A counter to the spin of the mega corporations that push GMO foods as the solution to world hunger.
As dramatic as these two videos are, they are not entertainment, to be oohed and aahed over. They are warnings of rapid changes in the earth’s equilibrium.
The first video is from Canada: “There is twice as much carbon in the permafrost than there is in the atmosphere. So if all the carbon in permafrost turned in to CO2, it would triple the CO2 in the atmosphere”
The second video is from Siberia. If the sober words of the Canadian researchers do not worry you, then perhaps this dramatic footage will.
What to do? Here’s an idea:
After testing more than 3,000 different theories before finding one that worked, Thomas Edison was reported as saying “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
A corollary of this Edison quote is that the most certain way to fail, is to give up. Which is what Professor Guy McPherson is doing, giving up.
Those particular 3,000 theories were about finding a filament that worked in the new electric light bulb.
Edison’s incandescent light was launched at a public ceremony in December 1879. His belief then, that electricity would become so cheap that only the rich would burn candles, was proved correct. And hasn’t our society become a better place for that invention?
Today, 137 years later, we need to move away from that old technology, not because of the cost of electricity, but because of the need to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions.
LEDs are the new lighting technology and many will be skeptical that replacing old light bulbs will have a material impact on climate change.
For sure, replacing one light bulb has only a small impact. But if each New Zealand household, more than 1.5 million of them, replaced them all, then the impact would be significant.
How significant? Stay with me while we do some easy maths.
Based on the average burn time for a light bulb of three hours each day for a year, a 60 watt incandescent bulb will burn 66 units of electricity and emit 9.8 kg of carbon to the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent emissions from driving 32km in a large car.
The equivalent seven watt LED will burn less than eight units of electricity over a year and emit nearly 1.1 kg of the carbon – less than a 4 km drive in that same large car.
As well as helping save the world, light switchers will save cash too.
At $0.30 for each unit of electricity and a 3-hour burn time per day, a $9.95 LED bulb is paid for through electricity savings in just seven months. That’s an incredible 172% return on investment.
Those returns are much greater when we factor in the lifetime savings of switching to an LED bulb – over $240 through replacing an LED once every 14 years instead of replacing an incandescent every year for each of 14 years.
These comparison apply to LEDs of the same brightness and with a range of colour tints available, switching to an LED, gives no loss of light quality.
Being a light switcher is an easy do, will save you cash as well as demonstrating that we are not giving up on saving the planet.
Climate doomsayer Guy McPherson was in Auckland last week, talking about Runaway Abrupt Climate Change.
I do not call him a doomsayer to belittle him or what he has to say. For he is saying things that need to be said, things that too few want to acknowledge, let alone take action on.
When McPherson says “the situation (climate change) is far worse than it was (in 2014)”, the scientific evidence proves him right. Atmospheric carbon levels have now exceeded 400 ppm and 2016 is projected to be the hottest year on record.
But then he goes on to say, “There’s no point trying to fight climate change … there’s nothing we can do to stop it”. His denial of our will to survive is beyond defeatist.
For sure, the task of bringing atmospheric carbon back to levels the earth can sustain is ginormous. But not even worth trying for?
As Yoda said in the future, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
And do two things we must, if McPherson’s non-future is to be avoided.
One is to eliminate burning fossil fuels. As unlikely as that is, it will not avoid catastrophic climate change as the carbon already in the atmosphere will continue to drive warming for decades yet.
Second is to take carbon out of the atmosphere.
High tech Carbon Capture and Storage processes are seen by many as the way to save the world. But they either do not work yet, or are too expensive. While politicians wait for technologic fixes, the risks become ever more dire.
There are two low tech means to sequestering atmospheric carbon that could be implemented from tomorrow if there was the political nous.
First is planting trees. We can and should do that, but it will have only a small impact in the time scale McPherson talks about.
Second is to make biochar and bury it in agricultural soils.
Making biochar from forestry and municipal waste would give us the win-win-win of renewable biofuels, improved soils and less atmospheric carbon.
This sounds an easy do but the scale of the challenge before us is daunting.
To hold global warming to under 2°C, atmospheric carbon needs to be under 350 ppm. If emissions reductions had begun in 2005, a reduction rate of only 3.5% per year may have sufficed. Starting today, the required reduction rate is 6% and if delayed until 2020, then it is 15%. Biochar sequestration can achieve a 12% rate. So doable it is if we start now.
As discussed last week, it is our perception of the risks that determines whether we take precautions or not. If we assess a low risk to catastrophic climate change, Guy McPherson will be proved right.
Church leaders, lay people, activists, scientists and politicians gathered in Mangere on Saturday, 20 August for a Church Climate Workshop to explore what churches can do to address climate change. The workshop was an ecumenical event co-hosted by the Methodist Public Issues network, Sinoti Samoa and the Anglican Diocesan Climate Change Action Group.
Over 120 people were in attendance with Methodists, Anglicans, Catholics, Presbyterians and Quakers coming from across the country to discuss what their congregations could do.
Keynote speakers were scientist Professor James Renwick, former climate negotiator Dr Adrian Macey, Mangere MP Su’a William Sio and Pacific Climate Warriors spokesperson Koreti Tiumalu.
Matheson Russell, convenor of the Diocesan Climate Change Action Group highlighted what already has been done in some churches including divesting from fossil fuel companies, statements by the Anglican bishops, and local initiatives to make church buildings energy efficient.
But the emphasis of the workshop was on the need for more action, urgently required to limit the worst effects of climate change, especially for our Pacific neighbours.
Koreti Tiumalu, leader of the Pacific Climate Warriors inspired everyone with the prayerful, culturally based and courageous actions of her group. She detailed their venturing to sea in vaka near Newcastle, Australia to protest against coal mining expansion, and a prayer vigil at the Vatican during the COP21 proceedings, where the group of Pacific youth were able to give a fine mat woven in Tonga to Pope Francis.
University of Victoria Wellington environmental scientist James Renwick showed graphs that detailed the dramatic increase in global temperatures over the last 150 years. 2015 temperatures were the highest on record, and 2016 looks set to be even hotter. He says the time for action is now, rather than waiting a decade or more to implement real change. “If we continue at this rate, we could be facing an ice free Arctic in a few decades.”
President elect of the Methodist Church Revd. Prince Devanandan proposed that clergy start preaching on climate change, and emphasized the major need to re-orient the education programmes of the church – theological education, and parish level adult and children’s education.
He also interviewed Cardinal John Dew as a special discussion for the workshop, reflecting on the papal encyclical on climate change ‘Laudato Si’. They explored questions of dominion and stewardship, and the links between poverty and the environment. Cardinal Dew emphasized the gift of ‘Laudato Si’ for all churches, indeed for all peoples.
Cardinal Dew suggested it is time for advocacy from churches. While working in our own organizations and institutions, we can bring an ethical approach to press for action from business leaders and government.
The workshop gave opportunities for attendees to find out and partner with the practical work and advocacy of climate organizations Generation Zero, 350 Aotearoa, Christian World Service, Coal Action Network, and A Rocha, as well as our own Diocesan Climate Change Action Group.
Churches were also encouraged to sign up for the ‘Pray for the Pacific’ campaign, where participating churches will hold a special service either on September 4th or 11th to pray for the Pacific and start a conversation about rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and changing weather patterns.
Ms Tiumalu said: “We cannot build a Pacific Climate Movement without engaging our faith communities. Faith is pivotal to our people, and like the ocean, it connects us. In the face of the climate crisis, we need prayer to carry our people and faith to build resilience.”
Six days earlier than last year.
That day was last Monday. It was the day when the world’s population consumed the resources the earth would require a full year to regenerate. To sustain an average lifestyle, now requires the resources of more than one and a half earths.
For this year we overshot the earth’s capacity for sustainable supply by over four months.
Next year, the world’s ecological ‘Overshoot’ will be longer.
And longer still the following year and so on, year after year until the earth has insufficient credit in the resource bank for us to make our withdrawals from.
The resources in the bank include the soil to grow nutritious and safe food. And the water that sustains life on earth. And places to dump the rubbish we generate. And the energy we need to travel, feed, educate and enlighten us. And the biodiversity that inter-dependent species require to survive. And so much more.
Overshoot Day is an interesting way to assess sustainability. It is a concept introduced by the Global Footprint Network, an international not-for-profit organization with offices in California and Geneva.
The Network also developed the Ecological Footprint concept and from that the National Footprint Accounts.
New Zealand has a national footprint of 5.6 global hectares per person, well within the country’s carrying capacity of 10.1 global hectares. A global hectare is the statistician’s way of enabling comparisons between countries.
Our society has an ecological footprint more than twice as large as the world average. If the world lived as we do, then overshoot day would have happened on April 19th and we would need 3.3 earth’s to provide for our daily needs.
How does this compare against other countries?
Australia has an ecological footprint half as large again as ours. If everyone lived as Australians do, then overshoot day would have happened on the 7th March and 5.4 earths would be needed to sustain us all.
Fiji’s ecological footprint is less than half ours which places overshoot day on July 30th.
This level of resource consumption is clearly not sustainable. As has been said before, we have only one earth. Not 3.3 of them.
If sustainability refers to the ability of a system to maintain production for ever, then last Monday was the day when the system we call the earth, exceeded it’s ability to regenerate resources.
The consequence is that the earth’s capacity to sustain us in the future, is reduced.
So it is that we now need to make the choice that our politicians have failed to take a lead on. Either to continue with our consumption-led growth economy and each year, withdraw ever more from next year’s resource bank.
Or to reduce our consumption of things wanted but not needed and live within the earth’s means to supply.
Here’s a garden plan that works for me and has great benefits that might also work for you in a Communal Food Garden.
Join us in #carbonfast2016
What is a carbon fast for Lent?
For Anglicans, Catholics and many others, Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation. It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life.
This year we challenge you to take a carbon fast – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation.
Each day has one small action to take. You can download the one page calender with each day’s action here.
We hope that this year, Lent is a time when you draw near to God and find peace in His creation.