Is the temperature rising?

December 1st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Some people say there is no global warming, because 1998 was a very hot year and the rate of increase since then has been smaller than projected (note not zero).

Just as the temperature varies greatly from day to day, even an average over a year isn’t that robust, as you have factors such as El Nino.

What I find more useful is looking at the average over a decade. That is long enough that the average (of 3,653 days) is pretty robust.


The data is from NASA. The average global temperature is around one degree higher than 100 years ago, and since the 1970s has risen around 0.7 of a degree.

I’ll deal in a later post with issues over cause and impact, but for now want to highlight that denying we have had global warming is simply not true.


As you can see 1998 was a very hot year. But not the hottest year in the last century. That was 2014 and 2015 after 10 months of data is looking to break 2014’s record.

Different methods of temperature recording and different outlets all produce slightly different results (as you would expect), but the difference between them is minor compared to the very clear trend – both by decade, and annually.

Again you can have your opinions on the cause of the warming, and on how much warming there will be in the future. But the fact the world is warming is a fact, not an opinion.


Herald says Len should not go to Paris

November 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Many Aucklanders would have been open-mouthed with amazement at the announcement that Mayor Len Brown is going to the world climate change conference in Paris at the end of the month. The audacity of the discredited mayor never ceases to amaze. He ought to have resigned long ago but any credit he recovered with his decision last week not to stand for re-election next year probably evaporated with this announcement. What purpose can he serve at the climate change conference?

Sight seeing?

The conference is going to hear that his council has set a target of reducing Auckland’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2040, and that it is preparing for the impacts of climate change such as severe weather events, floods and sea level rise.

The Council’s target is nonsense because the Council has almost no ability to impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions in Auckland.

National governments can impact the level of greenhouse gas emissions by imposing a charge on such emissions, determining energy sources etc. A local authority has no such power, so the 40% target is basically wankery.

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Sea level rise in NZ

November 20th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has released a report:

New Zealand needs to better prepare for the impacts of a rising sea on its coastal towns and cities, warns the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

In a major new report released today, Dr Jan Wright called for an overhaul of the way New Zealand is preparing for sea level rise.

“Homes, businesses and infrastructure worth billions of dollars have been built on low-lying land close to the coast,” Dr Wright said. “Rising sea levels will have major impacts in many places. In time, some coastal land will become uninhabitable.”

The Commissioner found that councils and communities face a very difficult task in planning for sea level rise. On the Kapiti Coast and in Christchurch City, for example, the process has been particularly adversarial.

“Perhaps the most difficult aspect is the impacts on people’s homes, which for many are much more than financial security. Councils must use science that is fit for purpose, and engage with communities in a measured way and with empathy.”

One key finding of the report is that preparing for sea level rise is very much a work in progress and that the Government needs to do more to help. There is a need to take some time to develop a better approach.

“We must plan for sea level rise, but there is time to do it carefully”, Dr Wright said. “There are a few cases where action is required soon, but in most cases it is more important to do it well than to rush.”

The report contains eight recommendations to the Government. The first seven are focused on improving the direction and advice given to councils. These are to the Minister for the Environment and the Minister of Conservation.

The last recommendation is to the Minister of Finance and is focused on the fiscal risks of sea level rise.

I’ve read the report and it is well done. Many reports scaremonger about 10 metre rises, while this one does not. It focuses on the possibility of a 50 cm rise, and identifies 9,000 homes that could be impacted by that.

Sea levels have been rising slowly but steadily for the last century and there is no reason to think this will stop. The question is whether the rate of increase stays the same, or quickens.

The increase since 1900 has been around 20 cms globally and locally. So the long-term rise rate has been around 2 mm a year.

But since around 1990 the rate has been around 3 mm a year. So the most conservative estimate of future increase would be to remain at 3 mm a year.

So what could be the extent of any rise in say 50 and 95 years? I use those time periods as 50 years is probably the outer limit of impacting a current owner of a house. The 85 year period covers economic impact, even if not current owner impact.

In 2065, at 3 mm a year, the increase would be 15 cm or half a foot. This is unlikely to have a huge impact.

However the upper boundary of the most pessimistic scenario of the IPCC has more rapid rise, which would be 40 cm by 2065. In that scenario around 9,000 homes are affected.

So the likely range is 15 cm to 40 cm by 2065. They are not equally likely – the 40 cm is the current top estimate. As we get better data and information over the next decade, projections may change.

How about out to 2100? Well at 3 mm a year that is an increase of around 25 cm or almost a foot. But what under the most pessimistic IPCC scenario?  That is almost a metre. Again that is the upper end of the scenario. The midpoint for that scenario is around 70 cm.

So over close to 100 years the likely range is one foot to three feet.  Obviously if it is at the upper end, that will have a significant impact on coastal properties.


Bolivia’s climate change solution

November 16th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

You have to read the official submission of the Government of Bolivia to the climate change conference. Their 10 point plan is:

  1. Adoption of a new model of civilization in the world without consumerism, war-mongering, and mercantilism, a world without capitalism; build and consolidate a world order of Living Well that defends and promotes the integral rights of our peoples, undertaking the path of harmony with nature and respect for life.
  2. Construction of a climate system based on responsibility to Mother Earth, the culture of life and the full realization of humanity in their holistic development, humanizing the economy, surpassing the simplistic approach to decarbonization of the economy.
  3. Protection of the Rights of Mother Earth in an articulated and complementary manner to the rights of peoples to their development.
  4. Defense of universal common goods such as the seas and oceans, water, atmospheric space, as well as the technological monopoly, promoting people’s access to the common heritage.
  5. Elimination of patents on technologies and recognition of the human right to science and technology of life.
  6. Effective implementation by governments of the human right to water.
  7. Establishment of the International Court of Justice Climate and Mother Earth to enable countries to fulfill their international commitments to climate change in a context of respect for the rights of peoples and of Mother Earth.
  8. Allocate the resources of the military machinery of the imperial powers and the war-mongers to finance the activities of the peoples against climate change.
  9. Eradication of commodification of nature and carbon markets promoting business climate millionaires, which do not solve the problem of the climate crisis.
  10. Decolonize natural resources environmental colonial biased views that see the peoples of the South as forest rangers of Northern countries and communities as enemies of nature.

It sounds like a Green Party manifesto :-)

Hat Tip: Mark Steyn

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China’s correction nine times greater than NZ’s total emissions

November 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NY Times reports:

China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases from coal, has been burning up to 17 percent more coal a year than the government previously disclosed, according to newly released data. The finding could complicate the already difficult efforts to limitglobal warming.

Even for a country of China’s size, the scale of the correction is immense. The sharp upward revision in official figures means that China has released much more carbon dioxide — almost a billion more tons a year according to initial calculations — than previously estimated.

The new data, which appeared recently in an energy statistics yearbook published without fanfare by China’s statistical agency, show that coal consumption has been underestimated since 2000, and particularly in recent years. The revisions were based on a census of the economy in 2013 that exposed gaps in data collection, especially from small companies and factories.

Illustrating the scale of the revision, the new figures add about 600 million tons to China’s coal consumption in 2012 — an amount equivalent to more than 70 percent of the total coal used annually by the United States.

That extra 600 million tons is nine times greater than the total emissions of New Zealand.

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You need the major emitters on board

November 7th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Christopher Brooker writes in The Telegraph:

China, now easily the world’s largest emitter, contributing 24 per cent of the total, plans by 2030 to double its CO2 emissions, not least by building 363 more coal-fired power stations. India, now the third-largest emitter, plans by 2030 to treble its emissions. The fourth-largest emitter, Russia, despite slashing its emissions after 1990 by closing down much of its old Soviet industry, now proposes to increase them from their 2012 level by up to 38 per cent.

Which makes a mockery of anything the rest of the world does.

If you want a binding agreement on climate change, you need to get the top 10 emitters to agree on a cap. If they can all agree, then the rest of the world will probably follow.

But if China, India and Russia are all saying they’ll massively increase emissions, then any impact of emissions reductions from the rest of the world is an expensive waste of money.

Here’s the top 10 emitters:

  1. China 22.7%
  2. US 15.6%
  3. EU28 10.9%
  4. India 5.7%
  5. Russia 5.4%
  6. Japan 2.9%
  7. Brazil 2.6%
  8. Indonesia 1.9%
  9. Canada 1.7%
  10. Iran 1.6%

Those 10 represent around 72% of global emissions. Again whatever they agree to, I am sure countries like New Zealand, Tanzania and Singapore who are around 0.2% each will match them.


Christchurch Council’s flawed data for sea level rise

November 6th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

A new review has slated the sea-level findings used by Christchurch City Council to assess risks to coastal properties.

While council has scrapped fast-tracked plan changes based on the findings, coastal residents want hazard warnings removed from their properties’ LIM reports.

The findings were in a report on 50-to-100-year climate change risk, written by consultants Tonkin & Taylor. The report identified 18,000 properties as being threatened by rising sea levels, and 6000 by coastal erosion. LIM reports were amended to match.

Mathematician and policy analyst Simon Arnold has now reviewed Tonkin & Taylor’s report. He considers it was statistically flawed, based on outdated law, and exaggerated the effects of sea-level rise.

“Scientists and engineers are good at talking about what is happening, but they struggle with this level of forecasting – it’s too complex,” Arnold said. “You really need to get a specialist statistician involved.”

Arnold said the report was not fit for purpose and the council should never have relied on it. He urged them to back away from it.

“The Council is in an untenable position. This exaggeration of risk is costing homeowners now, a lot of people are affected by it,” he said.

Arnold is a mathematician with experience as a policy analyst and forecaster for government , and has worked as an advisor to the McDiarmid Institute, and previous Prime Ministers. He lives on the Kapati Coast but said his property is not affected by coastal hazard projections.

He sent his review to both the Christchurch City Council and Tonkin & Taylor last month. 

So what do they say?

A spokeswoman for Tonkin & Taylor said they had already spoken to Arnold about his review, and did not want to wish to comment publicly. No-one was available from the Christchurch City Council to discuss the review.

I bet – very embarrassing for them.

Arnold’s review questions the statistical methodology of the report, which he calls misleading. He asserts much of it is based on 1994 coastal policy statements in the Resource Management Act, rather than the updated 2010 version.

The review also says while the Tonkin & Taylor report is based on possible hazards, the law requires recognition of likely hazards only when assessing risk. 

There is a huge difference between likely and possible.

He also pointed the city council towards a report written this year by retired principal Environment Court judge Joan Allin, which criticised how coastal risks were increasingly over-estimated.

Allin’s report said she had “developed concerns about what other NZ coastal experts are doing. It seems that a number of them consider that it is appropriate . . . to provide only results that are very unlikely, or overstated.”

This is from the former principal judge.

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You can’t negotiate an end to storms

October 21st, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A rather silly post by Danyl:

One thing we should have learned from the TPP is that we’re entering a period of diminishing returns from free trade deals. But there’s also an opportunity cost here. While all of our diplomats are trying to negotiate lower dairy tariffs to grow our economy they’re not doing anything about climate change, which is a major economic challenge that requires a diplomatic solution.

Droughts and extreme weather events are expensive things. The 2008 drought cost the country about $2.8 billion in one year (the TPPA is supposed to bring in $2 billion over ten years). To avoid entering a period of catastrophic droughts and storms we have to agree on a global reduction of carbon emissions. So that’s something need to be negotiated between states. Y’know – diplomatically. It is so, so stupid that we have all of these diplomats running around trying to eke out trivial gains from trade agreements while ignoring this massive looming crisis that is going to devastate our economy.

Wow this is pretty weak stuff. Where do I start:

  • Incredibly stupid to suggest that MFAT can’t both negotiate trade deals and negotiate on climate change. It is not an either or.
  • Comparing the cost of a drought to the gains from a trade deal is also stupid. MFAT can’t negotiate a drought away
  • Yes increased greenhouse gases will probably lead to more extreme weather events, but even if an agreement was made this year to reduce emissions, it would take decades to make an impact


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A good u-turn by Christchurch Council

September 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Beachside Christchurch residents are celebrating “democracy at its best” after a plan to deal with long-term flooding and erosion risk was dropped.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Environment Minister Nick Smith and Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel announced that plan changes affecting property owners as a consequence of future coastal hazards would be dealt with through normal planning processes and not through the fast-tracked District Plan review process.

The Christchurch City Council sparked anger and anxiety among coastal property owners in July when an assessment it commissioned of the long-term threat posed by sea level rise identified 6000 properties that could be susceptible to erosion and nearly 18,000 that could face coastal inundation over the next 50 to 100 years.

The council immediately amended Land Information Memorandums for those properties to indicate they were in a coastal hazard zone and announced it was proposing through the Replacement Christchurch District Plan (RCDP) to limit new development in the areas considered most at risk. 

That sparked concern people would not be able to develop their properties, values in coastal areas would dive and it would become harder and more costly to get insurance.

Christchurch Coastal Residents United spokesman Tim Sintes said the decision to step back was “fantastic news”.

“To get a result like this, it’s democracy at it’s best.

“It has to go this way, with a national standard, rather than ticking off one town after another.”

The issue of sea level rise is a complex one, and not one Councils should be doing in isolation, and rushing through.

Smith said Christchurch had enough on its plate and did not need to have the added burden of leading the country and the world on how to deal with the issue of climate change and sea level rise.

The Government was proposing both legislative changes and national policy guidance on such hazards as part of its Resource Management Act reform programme.

“More time will also allow contestable advice and normal appeal rights to the Environment Court. It makes sense for the timing of this work to be aligned with national policy. I am satisfied that the existing plans provide adequate interim measures to deal with these risks in the immediate future,” Smith said. 

We have robust data showing there has been sea level increases in NZ. From 1900 to 2000 the sea level in Auckland increased 16 cm, or 1.6 mm a year. While this rate has been increasing globally, in Auckland it does not yet appear to be accelerating. It will to some degree, but we don’t know to what degree. And hence rushing through LIM notations on properties when the data is not yet clear, is unwise.

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The climate change “refugee” Labour wants to stay here

September 29th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

One News reported:

Ioane Teitiota was sent back to the tiny Pacific island this afternoon after a last minute appeal to let him and his family stay in New Zealand on humanitarian grounds was denied.

However revelations have been made against Mr Teitiota by a former employer saying he sexually assaulted a female co-worker and violently assaulted other colleagues before being fired from a west Auckland market garden.

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The truth about Kiribati

September 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Suzy McKinney writes at Public Address:

The case of the I-Kiribati man Ioane Teitiota being deported after failing to become the world’s first climate change refugee in the Supreme Court of New Zealand is unfortunate, but is not unfair and misrepresents the reality of climate change to Kiribati in a harmful way.

I’m a self-proclaimed climate activist – I protested at the UN climate negotiations in Peru last year and submitted to the Ministry for the Environment’s consultation process calling for ambitious action on climate change. I am also currently living in Kiribati, working at the hospital here as part of my medical training.

My climate change activist friends back in New Zealand think this man being deported is disgraceful. Although the long-term impacts of climate change upon Kiribati are certainly disgraceful, Teitiota’s deportation is not and to think so is to misunderstand the unique situation that these low-lying islands and their proud peoples face.


It would be unfair for me to speculate as to Ioane Teitiota’s reasons for originally leaving Kiribati, or how much of a role the impacts of climate change at home played in his decision to fight to stay in New Zealand. I can only observe the comments of those I-Kiribati people involved in climate advocacy here and quote to you the words of Pelenise Alofa, National Coordinator of Kiribati’s Climate Action Network – “no one has ever left Kiribati because of climate change”.

Does he even claim he left because of it? He is just using it as a way not to get deported as an overstayer.

Research carried out in Kiribati shows that I-Kiribati people want to continue to live in their country for as long as possible and desire adaptation projects such as sea walls that will allow them to do so, rather than to flee Kiribati in 2015. The failure of Teitiota’s claims make it harder for people working to protect Kiribati’s climate to secure assistance and funding for the adaptation projects the country really needs .

So he is harming his own country.

As an observer here in South Tarawa, Kiribati, I see anger at Teitiota for his actions and the words he has spoken about his country. I see resentment for him from civil society here for the way his court case has mischaracterized how I-Kiribati people want to respond to climate change.

This article should get as much media attention, as the overstayer’s claims did. And shame on Labour for backing his claims.


An overstayer not a refugee

September 23rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A last-ditch appeal against the deportation of a man who claimed to be the world’s first climate change refugee has failed.

Associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss has received a briefing on the case of Ioane Teitiota and his family, and has tonight declined to intervene.

That means he will be deported shortly to Kiribati, with his wife and young New Zealand-born children likely to join him.

Mr Teitiota had claimed to be the world’s first climate change refugee, but that was dismissed by the courts, and Labour instead asked Mr Foss to allow him to stay on humanitarian grounds.

Earlier today, Prime Minister John Key said there was no question that Mr Teitiota was an over-stayer, and not a refugee.

This is correct. Mr Teitiota is trying it on. Overstayers do this a lot. They have little to lose. I recall Danny Butler who claimed he would be killed if returned to Ireland.

On the issue of climate change, Mr Key dismissed the notion that New Zealand should consider looking at accepting people on the basis that their homeland was threatened by rising sea levels.

“I am certainly not ruling out that a future Prime Minister and a future Government wouldn’t take that compassionate view, and I suspect actually that they would. But it would be on genuine grounds that they actually can’t live in their country.”

Sea levels are rising. But at present by 3 mm a year. In the long term this will post massive problems for Kiribati, if it continues. But we’re talking maybe 50 to 100 years down the track, not during his lifetime.

Reverend Naisali said that sending the family to Kiribati was akin to putting someone on dialysis on a plane, despite knowing there was no medical help where they were going.

“There is no employment opportunities in Kiribati, there is population density in Kiribati, there are no education opportunities for the children.”

That may be so, but he is from Kiribati. If he did not overstay, he could apply for residency if he has skills NZ needs. But simply coming from a poorer country is not grounds for residency in NZ.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the case was the “canary in the mine”, and there would soon be “a flood of people from the Pacific Islands” because of climate change.

Will James define soon? Climate change is seeing temperatures increase and sea levels rise. And we do need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate this. But I dispute that there will soon be a flood of people. The IPCC most recent report is that if emissions continue to increase then by 2100, sea levels would have increased by 62 cms.  That will definitely impact many people, but 2100 is not “soon”.

That is not an argument to do nothing. Quite the opposite. But it is an argument that we do not need to claim there will be a flood of climate change refugees anytime soon.


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The Greens climate plan

September 3rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Green Party have released their policy on how they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 40% below 1990 levels.

This Green Party discussion paper shows that we can reduce New Zealand’s net annual greenhouse gas emissions to no more than 40 Mt of CO2-equivalent by 2030, even if there was a five year transition period for the farming industry. This is an emissions reduction of at least 40 percent below the 1990 gross emissions level and would put us broadly on a straight-line path to being climate neutral (zero net emissions) by 2050.

Now in 2013, our greenhouse gas emissions were 81 Mt, so this is a 50% reduction in just 15 years. I’m not sure there is a country on Earth that has managed that. But let’s look at the details of how they say it can be done.


Firstly they seem to be comparing apples and oranges, which is very misleading. They are talking a net 40 Mt in 2030 compared to a gross 67 in 1990. The net in 1990 was 38,000 according to our official inventory.

So how do they say they will reduce 28 Mt. The break down is:

  • Agriculture 2.2
  • Industrial Processes 2.1
  • Other fossil fuel burning 3.7
  • Waste 3.6
  • Transport 7.7
  • Electricity 4.8
  • Forestry 4.0

Let’s look at each in turn:

  • Agriculture – 2.2 reduction out of 31.7 – 7% decrease
  • Industrial Processes – 2.1 reduction out of 5.1 – 41% decrease
  • Waste – 3.6 out of 5.1 – 71% decrease
  • Electricity – 4.8 out of 5.0 – 96% decrease
  • Transport – 7.7 out of 12.7 – 61% decrease
  • Forestry – 4.0 more on top of 26.7 – 15% increase

I don’t think we can or ever should be 100% renewable as that threatens security of supply. We’re 80% renewable and could see us getting to 95% or so.

The transport scenario is pie in the sky. It is based on 100% of new cars sold by 2030 being electric cars. I’m a fan of electric cars but no sensible Government would ever make a commitment that they will basically ban new non-electric cars within 15 years.

Also not very realistic is saying we’ll save 2.8 Mt a year from biofuels. for the transport sector. The last time biofuels were subsidised to promote them, it led to mass starvation as arable land was converted to biofuels.

The agricultural policy is based on 2,400 farms reducing their dairy herd by 75 cows each or a 15% reduction.

The forestry increase would require 50,000 to 100,000 hectares of land to have pine forest planted on them – every year. This would mean a reduction in farming of that many hectares every year. Wouldn’t want to be a farmer as the Government takes your land off you to plant pine trees on!

Credit to the Greens for having a reasonably detailed plan, and they have shown how we could have a more ambitious target than the current one. However while some aspects of their plan are practical, other aspects are ludicrous – such as the assumption there will be no new petrol cars within 15 years.

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Huntly coal to close

August 6th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Genesis Energy announced its last two coal-burning electricity generators at Huntly Power Station will be permanently withdrawn from the market by December 2018, signalling the end of large scale coal-fired generation in New Zealand.

The decision is being hailed as another step towards having 90 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity supply generated by renewables by 2025.

A key thing to note is this is a commercial decision by Genesis, not a Government dictate. But it is very useful, as it will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

At their peak, the coal units emitted around 5000 kilotonnes of CO2 per year – amounting to around 5 per cent of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s significant.

“New Zealand’s share of renewable electricity generation is already the fourth largest in the world and the shift from coal will help us to achieve our ambitious goal of having 90 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity supply generated by renewables by 2025.”

MBIE data has renewables at 79.3% of all generation. If coal is excluded it goes to 83.5%. So making 90% will still be some way off.

Our current profile is:

  1. Hydro 56.1%
  2. Geothermal 16.7%
  3. Gas 15.5%
  4. Coal 5.1%
  5. Wind 5.1%
  6. Wood 0.9%
  7. Biogas 0.5%

Possibly of interest is the renewable share over time. It has been:

  • 1975 – 90.4%
  • 1984 – 80.4%
  • 1990 – 80.8%
  • 1999 – 70.6%
  • 2008 – 65.4%
  • 2014 – 79.9%
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Green dilemma – a GE rice that reduces greenhouse gas emissions!

August 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

This will pose a dilemma for the Greens. Scientists have developed a genetically engineered rice crop that has significantly reduced methane (the most powerful greenhouse gas) emissions over normal rice.

So if the Greens truly believe their rhetoric that greenhouse gas emissions are the biggest threat to Earth today, surely this means they will drop their opposition to genetically engineered crops and welcome this GE rice?

Nature Magazine reports:

Atmospheric methane is the second most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, and is responsible for about 20% of the global warming effect since pre-industrial times1, 2. Rice paddies are the largest anthropogenic methane source and produce 7–17% of atmospheric methane2, 3. Warm waterlogged soil and exuded nutrients from rice roots provide ideal conditions for methanogenesis in paddies with annual methane emissions of 25–100-million tonnes3, 4. This scenario will be exacerbated by an expansion in rice cultivation needed to meet the escalating demand for food in the coming decades4.

Here we show that the addition of a single transcription factor gene, barleySUSIBA2 (refs 7, 8), conferred a shift of carbon flux to SUSIBA2 rice, favouring the allocation of photosynthates to aboveground biomass over allocation to roots. The altered allocation resulted in an increased biomass and starch content in the seeds and stems, and suppressed methanogenesis, possibly through a reduction in root exudates. Three-year field trials in China demonstrated that the cultivation of SUSIBA2 rice was associated with a significant reduction in methane emissions and a decrease in rhizospheric methanogen levels. SUSIBA2 rice offers a sustainable means of providing increased starch content for food production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from rice cultivation. 

This is a great breakthrough. It should be welcomed. Or will green activists attack the fields it is planted it, and destroy it as unnatural?

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A mad Cambridge professor

July 28th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

A Cambridge Professor has made the astonishing claim that three scientists investigating the melting of Arctic ice may have been assassinated within the space of a few months.

Professor Peter Wadhams said he feared being labelled a “looney” over his suspicion that the deaths of the scientists were more than just an ‘extraordinary’ coincidence.

But he insisted the trio could have been murdered and hinted that the oil industry or else sinister government forces might be implicated.

The three scientists he identified – Seymour Laxon and Katherine Giles, both climate change scientists at University College London, and Tim Boyd of the Scottish Association for marine Science – all died within the space of a few months in early 2013.

Professor laxon fell down a flight of stairs at a New year’s Eve party at a house in Essex while Dr Giles died when she was in collision with a lorry when cycling to work in London. Dr Boyd is thought to have been struck by lightning while walking in Scotland.

Shit those oil companies are good. Anyone can arrange a push down the stairs or a lorry to strike you, but it takes special genius to arrange a lightning strike.

Prof Wadhams said that in the weeks after Prof Laxon’s death he believed he was targeted by a lorry which tried to force him off the road. He reported the incident to the police.

Asked if he thought hitmen might have been behind the deaths, Prof Wadhams, who is Professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, told The Telegraph: “Yes. I do believe assassins possibly murdered them but I can see that I would be thought of as a looney for believing this.

A looney? No, not at all.

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NBR on climate change

July 11th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Nevil Gibson at NBR writes:

The Paris conference on climate change at the end of this year is shaping up as a triumph for world diplomacy.

While expectations may not be high, the result could be surprisingly good.

For the first time we may have an accord with all the major emitters, not just a few. Any global agreement needs to include the top 10 emitters which are China, US, EU, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Canada and Iran. Those 10 economies represent 71% of greenhouse gases. If they can agree on a fair reduction regime, then I believe most of the world will follow.

The main reason for this is that realism and pragmatism will finally win over zealotry and ideology. For too long the climate change debate has been dominated by doomsday merchants – from scientists to environmentalists.

For a variety of reasons and motivations, they say the world is doomed from rising temperatures and want to blame western civilisation.

As recently as today, a leading New Zealand climate scientist says New Zealand’s carbon emissions target should be set according to environmental demands rather than what is practical.

At the extreme these advocates want to tax people out of most forms of transport, heating and power generation. They want the western world to retreat from its high living standards and condemn the rest of it to not rising above their current levels.

In some cases, that means abject poverty. Obviously this is a not a viable position for any country.

Exactly. Climate change is real, and greenhouse gases play a large part in the warming. However that doesn’t mean that we undo the industrial revolution and turn the clock back.

Global climate change caused by man-made greenhouse gases is not the biggest and only existential threat to the planet.

It must be put in context with other pressing problems such as life-threatening diseases, environmental degradation, poverty and much else.


The main one will be an inclusive document to which all nations can subscribe, according to their ability.

But it won’t be like the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which phased out production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other substances that deplete the ozone layer.

This was a great success. CFCs were a discrete problem, had limited uses and were easily replaced. Climate pollutants – if that is the right word – are rather different.

Most are a waste product of nearly every aspect of modern life. They are also not limited to carbon; methane, soot and nitrous oxide all contribute to rising temperatures.

In New Zealand, most methane, for example, comes from livestock. Other than extinction, no single global tax or regulatory scheme will solve that.

This is a key difference. Yes greenhouse gases have a detrimental impact on the temperature, but they come from highly beneficial activities such as energy and agriculture.

The Green Party policy is to kill off 20% or so of our dairy herd. That isn’t a solution.

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ODT on climate change target

July 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT editorial:

The Government’s commitment to a higher but unambitious emissions reduction target will surprise few.

Similarly, the reactions of Labour and the Greens are expected. What is being witnessed are the policies of a pragmatic Government and standard opposition positioning. …

Mr Groser says this is ”respectable” and in line with what the United States, Canada and Japan are promising. Australia is yet come out with its figure.

The US target is 26% to 28% (by 2025) below 2005 levels.  Canada’s target is 30% by 2030.

Mr Groser does say the Government will adopt an appropriate mix of policies to ensure the target is met, but at this stage that seems to involve primarily a review of the emissions trading scheme. This was weakened by National and, as acknowledged, needs toughening.

Unexpectedly, the price of carbon collapsed and the scheme failed.

National is sceptical about ”green growth”.

It argues the best advice it has received is that lowering emissions will cost the economy, at least in the short and medium term.

The cost of even its limited commitment is put at $1270 a family a year, not a massive amount for some but significant nonetheless.

In its pragmatism, National knows it will not appeal to the green vote whatever it does, so there is little to gain electorally from doing much more than the minimum.

It knows, too, despite the relatively high level of climate change scepticism in this country, the majority of voters have some concerns and it must be seen to be doing something.

Most voters, however, will reject being hit significantly in the pocket.

From that point of view, National has its policy about right. Legitimate fears, however, must arise because the climate does not play politics.

The efforts of New Zealand and the rest of the world could well be too little too late.

The ETS is having little impact on emissions as the price of carbon has declined. However if there is a binding agreement in Paris, then the price may increase, and the ETS will start to impact again.

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NZ’s 2030 climate change target

July 8th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Groser announced:

New Zealand will commit to a new, more ambitious climate change target,Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser announced today.

“This target is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030,” Mr Groser said. “This is a significant increase on our current target of five per cent below 1990 emission levels by 2020.”

Is it?

“New Zealand’s target is equivalent to a reduction of 11 per cent below our 1990 emission levels by 2030. Our target is expressed against 2005 emission levels similar to the approach of other significant players including the United States and Canada,” Mr Groser said.

So in fact it is saying a drop from -5% to -11% over an extra decade. That’s not particularly huge.

What does this mean in terms of actual numbers. Here is our actual (gross) emissions and targets in kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent

  • 1990 – 66,720
  • 2005 – 84,638
  • 2013 – 80,962
  • 2020 – 5% below 1990 – 63,384
  • 2030 – 30% below 2005 – 59,247
  • 2050 – 50% below 1990 – 33,360

So what is the reduction needed for each year between the dates above

  • 2013 – 2020 – 17,578/7 = 2,511 kt per year
  • 2020 – 2030 – 4,137/10 = 414 kt per year
  • 2030 – 2050 – 25,987/10 = 1299 kt per year

I don’t see any way we will meet the 2020 target. To compare let’s see what happened under the last three governments:

  • 1990 – 1999 – grew by 946 kt per year
  • 1999 – 2008 – grew by 732 kt per year
  • 2008 – 2013 – shrunk by 95 kt per year

Of course these are gross emissions. I think net emissions are more useful, but it seems targets are meant to be gross emissions.


An okay Greens policy

June 15th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

The Green Party is pushing for climate change to be formally acknowledged in all government legislation.

Co-leader James Shaw has unveiled the policy at an international Greens congress in Wellington today.

It would make it mandatory for new laws and law changes to include climate change impact statements.

Mr Shaw said the measure would mirror the current use of regulatory impact statements.

“So the government makes a lot of decisions all the time, and we have no idea of what the impact is on climate change, or how climate change impacts on those decisions.”

This isn’t a bad idea. Governments make better decisions if they are aware of all of the costs.

But one would have to be careful how you interpret the data. For example take the Government giving beneficiaries an extra $25 a week. That will lead to an increase in consumption and activities such as transport. That would mean that the climate change impact of such a policy is to increase greenhouse gas emissions.

Now I doubt the Greens would say beneficiaries should not have got a benefit increase, because it increases greenhouse has emissions. So it shouldn’t be seen as a binary approval mechanism.

But nevertheless,  having the impact on greenhouse gas emissions known for all legislation is not a bad policy, and worth doing. The Government should seriously consider it.

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Another university against free speech and ideas

June 1st, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Breitbart reports:

The University of Western Australia has caved in to green activists and cancelled a planned $4 million Consensus Centre because of its associations with Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lomborg.
Blond, gay, impeccably left wing and a former member of Greenpeace, Lomborg has long infuriated environmentalists because his personal politics make it so hard for them to trot out their usual excuse that he only says the things he does because he is an evil, right-wing shill in the pay of Big Oil.

Even more frustratingly for his greenie opponents, Lomborg is not even technically a climate change sceptic. He has long accepted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) so-called “consensus” position on global warming. Where he differs from hard-core greenies is simply in his belief that the world has more pressing environmental and social problems than are caused by the marginal influence of man-made CO2 and that these should be given higher priority than combating climate change.

This is the argument of his not-for-profit think tank, the US-based Copenhagen Consensus Center. One of its main purposes is to help argue how governments around the world can get the biggest bang for their buck on environmental spending – providing micronutrients for the world’s malnourished; giving everyone access to clean water; and so on – recognising that the amount of money available for worthy causes is not limitless and that therefore such projects should be subject to a rigorous cost benefit analysis.

Lomborg’s pro-growth approach to green issues is what drew him to the attention of Australia’s conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott who invited him to set up a branch of his Consensus Center in Australia, with the help of a $4 million Federal government grant.

However, when word got out at the University of Western Australia (UWA), a “rowdy gathering of academics and students” in an atmosphere described by one witness as “like a Rolling Stones concert” campaigned to veto the project.

Unable to brand Lomborg a “climate change denier” – which he isn’t: he believes, or affects believe, what all the greenies do on climate change – they instead simply ‘argued’ that his “controversial track record as a climate contrarian” was more than enough reason to protect UWA’s precious students from any kind of proximity to or association with the ideas of this dangerously open-minded man.

The University of Western Australia’s Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson, citing what he called a “strong and passionate emotional reaction”, said that the proposed Consensus Centre lacked “the support needed across the university and the broader academic community to meet its contractual obligations and deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers.” With this excuse he cancelled the project.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, who had supported the project, tweeted: “What a sad day for academic freedom when staff at a university silence a dissenting voice rather than test their ideas in debate.”

A very sad day. Lomborg has never said that climate change is not real and primarily caused by human activity. He has simply argued that there may be other environmental areas which are more important to spend money on first.

It is reactions like this from the academics, which increase resistant to taking action. People don’t like being told you can’t debate things.

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Fossil fuel subsidies

May 29th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Fossil fuel companies are benefiting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.

The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

I’m against any form of energy being subsidised. Fossil fuels should not be subsidisied, and neither should (for example) solar power.

However there is a difference between a subsidy and whether a tax should be placed on an activity to cover the public costs imposed by that activity. There is a case for such externality taxes (such as have on tobacco and alcohol) but again it is not the same as a direct subsidy.

The costs resulting from the climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions account for subsidies of $1.27tn a year, about a quarter, of the IMF’s total. The IMF calculated this cost using an official US government estimate of $42 a tonne of CO2 (in 2015 dollars), a price “very likely to underestimate” the true cost, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The direct subsidising of fuel for consumers, by government discounts on diesel and other fuels, account for just 6% of the IMF’s total. Other local factors, such as reduced sales taxes on fossil fuels and the cost of traffic congestion and accidents, make up the rest. The IMF says traffic costs are included because increased fuel prices would be the most direct way to reduce them.

So the actual subsidies are 6% of the total, and the other 94% is not covering estimated external costs.

And which countries have the biggest subsidies?

  1. China US$2,300 billion
  2. US $700 billion
  3. Russia $335 billion
  4. EU $330 billion
  5. India $277 billion
  6. Japan $157 billion



Treasury on ETS vs carbon tax

May 16th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting paper by Treasury on the pros and cons of a carbon tax vs an emissions trading scheme. Some people think there should be no cost added to carbon, but for those who think there should be, it is important to have the most efficient cost.

Treasury does not support replacing the ETS with a carbon tax. We think the ETS is preferable to a carbon tax, because it can provide certainty about the level of domestic emissions. This fits well with our international obligations, which set a limit on total emissions. Emissions trading schemes are also easier to link with other countries, which helps ensure that the lowest cost abatement opportunities are taken between countries.

If further emissions reductions are needed, we recommend increasing prices in the ETS by introducing a price floor, removing the two-for-one rule for emitters, or reducing free allocations

They go into the specifics:

The main difference between the two approaches is that carbon taxes provide certainty about the price but leave total emissions uncertain, while trading schemes allow the price to adjust to deliver a certain level of total abatement. We think that certainty about total abatement levels is more important than price certainty, because our international obligations require us to achieve specific amounts of emissions reductions. ETS’s are well-placed to achieve these quantitative targets.

So a carbon tax is arguably better for businesses, as it gives them price certainty. However an ETS is better for a Government as a tool to deliver a certain level of abatement.

Emissions trading schemes can be easily linked internationally, giving access to cheaper abatement opportunities overseas. This allows the market to find the lowest cost mix of domestic and international abatement to achieve an abatement target. This is particularly important for New Zealand, given that we have limited low-cost domestic abatement opportunities.

The problem is though that the cheaper abatement opportunities overseas have meant that the ETS hasn’t actually provided any incentive to reduce emissions in NZ, and hence we have an expensive regulatory scheme that isn’t actually incentivising change.

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Skipping a meal is not starving!

May 5th, 2015 at 10:07 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Green Party’s 14 MPs will starve themselves on Tuesday to highlight the threat climate change poses to food supply.

Missing a meal is not starvation, it’s a media stunt.

But the Greens are right to highlight dangers to food supply. When food supply gets mucked up, millions can starve.

For many years the Greens and environmentalists pushed for biofuel subsidies and quotas. They cited climate change as a reason to promote biofuels. Helen Clark announced a law to create a biofuel sales obligation.

And what happened, according to the Guardian:

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% – far more than previously estimated – according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body. …

Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt.

So Green policies on climate change helped push $100 million into poverty and actual starvation (not the 24 hour kind). That’s a cure worse than the illness.

Don’t get me wrong – we do need to take action on greenhouse gas emissions. But it has to be the right action (such as research into reducing methane emissions from cows). The wrong action, such as with biofuels, can lead to mass starvation – the very thing the Greens say they are against.

It’s easy to take part if a stupid media stunt. It’s far harder to develop serious policy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions without damaging economic growth which provides jobs and incomes so people can afford food.


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A solution to methane emissions?

April 29th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand scientists have unveiled major leaps toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions from our belching sheep and cattle, with animal-safe compounds that can slash methane emissions by up to 90 per cent.

Curbing the release of methane gas from ruminant livestock, such as sheep and cattle, has been a long-standing headache among farmers and scientists.

The methane emissions amount to almost a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and is the largest contributor compared with other sources. …

At a conference in Palmerston North this morning, the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium announced new research progress from animal trials.

More than 100,000 compounds have been screened, and many thousands tested in laboratory experiments over the past several years.

To date five compounds, selected as the most promising options, had been tested on sheep and resulted in reductions of methane emissions from 30 per cent to more than 90 per cent.

That’s extremely encouraging results.

There are many ways one can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and I much prefer using science to reduce emissions, to shooting one in five cows, as the Greens propose.

Dr Rick Pridmore, the consortium’s chairman and steering group member of the Manawatu-based New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, said the successful tests of methane inhibitors was news Kiwi farmers could “get excited about”.

“The results are significant for two reasons. First, because they work on livestock consuming a grass-based diet and, second because the short-term trials showed such dramatic results,” he said.

“It must be stressed that these are early days. Further trials are needed to confirm these compounds can reduce emissions in the long term, have no adverse effects on productivity and leave no residues in meat or milk.

“We are already looking to engage with a commercial partner and, all going well, we could possibly see a commercial product within five years.”

Early days but indeed encouraging. If the research holds up, this will have global ramifications.