2018 may be warmest year on record for New Zealand

NIWA are set to release an analysis of last year’s weather records next week, but Jim Salinger has jumped the gun on them, unofficially stating the 2018 was the warmest year on record for New Zealand.

NZ Herald:  2018 NZ’s hottest year on record – climate scientist

Niwa isn’t due to release its official summary for the year until early next week, but Professor Jim Salinger has already picked it the warmest on records stretching back to 1867.

His calculations put 2018’s mean annual land surface temperatures at 13.5C – or 0.85C above the 1981-2010 average.

His figure also surpassed the scorching years of 1998 and 2016, which were 0.80C and 0.84C above normal respectively.

Niwa meteorologist Chris Brandolino said people would have to wait until next week to see the climate agency’s final numbers – but added Niwa’s preliminary figures showed 2018 tracking extremely close to 2016’s record.

So it looks like being one of the warmest years on record, if not the warmest.

The New Zealand extended temperature record, 1867 - 2018, compared with the 1981 - 2010 normal. Bars represent individual years, the orange line smoothed trends, and dotted red line the overall trend. Source / Professor Jim Salinger

Fluctuations on that temperature record are to be expected, but an apparent surge trend over the last couple of decades could be a concern.

New Zealand is just a small part of the world, but is not the only place to record a warm year – but not the warmest.

Arizona Daily Star:  Tucson’s 2018 weather year end as fourth-hottest on record

Phys Org in November:  2018 temperatures set to be among hottest on record: UN

Global temperatures in 2018 are set to be the fourth highest on record, the UN said Thursday, stressing the urgent need for action to rein in runaway warming of the planet.

In a report released ahead of the COP 24  in Poland, the World Meteorological Organization pointed out that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, and that “2018 is on course to be the 4th  on record.”

“This would mean that the past four years – 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 – are also the four warmest years in the series,” the UN agency said in its provisional report on the state of the climate this year.

2018, fourth hottest year on record?

The “warming trend is obvious and continuing,” WMO chief Petteri Taalas told reporters in Geneva.

The report shows that the global average temperature for the first 10 months of the year was nearly 1.0-degree Celsius above the pre-industrial era (1850-1900).

So there will be ongoing pressure to try to reduce the human effect of warming, and to mitigate possible issues.

Meanwhile, we have had a couple of weeks of generally very pleasant weather here in Dunedin, with a possible high into the thirties forecast for today. However this is just weather top enjoy (if you like 30+ temperatures, I prefer mid twenties.

More on weather:  A year of wild weather: Cyclones, lightning storms, flooding and cold snaps

So what’s in store for 2019?

This summer might not be a record breaker, as a weak El Nino brings unsettled weather.

We’re unlikely to get weeks on end of hot, dry weather, NIWA principal scientist Chris Brandolino says, but there’ll be periods of settled warm weather between blocks of cooler temperatures.

“This summer, variability is going to be the theme.”

This season the Pacific Ocean is signalling El Nino weather but the atmosphere is not, which makes it a “messy” driving force of the climate, he says, compared to when the two work in tandem.

Temperatures are about or above average and rainfall is forecast to be around normal – other than a bit drier in the Upper North Island and wetter in the West Coast of the South Island.

New Zealand is close to 1C warmer than a century ago. As the atmosphere warms it holds more water vapour, leading to heavier rainfall, Prof Renwick says. Along with rainfall extremes, more moisture in the air can lead to heavier or more unseasonal snowfalls.

But with underlying temperatures getting warmer, heat waves are also more likely.

Heat waves are rare here due to our usual weather variability.

What each of us can do to tackle climate change

We all have to deal with the weather – we enjoy it when it is good, and cope with it when it is bad. With climate change there may be more good weather to enjoy, but also more bad weather to cope with.

Unusual weather events will inevitable be linked to climate change, even though individual extremes have happened throughout human history.

News.com.au: Sweltering heatwave set to scorch large parts of Australia until the new year

Australians are facing unprecedented heat, with some areas set for maximum temperatures above 40C for four days straight for the first time in 90 years.

Extreme record-breaking heatwave conditions are forecast to sweep across four states over coming days, sparking health and fire warnings.

A broad area stretching across much of southern Australia is set to experience the hot weather, with temperatures generally 10C to 14C higher than usual for this time of year, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

There’s plenty more of yesterday’s sweltering Christmas weather to come, as an oppressive and sustained heatwave is set to linger into the new year.

Going by the forecast here in New Zealand it doesn’t look like we will be getting much of that heat coming our way. But some areas (up north) have experienced flooding earlier this week.

Whether or not the weather is a result of climate change Victoria University climate scientist James Renwick suggests One simple thing you can do to tackle climate change

Transforming how the world produces energy and consumes resources to create a zero-carbon future is going to require innovation and investment on an industrial scale, creating myriad new jobs and making a better, more sustainable, life for everyone.

Climate change is a huge threat. Already, floods and droughts, heatwaves and fires have intensified around the world, and even another degree of warming will kill off the coral reefs, damage global food production, and lock in metres of sea level rise. The potential for mayhem and misery seems almost limitless.

The way I react to climate change is to keep both viewpoints in mind. If we do nothing, or if we do something but not fast enough, the future looks pretty dire. And I don’t mean in centuries from now, I mean in one working lifetime, another 20, 30, 40 years. To me, that’s a huge motivation to do what I can to advance the transformation we need.

Feeling like you’re a part of the solution, that you’re making a positive difference, is so much more empowering than feeling helpless or despairing, or apathetic. It is now understood that stress and anxiety caused by seeing fires, floods and other extremes affect communities, and worries about the future of our own families, are major mental health risks.

The empowerment will only be sustained if we feel we have actually made a positive difference. If we keep getting weather extremes, or if we see other countries continue to get weather extremes, we may think our efforts are a waste of time. It could be difficult keeping up enthusiasm for being ‘a part of the solution’.

Each of us can take small actions that collectively add up to big reductions in emissions.

Anything that lowers your personal carbon “footprint” is a good idea: using public transport when we can, engaging in active transport – cycling and/or walking, flying less (and offsetting when we do fly), eating less or no red meat, making sure our homes are well-insulated, buying an electric vehicle (if we’re looking for a new car), and so on.

Using public transport more, walking and cycling more and driving and flying less may cost us less, while insulating homes and buying electric vehicles cost more up front, something many household budgets will struggle with.

But the most important thing we can do is talk. Talk about climate change. Make it as much a part of the daily conversation as the cricket or the rugby. Talk about the magnitude and the urgency of climate change with family/whānau, with neighbours and local community, with workmates, and most importantly with our elected representatives in local and central government.

Here we are then.

Talk.

Government policy sets the tone for how society operates, and signals to the business sector where to invest in our future. If all of us sent a single email to our electorate MP demanding climate action, the volume of mail would be bound to get a response!

Political activism by school students going on “climate strike” shows what’s possible in terms of gaining attention and shifting the conversation.

Is it appropriate for an academic, a climate scientist, to be encouraging political activism?

It now seems clear that the people, the general public, will need to speak out before there is meaningful political change.

New Zealand as a country should see climate change as an opportunity, to lead the world and to help other countries. If any country can become 100 per cent fossil-free, it has to be New Zealand, with our abundance of water, wind and sunshine. Being at the forefront of green technology is bound to be good for business, for investment and for the economy.

I would like to see something far more substantive than “being at the forefront of green technology is bound to be good for business” – academics should be showing how it will be good for business, not just seemingly wishing and hoping as this looks like.

I would love to see us achieve 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2025, and see government raise the price of carbon via changes to the ETS or via a carbon tax, as that will push the business sector in the right direction. Money raised could be used to incentivise purchase of electric vehicles, to improve public transport, and to support lower-income New Zealanders disadvantaged by carbon charging or by the direct effects of climate change.

The sooner we start down this path, as a country, with all sectors on board, the sooner we’ll achieve the changes we need as a country, and as a global community. Some of our nearest neighbours in the Pacific are some of the most at-risk communities and it’s my feeling that we have a moral obligation to them to do all we can.

It’s my feeling that academics like climate scientists have a professional obligation to show us whether our efforts will make any difference significant and sustainable difference to other countries (and our own).

Showing other countries how it’s done and then helping others tread the same path is a vital role this country can play, now and in the future.

How vital?

What if the green business dream doesn’t add up? What if climate change changes set back the New Zealand economy?

What if we manage to become a bit more ‘sustainable’ as a country but other countries take little or no notice?

Climate science shows that, probably, we have significant problems looming unless we can change change things significantly.

But I don’t see climate scientists doing anywhere enough to convince me that their proposed solutions are going to work, and that their proposed solutions don’t pose more risks than the problems they are trying to overcome.

Things like reducing energy use, especially fossil fuel energy use, and reducing waste and pollution, are worthy things we should all be considering and doing regardless.

But if we are to launch into major changes to our way of life I’d like to see far better plans and predictions for how this might pan out, including possible risks and down sides.

Political activism will only work successfully if well reasoned cases are made.

Climate scientists may have made a fairly good case for the likelihood humans are stuffing things up and need to reduce and repair the damage we have caused and are causing.

But I haven’t yet seen decent cases made for some of the changes that climate activists are suggesting. Until that is done I doubt whether the general population will get on board the change train.

What each of us do to tackle climate change will depend on feasible cases being made for the changes being asked for by activists.

Climate change linked by Greens to inequality, power, corporations

It’s common to see Greens link climate change and environmental issues with a major reform of the world’s financial and business systems.

They don’t seem to recognise the good that large companies, big money and corporations have done for the world. They have also inflicted significant problems. But is a war on big business the best way to combat climate change?

One of the ways of dealing with climate issues is to develop alternatives. Socialist style governments are unlikely to lead the way or succeed there.

The motives of the Greens are admirable, but the means with which they want to achieve major change is, at best, a huge experiment that is certain to be difficult to achieve smoothly if at all.

 

Climate change rulebook ‘breakthrough’

A ‘robust set of guidelines’ for implementing the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement have been agreed on after extended sessions at COP24 in Poland.

Minister of Climate Change James Shaw says that the agreement on a rulebook is ‘a breakthrough’, while National spokesperson Todd Muller describes it as a “solid step forward”.

However agreement could not be reached on how to operationalize market mechanisms. Countries will try to finalise agreement on this at COP25 next year.

United Nations: New Era of Global Climate Action To Begin Under Paris Climate Change Agreement

Governments have adopted a robust set of guidelines for implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The implementation of the agreement will benefit people from all walks of life, especially the most vulnerable.

The agreed ‘Katowice Climate Package’ is designed to operationalize the climate change regime contained in the Paris Agreement. Under the auspices of the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, it will promote international cooperation and encourage greater ambition.

The guidelines will promote trust among nations that all countries are playing their part in addressing the challenge of climate change.

The President of COP24, Mr. Michal Kurtyka of Poland, said: “All nations have worked tirelessly. All nations showed their commitment. All nations can leave Katowice with a sense of pride, knowing that their efforts have paid off. The guidelines contained in the Katowice Climate Package provide the basis for implementing the agreement as of 2020”.

The Katowice package includes guidelines that will operationalize the transparency framework.

It sets out how countries will provide information about their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that describe their domestic climate actions. This information includes mitigation and adaptation measures as well as details of financial support for climate action in developing countries.

The package also includes guidelines that relate to:

  • The process for establishing new targets on finance from 2025 onwards to follow-on from the current target of mobilizing USD 100 billion per year from 2020 to support developing countries
  • How to conduct the Global Stocktake of the effectiveness of climate action in 2023
  • How to assess progress on the development and transfer of technology

The UN’s Climate Chief, Ms. Patricia Espinosa said: “This is an excellent achievement! The multilateral system has delivered a solid result. This is a roadmap for the international community to decisively address climate change”.

These global rules are important to ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for.

In this way, progress towards the emission limitation goals of the Paris Agreement can be accurately measured.

“From the beginning of the COP, it very quickly became clear that this was one area that still required much work and that the details to operationalize this part of the Paris Agreement had not yet been sufficiently explored”, explained Ms. Espinosa.

“After many rich exchanges and constructive discussions, the greatest majority of countries were willing to agree and include the guidelines to operationalize the market mechanisms in the overall package”, she said.

“Unfortunately, in the end, the differences could not be overcome”.

Because of this, countries have agreed to finalise the details for market mechanisms in the coming year in view of adopting them at the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP25).

Euronews: What is the COP24 climate change rulebook and why do we need it?

The landmark 2015 deal aims to limit global temperature rises to “well below” two degrees Celsius.

The talks hit several stumbling blocks and went into overtime on Saturday.

“It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical”, chairman of the talks, Michal Kurtyka, said.

A consensus was finally reached when ministers managed to break a deadlock between Brazil and other countries over the accounting rules for the monitoring of carbon credits, deferring much of the discussion to next year.

So it is a work in progress.

Some countries and environmental groups say the COP24 rulebook does not provide a sufficient response to the impacts of climate change.

“COP24 failed to deliver a clear commitment to strengthen all countries’ climate pledges by 2020,” Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe said in a statement.

“Governments have again delayed adequate action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. The EU needs to push ahead and lead by example, by providing more support to poor countries and increasing its climate pledge before the UN Secretary-General Summit in September 2019,” the group’s director, Wendel Trio, said.

NZ Herald: Green Party co-leader James Shaw says new climate change rulebook is a ‘breakthrough’

Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who was co-facilitating some of the talks, told reporters this morning that the newly agreed rulebook was “a breakthrough.”

Shaw said the rulebook would help “galvanise action” as it puts every country in the Paris agreement on the same playing field.

“The Paris agreement said what we wanted to do, it didn’t say a great deal about how we wanted to do it.”

The new rules do this and would mean the momentum towards action on climate change should be increased, he said.

The 2015 Paris accord put a 2020 deadline on all countries to increase the commitment they are making towards lowering net emissions.

“I think this [the rulebook] is quite a big breakthrough in terms of ensuring we get the momentum towards that.”

Shaw said one of the single greatest parts of the rulebook was the rules around transparency.

Now, countries would be accountable for doing what they said they would do in terms of policies put in place to cut emissions.

“If you have a robust transparency regime it means the Paris rulebook has a very solid central spine to it,” Shaw said.

Muller, who also attended the conference,  said it was a “solid step forward”.

Muller said the gains around transparency were very important.

“New Zealanders are keen to see that we do our proportional effort… but it’s important we see other countries put their shoulder to the wheel too in terms of genuine change.”

One of the major sticking points in the talks was agreeing on how developed countries would help developing countries meet the goal.

He said it was “challenging” to hammer out rulebook with some many different countries at the table.

“Given how long we have overrun and how difficult it got, the fact that [the rulebook] is as good as it is, is a very pleasant surprise.”

Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the Paris agreement so the US didn’t sign up.

“I know the US has a problematic relationship with the Paris agreement, but pretty much everyone else in the world is just getting on with it,” Shaw told reporters when asked about the US’ absence.

The US is a major emitter so this is a notable absence.

Russel Norman is not happy with the COP24 outcome.

Greenpeace NZ Executive Director, and former Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said although the rulebook was agreed, there was no clear collective commitment to enhance climate action targets.

He is called on the Government to bring agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme – something the Government is in the process of considering.

The rulebook is a step, but each country needs to take tangible action, including New Zealand. Agricultural emissions are a contentious issue here.

 

 

COP24 climate talks go into overtime seeking agreement

The final session of the COP24 climate talks in Poland has been postponed several times as more than 100 ministers and more than 1,000 negotiators try to work out their differences on how the ‘Paris Rulebook’, trying to define how pledges frokm the 2015 Paris accord will be put into action.

What is COP24?

COP24 is the informal name for the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The UNFCCC is a “Rio Convention”, one of three adopted at the “Rio Earth Summit” in 1992. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994. Today, it has near-universal membership. The countries that have ratified the Convention are called Parties to the Convention. Preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme body of the UNFCCC Convention. It consists of the representatives of the Parties to the Convention. It holds its sessions every year. The COP takes decisions which are necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of the Convention and regularly reviews the implementation of these provisions.

COP24 negotiations: Why reaching agreement on climate action is so complex

From Tuesday on, close to 100 Government ministers are due be involved in negotiating a final deal on moving forward with climate action here at the United Nations COP24 conference in Poland.

“We cannot fail in Katowice,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the opening ceremony, on 3 December.

President of COP24, Michał Kurtyka, who stated: “Without success in Katowice, there is no success in Paris.”

In the French capital, three years ago, countries agreed to do everything they could to keep global temperature rises to well under 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.

Now, in Katowice, Poland – with 2018 chosen by the parties themselves as the deadline for the adoption of implementation guidelines or a “work programme” to move forward with – the 197 parties of the UN Climate Chance Convention (UNFCCC) are gathered to agree on how they will achieve the Paris commitments collectively, build trust among each nation, and bring the 2015 agreement to life.

Historically, multilateral climate negotiations have been difficult, as countries often attempt to protect their national interests, including economic ones.

That is why the commitments made in Paris were hailed as groundbreaking in many ways. In addition to the 2°C/1.5°C target, the deal included commitments to: ramp up financing for climate action, including financial support from industrialised nations to developing countries; develop national climate plans by 2020, with self-determined goals and targets; protect ecosystems, including forests; strengthen adaptation and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

Agreeing on how to make all of the above happen, is a politically and technically complex matter that sometimes conflicts with a variety of local realities, country categorisations, scientific questions, money issues, and ultimately, brings into question the ever-so complicated notion of trust among nations.

1. A common goal, but different parties, different realities

The first point of tension here is that some countries feel the need for global action more acutely than others.

2. Country categories

The Climate Change Convention, adopted in 1992, divides its 197 parties into two main groups: the industrialized group of 43 nations, and the developing group of 154, including 49 “least developed countries”.

The climate action contributions and responsibilities of each group differ with regards to how transparently and regularly they communicate their actions and provision of support; especially in terms of finance or technology-transfer, now, and in the long term.

Because the two groups were established more than 25 years ago, and taking into account that national socio-economic situations have evolved over time, some parties feel that the composition of these groups should be reassessed as we look to implement the Paris commitments. However, there is no process to change this grouping – and none is planned or anticipated – another complex point for this COP.

3. ‘Welcoming’ or ‘noting’ the science?

To facilitate the political discussions and ground them in fact, various scientific reports are being considered at COP24. One of them is last October’s landmark Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5˚C, prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), drawn up by hundreds of scientists from around the world. The report, commissioned as part of the Paris Agreement, states that limiting the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial era, remains possible, but will require an “unprecedented” shift in every aspect of our societies.

While all countries acknowledge the need to tackle climate change, one of the debates here at the COP is whether the IPCC report should be officially “welcomed” or merely “noted.” This seemingly small language technicality raises a critical question: to what degree should policy be based on science?

4. The ever-so thorny question of financing

Climate action – which requires new technology, infrastructure and skills – represents a cost that some nations, especially the least developed and most vulnerable, cannot carry alone. In Paris, donor nations committed to mobilising $100 billion every year to fund climate action in developing countries, starting in 2020. This figure would include public and private contributions, which renders the reporting quite complex… Countries are arguing on how close we are to meeting that target and whether it will be met by 2020.

Another burning issue is the lack of clarity over what constitutes “climate finance”, as many countries report some of their “development aid” as “climate action aid”.

5. Guidelines for true trust among nations

All the countries recognize the need for guidelines to be in place, so they can move on to implementing the Paris Agreement, and they are all mindful of the 2018 deadline. However, if we are to course-correct fast and well, efforts and investments are required – including in economic transition, ambitious reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, technology exchange and knowledge-sharing.

What it all comes down to, is the ephemeral trust among nations, an important element that can only be realized if tangible transparency measures are in place.

“We have no time for limitless negotiations,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres. “A completed work programme will unleash the potential of the Paris Agreement. It will build trust and make clear that countries are serious about addressing climate change,” he stressed.

“Many political divisions remain. Many issues still must be overcome,” said the head of the UNFCCC secretariat, Patricia Espinosa, as she launched the high-level segment on Tuesday.

It’s not surprising there are many divisions and differences on how to minimise the effects of climate change.

Reuters – Climate Conference Notebook: Climate talks go into overtime

Climate change talks billed as the most important U.N. conference since the 2015 Paris global warming deal are in their last week in Katowice, capital of Poland’s coal mining district.

The irony of the location of the talks has prompted comments.

The United Nations climate conference in the Polish city of Katowice went into overtime on Saturday after intensive shuttle diplomacy overnight by ministers, negotiators and delegates from nearly 200 countries trying to find common ground on rules to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Initially scheduled to end on Friday, the Polish presidency of the talks has several times postponed the final plenary session after it released a draft of the deal, as it holds last minute talks with various parties to smooth out differences.

A plenary has been scheduled for 1100 GMT on Saturday, while the time of a final joint closing session has been changed a few times in the last two hours.

One sticking point that has held up the negotiations is the issue of emissions counting cited in Article 6 of the Paris Agreement regarding market-based mechanisms to combat climate change.

Bits and pieces of the draft agreement were published early on Saturday, but the main body of the text is still to be released.

Haggard activists, observers and reporters try to catch a quick sleep on their desks, chairs and wherever they can. Some hope the talks will not drag on until Sunday, fearing potential complications in their families’ plans for Christmas.

I think that sorting out the climate and saving the world might take some precedence over Christmas plans for one year.

Haggard activists, observers and reporters try to catch a quick sleep on their desks, chairs and wherever they can. Some hope the talks will not drag on until Sunday, fearing potential complications in their families’ plans for Christmas.

New Zealand Climate Change Minister James has extended his stay at the conference – see “This is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake”.

Other coverage:

COP24 is the first time since Paris that countries are actually talking with each other about going beyond their initial commitments. That’s why this meeting is so important. That’s also why scientists and activists are pushing for even more ambitious commitments to reduce emissions in the final days of the negotiations.

The outcome of the negotiations became increasingly uncertain after President Trump in 2017 announced he would withdraw the United States from the accord.

Though the United States has managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions while growing its economy, largely by switching from coal to natural gas, other countries have yet to satiate their appetites for dirty energy. China, for examples, emits more greenhouse gases than the United States and Europe combined, and its emissions are still growing.

As Vox’s David Roberts has explained, the United States is undermining the success of the Paris agreement. It’s not just that Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the accord. The Trump administration has gone as far as to gleefully taunt delegates at COP24 with a panel promoting the use of more coal.

So when the world’s second-largest carbon dioxide emitter decides not to play ball, it drastically weakens how much other countries can be shamed or prodded into limiting their emissions.

That in turn makes it more difficult to secure investments in clean energy, since the regulatory environment has become more volatile.

The US’s actions have given some cover to other countries who are less than enthralled with the prospect of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

This issue has bedevilled climate negotiations for many years as developing countries seek recognition and compensation for the damages caused by rising temperatures.

The idea of being legally liable for causing climate change has long been rejected by richer nations, who fear huge bills well into the future.

At these talks, the question of loss and damage only features as a footnote in the text at present, something that has irritated developing countries.

In the thick of it all has been the Australian delegation, which has been walking a tightrope between the Paris obligations and support for fossil fuels.

In a defining moment at COP24, protesters disrupted a pro-fossil fuel event on Monday that had been organised by the Trump administration.

On stage, the only non-American panellist at the event was Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment, Patrick Suckling.

“Fossil fuels are projected to be a source of energy for a significant time to come,” Mr Suckling said.

While that may be an economic reality, and a practical reality, it is something that wil dismay those seeking radical and rapid transition away from fossil fuels.

People hold three identical signs, with pictures of a clock ticking towards 12, and "Our goal: End coal!"

Climate activists attend the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland. (AP: Alik Keplicz)

“This is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake”

Minister of Climate Change James Shaw has been at the COP24 conference in Poland (he is still there, having extended his stay in the hope that something might be decided). Anything agreed on will govern countries’ efforts in adhering to their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

RNZ – Climate talks: ‘The levels of concern are so different’ – Shaw

One of the sticking points is whether efforts under the Kyoto Protocol will count towards Paris. Essentially, countries can’t agree on how they’ll count their greenhouse gas emissions, or their efforts to reduce them.

Mr Shaw told reporters this morning these were technical matters negotiators had been grappling with for three years. “Frankly, they should’ve gotten past that kind of detail before all the ministers showed up for the final three days,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Mr Shaw said a big frustration for him was the differences in countries’ commitments to fighting the effects of climate change.

“On one side you’ve got countries who are saying that they want a set of rules that are quite permissive and lets them do things, because they’re worried about the potential impact on their Gross Domestic Product.

“On the other hand, you’ve got a group of countries who are saying ‘this is an existential question for us, and our very survival as a culture and as a people is at stake’.”

That’s a big statement. perhaps Shaw is right, or maybe he just believes that everyone has to change to his way of thinking and living or they are doomed. It’s a bit like a religious thing – if you don’t believe in Green heaven you will go to hell.

 

 

‘Human-caused climate change is transforming the Arctic’

The Arctic is experiencing a period of unparalleled warmth “that is unlike any period on record,” according to the 2018 Arctic Report Card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (United States Department of Commerce).

According to the report  human-caused climate change is transforming the Arctic, both physically through the reduction of sea ice, and biologically through reductions in wildlife populations and introduction of marine toxins and algae.

– Arctic Report Card: Update for 2018 – Tracking recent environmental changes, with 14 essays prepared by an international team of 81 scientists from 12 different countries and an independent peer-review organized by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Arctic Council.

Temperatures in the Arctic are warming more than twice as fast as the overall planet’s average temperature, with temperatures this year in the highest latitudes (above 60 degrees north) coming in 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.1 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1981-2010 average. These were the second warmest (behind 2016) air temperatures ever recorded during the Arctic year, which runs from October through September to avoid splitting the winter season.

The five years since 2014 have been warmer than any other years in the historical record, which goes back to 1900. Although Arctic temperatures have been subject to wild swings back and forth through the decades due to natural variability, they have been consistently warmer than average since 2000 and at or near record since 2014, the report states.

“The changes we are witnessing in the Arctic are sufficiently rapid that they cannot be explained without considering our impacts on the chemistry of the atmosphere,” Thomas Mote, a research scientist at the University of Georgia who authored part of the report, told CNN in an email.

The report is yet another study from part of the US government indicating that climate change is real and having a profound impact, despite denials from the President and senior members of his Administration.

 2018 Arctic Report Card peer-reviewed report

Threats of sea level rise, security implications of climate change

An Otago University research paper warns that the effects of sea level rise will impact most on vulnerable people (that’s likely), while a Defence Assessment “identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time”.

While it is still debatable how much the sea level is likely to rise there is no doubt it has been (slowly) rising over the past half century.

Some still say nothing should be done about climate change, but academics and officials are at least thinking and writiing reports about possible effects and implications.

RNZ:  Sea level rise threatens major NZ infrastructure – report

The burden of sea-level rise will weigh on the most vulnerable unless a new approach is developed and legislated, a new report says.

The paper, written by University of Otago Associate Professor Lisa Ellis, is part of research from the Deep South National Science Challenge. It looks at how New Zealand distributes the risks of sea-level rise.

It proposes an “ethically robust” policy to adapt to the risks of climate change.

Tens of thousands of buildings, infrastructure including airports, railways, and roads, and more than 100,000 residents are at risk of serious loss and damage associated with sea-level rise within the next century.

Dunedin’s airport is low lying, and has already flooded.

Image result for dunedin airport flooded

Flooding on the Taieri Plain, 1980 (airport in lower half of photo)

Rising sea levels and predicted more rain and storms would make this sort of ‘100 year flood’ more common.

South Dunedin in also low lying (it is reclaimed swamp) and has flooded in recent years.

Prof Ellis said sea-level rise was entirely predictable but if New Zealand was proactive about adaptation to climate change, peoples’ wellbeing would not be threatened.

But she said it was possible existing inequality would be exacerbated and the cost of adapting to climate change would rise if the status quo remained.

Her report recommended a government resource about adapting to sea-level rise nationwide, so community resilience did not vary with ratepayers’ ability to pay.

At local level the public should be engaged as early and deeply as possible.

Also from RNZ:  Sea level rise threatens major NZ infrastructure (audio)

Local Government New Zealand: Young and vulnerable shouldn’t shoulder sea-level rise burden

A report released this morning by the Deep South National Science Challenge supports LGNZ’s call for a national framework to deal with sea-level rise, saying that New Zealand’s youngest and most vulnerable are at risk of shouldering the burden if we don’t act now.

“Preliminary findings from our upcoming sea-level rise report shows that billions of dollars of local government roading, water and public transport infrastructure is at risk from as little as half a metre of sea-level rise.  That’s not including private buildings and houses, including potentially billions of dollars in residential real estate,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“Areas like South Dunedin illustrate just how difficult it is to adapt to climate change without hitting lower socio-economic families in the pocket, so we need a national plan that doesn’t leave anyone behind.”

“Local government stands alongside our communities on the front line in the fight against climate change, but we can’t do it alone – we need central government to set stronger, national rules around risk and liability to property owners in the path of sea-level rise.”

Research from NIWA reveals that sea level rise in New Zealand has increased from 1.7mm a year over the past century, to 4.4mm a year since 1993, which is higher than the global average.  In combination with more severe weather events, storm surges and king tides, sea-level rise presents a huge problem for coastal businesses and residents.

“We need to treat sea-level rise the way we do earthquakes, and that requires a national strategy that gives councils a stronger platform on which to make decisions about building in high-risk areas.”

Ministers of Defence, Climate Change: Defence Assessment on Climate Change and Security Released

Minister of Defence Ron Mark and Minister for Climate Change James Shaw have today released a Defence Assessment on the security implications of climate change.

The Climate Crisis: Defence Readiness and Responsibilities explores the implications of climate change for New Zealand Defence Force operations.

It identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time, and one that is already having adverse impacts both at home and in New Zealand’s neighbourhood.

“This Government is committed to ensuring New Zealand does its part to address climate change,” says Ron Mark.  “This means both contributing to mitigating climate change itself, and working with our international partners to respond to the intensifying impacts climate change will bring.

“Earlier this year the Government’s Strategic Defence Policy Statement recognised climate change will have a big impact on Defence operations, particularly in the Pacific.

“It proceeded to highlight that disruptive weather patterns are causing an increased frequency and intensity of weather extremes such as cyclones, rainfall events, droughts, and flooding from sea level rise. In addition, the state of the Southern Ocean is changing, meaning our current vessels are getting close to the limits of being able to operate safely.

“Therefore it stands to reason that we needed to look deeper in order to better understand the social and security implications of climate change, and what our Defence Force will face when it responds to these weather events.

“The Coalition Government already has a work programme underway to help alleviate the effects of climate change.  This includes re-energised Pacific policy settings, the development of a new climate change law, and the commitment to make 100 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity renewable by 2035,” says James Shaw.

The assessment has been produced by the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the New Zealand Defence Force, other New Zealand agencies, Pacific partners and academics.

https://www.defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/the-climate-crisis-defence-readiness-and-response

There is certain to be a lot of ongoing talk about the possible effects and implications of climate change and sea level rise, but it is yet to be seen whether there will be any significant action.

Concerns about a climate revolution, particularly post-revolution

I support reducing carbon emissions.

I support reducing use of plastics.

I support moving towards much less reliance on fossil fuels.

I support reducing pollution generally.

I support healthier diets.

I have concerns about the form and degree of consumerism that has become deeply embedded in modern culture.


I have major concerns about attempts to launch the world into a revolution, purportedly to reverse climate change, that would have huge and often irreversible effects on the planet and on the world population.

One of my biggest concerns is the seeming lack of a credible post revolution plan.

I am extremely concerned about what seems like a highly idealistic ‘revolt and hope’ mindset.

Perhaps someone can explain what a post-climate revolution world might look like.

Can we save the planet without a revolution?

Can we save our planet with a revolution?

How much risk of making things worse from a revolution?

Another post promoting revolution to save the planet, from Damon Rusden at Pundit – Can we save the planet without a revolution?

The short answer is no; the long answer requires an explanation of what form that revolution will take.

I don’t know how he can be certain about that. Revolution implies drastic and rapid changes – I don’t know how many governments will risk going down that path.

After protests in France over fuel tax increases the Government there has just suspended the fuel tax – French PM announces suspension of fuel tax hikes after ‘Yellow Vest’ protests

The backpedaling by President Emmanuel Macron’s government appeared designed to calm the nation, coming three days after the worst unrest on the streets of Paris in decades.

“No tax is worth putting the nation’s unity in danger,” Philippe said, just three weeks after insisting that the government wouldn’t change course in its determination to wean French consumers off polluting fossil fuels.

A more pertinent question is whether revolution is possible without provoking counter-revolts. France just tried one tax rise, hardly a revolutionary step.

Rusden:

We all know we’re shafting the planet, and headlines every other week are making sure we don’t forget. As another Conference of the Parties (COP) conference kicks off this week – this time in Poland, this time called COP24 – we have been warned that decisive action in the next two years will be crucial.

The real problem is the solution; collectively we are still failing to meet our climate targets (by a lot) even after the heralded Paris Agreement and a global consensus on the dangers threatening us as a species. The issues need to be placed in the context of survival, because that’s what is causing this zero-sum game. The survival of our existing economic paradigm or the entire biosphere.

We cannot continue to be aware of the risks which come as a cause of climate change and believe that changing our coffee cups, picking up litter on a Sunday or buying solar panels will subdue the wave of destruction that is approaching.

This battle is not one we can win individually, nor can we afford to be content with micronized solutions.

There are many practical solutions which are put forward. A change of consumption is one method. Less meat, less agriculture, more forests. While this seems a feasible solution, it is simply too slow and too mired in development debate.

So if we accept that it is our imbedded, ‘extractionism’ method of production which is destroying the planet, we as individuals are not at fault and we’re running out of time, what do we do?

Hold those accountable responsible. Whatever form this takes.

Prosecution of the genuine polluters – the oil companies, agriculture giants, unsustainable logging companies and political enablers. There is precedent in local and international courts, but there would need to be serious political will.

Pressure politicians. While some governments are moving in the right direction, no change has come about from a complacent public. Some of the biggest changes have come from a local campaign at a council level and climbed up the governance hierarchy.

As what has just happened in France shows, there can also be strong opposition to change.

There has been a concerted effort over the past decade or so to embed Green activists in councils at local level and try to generate a revolution from there, but even relatively modest changes like installing cycle lanes and removing car parks has been controversial and contentious.

There is growing annoyance here in Dunedin over the disruptions caused by putting in cycle lanes that are hardly used, while road traffic flow is noticeably getting worse.

Public demand for taxpayers’ money to be used exclusively for green investment; ACC and the Super Fund are billion-dollar investment portfolios and could have a real impact. Some banks and universities have also done so due to public pressure.

  • Boycott. As individuals we cannot do much; as a collective we can do more. Polluting industries will respond. Awareness campaigns across the globe prove this.
  • Strike. Workers are the ones who produce; if there is no production there is no pollution. Strikes are an important part of workplace relations and bosses will get the message.
  • Shut it down. Hard to argue this wouldn’t make it clear that we want an immediate transition.

All of this must be done comprehensively.

We cannot continue extraction, production and materialism on the levels we are now. We cannot continue to live in isolation, or pretend that unrealised technology will save us. We must radically change the way we function, at the source. With direct action. And we have about ten years left to do so.

That is not going to be easy (to get public support and to get Government compliance).

And there is no guarantee that any revolution would succeed.

Nor is there any guarantee that adverse reactions and unintended consequences won’t make things worse.

It has already provoked violent counter-protests in France.  That sort of reaction could get much worse.

The poor people of the world would become more vulnerable – they would bear most of the brunt of radical changes. Richer people can more easily afford to adapt (or avoid).

It would be a very risky experiment with no way of knowing what the outcome would be.


From Hawkes Bay Today last year: (Damon Rusden: Our reliance on a failed model) – Damon Rusden is a politics international relations and public policy student at Victoria University. He is the Green Party candidate for Napier in the upcoming general elections.

His views seem to have not been very popular in last year’s election – Napier electorate:

  • Candidate votes 1,386 (3.63%)
  • Green electorate vote 1,938 (5.00%)