SciBlogs

Posts Tagged NZ

Blink and its gone – spectacular time-lapse of ice retreat at Fox Glacier Gareth Renowden Feb 26

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

This spectacular time-lapse video1 captures the dramatic retreat of the Fox Glacier in Westland over the last year — 300 metres between January 2015 and January this year. As the ice retreats, the hillside becomes unstable and collapses down into the valley. To get a sense of the scale, you can see people watching from a safe point on the bottom right.

The rapid retreat of both Fox and its neighbour Franz Josef has led to the abandonment of guided walks on the glacier tongues. The ice is now only accessible by helicopter on to the upper reaches.

The collapse of the walls of the valley at Fox (as well as rocks and sediment transported by the ice) has caused the valley floor to rise by a metre over the last two years, as measured by Massey University scientists (see also NZ Herald). They’ve also photographed the retreat over the last decade, but the most marked loss seems to be in the last few years.

NZ’s west coast glaciers are amongst the most dynamic in the world, fed by huge snowfalls in their nevées under Mt Cook — as much as 6 metres a year in the snowfield feeding the Franz-Josef, as Mauri Pelto notes here. At the moment, ice melt in the tongues of both glaciers is outpacing the ice input above, and so the glaciers are retreating fast, but a run of years with heavy snowfalls could reverse the process — at least temporarily.

  1. Created by Victoria University of Wellington with the support of Fox Glacier Guides, Department of Conservation, Snowgrass Solutions, University of Canterbury and the Marsden Fund.

Heat: 2014 breaks global temperature records, 2015 could be hotter Gareth Renowden Jan 18

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Climatecouncil2014graphic

Last year was the warmest year on record for the planet, analyses by NASA and NOAA show, and it’s possible that 2015 could be warmer still. 2014 was warmer than previous record holders 2005 and 2010, and comfortably ahead of 1998. 13 of the hottest 15 years on record have all occurred since 2000. Remarkably, 2014’s warmth was achieved without much assistance from an El Niño — which boosts global temperatures and is normally a factor in record setting years, as this graphic from Skeptical Science shows:

ENSO Temps static480

For more discussion of ENSO’s impact on temperatures, see Dana Nucitelli’s article at The Guardian, and Jim Hansen et al’s discussion here. Hansen warns that more warming could be on its way:

More warming is expected in coming years and decades as a result of Earth’s large energy imbalance, more energy coming in than going out, and with the help of even a mild El Niño 2015 may be significantly warmer than 2014.

The risk of further rapid rises in global temperatures could also be increased by early signs that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) may be shifting to its positive phase, as the Peter Hannam at the SMH pointed out late last year:

“During a positive PDO phase, you’d expect temperatures to keep climbing again as they did in the 1980s and 1990s,” Dr (Shayne) McGregor (of UNSW) said, adding that as PDOs are measured by rolling 11-year averages, it will be a while before any shift becomes clear.

In New Zealand, NIWA reports that the nationwide average temperature for 2014 was 12.8°C, 0.2°C above the 1981–2010 annual average, but that June was tied for warmest in the long term record. The MetService blog provides a good overview of regional weather here.

For further analysis and discussion, there is a lot of good coverage and supporting information available on the web. Here’s my pick of some of the best.

News coverage: New York Times (above the fold on the front page, no less), BBC, Guardian, Stuff (taking the AP coverage). Time makes the obvious point: warming continues unabated, which should give the lie to climate crank nonsense about no recent warming1.

Background analysis: the Climate Council in Australia (who created the graphic at the top of this post), a superb Bloomberg graphic, Climate Nexus, Climate Central (one and two), and for my favourite visual reminder of how warming has progressed, here’s NASA’s animation of global warming from 1880 to 2014:

[Bowie]

  1. …but I won’t be holding my breath…

Hot Air on TV tonight Gareth Renowden Dec 30

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Alister Barry’s Hot Air, a superb documentary on the slow and sorry evolution of climate policy and politics in New Zealand is getting its first TV airing tonight on Maori TV at 8-30pm. Alister wrote about his film at Hot Topic back in July, and according to the Listener, it makes for “compelling and absolutely terrifying” viewing. If you miss tonight’s showing, Hot Air will be available to stream from the Maori TV web site. Recommended.

[Update 31/12: Hot Air streaming here.]

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

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

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

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

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

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

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

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

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.

Sunday burnouts in Christchurch: electric motorsport comes to NZ Gareth Renowden Nov 26

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

New Zealand is going to get its first taste of electric motorsport this Sunday, when the Mike Pero Motorsport Park at Ruapuna near Christchurch is hosting EVolocity, an amazing line-up of electric racing machines and their creators — including the world’s fastest woman on a motorcycle, Eva Håkansson and her creation the KillaJoule, recently clocked at Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA at 389 km/h. With her will be her husband, Bill Dubé, with his electric drag bike the KillaCycle, which takes under 1 second to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h. Also on show will be the first Tesla S to make its way to NZ.

Event highlights will include:

  • A race between the world’s top electric vehicles.
  • A race between 15 Canterbury schools who have developed their own custom design and built electric vehicles
  • A showcase of three world record holding electric vehicles from the US, plus New Zealand’s first Tesla S (The highest performance electric vehicle commercially available).
  • Electric bike acrobatics display featuring freestyle motocross star Luke Smith of Nitro Circus fame
  • NZ’s largest ever parade of electric bikes
  • Standing ¼ mile drag competitions: Killacycle, Tesla vs Ferrari, electric Falcon Ute vs XR8 Ute, combustion motor bikes vs electric motor bikes, lots more)
  • Kevin Clemens who set 11 world, US National and US East Coast land speed records with electric motorcycles built in his Minnesota workshop.

Tickets are $20 online/$25 at the gate, and the day gets underway at 9am. Should be an exciting day for anyone who loves motorsport, and who wants to see the future. Going fossil-fuel free means going faster…

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

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

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.

China and US reach emissions deal, NZ govt warned its policies are failing Gareth Renowden Nov 13

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

Today’s news that the US and China have agreed a long term policy to reduce carbon emissions is being hailed as a “game-changer” in international climate negotiations. China has agreed to cap its emissions in 2030 — the first time it has committed to anything more than a reduction in the carbon intensity of its emissions, while the US will aim to cut emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2025, up from its current target of 17% by 2020. [BBC, Guardian, Climate Progress.] Meanwhile, NZ’s third term National government is being warned by its own civil servants that its current emissions policy settings commit the country to substantial emissions increases over the same time frame.

With the world’s two largest emitters — between them they account for 45% of total emissions — agreeing to work together for the first time, prospects for a global deal in Paris next year look brighter than before. However, the cuts on the table do not look like enough to keep the planet on a trajectory to 2 degrees of warming or less. Associate professor Peter Christoff of the University of Melbourne explains (via The Conversation):

These commitments will frame the levels of ambition required of other states at Paris next year. Climate modellers will no doubt now be rushing to determine what these new commitments, if delivered successfully, will mean for combating global warming.

The US and Chinese cuts, significant though they are, will not be enough to limit the total increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide unless other states engage in truly radical reductions.

In other words, global emissions are likely to continue to grow, probably until 2030, which will make it impossible to hold global warming below the world’s agreed limit of 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.

In New Zealand the briefings for incoming ministers in the new government — same as the old lot, in climate relevant ministries — have been remarkably blunt in their assessment of the task the country faces.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Briefing to Incoming Ministers (BIM)1 is blunt about the importance of dealing with climate change (pdf here):

Climate change and resource scarcity are challenging core elements of the global ecosystem. Climate change is the most urgent and far-reaching threat we face, and the current negotiations on climate change are the most important multilateral negotiation now under way. Positions taken by countries on climate change and their readiness to contribute to global solutions will increasingly define the way that others perceive them politically and economically.

The Ministry for the Environment BIM2 points out the huge gulf between fine words and inadequate policy settings:

…We have an established price on emissions and market infrastructure in place through the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS), although current settings are not driving meaningful emissions reductions. In 2015 the NZ ETS is scheduled to be reviewed to assess whether the settings remain suitable for delivering on government objectives.

That ETS review will have to consider the reality shown in this graph from p22 of the MfE BIM.

NZemissionsMFEbriefing

The only way the government can reach its unconditional target of a 5% cut on 1990 levels by 2020 is by using carried forward emissions reductions from the first Kyoto commitment period (even though it subsequently withdrew from CP2) and by buying emissions units from overseas. Real cuts in emissions in the following decade will require a real carbon price — not an ETS that rewards polluters for their pollution.

If NZ is to table emissions cuts that parallel those from the USA, then emissions policy settings are going to need an urgent and dramatic revamp. The good news is that the China and US initiative on emissions means that NZ’s government can no longer point to international failure to cooperate as a reason why NZ should do little or nothing.

PM John Key has said in the past that he wants NZ to be a “fast follower” of the world leaders on emissions reductions. Now is the time to show just how fast a follower he intends to be. We can only hope it’s pretty damn speedy.

  1. The incoming ministers are Murray McCulley (Foreign Affairs), and Tim Groser (Trade and Climate Change Issues), full ministerial list here.
  2. Incoming minister is Nick Smith, same as the outgoing one.

Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer