Posts Tagged Climate politics

NZ cranks finally publish an NZ temperature series – but their paper’s stuffed with errors Gareth Renowden Oct 31

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

You can’t teach old dogs new tricks, it seems — certainly not if they’re gnawing a much loved old bone at the time. The lads from the NZ Climate Science Coalition — yes, the same boys who tried to sue NIWA over the New Zealand temperature record and lost, and who then folded a trust to avoid paying court-ordered costs — have finally found a learned journal gullible enough to accept and publish their shonky reworking of NZ’s temperature record. Earlier this month Environmental Modelling and Assessment published A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand by CR de Freitas & MO Dedekind & BE Brill (DOI 10.1007/s10666-014-9429-z).

My attention was drawn to dFDB 2014 by an NZCSC press release, and yesterday Richard Treadgold, the man who kicked off the whole sad affair five years ago, posted a disingenuous and misleading article about the paper at his blog. As you might expect given the authors, the paper does not call for an upward revision in the amount of warming NZ has experienced over the last century. The abstract concludes with the following:

Current New Zealand century-long climatology based on 1981 methods produces a trend of 0.91 °C per century. Our analysis, which uses updated measurement techniques and corrects for shelter-contaminated data, produces a trend of 0.28 °C per century.

As you might also expect, given the authors and their respective track records, the paper is riddled with schoolboy howlers and outright misrepresentations. It would probably never have seen the light of day without the assistance of Chris “Pal Reviewde Freitas and his undoubted ability to steer tosh to publication.

Here’s a partial list of the errors, misdirections, misrepresentations and shoddy scholarship in the paper, and in the approach taken by de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill (dFDB 2014).

dFDB 2014 repeats the old canard that NIWA’s Seven Station Series (7SS) before the 2010 review was based on the adjustments made in Jim Salinger’s 1981 thesis. This was a key claim in the NZ Climate Science Education Trust‘s evidence to the High Court and so transparently at odds with written reports and papers from 1992 onwards that it was easy for NIWA to refute. As one close observer of the case told me:

Judges may not understand maths, but they are pretty good at English, and take a dim view of litigants who wilfully and perversely misrepresent simple English sentences.

dFDB 2014 derives a warming rate of +0.28ºC per century, by claiming to apply a method published by Rhoades and Salinger in 1993 (RS93). It claims to create a new benchmark record by reapplying an old technique — essentially ignoring all the work done by NIWA in deriving the current 7SS. Unfortunately, the paper is based on a misapplication of the very method it claims to rely on, and includes numerous errors.

The paper as published contains no workings or supplemental material that would allow reproduction of their results, but it appears to be essentially identical to an “audit’ of NIWA’s Seven Station Series conducted by the NZCSC, and which was offered as evidence in their trust’s attempt to sue NIWA.

As such it contains mistakes that were pointed out in NIWA’s evidence to the High Court — evidence which was extensive, thorough and damning, but is not (yet) available in the public domain.

dFDB 2014 claims that RS93 mandates the use of one year and two year periods of comparison data when making adjustments for a station change, but RS93 makes no such claim. RS93 uses four year periods for comparison, in order to ensure statistical significance for changes — and no professional working in the field would use a shorter period.

The choice to limit themselves to one and two year comparisons seems to have been deliberately made in order to limit the number of adjustments made in the reconstructed series. Limiting the comparison periods makes it harder for adjustments to reach statistical significance, leading dFDB 2014 to reject adjustments even in cases where the station records show site moves or changes!

The effect of that is to reduce the warming trend because, as Treadgold’s first venture into this field showed, a naive reconstruction of the raw data shows not much warming.

But perhaps the most critical flaw in dFDB 2014 — one that should have been sufficient to prevent publication in any self-respecting journal operating a credible peer review process — is that their method ignores any assessment of maximum and minimum temperatures in the adjustment process. This was pointed out to the authors in NIWA’s evidence in the High Court. One of these adjustments will almost always be larger than that for the mean, and if that change is significant, then the temperature record will need to be adjusted at that point – it doesn’t matter if the mean temperature adjustment is statistically significant or not.

Silly mistakes in the application of their version of RS93 appeared in the “audit”, were pointed out in NIWA’s evidence to the High Court, but appear to be uncorrected in dFDB 2014. For example, in the “audit”, they infill a month of missing data (May 1920 in the Masterton series) by choosing an unrealistically warm temperature based on an average of years around the adjustment date. This ignores the fact that May 1920 was one of the coldest Mays on record, at all sites involved in the adjustment calculation.

The dFDB 2014 infill has the effect of reducing the statistical significance enough to reject an adjustment — despite the station record clearly showing that an adjustment is required! Any other approach — skipping the month, making a reasonable estimate based on surrounding stations, or even leaving the unrealistically warm guess at the start of the new series but looking at three years instead of limiting it (wrongly) to two years would make an adjustment necessary.

Throughout dFDB 2014, the analytical choices made by the NZCSC team have the effect of reducing the warming trend, and thus minimising the appearance of the very real warming NZ has experienced over the last century. Very convenient choices given their ideological stance on climate change, a cynic might note.

Quite apart from the methodological issues — which are undoubtedly huge — dFDB 2014 makes no reference to the Eleven Station Series (11SS) derived by NIWA from temperature sites that need no adjustments, presumably because it tracks warming at the expected level1 — that is, three times faster than dFDB 2014 finds.

One might speculate that if they had chosen to “audit” the 11SS — which has a strong warming trend in the raw station data2 — they would have been desperate to find adjustments to reduce that trend.

dFDB 2014 fails to acknowledge the existence of or address the issues raised by NIWA scientist Brett Mullan’s 2012 paper in Weather & Climate (the journal of the Meteorological Society of NZ), Applying the Rhoades and Salinger Method to New Zealand’s “Seven Stations” Temperature series (Weather & Climate, 32(1), 24-38), despite it dealing in detail with the method they claim to apply. Perhaps this is because it points out most of the egregious mistakes they made in their “audit”.

dFDB 2014 also fails to make any reference to sea surface temperature records around the country and station records from offshore islands which also support warming at the expected level — as does the well-documented reduction in ice volume in the Southern Alps.

Beyond any doubt, dFDB 2014 is a model of shoddy scholarship. How on earth did it get accepted for publication by Environmental Modelling and Assessment? An earlier version of dFDB 2014 was submitted to a much more relevant journal, Theoretical and Applied Climatology, but was sent back to the authors for substantial revision at least twice before being rejected. One can surmise that in that case peer review was an uncomfortable process for de Freitas, Dedekind and Brill because the peers being consulted were professional climatologists who understand the nitty-gritty of station adjustments.

At EMA, de Freitas seems to have found a more compliant editor and friendlier reviewers — so friendly that they were happy to allow an obviously and critically flawed paper through to publication. A few simple checks by the editors and reviewers should have raised warning flags.

They should have noted that de Freitas presents himself as lead and corresponding author, yet has no publishing track record in climate records and their homogenisation. He acts as front man for Dedekind and Brill — two men with no relevant academic affiliations or any publication track record — effectively prostituting his position at Auckland University to usher yet another rubbish paper through to publication3. If that wasn’t enough, then competent reviewers should have noted the obvious critical flaws and demanded changes.

As an example of ideologically-driven data torture, A Reanalysis of Long-Term Surface Air Temperature Trends in New Zealand is hardly unusual in the world of climate denial. What makes it stand apart is that such a poorly put together and politically-inspired effort has made its way into the peer-reviewed literature. That is a sign of a gross editorial failure by Environmental Modelling and Assessment, and it should be immediately withdrawn. Meanwhile, the NZ temperature record will continue to show what it always has – substantial and highly significant warming over the last 100 years.

  1. The level demonstrated by NIWA’s re-working of the benchmark Seven Station Series, 0.91ºC per century since 1909
  2. A powerful argument why there should also be one in any homogenised 7SS.
  3. See “Pal Review“, and the Maclean, De Freitas & Carter saga for other examples of de Freitas playing fast and loose with the accepted conventions of scientific peer review.

Carbon News 28/10/14: oil drilling, honey and crowd-funding green coke Gareth Renowden Oct 29

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Hunt for oil anchors govt’s environment plan

The National Party is leading off its environmental package for its new term in power with plans to encourage more oil exploration — despite the burning of fossil fuels being the single biggest cause of climate change.

Honey hits the jackpot for steep-land believer

In 2010, Taranaki farmer Neil Walker was enthusiastic about the potential for a combination of carbon farming and beekeeping to rejuvenate steep-land farming. Four years on, he is still buying cheap land and planting it in tree crops, despite carbon prices being less than a third of what they were back then.

Green-coke pioneer puts faith in public-funding

Clean-coal company CarbonScape is the first clean-tech company in New Zealand to use crowd-funding to raise capital. The Blenheim-based start-up launched a bid last week on the Snowball Effect platform to raise at least $400,000 dollars.

Good tyres tread lightly on the earth

New Zealand could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 6000 tonnes a year by installing fuel-efficient tyres on the nation’s fleet of light vehicles. And at the same time, businesses and private-vehicle owners could shave up to 7 per cent off their fuel bills.

New EU emissions goal pits green business against industry

A European Union goal to cut greenhouse gases by 40 per cent by 2030 sets the pace for a global deal to tackle climate change, pitting heavy industry against green business.

Emissions register has a new look

The Environmental Protection Authority is making the national emissions register more user-friendly.

Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens green trade deal

The Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens a green trade deal that could ultimately do more to reduce carbon emissions than international climate agreements such as the failed Kyoto Protocol.

On the web: Sweden the greenest country… so, where is NZ?

  • Carmakers prepare to shift to hydrogen fuel cells
  • New York Green Bank in debut clean energy transactions
  • Off-grid German village runs on wind and sun
  • UK to axe solar farm subsidies in favour of biomass crops

Supplies of rare earth materials are still far from secure

Materials essential for technology products such as electric vehicles, wind turbines or hard disks, known as rare earth elements, aren’t becoming any less rare, or any less crucial.

Universities act to hit fossil fuel firms where it hurts

Glasgow recently became the first European university to join the rapidly expanding fossil-free divestment movement. Following hot on the heels of the Australian National University, Glasgow promised to move £18m of investment over the next 10 years.

Oil boom prompts US to push for crude exports

Oil and coal producers in the United States are planning to use mile-long tanker trains to transport vast quantities of fossil fuels to the coast through areas that environmental groups believe should be protected.

NZUs consolidate and look to move higher

This market feels like it’s about to tip to the bid side and move higher, OMFinancial reports.

Special offer for Hot Topic readers: Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

Food, Fossil Fuels and Filthy Finance Bryan Walker Oct 23

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

droughtIt is depressingly apparent that powerful forces in the global economy are set to carry on with the exploration for and use of fossil fuels as a primary source of energy for decades to come. Oxfam has produced a report identifying the confluence of fossil fuel companies, governments and investors which givers momentum to the disastrous course along which we are being impelled.

Food, Fossil Fuels and Filthy Finance pulls no punches. It points to the evidence from the Tyndall Centre that, in the absence of an unprecedented change in the global use of fossil fuels, we are heading for a global temperature rise of 4 to 6 degrees by century’s end.

Warming at this rate would leave hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people at risk of severe hunger and drought by 2060. Even 2 degrees is going to have widespread human impacts and cause serious setbacks to development. The ‘hunger costs’ of fossil fuels are set to be the most savage impacts of climate change for millions globally. Farmers in many African countries are likely to see decreases in yield decade by decade, in spite of adaptation measures. The report details much more by way of cascading adverse impacts on populations least equipped to cope with them. It also points to severe economic and business risks in store for the developed countries as climate change begins to bite in their regions.

The need to turn away from fossil fuels is obvious, and there are signs that some governments may be waking up to this reality. However such steps as are being taken are far from adequate and some large historic emitters including Canada, Russia, Japan and Australia are actually reneging on existing commitments and embracing the dirtiest and riskiest of fossil fuels, from coal to tar sands and fracking.

At this point the report produces startling financial figures. In the absence of robust climate legislation, finance continues to flow unabated into the fossil fuel industry. In 2012 alone, fossil fuel companies spent $674bn on exploration and development projects. At the current rate of capital expenditure, the next decade will see over $6 trillion allocated to developing the fossil fuel industry.

This private finance is facilitated by public finance, incentives and tax breaks at an extraordinary level. The report estimates $1.9 trillion of subsidies assist the fossil fuel sector globally every year, including the costs of paying for its widespread damage.

Fossil fuel interests spend millions of dollars annually lobbying to stave off ambitious climate regulation. In 2013, fossil fuel industries spent an estimated $213m lobbying US and EU decision makers.

‘Toxic triangle’ is the term the report uses to describe the combination of political inertia, financial short-termism and vested fossil fuel interests which blocks the needed transition away from fossil fuel energy.

“The lack of necessary government ambition to shift away from fossil fuels results in continued investment by the global financial sector based on an assumption that fossil fuels are here to stay – buoyed by the rhetoric of the fossil fuel industry itself.”

All this despite the fact that a low-carbon future is both desirable and possible globally. It is governments who could tip the balance in favour of this future, and the report goes on to urge them to do so, with a series of rational and well-recognised recommendations. The report also addresses how fossil fuel companies could plan to redirect and diversify their operations and how investors could shift their investments to low-carbon development.

There is bite in the comment of Oxfam’s executive director in releasing the report:

“This is all about big profits for the few with little care for the rest of us – particularly the world’s poorest people who are already being made hungry by climate change.”

It’s a justifiable judgment, and one which the members of the toxic triangle ought to be required to face. I found myself often thinking of our New Zealand government when reading the report. We are actively and unreservedly encouraging companies to come and search for oil and gas. Statoil, the giant company soon to begin surveying the waters off Northland, has commented on how attractive the government has made it for them to come here. It sounded like an offer too good to ignore.

We know what the consequences of continued fossil fuel burning will be for some of our Pacific neighbours facing disastrous sea level rise. But there is no hint of acknowledgment of such consequences in the whole-hearted enthusiasm with which the Government pursues the possibility of major wealth in yet undiscovered oil and gas reserves, to say nothing of coal deposits yet to be mined. For that matter there is no acknowledgment of the threats to our own population. The dereliction is wide ranging.

An Oxfam report is hardly likely to attract even cursory attention from such governments as ours, however much it will be welcomed by those who already see their future gravely threatened by rising greenhouse gas emissions. But it matters that the truth continues to be told and who better to tell it than an NGO which works in close proximity to the populations first and most seriously affected. I admire their perseverance.

TDB Today: Reasons not to be cheerful, Part #272b Gareth Renowden Oct 22

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

In my post at The Daily Blog this week I take inspiration from the great Ian Dury, and reflect on the disconnect between political ambition and the state of the climate system as it continues to warm. It will be my last post at TDB for a while – for definitions of “a while” that include the time to write a book, refocus on Hot Topic, prepare the farm for the drought I fear we’re heading towards, and (with luck) harvest lots of truffles and make some damn fine wine…

Carbon News 20/10/14: Chile’s carbon tax, soil SOS and more pressure on dirty investments Gareth Renowden Oct 20

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Chile’s new tax could open carbon doors for NZ

Chile’s new carbon tax potentially offers New Zealand an opportunity to offset some of its own agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, says economist Dr Suzi Kerr. The $US5-a-tonne carbon tax slipped into Chilean law last month as part of a package of tax reforms.

Soils SOS as cities gobble up our best growing land

New Zealand is allowing its elite soils to be eaten up by cities — despite signing up to a new global campaign to protect valuable agricultural land. New Zealand launched its membership of the 17-country Pacific Soil Partnership on Wednesday – the same day that the Government announced it would push ahead with plans to ease planning rules to allow our cities to spread.

Rod Oram: Why i’m getting out of fossil fuels

Business commentator Rod Oram is putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to sustainable investment. Like the Rockefellers in the United States, Oram has ditched his fossil fuel investments.

Kiwi savers want investments to do clean work

A survey of New Zealanders has revealed that Kiwis care deeply about how their KiwiSaver funds are being invested and that they want more sustainable KiwiSaver options.

Fracking boom could mean up to 12% more carbon emissions

The consistent message from those who would seek to exploit shale gas is that it has three distinct advantages over existing forms of fossil fuel energy: it is cheap, it has a lower influence on global warming, and it reduces the reliance in foreign imports.

Angry city draws a line in the (fracking) sand

A college town in southern Minnesota is taking action against the frac-sand industry that’s booming amid America’s drilling revolution.

Greenpeace v Shell via Lego: the building blocks of a successful campaign

October 9, 2014 was a big day in eco-activism: Lego announced that it would not renew a product-placement deal with Shell, following concerted pressure from Greenpeace as part of a campaign to ban Arctic oil exploration by attacking firms associated with such activities.

A new agricultural economy is knocking on the door

Europe should be pushing for the rapid expansion of its network of biorefineries, to produce European food, fuel and feed, as well as a range of other high-value products that replace fossil fuels, writes Robert Wright, Secretary-General of the European Renewable Ethanol Association:

Fish-catching technique nets innovation award

A technique allowing wild fish to be landed live — and released if necessary — has won the supreme title in the New Zealand Innovators’ Awards.

Problem seaweed could provide biofuel solution

It has often been used as a farmland fertiliser, and in some communities it is eaten as a vegetable, but now researchers believe that seaweed could power our cars and heat our homes.

Solar chief: there’s no cost to solar energy, only savings

SolarCity Corp, the United States’ largest residential solar service provider, has a history of pushing the envelope.

Outlook palls for fossil fuel investment

Warnings within the world of high finance are coming thick and fast that the increasingly urgent need to combat climate change means investors could lose heavily by sinking funds into coal, oil and gas.

On the web: global shipping emissions set to soar unchecked

  • Pacific Islanders blockade Australian coal port to protest rising sea levels
  • Sweden calls on EU to agree 50% carbon cuts for 2030
  • Impacts of climate change to now be included in UK’s military planning
  • South Africa’s Eskom powers up wind farm
  • China to phase out financial support for solar power sector by 2020

Don’t get too excited, no one has cracked nuclear fusion yet

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin’s excitement in the media announcement last week that it could make small-scale nuclear fusion power a reality in the next decade has understandably generated

Market remains quiet

The carbon market slipped a little late last week to $4.32 on light volume, OMFinancial reports.

Special offer for Hot Topic readers: Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

NZ hikes terrorism threat to “low”, ignores Pentagon warning of “immediate” threat from climate change cindy Oct 20

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

A low threat of a terrorist attack?  Never mind the climate. So, the threat of a terrorist attack on New Zealand is upon us has risen from “very low” to “low” — second to lowest in a ranking that has six levels. Cabinet is now urgently reviewing our security laws to make sure we’re equipped to deal with this horrific new threat. The media has dedicated hours of discussion, gigabytes of online content, and metres of newspaper articles to this important issue. I’m now quaking in my boots.

The day after John Key’s announcement of this new “low” threat, a major report on a global security threat went entirely unnoticed here in New Zealand. The Pentagon’s “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” released on October 14, warns that climate change is an “immediate threat” to national and global security, describing it as a “threat multiplier” that can worsen national security problems such as terrorism and the spread of infectious diseases.

The report says:

 “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

The US Department of Defense has set out several goals around climate change in its defence strategy, as it seeks to integrate climate change considerations across the department.

“In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.”

One of the major issues for The Pentagon in dealing with climate change was the increasing need for the military’s involvement in dealing with the aftermath of extreme weather events, both at home and across the world.

This sounds familiar. A quick google search shows our defence forces being called in to help with the aftermath of cyclones both in New Zealand: Ita, Westland, 2014) and across the Pacific (Cyclones Ian, Tonga, January 2014; Evan, Samoa and Fiji, December 2012; Pat, Cook Islands, 2010, to name but a few.

In March this year the IPCC reported that New Zealand was “unprepared” for the kind of sea level rise we will get with continued global warming. In recent years we’ve seen a number of weather events — and even just king tides — that have battered our coastlines, such as the disintegrating sea wall in Island Bay, the damage suffered by St Clair esplanade and seawall in Dunedin, and coastal erosion in Hokitika.  Wellington City Council this week released its analysis of what rising seas would do to the city, putting the bill at $400 million.

The people who live in these areas may take a different view to our Prime Minister on which threat is closer to home.

Our climate change minister Tim Groser “welcomed” the IPCC report, but went on to say that it was down to local government to deal with the problem, ruling out any guidance from central government, which was more focused on getting an international agreement.

What does that big focus on an international agreement look like? Last week New Zealand proposed to the UNFCCC its idea of an international agreement that Governments should agree in Paris next year.

Such an agreement, says our Government, should not include legally binding targets for cutting emissions. Everyone should do what they feel up to, not what is necessary to keep global warming to their agreed 2degC. Make ‘em voluntary. Of course this has won praise from the US, not least because there’s no way Obama would ever agree to anything but voluntary action.

What we failed to say in our proposal was that legally binding emissions reduction targets would put New Zealand in a terrible position, because we’d actually have to cut our emissions, emissions that and are projected to rise exponentially in the coming years.

We are setting a shining example to the internationally community that we say we so keenly want to take action.  Our attempts to deal with climate change at home have resulted in our backing out of the Kyoto Protocol, and a failed emissions trading scheme:  in the last two years the taxpayer has paid out $5.85 million in free carbon credits to one company alone – NZ Aluminim Smelters Ltd (Rio Tinto) – which can then surrender those credits for cheap international ones, making enormous profits at the expense of the taxpayer. No emissions cuts in sight as a result of this, then.

Meanwhile our country is getting drier, with international scientists confirming last year’s drought was caused by climate change, and knocking  $1.3 billion out of the New Zealand economy.

We’re terribly concerned about security here in New Zealand – we’ve even just scored a seat a the UN Security Council.  But hey, let’s all focus on the imminent “low” threat of terrorism, and IS. Let’s not look at a threat that’s staring us all in the face because, heaven help us, we might actually have to start doing something about it.

Salinger: New Zealand is drying out, and here’s why Gareth Renowden Oct 14

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

In this guest post Jim Salinger (currently working in Italy, but soon to return to these shores), takes a look at the climate influences on last year’s severe New Zealand drought. It first appeared on The Conversation.

Over 2012 and 2013, parts of New Zealand experienced their worst drought in nearly 70 years. Drought is the costliest climate extreme in New Zealand; the 2012-2013 event depressed the country’s GDP by 0.7-0.9%. The drought of 1988-1989 affected 5,500 farms, pushing some farmers to the wall. But what does a climate-changed future hold?

Recent evidence confirms that New Zealand on the whole is getting dryer. And we’re beginning to understand why — increasing greenhouse and ozone-depleting gases are driving changes in the atmosphere, with impacts far beyond New Zealand.

A history of drought

Agricultural drought is occurs when there is not enough moisture in the soil available to support crop and pasture growth. It is usually fairly extensive over significant parts of the country.

In March this year we reported that there is distinct trend towards increased agricultural drought since 1941, in four (80%) out of the five agricultural drought regions. There is a trend toward a summer drying in all of these regions except the west of the North Island. The overall trend for New Zealand agricultural drought is shown in the diagram below.


New Zealand agricultural drought index 1941-2013 averaged over the country. The bars represent individual years, and the straight line shows the 72-year trend. Positive values mean a droughtier year, and negative values mean a wetter year for agriculture.

What’s causing the big dry?

Two recent reports shed light on why drought is increasing in New Zealand.

On 9 September the Geneva based World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations body, announced that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2013, propelled by a surge in levels of carbon dioxide during between 2012 and 2013.

Last year the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 142% of the pre-industrial era (1750). Methane levels reached 253% and nitrous oxide 121%. Between 1990 and 2013 there was a 34% increase in radiative forcing — the warming effect on our climate — because of long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide.

These have warmed the climate. Over the last 72 years mean annual global and New Zealand temperatures have increased by 0.6 and 0.7C respectively.

And on September 11 a new report, with Dr Olaf Morgenstern of the NZ National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research as a reviewer recognised the role of ozone depletion in drying parts of southern Australia.

The same link has been established in New Zealand. Ozone depletion affects an atmospheric pattern known as the Southern Annular Mode, or SAM. These changes are particularly pertinent as the spring time stratospheric Antarctic ozone hole peaked this year at 24 million square kilometres on September 11.

SAM describes the movement of the westerly wind belt that circles the Southern Oceans between the South Island of New Zealand and Antarctica.

In its positive phase, SAM causes the belt of strong westerly winds to contract towards Antarctica. There are weaker westerly winds than normal over the South Island with higher pressures, and less cold fronts crossing New Zealand. The opposite occurs in the negative phase of SAM with the westerly wind belt expanded north towards New Zealand and the passage of more westerly cold fronts.

The positive SAM has also been linked to decreasing rainfall in south western Australian, and the recent record-breaking expansion of Antarctic sea ice.


Index of the Southern Annular Mode, 1957 – 2013. Source: British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK.

The graph of SAM over the last 56 years shows a trend towards a more positive index, averaging around -3 at the beginning of the record to +1 in recent years. Several researchers have now shown that this increase in SAM is strongly associated with stratospheric ozone depletion.

Less rain, more evaporation

Recent work has revealed that changes in SAM in New Zealand have resulted in a weakening of moisture laden westerly winds during the summer, and increased high pressures over the North Island with less rain.

The warming trend caused by increasing greenhouse gases has led to more moisture loss to the atmosphere from plants because of increased evapotranspiration. This is where plants “breathe out” into the air moisture that is stored in the soil.

The hotter it is, the more moisture plants pump out into the atmosphere. These two effects — less rainfall and more water loss from the soil have resulted in our climate becoming droughtier for agricultural activities.

Bringing back the rains

The stratospheric ozone layer is now protected by the Montreal Protocol — an international treaty to protect the ozone layer by phasing out production of ozone-depleting substances signed in 1989. Unfortunately it has not prevented some impacts on New Zealand climate — but at least these impacts will be slowed then reversed in coming decades. The Antarctic stratospheric ozone hole peaked in 2006 at around 30 million square kilometres.

However there is no such robust agreement to curb the growth of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The World Meteorological Organisation has called for even greater urgency for concerted international action against accelerating and potentially devastating climate change.

Any future New Zealand government must front up to New Zealand taking full leadership in any international agreements to rapidly halt and reverse the growth of greenhouse gases, as the country did with the Montreal Protection to protect the stratospheric ozone layer twenty five years ago. After all, these trends are now affecting the country’s land-based industries vital for its wealth.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Carbon News 13/10/14: foresters in firing line Gareth Renowden Oct 14

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Anxious foresters await review of foreign credits ban

A controversial decision to make foresters the only emitters banned from using cheap foreign carbon credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions is under review. The provision was slipped through without warning as part of the Government’s Budget in May, and came into effect immediately.

Business poser: are you creating value, or destroying it?

New Zealand is leading the world on integrated reporting but our business leaders are still not taking it seriously enough, latest data shows.

Beehive stays silent on emissions target

The Government remains mum on New Zealand’s 2030 emissions reduction target. New Zealand did not make any mention of its 2030 target at last month’s Climate Summit in New York, at which United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked world leaders to give an indication of the commitments they would make at international climate change negotiations in Paris in December.

New Zealand is drying out … and here’s why

Over 2012 and 2013, parts of New Zealand experienced their worst drought in nearly 70 years.

Australia’s big emitters might yet be billed

Australian companies could yet face a financial penalty for excessive greenhouse gas emissions.

‘Business as usual’ no way to run our rivers

If, as delegates to the 17th International Rivers Symposium agreed, that river restoration is “the hottest topic on the planet” then the insistence by governments world-wide to ignore it is the issue.

Landcorp bio-generation scheme runs out of gas

Landcorp’s pulling of the plug on its BioGenCool manure-powered electricity generation ends the first, large-scale experiment in using milking shed cow dung to drive the milking shed itself.

Voila! a simple new way to put a price on global carbon

A team of French academics has proposed an international carbon trading system, whereby countries with the highest average CO2 emissions pay the most.

Fish heading south big worry for tropic zone

Fish stocks could migrate up to 26 kilometres a decade as the world’s ocean warm.

Wanted: $44 trillion to switch to clean energy

In a world wrestling with climate change and the need to phase out fossil fuels, nothing is more critical than making sure there are reliable and cost-effective clean energy technologies ready to fill the void.

On the web: why is antarctic sea ice at record levels despite global warming?

  • Australian Labor Party leader rules out carbon tax return
  • European businesses split over urgency of EU carbon market fix
  • Canadian watchdog castigates government climate strategy
  • Walmart owners backing campaigns to limit rooftop solar power
  • 25 Devastating Effects Of Climate Change
  • Climate consensus: scientists and sceptics suspend hostilities

Sick seas could cost us billions, UN warns

The global economy could be losing as much as $1 trillion annually by the end of the century if countries do not take urgent steps to stop ocean acidification, says a new report.

World of clean energy ‘feasible’ by mid-century

A global low-carbon energy economy is not only feasible, it could double electricity supply by 2050 while actually reducing air and water pollution, according to new research.

Shift to low-carbon economy could free up $1.8 trillion

Decarbonising the electricity system worldwide would save $1.8 trillion over the coming two decades by avoiding the high operating costs of using fossil fuels, a new study finds.

Europe throws nuclear power a state-aid lifeline

The European Commission has now agreed that Britain can subsidise the building of the world’s most expensive nuclear power station – despite previously believing that the deal breaks the European Union’s rules on state aid.

China’s mythical coal habit is no excuse for climate inaction

By Marek Kubic: I’ve heard it many a time, and you probably have, too. It’s supposedly the trump card to any argument on addressing climate change globally: “Yeah, but what’s the point? Isn’t China building a new coal plant every week?”

Wanganui firm has place among bio pioneers

Calls for New Zealand firms to get into bio-manufacturing omit to mention the fact that we have already been there.

VUW researchers work on better solar systems

Victoria University of Wellington researchers are part of a worldwide effort to design cheaper and more efficient solar energy materials.

Week ends quietly at $4.40

It was a quiet end to the week, with the market for spot NZUs on CommTrade closing unchanged at $4.40, OMFinancial reports.

Smart grids in the spotlight

Using Smart Grid technology to empower electricity consumers was the subject of a talk at Auckland University yesterday.

Special offer for Hot Topic readers: Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

This Changes Everything Bryan Walker Oct 06

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate places the battle against climate change firmly in the context of the struggle for social justice. Fighting climate change means reordering the ways our economies are structured. The pillars of the reigning economic paradigm – privatisation, deregulation and lower taxation paid for by cuts to public spending cannot serve us for this purpose. Public spending, on the scale of a Marshall Plan for the earth, and robust public institutions are required.

Klein is no friend to neo-liberal capitalism quite apart from the climate issue, but she considers climate change adds existential urgency to her political and economic concerns. The Heartland Institute, whose sixth international conference she attended, is right, she suggests, to see climate change as a threat to the ideology they exist to defend. Her report of that conference, incidentally, is a fascinating account of the twisted logic which is common discourse in such gatherings.Klein points to the cognitive dissonance in which we are trapped:

“… a crisis we have been studiously ignoring is hitting us in the face— and yet we are doubling down on the stuff that is causing the crisis in the first place.”

What keeps us stuck in this position is that the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe and benefit most of us “present an extreme threat to the elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process and most of our major media outlets”.

In her patient and exhaustive fashion Klein explores the corporate logic that drives major and powerful companies to continue to build reserves of fossil fuels way past the point at which their burning spells disaster for humanity. She writes of the fiduciary responsibility to shareholders which “virtually guarantees that the planet will cook”, a metaphor justified by her book’s careful anchorage to climate science.

Free trade agreements, often triumphs of corporate globalisation, can prove inimical to efforts to curb climate change, whether through the increases in carbon dioxide emissions they result in or through the legal avenues they provide to prevent national action on climate change. Klein provides an example from her own province of Ontario where buy-local provisions supporting a solar company were judged illegal by the WTO making it likely that the company will close.

Reasonable in tone but devastating in effect Klein deals with a range of seemingly laudable efforts to tackle climate change which founder on their closeness to neo-liberal capitalism. Several of America’s large environmental organisations are faulted in this respect. The billionaire supporters of climate action typified by Richard Branson fall sadly short of what they appear to promise.

Politicians seem unable to extricate themselves from entanglement with the prevailing economic ideology. Klein reports on the 2009 UN climate summit conference as evidence of this, sharing Sally Wentrobe’s painful realisation that our “leaders are not looking after us…we are not cared for at the level of our very survival.”   While I was writing this review local evidence of political dereliction was yet again apparent as our Energy Minister assured a petroleum conference that continuing exploration for oil and gas in New Zealand waters would be strongly supported by the newly re-elected government and he offered anodyne assurances for the future of fossil fuels.

Can anything rescue us? Certainly not geo-engineering of the type Klein hears canvassed at a conference on the topic she attended. She sees a cure worse than the disease and the risk of genocidal “sacrifice zones” as a by-product of sun-dimming proposals.

Our best hope rests with the resistance of people’s movements to the carbon extraction frenzy of the corporate elites. Klein dwells on many such efforts in the realm she calls Blockadia, talking with people in places where energetic attempts are being made to prevent planned extractive operations. It’s the world of activism, “alive and unpredictable and very much in the streets (and mountains and farmers’ fields and forests)”. The precautionary principle holds sway here, not the cool risk assessment approach which purports to balance the dangers of climate change against the claimed negative effects of action on economic growth.

The fossil fuel divestment movement emerged from Blockadia-style attempts to stop carbon extraction at its source. On its wider scale it puts the whole industry on trial as “rogue actors whose continued economic viability rests on radical climate destabilisation”.

Indigenous groups battling against the assaults of extractive industries receive respectful and sympathetic attention from Klein, who dwells on their ready recognition of the natural world as a nurturer of life rather than an object of exploitation. She also draws attention to the ways in which Indigenous rights, if aggressively pursued through the courts and through direct action, may help protect us all from climate chaos.

Klein’s vision is ultimately  a moral one. She seeks

“an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis— embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy.”

We need this not only to create a political context to drastically lower emissions but also to help us through the disasters now unavoidable, where respect for human rights and deep compassion will be all that stands between civilisation and barbarism.

But does all the principled opposition, and the moral aspiration of more cooperative communities amount to a real force in the face of the rampaging destruction which unfettered capitalism wreaks?  Klein points to mass movements which have prevailed against powerful economic interests in the past.  The abolition of slavery presents one such case. She points out that slavery only became a problem for British and American elites when the abolition movement turned it into one, and that abolition succeeded in spite of the strong economic interests dependent on the profits from slavery. She quotes journalist Chris Hayes: “the climate justice movement is demanding that an existing set of political and economic interests be forced to say goodbye to trillions of dollars of wealth”, a situation for which he sees slavery abolition as the only precedent.

Klein’s book is ambitious in scope and rigorous in discussion. Its narratives are based on much travel and careful research. Its conclusions are thoughtful and often striking in their cogent expression. Her acknowledgments to her research staff and other helpers confirm the concerted effort that has been expended in producing the book.

It’s certainly a book worth writing. Corporate bodies whose activities threaten the very foundation of ordinary people’s lives need to be exposed. So do politicians who are hypnotised by the short term benefits of extractive economies and blind to the catastrophic longer term consequences. People who do battle with the corporate and political juggernaut of climate disaster need to be celebrated and encouraged. Klein does these things well. Her book is a notable contribution to the tough struggle for a sane political response to the climate crisis.

Carbon News 29/9/14: Key challenged over climate impacts on Pacific islands Gareth Renowden Sep 29

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Memo John Key: look Pacific Island leaders in the eye

The Government is being challenged to invite the leaders of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati to come and tell Parliament what they think of New Zealand’s climate change policies. Support to help Small Island Developing States move to renewable energy is one of five measures New Zealand outlined to last week’s United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York. New Zealand said that it will support the Small Island Developing States Lighthouses Initiative in addition to the $100 million it is already investing in clean energy in the Pacific.

Renewables make mark on emissions figures

Increasing generation from renewables is continuing to drive a massive drop in greenhouse gas emissions from electricity in New Zealand. For the second quarter in a row, emissions from electricity in the three months to August were down on the same period last year, latest government figures show.

New York talked the talk, but we’ll have to wait and see who heard

At the end of his summit meeting on the climate crisis, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put out a list of accomplishments festooned with 46 bullet points, some of them marking concrete new pledges, others diaphanous phrases.

MIA … but it doesn’t mean China’s not interested

There were a few notable absentees among the more than 120 world leaders gathered in New York for last week’s United Nations Climate Summit — and perhaps most notable of all was the head of the world’s highest-emitting nation, China’s President Xi Jinping.

Do something, big business warns political leaders

Many of the biggest hitters in the global financial community, together managing an eye-watering $24 trillion of investment funds, have issued a powerful warning to political leaders about the risks of failing to establish clear policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities in the spotlight at climate week summit

Even as nations gathered in New York to discuss global-level action on climate change, there was strong recognition that cities, not countries, have so far played the pivotal role in the world’s fight against climate change — and will continue to do so.

Unhappy power consumers eye solar generation

Nearly two-thirds of New Zealanders would like to say goodbye to their power companies and generate their own electricity.

Have a say in energy development

New Zealanders can have a say on the type of energy development they want, thanks to a Victoria University summer project.

Kiwisavers might get to have say in green investment

Research showing how many New Zealanders want their retirement funds invested in sustainable businesses will be unveiled next month.

ON THE WEB … Obama’s drive for carbon pricing fails to win at home

  • Chile becomes the first South American country to tax carbon
  • UK to introduce fracking drilling law despite 99% opposition
  • US Homeland Security moves to tackle climate change risks
  • Hawaii’s solar industry in precarious situation
  • The top 10 greenest cities in America
  • Avatar director James Cameron talks climate change

New market pact keeps Australians on the ball

Australian businesses wanting to keep up to date with the international carbon market during their country’s retreat from carbon pricing have formed a new regional agreement.

How to save the planet … bike, walk or take a bus

Here’s a way to save $100 trillion and stop 1700 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from getting into the atmosphere every year by 2050: cycle, walk or take public transport.

Use your phone to report water pollution

Water pollution may soon be reported by the public over a phone app and investigated by an aerial robot.

Clear skies for aviation industry, says Boeing report

The business outlook for civil aviation is bright thanks mainly to rising Asian demand for aircraft. But airlines are expected to have a harder time, with tougher competition in Europe leading to a consolidation of the sector, according to the latest industry forecast.

Win some, lose some … that’s climate change

With climate change, you win some, you lose some. New research shows that suitable new cropland could become available in the high latitudes as the world warms, but tropical regions may become less productive.

Australia seems to be overlooking bioenergy

When we think of renewable energy, it’s easy to picture spinning wind turbines or rooftop solar panels. But what about bioenergy?

Would a climate change treaty be enough?

Do we need a climate treaty, or could a simple political deal based on national pledges work just as well?

Prices likely to drift a little

Spot NZUs remain relatively quiet. OMFinancial reports…

Worth seeing — Thin Ice

New Zealand scientist Peter Barrett’s award-winning film Thin Ice will have a public screening in Hamilton next week. Barrett, a geologist, produced the documentary himself, with a view to finding out whether his fellow scientists really were involved in some sort of climate change hoax as some were alleging.

Study will reveal our use of water

The nature of domestic water demand is being measured.

Off to the tip … 33,000 polystyrene cups

Waikato University every year sends 33,000 polystyrene cups to the landfill.

Special offer for Hot Topic readers: Carbon News has kindly agreed to offer Hot Topic readers personal (ie single user) subscriptions to their news service — and full access to the CN database of over 7,500 stories published since 2008 — at a substantial discount to normal pricing. Three month subs are $110 (code HT3), six month subs $200 (code HT6), and full year subs $360 (code HT12) – a saving of $140 on standard pricing. If you want to take advantage of these prices, register at Carbon News and enter the relevant code when signing up. This offer will expire at the end of the year.

Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer