Climate Change Papers

Engineers for Social Responsibility and the Sustainable Energy Forum are concerned about the consequences of human-induced climate change and global warming and the need for widespread understanding of the facts and underlying science.

Our combined organisations have prepared a series of discussion sheets and further papers will be published soon. Each paper is peer reviewed by top professionals with specialist knowledge about the topic being described.

Papers are presented as PDF files. To download a PDF file, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the relevant downward-pointing arrow at the righthand end of each entry on the list of files. To view each file in your web browser, click on the More hotlink in each of the summaries.

The Papers published to date are as follows:

1. Climate Change and Global Warming Risks and Responses by John La Roche. v1.1

Introduction to the series of Papers.

2. Climate Change – Living in a Warmer World by Dr Jim Salinger v2.2

Planet Earth has experienced large shifts in climate over time. In the depths of the last Ice Age, around 20,000 years ago, average temperatures were about 5°C lower than they are today. It looks now as though global warming is likely to heat up the world between 2 and 6°C by the year 2100.

3. THE CARBON CYCLE - towards becoming carbon neutral by Gerry Te Kapa Coates v4.1

Early chemists believed that organic compounds were fundamentally different because they contained a vital force that was only found in living systems. In fact, the common elements in all organic compounds are hydrogen and carbon.

4. The Importance of Methane by Steve Goldthorpe v5.1

Concern about the emissions of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) that causes Climate Change focuses primarily on carbon dioxide (CO2), which is an unavoidable consequence of burning fossil fuels. However, methane (CH4) is an increasingly important contributor to Climate Change.

5. Climate Change and Primary Industry by Dr David Painter v2.4

The annual carbon dioxide-equivalent of total global emissions is about 49 Gigatonnes [49 thousand million tonnes] using figures from 2010. Of this, ‘Agriculture’ produced about 11% [mostly as methane, but also N2O]. Other ‘Land use’, including carbon dioxide release from forest and peat burning, produced about 10%.

6. New Zealand Energy Security & Climate Change by Ross Rutherford v2.1

This paper sets out the case for taking early and effective action to improve New Zealand’s energy security, and doing so in a manner which minimises New Zealand’s future greenhouse gas emissions. ... More

7. Global Climate Change from a Pacific Islands’ Perspective by Professor John E Hay v1.30

Pacific island countries and people have many, mutually reinforcing perspectives on global climate change. Pacific island countries and territories (PICTs) are minor emitters of greenhouse gases, but they are on the frontline to experience the many, and serious, adverse consequences of the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. ... More

8. Climate Change and Human Health by Dr Hayley Bennett, Dr Scott Metcalfe & Dr Rhys Jones

Human-caused climate change is a serious and urgent threat to human health. Climate change and its environmental manifestations (e.g. warmer temperatures, more heat waves, altered rainfall patterns, more extreme weather such as heavy rainfall events and/or drought, tropical storms, sea-level rise) result in many risks to human health, both direct and indirect, that are recognised by world health authorities and leading medical journals alike. ...More

9. Ethical Issues and Climate Change by Professor Jonathon Boston v1.1

Human–induced climate change is widely regarded as one of the greatest – if not the greatest – moral challenges of the 21st century. Not merely does it raise numerous ethical issues, but many of these are profoundly difficult and take us to the limits of our moral imagination. Moreover, the ethical dilemmas posed by climate change arise at multiple levels – for citizens, scientists, policy makers, organisations, companies, nation states and the international community – and traverse many different areas of moral inquiry. ... More

10. Climate Change - a Psychological Challenge by Niki Harre v3.0

Climate change is a hard problem. To really accept that the climate is being affected by human practices and that it is our collective responsibility to take action, we have to get our head around a series of mental obstacles put in place by our evolutionary history and cultural practices. What are these and what can we do about them? More ...

11. Climate change and health: on the latest IPCC report by Alistair Woodward et al

This article was first published on the Lancet website at S0140-6736(14)60576-6 and is reproduced here by permission.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on March 31, 2014. This report was the second instalment of the Fifth Assessment Report, prepared by Working Group 2, on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change. In this Comment, we, as contributors to the chapter on human health, explain how the IPCC report was prepared and highlight important findings. More...

12. Ocean Acidification: the other CO2 problem by Dr Mary A Sewell v1.1

Ocean acidification (OA) has been described as “global warming’s evil twin” and is considered by many scientists to be one of the greatest environmental challenges to marine organisms in the 21st century. Long-term records have shown a decrease in average ocean pH of 0.1 units since the beginning of the industrial age (from 8.21 to 8.10), and pH is expected to decrease a further 0.3 to 0.4 units by 2100, resulting in seawater that contains 150% more H+ than present. More...

13. Climate Change - New Zealand and International Response by Dr Peter Whitmore. v5.8

Despite the critical need to address climate change, caused primarily by increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, response has been slowed by pressure from vested interests, a focus by some governments on short-term political objectives and the difficulties of reaching effective international agreements. Some countries are already taking effective action though, and the urgent need for others to join them is becoming extremely clear. More...

14. Climate Change Mitigation - rapid change needed to restrict global warming to below 2oC. by Professor Ralph Sims. v4.1

The world's climate is changing, but it remains possible to to slow down the speed and extent of change if all countries, including New Zealand, play their part. Rapidly deploying the many different types of mitigation technologies and measures that are available, and developing effective policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, can also produce many additional benefits that offset their overall cost. More...

15. Climate Change - The Physical Science Basis by Professor James Renwick. v4.2

The Working Group 1 component of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report (AR5; IPCC 2013a) was released in late 2013. It is a vast assessment of the published, peer-reviewed, literature on observed and projected climate change, written by a team of over 200 volunteer scientists. The main findings of the 1500-­page full report were boiled down to a 29-­page “Summary for Policy Makers” (IPCC 2013b) and then super-­summarised in a series of nineteen “headlines”, available on the IPCC web site at Here, a selection of the headlines is highlighted, and fleshed out with discussion from the full report, plus personal reflections and opinions. More...

16. Social Impacts of Climate Change by Ross Rutherford v2.2

Climate change in combination with a number of factors including ground water extraction and other pressures from population increases is already impacting people who live in areas that are vulnerable to sea level rise, drought, or ice melt, many of whom are poor. Here are some examples: More...

17. Climate Change and Sea Level Rise by Lawrence Carter v3.5

Current predictions are that global warming is likely to heat up the world’s lower atmosphere between 2 and 6°C by the year 2100. These temperature rises may not seem large, but for some components of earth/ocean systems they have huge implications. One of these is the effect on the world’s oceans and land-based ice reservoirs that will cause accelerating sea-level rise. More…

18. New Zealand's Paris Target by Peter Whitmore v1.2

New Zealand's commitment under the Paris Agreement, as stated in our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) promises that "Emissions will be reduced to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The 2005 reference has been chosen for ease of comparability with other countries. This responsibility target corresponds to a reduction of 11% from 1990 levels."

It appears that we are comparing our target net emissions with our gross emissions in the base year. using net emissions for both indicates that our emissions are actually increasing and not decreasing. More...

19. Renewable Energy by Peter Whitmore v1.4

Renewable energy is energy derived directly or indirectly from sunlight, wind, rain, tidal flows and ranges, waves, and thermal energy stored in the oceans, which are naturally replenished over fairly brief periods of time. Geothermal energy is also regarded as renewable because of the extremely large amounts of heat available from the earth’s core. Major sources of renewable energy include hydro power, wind power, solar power, geothermal power and bioenergy.

Moving rapidly to greater reliance on renewable energy in place of fossil fuels has become

critically important because of the urgent need to control global warming by reducing carbon

dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. More...

20. Carbon dynamics in NZ's native forests by Joanna Buswell v1.4

Native forests play an important role in storing and sequestering carbon in the New Zealand landscape. They do not sequester carbon as quickly as pine forests, but nonetheless can provide significant carbon stores and sinks, as well as a range of other benefits. More... (703 kB)

Here are some suggested assignment questions for secondary school work.

See also NCEA Resources.