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‘Sustainability is wishful thinking’: get ready for the energy downshift

Green promises: EV charging stations are appearing in suburban streets. But will the economics actually stack up?
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Green promises: EV charging stations are appearing in suburban streets. But will the economics actually stack up?

The problem with “sustainability” is its implication that economic growth can still continue on blithely in a world of zero carbon and a green energy transition. But expect a rude shock. JOHN McCRONE reports.

When I arrive for the interview, Professor Susan Krumdieck is busy clearing out her office.

A mechanical engineer at the University of Canterbury for some 20 years, Krumdieck is upping sticks and heading off to run an energy transition project in Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

Covid permitting, of course. “They’re all still in lockdown over there,” she says.

My question seemed simple enough. Is New Zealand finally getting serious about sustainability?

There seem positive signs, I suggest.

After years of mucking about with emissions trading schemes and other half-hearted curbs on climate change, the Government now appears to be building a national energy transition strategy.

The vow to be carbon-neutral by 2050 has been cemented into legislation. Change is going to be enforced through new institutional mechanisms like the Climate Change Commission.

There are agreed sub-goals, such as the commitment to be 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035.

It all sounds like a plan – a roadmap to a better future.

Krumdieck answers by hauling out a wad of old yellowing magazines from a packing box. Decades of saved articles warning humanity of impending environmental disaster and resource woes.

Already she intends to set me straight.

“Well I’m cleaning out and I’ve been finding roadmaps. Like piles of them,” she chuckles wryly.

University of Canterbury’s Susan Krumdieck: We need to head back to the 1950s in terms of our energy use.
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University of Canterbury’s Susan Krumdieck: We need to head back to the 1950s in terms of our energy use.

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