ESCI 201 – Climate Change and NZ’s Future
Each year I present a lecture and tutorial at Victoria University of Wellington, showing how New Zealand can totally replace fossil liquid fuels with climate-neutral alternatives, without inconveniencing New Zealand motorists. This is part of a three-week undergraduate course covering all aspects of climate change.
My lecture draws upon the research behind From Smoke to Mirrors. Since the book came out, some of my predictions have come true. I’m more convinced than ever that climate-neutral fuel will be at least as affordable in the late 21st century as conventional fuels are today. And, if we do the right things in the very near future, New Zealand can certainly have the world’s cheapest climate-neutral petrol, diesel, and jet fuel.
Since 2016 the course notes reflect the new thinking behind the 2015 Paris Agreement, together with early results from my DriveSolar vision.
Click here to download the 2017 course notes
And here you can download some discussion notes for the tutorial.
Climate-Neutral Electricity for New Zealand
I've long suspected that climate-neutralising New Zealand's electricity supply shouldn't be too hard. The naysayers reckon we'll have trouble satisfying peak demand. That shows a lack of imagination.
A February 2013 analysis by three Canterbury-based engineers shows the way. Ian Mason and his colleagues crunched the numbers. Peak generating capacity won't be a problem.
Their presentation clearly shows that New Zealand can build a fully climate-neutral power grid using existing well-proven technology. Download their presentation, Transitioning to a 100% renewable electricity system for New Zealand.
The Global Prognosis
Climate science shows a clear need to completely eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. In 2012 I analysed the global liquid fuel situation.
As with my local analysis (From Smoke to Mirrors), I focussed on worst case (or "marginal") fuel prices. I looked only at technologies that are capable of satisfying global demand, with good EROI.
Taking a holistic view of the world economy, I found that climate-neutral petrol, diesel, and jet fuel in 2080 will be at least as affordable as conventional fuels are today. The important technologies are described in From Smoke to Mirrors. New Zealand's biggest and best opportunity is bioenergy. Most foreign countries will exploit a different mix of resources.
My global DriveSolar vision shows how crude oil in the future can be carbon-negative. The more you drive, the more you cool the climate. More importantly, carbon-negative crude oil production has the potential to stablise global sea levels.
DriveSolar is a work in progress. I've posted a rough description here, together with some relevant posts from my mothballed blog, Techogeny. (This really is a rough draft so please don't hesitate to email me if you have any questions.) [UPDATE, 21Jan 2017: The drivesolar paper now includes the arithmetic behind my assertion that it is possible to calculate a sustainable rate of methane and nitrous oxide emissions (Appendix 3).]
If you’ve taken ESCI201 and you have any questions about my lecture, email me at
Download a sample of From Smoke to Mirrors and find out why New Zealand's climate-neutral petrol, diesel, and jet fuel in 2040 will be as afforable as conventional fuels are today.
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