Guest Author

This is the Sciblogs guest blog, where we run science-related submissions from the Sciblogs community and beyond. Contact Sciblogs editor Peter Griffin about making a submission - or about hosting a blog on Sciblogs.

I put myself through hell as an IPCC convening lead author, but it was worth it - Guest Work

Aug 20, 2019

Pete Smith, University of Aberdeen In my day job, I am a scientist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland studying things such as how agriculture contributes to climate change and what we can do about it. Recently, though, I found myself in Geneva, to take part in my fourth “adoption plenary” for a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report in question was the recent Special Report on Climate Change and Land, and I was one of its 15 convening lead authors, responsible along with two others for a 300-page chapter on links between desertification, land degradation, food security and climate change. The adoption plenary is the process by which the 195 governments who are part of the IPCC reach consensus on the wording of a much shorter (40 or … Read More

New Zealand’s environmental parable for a world crisis - Guest Work

Aug 19, 2019

Brian Gill The fate of rats on a tiny New Zealand island is a story to retell as the world’s experiment with unlimited growth of human numbers threatens ruin. The world has too many people. As if more than 7,260 million souls are not enough, the population is in the dreaded phase of exponential growth, rocketing uncontrolled and uncontrollably to an uncertain future. Every second, an average of 1.8 people die—but 4.3 babies are born. More people are alive today than the sum of all who have ever lived. Only 4% (by weight) of the planet’s mammals are wild—we and our livestock and pets make up the other 96%. The weight of our poultry is about three times greater than the weight of all the world’s wild birds. By 2050, plastic in the ocean will out-weigh fish. People are doing … Read More

Why plants don’t simply grow faster with more carbon dioxide in air - Climate: Explained

Aug 16, 2019

Climate: Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, please send it to Carbon dioxide is a fertiliser for plants, so if its concentration increases in the atmosphere then plants will grow better. So what is the problem? – a question from Doug in Lower Hutt Sebastian Leuzinger, Auckland University of Technology Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂) is warming our climate, but it also affects plants directly. A tree planted in the 1850s will have seen its diet (in terms of atmospheric carbon dioxide) double from its early days to the middle of our century. More CO₂ generally leads to higher rates of photosynthesis and less water consumption in plants. So, at … Read More

When tech does things humans never could - FutureworkNZ

Aug 16, 2019

Nik Green  Technological progress need not eliminate jobs; automation can allow new and expanded worthwhile activities. Technology can have many different effects on the labour market – it can replace human labour, it can make workers more productive, it can increase the overall demand for workers, and it can create demand for new skills, roles and tasks. Technological progress can have other benefits that don’t affect jobs at all. After all, there are some things technology can do that were never either feasible or economic for people to carry out. Here are two recent applications of AI to illustrate. The first example is local. Many of New Zealand’s native birds (like the pāteke/brown teal, pictured above) are under threat from pests such as rats, stoats and possums. Scientists from Victoria University of Wellington are trying to … Read More

Will we be less healthy because of climate change? - Climate: Explained

Aug 15, 2019

Climate: Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, please send it to Do you expect an increase in health issues due to the effects of climate change? – a question from Christine in Wellington Alexandra Macmillan, University of Otago Some of the negative health effects of climate change are already upon us, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There is a huge opportunity for better health through well designed action to reduce our emissions and by adapting to the changes we are facing. You may already be experiencing one of the potential impacts of climate change on our mental health. In recent years, the New Zealand Psychological … Read More

Aotearoa: Land of the long or short chronology - Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives

Aug 15, 2019

Lachie Scarsbrook “See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me. And no one knows how far it goes”. If you’ve seen Disney’s Moana, like me you probably just sung those first few lines whilst picturing a traditional double-hulled canoe sailing out into the sunny, blue abyss. Discovering new lands: a modern reconstruction of a traditional double-hulled voyaging canoe. FlickrCC. Sparked from a desire to explore the final frontier, to boldly go where no one has gone before, or driven from Hawaiki as a result of resource depletion, overpopulation or just plain old exile, ancient Polynesian sea voyages were no such fairy-tale. Imagine watching solid-ground fade away into the horizon knowing there’s a good chance you’ll sail into forever, die at the mercy of the Polynesian sea deity Tangaroa and be lost from … Read More

It doesn’t pay to lose your job! - FutureworkNZ

Aug 14, 2019

Tim Maddock    How well does NZ support people who face job loss? I feel fortunate. In my working life – 3 ½ years – I have not yet lost a job. But roughly 2% of New Zealand workers each year do lose their jobs, based on Stats NZ data.1 Closed down. No work today. Photo: Judy Kavanagh. Job loss can be a difficult and deeply frustrating experience causing psychological distress. For many, job loss also leads to financial pressure. An unexpected loss of income can mean having to quickly find new work to support oneself and one’s family. A displaced worker’s subsequent job may pay less than their previous job, which can affect the trajectory of their earnings in the long run. This is called the ‘financial scarring’ effect of job loss. New Zealanders who … Read More

Technological change and the future of love - FutureworkNZ

Aug 12, 2019

John MacCormick Online matchmaking has radically changed the way people search for love. Digital marketplaces for romance offer more choice, fewer constraints, and potentially less risk than “traditional” ways of finding prospective mates. How much has this changed the nature and quality of people’s romantic relationships? Jack MacCormick In a similar way, digital labour market platforms change matchmaking for workers and employers, and how work is organised. But how much will they change the nature of employment relationships and the quality of jobs? Maybe we can find some answers, or at least some good questions, by looking at the rise of online matchmaking. This striking chart is from Disintermediating your friends, a new National Academy of Sciences research paper by Michael Rosenfeld, Reuben J. Thomas & Sonia Hausen. It presents USA data for heterosexual couples aged 19+ … Read More

Is tech change really accelerating? - FutureworkNZ

Aug 08, 2019

Tim Maddock    Accelerating or decelerating? Just about all the media commentary about the future of work says that tech change is accelerating, like this example, originally published in the Listener. But what does the data tell us? It’s now six years since Frey & Osborne’s claim that 47% of total US employment was at risk of automation over the following 10–20 years. Replicating their methodology for New Zealand, the NZIER and Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand estimated that 46% of New Zealand jobs were at risk. If they were right, we’d expect to see some strong signs of job displacement in the data by now. So, I went looking…  and didn’t find much. Or more accurately, what I did find is directly contradictory to a … Read More

Almonds don’t lactate, but that’s no reason to start calling almond milk juice - Guest Work

Aug 07, 2019

Dan Weijers, University of Waikato and Nick Munn, University of Waikato At a conference about disruptive innovations in food production last week, dairy industry spokespeople criticised the “milk” labelling of non-dairy products such as almond or rice milks. Federated Farmers, a rural advocacy group, prompted media headlines with a suggestion that we should call a beverage made from almonds almond juice because it is “definitely not a milk under the definition in the Oxford dictionary”. In a similar vein, the chief science officer for the dairy cooperative Fonterra, the world’s largest dairy exporter, said: These plant-based milks have a positioning that says they are milk and that they are plant-based. Unfortunately, from a content basis, they are providing inferior nutrition compared to what you find in dairy products. Their position is that … Read More