SciBlogs

Posts Tagged Climate politics

Citibanker: the age of renewables is here Bryan Walker Apr 17

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Kathryn Ryan’s interview earlier this week with Michael Eckhart, Managing Director and Global Head of Environmental Finance and Sustainability at the giant investment bank Citigroup was arresting. He was in New Zealand as a keynote speaker at the Wind Energy Conference and Ryan asked him about a recent report from Citi, Energy Darwinism: The Evolution of the Energy Industry, which claimed the world is entering the age of renewable energy and explored the consequences for generators, utilities, consumers and fossil fuel exporters. There’s a good exposition of the report on this blog post.

Eckhart explained the three big costs in producing electricity – the fuel, paying off the loan for the plant, and operational maintenance. In the case of coal and natural gas generation all three costs are involved and there’s no way of knowing what the cost of the fuel will be in the future. With wind and other renewables “there is no fuel cost at all: none”. Once the loan for the plant is paid off there are no further costs other than operational.

Ryan asked why investment in renewables is dropping as the costs are coming down. Eckhart in reply spoke of an anomaly:

“We had a very successful industry emerging coming out of the United States, Europe … manufacturing these solar cells, these solar panels, and  along  came China, and China just produces things at a lower cost and China made a priority – this became a priority industry under the government of China … and they came out with panels costing half as much.”

Investors in Western companies consequently took a hit and investors in the new Chinese companies did very well “and it’s all a big mix now”. The surviving Western companies are still there and very successful though many companies have closed. The industry has a new profile. Japan and the Middle East are also now part of the picture. The industry is evolving all the time.

Ryan then mentioned the difficulties wind energy is facing in the US with the emergence of cheap shale gas and the withdrawal of subsidies leading to a real hit to investment.

In response, Eckhart spoke in general terms of the world being 40 years into a 100-year transition to clean energy. Renewable energy is on a large scale around the world. “It’s a 250 billion dollar per year industry – that’s how much capital’s being invested in it”.  It’s a big industry competing with conventional power “better and better all the time”. In the US right now low-cost natural gas is gaining some share against renewables, but that’s not going to be a long-term trend. He spoke of the big forcing functions like climate change, environmental protection, human safety and stabilisation of energy costs. He stressed that stabilisation is one aspect of renewable energy that is often overlooked. Once a wind or solar project is built and financed the cost of its electricity is fixed for the life of the plant. Stabilisation of energy costs is important for countries.

When Ryan pressed the question of subsidies for wind and the pressure they are coming under in some countries Eckhart replied that subsidies are better seen as incentives, or compensation for public benefit. Non-pollution from renewables is a public benefit. But there’s nothing in the market to pay for that.

Solar presently counts for a quarter of a percent of the US electricity supply. How, asked Ryan, do you get a big transition moving from that small base?

Eckhart instanced Bill Gates making a fortune from the point when PCs were at only two percent of the computing power in the world. It’s the future that matters. He distinguished the three layers of the industry. First, the technology and manufacturing companies who produce the equipment to harvest the natural energy. Second, the developers, owners and operators of the renewable power plants. Third the utilities that buy that electricity to sell it to us. The profitability of the manufacturing layer might for the present be bad because of the Chinese dominance of the space. However the drop in prices has benefited the developers who are buying the panels and putting them to service. That’s where the fortunes are currently being made. The utilities have been taken somewhat by surprise and are still figuring out how this impacts their business.

Market adjustment is called for. Those who adjust fastest are going to benefit. Those who stand still might be impacted negatively. The world is changing. We are in a century of massive technology innovation and adoption.

I appreciated Eckhart’s forthrightness, all the more because of the investment banking environment from which it comes. But the question the interview left me pondering was whether the forcing function of climate change that Eckhart refers to will be felt strongly enough to speed up the process that he sees as inexorably under way. Forty years into a hundred-year transition doesn’t sound far enough from a climate change perspective. Our own government is happy enough to look forward to fully renewable energy in the long run, but only after as much profit as possible is taken from fossil fuels. The remaining sixty years of Eckhart’s hundred need to be condensed to thirty before we can safely take heart from the kind of analysis he makes.

Lip service: it’s all climate action ever gets from Key & Co Gareth Renowden Apr 16

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

As expected, the New Zealand government’s response to the IPCC’s Working Group 3 report on mitigating climate change pays lip service to the science, while maintaining that NZ is doing all that can be expected. Climate change minister Tim Groser’s press release said that the IPCC report’s call for intentional cooperation meant that NZ is “on the right track in pressing for a binding international agreement on emissions beyond 2020″ but failed to note the urgency explicit in the report.

Groser also repeated the government’s standard response when challenged on government inaction on climate policy:

“New Zealand is doing its fair share on climate change, taking into account our unique national circumstances, both to restrict our own emissions and support the global efforts needed to make the cuts that will limit warming.”

Groser’s response to the WG2 and WG3 reports so angered Pure Advantage founder Phillip Mills that he announced he would make a $125,000 donation to the Labour and Green parties. Mills, who has been working behind the scenes for the last five years, lobbying cabinet ministers and National MPs to build a business case for climate action and clean, green business growth, told the NZ Herald:

I’ve been trying impartially to deal with National. I’ve met with John Key around this a number of times … and really I held the hope that I and groups that I’ve been involved with would be able to get National to see sense.

NZ scientists who contributed to the IPCC reports were also critical of NZ’s perceived inaction. The Science Media Centre collated some of their responses.

Prof Ralph Sims, Sustainable Energy, School of Engineering and Advanced Technology, Massey University, WG3 lead author:

…each New Zealander is responsible for emitting around eight tonnes of carbon dioxide a year … we are now the fourth highest emitters per person in the world, behind Australia, the United States, and Canada. New Zealand has set a modest target to reduce our total greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent below the 1990 gross emission level in just six years time, yet no one knows how we will achieve this…

Bob Lloyd, Associate Professor and Director of Energy Studies, Physics Department, University of Otago:

in international climate change negotiations NZ is regarded as a particularly ‘tough’ negotiator. By ‘tough’ read ‘selfish’. … To get global buy-in NZ must act as a global leader in emissions reductions not a selfish backwater.

Prof Susan Krumdieck, Dept of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury:

There aren’t any responsible leaders, competent engineers, or sensible people who would suggest we should exceed safety limits. Who in the world would say that as a matter of convenience, we should push essential systems to collapse? There is also no way to mitigate the impacts of a catastrophic failure.

The only option now is for all responsible, competent and sensible people to demand action from engineers, planners and business leaders to change every system that produces and uses climate affecting materials so dramatically reduce the production and use of fossil fuels and reduce the emissions of other greenhouse gasses.

Tasked with these comments by Green climate spokesman Kennedy Graham, Groser’s response was the scientists should “stick to their knitting” and leave the decision-making to him. Such obvious contempt for expertise seems to be a hallmark of Groser and his colleagues: when the message is inconvenient, how much easier to belittle the messenger than to address the issue.

That’s the real problem: the heart of the National government, from John Key repeating Groser’s mantra at Question Time, to Steven Joyce’s blind spot on green business initiatives, simply cannot pay anything other than lip service to the evidence in the IPCC reports, because if they did they would be forced to recognise that they have their policy settings all wrong.

For Tim Groser, climate change is an international relations problem, to be solved by tough negotiation where New Zealand’s interests — as defined by Key & Co — are paramount. For John Key, climate change is a political problem. If the other side thinks it’s important, then by definition his party has to say it’s less important. Such is the nature of parliamentary party politics, as played by shallow people who don’t understand the breadth of the problem they are supposed to confront.

Of course, the climate problem is an international relations issue, and a domestic political issue, but those are just component parts of a far bigger and much more serious problem. The IPCC reports make it clear that we are already changing the climate, and that we’re currently on course for 3 to 4ºC of warming this century — well beyond any safe limit. Action to reduce emissions now will limit future damage, and be surprisingly affordable, but the window to act is closing fast.

What Key & Co do not appear to understand are the dire consequences of inaction. Nor do they appreciate what risk management means when you don’t know how bad things are really going to get. It might be expedient to punt the problem to future parliaments, while trying to save face in the here and now, but inaction is actively increasing the risk of future damage, and the costs of adapting to it. As Susan Krumdieck points out, “there is [...] no way to mitigate the impacts of a catastrophic failure”.

So how do we persuade the present government to take its responsibilities seriously? One obvious route is via the ballot box, by making climate action a central issue in September’s general election and voting for parties with a commitment to urgent action. But there is another way, and one for which there may be some signs of a groundswell developing — and which will be the only route open if the National Party leads the next government.

The Wise Response group has delivered its petition to parliament, calling on the government to take climate action and green growth seriously. The Royal Society of NZ has also called for a change in direction towards a low emissions, green economy. With influential groups consistently knocking on the door, and with climate impacts in the news and increasingly undeniable, is it too much to hope that Key & Co might accept the need for urgent action and set NZ back on the right road?

[Update 17/4: Peter Griffin at Sciblogs fact checks Groser's comments about Ralph Sims, and finds that the Minister was 100% wrong to suggest that Sims was "palpably wrong on multiple levels".]

[Elvis. The other one.]

IPCC WG3: it does not cost the world to save the planet Gareth Renowden Apr 13

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

The IPCC has just released the summary for policymakers of the Working Group 3 report on mitigating climate change. It makes clear that the world has to act quickly to restrict carbon emissions to have a reasonable chance of restricting warming to 2ºC by the end of the century, but establishes that the costs of action are affordable.

A few key points:

  • Annual greenhouse gas emissions have risen 10 GtCO2eq between 2000 and 2010, and half of all emissions since 1750 have occurred in the last 40 years
  • If no further actions are taken to reduce emissions global mean surface temperature in 2100 will increase by 3.7 to 4.8°C compared to pre‐industrial levels
  • To have a reasonable chance of staying under 2ºC of warming in 2100 means restricting greenhouse gases to 450 ppm CO2eq
  • Hitting 450 ppm CO2eq will mean “substantial cuts in anthropogenic GHG emissions by mid‐century through large‐scale changes in energy systems and potentially land use”
  • Typical 450 ppm CO2eq scenarios include overshooting the target and then removal of CO2 by bionenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), though “carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies and methods are uncertain and CDR technologies and methods are, to varying degrees, associated with challenges and risks”
  • The Cancun pledges are not consistent with cost-effective efforts to hit 2ºC, and are more likely to commit the world to 3ºC of warming
  • The sooner we act, the cheaper overall mitigation will be – as little as 0.06% of annual GDP growth to hit 450 ppm CO2eq

Commenting on the report for the Science Media Centre, VUW climate scientist Jim Renwick said:

The WGIII report charts many possible futures where we cap the warming at 2 degrees. Action, such as moving to 100% renewable electricity generation, needs to start immediately. New Zealand is as well-placed as any nation to lead the world on this, provided we have the political will. That appears to be lacking right now – there’s plenty of talk about emissions reductions targets, while at the same time we’re opening the country up to more oil drilling and coal mining. The latest MfE report shows New Zealand’s emissions have gone up 25% since 1990, and they are on track to keep rising.

Per head of population, we are some of the biggest emitters on the planet. Clean and green? 100% pure? Right now – I don’t think so.

Read more at The Guardian and BBC. I’ll have a post with more NZ reaction in due course.

Summary for policymakers (pdf)

Full report (available from April 15th)

TDB Today: Ragged right caught in reality’s shit sandwich Gareth Renowden Apr 09

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

This week’s Daily Blog post takes a further look at NZ political responses to the release of the of the second part of the IPCC’s Fifth Report, and ponders how everyone who has gleefully claimed that adaptation is all we need to do will react when the third report — on mitigating carbon emissions — is released next week. Good risk management would mean planning to adapt to four degrees of warming, while aiming at emissions reductions that would restrict warming to two degrees…

When will they ever learn? Herald reprints Telegraph’s tawdry climate lies Gareth Renowden Apr 08

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Why would the New Zealand Herald choose to reprint a review of a book steeped in climate denial, under the headline The game is up for climate change believers in the week between two major climate reports from the IPCC? The review, by Charles Moore, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph, an up-market British newspaper noted chiefly for its unwavering support of the right wing of the Conservative Party, appeared on the Telegraph’s web site over the weekend — over a year since the book was first published. Someone at the Herald clearly thought that Moore’s views on The Age of Global Warming by former banker and right wing think tank denizen Rupert Darwell, would add something to the paper’s coverage of climate matters. If they did, one wonders whether they bothered to read it first, because Moore’s review is little more than extended paean of praise to Darwall’s conspiratorial thinking — global green conspiracy, capture of science by politics — all the tropes that traipse through the “works” of Delingpole, Wishart and Lawson. Worse than that: it makes factual errors that anyone paying the slightest attention to the content of the Herald — which you might expect its own staff to do — should have been able to pick up. Even worse: the Herald failed to notice that the Telegraph‘s own Tom Chivers noted that Moore was talking nonsense:

…whatever the merits of the book, Charles has made a howling, awful error in his very first paragraph, quoted above. Let’s look at it again:

The theory of global warming is a gigantic weather forecast for a century or more.

No, it isn’t.

It simply isn’t. Whatever your thoughts on anthropogenic climate change, and whatever your thoughts on hockey sticks and the IPCC and “watermelons” and Climategate and urban heat islands and all these vexèd things, there is simply no sense in which “the theory of global warming is a gigantic weather forecast for a century or more”.

Chivers proceeds to demolish Moore’s review, and finishes his piece with this damning comment:

Charles has utterly misunderstood the issue, and told an entire scientific discipline that he knows best, and it’s important that someone points out that he’s got it wrong.

There’s more — much more — that Moore gets wrong. Here’s a sentence from his penultimate paragraph:

Last week, the latest IPCC report made the usual warnings about climate change, but behind its rhetoric was a huge concession. The answer to the problems of climate change lay in adaptation, not in mitigation, it admitted. So the game is up.

Utter tosh. Next week sees the release of the third part of the IPCC’s fifth report, devoted in its entirety to mitigation. It will undoubtedly point to the need to urgently reduce emissions. The Herald news pages will, I’m sure, go to some lengths to ensure that they provide good coverage of this important news.

But no notion of “balance”, or of reflecting a range of opinion can excuse printing factually incorrect propaganda from overseas. The Herald‘s foolish editorial team (or an ideologue hiding therein) made the paper look stupid today. It would be funny, if it weren’t so seriously wrongheaded — and dangerous for sensible public discourse on this crucial issue.

[Update 9/4/14, 8:45am: In the last hour the Herald has published Tom Chivers' response to Moore's review, but there is no link from Moore's review to the riposte, or any other acknowledgement that it is clearly factually incorrect. At least it proves someone at the Herald is awake and following Twitter...]

Roughan’s relaxed, world drowns Bryan Walker Apr 07

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

rising seaInsouciance is the new face of climate change denial. John Roughan’s column in Saturday’s New Zealand Herald was a typical example. Half a metre sea level rise by the end of the century? What’s there to be concerned about in that, he scoffs. A bach at the water’s edge might no longer be a good idea, but that’s about all it amounts to.

At a century off, the predicted disaster of climate change is a slow burn.

“It is plenty long enough for people to move if necessary, for crops to change, fresh water to be managed much more efficiently. Human life will adapt if it has to…”

It’s hard to credit the nonchalance, let alone the implicit inhumanity. Roughan settles for the lower sea level rise estimates, I notice.  No mention of the metre or more which is now commonly advanced by scientists. But there’s not much need to be too closely acquainted with the science if you can brush it all away with the assertion that humans will adapt if they have to.

There’s no acknowledgement that sea level rise will continue to catastrophic levels in succeeding centuries if we take no notice of the urgent need to constrain emissions. No recognition of what a metre of sea level rise will mean for many small island states, or for the dense populations of low-lying coasts and the great river deltas. No appreciation of the precariousness of the lives of the hundreds of millions of poorer people whose subsistence is closely tied to a relatively dependable climate pattern. Does he advise them to be “sensibly relaxed about the risk of climate catastrophe”, as he praises the New Zealand government for being?

He appears as dismissive of technologies to address climate change as he is of the magnitude of the risks it carries. He contemptuously suggests that the alternative to adapting to climate change is returning “to some pre-industrial age of bicycles and village crafts.”  I think of books like Al Gore’s Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis which grew out of many lengthy and intensive “Solution Summits” he organised to enable leading experts from round the world to share their knowledge. The kind of technological expertise they represent is apparently not worth Roughan’s bothering to acquaint himself with.

Roughan’s trivialising may not be denial of the science, but it is denial of the science’s import. It effectively claims that climate change can’t be as bad for humanity as the science warns it will be. It pours scorn on those who allow themselves to be thoroughly alarmed at the prospect. It undermines urgent mitigation measures and misrepresents what those measures might be.

Roughan is a senior editorial writer and columnist for the Herald. Of late the paper has carried a number of accurate and well-assembled news reports about climate change matters, albeit at some distance from the front pages.  It also hosts occasional opinion pieces which set out the seriousness of the issue. And a couple of days ago it at long last tackled the question in a thoughtful editorial critical of the lack of urgency in the government’s approach to climate change.

It’s disappointing, to say the least, to find one of its senior journalists so blasé on such a serious matter.

 

Climate crisis? What Crisis? NZ right ignore IPCC call for action Gareth Renowden Apr 01

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

New Zealand political reaction to the IPCC’s WG2 report has divided along expected lines: the Green Party and Labour used the findings to call for more action, the National-led government “welcomed” the report but said it is already doing enough, while the fringe right wing ACT party issued a press release making the abolition of the emissions trading scheme a condition of its support for any future National government. If the Scoop web site is to be believed, none of the other political parties with seats in parliament or hopes of election could be bothered to issue a press release in response to a report that makes it plain that climate change is here now, and set to get very much worse in future.

Climate change minister Tim Groser’s press release is a little more measured than a comment he made to TVNZ News in a story foreshadowing the WG2 release:

Grocer (sic) says the environment will determine what action will need to be taken.

“We’re not playing God on this. That natural process will determine what happens to adaptation of human beings and other mammals and species,” he said.

Survival of the fittest, or survival of the richest perhaps? That sounds almost as hands-off as new ACT leader Jamie Whyte’s policy proposals on TVNZ’s Q+A on Sunday morning. He was interviewed head to head with Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, apparently because the National Party refused to front up for a discussion on climate change1. The video’s here.

Whyte, a former management consultant, foreign currency trader and philosophy lecturer who recently became leader of the ACT Party2, looked to have a very poor grasp of the subject when he advocated a strict do-nothing approach to dealing with climate change. Action to reduce emissions was “irresponsible moral exhibitionism”, he said, because money would be better spent on adapting to climate changes. Global action on emissions reduction, he asserted, should be lead by the worst affected countries:

It’s for these poorer countries to lead the way because the trade off is harder for them.

The moral and intellectual bankruptcy on display in Whyte’s statement is breathtaking, and his argument so fatuous that it beggars belief that anyone with half a brain would advance it in public. As Green Party climate spokesman Kennedy Graham pointed out:

Mr Whyte needs to demonstrate his talents in the next few months describing ACT’s policies for a world adapting to a temperature rise of 2ºC to 4ºC. That is described by World Bank consultants as exceeding ‘dangerous’ climate change and entering the realm of ‘catastrophic’. What we see around us today by way of impact – overseas, and even here in New Zealand, is on the strength of 0.8ºC to date.

All Whyte had to offer on Sunday was a glib “I would do absolutely nothing”, which is not a million miles away from present government policy.

It’s tempting to demonise Whyte — it looks to be all too easy, in this election year, to show him to be an ideologue living in la la land — but the real villains of the piece are Tim Groser and his National Party colleagues. They have presided over a deliberate dilution of the climate policies they inherited from the last Labour-led government, and now have policies set to increase NZ emissions over the long term. A senior NZ climate scientist told me that their attitude to the whole complex climate issue was “active indifference”.

To accept the science, as Groser and co do in public, but then to ignore the need for urgent action is hypocritical in the extreme, grossly irresponsible, and a very long way from the best interests of the people of New Zealand, now and for all the generations to come. Riding out all that climate change is going to throw at us is a matter of survival. If we are to do that, New Zealand needs real leadership, not glib assurances that we’re doing all we can when the opposite is true.

  1. According to Norman on Facebook.
  2. At a meeting held at long-time party funder and committed climate denialist Alan Gibbs’ house.

TDB Today: Facing the future – no Bridges too far Gareth Renowden Mar 26

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

In my post at The Daily Blog today — Facing the future – no Bridges too far — I take a look at the Royal Society of New Zealand’s latest information paper about the need to move New Zealand to a green economy. There’s a yawning gulf between the rational world view embodied in the RSNZ’s paper and the policy settings adopted by the current government. Which comes as no surprise…

Below the fold I’ve embedded the infographic designed by the RSNZ to accompany its paper. It’s well worth taking a look…

Facing the Future: Towards a Green Economy in New Zealand

by Dumpark.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

AAAS “What We Know” Initiative: Same Denial, Different Issue – From Ozone Depletion to Climate Change cindy Mar 20

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Dr Mario Molina  (c)  Centro Mario Molina

Dr Mario Molina
(c) Centro Mario Molina

(Cross-posted with permission from Polluterwatch.com)

It must be like Groundhog Day for Mario Molina, the scientist who has presided over the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s new report and publicity drive aimed at convincing Americans about the urgency of what’s happening on climate change.

The normally reticent AAAS has taken a highly unusual step. There’s no new science in it.  Instead, it summarises “what we know” on climate science, highlighting the 97% consensus on the issue and calling for action.

Why did they do it? The AAAS says it’s becoming alarmed at the American public’s views on climate change, stating in the opening paragraphs:

 “Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement.  Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real.”

They’re right:  the latest Gallup Poll published this month shows that climate change is low on Americans’ priority list, with 51% saying they worry about climate change very little – or not at all.   And 42% said they believe the seriousness of the issue was “generally exaggerated.”

Here’s one of their videos:

The AAAS report also stated:

“It is not the purpose of this paper to explain why this disconnect between scientific knowledge and public perception has occurred.”

That’s not their job.  But I bet they’d like to. Especially Mario Molina.

The reason for that American disconnect between scientific and public views on global warming is simple:  it’s the result of a 20-year campaign funded by the fossil fuel industry that profits from the very products causing it – oil, coal and gas.   It’s got nothing to do with science per se.

A brief history of that campaign is outlined in a report I wrote last year: “Dealing in Doubt” that catalogues the attacks on climate science, the IPCC and on the scientists themselves.

But what’s that got to do with Mario Molina?  Molina, now 70, was one of the researchers who discovered the chemistry around ozone depletion. He and two other scientists received the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry for their work.   20 years ago, he faced a remarkably similar campaign to what the climate scientists face today.

In 1992, Molina was at a gathering of scientists in Brazil, ahead of the Rio Earth Summit, and about to present a 30-minute talk on ozone depletion.  He was dumbfounded when the presenter before him told the assembled scientists that the ozone depletion theory was a sham. He later told the AAAS’s Science magazine(full text here):

“Given enough time I could have carefully rebutted his objections.  They sounded reasonable but they were only pseudoscientific.”

At the time, in the face of increasing scientific certainty, there was a (successful) push to strengthen the Montreal Protocol, to further regulate CFCs to stop ozone depletion.  The fight was on.

The Science article went on to outline how talk show host Rush Limbaugh was leading the charge against the ozone science, labeling the issue a “massive conspiracy” promulgated by “dunderhead alarmists and prophets of doom.”

Limbaugh claimed the only reason scientists were working on ozone depletion was because “they always want more funding, and today that means government funding.  What could be more natural than for [NASA], with the space program winding down, to say that because we have this unusual amount of chlorine in the atmosphere, we need funding.”

This is one of the main mantras of the climate science deniers today – they’re only in it for the funding.  They also get labeled “alarmists” and “doomsayers” amongst other things.  Same arguments, different subject.

Enter S Fred Singer, a serial denier who cut his teeth on tobacco science, before moving on to ozone depletion and global warming.  In a 1995 article, he said this on ozone depletion:

“The facts are that the scientific underpinnings are quite shaky: the data are suspect; the statistical analyses are faulty; and the theory has not been validated… The science simply does not support this premature and abrupt removal of widely used chemicals—at great cost to the economy.”

It’s telling that one of Singer’s early articles, “My adventures on the ozone layer,” can be found today on the Heartland Institute website.  This is the same Heartland Institute that last year employed Singer to help work on its “NIPCC” report, designed to confuse a casual observer with the similarity to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) while using debunked arguments to suggest there isn’t a problem – which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In 1996, Singer told a House Committee there was no scientific consensus on ozone depletion. He went on to use the high-cost argument, and brought in a new theme that is very much prevalent in today’s anti climate arguments: that it would hurt the developing world.

“We are flying blind on this issue, at a huge cost to the U.S. economy and ultimately to every American household. In less developed countries, absence of low-cost refrigeration–for food preservation and vaccines–could, unfortunately, exact an even higher price in human lives.”

Two years later, Singer was even advocating putting mirrors in the sky to stop ozone depletion. That article can be found on another think tank website, theCompetitive Enterprise Institute.  The CEI set up the Cooler Heads Coalition. But its extensive ExxonMobil funding was dropped in 2007 because the company said their campaign “diverted attention” from a real conversation about how to tackle climate change.

Meanwhile, over at the Marshall Institute, Fred Seitz and Sallie Baliunas had also picked up the cause, with Baliunas arguing that it was the sun and other natural factors causing the problem:

“Scientific findings do not support an immediate ban on CFC’s. Both global and Arctic measurements point to natural factors as the main cause of recent ozone fluctuations. Ozone levels change primarily as the result of natural factors such as the ultraviolet output of the sun, oscillation of upper stratosphere winds and El Nino conditions.”

Sunspots is one of the main denialist arguments used against global warming today, notably by Baliunas’s colleague, Willie Soon.  A later Marshall Institute report about global warming, ozone depletion and tobacco science was picked up and pushed by Phillip Morris.

No consensus, science unsettled, the sun, El Nino, in it for the funding, doomsayers, solutions will hurt the poor, natural variations:  all these arguments are run today around global warming science by, amongst others, the Heartland Institute, the CEI, the Marshall Institute, S Fred Singer, Baliunas, Limbaugh and others.

The late Steve Schneider described the problem as being “caught between the exaggerations of the advocates, the exploitations of political interests, the media’s penchant to turn everything into a boxing match and your own colleagues saying we should be above this dirty business and stick to the bench.”

The AAAS appears to have gotten off of that bench, not least because they’re worried about Americans sleepwalking into climate chaos, cheered on by industry.

But the bottom line, as the AAAS has stated in no uncertain terms, is this:  “human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.”

Perhaps our elected leaders might also like to spend some time reading it.

A lot of hot air: High Water group confronts climate change through comedy Gareth Renowden Mar 15

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Auckland will go on without us

This guest post is by Damon Keen, one of the founders of new creative group High Water. Artwork by Lei Wen. If I were in Auckland, I would certainly be in the Classic Comedy Bar this Thursday…

The election is now firmly on the horizon, and despite a raft of extreme weather events globally, reporting and discussion about climate change seems to be quieter than ever.

That’s why a small group of artists and myself have decided to stop sitting on our hands and try to do something about it. We’ve set up a new group called High Water – to get creatives producing art and performance about climate change. And we’re kicking things off with a comedy night – focused entirely on our impending weathery doom!

We’ve convinced some fantastic comedians to get involved, including Michele A’Court (Female Comedian of the Decade 2010) and Jeremy Elwood (Best MC 2007), Mark Scott, Tim Batt and Maarten Idema. The show, named Hot Air, will run at the Classic Comedy Bar on Queen Street, Auckland on Thursday, March 20th.

Comedy might seem like a strange approach to such a daunting issue, but hopefully it’s a new way to broach the subject and get people talking about it again.

That’s why we want to do something different from what everyone else is doing. Artists – be they musicians, performers, designers, photographers, illustrators, or film makers – are natural communicators, and like many people are more and more anxious about the complete lack of progress on global warming. Our hope is that by creating a new platform for them to work with, we can find new ways to cut through the apathy and get climate change back onto the public agenda.

We have a number of projects planned for the year, including a climate change poster competition, a hard cover comic anthology and a play. But our first event is Hot Air – and hopefully creatives, greenies – and everyone else – will come along to find out more about the collective – and have a good laugh while they’re at it.

Find out more about High Water at:

www.facebook.com/highwaternz

www.twitter.com/highwaternz

Tickets for for Hot Air here:
http://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/hot-air-comedy-night-tickets-10613157239