hoggard Creegan

Our objectives for this event are:

  1. to acknowledge and celebrate World Earth Day 2019 (22 April)
  2. for children to learn through fun and activities, about climate actions (Saturday)
  3. to offer seminars (Sunday) as a means for people to learn about:
    1. Biological treatments of agricultural pests and diseases
    2. New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions economy
    3. The need to sequester atmospheric carbon and biochar’s role in achieving that
    4. Ecotheology: Climate Action from a Church perspective
  4. To make the event carbon-negative***

***  Carbon-negative: burying more carbon, in the form of biochar, than is burned in getting to/from and used in planning and running the event.  Plus we will plant 50 fruit trees (==500 stems/Ha) over the biochar, sequestering CO2 at a rate of 14.1T/year for 10 years.

To print the brochure: Click the image to open it in a new window and print it.


Our programme is

Day 1: Saturday 27th April, 8 am to 12 noon.
@ St Andrews Anglican Church, 43 Queen St, Pukekohe

The Charcoal Fire
Lighting at 8 am using a top-down burn method to reduce smoke and carbon emissions
Quenching at 11:40 am
Attendees can take a lump of char home with them

Static Display of Biochar production tech
8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Climate Q&A Forum
The need to take climate actions to hold global warming to well below 2°C… 9:00 am – 11:30 am

Children’s games and activities
9am – 11:30 am

Sausage sizzle and drinks available
9am – 12 pm

Day 2: Sunday 28th April
@ Footbridge Estate for Innovation & Sustainability,
59 Chamberlain Rd, Bombay

The Charcoal Fire
Lighting at 1 pm using a top-down burn method to reduce smoke and carbon emissions
Quenching at 4:30 pm
Attendees can take a lump of char home with them

Innovations & Sustainability Seminars

    1. Biological treatments of agricultural pests and diseases
      Dr Stephen Ford
    2. New Zealand’s transition to a low emissions economy
      Rod Oram
    3. The need to sequester atmospheric carbon and biochar’s role in achieving that
      John Allen
    4. Ecotheology: Climate Action from a Church perspective
      Dr. Nicola Hoggard Creegan

Static Display of Biochar production tech
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Vintage High Tea
Food for sale at 1pm and 2:30pm.
$35 pp. 
Bookings essential – email Ngaire@footbridge.co.nz


To make the event carbon-negative, after the event we will:

Establish the Terra Preta Orchard:

  • Burning 1.5T dry wood will yield around 400 Kg biochar
  • Burying that 400Kg biochar ½m below the soil surface will sequester around 1.5T CO2
  • Inoculating the biochar with compost/vermicast tea will activate it with soil micro-organisms
  • Covering the biochar with excavated soil ensures the char is retained
  • Planting 50 fruit trees will sequester a further 1.4 T CO2 each year for 20 years
  • Event emissions are estimated at 1.5 T CO2e

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.

IMG_0823.jpg
The early stages of biochar production in a kontiki-style earth kiln.