Daily health update – +61, total 708

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay today.

47 new confirmed, 14 new probable (+61) – total now 708

The increase is similar to yesterday (58) so even with more testing the case numbers are not growing faster.

2 of 14 in hospital are in intensive care, condition stable

Still just 1 death

82 recovered

Summary

As at 9.00 am, 1 April 2020
Total to date New in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 647 47
Number of probable cases 61 14
Number of confirmed and probable cases 708 61
Number of cases in hospital
Number of recovered cases 82 8
Number of deaths 1

New case definition for diagnosis and testing will be issued today, still relying on clinical judgment

Anyone with respiratory symptoms regardless of travel history

Capacity 3,700 tests per day, but will increase from 8 to 10 labs by the beginning of next week.

 

New Kiwisaver rules will ban ‘investing in fossil fuels’

The Government plans to impose new rules on Kiwisaver.

One makes sense – changing default Kiwisaver schemes from conservative to balanced. Most people starting on Kiwisaver will have a long time until retirement, and should be at least in balanced funds if not in growth funds until they get closer to retirement (except perhaps for now when the share market is tanking). People are still free to choose what scheme they are on.

One seems a waste of time – banning Kiwisaver investments in “companies making land mines, cluster bombs, and other illegal weapons”. I hope that will affect just about no Kiwisaver schemes, although it can get complicated where large companies do many things, and have a lot more suppliers and contractors.

One may be more controversial – banning Kiwisaver investments in ‘fossil fuels’.

RNZ: New KiwiSaver rules to ban investing in fossil fuels and illegal weapons

Commerce Minister Kris Faafoi said banning investment in fossil fuel companies would help combat climate change and carbon emissions.

“It also makes sense for the funds themselves given that there is a risk of investing in stranded assets as the world moves to reduce emissions.”

He said the Superannuation Fund quit such investments more than two years ago and its investment returns had not suffered.

‘Not suffered’ on it’s own is meaningless.

It may be interesting to see what the rules actually define for ‘fossil fuel companies’. Exploration and drilling and mining should be clear, but what about distribution and sales? Airlines, shipping and transport companies that use a lot of fuel? Car manufacturers?


UPDATE – the Beehive has released clarification and more details. The ban on investing in fossil fuels only applies to default funds, so it’s more gesture than a comprehensive government interference in what you can invest your own money in.

Default KiwiSaver changes support more responsible investment

New Zealanders’ savings in KiwiSaver default funds will soon exclude investment in fossil fuels, the Ministers of Finance and Commerce and Consumer Affairs announced today.

Rule changes mean that investments in fossil fuel production will be excluded from future funds that are default providers.

Default providers are funds that are allocated to people who do not actively choose a fund when they join KiwiSaver.

“This reflects the Government’s commitment to addressing the impacts of climate change and transitioning to a low-emissions economy,” Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi said.

“It also makes sense for the funds themselves given that there is a risk of investing in stranded assets as the world moves to reduce emissions.

“In 2017, the $47 billion NZ Superannuation Fund adopted a climate change investment strategy that resulted in it removing more than $3 billion worth of stocks that exceed thresholds for either emissions intensity or fossil fuel reserves, without negatively affecting performance. So we know that moving away from investments in fossil fuels doesn’t have to mean lower returns.”

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said rules set down by previous governments have allowed New Zealanders’ hard-earned money to be used to support the fossil fuels companies that are the leading cause of the climate crisis.

“No New Zealander should have to worry about whether their retirement savings are causing the climate crisis. That’s why our Government is moving default KiwiSaver funds away from fossil fuels, putting people and the planet first,” James Shaw said.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government wanted to ensure people who remained in default funds got the maximum benefit from their investments.

The terms of the existing nine default providers expire in June 2021.

“As we go about appointing new providers, the Government is also improving the settings for investors,” Grant Robertson said.

“We’re changing default fund settings from ‘conservative’ to a ‘balanced’ fund. The change is intended to make a real difference to people’s financial wellbeing in retirement,” Mr Robertson said.

“We’re also focusing on ensuring New Zealanders get greater value for money from their fees, which we know can make a big difference in the amount of money people have for their retirement. So the fees each provider charges will be factored into the providers we select during the procurement process,” Mr Robertson said.

Kris Faafoi said another key area of focus would be to ensure members have all the information they need to make good decisions about their fund.

“We want all New Zealanders to enjoy the benefits of KiwiSaver. No fund will be right for everyone so we’re requiring default providers to do more to engage with their members and help them make the right decision for their circumstances. This will help with things like understanding what fund is best for KiwiSaver members and how much they should be contributing so they are on track for the type of retirement they want”, Mr Faafoi said.

About 690,000 New Zealanders have stayed in default KiwiSaver funds, which they were automatically enrolled in when they started a new job. Approximately 400,000 of those have not made an active choice to stay there.

Notes:

Improvements the Government is making include:

  • changing the investment mandate from ‘conservative’ to a ‘balanced’ fund
  • ensuring KiwiSaver fees are simple and transparent, and using the procurement process to put pressure on fees
  • obligations on default providers to engage with their members to help them make informed decisions about their retirement savings
  • excluding investments in fossil fuels and illegal weapons. While default fund providers have in recent years divested any investments in companies involved in illegal weapons like cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines, the changes now enshrine that requirement in default fund settings
  • requiring default providers to maintain a responsible investment policy that’s published on their website
  • transferring non-active default members[1] of any provider that is not reappointed to one of the appointed default providers[2] (so that these members retain the benefits of being in a default fund).

KiwiSaver default fund providers

When people enrol in KiwiSaver but don’t actively choose an investment fund, the Government allocates them a default fund. Around 690,000 people remain in a default fund, and approximately 400,000 of those have not made an active choice to stay there.The terms and conditions that apply to a default provider’s appointment are contained in an instrument of appointment, which is agreed to prior to the term of appointment. There are currently nine default fund providers, and their terms expire in mid-2021.

Every seven years, the Government reviews the settings for default providers ahead of appointing a new selection of default providers through a competitive tender process. The new settings will apply to the default funds that are in place from mid-2021. The procurement process to appoint the new default KiwiSaver providers commences later this year.

Nikki Kaye on climate ‘indoctrination’ in schools, Plunket petulant

Sean Plunket is back on talkback, playing to his audience that seems to like grumping about climate change. He asserted that the inclusion of guidelines on teaching about climate change in schools is ‘indoctrination’ as he tries to indoctrinate his listeners with his own views on thee topic.

National spokesperson on education, Nikki Kaye:

National are supportive of climate change being taught in schools. However, the process around developing the curriculum and Ministry led curriculum resources needs to be balanced and communicated well. We have concerns that this decision combined with Ministers press release has caused confusion and angst with some parents because people have thought that this particular resource is now a change to the curriculum.

There has been no change to the curriculum so it is totally up to schools as to whether they use this particular resource or not. We are aware of genuine concerns raised by parents and groups about a lack of balance in this material and also striking the delicate balance of informing children about these issues while not causing unnecessary anxiety. While some material looks fine National has concerns about some of the document.

Seems like a reasonable and considered response, but Plunket isn’t happy (or at least makes out he isn’t happy):

Well this is hardly taking a stand against indoctrination in state schools.

Plunket has also been griping about Jimmy Neesham.

Newshub:  James Shaw thanks Blackcaps star Jimmy Neesham for supporting climate change interview

James Shaw has thanked a Kiwi cricketer for supporting an interview the minister gave about teaching climate change in school – described by an Opposition MP as a “shocker”.

Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party, clashed with Plunket in the interview earlier this week, after being invited to discuss a new teacher resource announced on Sunday for educating year 7-10 students about climate change.

Shaw defended the syllabus in his interview with Plunket, telling the radio host the teaching resource is “based on the science so you can dispute that all you like”.

Plunket shot back: “Well, clearly you can’t dispute that all you like if you’re an intermediate school kid… you’re going to be told you can’t dispute it.”

Shaw replied: “Of course you can, but you’d have to go to town against the entire New Zealand scientific community and suggest that they were wrong.”

Blackcaps star Jimmy Neesham said on Twitter he wanted to take his hat off to Shaw for his “calmness” during the interview with Magic Talk’s Sean Plunket.

The New Zealand cricketer, 29, has been outspoken about his support for climate change activism, recently telling the BBC he feels a responsibility to be a good role model.

“As role models, it is important to keep abreast of what is going on and have at least a passing knowledge of global social issues like politics and climate change.”

So Plunket took a swipe at Neesham: Sean Plunket slams Blackcaps cricketer Jimmy Neesham over climate change comments

But since the interaction, Plunket has hit back at Neesham.

“Well, Jimmy I feel like throwing my bloody phone at the wall often watching the Blackcaps.”

Plunket criticised the cricketer for speaking out about climate change while flying “all over the world”.

“Is that why you catch planes all over the world to play cricket Jimmy?”

He continued to berate the cricketer, seeming to suggest that Neesham’s career is “completely pointless, yet burns up tonnes of carbon”.

The MagicTalk host then commented on the number of Neeshan’s Twitter followers, saying the “number is a lot less than the runs or wickets he’s got”.

This is a pathetic attack in response from Plunket, but I guess Magic and Newshub are trying to start the year with some sort of controversy to get their audience back. They are in fighting for survival as broadcasters, but I doubt this sort of petulance will help, apart from play to a small demographic. It’s unlikely to widen their appeal.

 

Curriculum encouraging climate activism and capitalism

Should the school curriculum be limited to bland academic subjects, or should it also encourage critical thinking, care about important issues and advice on capitalist activities?

Should kids be taught about dealing with outrage expressed on Twitter?

I did reasonably well at school academically, but was often bored and uninspired. I left after getting University Entrance in the 6th form to get a job, wanting to avoid another year of tedium and years of university.

One stand out period at school was when Grahame Sydney (who gave up teaching after a few years and took up painting) plaayed us Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant.  We were too young to be potentially affected by being balloted into the New Zealand Army and being sent to Vietnam, it provoked thought about the a big issue of the time and got some interesting discussion going.

The Taxpayers’ Union put out a media release:

Climate change curriculum skirts close to taxpayer-funded propaganda

The Government’s new climate change educational material for year 7 and 8 students skirts close to taxpayer-funded propaganda, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The new taxpayer-funded curriculum promotes the campaigns of Greta Thunberg, School Strike for Climate, and even Greenpeace. Students are encouraged to reduce their feelings of climate guilt by participating in this kind of political activism.”

“Left-wing campaign groups would be spewing if the national curriculum ever promoted the Taxpayers’ Union vision of a prosperous low-tax New Zealand. The national curriculum should not be used to promote particular political groups or agendas.”

“A sensible climate change policy would focus on the science and policy options. But even on these points, the course is weak: it promotes a tax on carbon while failing to mention that we already have an Emissions Trading Scheme.”

“A major portion of the material is fluffy, condescending rubbish. Students will have to sit through five different sessions focused on their feelings about climate change, with activities including a ‘feelings splash’ and a ‘feelings thermometer’.”

The teacher resources even include a 15-page ‘wellbeing guide’ for teachers and parents, which warns: Children may respond to the climate change scientific material in a number of ways. They may experience a whole host of difficult emotions, including fear, helplessness, frustration, anger, guilt, grief, and confusion. When discussing the material, teachers may encounter students who cope through avoidance, denial, diversionary tactics, wishful thinking and a range of other coping mechanisms.

“This isn’t teaching kids how to think – it’s telling them how to feel.”

It would be terrible if schools dealt with feelings about important issues. (Actually schools do deal with feelings, especially when there are deaths and disasters that could impact on kids).

Should discussing the Australian bushfires and their possible causes be banned in schools?

Should anything that could be construed by someone as political be banned?

@GraemeEdgeler points out

And here is teaching resource encouraging students to become property developers, selling off and subdividing publicly-owned land.

https://t.co/eeSHElhKqB?amp=1

He asks:

Why are schools encouraging capitalism and not socialism?

Should schools stick to reading, riting and rithmetic, and ignore everything else in the world?

 

Just two choices, fossil fuels or ‘sustainability’? No.

We have problems with climate change.

We also have problems on both sides of the climate change debate.

On one side their are arguments like ‘it’s all natural’, ‘we shouldn’t do anything’, ‘we can’t do anything that will make any difference’. here are organised dissers and dismissers – I’m not sure what their actual motives are. Perhaps some are trying to protect status quo big business, or they fear change so resist change that may slow down change.

This side of the argument often tries to rubbish science they don’t like (while liking science and pseudo science that supports their argument or supposedly debunks the overwhelming weight of evidence). A lot of their arguments are fairly easily dismissed.

I think that some the other side of the argument is more of a problem – those who urge drastic change to mitigate climate change without giving any idea of how that would be done or what the possible consequences might be.

David Slack (Stuff): Is it hot enough for you yet?

We have just two choices, they both take us into the unknown, and we have to pick one: give up fossil fuels and move to sustainability, or remain unsustainable and live with the consequences.

We don’t have “just two choices”.

If we “give up fossil fuels” (and some go as far as saying or implying this should be immediate and total) the consequences would be enormous. Virtually no more flying. Virtually no more shipping. Drastically reduced private and public transport. Countries that rely a lot on on fossil fuels, like the US, China and Australia, would have extreme energy deficiencies, with no way of switching to electric transport to any degree.

The flow on effects of these changes alone would have a massive impact on our way of life – and would cost lives. We rely on fossil fuels for emergency services.

There would be massive impacts on food production and distribution.

Any sort of rapid change away from fossil fuels would cause far more problems than continuing on much as we are.

Slack has omitted the obvious choice – work towards alternative energy options as as quickly as we can – far more quickly than we are at present – but without putting civilisation on Earth at risk of catastrophic collapse.

The lack of urgency on some things, especially energy conservation, seems negligent to me. All homes and offices should be well insulated and double glazed at least, and this could be done quickly. It would cost quite a bit, but the risks are negligible, and I think we are better off not requiring as much alternative energy.

But if activists and journalists push for extreme measures this distracts what is do-able and what would actually be sustainable. One of the worst effects is that their demands are easily dismissed as extreme and unworkable, but this allows the other side of the argument room to dismiss all efforts to mitigate climate change effects.

Progress has been made in New Zealand this parliamentary term on a plan towards net zero emissions, this is a long term and fairly vague aim – the target is 2050, thirty years away.

We should be doing much more, starting this year.

I think that Jacinda Ardern may have made a mistake claiming that dealing with climate change is our modern ‘nuclear’ issue.

New Zealand made a symbolic stand against nuclear weapons in the 1980s (and i supported that) – but all we had to do is oppose some ship visits and protest against bomb tests a long way away from here. We didn’t need to change our way of life.

What we should be doing about climate change, and energy conservation, and pollution, requires actual significant change in how we live, now. Some will resist this, but I think most would get behind leadership on this and shift their way of living towards a more sustainable future.

A lack of significant action by the Government leaves rooms for people like Slack to propose stupid choices.

We should be radically changing our thinking about how we live, and we should become more environmentally aware.

We need a plan that is somewhere in between the extreme anti-change brigade and the extreme change/massive vague experiment proponents – closer to the latter, but a plan that reduces risks as quickly as possible without creating bigger risks.

 

2019 was second warmest year on record

The heating up of the world seems too be confirmed by 2019 records (and debate is likely to remain hot).

AFP: 2019 second hottest year on record

The year 2019 was the second hottest ever recorded and a virtual tie with 2016, the warmest El Nino year, the European Union’s climate monitor says in its round up of the hottest decade in history.

Data released by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) showed that worldwide temperatures were just 0.04 degrees Celsius lower than 2016, when temperatures were boosted 0.12 degrees Celsius by a once-in-a-century El Nino natural weather event.

The five last years have been the hottest on record, and the period of 2010-2019 was the hottest decade since records began, C3S said.

Globally temperatures in 2019 were 0.6 Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average. Earth’s temperature over the last five years was 1.1C-1.2C warmer than pre-industrial times.

The year was just 0.04C cooler than 2016, which saw temperatures boosted by a once-in-a-century strength El Nino.

– ‘Alarming signs’ –

C3S also said that atmospheric carbon concentrations continued to rise in 2019, reaching their highest levels on record.

CO2 concentrations are now the highest they have been for at least 800,000 years.

Last year saw the most pronounced warming in Alaska and other parts of the Arctic, as well as large swathes of eastern and southern Europe, southern Africa, and Australia.

In Europe all seasons were warmer than average, with several countries registering both summer and winter temperature highs. December 2019 was 3.2C warmer than the 1981-2010 reference period, C3S said.

Australia was also three degrees hotter than historic averages in December, its Bureau of Meteorology said.

Drought and high temperatures in Australia have contributed to a catastrophic fire season which continue unabated – Fire danger increases again in Victoria as conditions worsen

Rising temperatures, dry lightning and a wind change are expected to cause fires to flare up and even spark new blazes this afternoon, as communities in East Gippsland and the north-east barely begin to count their losses.

Prior to 2019 being added to the warmest year records: The 10 Hottest Global Years on Record

The 10 Hottest Global Years on Record

2019 will add to that at just below 2016, making the ten hottest years now all in this century, with the five hottest being the last five years 2015-2019.

RNZ: The places in New Zealand for which 2019 was the warmest year on record

Parts of New Zealand experienced their warmest year on record in 2019, with some records going back more than a 150 years.

Across the country, the Chatham Islands lead the way, recording temperatures 1.7 degrees above average.

The Chathams started recording their temperatures in 1878, and have never had a year warmer than 2019.

Local fisherman Jamie Lanauze said kingfish, which were common further north, were being seen more often in the Chathams.

The islands weren’t wasn’t alone – Blenheim, Dunedin, Rotorua and Invercargill all had record years.

Back on the mainland near Dunedin – which also had its warmest year since records began 1867 – fishermen are noticing the changes.

Port Chalmers Fishermen’s Co-operative Society president Ant Smith said the fishing quota system needed to reflect the effects of climate change, and believed that was currently not the case.

In the deep south, Invercargill was one degree above it’s average temperature of 8.9 degrees, its warmest since year since records began in 1911.

Rising sea temperatures will have particularly affected the Chatham Islands.

The last five winters or so have been noticeably less cold (fewer frosts and snow) than in the past in Dunedin.

  • Chatham Islands 1.7 degrees above average (records began 1878)
  • Blenheim 1.2 degrees above average (records began 1932)
  • Dunedin 1.1 degrees above average (records began 1867)
  • Rotorua 1.1 degrees above average (records began 1886)
  • Invercargill 1.0 degree above average (records began 1911)

Bushfires and climate change

There have been over the top and unsubstantiated claims made about the causes of the Australian bushfires, but also some plausible explanations.

There is no doubt that drought conditions and very high temperatures are linked to the fires, and also quite possibly have links to climate change.

Climate apocalypse warnings unjustified and unhelpful

The more extreme warnings of mass extinctions and the collapse of civilisation due to climate change are not supported by science or common sense, and are likely to be more damaging to the important measures we should be taking too reduce emissions and pollution, and limit the destruction of important habitats and ecosystems.

There are reports that some young people suffer from anxiety over what apocalyptic events could happen, while it is likely that many people will turn off to the whole climate issue, to an extent at least.

The worst case scenarios that some are promoting as inevitable in the near future are likely to be wrong. Humans have had an impact on the Earth’s environment for a long time, increasingly as the population has exploded and industrialisation has introduced major adverse effects. But we have also been adaptable and resourceful. Most of us will likely survive climate change, and in some ways some of us will benefit.

It is still worth reducing energy consumption and food consumption and pollution, as we will benefit, as will our planet.

Michael Shellenberger (Forbes):  Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong

Environmental journalists and advocates have in recent weeks made a number of apocalyptic predictions about the impact of climate change. Bill McKibben suggested climate-driven fires in Australia had made koalas “functionally extinct.”  Vice claimed the “collapse of civilization may have already begun.”  Extinction Rebellion said “Billions will die” and “Life on Earth is dying.”

The name “Extinction Rebellion” sounds as extreme as there warnings. They have protested in New Zealand recently, but failed to attract much support.

Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.”

Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”

They have wider (worldwide) support but specifying years that catastrophe will strike or will become unavoidable seems like nutter territory.

Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” said another. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.”

They sound like vague but extreme guesses at best.

Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change.

In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion (”XR”) — an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence — and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters.

And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was “happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” from climate change.

There was quite an adverse reaction to that.

Climate change is an issue I care passionately about and have dedicated a significant portion of my life to addressing. I have been politically active on the issue for over 20 years and have researched and written about it for 17 years. Over the last four years, my organization, Environmental Progress, has worked with some of the world’s leading climate scientists to prevent carbon emissions from rising. So far, we’ve helped prevent emissions increasing the equivalent of adding 24 million cars to the road.

I also care about getting the facts and science right and have in recent months corrected inaccurate and apocalyptic news media coverage of fires in the Amazon and fires in California, both of which have been improperly presented as resulting primarily from climate change.

Attributing single weather events like storms and hurricanes to climate change is common, and stupid. There’s no way of measuring long term effects against single events, which have had complex influences.

It’s as stupid to claim, as is common Kiwiblog and The BFD, that some snow somewhere somehow proves climate change isn’t happening (heavier snowfalls and worse cold storms are predicted effects of climate change).

Journalists and activists alike have an obligation to describe environmental problems honestly and accurately, even if they fear doing so will reduce their news value or salience with the public.

There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people.

And it provides fodder to the ‘nothing is happening, we don’t have to change anything’ brigade.

And exaggerating climate change risks distracting us from other important issues including ones we might have more near-term control over.

I think that’s the biggest problem with overstating and scaremongering.

“I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as “climate deniers” or “climate delayers” anyone who pushes back against exaggeration”

I feel the need to say this up-front because I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as “climate deniers” or “climate delayers” anyone who pushes back against exaggeration.

With that out of the way, let’s look whether the science supports what’s being said.

First, no credible scientific body has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species. “‘Our children are going to die in the next 10 to 20 years.’ What’s the scientific basis for these claims?” BBC’s Andrew Neil asked a visibly uncomfortable XR spokesperson last month.

“These claims have been disputed, admittedly,” she said. “There are some scientists who are agreeing and some who are saying it’s not true. But the overall issue is that these deaths are going to happen.”

“But most scientists don’t agree with this,” said Neil. “I looked through IPCC reports and see no reference to billions of people going to die, or children in 20 years. How would they die?”

“Mass migration around the world already taking place due to prolonged drought in countries, particularly in South Asia. There are wildfires in Indonesia, the Amazon rainforest, Siberia, the Arctic,” she said.

But in saying so, the XR spokesperson had grossly misrepresented the science. “There is robust evidence of disasters displacing people worldwide,” notes IPCC, “but limited evidence that climate change or sea-level rise is the direct cause”

What about “mass migration”? “The majority of resultant population movements tend to occur within the borders of affected countries,” says IPCC.

It’s not like climate doesn’t matter. It’s that climate change is outweighed by other factors. Earlier this year, researchers found that climate “has affected organized armed conflict within countries.

However, other drivers, such as low socioeconomic development and low capabilities of the state, are judged to be substantially more influential.”

So should be getting more attention and resources.

Last January, after climate scientists criticized Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for saying the world would end in 12 years, her spokesperson said “We can quibble about the phraseology, whether it’s existential or cataclysmic.” He added, “We’re seeing lots of [climate change-related] problems that are already impacting lives.”

That last part may be true, but it’s also true that economic development has made us less vulnerable, which is why there was a 99.7% decline in the death toll from natural disasters since its peak in 1931.

In 1931, 3.7 million people died from natural disasters. In 2018, just 11,000 did.  And that decline occurred over a period when the global population quadrupled.

Also, far fewer people now die from medical epidemics. While the death toll from measles in Samoa is alarming and tragic, it is not anywhere as as bad as The 1918 influenza pandemic: “The total number of deaths attributable to influenza was later estimated to have reached 8500, or 22% of the population. According to a 1947 United Nations report, it ranked as ‘one of the most disastrous epidemics recorded anywhere in the world during the present century, so far as the proportion of deaths to the population is concerned’.”

What about sea level rise? IPCC estimates sea level could rise two feet (0.6 meters) by 2100. Does that sound apocalyptic or even “unmanageable”?

Consider that one-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, and some areas are seven meters below sea level. You might object that Netherlands is rich while Bangladesh is poor. But the Netherlands adapted to living below sea level 400 years ago. Technology has improved a bit since then.

What about claims of crop failure, famine, and mass death? That’s science fiction, not science. Humans today produce enough food for 10 billion people, or 25% more than we need, and scientific bodies predict increases in that share, not declines.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts crop yields increasing 30% by 2050. And the poorest parts of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, are expected to see increases of 80 to 90%.

Those predictions of increased food production may be affected by climate change – but those effects could be positive as well as negative.

Nobody is suggesting climate change won’t negatively impact crop yields. It could. But such declines should be put in perspective. Wheat yields increased 100 to 300% around the world since the 1960s, while a study of 30 models found that yields would decline by 6% for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature.

Rates of future yield growth depend far more on whether poor nations get access to tractors, irrigation, and fertilizer than on climate change, says FAO.

So more tractors could be more important than more electric cars.

All of this helps explain why IPCC anticipates climate change will have a modest impact on economic growth. By 2100, IPCC projects the global economy will be 300 to 500% larger than it is today. Both IPCC and the Nobel-winning Yale economist, William Nordhaus, predict that warming of 2.5°C and 4°C would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% and 5% over that same period.

IPCC reports are rubbished by some, but that is usually superficial dissing based largely on cherry picking and ignorance.

Does this mean we shouldn’t worry about climate change? Not at all.

One of the reasons I work on climate change is because I worry about the impact it could have on endangered species. Climate change may threaten one million species globally and half of all mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in diverse places like the Albertine Rift in central Africa, home to the endangered mountain gorilla.

But it’s not the case that “we’re putting our own survival in danger” through extinctions, as Elizabeth Kolbert claimed in her book, Sixth Extinction. As tragic as animal extinctions are, they do not threaten human civilization. If we want to save endangered species, we need to do so because we care about wildlife for spiritual, ethical, or aesthetic reasons, not survival ones.

And exaggerating the risk, and suggesting climate change is more important than things like habitat destruction, are counterproductive.

Scientists overwhelmingly warn of climate change risks, but some are concerned about the over-egging.

Climate scientists are starting to push back against exaggerations by activists, journalists, and other scientists.

“While many species are threatened with extinction,” said Stanford’s Ken Caldeira, “climate change does not threaten human extinction… I would not like to see us motivating people to do the right thing by making them believe something that is false.”

I asked the Australian climate scientist Tom Wigley what he thought of the claim that climate change threatens civilization. “It really does bother me because it’s wrong,” he said. “All these young people have been misinformed. And partly it’s Greta Thunberg’s fault. Not deliberately. But she’s wrong.”

And media who have promoted Thunberg as some sort of messiah should be more careful about the message they send.

Part of what bothers me about the apocalyptic rhetoric by climate activists is that it is often accompanied by demands that poor nations be denied the cheap sources of energy they need to develop. I have found that many scientists share my concerns.

“If you want to minimize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2070  you might want to accelerate the burning of coal in India today,” MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel said.

“It doesn’t sound like it makes sense. Coal is terrible for carbon. But it’s by burning a lot of coal that they make themselves wealthier, and by making themselves wealthier they have fewer children, and you don’t have as many people burning carbon, you might be better off in 2070.”

There have been similar ‘counter-intuitive’ arguments here about the problem with shutting down cleaner gas recovery which pushes is to rely more on dirtier energy from elsewhere.

Emanuel and Wigley say the extreme rhetoric is making political agreement on climate change harder.

“You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient,” said Emanuel. “We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate.”

Happily, there is a plenty of middle ground between climate apocalypse and climate denial.

Can our politicians put more focus and efforts in this middle ground?

And while our media has moved recently to not provide publicity to denialist cranks, they should apply the same sort of restrictions to apocalypse cranks. Neither are supported by most science, nor by common sense.

“Another 1,000 years” of coal reserves on West Coast

Not surprisingly this tweet from National list MP Maureen Pugh got a lot of reaction on Twitter.

Economics and ecology of electric vehicles questioned

Electric vehicles are becoming more available and more popular, but there are questions about how much sense they really make as far as emissions and convenience go.

The range of EVs (fully battery powered vehicles) is improving, but recharging still takes substantially longer than refueling a fossil fueled vehicle, which is an issue if you want to travel further than the range of a battery powered vehicle.

There is also a major issue of where all the electricity will come from to charge the batteries.

On top of that, a study claims that even the supposed emissions advantage is questionable.

Stuff:  When will we finally admit that electric vehicles aren’t the solution?

Replacing fossil fuel cars with electric vehicles seems to be a logical, correct, and even necessary solution to our climate problem. But the issue is far more complex than our intuition tells us.

The banning  of further production of internal combustion engines by 2050, 2040 or as soon as 2030 is talked about, even though it could take us into dangerous uncharted territory we know almost nothing about.

A few months back, German physic professor Christoph Buchal, with his colleagues from the IFO think tank in Munich, published a study – subsequently widely challenged – in which they found that electric vehicles in Germany produced 11 to 28 per cent more carbon dioxide (CO2) than  “dirty” diesel cars.

More than diesel powered vehicles? Not surprisingly that was controversial.

“Considering Germany’s current energy mix and the amount of energy used in battery production, the CO2 emissions of battery-electric vehicles are, in the best case, slightly higher than those of a diesel engine, and are otherwise much higher,” says the think tank’s release.

Even Volkswagen, the German car maker, joined the discussion. Despite VW’s response being clearly “pro-electric”, it admitted that in current German conditions its new electric Golf emits more CO2 than the one with an internal combustion engine.

It depends a lot on how the electricity needs to be generated.

And it’s not just emissions that are a problem. Batteries need materials that need to be mined. Ecologists (like the New Zealand Green Party) tend to oppose mining.

Earlier this year, scientists from the University of Technology in Sydney published a study, in which they concluded that the rising production of electric batteries will increase the need for certain metals such as lithium, manganese or cobalt. The research “shows that as demand for these minerals skyrockets, the already significant environmental and human impacts of hardrock mining are likely to rise steeply as well”.

For example, the cobalt is found predominantly in the Democratic Republic of Congo and mining in this African country is detrimental to the whole region. Amnesty International warned about the increasing demand for these metals, but its researchers have also noticed the exploitation of child labour and violation of human rights during mining.

So there are a number of benefits and problems.

We also know that electric cars aren’t very popular among blue-collar workers. Indeed, cars with alternative propulsion are – as various statistics show – a matter of predominantly richer social groups; poor people cannot afford them despite government incentives. As a result, they subsidise the rich to buy their new, shiny Tesla.

“In effect, the wealthy owners of electric vehicles will enjoy the benefits of their clean, silent cars, while passing on many of the costs of keeping their vehicles on the road to everyone else, especially the poor,” pointed out Jonathan Lesser of the Manhattan Institute in an article for Politico.

Poorer people not only are less likely to be able too afford an EV, they are more likely to use older less efficient, more polluting petrol or diesel powered vehicles.

At least if this unprecedented change could be justified by the fight against environmental pollution, for the future of our planet, people would be willing to accept the radical transition to electric vehicles regardless of their ideology.

But we cannot even say with certainty what consequences such a 100 per cent transformation would have on our society and the environment itself; we don’t know where we will take the extra electric energy, how to solve the metal problem and what it could do to  our economy.

However, because climate change makes us all so nervous, citizens demand some kind of action, and as politicians don’t know exactly which kind, they chose the most populist one that could cost our society and the environment much more than we are willing to admit.

Maybe our Government has effectively admitted something.

Newsroom:  Govt quietly abandons electric vehicle target

There are 15,473 vehicles in the government fleet and only 78 are electric. When the coalition Government came into power in late 2017, the agreement between Labour and New Zealand First stipulated that the entire fleet would be emissions-free by mid-2025, “where practicable”.

Making the government fleet fully emissions-free would have been a daunting task, even with the “where practicable” caveat. The Government’s progress so far has been abysmal.

Out of around 15,000 vehicles, less than half of a percent of the Government’s fleet is electric. This has been the case for at least the past nine months, according to data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Electric vehicles have trickled into the fleet at a snail’s pace. In the third quarter of the 2018/2019 financial year, there were 71 electric vehicles. The next quarter, that number rose to 73 and has now reached 78.

In the most recent quarter, in addition to adding five electric vehicles, the Government added a net of 514 non-electric vehicles.

That sounds like Kiwibuild scale underperformance.

Although it was repeated as recently as June, that goal has been quietly revised to a commitment that, after mid-2025, all new vehicles entering the fleet will be emissions-free.

And that sounds a bit like an Animal Farm style revision of the wording.


I have been looking at getting a new vehicle at some stage. Currently I’m tending towards a hybrid that uses a petrol powered engine to power low capacity batteries. I think these are a good balance now that they cost little different to petrol only vehicles. They are more efficient than petrol only cars, using about two thirds the fuel, so i think they make economic sense and they don’t have the range and recharging disadvantages of electric only vehicles.

But I am currently waiting and seeing how things evolve.