The Strategist: Navies Must Go Zero Carbon

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Don’t mention the “N” word; The Strategist thinks the New Zealand Navy receiving money from the Treasury, then paying that money back to the Treasury to purchase carbon credits is some kind of achievement. And they should consider purchasing an electric tender for VIPs.

Navies must reduce their carbon emissions in the face of climate change

30 Mar 2021 | Anthony Bergin

The Royal New Zealand Navy recently launched its own journal, which aims to build the service’s professionalism and ‘engage and exchange views with all those who have an interest in naval and maritime affairs’. The most eye-catching contribution in the inaugural edition is by the RNZN’s chief naval architect, Chris Howard, with the provocative title ‘Toward a zero carbon navy’. It’s a fascinating read.

In November 2019, New Zealand’s parliament passed the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act. Net emissions of all greenhouse gases, except methane, are to be reduced to zero by 2050. The act requires all parts of society to examine their emissions levels and reduce them wherever possible and practicable.

There aren’t any net-zero-carbon navies. But the RNZN is the only navy paying into an emissions trading scheme. It pays New Zealand’s treasury a capped price of NZ$25 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent and receives a substantial rebate for fuel assessed as burned overseas on task. That’s because those emissions are deemed international and so fall outside the scope of the national scheme.

While not sceptical, Howard is realistic about the difficulties of reducing the carbon footprints of navies: ‘[F]or the next few decades, it seems probable that most naval ships worldwide will continue to rely on diesel fuel.’ But he suggests that the RNZN could, for example, showcase a green-ship technological commitment by acquiring an all-electric vessel as a tender or future VIP barge. (New Zealand’s first all-electric passenger ferry is currently being constructed locally.) Autonomous maritime vessels such as solar-powered wave gliders could also help monitor New Zealand’s large offshore zone.

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Zero carbon nuclear reactors for ships are a mature technology, and can be scaled right down – the smallest NASA fission reactors generate 10KW or less. So it seems entirely feasible to build reactors to power every class of naval ship other than small tenders.

But New Zealand is so anti-nuclear they don’t even want visits from US warships.

There are no serious alternatives to nuclear power, the days of naval sailboats are long gone. So New Zealand appears to be focussing on token gestures, like a circular carbon credit money shuffling system between the Treasury and the Navy, adding a bit of bio-diesel which they haven’t got the means to produce themselves, and wondering if they should build a battery powered boat for VIP photo opportunities.

New Zealand might think they don’t need a serious Navy, but New Zealand would be an obvious staging place for an international response to an attempt to invade Australia – large enough to supply food and a base of operations, far enough from Australia to be outside the range of all but the longest range bombers. A hypothetical aggressor might decide to attack New Zealand first, at the very least they might attempt to destroy New Zealands’ ports and maritime infrastructure, and block New Zealand’s harbours with wrecked civilian ships, if they think New Zealand is an easy target.

Nuclear submarines at least would be a tremendous low carbon deterrent. Even if port and maritime infrastructure in Australia and New Zealand was destroyed by long range bombardment, a decent fleet of Australian or New Zealand Nuclear submarines could seriously hamper long naval supply lines, by sneaking in, destroying convoy ships, then a quick sprint underwater to San Diego or Hawaii for resupply.

Both New Zealand and Australian politicians are too timid to embrace this obvious defensive strategy. The conventional submarines Australia favours would be utterly dependent on resupply from Australia, they don’t have the range of nuclear submarines.

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via Watts Up With That?

March 30, 2021 at 08:58PM

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