“It’s official – 2050 is the point of no return for climate change,” according to Emeritus Professor Jim Flynn. Professor Flynn was speaking at an open lecture on climate change as part of the Alliance Party conference in Christchurch yesterday. Professor Flynn, who has been researching climate change for an upcoming book, painted a bleak picture. We need to get to zero emissions as soon as possible to avoid sea level rises as high as 12 metres by 2100, dwindling water resources, and an ever-increasing amount of non arable land.
Every year we are decarbonizing by 1.3%. But global production is increasing by 3.5%, so we are losing the battle. Clearly attempts at international agreements with voluntary targets such as the Kyoto Protocol are not working. Most proposals require a reduction in lifestyle or preventing those with low carbon lifestyles in developing countries from achieving the same level of affluence as western countries. Both are politically unpalatable.
Initiatives such as reducing and recycling waste, double glazing, and home insulation are all good, but will not get us to carbon neutrality soon enough.
We would need to erect an estimated 100 windmills a day between now and 2050 to make any impact. Fossil fuel reserves will not run out early enough to prevent major climate change. And we can forget about carbon credits. The levels of credits are too low. Levels would have to be raised to draconian heights to have any effect on carbon emissions.
We need to make fossil fuels obsolete and reduce ocean pollution as soon as possible.
New Zealand is a small country and climate change can only be prevented by a concerted global effort, but Professor Flynn believes New Zealand could become an important role model.
New Zealand should champion rainforest retention. We could lead by example to prevent further destructions of rainforests by offering compensation to countries to leave their rainforests intact and in public ownership, and lobbying for other developed countries to do the same. International agreements to this effect have largely been reneged on to date.
New Zealand should move immediately to subsidize fertilizers that do not contain phosphates and nitrates, for example biochar, to reduce aquatic pollution and damage to aquatic life.
New Zealand should support independent research into clean energy solutions such as hydrogen fusion and osmotic power. Professor Flynn hypothesises that osmotic power plants could potentially replace all of the coal powered plants. We could also support independent research into the climate engineering technique of using ocean spray to lighten clouds. This would buy time to reduce carbon emissions.
Such measures are expensive but they will create jobs, improve our image internationally, and in the long run be a lot cheaper than dealing with the effects of climate change such as frequent catastrophic climate events or relocating large tracts of coastal cities. There will be no place to hide.