Things are heating up

Daniel Hutchinson
From The Hutch

I always chuckle a little bit when I remember the fuss that was made over the beginning of the new millennium - January 1, 2000.

I was living in Rarangi at the time, on the East Coast at the top of the South Island.

The locals were adamant that our giant mountain – Tapuae-O-Uenuku would catch the first rays of sunlight in the new Millenium. Its 2885 metre peak would be bathed in light as a beacon to the rest of  the world.

Of course the people of Gisborne had other ideas. Everyone knows the East Cape gets the sun first.

The whole thing took a crazy twist when Tonga changed its time zone and then Kiribati moved the international dateline to be the first to see the new Millennium.

But that didn’t stop the folk of Marlborough from positioning a large rock near the beach at Rarangi with two holes measured and precisely drilled through the rock to line up with the rising sun and the peak of Tapuae-O-Uenuku.

When dawn broke on the special day, it was cloudy and drizzly and the sun was nowhere to be seen.

The computers were still humming and the world continued spinning. I’m not sure who saw the sun first that day, but it wasn’t me.

Warning light

However, I was one of the first to see the sun setting on 2019 and that was far more dramatic and ominous than anything the new millennium threw at us.

When the sun set for the last time in 2019 it was a bright red orb behind thin, crazy wisps of colourful cloud.

Bush fire sunsets and barbecues on the deck will be my enduring memories of the summer that marked the turn of  the decade.

Now, traditionally I’ve always been a bit of a sceptic about most things and not in the least bit superstitious or prone to worrying about things I can’t control.

But 2020 feels different. It feels like a time of action and its very name suggests perfect vision and seeing things clearly.

Whether human industry has contributed to the Australian bush fires or not is a moot point really. At the very least it is a glimpse at what happens when the temperatures rise and the rain stays away and we should expect and plan for more events like this, perhaps even closer to home.

Facing the facts

Climate change and global warming is a proven fact now. All of the peer reviewed research agrees on this. Those still harbouring doubts should probably head back to school, or at least Google.

It really is something that everyone should at least have a basic understanding of.

Half the problem is that it just sounds an impossible thing to fix and trying to convince all the big industrial nations to change their ways is impossible. The mighty dollar rules, we are all pretty comfortable with our lot and any threat to that way of life is met with scepticism and resistance

Also, most people haven’t really considered the implications of a changing climate. If you think reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a bit of a pain, then you’re in for a surprise.

Being a little country setting a big example is, frankly, a bit of a red herring.

Other countries don’t give a rat’s derriere what we do.

Planting lots of trees is all well and good too but if things are going to get hotter and drier, then that is not a fool proof plan. Plantation forests are actually  quite flammable and notoriously difficult  to extinguish.

Super heated solution

Climate change actually presents a massive opportunity for a country of innovators and the oil won’t last for ever anyway, so why not push fast forward on the change.

Even now, most of our energy comes from renewable energy sources, mainly hydro and geothermal.

We have limited oil and gas supplies but our access to free energy makes us the Saudi Arabia of the South Pacific when it comes to post-oil energy sources.

If you are a cup-half-full kind of person you might say we are tremendously lucky to be sitting on a thin crust of earth that separates us from boiling, super-heated liquids.

In the nearby Taupo Volcanic Zone - that stretches from just south of Lake Taupo to Kawerau – projects are underway to explore ways to harness supercritical geothermal water. That’s water heated by the earth to hundreds of degrees above boiling point. The energy potential there is enough to power the world, if only we could get it out.

Projects are also underway in this zone to use standard geothermal energy to create hydrogen – a ready alternative to oil-based fuels but one that requires a large amount of energy to achieve.

So it’s not all doom and gloom on the climate front and as long as the warring oil-dependent and oil supplying nations don’t spoil it all first, I’m still hopeful of a solution to all of this.

Otherwise that big rock on the coast is going to be an island and a monument to looking in the wrong direction.


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