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: Climate Change, country rankings
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: Bob Lloyd, Climate Change, off shore drilling
Thomas Lumley blogs at Stats Chat:
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: Climate Change, Stats Chat
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.
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: Climate Change, UN
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: Climate Change, Parliament, Russel Norman
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: Climate Change
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
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: Climate Change
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 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: Climate Change
Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg writes in The Australian:
Yes, global warming is real and mostly man-made, but our policies have failed, predictably and spectacularly. I was one of the strongest critics of the Kyoto climate change treaty, back when it was considered gospel. People were aghast when I criticised it then. Now Kyoto has no friends, and everyone remembers how they really did not believe in it.
Kyoto achieved almost nothing, because the major emitters were excluded.
When economists estimate the net damage from global warming as a percentage of gross domestic product, they find it will indeed have an overall negative impact in the long run but the impact of moderate warming (1C-2C) will be beneficial. It is only towards the end of the century, when temperatures have risen much more, that global warming will turn negative. One peer-reviewed model estimates that it will turn into a net cost only by 2070.
We need to stop claiming that it will be the end of the world. Just as it is silly to deny man-made global warming, it is indefensible to describe it as the biggest calamity of the 21st century.
So what are the possible costs?
Here is how to quantify this. The most well-known economic model of global warming is the DICE model by William Nordhaus, of Yale University. It calculates the total costs (from heat waves, hurricanes, crop failure and so on) as well as the total benefits (from cold waves and CO2 fertilisation). If you compare these over the next 200 years, the total cost of global warming is estimated at about $33 trillion.
While this is not a trivial number, you have to put it in context. Over the next 200 years, global GDP will run to about $2200 trillion, so global warming constitutes a loss of about 1.5 per cent of this figure. This is not the end of the world but a problem that needs to be solved.
1.5% of global GDP is a significant amount of money. As Lomborg says it is a problem that needs solving, but it is not doomsday.
No matter what carbon cuts we make in the next couple of decades, they will make no measurable difference until the second half of the century, because the climate system is such a super-tanker. This means that a smart climate policy is not about doing just anything now but doing something significant that will be sustainable and cut a large amount of CO2 in the long run. This is the difference between doing something that feels good and focusing on something that will do good.
Similarly, the emissions that matter in the 21st century are from the developing world. Yes, we in the rich world emitted most of the CO2 in the 20th century, but we are slowly sliding towards insignificance. Today we emit just 43 per cent and by the end of the century, we will be down to 23 per cent.
All the rich countries’ climate policies will not matter much unless China, India and the rest of the world are in on them. And they really are not right now, because our feelgood policies are all high cost for little benefit, which poor countries cannot afford.
An agreement without China and India will have almost no environmental impact. But the problem is that there is little economic incentive for them to agree to a cap.
Second, even if successful, this approach would not solve the problem. If everyone implemented Kyoto, temperatures would drop by the end of the century by a minuscule 0.004C. The EU policy will, across the century, cost about $20 trillion; yet will reduce temperatures by just 0.05C.
One can believe global warming is a problem, but believe Kyoto was economic insanity.
The only way to move towards a long-term reduction in emissions is if green energy becomes much cheaper. If it cost less than fossil fuels, everyone would switch, including the Chinese.
This, of course, requires breakthroughs in green technologies and much more innovation.
At the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate, a panel of economists, including three Nobel laureates, found that the best long-term strategy was to increase dramatically investment in green research and development. They suggested doing so 10-fold to $US100bn a year globally. This would equal 0.2 per cent of global GDP.
Of course, R&D holds no guarantees. We might spend billions and still come up empty-handed in 40 years’ time. But it has a much better chance of success than continuing the futile efforts of the past 20 years.
That sounds a good plan to me. It is similar to the investment we are making in research into reducing agriculture emissions. Science is the answer.
This is what the US has done with fracking. It spent about $US10bn in subsidies over the past three decades on innovation, opening up huge new resources of previously inaccessible shale gas. Despite some legitimate concerns about safety, it is hard to overstate the overwhelming benefits: a dramatic fall in natural gas prices and a shift in US electricity generation from 50 per cent coal and 20 per cent gas to 37 per cent coal and 30 per cent gas. This has reduced US annual CO2 emissions by 400 million-500 million tonnes — about twice what the rest of the world has achieved over the past 20 years.
The fracking bonanza also creates long-term social and economic benefits through lower energy costs: US consumers benefit by about $100bn in lower gas prices. By contrast, estimates show that a 330 million-tonne CO2 reduction in the EU using carbon taxes would cost $240bn. It illustrates why we must confess to the failures of the past 20 years. As long as renewables are not ready, we are spending vast sums of money on tiny cuts in CO2. Instead, we should focus on investing dramatically more in R&D into green energy over the next 20-40 years.
The solution is not to make fossil fuels so expensive that nobody wants them because that will never work but to make green energy so cheap that eventually everybody wants it.
He speaks a lot of sense.Tags: Bjorn Lomborg, Climate Change
Tom Hunt at Stuff reports:
The roughest storms are set to get rougher under climate change predictions that already have two decades of proven reliability. …
It was possible events such as the floods in Nelson and Golden Bay last December could become more common, said New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute director David Frame.
Professor Frame is co-author of a report published in the latest edition of Nature Climate Change.
Along with Daithi Stone, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, Prof Frame has compared predictions from the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report in 1990 with actual data from the past 20 years.
The comparison showed global climate change was happening as predicted in 1990. “Things are changing pretty much the way we thought – surprisingly so,” Prof Frame said.
Since 1990 the average global surface temperature rose by between 0.35 degrees Celsius and 0.39C, in line with 1990 predictions. This was in spite of unforeseen climate-altering events, such as the eruption of Mt Pinatubo in 1991, the collapse of Soviet bloc industries in the 1990s, and the recent fossil fuel-intensive growth in economies such as Asia.
“What we’ve found is that these early predictions seem pretty good, and this is likely due to the climate responding to concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere at a rate broadly in line with what scientists in 1990 expected.”
The 1990 predictions looked ahead as far as 2030, and forecast that average temperatures would continue to rise by about 0.2C a decade.
You have to pay to see the full article, so I can only go on what is reported. There is no doubt the average global temperature today is significantly hotter than in 1990. But what did the 1st assessment report predict:
An average rate of increase of global mean temperature during the next century of about 0.3°C per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2—0.5°C per decade) assuming the IPCC Scenario A (Business-as-Usual) emissions of greenhouse gases;
So they actually said 0.3 per decade. The 0.2 figure referred to was not for the BAU scenario but a scenario of increasing levels of controls of emissions. And we have been told for the last 20 years that there has been no significant control of emissions – none of the major emitters joined Kyoto and that applied to 2008 to 2012 only. So I think this is a case of cherry picking the scenario which fits the data. The BAU prediction was clearly 0.3. Also the sea level rise was predicted to be:
Under the IPCC Scenario A (Business-as-Usual) emissions, an average rate of global mean sea-level rise of about 6 cm per decade over the next century (with an uncertainty range of 3—10 cm per decade).
Now what has been the increase? Well the NASA data says:
- 1990 – 0.37 (above century average)
- 2011 – 0.52
That’s an increase of 0.15, and the IPCC BAU prediction was 0.60. So again there is an increase but I wouldn’t hold the 1990 1st assessment report as an uncanny oracle that is flawless. Again I can’t see the full report, to see which data they have selected to back their argument, but all I have done is choose the BAU prediction and the NASA global average data. I’ve not gone looking for a particular dataset to support the case that warming, while happening, has not been as fast as predicted.
There is no scientific debate about the fact that increased greenhouse gas emissions will increase the temperature. This aspect of the science is unchallenged. What is more uncertain is how does nature respond to this. What are the other factors that may either speed up warming, or mitigate it.
If China, India and the US do not control or reduce their emissions, then I have little doubt that the average temperature in say 2050 will be warmer than today. But I do have doubt over just how much warmer.
With the sea level rise prediction of 6 cm per decade, the data is that it has been 3 cm a decade. This is within their margin of error of 3 cm to 10 cm a year. So it can be consistent to say the 1st IPCC report predictions were accurate for sea level rise, but also that they are at the lower end.Tags: Climate Change
Highlighting a rift between the rich countries and emerging economies like China, New Zealand’s climate change minister has staunchly defended his government’s decision to drop out of the emissions pact for developed nations, saying it’s an outdated and insufficient response to global warming.
First of all, we are not dropping out. The commitment period was for 2008 to 2012. That ends in 27 days. Our commitment was to have net greenhouse gas emissions during those five years less than our emissions in 1990. We will achieve that target (due to foresty offsets).
Some (not all) Kyoto signatories are voluntarily making a binding post 2012 commitment. These countries represent 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. The NZ position is we will agree to a further binding commitment – but it needs to include the major emitters.
Any deal which does not include China, US and India is near worthless in an environmental sense.
Now there is an argument that those countries responsible for 15% of the emissions should show moral leadership and agree to further binding commitments, as this will cause the rest of the emitting countries to be shamed or encouraged or forced into making their own reduction commitments.
That is a reasonable argument. Except for one thing. It has been tried and failed. That is what the first commitment period was about. The arguments for Kyoto were not that it would make an impact on global emissions and temperatures (the impact is minor and almost non-existent) but that it would lead to more comprehensive deal with all countries.
It didn’t. China and India and others refused any sort of binding commitment. So I just do not accept that a Kyoto 2 will lead to China and India (and the US) agreeing to GGE reductions. In fact I think it will achieve the opposite.
Countries should hold out for a comprehensive all (bar the most minor) countries agreement. Anything less will be ineffectual.Tags: Climate Change, Kyoto
The Herald reports:
Prime Minister John Key has defended the Government’s decision not to sign on for the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol, saying the country is playing its part in combating climate change.
The climate change treaty’s first commitment period expires at the end of the year and New Zealand expects to slightly exceed its target.
The treaty aims to curb international greenhouse gas emissions through binding national commitments but some countries have questioned its effectiveness.
Oh Kyoto is almost totally ineffective. The first commitment period excluded the major emitters and the second period would cover at best 15% of total emissions.
I support an international agreement to reduce emissions, but any agreement without China, India and the United States is worthless.
Here;s what the impact of Kyoto on global temperatures would be:
The first scenario looked at what would happen if, after the protocol expires, the Annex B countries continued to abide by Kyoto’s limits but did not make any new commitments to further cut emissions for the rest of the century.
This “constant compliance” scenario would shave 0.11 to 0.21 degrees Celsius (0.20–0.38 degrees Fahrenheit) off global average temperatures by 2100. Stated another way, instead of heating up by 2.5°C (4.5°F), a midpoint in the range of projections of global warming, Earth would warm approximately 6% less.
So after 100 years the increase in global temperatures may be 0.2 degrees less. It’s ridiculous.
Again, any credible agreement needs the big emitters in there, The top 10 emitters are:
- China 16.4%
- US 15.7%
- Brazil 6.5%
- Indonesia 4.6%
- Russia 4.6%
- India 4.3%
- Japan 3.2%
- Germany 2.3%
- Canada 1.9%
- UK 1.6%
Now the only countries in that top 10 who are in Kyoto are Japan, Germany and the UK. NZ by the way is at 0.2%.
Tags: Climate Change, Kyoto
Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:
The final reading of a bill which amended the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) drew impassioned speeches from MPs, in particular Green Party climate change spokesman Kennedy Graham.
Dr Graham levelled mock criminal charges at the Prime Minister and Minister for Climate Change.
“I charge the leaders of this Government with the moral crime of ecocide. I trust that in due course that they stand accountable before the children of this world, the children of John Key, the grandchildren of Tim Groser and mine.”
He went further: “The leaders of this government … are committing us to purgatory and thence to hell. Purgatory is the next decade, and hell the decade after.”
What insane hysteria. Purgatory and hell?
China’s daily growth in greenhouse gas emissions is greater than the total emissions put out by New Zealand.
I actually think agriculture should start to come into the ETS, but Kennedy Graham does his cause no help at all with such hysterical blather.Tags: Climate Change, Greens, Kennedy Graham
A fascinating article at Foreign Policy:
These scientists are beginning to look for a Plan B. There are two distinct approaches under consideration — sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, or creating an artificial sun shield for the planet. The former, which involves reversing some of the very processes that are leading to the climate problem, is expensive.
A sun shield?
If the world can’t get its act together to limit carbon emissions, geoengineering may be the only option we have. Distill the climate problem down to the essentials, and it becomes obvious that global warming is fundamentally a market failure: All seven billion of us human beings are “free riders” on a planet that is heating up. We put billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, and largely aren’t required to pay for the privilege. There’s too little incentive to stop polluting. …
“Free riding” also plagues relations between countries. Some, like the European Union have a cap or tax on carbon pollution. Most are still waiting on the sidelines. Why should any single country cut its carbon emissions when it knows that its reductions will only be a drop in the bucket toward solving climate change — and other nations aren’t asking their citizens to pay their fair share? Blame it on short election cycles, partisanship, or fossil energy interests, the political will often doesn’t exist — whether in Washington or the latest global environment gathering in Rio de Janeiro.
Yep, unless China and India are part of any agreement, other countries won;t commit.
“Free riders” are only half the problem. “Free drivers” may be as important. The allure of geoengineering derives from the simple fact that – given what little we know about it at the moment – it appears to be a comparatively cheap way to combat climate change. And it doesn’t take a global agreement to act. It takes one actor – one country – in the driver’s seat.
If, for example, the very existence of an island, nation, city, or agricultural region is threatened by global warming, the question among its leaders will no longer be whether geoengineering is an option, but what the effects, positive and negative, might be and how it could be carried out. That’s also where the science stands today, and the economics points in the same direction.
This makes sense. Something one or more countries can do by themselves, without the need for universal support.
In fact, the price tag of these geoengineering strategies is likely to be negligible relative to the purported benefits: Columbia University’s Scott Barrett, among others, has calculated that it would cost pennies to offset a ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By comparison, it costs dollars per ton to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the first place.
And much cheaper.
What makes scientists believe geoengineering could work? It’s been tried before – by nature, not by humanity.
When Mount Pinatubo erupted in June 1991, it forced the evacuation of 200,000 Filipinos and shot 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. The added sulfur counteracted the effect of 1,100 billion tons of carbon dioxide that had been accumulating in the atmosphere since the dawn of the industrial revolution. In 1992 and 1993, it decreased global temperatures by a bit less than 1 degree Fahrenheit by reducing the amount of sunlight that hit the earth’s surface. That was about the same amount temperatures had risen at that point from carbon added to the atmosphere by human activity. In other words, Mount Pinatubo alone offset all temperature increases from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
So all we need is to have more volcanoes erupt!
As the article makes clear, geoengineering has considerable risks and side-effects. But with the major emitting countries unwilling to cap carbon emissions, it may well be that one or more countries turn their attention to geoengineering.Tags: Climate Change
The Herald reports:
A group of global warming sceptics has lost a bid to have temperatures collected by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), declared invalid.
A High Court ruling released today by Justice Geoffrey Venning said the New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust had not succeeded in any of its challenges against Niwa.
Justice Venning also ruled the trust had to pay Niwa costs and if they could not agree on the amount, he would make a ruling later.
In July the trust, a branch of the NZ Climate Science Coalition, challenged national temperature records in the High Court in Auckland, saying the method used was unscientific.
Records from Niwa showed a national warming trend of almost 1 degree Celsius in the last century.
The figure, which was almost 50 per cent above the global average for the period, was unreliable, the trust says.
The judgement clearly states that NIWA applied “credible scientific methodology”. The court did not decide which methodology was superior, merely that the methodology used by NIWA was reasonable and tenable.
My view is that the mean temperature is increasing, and that human activity is primarily the cause. However The rate of future warming is unknown.Tags: Climate Change, Climate Science Coalition, NIWA
Ronald Bailey at Reason blogs:
U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions at 20-Year Low Thanks to Fracking
In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.
Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. …
Both government and industry experts said the biggest surprise is how quickly the electric industry turned away from coal. In 2005, coal was used to produce about half of all the electricity generated in the U.S. The Energy Information Agency said that fell to 34 percent in March, the lowest level since it began keeping records nearly 40 years ago.
It is fracking that has opened up the shale gas. The Greens should be promoting fracking, not trying to ban it.Tags: Climate Change, fracking
I blogged last week on a report by Antony Watts which found the increase in US surface temperature in the last 20 years was less than previously reported. It was all about appropriate adjustments to station data.
The Washington Post blogger Jason Samwnow blogs:
The blogosphere has quickly pointed out two problems with Watts’ estimates:
1) Independent satellite data – which Watts posts on his blog each month and has stood behind – indicate a warming over the U.S. closer to NOAA’s estimate. This point was raised by ClimateAudit blogger Steven McIntyre: “Over the continental US, the UAH satellite record shows a trend of 0.29 deg C/decade (TLT) from 1979-2008,” McIntyre said.
Interestingly, McIntyre is listed as a co-author of the Watts paper but begins a blog post expressing “puzzlement at Anthony’s [Watts’press release] announcement”and qualifies his involvement as “very last minute and limited”. And he admits to not having “parsed” parts of the Watts study.
2) Watts’ failure to make certain adjustments to the raw data, as NOAA has done, is a serious flaw knowledgeable bloggers say. Specifically, Watts did not apply a time of observation bias correction according to Howard Universitychemistry professor Josh Halpern, who blogs under the pseudonym Eli Rabett. McIntyre also addressed this problem: “There is a confounding interaction with TOBS [time of observation] that needs to be allowed for, as has been quickly and correctly pointed out.”
Also the listed co-author has blogged:
People have quite reasonably asked about my connection with the surface stations article, given my puzzlement at Anthony’s announcement last week. Anthony described my last-minute involvement here.
As readers are probably aware, I haven’t taken much issue with temperature data other than pressing the field to be more transparent. The satellite data seems quite convincing to me over the past 30 years and bounds the potential impact of contamination of surface stations, a point made in a CA post on Berkeley last fall here. Prior to the satellite period, station histories are “proxies” of varying quality. Over the continental US, the UAH satellite record shows a trend of 0.29 deg C/decade (TLT) from 1979-2008, significantly higher than their GLB land trend of 0.173 deg C/decade. Over land, amplification is negligible.
The satellite data is generally seen as accurate, and supports the records that show around 0.3 degree warming a decade. It is worth noting that even if you think Watts is right that it is lower at 0.15 – what is not disputed that temperatures are increasing. It is also very basic uncontested science that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will have a warming effect. What is contested is how large and fast that warming will be.Tags: Climate Change
Anthony Watts blogs:
A reanalysis of U.S. surface station temperatures has been performed using the recently WMO-approved Siting Classification System devised by METEO-France’s Michel Leroy. The new siting classification more accurately characterizes the quality of the location in terms of monitoring long-term spatially representative surface temperature trends. The new analysis demonstrates that reported 1979-2008 U.S. temperature trends are spuriously doubled, with 92% of that over-estimation resulting from erroneous NOAA adjustments of well-sited stations upward. The paper is the first to use the updated siting system which addresses USHCN siting issues and data adjustments.
The new improved assessment, for the years 1979 to 2008, yields a trend of +0.155C per decade from the high quality sites, a +0.248 C per decade trend for poorly sited locations, and a trend of +0.309 C per decade after NOAA adjusts the data. This issue of station siting quality is expected to be an issue with respect to the monitoring of land surface temperature throughout the Global Historical Climate Network and in the BEST network.
This fits in with what my view is, that there is global warming, and human activity is causing it, but that the extent of the warming is debatable and not as large as originally projected.
The study by Watts and others has been a five year piece of work. I’ll be interested if there is a response to it, based on the science. Even though it still shows warming, the difference is very significant.Tags: Anthony Watts, Climate Change
The Dom Post reports:
Parts of coastal Wellington could be drowned if doomsday climate change predictions from a new study pan out over the next 100 years.
Two reports issued yesterday by Greater Wellington regional council show Wellington’s sea level is the fastest rising in New Zealand – made worse by seismic rumblings causing the city to sink 1.7mm a year since 2000.
Worst-case scenarios coupling massive sea level rise with intense storm floods show low-lying coastal parts of the Eastbourne bays, Petone, Pauatahanui, as well as the river mouths at Otaki, Hutt, Whakataki (near Castlepoint), and Waikanae and the lower Wairarapa valley, could be forever swamped if sea levels rose 1.5m by 2115.
The scenario of 1.5m in 100 years is rather detached from reality. It would be sea level rise 10 times faster than what is actually happening. A 1.7mm rise a year is 17cm over 100 years if the rate stayed the same. Now sure it may increase – but it is not going to be 10 times as fast.
A reminder that the latest IPCC forecast is that on average over 100 years sea levels will rise between 19 and 59 cm. A 1.5m increase is three times greater than the “maximum” forecast by the last IPCC report.
On the plus side, the doomsday map shows that my apartment block will become a beachfront property, which would be great. So I’m all in favour.Tags: Climate Change, Wellington
The American interest blogs:
Despite there being no real effort by Congress to addressglobal warming and America’s longstanding reputation as an energy hog, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are falling.
The lackluster economy has something to do with it. But it doesn’t fully explain what’s happening. Consider that even factoring in a stronger economy, forecasters see greenhouse gas emissions continuing to fall.
It’s possible the country may meet its pledge to reduce emissions 17% by 2020.
So what is causing this?
The secret isn’t laws, green activism or regulations (although these do have roles to play). Innovation is the force that is enabling the cut in US carbon emissions. Specifically, the new ways of extracting natural gas that make have driven a natural gas boom in this country and dramatically cut the cost of the cleanest hydrocarbon energy source of them all. …
Ignore the greens and innovate, and you will cut carbon. Pay a lot of attention to them, spend a lot of money — and you will keep carbon emissions unchanged.
The story of course is more complicated than this, and there are real environmental problems that come with fracking. Nevertheless, the one force capable of enabling human beings to have the kind of freedom and abundance that they want while preserving the planetary environment on which we all depend is innovation. Regulations and laws have their place, but they can only do so much.
Right now, fracking is doing more to control carbon emissions than all the efforts of all the greens in the world. …
And by creating more well paid blue collar jobs both in gas and oil extraction and in the manufacturing industries that will grow to exploit the new cheap energy sources, fracking strengthens the American economy and the tax base, providing revenues for both federal and state governments.
Fracking is the left’s best friend.
Now the Greens always say climate change is the biggest challenge the planet faces – we risk extinction in fact. So I expect them to immediately stop their campaign to ban fracking, and endorse its use!Tags: Climate Change, fracking
A reader sent this scan to me. Incidentally this was published just two years before the National Academy of Sciences first talked about global warming. Doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, just that predicting something as complex as climate is very very difficult.
UPDATE: Have had pointed out this is near identical to this 2007 climate change cover. This may be a photoshop. However Time in 1974 did run a story called “Another Ice Age?”. So someone has altered a modern cover to fit the old story.
I did check it out on Snopes, which is what I do with a lot of material sent to me by e-mail, but Snopes did not have an article on the cover and it was well known Time did run such an article, so I had no reason to doubt it was an actual cover.
This one is genuine!Tags: Climate Change
James Lovelock is a well known environmentalist, and has been a loud voice proclaiming that the impact of man made global warming would be massive. In 2006 he said:
billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable
He was referring to the year 2100 – just 88 years away. He said that 80% of the world’s population will have perished due to climate change, and by 2040 parts of the Sahara desert will have moved into middle Europe, and there will be almost no food grown in Europe.
In 2010 he said “Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.”
He is quoted on the Green Party website 24 times, including blog comments.
James Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his “Gaia” theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being “alarmist” about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.
Lovelock, 92, is writing a new book in which he will say climate change is still happening, but not as quickly as he once feared. …
“The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.
“The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.
“The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time… it (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising — carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.
He pointed to Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers” as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future.
I’ve often said that the “alarmists” are significantly responsible for the huge levels of disbelief in greenhouse gases causing global warming. There is little dispute that increased greenhouse gases has a direct impact on the average temperature, but what is unknown is how other factors either multiply this impact, or reduce it.Tags: Climate Change, James Lovelock
The Herald reports:
Sea levels will rise up to 22 metres even if the worst scenarios for global warming are avoided, researchers say.
An international team of scientists, which included a New Zealander, found that a 2C increase in global temperature would still cause the world’s oceans to rise between 12m and 22m.
Two degrees is the recommended limit set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A bigger increase could lead to the melting of the West Antarctic ice sheet, some of the East Antarctic ice sheet and part of Greenland.
A 22m increase in sea level would dramatically transform New Zealand’s coastal boundaries, with low-lying areas like Auckland and Wellington’s harbours swamped by ocean currents.
But lead researcher Ken Miller said: “You don’t need to sell your beach real estate yet, because melting of these large ice sheets will take from centuries to a few thousand years.”
That last paragraph is key, and why this is just alarmist bullshit. Some people doubt temperatures are rising at all, But I do think there is a warming trend, of which greenhouse gas emissions are at least partially responsible. However even the IPCC say that the maximum rise in sea levels by 2100 is 59 cm. This is a 2007 projection. Since then some media have quoted extreme claims beyond that, but I prefer to put credence on the IPCC projections. The IPCC process is far from perfect, but they tend to produce reasonably sane figures.
The actual increase in sea levels is around 3 mm a year currently. This will pose challenges in the future, but the future will also bring more solutions. The hysterical nonsense about increases of 22 metres is forecasting perhaps in 5,000 years time. Anyone who thinks public policy today should be based on a forecast of what the climate might be in 5,000 years is nuts. Look at how the world has changed in just 100 years let alone hundreds or thousands. Hell in 1,000 years we may be living on Mars.
The Herald should be ashamed for saying that the projected increase could “dramatically transform” our coastal boundaries. A change over 1,000 years+ is not dramatic. It’s like saying the separation of Gondwana was dramaticTags: Climate Change