Greens use Dunedin to highlight major climate problem

The Greens have linked the heavy rain in Dunedin on Wednesday to climate change. In Question Time in Parliament yesterday Green co-leader Metiria Turei started with these questions.

1. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues : Does he agree that local authorities will face greater adaptation costs and find it more expensive to protect infrastructure and property as the climate changes; if not, why not?

A reasonable question – “as the climate changes” is debatable but most science suggests it may get warmer and with more extreme weather events.

Metiria Turei : Does the Minister agree with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change editor Professor Blair Fitzharris that as global warming continues, Dunedin is likely to face more extreme rainfall events, storm surges, and extreme winds, and that low-lying, densely populated areas, coastal communities, and major transport infrastructure, including Dunedin Airport, are particularly at risk?

These are important points that we would expect the Greens to raise.

Metiria Turei : Does the Minister agree with Dunedin City Council’s submission on New Zealand’s climate change target, which says “More effective mitigation could significantly reduce potential future adaptation costs” and that “the Government should consider investing more in climate change mitigation”; if not, why not?

The Dunedin City Council is fairly Green leaning so this is no surprise. But it’s highly questionable whether the Government can do anything that would significantly alter any effects of climate change – New Zealand’s emissions are a very small proportion of global emissions and reducing emissions here by 40% as the Greens want is likely to make a very small difference at best.

Metiria Turei : How does the Minister justify the National Government’s record on climate change, which shows a 13 percent increase in net greenhouse gas emissions, to the people of Dunedin and to the Mayor of Dunedin, Dave Cull, who said today “There may be some areas with sea level rise that we end up retreating from and not putting any more infrastructure in and actually taking the buildings out of. That is the challenge going into the future with climate change.”?

That would be a major for Dunedin, which has large flat areas – reclaimed swamp – that are inhabited. These include South Dunedin, St Kilda and St Clair, plus much of the Taieri Plains. If Dunedin “retreated” from those areas it would more than decimate the city.

Metiria Turei : Is the Minister taking into account increased adaptation costs for local councils when determining New Zealand’s emissions reduction target, given that the Dunedin City Council estimates that engineering options to protect private property and infrastructure in high-risk areas against a 0.3 metre rise in the sea level will cost around $10 million, and that protection against a 1.6 metre rise in the sea level will cost around $150 million?

If these “increased adaptation costs” prove to be necessary it is going to be regardless of what New Zealand does with emissions. We have a minute effect on world climate systems.

Metiria Turei : By not taking urgent leadership on climate change, has his Government not abandoned the Dunedin City Council and the people of Dunedin to pick up the cost of more extreme rainfall events like yesterday, when the city was swamped in 24 hours by 2 months’ worth of rain, causing flooding, electricity outages, sewerage overflows, the evacuation of rest homes and schools, the Otago Peninsula being cut off, and which left the side of State Highway 1 “looking like a canal”?

Now Turei is trying to emotionally use a single weather event to criticise the Government and promote Green policy on climate change.

Yes, parts of the city were swamped – large parts of the city used to be swamp and have always been at risk of heavy rain accumulation.

“24 hours by 2 months’ worth of rain” is overstating things. On Wednesday there was 150-170 mm of rain. While it’s common for Dunedin to get 40-80 mm of rain in a month it’s not uncommon to get much more. For example:

  • April 2014 – 144.8 mm
  • June 2013 – 195.2 mm
  • May 2013 – 141.8 mm

So only two years ago there was 337 mm in two months.

  • May 2010 – 207 mm
  • June 2009 – 158.4 mm
  • May 2009 – 163 mm
  • June 2002 – 137.4 mm
  • May 2002 – 205.4 mm

So it’s quite common to get heavy rainfall at this time of year. In a single month there was more rain than there was on Wednesday.

  • January 2002 – 251 mm

2002 was a much wetter year than this year has been so far.

  • October 2001 – 164 mm

Source: University of Otago Weather Station

So while this week there was an abnormal amount of rain in a day the total over a month. Including this week’s downpour Metservice shows that rainfall in Dunedin over the last 31 days is just over 200 mm, that’s much higher than usual but not uncommon.

Turei’s last question:

Metiria Turei : Is the Minister not confirming by his dismissive attitude towards the science of climate change that someone is paying the cost of his doing nothing on this issue, and that this week that just happens to be the people of Dunedin?

The present and past Governments haven’t done nothing. They have done far less than the Greens want them to do. But the reality is that even if we eliminated all our emissions, wiped out all emitting animals from the country and reforested the whole country it is likely to have a negligible effect on the world climate.

New Zealand reducing emissions is necessary but in the whole scheme of things it would be little more than a token change, and not weather changing.

As part of the international community New Zealand needs to do something, and should do more than at present.

But Greens have a major problem – if they overstate weather events, if they link single local weather events to world wide climate and if they try to shame other parties into adopting their climate targets then they are likely to find it difficult to get co-operation.

Their over the top claims are more likely to repel rather than attract support for their ideals. Like this One News report:

Climate change and Government’s ‘inaction’ to blame for Dunedin’s 100-year-flood, say Greens

One News have chosen that headline on a rolling blog on the rain in Dunedin that covers many topics.

The Dunedin flood is a result of climate change and the Government’s “inaction” on the issue, the Green Party says.

“The flooding in Dunedin highlights that the National Government needs to stop being the problem and start being part of the solution on climate change,” Green Party local government spokesperson Eugenie Sage said.

“Since National came to power in 2008, New Zealand’s net emissions have increased by 13 percent; the scientific consensus is that increasing emissions will cause more extreme weather events.”

Ms Sage said the Government should aim for an emission target reduction of 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.”Last month it was Wellington. Yesterday it was Dunedin. What region will suffer next from a lack of strong, cross-party leadership on the climate?”

“Strong, cross-party leadership on the climate” – Green-speak for ‘do what we want’ – would have had no effect on flooding in different parts of the country.

At a recent climate change consultatin meeting in Dunedin two Dunedin councillors spoke:

Dunedin City councillor Aaron Hawkins also stood up to speak, his voice cracking.

”I want to acknowledge the anger that’s felt by my generation and people younger … that the question of even having children is such a moral and ethical dilemma.”

Hawkins is not speaking for “my generation and people younger”, he’s speaking for himself and like-minded Greens, a minority.

Cr Jinty MacTavish said the target of a 40% emissions reduction by 2030 many people in the room were calling for – and which was criticised as being inadequate by Prof Bob Lloyd earlier in the night – was a ”compromise”.

So claims for a 40% reduction are seen as a minimum by some.

And their claims are not universally supported. The ODT reports:

Don’t blame climate change for city deluge, weather experts say

The flooding in Dunedin on Wednesday was not caused by climate change, a University of Otago climatologist says.

”I think this is just a weather event,” Dr Nicolas Cullen, of the department of geography, said.

The Green Party and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull have been quick to link the downpour to climate change.

Dr Cullen cited a 1929 downpour of 220mm within 24 hours, and estimated Wednesday was a one-in-30-year event.

”This particular event is more related just to the weather patterns that developed over the period which allowed that frontal system to really hit Dunedin quite hard.”

”You tell me. It’s wrong,” Dr Cullen said when asked why it was called a 100-year event by the Dunedin City Council.

”I wouldn’t put this in the climate change basket too quickly.”

If the same rainfall happened every month for a year ”then we can start talking about climate change”.

The flood did, however, demonstrate the city’s potential vulnerability to sea level rise, he said.

So a climatologist disputes the claims of the Dunedin City Council politicians and the Green party.

Dunedin hydrologist Dave Stewart said his initial estimate of Wednesday’s flood was a one in 30-to-50 year event.

He had not had time to analyse the data, but rainfall at various sites ranged from 140mm to 180mm.

Mr Stewart was scathing about the DCC’s 100-year claim, saying he did not know how it arrived at the estimate.

He also dismissed the idea the event was linked with climate change.

And a hydrologist disputes the claims of the Dunedin City Council politicians and the Green party.

This highlights a major problem with climate change – exaggerations and unsupportable claims don’t help the Green case of action on reducing emissions. They make it easier to dismiss them as a bunch of extremist nutters.

Leave a comment


  1. Brown

     /  5th June 2015

    Climate change is something I expect Marxists to raise as its their scam. Dunedin has a climate history extending back millions of years and despite us having only about 150 years of records the mad Marxists know what’s normal.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  5th June 2015

    The climate alarmists are now in ” torture the data until it confesses” desperation mode.

  3. FarmerPete

     /  5th June 2015

    And some people wonder why the rest of us don’t take their extravagant claims about climate as seriously as they think we should! One of the first rules of science is that ‘correlation does not imply cause and effect’. Show me the evidence! In 1956 the Waikato river over flowed its banks and caused massive flooding in the Waikato, and especially Hamilton. These events have happened throughout recorded history.
    We may as well say that the flooding is associated with an increase in loonies getting seats on local councils!

    • kittycatkin

       /  5th June 2015

      What about the cataclysmic floods in ancient times, like the one that gave rise to the Noah;s ark story ? I beleve that this happened, but not that it covered the whole earth-though there’s evidence of really huge floods.

  4. Its telling its now called climate change and not Anthropogenic climate change which was the old catch cry.

    Is climate changing? Undoubtedly – it always has and it always will.

    Our weather is a very complex system driven by many variable inputs. To hear the greens talk it would seem they believe they know exactly how it works, exactly what changes in variable inputs will cause and they also seem to be saying they know how to fix.

    I don’t believe them, nor do I believe the aggressive naysayers either.

    The climate change debate is so difficult to penetrate for the average non-scientist its hard to know who you can trust on the subject. And given Meteria’s rantings on child poverty my trust of her utterances is tending to zero…

  5. Pierre

     /  5th June 2015

    Okay, some light reading about the issue. The problem is maths, or more precisely, statistics.

    To illustrate imagine two coins. You pick one at random and toss it. Do this 200 times. On average each coin gets tossed 100 times. Count the heads.

    Now consider:

    1. Both are fair coins. You expect 100 heads (50 from each coin). There is about a 1 in 5,000 chance of getting at least 125 heads.

    2. One is biased and comes up heads 75% of the time. Now you expect 125 heads (50 from the fair one and 75 from the biased).

    Now here’s the rub. In the latter case, only 20% of the heads are due to bias (the extra 25 out of the 125) and 60% of them are from the biased coin. Change ‘bias’ to ‘climate change’ and you can see why Turei’s claim is faulty. If you repeat the experiment a number of time and keep getting 125 heads (or thereabouts) then the chance of it being a random outcome from fair coins rapidly becomes implausible to say the least.

    Now almost all scientists understand that there is a problem (as results keep being consistent with a version of scenario 2. rather than 1.) but clearly cannot respond with “a specific example” as the climate deniers demand.

    • kittycatkin

       /  5th June 2015

      I quite agree. (behind hand) Can anyone tell me what this means, in words of one syllable for the innumerate ?

      • Pierre

         /  5th June 2015

        In simple terms, there are likely to be more extreme events; however, none are likely to be definitely attributable to climate change. So suggesting climate change for an event is stupid (as Turei has done) but saying it’s not happening as ‘no one example’ can be quoted is equally stupid.

  6. I agree that the climate has changed over the centuries.. but when I was at school learning about ‘the carbon cycle’ CO2 etc. I seem to remember, was at about 300ppm (1970s) I hear it has now past 350ppm & still rising (due to fossil fuels & methane discharge.. its not MY imagination) !! 😦

    The polar icecaps & glaciers around the world are shrinking.. SO go on people, tell me its just ‘part of the normal fluctuations’ “WAKE UP” 😦

  7. kittycatkin

     /  5th June 2015

    There have been ice ages and their opposites since time immemorial. If fossil fuels were the villains, why wasn’t there global warming in the 19th century ?

    The shrinking was greatly exaggerated, as we now know-it was either false information or a wrong interpretation.

  8. Its about the cause of this current extinction level event, there has been no uptick in meteoric bombardments, or volcanism as in past ELE. Its all the RAPID temperature changes squeezing species out, plus our general plundering of the land in general.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  6th June 2015

      Rubbish. There is no current extinction event. In NZ the main extinctions occurred when the Maori arrived with a smaller additional event when the colonists arrived. Neither had anything to do with climate change but everything to do with land use and introduced competitors. There have been virtually no species extinctions here for the past century and the only extinctions have been small remnant subspecies on offshore islands. That is the pattern worldwide.

  9. dub_war808

     /  5th June 2015

    You cant point at a specific weather event and say it is directly caused by climate warming, what is scientifically verifiable is that extreme events GENERALLY become much more frequent – the once in 100 year flood hits every 15 years, the once in 20 year drought hits every 5 years. That is undeniably occuring.

    Righties who deny climate change by human activity or that it is a threat are as flaky as any of the Cultural Marxists they always bitch about.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  6th June 2015

      Whether you claim something or deny it is totally irrelevant or meaningless without supporting facts. In the case of climate change a single event is not a relevant fact. Only statistics properly analysed with reliable, relevant and complete data can provide that support. You have none.

  10. Brown

     /  6th June 2015

    Despite undeniably occurring being claimed I gather the stats show that severe weather events (in the US at least) are consistent with historical norms or below. Much of the problem with events can be attributed to the infrastructure density increases that expose us to more damage and larger costs of repair rather than the event itself being larger.

    Back to the Marxist bullshitters then?

  11. @KcK

    ‘why wasn’t there global warming in 19th century ?’

    because the motor car (Model A Ford) became widespread in 20th century & now nearly everyone (in the modern world drives one.. but not I (Public Transport is just fine)) The modern industrial age sees tons of fossil fuel (coal & oil)being burned daily. The forests that absorb it, are also shrinking. A little research is a better option than denial. :/


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