Drs Andy Reisinger and Judy Lawrence present: The latest climate change assessments: What do they mean for our communities?
Monday 16 June 2 – 3 pm at Otago University Burns 2 Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, Dunedin Campus
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its Fifth Assessment reports on the science, the impacts, adaptaion and vulnerability, and mitigation. Andy Reisinger, co-ordinating lead author of the Working Group II Australasia chapter and Judy Lawrence, NZ Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University, Wellington, will talk about what these new reports mean for us all.
Professor Bob Lloyd is the Director of Energy Studies in the University of Otago’s Physics Department. In this clip he challenges Anadarko’s ship the Noble Bob Douglas as it arrives to a deep-sea-drilling site off the coast of Otago. Professor Bob Lloyd is a world-class leader in the academic community who investigates the science of climate change. Here he stresses the urgency to stop the expansion of marginal fossil fuels, and why community leaders, like himself, are stepping up and saying “enough is enough”.
“Tōrea Scott-Fyffe, local Dunedin youth, challenges Anadarko’s Exploratory Drill Shop the Noble Bob Douglas as they arrive at the deep-sea-drilling site off the coast of Otago. Tōrea represents the next generations who demand a liveable future, which is part an clean-energy industry that provides more jobs globally and does not contribute to irreversible climate change.”
(Video 1 of 5 by Richard Simkins)
Is the “Aberdeen of the South” an idea past its time?
Guest post by Professor Colin Campbell-Hunt
There are very many of us in Dunedin who will want to welcome Shell and the promise of economic activity that exploration brings. If I were to look ahead only 10 years I might be one. But I have learned a thing or two about oil and gas in the last few years that would urge caution. This is an industry that only has a decade or so of growth left, so if we want our city to invest in infrastructure for industries that will secure our prosperity for the future, oil and gas exploration should be well down the list. Here’s why.
First, even the short-term benefits may be much less than we might think. A 2012 study by the economic consultancy BERL concludes that the prime contractor for engineering and construction would be a large offshore-based multinational. Some sub-contracting work may come to local New Zealand firms, but BERL concludes that few New Zealand companies outside of Taranaki have the expertise required to win contracts for the work.
Second, the same BERL study concludes that the number of sustained jobs created for the local economy would settle at around 200 following a spurt of up to 1,000 jobs during a three-year development phase. It is unlikely that the oil or gas produced would come ashore; more likely it would be shipped directly from a sea-based platform.
So far, the project looks to make reasonable sense, both for Shell, and for Dunedin. But look out beyond 2020 and the horizon looks a lot darker for the oil industry.
The third – and far more serious concern – arises from the effect on the planet’s climate of burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Climate modellers at the Potsdam Institute in Germany estimate that if we put another 500 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere beyond 2013 levels, we would face a one-in-four chance of the planet warming by more than 2C. And if we were to increase that to 1,000 billion tonnes, the chances rise to 50:50.
So how much CO2 is there for us to burn? A 2013 study by the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics reports that the world’s current proven reserves already contain between 3 and 6 times more CO2 than we could safely throw into the skies. Corporate oil alone has more than enough reserves to blow out the 500 billion tonne budget.
Why does the 2C limit matter? Beyond 2C, science warns that we open ourselves to the possibility of runaway climate change wreaking serious havoc to the world’s population, economy, food supply and political stability. These are not the wild imaginings of prophets of doom who would urge us to climb up a hill somewhere and wait for the world to end. These are level-headed assessment of risks that the human (and non-human) populations of earth are facing right now.
So where is this going to leave the oil industry? At the present rate of emissions, we will hit the 500 billion tonne warning sign in just ten years. If we wanted to keep our chances of avoiding more radical change to just 1-in-4, that would have to be the end of CO2 emissions – not another tonne, ever. Of course that is not going to happen. We are riding on a super tanker that is going to take years to bring to a halt, and this is something that is increasingly accepted – with dismay – by the people who follow these trends. The fact that the oil industry is willing to invest in exploration for new sources of hydrocarbon when we already have far more than we should ever burn tells us that they don’t believe the political will to change our ways will stiffen up any time soon. Which in turn tells us that we, the voters, want to keep our good life for as long as we can too.
But spool forward 10 years, or twenty. The pressures of climate change are only going to get stronger; the realisation of the risks we are running can only get firmer; the prospect of controls being placed on the burning of CO2 can only get greater. A far-offshore gas field is expected to have a life of 35 years. If we are beginning to understand the dangers of climate change now in 2014, we can be very sure they will have radically changed the rules for the oil industry by 2060.
So should Dunedin hitch its economic wagon to this dying industry? Should we be building the public infrastructures to support an industry that has such a poor long-term future? Should we be anxious to attract a business that might deliver 1,000 jobs for three years, then only a quarter of that for however many years it takes before expensive deep sea gas wells get shut down – if indeed they are ever put into production?
There has to be a better way. Developing assets – both physical and human – for the city’s infrastructure to be ready for a low-carbon economy and low-carbon lifestyles will give us a far greater chance of delivering benefit over their productive life than any investments we may be tempted to devote to a dying oil industry.
Colin Campbell-Hunt is a Professor in the University of Otago Business School and has written widely on New Zealand’s competitiveness.
What kid doesn’t love dinosaurs? A big black dinosaur truck parks in the centre of town and smiling young people offer free bottled water and sign you up for some fun stuff.
You get your own ID card, swipe it at each display and are welcomed personally to learn about science. How exciting to learn that the exhaust fumes coming out of dad’s car used to be a dinosaur.
Only they didn’t. And it’s not science.
Fossil fuels were not formed from dinosaurs and most of the fossil fuels in the Taranaki region, where this truck has been touring, were laid down in the Cenozoic period after dinosaurs became extinct around 65 million years ago. Taranaki’s oil and gas is produced from decayed plant material, not dinosaur carcasses.
There is some science in the truck and some of the exhibits, along with the truck itself, are hired from the National Science-Technology Roadshow Trust, which New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) sponsors to the tune of $50,000 a year and which has been travelling around New Zealand schools since 1990.
To any unsuspecting parent – and to the kids – it looks like the same old National Science-Technology Roadshow, but when I visited the “What Lives Down Under?” show in Wanganui, NZOG’s external relations manager John Pagani explained that this roadshow is a joint effort by NZOG, Canada’s TAG Oil and Australian company Beach Energy.
About 900 Wanganui kids visited the truck, and the roadshow is visiting Taranaki schools.
Each display emphasised our need for oil and gas and how safe it is, reinforced with images of sleek, shiny cars, expensive boats and planes. My impression of the displays was that they were done by marketing people, not scientists.
For example, the seismic testing display used a cute picture of a bat to explain the sonar technology. There was no mention, or aural examples, of the seismic explosions that have been shown to harm marine life.
There was a lot missing from NZOG, TAG Oil and Beach Energy’s version of “science”, notably any mention of climate change and the effect on the climate of exploring for and burning more oil and gas.
Why tour Wanganui and South Taranaki? Next year the companies will be drilling an exploratory well, Kaheru, 12km off Patea at a water depth of 20-30m in a previously unexplored part of the South Taranaki Bight just north of Wanganui.
The industry knows it hasn’t always managed its external relations well and this, Mr Pagani said, was a way of “trying to start a conversation”.
Why target children? Why not have a public meeting and explain to the adults what you’re planning? He said public meetings didn’t bring people in, while a roadshow would. It brings the parents, too, and staff were there to answer questions.
A young employee in the truck said she had been a bit concerned about the industry targeting children, but her boss thought public meetings disruptive, so they were going for something positive. Does being positive allow you to alter scientific facts?
It takes roughly six to 10 years for a newly-discovered oil or gas field, like Kaheru, to reach full production and, depending on its size, production might last a further 40 years. By then, around mid-century, most of the children at the roadshow will be taxpaying adults and parents.
By then – according to 97 per cent of the world’s climate scientists – we need to have stopped burning CO2.
If we are to take the science seriously, most of the assets on the oil and gas companies’ balance sheets must remain unburned. Only then, scientists say, is there a chance of preserving a habitable future climate.
Mr Pagani said he does not think it fair, all this talk about the destruction of our children’s future. He thinks there is a wonderful future ahead for them.
I agree but it has to be founded on a truthful understanding of climate science, and on the essential but short-term role of his industry as we transition to a low-carbon future.
As long as Mr Pagani and industry investors continue to push – even to kids – their version of a future more related to increasing profit than reality, there is little hope.
Rosemary Penwarden is a Dunedin grandmother, freelance writer and member of Oil Free Otago.
by Rev Dr Peter Matheson
you believe? Anadarko, the Government, have all the power. But do you believe them? Can
you trust them with the lives of our children and children’s children? That is the question
wake up, and engage with this debate. We’re not asking you to believe us, but to look at the
of us on the Tiama and the Erehwon is that you ask our leaders, with life and death urgency,
to think again.
At 8:00 this evening, the Oil Free Otago Flotilla came face to face with Anadarko’s drillship, the Noble Bob Douglas. The yachts of the flotilla occupied the site where the Noble Bob Douglas intends to drill its exploratory well. Via radio, the Otago community leaders on board SV Tiama, voiced their opposition to the drilling plans to the captain of the drillship as it approached. The spokespeople represented a range of different groups within the Otago community. Each person spoke to their area of expertise, ranging from climate change to concerns for fisheries, but all came together to share a common message – Stop deep sea drilling off our coast.
“My responsibility as Kaitiaki is to protect and enhance our Taonga. It’s not just about now, it’s about the future,” said Brendan Flack, Tangata Tiaki.
Rev Dr Peter Matheson told the captain of the ship, “Anadarko’s actions are criminally irresponsible, and, from my religious perspective, structurally sinful. There will be no blessing upon them.”Professor of physics, Bob Lloyd, addressed the issue of climate change, and stressed that “we simply cannot go after unconventional fossil fuels, such as deep sea oil and gas, if we are to stay below the 2 degree warming limit.”. Torea Scott-Fyfe represented the youth in her call for Anadarko to abandon their drilling plans “to allow us to have a liveable future.”
The flotilla now intends to return back to Otago to bring their fight back to land. “This fight is not over. No matter how many closed-door meetings you have, or how far out to sea you go, we will be there every step of the way to oppose deep sea drilling,” said Niamh O’Flynn, spokesperson for Oil Free Otago.
Photos and Video from the flotilla coming soon.