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A road map for curbing carbon

A road map for curbing carbon

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)'sWorking Group 3 report on greenhouse gas mitigation was finalised in Berlin on Sunday.

According to the Working Group III contribution to the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, it would be possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behaviour, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, only major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global
warming will not exceed this threshold.

Scenarios show that to have a likely chance of limiting the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius would require lowering global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent compared with 2010 by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century. Ambitious mitigation may even require removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The authors outline the research showing that stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere requires rapid emissions reductions from energy production and use, transport, buildings, industry, land use, and human settlements.

The final IPCC report from Working Group III follows the earlier work of Working Group I, The Physical Science Basis released in September 2013 and Working Group II, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, released just two weeks ago.

Scientists contacted by the SMC reiterated the call for action laid out in the IPCC report:

Prof Ralph Sims from Massey University, a lead author of IPCC AR5 WG3 report, comments:

"New Zealand has set a modest target to reduce our total greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent below the 1990 gross emission level in just six years time..."

"The various means of achieving this are clearly outlined in the IPCC Mitigation report. They relate to buildings, transport, industry, energy supplies, food production and processing, and forests, all of which can lead to the better "green economy" recently outlined in aNew Zealand Royal Society report. Many of these solutions also provide major additional benefits such as less air pollution, better health, reduced traffic congestion, more employment and they actually save money."

Prof Susan Krumdieck, Dept of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury comments:

"The safe loading limit for extraction of of fossil carbon locked up in the earth's crust for over 100 million years and converting it into CO2 gas has been exceeded and the climate has changed. These changes are measurable and consistent with modelling. ...

"There aren't any responsible leaders, competent engineers, or sensible people who would suggest we should exceed safety limits. Who in the world would say that as a matter of convenience, we should push essential systems to collapse?"

Prof Bob Lloyd, Director of Energy Studies, Physics Department, University of Otago, comments:

"There is no way that mitigation can be effective unless we get buy-in by all countries of the world. The atmosphere does not care if the emissions come from New Zealand or India or any other specific nation."

You can read extensive further commentary from IPCC authors and independent experts from around the globe on the SMC website.
Last chance to apply for our
Wellington SAVVY workshop!

Applications close Wed 23 April

Taking stock of NZ's Emissions
Just days before the launch of the third and final IPCC report, the Ministry for the Environment released it annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (1990-2012).

The inventory, which details the country's total emissions, is produced each year as part of New Zealand's obligations under theUnited Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol.

In 2012, total greenhouse gas emissions were 25% higher than 1990 levels.

The four emission sources that contributed the most to this increase in total emissions were dairy enteric fermentation, road transport, agricultural soils, and consumption of hydrofluorcarbons.

The inventory shows that over the first Kyoto commitment period (2008-2012) New Zealand emissions totalled just over 370 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. When carbon sequestration from forestry was deducted from the emissions tally, New Zealand managed to meet its first Kyoto Target of coming in below 309.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for the five year period.

The SMC contacted experts for comment:
Professor Martin Manning, Climate Change Research Institute Victoria University of Wellington, comments:

"The Ministry for the Environment 2014 report is making it quite clear that, while New Zealand is meeting its requirements under the Kyoto Protocol, we are not reducing our greenhouse gas emissions as required globally to keep warming below 2°C.

Professor Euan Mason, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury comments:

"We met our target for the first Kyoto commitment period between 2008 and 2012, but that was a very soft target; to set our net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to what our gross emissions were in 1990. Had we been required to reduce our net emissions to 1990 net emissions or our gross emissions to 1990 gross emissions then we would have failed by a very large margin."

You can read more expert commentary on the SMC website.

On the science radar this week...

Lab grown throat tissue, spider swallowing, flesh eating bacteria, the hand-washing police and theBlood Moon.

Ruataniwha irrigation dam decision
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted resource consent to a proposed irrigation dam that will be the largest built in New Zealand for over 20 years.

The Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme, led by the Hawkes Bay Regional Council, proposes construction of a major irrigation dam in the Tukituki River catchment.

Extensive modelling and environmental impact assessments carried out by the Council and its contractors arrived at the conclusion that impact on water quality downstream would be minimal, despite agricultural intensification in the region made possible by the scheme.

Critics, including freshwater scientists, disputed this conclusion and alleged that legitimate scientific concerns about the project had been suppressed.

The draft decision, released yesterday, makes consent for the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme subject to conditions, including dual-nutrient limits, minimum flow and farm and stock management requirements.

The Science Media Centre rounded up expert reaction to the announcement.

Professor Angus McIntosh, School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, comments:

"The Board of Inquiry's draft decision on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal offers a mixed bag for aquatic ecosystems, but overall there is cause for optimism.

"The blockage to migratory fish caused by the dam will likely see some migratory native fish species lost from the upper catchment. Given the highly threatened nature of New Zealand's native fish fauna, this is a serious further blow.

"On the other hand, the Board has opted for an enlightened approach to water quality management."

"...Overall, the Board's adoption of sound scientific reasoning for setting water quality limits is reassuring, and I note the Board expects high-performing farmers to still do well under their proposed regime."

Read full commentary on the SMC website.

Quoted: The Press

"Living in a community damaged and disrupted by disaster triggers a range of stress reactions within the body and the brain. ... High adrenaline means you are narrowly focused on the present and the next moment. ... We have to make simple, quick decisions. As a result, we become quick to judge."

Dr Rob Gordan,
Australian disaster psychologist visiting Christchurch this week
Policy news and developments

Environmental reporting: The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has publicised her submission on environmental reporting.

Farming fund: Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) has announced almost $10m in funding for research covering a range of issues from water quality to climate change.
Maori-led science: Up to $5 million will be invested in developing the science and innovation potential of Māori people, resources, and knowledge as part of MBIE's Vision Matauranga fund.

Food safety: The government has called for expressions of interest for a new national food safety research centre to be established later this year, in the wake of the whey protein botulism scare.
New From the SMC

Experts Respond:

IPCC report: Experts from around the globe comment on the last of the IPCC's three climate reports, which focuses on mitigation.

Ruataniwha: A freshwater scientist comments on the proposed irrigation dam in the Hawke's Bay region.

Reflections on Science:

Beards: The authors of research in to the attractiveness of beards write about their study on the Conversation website.

Sciblogs highlights

Some of the highlights from this week's Sciblogs posts:

Defecating dogs do it with direction - Canine excrement is not the most alluring of research subjects, but it may point to a greater understanding of the world around us, writes Victoria Metcalf.
Ice Doctor
Nuclear manoeuvres - Is the world moving toward a nuclear power renaissance? Robert Hickson looks a trend gaining critical mass.

Hearing memories fade, but the visual ones linger - listen up and look at Christine Jasoni's examination of how we remember different forms of information.
The Nervy Nomad
Oh Hell - Chest pains get John Pickering a first hand experince of hospital based research on heart attacks.
Kidney Punch

How do you approve a course for something known not to work? As part of Homeopathy Awareness Week Grant Jacobs picks apart the NZQA qualifications for prescribing basically just water.
Code for Life

Handy media desk guide for scientists
The Science Media Centre is proud to present Desk Guide for Scientists: Working with Media, a 28 page booklet packed with tips and tools for scientists keen to work with the media to communicate their science.

Helping journalists do a better job of covering science is at the core of what we do. But we have found that the key to quality media reporting on science is the ability of scientists to communicate effectively.

From preparing your messages and working with your comms team to engaging in social media and blogging, the Desk Guide lays out what our experience shows work. The Desk Guide features input from New Zealand's leading science communicators, journalists and communications experts.

Read a digital copy of the Desk Guide here or order some free copies to share with your colleagues.

Research highlights
Some of the research papers making headlines this week.

Maternal BMI linked to stillbirth: Higher maternal body mass index (BMI) before or in early pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of fetal and infant death, with women who are severely obese having the greatest risk of these outcomes from their pregnancy, according to a new meta-analysis of 38 studies over 35,000 fetal deaths, stillbirths, perinatal deaths, neonatal deaths and infant deaths.

First depression, now ketamine proves useful in treating PTSD: Following recent research that suggested ketamine, the party drug and horse tranquilliser, is useful for treating depression, a new large-scale study suggests it's also effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
JAMA Psychiatry
Rhythm and complexity - a groovy mix: Rhythmic drum patterns with a balance of rhythmic predictability and complexity may influence our desire to dance and enjoy the music, according to a new study. Researchers found that people were more inclined to want to dance to music with a thumping beat and a little randomness (e.g. hip-hop or funk music), but may feel less desire to dance when listening to a highly unpredictable type of music, like free jazz.

The tragedy of the hipster: People consider facial hair more attractive if it's a rarity - too many beards and they stop being as appealing, say Aussie researchers. The team found the same is true for being clean shaven - it's considered more attractive when everyone else has a beard. However, overall, beards and stubble were considered more attractive than a clean shaven face.
Biology Letters

Upcoming sci-tech events
For these and more upcoming events, and more details about them, visit the SMC's Events Calendar.
14th Annual Otago Genomics Meeting - 17 April, Dunedin.
Entomological Society of NZ conference - 22-24 April, Queenstown.
Beyond the Horizon - Antarctica and the Southern Ocean 2065 - Martha T. Muse colloquium - 22 April, Queenstown.


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