Climate debate

ndrew BaileyWWF has organised an election climate debate, starting tonight at 7 pm.

We know it’s 100% possible to unlock a safe climate future for all New Zealanders. Climate action is bigger than politics – but it’s election season right now. Will political parties come together to set a course for a 100% renewable energy, zero carbon future? Or will climate action remain a political football?

WWF-New Zealand’s Climate Debate is your chance to find out.

  • What: This election’s big climate debate.
  • When7pm on 19 September

Brought to you in partnership with Oxfam New Zealand and Fossil Free University of Auckland, the Debate is your chance to learn about the parties’ climate policies – and ask your political representatives the questions that matter to you. We already have an exciting mixture of speakers from almost all of New Zealand’s key political parties coming along, just days before the election.

Business journalist Rod Oram will be your MC on the night,asking all the candidates the questions that matter for Aotearoa’s climate future.

Taking part:

  • Megan Woods (Labour),
  • James Shaw (Greens),
  • Carrie Stoddart-Smith (Māori Party),
  • Denis O’Rourke (NZ First),
  • Damien Light (United Future),
  • Teresa Moore (TOP)
  • Andrew Bailey (National)

Youtube was hopeless, but Facebook is working.

Green climate policies – Green Fund and Zero emissions

The Greens have announced their main environmental policies that include Zero Carbon Emissions, a Kiwi Climate Fund and a major tree planting project.

Here’s how it’s going to work.

First: we are going to plant one point two billion trees.

We’re going to plant them in the cities. We’re going to plant them in the towns. We’re going to plant them in in the National Parks. We’re going to plant them in the regions.

That’s going to be tens of thousands of jobs. A lot of them will be in the regions. That means lower unemployment. Lower poverty. Lower crime. Cleaner rivers. More native species. It would be worth doing even if we weren’t saving the world.

A lot of them will be native trees. Native forest shapes the beauty of our country’s landscape.

Take a second, and imagine what returning another 4-5 percent of our country to native forest would look like. Where once you’d see erosion-scarred hillsides, there’ll be lush forest and bush. Flocks of birds. Clean rivers.

Take another second, and imagine how many jobs, in the regions, for young people, might be created through planting those trees, and then through pest control in those forests, possum trapping, and the like. Even through mountain biking and maintaining walking tracks.

Imagine a revitalised plantation forestry sector, providing enough wood for biofuels, high end manufactured goods and – yes – housing.

An admirable aim. Of course there will be a substantial cost. And it may not be simple getting tens of thousands of people to work in largely remote areas. It is difficult to get people to work on farms, orchards and vineyards now, and tree planting will be further from civilisation.

The next step is to get those emissions down. That means putting a proper price on the pollution that causes climate change – our greenhouse gas emissions. All of them.

We’re going to bin the Emissions Trading Scheme – a scheme that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars change hands, our forests get cut down and converted to intensive dairy farms and our emissions increase by over 21%.

The point of an ETS is to bring down emissions. Ours have increased 21% since we put the ETS in place. I can think of few more poorly conceived pieces of public policy than one that achieves the precise opposite of what is intended.

We say, tax pollution more, and tax peoples’ incomes less.

A carbon tax instead of the ETS is worth serious consideration. There is a lot of debate internationally about the pros and cons of both, and the effectiveness of our ETS is also debatable.

Finally – and this is the kicker – every single Kiwi over 18 will also get a $250 dividend bonus at the end of the year based on the carbon tax revenue.

That number would be higher, but we’ve got over a billion trees to plant.

I think a $250 bonus and the knowledge that you’re not going to spend your retirement in a climate refugee resettlement camp is a pretty great deal.

Money does grow on trees! Cash for everyone.

Green environmental policies have the wide appeal, but voters may not be listening to them much and more.

Shaw: The climate protection plan I’ve laid out today is incredibly comprehensive.


Senate defies Trump on climate change

This is only small change as far as money goes but it’s a bit of a snub for President Trump.

Reuters:  Defying Trump, Senate panel approves funding for U.N. climate body

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill on Thursday evening that includes $10 million to help fund the United Nations’ climate change body that oversees the Paris Climate Agreement, despite President Donald Trump’s decision to stop funding it.

The 30-member Senate panel, which allocates federal funds to various government agencies and organizations, approved a $51 billion spending bill for the State Department and foreign operations, which included an amendment to continue funding the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as the scientific body the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The amendment passed even though the 2018 budget proposal that Trump, a Republican, introduced earlier this year eliminated support of any mechanism to finance climate change projects in developing countries and organizations.

The United States has usually contributed to around 20 percent of the UNFCCC budget.

The amendment passed 16-14. Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee voted in favor, as did all committee Democrats except for West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

So mixed messages from the US on climate change measures.

In a diplomatic cable that Reuters obtained last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said U.S. diplomats should sidestep questions from foreign governments on how the United States plans re-engage in the global Paris climate agreement.

The cable also said diplomats should make clear that the United States wants to help other countries use fossil fuels, which have been linked to global warming.

Trump seems intent on promoting dirty fossil fuels with little regard for their impact on the environment.

This is minor defiance from the US senate.


Labour launch their campaign

It seems like the election campaign has already been going for ages. Greens launched their campaign last month, and relaunched it last Sunday.

Labour has just launched their campaign today.

From Stuff Live:

  • Labour officially launches its campaign from 12.30, with Helen Clark in a front-row seat.
  •  Jacinda Ardern’s speech focuses on housing, mental health, education and…

…climate change – which she calls “our generation’s nuclear free moment”.

I remember listening to a couple of members of my family discussing climate change a few years ago. It’s fair to say they were sceptical. I was waiting for my moment to jump in, when suddenly I heard my father pipe up. “I don’t know much about the science he said, “but I do know what they showed me in Kiribati”.

He had visited with local village leaders who had shown him where the water sat when they were children, and where it was now – lapping squarely around their survival.

There will always be those who say it’s too difficult. There will be those who say we are too small, and that pollution and climate change are the price of progress.

They are wrong.

We will take climate change seriously because my Government will be driven by principle, not expediency. And opportunity, not fear.

And there is an opportunity, that we can turn into our advantage, and shape our identity. It is a transition that can, and must, be just.

This is my generation’s nuclear free moment, and I am determined that we will tackle it head on.

But restoring our role as innovators, and as a clean green nation on the world stage, means tackling something closer to home.

Our rivers are dying. The majority are almost too dirty to swim in.

I don’t accept that this is just the way things are now. Not when we our water is a taonga.
Not when we have a duty to protect it. And not when we can turn things around.

We will clean up our rivers. We will do it for the next generation. And we will do it together.

We do have some hard calls to make. But the government I lead will be a government that listens, then acts. A government that leads, not follows.

More from her speech:

The Government I lead will be a government that listens, then acts. A Government that leads, not follows, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern at the launch of the Labour Party’s 2017 election campaign at a packed Auckland Town Hall.

“I will never stop believing that politics is a place where we can do good.

“That we can build a confident and caring nation if we include each and every person, in each and every town and region. That is New Zealand at its best.

“It’s been three weeks now since I was asked to take this job and lead our campaign. In those three weeks, I’ve never once felt alone. Whether it’s been on social media, on the streets, or by your show of support here today, I feel humbled and heartened.

“So, the question for all of us – for you and for me – is this: now what?

“Now we re-double our efforts.

“Now we focus not just on the challenges, but the opportunities that will bring lasting change.

“Now we be bold, and now we be brave.

“This is our moment, and it starts with you.

“This is a time for talking with your families and friends. This is a time for knocking on doors and working the phones. This is a time for sharing our vision of tomorrow with everyone you meet.

“Let’s go from here today and run the campaign of our lives.

“Let’s do this.”

Full speech:


Climate change – the biggest story of our time?

Climate change may end up being the biggest story of our time, or at least of the 21st century, if mad mad leaders don’t destroy us all first.

Climate change is the biggest story on any editor’s newslist right now. Legendary environmentalist David Suzuki wants journalists to drop covering things like the Dow Jones, and focus all their attention on climate change.

But it’s one of the hardest stories to tell. It’s a scientific slow burn, wrapped in politics and vested interests, surrounded by visions of a firey apocalypse. It’s full of numbers and data and uncertainty. Journalism has never had a more important or difficult task.

The Spinoff caught up with five Kiwi journalists dedicated to climate change, about the challenges and rewards of covering this massive story. They discussed why it’s such an important moment for climate coverage, how to tell the story, and what they hope their journalism will achieve.

One of them, Veronika Meduna:

Even though climate change is one of the biggest issues that will affect all aspects of our lives, it is a slow-burning emergency. It’s a long-term issue, it’s complicated, it’s threatening, there are a lot of vested interests, and it’s calling for a significant change in behaviour. None of this makes it an easy story to tell.

Climate change stories are up against human psychology, which makes us resist change and care less about less imminent dangers. They are also up against intentional smokescreens and cherry-picking of data, intense lobbying and straight denial.



“Time to take a historic step for climate change”

From the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.

Time to take a historic step for climate change, says Environment Commissioner

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, has issued a rallying call to MPs of all parties: it’s time to come together to tackle climate change.

“Climate change is the ultimate intergenerational issue,” said Dr Wright. “It’s a huge challenge. And not just for the current Government, but also for the Governments that succeed them into the future, be they blue, red, green, or any other colour,”

In a new report, the Commissioner acknowledges that the Government has made progress since the Paris agreement. And the cross-party working group on climate change has been a welcome development. But she says it’s now time to take the next step.

“There is an opportunity here for the next Parliament to build on recent developments and take a historic step forward that will be credited for generations to come,” said Dr Wright.

Dr Wright has recommended a new Act that is similar to the UK Climate Change Act. This is a law that was passed with overwhelming cross-party support in the House of Commons in 2008. At least nine other countries have since passed similar legislation, including Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

A similar law in New Zealand would put emissions targets into law, and require the setting of carbon budgets that would act as stepping stones towards the targets. It would also establish a high-powered independent expert group that would crunch the numbers and provide objective advice.

“There has been a lot of debate around what our targets should be,” said Dr Wright. “But I’m much more interested in how we are actually going to achieve them.”

The Commissioner says underlining her recommendations is the need for a long-term approach to climate change.

“When it comes to climate change, we need to get used to looking decades ahead,” said Dr Wright. “The world is going to be a very different place in the future.”

The report is subtitled Climate change, progress, and predictability. Dr Wright says businesses and investors are crying out for some predictability in New Zealand’s response to climate change.

“Many businesses are keen to take advantage of the opportunities of moving to a low-carbon economy, but they need more predictability before they invest.”

The Commissioner’s report, Stepping stones to Paris and beyond: Climate change, progress, and predictability, is available here. A set of frequently asked questions is available here.

Highest recorded level of CO2 in May

According to Climate Central carbon dioxide peaked at 409.65 ppm in May, the highest recorded and higher than research indicates there has been in human history.

However the current estimate Earth’s CO2 Home Page is 408.84, still very high, and an increase on last year (406.81).


NASA:  The relentless rise of carbon dioxide


If fossil-fuel burning continues at a business-as-usual rate, such that humanity exhausts the reserves over the next few centuries, CO2 will continue to rise to levels of order of 1500 ppm. The atmosphere would then not return to pre-industrial levels even tens of thousands of years into the future. This graph not only conveys the scientific measurements, but it also underscores the fact that humans have a great capacity to change the climate and planet.

NASA: Evidence

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.


100 years of ‘climate change’

An interesting report from over a hundred years ago:

Now, from Business Insider: Even if every country on the planet cuts emissions, the climate would still be screwed

A planet devastated by climate change may seem like a distant future. But Earth is already experiencing the effects of rising global temperatures today.

Worldwide, the mean rate of sea level rise increased 50% in the last two decades. In 2017, temperatures have already reached their highest levels in history in some areas, from California to Vietnam. The past three years were the hottest on record.

These changes are caused by increasing levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the Earth’s atmosphere, a product of human activity. And as New York Magazine’s David Wallace-Wells recently noted, no single emissions reduction program we have today is enough to prevent climate disaster — not even the Paris agreement.

Possibly. Predictions and projections should be of major concern, but what will actually happen is uncertain.

We could be saved, for a while at least, by another Krakatoa type eruption.

Even if every signatory country in the accord meets its current pledge for reducing emissions — including the US, though Trump has pledged to pull the country out of the agreement — the world is still projected to warm over 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. The Paris agreement points out this reality in a section titled, “Notes with concern.”

Two degrees may not seem like much, but the rise would have substantial impacts. Scientists say that places that supply the world’s food, including Southern Europe and much of the Middle East, Australia, Africa, South America, and China, would be in permanent, extreme drought by 2080. Flooding would become a serious issue near the coasts, where a third of the world’s major cities are located, since sea levels are projected to rise by at least 10 feet by the end of the century.

Experts also warn that if the Arctic ice continues to melt, ancient diseases trapped in glaciers could get released. Plus, the world would face the extinction of many animal species and rising human mortality.

The planet has already warmed nearly 1 degree Celsius, and James Hansen, a renowned climate scientist at Columbia University, suggested in a recent paper that keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees is nearly impossible. Hansen suggested that hitting the goal would require negative emissions levels, which would mean capturing carbon and taking it out of the atmosphere.

To make matters worse, our best protection against the effects of rising carbon dioxide levels comes from so-called “carbon sinks” — patches of land and ocean that absorb large chunks of the carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere. But now those sinks may be at capacity, prompting the Earth to continue cooking even as emissions get curbed.

Another ‘may be’. The science is still being worked on. What if the majority of current climate science turns out to be wrong?

What if things turn out to be worse than major predictions, rather than not as bad?

If science is inaccurate it could just as easily be inaccurately under predicting as over predicting. You can’t assume inaccuracies will work in your favour.

G19 versus USA on “irreversible” Paris climate agreement

The US remained separated from the G20 on climate change at the summit in Hamburg, Germany.

The Guardian:  Trump left in cold over Paris climate agreement at end of G20 summit

Donald Trump was left isolated at the end of a fractious G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, after every other world leader signed up to a declaration that the Paris climate agreement was irreversible following an unprecedented standoff.

After the publication of a final communique that saw the emergence of a G19 grouping for the first time, Theresa May said she was “dismayed at the US decision to pull out” of the accord and had personally urged the president to reconsider.

“I did bring the issue of climate change agreement up with President Trump.

“I have had a number of conversations with him while I’ve been here at the G20. What I did was encourage him to bring the United States back into the Paris agreement, and I continue to hope that’s what the United States will do.”


More from Politico: G20 leaders — except Donald Trump — declare Paris climate deal ‘irreversible’

Leaders of the G20 richest nations agreed to disagree on climate change, unanimously supporting a final communiqué in which all of them except U.S. President Donald Trump declare the Paris climate agreement to be “irreversible” and needing action “swiftly.”

The text of the final communiqué, seen by POLITICO, does contain face-saving language for Trump though, stating that “[the U.S.] will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently.”

The unanimous statement — with a carve-out for Trump — is a diplomatic coup for the summit’s host, German Chancellor Angel Merkel, who had been determined to cement the unity of the G19 in the face of Trump’s intention to pull out of the climate agreement. There had been fears that the U.S. could peel off one or two other countries in a bid to significantly water down the final text on climate change.

According to the text obtained by POLITICO, the G20 leaders will declare:

“We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs. The United States of America states it will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally-determined contributions.

“The Leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris Agreement is irreversible. We reiterate the importance of fulfilling the UNFCCC [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] commitment by developed countries in providing means of implementation including financial resources to assist developing countries with respect to both mitigation and adaptation actions in line with Paris outcomes and acknowledge the OECD’s report “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth”. We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement, moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances and, to this end, we agree to the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth as set out in the Annex.”

Trump also seems out of step with a majority of Americans and about half of Trump voters.

Yale poll: By more than 5 to 1, voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris Climate Agreement

The US should participate in the Paris Climate Agreement – registered voters:

  • Yes – 69%
  • No – 13%

Yes by political affiliation:

  • Republicans – 51%
  • Moderate/liberal Republicans – 73%
  • Independents – 61%
  • Democrats – 86%

47% of  Trump’s voters say the U.S. should participate in the Paris agreement, compared with only 28% who say the U.S. should not.

More from the Yale program on Climate Communication: Climate Change in the American Mind: May 2017

  • 58% believe climate change is mostly human caused
  • 30% say it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment
  • 39% think the odds that global warming will cause humans to become extinct are 50% or higher
  • 58% think the odds of human extinction from global warming are less than 50%

Most important reason to reduce global warming:

  • 24% say providing a better life for our children and grandchildren
  • 16% preventing the destruction of most life on the planet
  • 13% protecting God’s creation



Merkel, Macron to challenge Trump over climate change

The G20 (Group of 20 economic powers) will meet in Hamburg on 7 and 8 July. Angela Merkel has signalled she will challenge Donald Trump on climate change and “isolationism and protectionism”.

A week after attending the G7 last month Trump said that the US would pull out of the Paris climate agreement. He appeared to not want to address it up front while meeting with other world leaders.

Reuters: Merkel issues warning to Trump ahead of G20 summit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised to fight for free trade and press on with multilateral efforts to combat climate change at the G20 summit next week, challenging the “America First” policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

In a defiant speech to parliament a week before she will host a summit of the world’s top economic powers in Hamburg, the northern port city where she was born, Merkel did not mention Trump by name but said global problems could not be solved with protectionism and isolation.

“These will not be easy talks,” Merkel said. “The differences are obvious and it would be wrong to pretend they aren’t there. I simply won’t do this.”

Ahead of the G20 summit, Trump’s administration has threatened to take punitive trade measures against China, including introducing tariffs on steel imports.

Merkel’s trade challenge:

“Anybody who believes the problems of the world can be solved with isolationism and protectionism is making a big mistake,” Merkel said.

Merkel and Macron on the Paris accord:

Merkel said she was “more determined than ever” to make the Paris accord a success since Trump’s decision to pull out, calling climate change an “existential challenge”.

“We cannot wait until every last person on earth has been convinced of the scientific proof,” she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, in Berlin for the meeting of EU leaders, which included the prime ministers of Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain, said he hoped the United States would “return to reason” on climate.

Trump is unlikely to backtrack on fulfilling one of the election promises he followed through on. It will be interesting to see whether he is willing to engage and debate at the G20 meeting, or avoid it and do his own thing regardless.