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Posts Tagged Climate politics

Now the dust has settled, what did Lima bring? cindy Dec 22

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For many of us, after each climate COP it’s the time to ask not so much “what did we lose and who do we blame,” but rather “what did we get, what can we work with?” My last update was on the Saturday afternoon, and the talks were to go on late into the night. I always laugh when looking at updates the next day announcing a final press conference at 2.30 am. Who books a press conference at that time of day, except at the outcome of a climate talks?

Yes, it was disappointing. The very bare bones of what we need going into Paris next year. There have been so many think pieces, so much analysis that everyone will have read by now, that it’s probably better to point to them rather than do my own. Carbon Brief did a great overview, the BBC a reasonable piece, and the Union of Concern Scientists’ Alden Meyer a detailed look.

The final text of the ADP key agreement is here.

The one big thing we can all work with is the aggregate number. The word “aggregate” snuck back into the text of the final outcome, deciding that the UNFCCC Secretariat must add up all the emission reduction commitments on the table, and work out how they look compared with the global agreed warming limit of 2ºC.

Also good is the removal of the “review” that, by the time it got to its most recent iteration, had been reduced to a weak “dialogue” with governments “willing to do so.”   At least it’s now mandatory for those numbers to be added up.

But what information needs to be in these submissions? What level of detail? Will we get a range of numbers based on differing base years, or GDP, or changes in energy intensity, or peak years? How will we compare them to know who’s doing better? Will we be able to?

This is not the ideal way to get to where you want to be. But at least we will have a number we can work with.

That the final deadline for these commitments is 1 October and that the UNFCCC has only one month to do this work is troubling and difficult. That’s not much time for any campaign at national level to try to get higher ambition from a government, not much time for international shame to be wreaked on an individual country not doing enough.

How New Zealand behaved in Lima was a little like that story of that Emperor with a new set of clothes. Tim Groser was at pains to point out to anyone who was listening that we have a great ETS that’s working, and that we will meet our 5% cut in emissions by 2020. Neither he nor our presentation to the COP gave any rationale as to how this will be met other than trading our way out of the problem.

The MFAT head of delegation Jo Tyndall gave a rousing presentation of – erm – tourism slides – to the Multilateral Assessment. It’s worth a watch for anyone interested in seeing how we present our terrible climate policy to the rest of the world.

All the other countries presented their figures in clear tables and figures. But New Zealand’s presentation had just one slide with a table in it (pictured above) – that stayed on the screen for about ten seconds. Had she lingered on this slide a little longer, the audience might have been able to see that our net emissions are set to rocket over the next 20 years.

Under questioning, Tyndall admitted that the way New Zealand measures our emissions profile means that we cannot measure the impact on our emissions profile of specific policies. Yup, that’s right. New Zealand can’t actually measure the effect of policies on our emissions profile.

How can that be? I still don’t have answers as to how we’ve managed to do this and get away with it. But it raises an obvious question: if we can’t measure the impact of policies, how do we know what are the right policies to reduce emissions. Or does the Government not really plan to introduce them?

Next year will present two challenges for our Government on the climate front. The first is the review of our Emissions Trading Scheme. Will it actually be strengthened? Will it bring in agriculture? Then we will have to review and increase our reduction target to 2025 or 2030.

Big emitters like China are now on board. China has already made a pledge that, while difficult to count, still looks like it’s going to make a huge difference to global emissions, Mr Groser has no reason to hold back our own emissions reduction target.

China has been the Big Bad Excuse for doing nothing back here in NZ for a very long time. But now it’s moving. What will we do to catch up?

Jo Tyndall also stated that the Government would be working out a “carbon budget” for New Zealand from now until 2020 – this will be a very interesting exercise.

So many questions. But one thing we do know is that a particular set of words remained in the final Lima text, to be negotiated next year: a global goal of zero emissions from fossil fuels by 2050. How does this sit with Simon Bridges’ fossil-fuel-engorged energy agenda?

There are so many challenges for us over the coming year. Let’s hope there are many here in Aotearoa who are willing to hold our Government’s feet to the fire and get a strong climate push towards Paris.

Carbon News 15/12/14: smoke and mirrors Gareth Renowden Dec 16

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English goes silent on carbon deficit costs


The Government is refusing to discuss what impact a 2030 carbon deficit will have on the economy – despite warnings from Treasury. Finance Minister Bill English has confirmed to Carbon News that Treasury is predicting carbon prices of between $10 and $165 a tonne between 2021 and 2030, but he has not answered questions on what that will cost New Zealand.

Climate expert: It’s all smoke and mirrors, Mr Groser


New Zealand is using smoke and mirrors to meet its 2020 emissions reduction target, when it could get there by using clean heating and transport technologies, says one of our leading scientists. Climate Change Minister Tim Groser told Radio New Zealand National this morning that while New Zealand faced some big hurdles in cutting emissions, the country was on target to meet its pledge to cut emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Climate talks off on the rocky road to Paris


A deal struck in Lima between 196 nations today leaves open the possibility of saving the planet from dangerous overheating. But its critics say the prospects of success are now slim.

Fossil fuel probe under way as NZ goes exploring


New Zealand is expanding oil and gas exploration at the same time as Britain probes the likely cost of stranded fossil-fuel assets.

What did the Romans ever do for us? They left a water warning


As all good Monty Python fans know, water technologies feature large in the legacy of benefits left by Roman civilisation.

Carbon trade in Beijing tops 100 million yuan


Carbon trade volume in Beijing has reached 105 million yuan ($NZ21.8 million) since a carbon emissions trading scheme was launched in the city a year ago.

UN launches new coalition to promote renewable energy


The launch of a new coalition spearheaded by the United Nations Environment Programme will focus on boosting renewable energy usage around the world.

Australia takes action on energy market reform


The Australian Government is leading a new focus on reforms to put downward pressure on electricity prices and give Australian consumers greater power over their energy bills.

Our new energy mix is a game-changer, says India


While the political spotlight focused on the world’s two biggest polluters − China and the US − in the run-up to the Lima climate talks, pressure is mounting on India to set emissions targets to help to prevent the planet overheating.

Bank of England probes risk of fossil fuel assets


In a move that’s likely to cause consternation in some of the world’s most powerful corporate boardrooms, the Bank of England has disclosed that it is launching an inquiry into the risks fossil fuel companies pose to overall financial stability.

On the web: Meet the world’s greatest climate wrecker … Australia

  • Welcome to Planet Oz: Julie Bishop’s speech to Lima climate talks
  • Change of heart: Abbott government commits $200m to Green Climate Fund
  • Cutting carbon a good business opportunity, private sector told
  • EU court nails Austria, Poland over breaches to green energy rules
  • Scots’ renewable energy offsets a million tonnes of CO2 every month
  • How to harvest energy from everything that moves

Eels worth the effort, says environment watchdog


New Zealand needs to put more effort into protecting long-fin eels, or tuna, says the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Spotlight turns on roadway illumination


Local authorities are out to halve the energy and cost involved in lighting public roads.

Spot NZUs hit two-year high


Carbon ended the week slightly down, though prices remain above $5 with spot NZUs closing at $5.40 on CommTrade, 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.

Vaguely liveblog from Lima cindy Dec 14

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1.23 am

I blogged earlier in (my) day about where we were at.

Since then, things have moved on.  1.20 a.m. and plenary’s about to start.

There’s a new text out and one of the good things is that there’s much stronger stuff in there about how to measure the actions governments submit to the UNFCCC.

here’s the webcast.  (click on EN, top left corner for translation)

1.25 am 

apparently it’s done.

The Lima Call for Climate Action

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it looks like Loss and Damage is back in the text, and the Review of govt action has the mandate to include an aggregate of what these will all look like. There were a few points gained here in the last hours.  Important points.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 1.46.27 am

 

 

Dead rats and circumcision cindy Dec 14

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IMG_3372 - Version 2Saturday afternoon in Lima.

On the good side, the one place selling good coffee is still open (the proper machines, rather than the horrible little Nescafe machines that the locals call ‘no es café.”) And I’ve managed to eke out my stack of kiwi Dark Ghana chocolate, saving the last big block for today.

On the not so good side, there’s rumours of the meeting reconvening from anywhere from 6pm to 9pm this evening. Goodness knows when it will end. Conversation turns to whether this will beat the record of Durban, which ended at 6.30 am on the Sunday morning.

Being a bit of a COP veteran, I left the centre at 8.30 last night, got dinner and a good night’s sleep, coming back for 10 am this morning to see a lot of bleary-eyed people who’d been up all night to witness a complete lack of agreement.A couple of hours later plenary begins. There’s a draft Chair’s text before us, and let’s see what governments really think of it. This is the text on the “ADP” the discussions on the bones of a main agreement to be hammered out over the coming year and finalized in Paris.

It’s a horrible piece of text, a twisted compromise that nobody likes, but some people like it less than others, of course. We waited for the reaction. And there was quite some reaction.

Ian Fry from Tuvalu begins with his analogy: “the text needs a little surgery; we need to don gowns, get scalpels and carefully insert the vital organs needed for the agreement.”

He expresses a concern held by many, that the references to “loss and damage” had been removed, and was now only recognized by the Lima meeting in a reference that had the issue lumped in with adaptation.

There are many reasons why Loss and Damage should be a separate issue – but it’s very clear: you cannot “adapt” to the loss of a life, or a coastline. Loss and damage is a whole new area that needs to attract funding that’s separate to finance going to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change.

Many of the governments who speak say that while they’re not happy with the text, they can live with it, in a spirit of compromise.

New Zealand’s lead negotiator Jo Tyndall adds her charming point: “there are dead rats that have to be swallowed.” New Zealand could accept this draft text, she says.  But this isn’t surprising – we know NZ was one of the countries firmly opposed to the inclusion of loss and damage. And the text is weak, which is presumably why New Zealand. along with other recalcitrant developed countries like the US, Canada, Australia, can live with it.

The main group objecting has been the “Like Minded Developing Countries” a group of big developing countries and Arab states, including China, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, who are insisting on inclusion of the age-old “CBDR” mantra of these countries: the “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities” enshrined in the convention, where they agreed that the rich countries needed to act first.

This hardline attitude has prevailed for 20 years, despite turning a corner in Durban where they agreed that these bigger countries have to bite the bullet and also take action.   Some see them as defending the poor. But a friend of mine sat next to an Indian NGO when India was talking about poverty, who almost exploded with rage: “India doesn’t give a s*** about our poor.”

Then Singapore, another LMDC,  takes the surgery analogy to a place nobody wants to go, talking about how “when circumcision becomes amputation.”

Things fall apart. It turns out that the “agreed text” wasn’t – at least half the world hadn’t been consulted – indeed the only governments the Peruvian Environment Minister HAD talked with were the US, China and some other members of the “Umbrella Group”.

Back they go to the drawing board.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure

At the centre of this text is what governments will do with their  “INDC’s” – the “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” – the action they will all take and put on the table sometime before the Paris agreement next year:  what’s in them, how do they get measured, do they get measured at all?

Before last night, the text had a huge list of bullet points outlining what needs to be in them – a lot of technical points with a list of what a government needs to put forward with its INDC.   It included wording about what a technical review of these INDC’s would entail.

Overnight, that list disappeared. And the review went through an extraordinary transformation. It was replaced with very, very weak text around a review that would conduct a “dialogue” with countries “willing to do so.

Also, and even more worrying, was the disappearance of a fundamental task for that review – that it would calculate the aggregate effect of these INDC’s and compare them against the globally agreed warming limit of 2˚C.

Why should this matter?

The scientists I work with on the Climate Action Tracker have, this last week, looked at how the pledges and policies made by Governments actually add up and measure against the globally agreed limit of 2˚C warming.

They did have some good news on the new pledges by China, the EU and the US, but they also had some problems, both with China, which hasn’t provided enough data so the scientists could calculate the effect of its pledge, and also Australia, who’re notorious in their fudging of numbers and gaming of the Kyoto Protocol rules.

Australia is confident of meeting its (tiny) Kyoto target, despite Tony Abbott’s unraveling of the comprehensive climate legislation introduced by Julia Gillard. NGO’s have been puzzled at Australia’s confident statements about meeting their target – but now we know why: Kyoto rules allow Australia to increase their energy and industry emissions by 47-59 percent above the 1990 baseline – but still meet their target.

So. If all these Governments submit their intended climate actions to the UNFCCC in April, but nobody actually looks at what they add up to, how will we know how good the Paris agreement will be? If the scientists can’t add up these figures, how can anyone else accurately judge the climate action they’re all so desperately trying to avoid anyone scrutinising?

Night is now falling. There’s no sign of anybody agreeing anything right now. I’m off to dinner, while the media lurk around the conference centre, waiting hopefully for an outcome that may or may not be soon, and may or may not be good.

To finish on a lighter note (well, sort of): one mantra of the youth seen at the talks today is that
we’ve been negotiating all their lives.

image

(HT: the fabulous perudeawakening tumblr)

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to this…

more to come …

 

Carbon News 8/12/14: NZ’s multi-billion carbon blowout Gareth Renowden Dec 09

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We’re facing a $3b carbon crisis … and it could be worse

New Zealand has a $3 billion carbon headache looming – and Treasury says that’s the conservative estimate. Carbon emissions in the period 2021 to 2030 could cost the country as much as $52 billion. Official briefings to the incoming Government acknowledge that the costs of meeting emissions reductions targets after 2020 were likely to rise significantly because “our emissions are forecast to increase and carbon prices are likely to be higher”.

The country needs a carbon budget, says pressure group

A climate change lobby group is calling for a national carbon budget and legally binding emissions reduction targets. The Sustainability Council’s paper comes as it releases figures showing New Zealand is facing a carbon liability of between $3 billion and $52 billion by 2030. Drawing on Government documents and its own work, the research and advocacy trust paints a picture of a country running a creative carbon accounting process, in which carbon liabilities have been shunted off to a time when carbon prices are predicted to be much higher.

Groser has a cunning plan (but he won’t say what it is)

Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says New Zealand will “push the envelope” on post-2020 emissions reductions. But he still won’t say what that means. New Zealand has to announce its 2021-2030 emissions reduction target before the negotiations for a new international climate treaty in Paris late next year. Groser, who is now in Lima for UN climate talks, told TV’s The Nation at the weekend that the target didn’t have to be settled until the middle of next year.

Ocean heat drives surge to global warming record

It’s official, even though it won’t be conclusive for a few months yet: if present trends continue, 2014 will be one of the hottest years on record − and quite possibly the hottest of them all.

Investors back clean coke with close on $700,000

New Zealand clean-tech pioneer CarbonScape raised nearly $700,000 through its crowd-sourcing campaign.

Why our ‘silent ally’ soils are on the endangered list

The world is not paying enough attention to its soil – our silent ally – says the United Nations.

Outlook bright for UK’s solar power potential

Solar energy is sometimes dismissed as a fanciful idea with little to offer so far in such a cloudy country as the United Kingdom, but a new report says power from the sun could thrive in Britain in barely five years’ time − without the need for any subsidy.

It doesn’t take much to turn up the temperature

Start the car, turn on the gas under the kettle, shovel some coal on the fire. Each time that happens, another pulse of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Australia should export more ideas and fewer greenhouse emissions

As climate negotiators meet at the US-China climate deal United Nations’ Lima summit, which comes hot on the heels of the landmark

Paper mill sets new benchmarks for best practice

Manufacturing benchmarks achieved by a rural South Australian factory are being shared and instituted across the world by global manufacturing giant Kimberly-Clark.

Environment projects win financial boost

A travelling caravan collecting environmental pledges, an inner-city school creating an ecological island, and a university study monitoring landslides are the 2014 recipients of the Canon Environmental Grants programme.

Lines company loves its electric cars

Auckland lines company Vector says its electric vehicles are proving to be immensely popular with staff.

On the web: ‘They say that in 30 years maybe Kiribati will disappear’

  • Adapting to a warmer climate could cost almost three times as much as thought, says UN report

  • German government approves €80 billion climate package
  • Local buddy scheme to help boost renewables and energy efficiency
  • Global emissions scheme talks renewed
  • Major new study confirms wind farms do not harm human health

Spot NZUs maintain recent highs

Spot NZUs closed Friday at $4.95 on volumes of just over 100,000 tonnes, a rise of 50 cents, OMFinancial reports.

NZ: pushing the world to go beyond 2 degrees cindy Dec 05

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head-in-the-sandNew Zealand is coming under increasing scrutiny in Lima, not least because it’s our turn to be reviewed by the UNFCCC process.

Early next week our representatives will have to defend our position and our lack of action to 190 governments in our first “multilateral assessment.”

Already, there have been some tough questions, coming especially from the EU and China. New Zealand’s answered them, but will have to more to defend itself than these carefully fudged answers.

Our negotiators have been trying to promote our position around the meeting, including a botched attempt in a science discussion yesterday, when they were interrupted halfway through a blatant PR presentation. They were told to get back to the issue at hand (science, not promotion of a country’s so-called “efforts”), after a number of governments objected to our highjacking the agenda.

Right now, our ballooning emissions are on track to be at least 36% above 1990 levels – instead of the 5% below 1990 that we’ve promised, and they’re going to continue going up. In short, we’re in trouble. And we’re going to get hammered for this next week.

But let’s turn for a minute to our efforts to actually solving this problem at the global level.

At the centre of NZ’s proposal for the Paris agreement is the notion that while elements of the global deal should be legally binding, targets for cutting emissions should not be legally binding.

Everyone should just add up what they feel like doing, put them in a schedule, and the sum total should be the agreed global target. And the national targets should not be legally binding.

This proposal drew praise from Obama’s climate envoy Todd Stern a few weeks back, and the idea is also supported by a band of the most recalcitrant countries on climate change: Australia (where “coal is good for humanity”) and Canada, home of the tarsands, who have, like NZ, walked away from the Kyoto Protocol.

On the other hand, the EU, in their first press conference in Lima this week, were unequivocal in their opposition to the idea. Elina Bardram, head of the EU delegation told reporters that:

 “The EU is of the mind that legally binding mitigation targets are the only way to provide the necessary long-term signal, the necessary confidence to the investors … and provide credibility in the low carbon transition worldwide.”

This is the EU’s negotiating position on a global deal. The EU is one of the few who have actually put a target on the table – with a cut of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, so they are backing this with action at home.

But here’s a funny thing about New Zealand’s proposal.

NZ’s “unconditional” target is to cut emissions by 5% by 2020 (below 1990). We have spelled out a specific set of conditions under which we’d improve this to 10% – or even 20%, although these two improved targets tend to cause hysterical laughter if one looks at our emissions projections.

Nick Smith told the UNFCCC on 31 January 2010 that, among other conditions, this agreement must:

“…[set] the world on a pathway to limit temperature rise to not more than 2˚C.”

That seems reasonable, right? On the face of it, it looks like NZ’s keen to keep to this globally agreed temperature limit (even though we know 2˚C of warming will wreak a fair level of havoc on the planet).

However, there appears to be a discrepancy between our conditions – and what we’re actually proposing for a Paris agreement. And this discrepancy has been pointed out by none other than the New Zealand Treasury.

Treasury’s advice to the incoming Climate Minister in November went to great lengths to explain our proposal, explaining in detail how we should only do our “fair share” – a line that is Tim Groser’s mantra, yada yada yada. But even Treasury admits:

“This may mean that the level of action is less than is required to limit global warming to two degrees, but negotiators have chosen to prioritise participation at this point in time.”

So let me get this right:

We are holding out on increasing our international commitment to climate action because we want to see a strong 2020 agreement that keeps the world on a below 2˚C pathway.

Yet even Treasury says our proposal for the Paris agreement will not achieve this.  Have our negotiators had a brainfade? Did they forget what they agreed just a few short years ago?

Or do they have instructions to do their best to avoid a 2˚C pathway so that we don’t have to increase our target?   Perhaps next week’s questioning could focus on this issue. I look forward to the event.

But one thing is clear: our Government has its head firmly planted in the sand on climate change, as activists across the country will be pointing out on Sunday.

Solid Treadgold, easy action (NZ still warming fast) Gareth Renowden Dec 03

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It’s time to return to the delusions harboured by New Zealand’s little coterie of climate cranks about the NZ temperature record. Readers may recall that — somehow — the men who lost a court case against NIWA and then folded the charitable trust they’d used to bring the case in order to avoid paying costs, managed to get their “reconstruction” of the NZ temperature record through peer review and into the scientific literature. To no-one’s surprise, they found that warming in NZ was only one third of that found by NIWA and a generation of NZ climatologists. To do that, they had to torture the data beyond endurance, as I showed at the time.

Equally unsurprising is that Richard Treadgold, prime mover of the whole fiasco, felt moved to respond in a number of typically prolix posts at his blog. His first, What Mullan actually says, purports to lay out the disputed points:

…I think these are the debating points he’s trying to make, lined up with the passages in which he makes them.

One small problem. This is not a debate. The facts are what the facts are, just as the temperature data is what it is. No amount of handwaving — or appeals to judicial authority — can change the facts of this matter. What can change is the interpretation placed on those facts, and that’s where Treadgold et al went wrong on day one.

In 2010 they decided — and explicitly told the world — that NZ’s climate scientists had been cooking the books. Everything they’ve done since has been a part of building a false narrative, a silly superstructure of misinterpretation and misdirection clumsily bolted together, designed to fool anyone sympathetic to their position. The new paper, by de Freitas, Dedekind & Brill 2014 (dFDB 2014) is just the latest effort to prop up that tottering edifice.

I have no intention of wasting time by playing along with Treadgold et al’s narrative. There are so many misdirections and misunderstandings on display in his sequence of posts that it would take a magnum opus to deal with them all. If I thought that by doing that I might change their minds — win them over to the world of climate rationality — then I would be happy to do it, but Treadgold et al are not what I would describe as rational actors. They admit no facts that are inconvenient to their world view, and show no sign of educability on climate science.

I will confine my response to a few simple points. In his “debating points” post, Treadgold’s point 8 is:

The de Freitas et al. (2014) paper should have discussed the relevant literature, including Mullan (2012).

The response (one presumes from Dedekind) is:

Mullan (2012) is not relevant literature.

I fell off my chair with laughter on reading that bald statement. A paper that explicitly deals with the statistical techniques described in the paper dFDB 2014 claims to base its reconstruction on, as applied to the temperature data dFDB 2014 uses, is somehow “not relevant”!

Let’s be blunt. Any peer-reviewed paper discussing the NZ temperature record should refer to all the recent published literature on NZ temperatures. We’re not talking about a field so crowded with publications that some selection might be necessary. Even more importantly, because Mullan (2012) explicitly points out the correct application of the techniques that dFDB claim to apply, they really had no option but to deal with that in their paper — at least, if they wanted to be taken seriously.

That dFDB 2014 did not even cite Mullan (2012) tells us two things: that the peer reviewers were not familiar with the local literature or they would have insisted the authors address the points raised by Brett Mullan’s paper, and that dFDB were keen to avoid dealing with inconvenient arguments.

Treadgold’s point 4 is:

In compiling Mullan et al. (2010) minimum/maximum data were looked at as well as the mean data used for the publication. These calculations were supplied to BOM.

This misses my point, even though he quotes my post above his summary. If you are going to insist that you will only adjust series if there is a statistically significant difference between sites, then you have to consider the significance of maximum and minimum temperature changes, not just look at the mean. Dedekind tries to hand wave his way around this crucial point:

Min/max records are useful on occasion, but it is the mean that is adjusted up or down and therefore it is the effect on the mean that is of interest to readers. This is why all 170 pages of M10 discuss adjustments to the mean data and only mention min/max data in passing (in relation to Albert Park station).

It is of course possible to prepare a full adjusted minimum or maximum chart along with the adjusted mean temperature chart, but our purpose in the paper was to prepare a mean temperature reanalysis.

A very telling comment. Their “purpose” was not to look at the data — all the data — and see if adjustments were necessary. They were not interested in trying different approaches to test the sensitivity of their approach — something any real scientist would do, and which was explicitly a part of the Rhoades and Salinger method as described in their 1992 paper.

Again, let’s be blunt. If you are going to use statistical significance as your break point for applying an adjustment, then you have to consider maximum and minimum temperatures, not just look at the mean, or you will exclude adjustments that should be made. Surely that wasn’t what they were aiming for?

Treadgold’s point 3:

All of Jim Salinger’s original calculations for the 1992 version were made available during discovery in the High Court proceedings.

His reply (presumably from Barry Brill) is a classic of its kind:

NIWA’s discovery process was a classic example of the “blizzard of documents” trick. Barry Brill, NZ Climate Science Coalition chairman and solicitor for the NZCSET, was led into a mid-size room at NIWA’s Wellington premises where climate data spreadsheets were stacked 2-3 cartons deep around all the walls, to a height of about 5 feet. However, he found some cartons marked “Salinger” which he was told had been sitting in Jim Salinger’s office for untold years.

He finally came across one that seemed to relate to the MetService work. It was a total mess. There was no way in the world anybody could have found data relating to the seven stations, let alone identified the adjustments or the calculation techniques. The only reference to adjustments were updates done by Maunder and Finkelstein. The lack of adjustment calculations is unsurprising. Salinger92 says they “set the computers rolling” rather than do them manually.

Presumably Brill was unable to locate the manila folders clearly labelled with the station names — one or more folder for each of the 24 stations homogenised in Salinger et al (1992). If he had opened those folders, he would have discovered computer printout headed up “Program Adjust”, with site cross-correlations, adjustments, standard errors, and phrases like: “12 months used before and after each change”. Then, next page: “24 months used before and after each change”, and on the next page: “48 months used before and after each change”. Perhaps Brill, a lawyer and former politician with no apparent interest in climate science until taking over the chairmanship of the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, having called NIWA scientists incompetent and dishonest, found it difficult to ask for their assistance in interpreting the information there for him to examine.

Whatever happened in that room at NIWA, it is clear that Brill failed to inform himself and his clients about what was really in those boxes piled so deep. Had he done so, it would have been clear that the narrative they had constructed was untenable when tested against the facts — something the judge in their failed court case was able to spot. Worse, it makes it clear that the central contention of dFDB 2014 — that theirs is the first application of the Rhoades and Salinger techniques to the long term NZ temperature record — is a straightforward falsehood.

There is more — much more — that I could write about dFDB 2014 and the pathetic attempts by Treadgold, Dedekind and Brill to defend their actions and their shoddy paper, but as I said earlier, life really is too short to enter their alternate universe and deal with it on its own terms — especially when that universe is sorely lacking in entertainment or intellectual stimulation. Nevertheless, I suspect dFDB 2014 will get a further response in due course where it belongs — in the peer-reviewed literature. That will put the matter to rest in the real world, but in the tough little epistemic bubble inhabited by Treadgold, Dedekind, de Freitas and Brill, there will be a wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth — but very little else will change.

[T Rex]

The bear necessities of climate agreement in Lima cindy Dec 01

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The population in the seaside capital of Peru, Lima, has grown exponentially in the last few days ahead of the latest round of UN climate talks, with  11,000 official delegates, 40,000 police, and thousands more who’ll attend the Peoples Climate Summit, all descending on the city.

“The streets are filling up with gringos,” a horrified friend who’s living in Lima told me today.

It is a relief to be at climate talks hosted by a government that’s less in the thrall of the fossil fuel industry than the last two, in Doha and Warsaw. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can count on more action as a result.  I hope they act like Paddington Bear (whom I believe has a Peruvian background1 ) — in terms of his “trying hard to get things right” rather than his getting into trouble.

This is the first of a few blogs I’ll be writing, so let’s take a quick look at what’s at stake in Lima.

Apart from the usual “future of the planet” stakes that get higher every day, there are a number of key issues that governments can get to grips with over the next two weeks. This meeting is an important stepping stone on the way to Paris late next year, which should come up with a new global climate agreement designed to set the world on the right path towards keeping global warming below 2˚C.

Pre-2020 action

The Paris agreement is one that would be agreed in 2015, and come into play in 2020. But what happens before then? Some Governments, like New Zealand and the US, see the paltry 2020 emissions reduction targets they made after Copenhagen as being the only targets they’ll accept for the next six years.

Scientists have told us that if nothing more than the Copenhagen pledges are fulfilled by 2020, then we’ve very little hope of keeping to that 2˚C limit, without having to make ridiculously huge changes to the world’s energy systems in 2021. Their messages are consistent: the sooner we take action, the cheaper it will be. Waiting longer is a risky business, in terms of both climate impacts and economics.

There are many of us – from vulnerable developing countries to scientists and NGOs – calling for the world to ramp up the action now, instead of waiting until after 2020. But will it happen?

I find it extremely unlikely that New Zealand would contemplate any increase on our paltry target of 5 percent reductions by 2020 (on 1990 levels), given that all indications are that we’re set to massively overshoot that by more than 30%.   I won’t go into our situation too much, suffice to say it’s had considerable – and much-deserved- scorn poured on it recently,  from our Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to the NZ Herald’s Brian Fallow, to name but a few.

So much for doing, to repeat the government’s mantra, our “fair share.”

INDCs

Let me introduce you to a relatively new UN acronym: INDCs. They used to be called “emissions reduction targets” or “commitments” which, under Kyoto, were legally binding commitments to cut emissions.  However last year in Warsaw some governments didn’t like the name – it was far too direct, and to the point, for comfort, and implied Committing To Something.  So they came up with “INDCs”: Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (read: doing what you feel like, depending on how much pressure the big emitters at home are giving you, but not wanting to be tied to it).

On the road to Paris, by next March, all governments, large or small, developing or developed, must submit their INDCs to the UNFCCC. But before they do that, they have to decide the criteria. What information must be in them? How specific do they have to be? This is absolutely crucial to these INDCs being useful.

As the chair of the Least Developed Countries, Prakash Mathema, told the RTCC blog:

“Among the criteria to be included are: type of commitment/contribution, base year or period, baseline emissions trajectory, peaking year, coverage in terms of GHGs and sectors, geographical boundaries, percentage of total or national emissions, expected emission reductions to be achieved, approach to accounting for the land-use sector, additional specific information depending on the type of commitment/contribution, and indicators relating to fairness and ambition.”

So there’s plenty of scope for those discussions to go on late into the evenings and extra days at the end of the session.

Of course the NZ Government hasn’t decided on our INDC yet – no doubt it will be too busy here in Lima making sure that the criteria agreed contain enough loopholes for us to get away with committing to as little as possible. This is New Zealand’s modus operandi in these talks, and I see little change on the horizon, not least because our emissions are expected to balloon in the coming decades. Those will be emissions that will be increasingly costly to reduce. All the global reports released recently say that the sooner you take action, the cheaper it will be.

Finance

Another key component of this meeting is the ongoing subject of finance. Finance to the world’s most vulnerable countries to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change – and to reduce their own emissions along the way.

This finance is another crucial stepping stone towards the Paris Agreement. They’ve finally got the “Green Climate Fund” (GCF) set up so that it can deliver projects and programmes to make sure money gets to the right places, and now Governments have nearly $10bn pledged towards that fund. But that’s just a start. By 2050, this fund needs to deliver $100 billion a year, every year.

New Zealand’s own contribution to the GCF slipped out almost unnoticed last month — and no wonder — it’s an astoundingly low $3 million. Even the Czech Republic has pledged almost double that amount.  OK, so the Australians are not going to contribute anything, they say, but do we really want our Government to be like Tony Abbott’s?

The slow progress on the GCF has engendered much distrust amongst developing countries, so the pledges have been a welcome first step. If, by Paris, the pledges are turned into actual money in the bank, and those programmes are up and running, this will make a huge difference.

There’s a lot of work to do here in Lima, and I haven’t touched on all of it. Let’s hope those gringos filling up Lima’s hotels will actually get down and do some work worthy of the thousands of tonnes of emissions we’ve all shoved into the sky by flying here.

  1. GR adds: Indeed he has. In fact his Aunt Lucy lives in the Home For Retired Bears in Lima.

Getting it Wright on sea level rise Gareth Renowden Nov 27

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Sea level rise of up to 40cm around New Zealand by the middle of this century is already locked in and will cause significant problems for coastal communities and infrastructure, according to a new report just released by Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. The report — Changing Climate and Rising Seas: Understanding the Science [pdf] — provides an overview of why sea levels are currently rising and why they are expected to continue rising over the rest of this century and beyond. A follow-up report due next year will “show in some detail which areas of the coastline around the country are most vulnerable to sea level rise and assess the risk to infrastructure in those areas”.

Introducing the report, Dr Wright said that the scientific evidence is now irrefutable. “The climate is changing and causing the sea to rise”.

“A rise of 30 cm may not sound much, but its impact will be very costly for many landowners. Damaging coastal floods will become increasingly frequent. The insurance industry is becoming aware of, and responding to, the increased flooding risk. Some councils and communities have already started to face hard questions.”

Commenting on the report for the Science Media Centre, Associate Professor Nancy Bertler of the Joint Antarctic Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington/GNS Science, said:

The report provides an excellent summary on the current knowledge of past and future sea level rise including the main drivers and the regional patterns. Dr. Wright highlights the concern of the scientific community on the possibility of substantial and abrupt future contributions from the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Additional important considerations are that: worldwide over 200 million people live within one metre of sea level. The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was at 400 ppm (3-5 million years ago) the associated global temperatures caused the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to catastrophically collapse – raising global sea level by around ten to twenty metres.

The rate at which sea level will rise has important implications on our ability to adapt. New research suggests that sea level could rise as quickly as 4 metres per 100 years (or 1 metre per 25 years). Assuming even a modest global sea level increase of 50 cm by 2100 (IPCC scenario RCP 4.5), the frequency of coastal inundation in New Zealand is predicted to increase by a multiplier of 1000 times.

Under such a scenario, an annual event becomes a daily event, a ‘100 year’ event occurs several times per year. As an approximation: every 0.1m rise triples the frequency of inundation events.

Dr Wright focusses on the near term implications for New Zealand, a sensible choice given the tendency to dismiss sea level rise as a problem for the distant future, but in my view she misses an opportunity to spell out the strong relationship between atmospheric CO2 levels and equilibrium sea level. The last time CO2 stood at 400 ppm, global sea level was about 20m higher than today. That’s where we’re heading, unless we can get greenhouse gas levels down, and it has very important implications for emissions policy. But I’m nit-picking…

Changing Climate and Rising Seas is a very readable introduction to the science of sea level rise, and gives a very clear picture of the state of current knowledge. It’s a welcome addition to what passes for national discourse on the inevitability of climate change and the necessity of adapting to what it brings. Next year’s report on regional impacts will be even more important.

National Business Review: last bastion of climate denial in NZ pushes de Freitas tosh Gareth Renowden Nov 18

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The National Business Review — New Zealand’s biggest-selling business weekly — provides a happy media home for climate deniers of all stripes. Columnists like former ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and right wing spin doctor Matthew Hooton1 are given free rein to rant and rave about climate issues, but occasionally editor Nevil Gibson offers its august platform to others so that they can spout fatuous piffle. Last week’s issue featured an opinion column by Chris de Freitas, in which he waxes lyrical about his recent paper on the NZ temperature record — the shonky one that claims to find warming to be only one third of what real experts calculate.

The NBR hides most of its material behind a paywall, so I can’t link directly to the text — but the less scrupulous chaps at the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition2 are happy to host a pdf lifted from the NBR site.

As you might expect, de Freitas doesn’t restrict himself to narrow concepts of truth and factual accuracy. He mentions the cranks’ court case…

The High Court ruled against the trust and ordered it to repay court costs.

… but neglects to point out that the trust has since failed to pay those costs. It has of course been put into receivership, thus allowing the trustees to escape the $90,000-worth of financial consequences of losing their crackpot case.

de Freitas also misrepresents the membership of the trust.

The trust was suspected of hosting global warming sceptics, which was clearly not the case, as the group was not asserting climate warming does not exist. Rather it represented the view of those who are sceptical of alarmist claims that dangerous human-caused global warming is taking place.

The trustees were Bryan Leyland, Terry Dunleavy and Doug Edmeades, with Barry Brill acting as their lawyer. Leyland, Dunleavy and Brill are men with long track records as “global warming sceptics” — not least Leyland, who is on record predicting imminent global cooling.

The rest of de Freitas’s op-ed repeats the misdirections that can be found in the text of his paper, mostly dealt with in my first post on the matter a couple of weeks ago, but there are two I can’t let pass:

The newly published work aimed to apply the method set out by Rhoades and Salinger exactly as they describe, without adjusting it in any way.

dFDB 2014 chooses to interpret the methods suggested by Rhoades and Salinger in a very particular way — one that has the effect of reducing the apparent warming trend. If those methods are properly applied, as in Mullan 2012, the warming reappears3.

de Freitas also attempts to justify the whole farrago:

National temperature trends are widely used for a large number of societal design and planning purposes and it is important that they should be as reliable as modern methods allow.

This is transparent nonsense. Historical temperature trends are interesting, but they play no useful part in future planning. To plan in the face of rapid climate change, we need good regional projections for temperature changes, sea level rise and increases in weather extremes. Those will come from climate models, not temperature records.

de Freitas’s paper is nothing more than a political exercise — a part of the climate cranks long running campaign against NIWA. It’s dressed up as an academic paper — but like the Emperor’s new clothes, the finery is only visible to the cranks themselves.

The NBR, meanwhile, confirms its position as the last bastion of climate denial opinion. As I’ve said before, it could be argued that the business community gets the journalism it deserves. It would appear New Zealand’s business community continues to be in deep, deep trouble.

  1. Hooton’s last column on climate matters appeared two weeks ago, and managed to be a spectacular home goal. But then he’s no stranger to those.
  2. Let’s not forget that they are quite happy to register a charitable trust to bring a court case against NIWA, and then fold it so that the trustees can escape the financial consequences of their actions, so the fact that they are happy to disrespect the NBR’s paywall should come as no surprise.
  3. There will be more on this in future posts at HT on the dFDB 2014 paper and the desperate attempts by the authors to justify their conclusions.

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