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.

Tags: ,

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.

Tags: ,

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

 

Tags:

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.

Tags: , , ,

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.

 

Tags: , ,

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.

Tags:

NZ leads anti fossil fuels subsidy coalition

April 21st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Tim Groser announced:

Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser today led a coalition of governments calling for the phase-out of subsidies to fossil fuels in the lead-up to a major climate conference in Paris.
 
New Zealand, along with Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland today endorsed a statement to be delivered to the Paris conference that supports the elimination of inefficient subsidies to fossil fuels on environmental, economic and social grounds. The first countries to endorse the initiative were the United States and France which joined New Zealand in Washington to launch the statement.

This is something most people should agree on. I’m generally against most subsidies, and definitely against fossil fuel subsidies.

So how much of an impact do fossil fuel subsidies have?

“New Zealand is leading efforts to urge countries to reform, as this is the missing piece in the climate change jigsaw. More than one third of global carbon emissions between 1980 and 2010 are estimated to have been driven by subsidies for fossil fuels,” said Mr Groser.

Huge.

Many of the “solutions” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are very unpalatable. The Greens want to shoot or get rid of one fifth of the national dairy herd, for example. But this is a solution that should have widespread support.

“Transparency is an essential first step, and that’s why New Zealand was one of the first countries to undertake APEC peer review of our policies. The international review panel has already given its preliminary conclusions, confirming it did not identify any inefficient subsidies.  

Good.

The communique notes:

The majority of fossil-fuel subsidies are also socially regressive, with benefits disproportionately skewed toward middle- and upper-middle income households.

Another reason to get rid of them.

Tags:

Sea level rises

April 14th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

11133754_10152748888667633_9181589978433952426_n

I got this from Forest and Bird on Facebook. Originally from this site.

As someone who believes greenhouse gas emissions do cause warming and sea level rise, I find such scenarios actually counter-productive and are what lead to more and more people just thinking it is all scare-mongering (it isn’t, but stuff like this is exaggerated).

The scenarios shown are 1000 cm, 2500 cm and 8000 cm rise in sea levels. Mr Musther states ” the 10 metre rise could happen within the 21st century” and “a 25 metre sea-level rise could occur within the 21st century”.

I believe in looking at the science. First what has been the actual increases. It has been 1.7 mm a year from 1950 to 2009 and 3.3 mm a year from 1993 to 2009. The consensus scientific projection in the latest IPCC report is an increase this century of 26 to 82 cms.

So these scenarios are based on increases 1200% to 10000% greater than the IPCC projects. Not 20% greater or 50% greater but magnitudes greater.

Again this does not mean that we will not face some challenges from global warming, and that there are not long-term risks with greenhouse gas emissions. It would be an incredibly bad thing if the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melts. However the notion of sea level increases this century in the range of 1000 to 8000 cms is just junk science.

Over many centuries or millenia, you could get increases of that magnitude, and again this is an undesirable thing. But trying to make decisions today on the basis of what the world will be like in say 2250 is deeply challenging – and highly likely to be wrong. Could you imagine sitting in England in 1750 trying to work out the impact of things done in 1750 on the world in 2000? We rarely get it right 10 years out, let alone 250.

Again this is not to say we should not be lowering our level of greenhouse gases. But to try and scare people into thinking we could have sea level rises of this magnitude within the next 100 years is actually counter-productive. It just pisses people off, and makes more people sceptical. The extremists make it harder for the moderates.

Tags:

NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions

April 13th, 2015 at 9:02 am by David Farrar

gge

This graph shows the gross and net greenhouse gas emissions for New Zealand since 1990. It is from the annual report from the MFE. We’re a long way off the 5% reduction from 1990 levels we have committed to. This is partly because the lack of an international agreement has seen the global price of carbon credits fall, which means the Emissions Trading Scheme doesn’t send much of a price signal to encourage less greenhouse gas use.

Of interest is that gross emissions are at much the same level in 2013 as 2008.

The challenge with policy around greenhouse gases is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but not reduce economic growth – ie have fewer greenhouse has emissions per unit of GDP. Simply calling for us to get rid of one fifth of our dairy herd is economically suicidal, but also would be worse for the environment as other countries would simply increase their dairy output (and generally they produce more emissions in their dairy farming).

Tags:

Is geo-engineering a solution to global warming?

February 18th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Scientists are calling for tests to find ways to cool the planet – the first step toward exploration of the controversial field of geoengineering, which aims to change the climate by blocking the sun’s rays.

It might be necessary if society can’t agree on how to stop carbon emissions that are heating up Earth, a panel of experts said at the weekend meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The call for small-scale tests represents a profound shift in thinking among the scientific community, which has resisted conversations about deliberate, large-scale manipulation of the planet.

“We have to know through research … what the benefits and risks might be,” said climate scientist Alan Robock of Rutgers University.

Scientists say the proposals to study sun-blocking ideas are spurred by this sobering reality: Even if we completely stopped carbon emissions today, the Earth will continue warming over the next several decades.

Geoengineering isn’t the preferred response to warming, as it has risks. However it may well become a very sensible measure in the future. I would never bet against what human ingenuity can achieve, when the motivation is there.

Tags:

Greens want NZ Super Fund to divest from fossil fuels

February 18th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Greens are calling on the New Zealand Super Fund to divest from fossil fuels, as it accuses its guardians of betting on a climate disaster. 

The fund currently has $676 million in fossil fuel companies – about 2 per cent of the fund’s assets under management.

The role of the Super Fund is to maximise the return on investment to help fund NZ Superannuation. It is not to reflect Green Party ideology. If you want a Green fund, then you can invest in one of the dozens around. But one of the huge risks in the Government having a large investment fund is that politicians will want to use it for their own pet projects. First they start excluding stuff they don’t like, and then they announce say $5 billion will be invested in wind farm companies, and bang the NZ Super Fund becomes a plaything for politicians.

“Getting out of fossil fuels is not only the right thing to do, it makes financial sense too.”

I wonder how many would die if in fact every fossil fuel company in the world had its funding turned off, and was unable to attract capital. I suspect it might be more than Mao managed!

I do agree that renewable energy needs to be a much larger share of the world’s future energy supply. But fossil fuels in countries like China currently provide heating and electricity to hundreds of millions. If you declared a ban on any future fossil fuel extraction, then there would be massive shortages.

Tags: , ,

NZ rated 2nd for climate change preparedness

February 1st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The ND-Gain Index summarizes a country’s vulnerability to climate change and other global challenges in combination with its readiness to improve resilience.

NZ is ranked second overall, after Norway. We are the 5th least vulnerable country and the 4th most ready country.

We have a minuscule ability to affect the total level of emissions, but a considerable ability to affect how our country is prepared for global warming. It is good to see we are well placed.

Tags: ,

Greens again call for cows to be culled

December 16th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Mr Groser said making a greater commitment up to 2030 would be “a big challenge” for New Zealand because 80 per cent of its energy already came from renewable sources.

“Once you’re that high it’s difficult to find low-hanging fruit,” he said.

There were other obstacles.

No solutions had yet been found by New Zealand researchers into reducing the emissions produced by agriculture.

Quite valid points. But the Greens have a solution.

Green Party climate spokesman Kennedy Graham rejected Mr Groser’s claim that there was no “low-hanging fruit”, saying that similar agriculture-based countries had reduced their dairy herds.

This is the Green Party policy – set a limit on the number of cows in NZ. We’ll cripple our economy for the sake of environment purity, despite the fact our total annual CO2 emissions is less than the daily around the same as the weekly growth in China’s CO2 emissions.

Tags:

The US and China agreement on carbon emissions

November 14th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I’ve often said that any progress on greenhouse gas emissions has to include the ten largest emitters, and especially China and the US who are responsible for 40% of global emissions.

Hence the recent agreement between Obama and Xi is significant. Obama has said the US will reduce its 2025 emissions to 28% below its 2005 level. Xi has said China will peak its emissions by 2030.

The agreement is not legally binding, and Obama has only two years left in office. But it provides an opportunity for a global agreement, which will include all the major emitters.

However setting a date for China to peak is not the same as setting a level at which they may peak. The US has agreed to a cut of 2 gigatons by 2025, while China is forecast to increase by 8 gigatons. And China’s per capita emissions are already higher than the EU.

Tags:

Not even Len deserves a Skoda!

September 4th, 2014 at 3:30 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has opted for a less fuel efficient official car, just weeks after launching a new strategy to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, it has been reported.

A new Holden Commodore has been delivered to Mr Brown for use as the official mayoral car — his third Holden in seven years, with a carbon footprint more than 70 per cent bigger than some of the alternatives, Radio New Zealand reported.

The Holden Calais V-Series V6 has a carbon footprint 50 per cent bigger than a Skoda Superb and 73 per cent bigger than a Toyota Hybrid Camry, the broadcaster said, and comes just over a month after Mr Brown launched the Low Carbon Auckland Action Plan, which aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2040.

Not even Len Brown should be forced to drive a Skoda!

 

Tags: ,

Reducing climate emissions

August 14th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

20140813_124725

Unfortunate placement!

Tags: ,

For those claiming NZ doesn’t do enough for the environment

July 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Some pressure groups would have you believe NZ was near the bottom of the world when it comes to the environment and climate change. They seem to regard anything less than abolishing carbon from New Zealand as treason. But the planet and climate section of the Good Country Index has NZ as 7th best out of 125. That’s not something you’ll hear from the Greens.

Tags: ,

Guest Post: Deep Sea Oil Drilling in NZ : just who is crazy?

March 28th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Assoc Prof Bob Lloyd, director of Energy Studies at Otago University:

I think the time has come to ask, “Just who is crazy when it comes to the arguments for and against exploring for oil off the NZ coast?” The numbers coming from climate change scientists vary from very scary to the “Oh shit it’s too late” variety. The very scary numbers suggest we have around two decades to decarbonise the world’s economy. The “too late” variety come from people like NASA scientist Jim Hansen, who researched the earth’s past climate to obtain a safe CO2 limit of 350 ppm in the atmosphere. We are now close to 400ppm. Hansen’s numbers suggest we should stop all CO2 emissions now and sequester carbon by tree planting and burying biomass as carbon in the soil.

To ensure a habitable climate for future humanity and provide energy for our continued social existence we must stop carbon dioxide emissions and start the transition to a sustainable energy economy. With the present (unsustainable) world economy so closely linked to fossil fuel use, it would be very difficult to stop all emissions immediately. Even Jim Hansen realises this. Some years ago he suggested a transition program where developed countries should close down all coal-fired power plants by 2020 and developing countries do the same by 2030. Hansen opposes any further exploration or exploitation of non-conventional hydrocarbons. There is no evidence that his advice is being followed.

I’ve been looking at these problems for years: it has made me very pessimistic. My pessimistic reputation led to a group of university students giving a lecture titled “Cheer up Bob”: they argued that change was possible — and that they were up to the challenge. From this grew a local consortium that wants to prevent exploration for deep sea oil and/or gas by Anadarko and Shell. This oil and gas is not part of the world’s known reserves: by all scientific accounts it cannot be used if we are to keep our climate habitable.

This proactive, enthusiastic Oil Free Seas Flotilla group wants to prevent human distress and suffering. It wants to preserve the earth’s climate for future generations. It wants an orderly transition to sustainable energy sources that don’t emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The group does not want to shut down the world economy by preventing all existing emissions. Members are not protesting the existing extraction of known resources in Taranaki. They realise we need clear market signals that transition from fossil fuels is the only sensible choice. NZ progress depends on our investment in wind energy, solar energy and biomass resources.

The opposition to deep sea oil drilling is not against the use of conventional oil, especially for purposes that don’t emit carbon into the atmosphere. In fact the best use of remaining oil reserves may well be for construction materials, pharmaceuticals, fertiliser production and lubricants. Future generations may disbelievingly ask their parents, “You actually used to burn this valuable stuff?” 

Because natural gas is a lower greenhouse gas emitter than coal by around 50%, the use of gas in power stations is preferable to coal. Yet as world gas use is still increasing, in ten years the emissions reduction will be wiped out. In addition, gas substitution for coal doesn’t focus on a shift to sustainable energy sources in the short time available. Such a substitution also delivers profits to the very companies — such as Anadarko and Shell — that will invest in yet more oil and gas exploration and so again deliver more CO2 into the atmosphere.  We have to stop the cycle of fossil fuel dependence, not extend it. The gas transition argument is not valid.

So is the protest against oil drilling crazy, or are the people ignoring climate change deluded? New Zealanders must answer this urgent question. Are short term profits for a few worth the incredible risks involved to all?  Vested interests want to continue the status quo, by using all the oil, gas and coal until the earth is wrung dry by fracking, deep sea oil and gas extraction and mining the dirtiest coal. The two thirds or so of existing fossil fuels that cannot (should not) be extracted add up to hundreds of trillions of dollars of profits. But what do profits mean when the earth is uninhabitable? Or more to the point, what do dollars mean when there is nothing to spend them on?

The failure of international climate change negotiations shows that world governments are incapable of acting on this issue. The visible signs of global warming increase every year. Why? Because governments focus on economic growth at all costs and are at the same time subservient to the fossil fuel lobby. Unless the general population of all countries, including NZ, express concern by protesting this insanity, governments will continue not to act.

I am not alone in my views. Another group, Wise Response, is a raft of prominent New Zealanders from a wide range of professions and backgrounds. It’s calling for a cross-party risk assessment of how best to future-proof New Zealand against the climate, energy and financial challenges posed by our fossil fuel dependent society. Wise Response will present a submission to Parliament in April. When their team arrives at the Beehive, they will have the future of all New Zealanders in mind: regardless of political persuasion.

Kiwiblog is generally happy to run occasional guest posts to air different points of views.

Bob Lloyd is with Wise Response.

Tags: , ,

Fisking deaths from climate change

February 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Thomas Lumley blogs at Stats Chat:

Stuff has fallen for an egregiously over-promoted paper on future temperature-related deaths in the UK

The story says:

Deaths caused by hot weather are projected to rise by more than 250 per cent, with the elderly most at risk, the New Zealand Doctor magazine reported today.

The increased death rate, driven by climate change, population growth and ageing, would occur by the middle of the century, according to research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health on Monday.

It was found that “in the absence of any adaptation of the population”, heat-related deaths would be expected to rise by about 257 per cent by the 2050s, and cold-related mortality would decline by 2 per cent.

Where did this story comes from? The Greens!

Stuff attributes this story to NZ Doctor, but all they did was reprint an explicitly unedited Green Party press release.

So Stuff didn’t realise that it was not a news report, but a press release. Or maybe they didn’t care.

As to the facts:

Professor David Spiegelhalter has already savaged this one elegantly on his blog.  All the projected increase in temperature-related deaths in the UK is due to the increase in the number of elderly people.

If you compare people of the same age, the projections say cold-related deaths will fall by about twice as much as heat-related deaths rise, as his graph of the numbers from the paper shows.  That is, the paper actually predicts that global warming will reduce the number of temperature-related deaths in the UK.

Will Stuff run the truth as prominently as the original story.

Finally a point worth noting:

In the USA or Australia, let alone Africa, India, and other less-wealthy tropical places, there is going to be a real problem with temperature-related deaths from global warming.  In many more parts of the world, there’s a potential for weather-related deaths from drought, flood, storm, and ‘tropical’ disease.

Heat waves in the UK are not in the top ten list of things to worry about from global warming. Pretending they are is likely to be counterproductive.

Indeed.

Tags: ,

UN official praises China’s political system

January 22nd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Bloomberg reports:

China, the top emitter of greenhouse gases, is also the country that’s “doing it right” when it comes to addressing global warming, the United Nations’ chief climate official said.

Really?

In 2008 China emitted 7.03 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, which was 23.5% of the global emissions.

In 2012 China emitted 9.86 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, which was 28.6% of the global emissions.

To put it another way, global emissions increased by 5.6 billion tonnes in four years, and China contributed 61.3% of that increase. This is what the most senior UN climate change official calls “Doing it right”. She should be sacked.

China is also able to implement policies because its political system avoids some of the legislative hurdles seen in countries including the U.S., Figueres said.

By this, she means the legislature is a puppet of the ruling party. So what she is really saying is she thinks a one party state system of government is better than a democracy because it is easier to implement climate change policies, even ineffective ones.

The political divide in the U.S. Congress has slowed efforts to pass climate legislation and is “very detrimental” to the fight against global warming, she said.

So what has happened with US emissions?

2008 – 5.46 billion, 18.3% of world
2012 – 5.19 billion, 15.0% of world

So this UN official praises China for increasing it emissions, criticises the US for its reduction in emissions, and praises the Chinese political system for its effectiveness in fighting climate change.

 

Tags: ,

Using a tragedy for political point scoring

November 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

When a natural disaster strikes another country, the House normally grants leave for (mainly) party leaders to express condolences to the country concerned. Yesterday John Key asked for leave in relation to the typhoon in the Philippines. It was granted and both Key and Cunliffe gave excellent short speeches expressing condolences and solidarity.

Then Russel Norman got up and decided that he knew what had caused the typhoon – greenhouse gas emissions, and subjected to the House to a lengthy diatribe about climate change. He spoke for probably twice as long as the Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition combined, and just used a tragedy for political point scoring. MPs got very very grumpy about this, and the Speaker had to intervene to calm things down.

There is a time and a place to debate climate change. It is not during the condolences to a country struck by a typhoon. Norman showed appalling judgement in politicizing what is by convention a non-political series of speeches. Have a look at the Hansard at the link provided. Key, Cunliffe, Martin and Horan all made short non-political contributions. Then read the lengthy diatribe by Norman.

It takes only one MP in the House to deny leave. If Dr Norman continues to use such occasions to grand-stand on climate change, then there is a significant risk than the next the Prime Minister asks the House for leave to express condolences on a tragedy, an MP will say no.

As for Dr Norman claiming the typhoon was caused by climate change. I quote Brendan O’Neill at the Telegraph:

There are two striking things about this nauseously speedy rush to blame every natural disaster on man’s thoughtlessness or wickedness. The first is how unscientific it is. As some scientists have pointed out, there is no “absolute certainty” that climate change causes things like Haiyan. Indeed, the latest IPCC report says: “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.” The ugly urge to say “that storm was caused by climate change”, even before serious studies have been carried out, even before the bodies have been counted, is fuelled by the weirdly self-flagellating moralism of the Green movement, by Greens’ never-flailing instinct to “prove” that modern life kills, rather than by any cool-headed assessment of the facts.

Very true.

Tags: , ,

IPCC AR5 summary

September 28th, 2013 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

The IPCC’s AR5 summary is here, for those who want to actually read the details.

They look at four scenarios called RCP2.6, RCP4,5, RCP 6.0 and RCP 8.5. Basically the higher the number, the higher the level of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 85 years. The two middle scenarios are probably the most realistic as 2.6 assumes a very significant change in energy production and the like and 85 seems to assume no change at all. The scenarios are about more than just the level of emissions, so I am simplifying.

So what is the average temperature change projected under the two middle scenarios:

  • RCP 4.5 – 1.4c by 2055 and 1.8c by 2090
  • RCP 6.0 – 1.3c by 2055 and 2.2c by 2090

This is compared to 1986 – 2005.

And the sea level change:

  • RCP 4.5 – 26cm by 2055 and 47 cm by 2090
  • RCP 6.0 – 25cm by 2055 and 48 cm by 2090

The upper end of the worst case scenario (RCP 8.5) for sea level rise is 82 cm by 2090. That would post significant challenges for many countries – but is nothing like the nonsense some talk about of metres and metres of sea level rise.

Tags:

The warming pause

September 25th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A slowdown in warming that has provided fuel for climate sceptics is one of the thorniest issues in a report to be issued by United Nations experts on Friday.

Over the past 15 years, the world’s average surface temperature rose far slower than many climate models have predicted.

According to projections, global warming should go in lockstep with the ever-rising curve of heat-trapping carbon emissions. But in recent years, warming has lagged. So, where has the missing heat gone?

For climate sceptics, the answer is clear. Either the computer models used to project temperature rise are flawed, or man-made global warming is just a green scam, they say.

I don’t buy into any nonsense that there is some global conspiracy involving thousands of scientists. But I think it is clear that the models to project future temperature increases are imperfect. This is no surprise. The global ecosystem is hugely complex and there are many factors which will take decades or even longer to fully comprehend. We may never fully understand how all the different aspects interact.

But that is not to say it is in the too hard basket. First of all there clearly is still warming over the medium term. The direct impact of increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is relatively simple to calculate, and there is no real scientific dispute over the direct impact.

Where we have uncertainty is how the rest of the climate ecosystem responds to the warming caused by greenhouse gases. The models in the past have projected a multiplying impact, where temperatures increase quite rapidly. It may turn out to be that in fact the rest of the ecosystem will actually mitigate the impact of greenhouse gases. Note mitigate does not mean reverse.

Over the past 50 years, the mean global temperature rise was 0.12C per decade, slowing to an average 0.05C per decade over the past 15 years.

Half of the slowdown could be attributed to volcanic eruptions, whose particles reflect sunlight, and a bigger-than-expected drop in heat from the sun’s changing activity cycle, said a summary of the report.

The other half is attributed to a “cooling contribution from internal variability”.

Laurent Terray with the French computer modelling agency Cerfacs said the term is used to explain a shift in the way heat is distributed between land, sea and air.

Still unclear is what causes the variation or determines its duration.

“We know that this kind of episode, of a decadal length or thereabouts, can occur once or twice a century,” said Terray. “If it continues for two more decades, we may start to think that the computer models are underestimating internal variability.”

New research by Britain’s Met Office suggests the “missing” heat, or some of it, is being transferred from the ocean surface to the deeps.

Temperatures at depths below 3000m have been rising since the 1990s, implying a source of heat-trapping today will contribute to warming tomorrow.

As one can see the ecosystem is very complex, and there are multiple ways different parts can interact.

I am looking forward to seeing the IPCC update when it is released.

Tags:

Climate change update

August 2nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A new report from the Office of Prime Minister’s Science Advisory Committee is on climate change. The forward has an extract worth noting:

 

An inherent feature of climate change science is its complexity and it must deal with many unknowns. Considerable research into the effects of greenhouse gases has been undertaken globally and, despite inevitable uncertainty, there is a very high scientific consensus regarding the likely magnitude, approximate timing of and the nature of the challenges ahead. It would be highly imprudent to ignore such projected scenarios just because they must be expressed in terms of probabilities rather than certainties. It is important to apply an understanding of uncertainty and of risk and their management to address this challenge and this means using the available and accumulating evidence appropriately. Just because there is an inherent level of uncertainty does not obviate the probability of impactful climate change and the need to be proactive in addressing it through mitigation and adaptive strategies.

The key policy issues are around how much focus one puts on mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation is preferable in theory, but in practice you need to get buy in from all the major emitters to make any significant difference. Adaptation however can be done nationally, and even locally. The report notes:

New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions represent but a minute fraction of global emissions (less than 0.2%). Any action from New Zealand to mitigate emissions would have negligible direct global impact in real terms. Therefore, New Zealand’s contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse emissions is more of a geopolitical issue than a scientific one. Irrespective of what happens globally to emissions, the New Zealand challenge will involve adaptation to climate change.

The key projected changes for NZ are:

  • Ocean acidification: pH changes are greater in cooler waters
  • Temperature: The midrange of projections is an average temperature increase of 0.9°C by 2040, 2.1°C by 2090
  • Wind: Increase in strongest winter winds by 2100
  • Precipitation: Little change for the overall mean, but large geographical variation
  • Extreme weather: Heavier and more frequent extreme rainfalls, but also more droughts. On average, 2 or more extra weeks of drought annually by mid-century for much of North Island and eastern South Island.

In terms of the recent temperature trends, the report notes:

  • Over short time periods, natural variability has a significant impact on the global warming trend
  • Short periods of no change or even slight cooling are to be expected, despite a continued long-term warming trend; 
  • At times natural variability may even amplify warming;
  • Global surface temperatures are only part of the picture, the ocean is a much larger heat sink than the atmosphere;
  • The reported recent ‘hiatus’ in the rate of rise of temperature does not signal that climate change has ‘stopped’ or is no longer a concern

The report is around 20 pages long, and for my 2c is very well done. I suggest people actually read it, rather than jump to conclusions about what it does and does not say.

Tags:

Oxford says rate of warming has slowed

May 20th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

James Ihaka at NZ Herald reports:

New research from Oxford University shows the rate of global warming has been lower over the past decade than it was previously.

The paper, “Energy budget constraints on climate response”, to be published online by Nature Geoscience, shows the estimated average climate sensitivity – or how much the globe will warm if carbon dioxide concentrations are doubled – is almost the same as the estimates based on data up to the year 2000.

The two estimates of the average are only 0.1C different.

The study, which uses data from the past decade, also shows the most extreme rates of warming simulated by climate models over 50- to 100-year timescales are looking less likely.

The Financial Times has more info:

The most recent global assessment of scientific understanding on the topic of climate sensitivity was carried out by the UN body charged with producing regular evaluations of the state of climate knowledge, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2007.

It estimated then that if carbon dioxide concentrations eventually doubled from their pre-industrial levels of around 280 ppm to 560 ppm, the long-term temperature rise, hundreds of years in the future, was likely to be between 2°C and 4.5°C, with a best estimate of about 3°C.

In the short term, over the next 50 to 100 years, it suggested likely rises within a range of 1°C and 3°C.

Dr Otto and his colleagues have come up with similar estimates to the IPCC’s long-term projections, but their short-term figures (for what is technically known as the transient climate response) suggest temperatures might only rise by between 0.9 °C and 2°C in coming decades.

So the worst case scenario is now deemed unlikely. Why?

The difference comes about because the researchers have taken account of the most recent decade of flatter temperature rises – which many scientists believe are due to the oceans’ absorption of heat – and other factors.

This makes sense. Despite what some say, there is no scientific doubt that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have a warming effect as they keep heat in.

But what we have an imprecise knowledge of is how the rest of the climate ecosystem reacts to the warming generated by greenhouse gases. That is why there is legitimate debate about the extent of any warming (but not over the fact there is warming over the long-term).

The uncertainty makes policy responses more difficult, especially the key issue of whether money is better spent on mitigation or adaptation. The key policy challenge with mitigation is getting the big three emitters to agree. Any mitigation efforts that do not include them are useless in an environmental sense (but may have some use in a political sense).

Tags: