Wednesday, 15 November 2017

As disasters surge, nations must slash emissions faster, climate experts urge

The Trump administration has formally released a report that details the growing threats of climate change.

With hurricanes, floods and other impacts of climate change becoming increasingly destructive, countries urgently need to step up their ambitions to cut emissions if they are to keep global warming within safe limits, experts said ahead of UN climate talks starting in Germany on Monday.

About 163 countries have submitted plans on how they will contribute to meeting the Paris climate agreement goal to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
But put together, the plans are likely to lead to a 3 degree temperature rise this century, according to the United Nations.

Out-of-control wildfire tore through parts of California, US, in October.

Nicholas Nuttall, spokesman for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the national plans delivered in advance of Paris, "were well known at the time to fall short of the Paris Agreement's long-term goals".

But the agreement also calls for countries to take stock of international progress on climate action and ratchet up the ambition of their national plans accordingly.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

China's recyclers eye looming electric vehicle battery mountain

While electric car makers are technically liable for recycling batteries, in practice they sign deals with suppliers to recycle batteries on their behalf.
After years of dismantling discarded televisions and laptops, a Shanghai recycling plant is readying itself for a new wave of waste: piles of exhausted batteries from the surge of electric vehicles hitting China's streets.

The plant has secured licences and is undergoing upgrades to handle a fast-growing mountain of battery waste, said Li Yingzhe, a manager at the facility, run by the state-owned Shanghai Jinqiao Group.

"We believe there will be so much growth in the number of electric vehicles in the future," he said.
Shanghai Jinqiao will be entering a market that includes Chinese companies like Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium and GEM, whose share prices have risen as they invest in battery recycling facilities of their own. That confidence comes even as companies face considerable hurdles launching battery recycling businesses, including high operating costs.

The growth of China's electric vehicle industry - and the ambitions of recycling companies - is underpinned by a government drive to eventually phase out gasoline-burning cars, part of a broader effort to improve urban air quality and ease a reliance on overseas oil.

Led by companies like BYD and Geely, sales of electric vehicles in China reached 507,000 in 2016, up 53 per cent over the previous year. The government is targeting sales of 2 million a year by 2020 and 7 million five years later, amounting to a fifth of total car production by 2025.

According to the International Energy Agency, China accounted for more than 40 per cent of global electric car sales in 2016, followed by the European Union and the United States. It also overtook the United States as the market with the greatest number of electric vehicles.

Production in China of the lithium batteries that power those cars has also soared. In the first eight months of 2017, Chinese manufacturers produced 6.7 billion batteries, up 51 per cent from the year-earlier period, according to industry ministry data.

All that activity could put China in pole position for dominating the global electric car industry, as well as related businesses like batteries and recycling.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Government considering experimental climate change visa

An experimental visa for people from the Pacific displaced by climate change is to be investigated by the Government.

Climate Change Minister and Greens leader James Shaw said the intention was to work with the Pacific Islands in the coming months and years on an experimental humanitarian visa category for people from the Pacific displaced by rising seas caused by climate change.

At the same time, he did not want to send a message that the Government was giving up on the top priority, which was to "try to prevent catastrophic climate change and therefore have there be no need for people to be displaced", Shaw told Radio NZ.

The goal of New Zealand becoming carbon neutral by 2050 was consistent with the ambitions of the Pacific Islands.

The big question was whether there would be changes to the 2030 target, which the Greens had criticised as inadequate while they were in opposition, Shaw said.
"Of course when you have a new target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050, then the existing 2030 target starts to look inconsistent with that. So we are looking at reviewing that next year."

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Climate change predicted to take big toll on Kiwis' mental and physical health

Our changing climate is expected to see some plants release eight-times more pollen by 2100, worsening hayfever symptoms.

Allergies will become more prevalent and their symptoms worse, drinking water will be less reliable, and poisonous pests may find a new home in New Zealand's warmer climate.

These are just a few of the effects climate change is expected to have on human health, according to a newly-released Royal Society report.

Kiwis may have to contend with more intense heat waves and extreme weather events, including flooding and fires, which would take a toll on mental health.

The invasive Australian redback spider has already appeared in Otago. But as our country gets warmer, it may spread to other places.

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners said the stresses on children would compare to those growing up under the threat of nuclear war.

Royal Society president Richard Bedford said higher concentrations of CO2, increased temperatures and changes in rainfall were expected to extend growing seasons.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Some New Zealand climate change impacts may already be irreversible, Government report says

Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ environmental reporting looks at the pressures, state and impacts on the environment and tracks change over time. Here are some key findings from Our atmosphere and climate 2017.

Climate change may have already had an irreversible impact on New Zealand's natural systems and the effects are likely to worsen, a new Government report says.

Data showed conclusively that temperatures had risen in New Zealand, which would have an impact on the economy, extreme weather events, biodiversity and health.

The Our Climate and Atmosphere report, released by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand on Thursday, details issues related to climate change and how they impact the country.

The report concluded the effects of a warming climate were already apparent in a range of ways, while our own contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions had increased.

Temperature data showed New Zealand's annual average temperatures had increased 1 degree since 1906, which was likely to increase more quickly under current emissions trends.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

New Zealand glaciers have shrunk by almost 20 cubic kilometres in the last 36 years.
According to the Ministry for the Environment, glacier ice volumes in 1978 were above 50 cubic km.
In 2014, it dropped to slightly more than 35 cubic km.

University of Otago department of geography lecturer in hydrology Sarah Mager said last year that ice loss observed at the famous Tasman Glacier was likely a natural readjustment to climate changes.

Melting ice had formed a terminal lake.

The glacier was losing more ice volume than was being naturally replaced through snowfall and ice accumulation, Mager said.

The terminal lake is now 7 kilometres long and deeper than Lake Pukaki due to the glacier's ice loss, and was expected to grow much larger.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Return of 'ocean chimney' the size of Tasmania puzzles Antarctic scientists

Known as the Weddell Sea or Maud Rise Polynya, the ice-free zone appeared in September and has grown to as large as 80,000 square kilometres, according to the University of Toronto.

Polynyas, defined as a stretch of open water surrounded by ice, are frequently found in the Arctic and Antarctica, usually near the coast. They rarely reach the extent now seen in middle of the pack ice.

"Something has changed" to bring the polynya back, Kent Moore, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto, said. "But we are not quite sure what that trigger was," he said.

A much smaller polynya opened up in the same Maud Rise region last year for a couple of weeks. Before that, the previous such event there was in the mid-1970s, with the polynya lasting three years and swelling to as much as five times the current size, Moore said.