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.
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.
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.compublished 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.
An 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.
Another Tuesday, another severe weather warning from the MetService. On Good Friday, Cyclone Cook is expected to dump 200mm of rain as it passes close to or over the North Island.
NIWA’s modelling suggests that the upper and eastern North Island “currently stand the best chance of experiencing an impactful weather event from Wednesday through to Friday morning”.
Huh? The “best” chance? Like it’s a desirable event?
Try telling that to those in Edgecumbe who may never be able to return to their homes. For them, last week’s flood was a catastrophe.
Heavy rain events are now regularly occurring somewhere in the country.
Last week’s event was much more than a flash flood. It was more than a 1 in 100 year event.
Have we normalised extreme weather to the extent that we are now blinded to its causes?
A new study, linking human-caused carbon pollution to extreme weather patterns in the northern hemisphere, ought remove our weather blinkers. The study, published on nature.com, finds that this pattern has only recently emerged from the background noise of natural weather variability.
As report co-author Michael Mann says, “We came as close as one can to demonstrating a direct link between climate change and a large family of extreme recent weather events.”
This study will not placate those increasingly affected by the increasing incidence of extreme weather events.
Should someone be held to account for those affected? To me, yes of course.
The responsibility lies with each of us who continue to release new carbon to the atmosphere – nature will hold us and future generations to account.
Our grandchildren will not thank us for shrugging our shoulders and writing this off as “acts of God”.
At 8 am, a fire will be lit in a special in-ground pit. When the fire is extinguished at 11 am, more than one third of the wood burned will be turned to charcoal.
If left to rot in the field or burn completely, one hundred percent of that timber would be turned to ash and all of its carbon released back to the atmosphere.
Instead, burying the biochar will sequester carbon away for a long time, effectively taking carbon out of the atmosphere. Planting fruit trees on top of the biochar will remove even more atmospheric carbon.
Join us at 18 Wesley Street, Pukekohe any time between 8 and 11 am and show your support for a climate action that does make a difference.
The article begs the question of whether corporate lobby groups and multinational corporations used the Pope’s influence, without his approval, to push their own agenda around industrialised agriculture.
To me, the case is well made. What do you think?
The Pope and the Pesticides
“On March 28 2017, participants in the 10th Forum for the Future of Agriculture were greeted with a big surprise at the beginning of the conference: a “special” video address from Pope Francis! Although the lobbying event is an annual Brussels mainstay for the big agribusiness lobby, organised by Syngenta and the EU lobby group of large landowners (ELO) every year.”
. . .
“The day following the FFA, the video title on the FFA’s website and on Youtube was changed from “FFA 2017 Address From His Holiness The Pope” to “His Holiness Pope Francis on agriculture and environmental issues”. FFA organisers told CEO that this was because the former title could have been interpreted as being “potentially misleading”, and La Machi told CEO that they had asked for the title of the video to be changed. Indeed, it did mislead the participants.”
“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.
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.
Again, these risks posed by GMO foods are minimised when we grow our own food.
The third reason to grow your own food, is around the need for us to take action on climate change.
Harvesting fresh produce from our own garden achieves two climate actions. One is a reduction in green house gases emitted to the atmosphere. The other is to increase the carbon stored in our soils compared to industrialised agriculture.
Glyphosate, GMOs and climate change, are all hazards. All are issues of our time, consequences of a capitalist economic system focused more on corporate profits than on the health and wellbeing of people.
As hazards, there is now little that we can do individually, to undo their presence in our society.
But the risk these hazard pose can be minimised when you grow your own food.
A beginners Grow Your Own Food course runs at Pukekohe’s St Andrews Church hall on Wednesday evenings, starting April 5th and running for six weeks. Interested? Please leave your name and contact number at 09 238 7228.
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.
Climate change-induced permafrost melting endangers the foundation of St. Mary with St. Mark Anglican Church in Mayo, Yukon, according to parishioners taking part in a Lenten project to fight climate change
Photo Credit: St. Mary with St. Mark Anglican Church
We were lucky. Only 120 mm of rain in 24 hours. Other parts of our region suffered over 200 mm in the same time period.
Was that deluge a consequence of climate change? The science on that event has not been done yet so know for sure, we do not.
The US have been experiencing a “freakishly” warm February that the World Weather Attribution team is very clear about: “The warm spell is just the latest piece in a growing body of evidence that climate change is playing a role in almost all extreme heat events.”
I am reminded of that old story about God saving us:
A terrible storm was forecast so local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”
The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”
As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.
A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man still refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.
Arriving in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”
And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”