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The situation is gloomy – but we can make the world better

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November 5 is Blue & Green Tomorrow’s third birthday. Our first editor, David Tebbutt, reflects on two publications, separated by four decades, that offer contrasting takes on the future of the planet.

In 1972, I bought a book called The Spoilt Earth. It told how mankind’s ascendance was destroying the planet’s ability to support life.

It revealed a touching faith in “nature’s plans” which, at that more spiritual time, was probably accepted without question by many, if not most, of its readers.

It claimed that, at 3.5 billion souls, “This is already more than the planet can support.” I wonder what the author would make of the over seven billion people living on the planet right now? We aren’t very good at predictions and whatever numbers we come up with today, they’re going to be shown as nonsense 40 years hence. (According to National Geographic’s excellent EarthPulse site, we have increased food production by 170% since then.)

However, the dangers the book addresses are as relevant today as they were then. We still pollute the land we live on, the sources of the water we drink and the air we breathe. We also emit radiation and upset the upper atmosphere by burning jet fuel.

Although the author mentioned this, he wasn’t sure how serious it was and asked, “But should we take the chance?” His solution, presumably, would be to stop making jet aeroplanes.

Since the book was written, we discovered and repaired the hole in the ozone layer. We also discovered the warming effect of greenhouse gases and are trying to address it. We also discovered new sources of fossil fuel and rediscovered the power of the wind, the sun and the tides. The well-known downside of more fossil fuel is further emissions.

Although fracking could release a lot of gas, can you really believe that we’d switch from coal to gas on ideological or environmental grounds? If history is anything to go by, we’re more likely to flog it to the highest bidder and give the rewards to the fracking companies. Or flog the coal, so that gets burnt elsewhere.

Whichever way you look at it, the chance of UK Ltd helping its citizens to a better future is close to zero. And, from a global perspective, emissions will continue to rise.

The 2013 Zero Carbon Britain report warns that we will have to do something about population growth and use fields for crops rather than feeding livestock, and all that implies for our diet. It also suggests that we use spare electricity from wind farms and the like to turn water into hydrogen and oxygen, then blend the hydrogen with biomass to create synthetic oil and gas. The net result should be no additional pollution and a means to keep the electricity flowing when the wind isn’t and to keep aeroplanes aloft. The report is a long, but thought-provoking, read.

The 1972 Spoilt Earth book was somewhat doomy and gloomy. By contrast, the Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) report is more upbeat, although it is big on ‘fairness’ – something many of us pay lip service to, but secretly sideline.

Although it doesn’t use these words, it suggests that the ‘polluter pays’ principle is unfair. We should all be responsible for the emissions caused during the manufacture and delivery to the UK of our purchases. China, for example, pollutes the atmosphere on our behalf. Any claims we make for improved UK emissions will be grossly understated through this sleight of hand. We’ve just been exporting them.

The ZCB report tries to take a positive view of what is achievable with the tools available to us today. Given man’s inventiveness, we could make the world even better than it suggests. Maybe we could start to repair our world and undo a lot of the damage we’ve done, in the interests of a more sustainable future for ourselves and our descendants.

This will come more easily to young people who have less to lose and more to live for. Older people strived for years to improve their lives. They moved from bikes to cars, from holidays in Clacton to the Caribbean, from tripe and onions to tournedos and celeriac…

This has been a natural progression, certainly in the developed world, and now other countries want what we have. And who can blame them? Many surveys show that we are less happy as a result. But, at the moment, consumption is still the engine of our economy. We (or is it just our politicians?) have become addicted to growth.

It seems to me that Blue & Green Tomorrow could start some lively online debates about the issues raised here and in the reports mentioned. What do you think?

David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who was the first editor of Blue & Green Tomorrow.

Further reading:

Climate change: the time has come to become unreasonable

The climate clock is ticking. Normal isn’t working. What should we do differently?

We need more people with complete sustainability literacy

Climate change? Let’s talk about…

From austerity to scarcity: the coming global crisis

Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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