Should greenhouse gases be calculated based on where they are consumed not produced?

July 29th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

David Haywood has a useful post at Public Address on climate change policy:

He looks at the greenhouse gases produced to make a TipTip Popsicle in NZ and a Streets Paddle-pop in China,. They are 0.5g and 1.7g so the Streets one has three times the impact.

So what happens when we ask the question (based on our data): “How can we reduce New Zealand’s contribution to global warming in terms of iceblock manufacture?” The answer is obvious. In fact, the answer deserves its own paragraph in bold:

Q: How can we reduce New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions?

A: Encourage importation of iceblocks from China and discourage manufacture of iceblocks in New Zealand.

While this answer seems completely stupid (because this strategy would actually raise global carbon dioxide emissions—since the Chinese Paddlepop emits more carbon dioxide than the New Zealand Popsicle) it is actually technically true. This strategy would lower New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions according to the accounting system that we currently use—and therefore be the desirable course of action to take.

This is a major issue. The same applies to dairy. If we shot all our dairy cows and imported milk from overseas, we would look far far better globally, but greenhouse gas emissions would actually increase.

The problem here is that greenhouse gas emissions from energy production are attributed to the country where the actual gases are emitted (which can be calculated easily and reliably using the guidelines of the UNFCCC). A more meaningful system would be to attribute the greenhouse gas emissions to the country where the energy is actually “consumed”, i.e. the country where the energy embodied in goods and services actually ends up. Unfortunately this would be impossible to accurately calculate at the moment (although it can certainly be estimated); and it would require a complicated global system of traceability to produce reliable numbers. So for now we’re stuck with the current system of attribution of greenhouse gases.

Perfect is the enemy of good, so it isn’t an argument not to have any price on carbon. But it is an argument to make sure any extra costs on industries that compete globally do not lead to us merely producing less in NZ, and importing more or exporting less. The only time this would be desirable is if we were using a bigger carbon footprint than our competitors. This is rare as we have such high levels of renewable energy.

To return to our iceblocks, if we levy a cost on the dirty energy component in manufacture of the popsicle then we will increase the total price for the exported product. A consumer in Australia, for example, would then receive a price signal encouraging purchase of the dirty energy Streets Paddle-pop from China rather than the clean energy TipTop Popsicle from New Zealand. This would also be true in terms of encouraging purchase of high-emissions milk solids from Britain rather than lower-emissions milk solids from New Zealand. Both would tend to cause a global increase in emissions of greenhouse gases.

Clearly, therefore, any disincentive that we apply to the production of dirty energy in New Zealand must satisfy three criteria:

  1. Any disincentive must be applied to the embodied dirty energy for goods and services imported into New Zealand.
  2. Any disincentive must also be applied to goods and services within New Zealand.
  3. Any disincentive must be removed from goods and services exported from New Zealand.

That makes sense but would be very difficult to implement.

Just change a few words

July 28th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve changed just a few words in this column saying climate denial should be a crime:

There is no greater crime being perpetuated on future generations than that committed by those who deny the benefits of free trade. The economic consensus is so overwhelming that to argue against it is to perpetuate a dangerous fraud. Denial has become a yardstick by which intelligence can be tested. The term trade sceptic is now interchangeable with the term mindless fool.

Meta studies show that 97 per cent of published economists agree that free trade is beneficial for all countries and has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.

All of this might be a strange curiosity if the ramifications weren’t so serious. Whether it is the erosion of wealth, an influx of refugees from protectionist countries, or the economic impacts on our primary industries from tariffs, New Zealand must prepare for some significant realities.

The worst of these problems will impact more greatly on generations to come, but to ignore them now is as unconscionable as it is selfish. It ought be seen as a crime.

One way in which everyday crime can be discouraged is to ensure that “capable guardians” are around to deter criminal activity. When it comes to free trade, the capable guardians are educated members of the public who counteract the deniers.

There may be differing opinions on what policies to pursue, but those who deny that free trade is beneficial ought be shouted down like the charlatans that they are. Or better yet, looked upon with pitiful contempt and completely ignored.

There is no room to sit on the fence and say, “I don’t know if it’s true”. Ignorance of the law excuses no one – and so it is with the laws of economics.

Jails are going to end up very full of all those criminal free trade deniers.

US CO2 emissions keep reducing

May 31st, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Capx reports:

Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States fell again in 2015, according to new data from the federal government. Though the levels increased slightly in 2013 and 2014, last year’s drop is in line with the gradual decline that’s been occurring for a decade. The nearly 5.3 billion metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide the country added to the atmosphere in 2015 is 12 percent smaller than that number in 2005.

And not due to recessions either:

More recently, however, the U.S. economy has continued to grow even in years that have seen decreases in emissions. In 2015 the economy was 15 percent larger than in 2005, but the country emitted 23 percent less carbon dioxide per dollar of GDP last year compared with 10 years prior.

This is the challenge – to reduce emissions without reducing GDP.

In the U.S., the decoupling of emissions from economic growth was largely a result of the boom in domestic gas production thanks to hydraulic fracturing. And while the deployment of renewable energy technologies has also increased substantially of late, burning natural gas instead of coal for electricity will likely continue to be the main contributor to emissions declines for years to come.

Yet the Greens oppose fracking despite saying reducing CO2 emissions is critical to our survival. Which is it? Can’t have it both ways.

Indoctrinating five year olds?

May 30th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Autumn Nicholl, 4, and her brother Theo, 5, were among those who came out in support, with their Mum Fiona Nicholl.

Young Theo had been learning about climate change at his West Spreydon school.  

He said he was worried about the “fish dying”, while younger sister Autumn was most concerned about the whales.

They’re preaching doom and gloom to five year olds? I hope not.

No problems with teaching about climate change in secondary school, but telling five year olds that the fish are going to die because of climate change is appalling.

Huntly to stay open until 2022

April 28th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Scoop reports:

Genesis Energy will keep its two coal and gas-fired units at Huntly Power Station operating until 2022, having previously said they’d be closed by 2018, after wringing a high price from other electricity generators who wanted to keep them as back-up.

The Auckland-based power company has signed a ‘swaption’ contract with Meridian Energy “and other market participants”, according to a statement from Meridian chief executive Mark Binns. Meridian, but no detail of the trigger price for firing up Huntly has been given and there is no indication of how much of up to 150 Megawatts of additional capacity is committed to Meridian versus other generators.

Meridian only owns wind and hydro power stations and appears to have led the charge to pay to have the two 250 megawatt Huntly ‘Rankine’ units on standby for any periods of low inflows to hydro lakes that could compromise security of electricity supply. The contract will make up to 100MW available year-round and an additional 50MW in the winter months, from April to the end of October.

The move will disappoint environmental campaigners seeking less fossil fuel use in the New Zealand electricity system, which is roughly 80 percent renewable at present, with a target of 90 percent renewable by 2025.

By 2025 it is likely Huntly will have closed anyway. The decisions on individual power stations are for the company directors. It is not a decision for Government. The Government has correctly placed a charge on greenhouse gas emissions, so that coal costs more than previously. But if Genesis has decided it is more profitable to keep it open for now, that is fine. The price they pay for emissions through the ETS will help pay for offsets such as forestry. That is why an ETS is a good market response, rather than central Government decision making.

Energy Minister Simon Bridges said the move was a “pragmatic” and “transitional” measure, while the national grid operator Transpower also welcomed the decision.

“There were times in 2019 that we forecast a shortfall of energy, which could have been difficult to manage,” said chief executive Alison Andrew in a statement. “In extreme cases (for example a dry year when the hydro lakes are very low), we could have experienced a situation where consumers would have been asked to conserve their power usage.”

Basically without Huntly there would have been risks of power shortages. As more generation comes online, Huntly won’t be needed eventually.

Royal Society on climate change

April 21st, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Royal Society has done a useful report on the possible impacts of climate change on New Zealand.

Some reports are very alarmist and talk about 10 metre sea rises, which is near impossible in the next 100 years. They say the likely increase in the next 100 years is around 30 to 110 cms. That is credible as the current rise is around 3 mm a year.

The report usefully looks at key risks such as flooding, droughts etc. By their own admission they don’t focus on potential benefits such as longer seasons for pasture growth, reduced electricity demand in winter etc.

Died far too young

April 19th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Professor Sir David MacKay, who has died aged 48, was a Cambridge University physicist who set out to cut “UK emissions of twaddle” by applying the laws of physics and mathematics to the debate on sustainable energy.

48 is so very young.

MacKay’s genius was to express all forms of power consumption and production in a single unit of measurement – kilowatt hours per day (kWh/d). A 40 watt lightbulb, kept switched on all the time, uses one kWh/d, while driving the average car 50km a day consumes 40 kWh/d. Such comparisons, MacKay argued, help to shift the focus to the major issues away from much-hyped “eco-gestures” such as believing you have done your bit by remembering to switch off the mobile phone charger. “The amount of energy saved by switching off the phone charger is exactly the same as the energy used by driving an average car for one second,” he wrote. Switching it off for a year saves as much energy as is needed for one hot bath. Such gestures were akin to “bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon”.

I wish EECA or someone would so something like that here – clearly explain what measures are significant and which are trivial.

Applying the same approach to electricity generation, MacKay argued that for renewable facilities to make an appreciable contribution, they would have to be developed on a massive, industrial scale. At the time the book was written, Britain was generating about 4.5 per cent of its electricity from renewables, mostly hydro-power, landfill gas and wind.

Any substantial increase would involve nationwide projects that would have significant effects on the environment. If, for example, it was decided burning biomass (crops for fuel) was the answer, about 75 per cent of Britain would need to be covered in biomass plantations to meet only 25 per cent of our current electricity demand.

Some rational facts!

We require either a radical reduction in consumption, or significant additional sources of energy – or, of course, both” – the main “clean” alternatives to renewables being nuclear and so-called clean coal, “which is as yet an unproven technology”. MacKay was, he claimed, “absolutely not anti-renewables. I love renewables… but I’m also pro-arithmetic.”

Pro-maths – I like it.

It was here that the consumer could make a difference: “ ’Turn your thermostat down’ is, by my reckoning, the single best piece of advice you can give someone. So is ‘fly less’ and ‘drive less’. But hybrid cars and home windmills are just greenwash.”

Again be good to have a NZ guide to what makes the most difference.

Two for one emissions to end

March 22nd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Big industrial emitters of greenhouse gases will lose their right under the emissions trading scheme to offset only half of their emissions, Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett told an international energy conference in Wellington.

It was a matter of “when not if” the so-called “two-for-one” concession would be removed, she said, leaving open the impression that the current $25 a tonne upper limit “cap” on carbon prices may also be removed or placed at a higher level.

“It was always a temporary measure,” said Bennett of the concession. “It is abundantly clear that if the ETS is going to work, carbon must cost more than it does right now.”

As Bennett says, the two for one was always temporary. What will be key is how long the transition is.

Greens are the biggest jet setters

February 29th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

David Seymour has pointed out:

ACT Leader David Seymour is astonished to learn that the Greens have the highest expenditure on flights.
The figures come from the fourth quarter parliamentary expense reports.  It excludes ministers who have a much heavier workload, for example the Ministers of Health and Education must visit hospitals and schools, and are reported separately.
In October, November, and December the average Green MP spent $8,562 on air travel.  By comparison the average Labour MP spent $7,790, the average National MP $5,933 and the average New Zealand First MP $6713.
Sole Maori Party list MP Marama Fox spent $13,571, less than the Greens’ James Shaw ($14,425) and Metiria Turei ($13,852).
“Green MPs’ expenditure on air travel is extraordinary for several reasons,” said Mr Seymour.
“These are the MPs who regularly tell us that climate change is the crisis of our time and we must reduce our emissions.
“It is also extraordinary that they do not even have to serve electorates, as the Greens are all list MPs and have not won an electorate since 1999.  As an Auckland electorate MP I have to see constituents on Monday and be in Parliament on Tuesday, and back in the electorate Friday, practically every week. 
“As list MPs the Greens have far more potential to minimise their carbon footprint by flying less, but not only have they not done so, they are the most frequent flyers.
“Co-leader James Shaw loves to tell the story about how, as a consultant, he helped companies reduce their use of air travel.  The Green Party must be his toughest client.”
The Greens say they offset the carbon footprint of their flights but that is still less than pure, as they criticise others for relying on offets rather than actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
As a party entirely made up of List MPs, you would expect their use of air travel to be far less than electorate MPs.

Greens on ETS

February 9th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An evaluation of the Emissions Trading Scheme shows the Government has “weakened the scheme to the point of ineffectiveness,” says Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

The Government released three technical reports last week, to help New Zealanders engage with a public review of the ETS. 

One of those, a Ministry of Environment report into the performance of the ETS, found it provided businesses nearly no incentive to look at how to reduce their emissions.

Shaw said that with expenditure of $40m on setting up the ETS, and despite it being the Government’s main policy for tackling climate change, it was failing.

“The ETS is supposed to provide businesses with an incentive to reduce their emissions – but two thirds of businesses no longer give any consideration to the ETS when making business decisions.

The Greens are correct that the ETS is not sending a price signal to businesses that will greatly impact production of greenhouse gas emissions.

But this is more due to the collapse of the global price of carbon after the failure of Copenhagen some years ago. The agreement in Paris may see prices rise.

The cost per EU unit was 30 Euros in 2006 but by 2007 had fallen to 10 cents.  So it is not just NZ that has had the challenge of a trading scheme with low prices.

However that is not to say local policy settings don’t have some impact. The 2:1 subsidy was needed to cushion the initial impact, but I think it is time for that to go.

2015 hottest year since records began

January 25th, 2016 at 8:56 am by David Farrar

The NOAA reports:

The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2015 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880. During the final month, the December combined global land and ocean average surface temperature was the highest on record for any month in the 136-year record.


  • During 2015, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F (0.90°C) above the 20th century average.
  • This was the highest among all 136 years in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.29°F (0.16°C) and marking the fourth time a global temperature record has been set this century.
  • This is also the largest margin by which the annual global temperature record has been broken.
  • Ten months had record high temperatures for their respective months during the year.
  • The five highest monthly departures from average for any month on record all occurred during 2015.


However what matters more is not the temperature for one year (as they get affected by many variables).  In the last 40 years or so the average temperature (sea and land) has risen around 0.7 degrees. The graph above shows the average by decade.

China and India to continue increasing emissions

December 19th, 2015 at 8:10 am by David Farrar

While the Paris agreement sees every country make a pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions, there is a huge gap between countries that have stated they will actually decrease emissions (such as NZ, EU, US) and countries that merely promise to slow their increase.

Carbon Brief has analysed pledges of two of the largest emitters in the world. Here’s what they preduct:


This is China’s pledge.  As you can see they are saying they will have emissions grow from 10000 today to over 12,000.


This is India’s.  Their pledge is that emissions will grow by 50%

Total emissions from NZ are around 71 Mt. Our 30% reduction target will see that reduce by around 21 Mt. China and India will increase by around 4,000.

The Paris agreement

December 13th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Governments have signalled an end to the fossil fuel era, committing for the first time to a universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change at crunch UN talks in Paris. …

The deal set a high aspirational goal to limit warming below 2C and strive to keep temperatures at 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – a far more ambitious target than expected, and a key demand of vulnerable countries. It incorporates previous commitments from 186 countries to reduce emissions which on their own would only hold warming to between 2.7C and 3C.

It’s a good thing 200 Governments managed to get an agreement. That is a huge advance on the Kyoto Protocol which was around 30 countries only.

The business as usual projections for future temperature rises were around 4.5C above pre-industrial levels. This, and previous agreements, now has a track of around 3C. It is possible that future technology may find some way to efficiently extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to get it closer to 2C. I don’t think there is anyway it will peak at 1.5C as we are already at over 1.0C.


As I previously blogged, when you take the temperature decade by decade, there has been a large increase since the 1970s.  Even if you don’t find reliable the pre 1970s measurements, the trend for the last 50 years is pronounced.


Developing countries are those blocking more meaningful climate targets

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

An interesting report at Politico:

Here’s how the game works: The negotiating framework established at a 2014conference in Lima, Peru, requires each country to submit a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, called an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” (INDC). Each submission is at the discretion of the individual country; there is no objective standard it must meet or emissions reduction it must achieve.

Beyond that, it’s nearly impossible even to evaluate or compare them. Developing countries actually blocked a requirement that the plans use a common format and metrics, so an INDC need not even mention emissions levels.

And many don’t.

Or a country can propose to reduce emissions off a self-defined “business-as-usual” trajectory, essentially deciding how much it wants to emit and then declaring it an “improvement” from the alternative. To prevent such submissions from being challenged, a group of developing countries led by China and India has rejected“any obligatory review mechanism for increasing individual efforts of developing countries.”

So what will be the impact of Paris?

MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change calculates the improvement by century’s end to be only 0.2 degrees Celsius.

I’ve seen others say it may be up to 0.7c

China, for its part, offered to reach peak carbon-dioxide emissions “around 2030” while reducing emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65 percent by that time from its 2005 level. But the U.S. government’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory had already predicted China’s emissions would peak around 2030 even without the climate plan. And a Bloomberg analysis found that China’s 60-65 percent target is less ambitious than the level it would reach by continuing with business as usual.

So China has a target that it is almost impossible not to make.

The INDCs covering actual emissions reductions are subjective, discretionary, and thus essentially unnegotiable. Not so the cash. Developing countries are expecting more than $100 billion in annual funds from this agreement or they will walk away. (For scale, that’s roughly equivalent to the entire OECD budget for foreign development assistance.)

And we’re put in $200 million.

Rich countries are bidding against themselves to purchase the developing world’s signature on an agreement so they can declare victory — even though the agreement itself will be the only progress achieved.

I think that is a bit harsh. I think having every country having a target, even weak ones, will be useful. If over the next decade the temperature gain is significant, then there will be greater pressure to strengthen the targets. It can be harder to get a country to have any target at all, than it is to strengthen it.

Professor Dave Frame on climate policy

December 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting and sensible interview with Professor Dave Frame of Victoria University’s Climate Change Research Institute in the NZ Herald:

Q. On New Zealand’s new target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels and 11 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030. Do you see this as a reasonable commitment?

You can see it as glass half full or glass half empty.

It’s true we could be doing more; but claims that we are radically behind Europe are a bit overblown – our 2005-2020 commitments have been roughly in line with what would have been expected of us if we had been a country within Europe, with the same per capita income we currently have.

I think that is pretty spot on. We certainly could do more but the claims we are radically out of step with other developed countries is not true. No matter what our policy is, some groups would claim it is disastrously low.

Q. Given criticism of the effectiveness of carbon trading markets, do you hold any concerns with countries relying on systems like the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme to meet their targets?

Trading is more economically efficient than other ways of limiting emissions, such as regulation or taxes.

The issues around our weak price have more to do with policy choices such as the two-for-one deal, our access to cheap hot air units and so on.

It’s not that the ETS itself is inefficient, it’s that some of the policy choices that surround it are enfeebling.

The ETS is a sensible market response to something that has a negative external cost. The two for one deal was needed in the early days to lessen the impact, but I think the time has come to phase it out.

The other weakness in the ETS is the lack of a binding post-Kyoto agreement means the market price for carbon “permits” has dropped dramatically. But post Paris one may see it go up significantly which will mean the emissions market will send stronger price signals.

Q. Are there any areas – such as policy for developing nations – where you see New Zealand making any meaningful difference at COP21?

We can have more influence with our ideas than we can through our emissions alone.

Fossil fuel subsidy reform is arguably our most valuable contribution to date – by getting countries to focus on eliminating bad policies we can leverage emissions reductions far in excess of anything we can do at home.

So far, we’ve been the country that has thought the most about agriculture and climate change, but the issues we have in the agricultural sector are mirrored in many developing countries.

If we can create policies that contribute usefully to international efforts, work for us, and are attractive for others to adopt, we can help shape the way climate policy develops.

This is important. One can also contribute significantly through thought and policy leadership, not just through what happens to your own emissions in a particular year.

Q. In terms of the big picture: who are the big players, why, and how much depends on them to come away with a robust agreement?

There is a scale parameter to climate policy – the smaller you are the less you capture the benefits of your mitigation.

So the big guys will lead and set the precedents whatever they do — either by creating a world where strong policy is the norm or one where weak policy is the norm.

What we can do is suggest ideas that other countries might find useful as they think about climate policy.

As I say get the Big 10 to agree, and everyone else will follow. But the minnows can’t dictate to the big emitters.

Q. Generally, what do you anticipate will be the biggest stumbling blocks at Paris to limiting temperature rise to 2C this century? From attending previous conferences, are you somewhat cynical about getting a good outcome?

Paris should be judged on its ability to get countries to participate in climate policy, subject to some meaningful but basically domestic compliance mechanisms.

It won’t limit warming to 2C, and it’s unrealistic to expect it to do so.

The three main things you need from an international climate agreement are participation, compliance and stringency.

Kyoto made a mistake by focusing on stringency for some before participation by all.

That’s the wrong approach in a problem like this.

Paris is a chance to start over, focusing on getting broad buy-in and potentially signalling some carrots and sticks around compliance.

On the whole, we should judge Paris on the basis of its ability to get everyone to offer something.

Paris is a very important building block and direction setter.

Q. Much has been made of what this conference means for the fate of the planet. Is this really our last chance to achieve a 2C limit before it’s too late?

We’ve been having these last chances for years.

There are several reasons that’s a bad way to view the negotiations: (1) negotiations alone can’t determine that outcome; (2) repeated threats regarding last chances have diminishing credibility; (3) the 2C target is an aspiration, not a physical threshold – there’s no evidence that the world is radically different at 2.1C than it is at 1.9C; (4) choices made today to limit emissions out to 2030 or 2040 cannot guarantee remaining under 2C, because the actions of future generations matter crucially, too.

What we can and should do, is be clear about how to give those future people the best possible shot at limiting warming.

And that means focusing on limiting cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide.

The “last chance” thing is neither compelling nor constructive, nor credible.

The media should take note of this. Every conference since 2001 has been billed the “last chance”. It is wrong, and counter-productive.

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.

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

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.

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.

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


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.

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.