Climate Change: What New Zealanders have to change and when

Like it or not, climate change is going to drive significant changes with energy use, transport, travel and food. In other words, to the way we live.

Newshub – Climate Change: What New Zealanders have to change and when

Newshub Nation explores what will be different about how we get our energy, how we get around, how we shop, how we travel and what we eat.

Energy:

The Government has set a target of being 100 percent renewable by 2035. Currently, 82 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources – mainly hydropower.

“We’ve obviously got lots of wood lying around and the problems we had in Tolaga Bay – you can imagine that would have been much better used as a source of energy if we’d had the supply chain set up,” says James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change.

Another potential solution to the storage problem is using renewable sources to produce hydrogen gas, which acts a bit like a battery.

“Hydrogen plants can make a lot of energy at short notice, and that’s a really key capability that we need to push the last bit of coal and gas off the grid and get to 100 percent renewable,” says Katherine Errington, Helen Clark Foundation executive director.

Transport:

Transport accounts for 19 percent of the country’s emissions, mainly because New Zealanders love their cars.

We imported 319,662 light vehicles in 2018. Of that total, just 5,542 or 1.7 percent were electric or hybrid cars according to the Ministry of Transport.

This needs to change and fast. By 2030, the Productivity Commission says 80 percent of NZ vehicle imports need to be electric and by 2050, nearly every vehicle will need to be electric. As at March 2019, electric vehicles (EVs) made up just 0.3 percent of our fleet.

Drive Electric’s Mark Gilbert says the quickest way to get more EVs into the market would be through adjusting the fringe benefit tax, to incentivise businesses to transition their company fleets.

For trucks, trains, ships and planes, green hydrogen offers a potential climate-friendly solution.

Air Travel:

Aviation is one of the trickiest areas to reduce emissions. It currently produces about 859 million tonnes of carbon each year or around two percent of global emissions. However, by 2050 it is expected to emit more than any other sector.

solution put forward by the UK Climate Commission is having industries like aviation pay to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere. It estimates the cost of this at $20b-$40b in the year 2050, with that cost likely passed on to consumers. This means the price of flights will start to increase from 2035 as emission removals are predicted to scale up.

Shopping:

Online shopping can actually be better for the environment than traditional shopping, because it means people aren’t driving their cars to and from the store.

However, US research found online shopping is only better when consumers choose regular delivery rather than express shipping, which creates nearly 30 percent more emissions.

Food:

This is probably the most controversial area to make changes, but with the world’s food system accounting for nearly a quarter of all emissions it is one of the areas we need to adapt.

In New Zealand, agriculture makes up half of our emissions – mainly from livestock burping methane. This gas breaks down in the atmosphere after 12 years, unlike carbon, which can hang around for hundreds of years. However while it is shorter lived, methane is 25 times stronger than carbon when it comes to warming.

“There are ways to try and reduce methane which are being researched – what you feed the animal on, how you breed the animals to produce less methane,” says Ralph Sims.

“But if we can increase the productivity [e.g. more milk from each cow] then that’s a better alternative than having to reduce stock numbers.”

Sims also says that the potential of vegetable protein is something that New Zealand’s agricultural sector should keep an eye on.

The world may change significantly as a result of climate change.

I think there is no doubt how people live will change significantly regardless. Climate change as well as population, resource depletion and pollution will all at least need to be adapted to, one way or another.

Big food and ‘added value’ crap

Adding manufacturing steps and adding additives – ‘added value’  – is a way of trying to add to sales and profits. This is one of the reasons why we get so much crap in food, and why so much natural food is transformed into unnatural states. Apart from adding to big business profits this also helps add a lot to the weight of people, and poorer people seem to be the biggest victims.

Fast food franchise are amongst the biggest culprits, but retail food also contributes a lot.

The socio economic group most affected looks apparent if you see the physiques and shopping trolley contents prevalent in supermarkets in lower income areas (a non-scientific personal observation).

If you wanted to be really cynical and conspiratorial you could suggest that big pharma was also involved, because the ‘obesity epidemic’ is good for the health care business.

Now the food industry has established their profitable product lines they are under increasing attack, mostly from health academics who want to restrict or tax things like sugar.

Noted: How the food industry adopted the tactics of Big Tobacco

The food industry is adopting Big Tobacco’s tactics by interfering in the nutrition science field, a new book by Marion Nestle reveals.

The author’s name is a bit ironic perhaps.

It’s getting harder to inflict poor health on the population with tobacco, so food is now taking over as the big evil, but unlike tobacco, it’s a bit difficult banning drink and food from bars, restaurants and cafes.

What have Russian hackers and the 2016 US presidential election got to do with nutrition research? The collateral damage of that infamous hacking scandal was a most fortuitous (and super-sized) revelation of how food companies actively interfere in the nutrition science field, says Marion Nestle in her new book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

Along with the electronic messages from Democratic Party officials that were posted on the WikiLeaks website, the hackers (linked to the Russian Government) also stole emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team and posted them on a new website, DC Leaks. In the process, they uncovered a trail of emails between Michael Goltzman, a vice-president of the Coca-Cola Company, and Capricia Marshall, an adviser on Clinton’s campaign who was also doing consulting work for Coca-Cola.

The emails revealed the tactics they used to ensure the company’s business interests were protected from public-health efforts. These included keeping tabs on certain academic researchers, Nestle among them – perhaps not surprisingly, given Nestle, professor emerita of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, previously wrote a book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).

But more surprising were the details of Coca-Cola recruiting dieticians to promote soft drinks on social media and their attempts to pressure and influence reporters and editors of major media outlets such as the Associated Press and Wall Street Journal to prevent publication of any negative stories about their beverages.

The company was also funding university scientists to produce scientific studies that suggested, among other things, that simply walking 7116 steps a day was enough to keep adults in energy balance.

While this study may appear to be basic research on exercise physiology, “it implies that physical activity – and not all that much – is all you need to control your weight, regardless of how much Coca-Cola you drink,” Nestle writes in Unsavory Truth.

Exercise is certainly an important part of staying healthy and not getting too fat, but the type and quality of food is more critical.

“Overall, the hacked emails offer a rare glimpse into how this beverage company, simply in the normal course of doing business, attempted to influence nutritionists, nutrition research, journalists covering this research, and dietary advice to the public.”

Nestle’s book is about more than Coca-Cola, though. The company’s hacked emails are just one public example of how various food, beverage and supplement companies fund nutrition researchers and practitioners, along with their professional associations, with the ultimate goal of boosting sales of their products.

Big business funding research favourable to their business is not new. And it is difficult to control.

For anyone old enough to remember when smoking was allowed in restaurants, pubs and aeroplanes (but only if you were seated in a smoking row on the plane), the similarities between the tobacco industry’s battle and the modern food industry are uncanny.

That’s because industries producing products of questionable health benefit all use a well-worn playbook, Nestle says, that requires “repeated and relentless use” of these strategies:

  • Cast doubt on the science
  • Fund research to produce desired results
  • Offer gifts and consulting arrangements
  • Use front groups
  • Promote self-regulation
  • Promote personal responsibility as the fundamental issue
  • Use the courts to challenge critics and unfavourable regulations.

The tobacco industry’s use of the playbook included the endless repetition of statements, such as, “cigarette smoking is a matter of personal responsibility”, and “government attempts to regulate tobacco are manifestations of a nanny state”, among other things.

Both of which bear an uncanny resemblance to the current line coming from Coca-Cola New Zealand about personal responsibility on a page entitled: Do soft drinks cause obesity? “Like all food and beverages, soft drinks with sugar can be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced lifestyle as long as people don’t consume them to excess.”

It’s easy to say that people should take responsibility for their own health, they should exercise sensibly, and they should be sensible about what type and quantity of food they eat. But it’s not that simple. Marketers, especially food marketers, have become expert at duping gullible people, encouraging them to buy things that are bad for them.

At least people get some exercise still wheeling shopping trolleys laden with sugar drinks and convenience food around the supermarket

Treadmills at the checkout haven’t caught on, but the marketing treadmill is helping ruin many people’s health.

Nestle believes that controlling the inappropriate practices of food companies is the role of government and quotes ethicist Jonathan Marks, “Governments, not corporations, are the guardians of public health … It is time for public health agencies and regulators to ‘struggle’ a little more with corporations, creating structural incentives for healthier and more responsible industry practices, and calling companies to account when they fail to comply.”

Government interference in marketing and in food choices is very contentious – and is unlikely to be particularly effective.

Perhaps we are just witnessing evolution at work, where over-population of a species inevitably leads to self destruction.

 

Meatless future: “We can choose between spinach and kale”

Massey University ecologist Dr Mike Joy (who says he should be called Dr Doom):

“It’s not a choice. We don’t have a choice. We can choose between spinach and kale, but not animals because we will all starve”

The Future of Food Symposium was recently held at the University of Auckland – Newsroom: A future where food is off the menu

The Future of Food Symposium held at the University of Auckland discussed the issues facing future food supply such as a declining amount of fossil fuels and ways we can ensure we can sustainably feed the world’s growing population.

An odd statement, we don’t generally eat fossil fuels.

Joy said New Zealand and the world are in dire straits. He believes the decline of fossil-fuel to make nitrogen fertiliser and population rise are on a collision course.

By the time Earth’s population reaches nine billion in 2050 we will be unable to feed ourselves.

Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser has increased agricultural productivity dramatically. Joy said the world has been on an “amazing binge of fossil fuels for a couple of hundred years”.

“Six billion people are fed through artificial nitrogen, you take that fossil fuel part of it away then you can only support two or three percent of the population using the food system we have at the moment.”

 

 

That’s an extreme drop in food production. I find it a bit hard to believe it would change that drastically.

He said the only way to change a future without enough food for all is to remove animals from our diets.

“Good land should be put into food for humans, rather than food for animals.”

To produce one gram of protein from beef, one square metre of land is required. To get one gram of protein from rice requires just .02 of a square metre of land.

But you get quite different nutrition from beef and rice. Why not cater for both?

Joy believes the era where people have a choice between being a vegetarian or an omnivore is ending.

“It’s not a choice. We don’t have a choice. We can choose between spinach and kale, but not animals because we will all starve,” said Joy.

Other solutions to avoid starvation included growing your own food or accessing community gardens, but these came with their own set of problems.

Does that include growing your own meat? Not in Dr Joy’s future.

However, legislatively ensuring a right to food is one approach to ensure people without a backyard won’t go hungry.

New Zealand is party to various international treaties which include a right to food but does not have domestic legislation explicitly including it.

I applaud Joy’s passion and positing for change, but academics who propose legislation to control what people eat are likely to meet with some resistance.

If the human population keeps increasing the world will struggle to cope with food supply, but only being able to sustain 2-3% of the current population – that’s a drop from 6 bilion to 1-200 million – will be a hard policy to sell.

Food marketing criticism tainted by political slogans

Food marketing which promotes junk food to children is a real problem, but raising the issue with ‘neoliberal’ labels taints the message of Darren Powell, a lecturer in health education at the University of Auckland.

NZ Herald: Needs of children, not Big Food, must win out

It looks as though our Advertising Standards Authority will, once again, fail to adopt a strict code of food advertising to children and young people. This is hardly surprising.

In neoliberal societies such as our own, the wants of the private sector frequently take priority over the needs of citizens, including children. This is especially true for the “Big Food” industry which includes the multinational food and drink producers with massive marketing power.

The marketing of multinationals, especially when it involves the promotion of unhealthy eating, should be addressed, but including vague political slogans doesn’t help Powell’s case. Labelling it a neoliberal problem may please a few political activists but it will turn off ordinary people, and also those with the power to do something about the problem.

The ‘Big Food’ label doesn’t help either, that smacks of us against them.

A raft of public health experts, journalists, researchers and the public blame Big Food products, lobbying and marketing practices for the childhood obesity “crisis”.

Claiming the support of ‘the public’ is a common and lame political practice. Without any substantiation it is poor coming from an academic.

Powell does make some important points.

Although on the surface it looks as if corporations are promoting healthy lifestyles and health products, at the same time they are stealthily creating and profiting from a new market – advertising “health” to children.

An example of how devious and successful fast food companies can be is the association of Ronald MacDonald with child health in Auckland (and nationally).

This is where the narrow focus on “junk” food advertising restrictions is naive, even dangerous: all advertising to children is potentially “unhealthy”.

But it’s totally unrealistic to protect all children for advertising – and futile when it is parents that make diet decisions for their children.

Children are being conditioned to believe attaining good health is as simple as listening to advertising and consuming the right products. This deflects attention from complex and powerful determinants of health, such as genetics, poverty, colonisation and inequality.

Should children be educated on complex determinants of health such as genetics, poverty, colonisation and inequality? Should they have Politics 101 at pre-school?

Through marketing, children’s understanding of health is being altered. It is moving away from traditional and cultural perspectives of well-being and towards a corporate-friendly version of health that emphasises individual consumption.

My traditional and cultural diet, relatively uninfluenced by advertising, was later slammed as unhealthy – too much meat, supposedly bad fats, sugar loaded baking, and even our vegetables were

Rather than being shaped by culture, biological needs or family income, children’s choices are increasingly being guided by mascots, cartoon characters, product placement, free toys, free educational resources, sponsorship, philanthropy, and the promise of a fit, non-fat, socially acceptable body.

Those are important and serious issues.

This must stop – our policymakers must introduce controls that prevent children being advertising targets. And it can be done. Brazil, for example, has made it illegal to market any products to children on the basis that it is equivalent to child abuse.

Unless all food advertising was banned – and this should include useless health supplements, diet fads, exercise fads, and products that cause more problems than they are purported to solve like disinfectants – then it’s an uphill and probably futile battle.

We must challenge the assumption that marketing healthy lifestyles and healthy choices is inherently “healthy” and examine how marketing tactics may actually shape children’s thoughts and actions in unhealthy ways.

Yes, but that should be done with research and fact based information.

Further, we must find better ways to make advertising – of both “healthy” and “unhealthy” products – abnormal and help children to become critical consumers, aware of marketing strategies and stealthy tactics such as sponsorship, product placement and “educational”, “health-promoting” programmes.

No suggestions at all of how that could be done. Ban all advertising? Ban all sponsorship? Implement state enforced diets and state controlled media?

Food (and other) marketing is a real issue, but politically tainted rants will more likely detract from rather than contribute to effective solutions.

Food (and other marketing) and sponsorship is a complex issue that creates difficult to resolve problems.

Powell has raised issues, tainted them with political slogans, and has failed to offer realistic alternatives. He means well but seems to be sheltered by an idealistic academic bubble.

Price changes 1996-2016

An interesting comparison of US price changes over the past twenty years shows that education, health care and child care has risen markedly, food and housing is on a par with inflation and consumer goods are cheaper, some much cheaper.

Economic Forum: The things we really need are getting more expensive. Other stuff is getting cheaper. Why?

Sociologist Joseph Cohen of Queens University is fond of saying that “America is a place where luxuries are cheap and necessities costly.”

A recent chart from economist Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, illustrates this well.

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The one absolute essential – food, is at least staying about the same.

What’s going on here? Perry points out that most of the things falling in price are manufactured goods, and that prices of those goods have been falling for decades as a result of technological improvements and productivity gains.

On the flip side, things like education and medical care can’t be produced in a factory, so those pressures do not apply. Compounding it, many Americans are insulated from the full costs of these services. Private and public insurance companies pay most medical costs, so there tends to be little incentive for individuals to shop around for cheaper medical care.

In the case of higher education, the nation’s massive student loan industry bears much of the upfront burden of rising prices.

“Prices rise when [health care and college] markets are not competitive and not exposed to global competition,” Perry said, “and prices rise when easy credit is available.”

Hence, our current predicament. We can afford the things we don’t need, but we need the things we can’t afford. Whether the 20-year trajectory in the chart above is sustainable is another question entirely.

Education may be similar in New Zealand, but while health care has significant cost pressures it isn’t in the same overpriced mess as in the US.

Food production and climate change

A modelling study published in  The Lancet says that there could be 314 000–736 000 climate related deaths in the world by 2050 due to the effects of climate change on food production.

Global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change: a modelling study

One of the most important consequences of climate change could be its effects on agriculture. Although much research has focused on questions of food security, less has been devoted to assessing the wider health impacts of future changes in agricultural production.

In this modelling study, we estimate excess mortality attributable to agriculturally mediated changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors by cause of death for 155 world regions in the year 2050.

  • The health effects of climate change from changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors could be substantial, and exceed other climate-related health impacts that have been estimated.
  • Climate change mitigation could prevent many climate-related deaths.
  • Strengthening of public health programmes aimed at preventing and treating diet and weight-related risk factors could be a suitable climate change adaptation strategy.

The model projects that by 2050, climate change will lead to per-person reductions of 3·2% (SD 0·4%) in global food availability, 4·0% (0·7%) in fruit and vegetable consumption, and 0·7% (0·1%) in red meat consumption.

These changes will be associated with 529 000 climate-related deaths worldwide (95% CI 314 000–736 000), representing a 28% (95% CI 26–33) reduction in the number of deaths that would be avoided because of changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors between 2010 and 2050.

Twice as many climate-related deaths were associated with reductions in fruit and vegetable consumption than with climate-related increases in the prevalence of underweight, and most climate-related deaths were projected to occur in south and east Asia.

Adoption of climate-stabilisation pathways would reduce the number of climate-related deaths by 29–71%, depending on their stringency.

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This map shows that climate related deaths may reduce in some countries but increase, in some cases substantially, in most countries.

The biggest potential problems are in China, Russia and south east Asia.

New Zealand is shown as being at risk of a moderate increase which is odd, because of the huge amount of food production here over what the country’s consumption requires.

Lower production would mean less exports but enough for us?

But if there are world food shortages then higher demand will mean higher prices for export, making food less affordable in New Zealand.

What the report doesn’t say in it’s summary is what the risks of war due to food shortages could be. That would be difficult to predict and can’t really be modelled.

Citizens denied human rights need to eat

@kirsty_johnston
Screw the flag, can we have a referendum on trading with corrupt countries who fund terrorism and deny their citizens human rights please?

Should we stop meeting with or trading with all countries who are deemed by some group here to have denied human rights?

That could include out major trading partners, China, the US and Australia.

I can understand trading in weapons being a problem, but trading in food must surely be a reasonable thing to do. People who are denied human rights need to eat.

God awful arguments

I’ve seen a lot of god-awful arguments (and godless-awful arguments) on blogs. And I’ve never seen anyone converted or  unconverted.

I’ve just seen this on Facebook:

I know some people will nod and smile in approval and understanding, but I think that that sums up a lot of religious argument – a quaint narrow example being used as some sort of proof of everything.

I remember one thing from bible study at school, we had an hour a week when I was in Form 1. The local vicar told a story that I have never heard of since, but our modern day Google God show’s it’s still out there in different variations:

A man died and St. Peter asked him if he would like to go to heaven or hell. The man asked if he could see both before deciding. St. Peter took him to hell first. There the man saw a big hall containing a long table, laden with many kinds of food. He also saw rows of people with pale, sad faces. They looked pale and there was no laughter. And he observed one more thing: Their hands were tied to four-foot forks and knives and they were trying to get the food from the center of the table to put in their mouths. But they couldn’t.

Then, St. Peter took him to see heaven. There he saw a big hall with a long table, and lots of food. He noticed rows of people on both sides of the table with their hands tied to four-foot forks and knives also. But here people were laughing and were well fed and healthy-looking. They were feeding one another across the table.

Four foot knives and forks seemed a really dumb idea – especially in heaven if such a place existed.

I guess it’s just very hard to explain in words what having faith is like – but they need to try some semi-believable stories.