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Climate Change Papers

The Sustainable Energy Forum and Engineers for Social Responsibility 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.

The Papers published to date are as follows (the papers may be individually downloaded or collectively as a ZIP file – link at bottom).



Available as:



Climate Change and Global Warming Risks and Responses
by John La Roche

Introduction to the series of Papers.



PDF (64 KB)


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

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.



PDF (277 KB)


The Carbon Cycle - towards becoming carbon neutral (v4.1)
by Gerry Te Kapa Coates

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.



PDF (220 KB)


The Importance of Methane (v5.1)
by Steve Goldthorpe

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.



PDF (166 KB)


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

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%.



PDF (503 KB)


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

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.



PDF (707 KB)


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

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.



PDF (306 KB)


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.



PDF (347 KB)


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

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.



PDF (277 KB)


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

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?



PDF (127 KB)


Climate change and health: on the latest IPCC report
by Alastair 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.



PDF (251 KB)


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

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.

NOTE: Some of the mathematics is incorrect in the sidebar on the front page of this paper. It should say "a drop from 8.1 to 7.8 indicates a doubling of hydrogen ion concentration."



PDF (298 KB)


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

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.



PDF (599 KB)


Climate Change Mitigation - rapid change needed to restrict global warming to below 2°C (v4.1)
by Professor Ralph Sims.

The world's climate is changing, but it remains possible 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.



PDF (966 KB)


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

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.



PDF (1.37 MB)


Social Impacts of Climate Change (v2.2)
by Ross Rutherford.

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.



PDF (175 KB)


Climate Change and Sea-level Rise (v3.5)
by Lawrence Carter.

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.



PDF (1.55 MB)


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

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.



PDF (213 KB)


Renewable Energy (v1.4)
by Peter Whitmore

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.



PDF (7.10 MB)


Carbon dynamics in native forests (v1.4)
by Joanna Buswell

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.



PDF (703 KB)

Download All 20 Papers

ESR-SEF Climate Change Papers (ZIP archive updated 9 March 2019; 15.6 MB).

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