“Collapse of our civilisations” unless “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”

The climate change debate is ramping up internationally, and there are attempts to get a revolution off the ground here in New Zealand.

Rapid and far reaching changes in all aspects of society? Most people resist even moderate levels of change. And rapid change means high risks of unintended consequences.

Are we facing “the collapse of our civilisations” if we don’t accept rapid change?

Recent world headlines:

Deutsche Welle –  Germany protests call for leadership on climate action

From Berlin to Cologne, protesters have gathered to demand more from the government in the fight against climate change. Greenpeace said Germany must lead, and that means phasing out coal by 2030.

Euronews – COP24: Tens of thousands of climate change protesters march in Brussel

Tens of thousands of climate change protesters marched through Brussels on Sunday as the UN’s COP24 conference began in Poland.

The protest’s organisers estimated a record breaking 75,000 people took part, making it the biggest climate change march to have taken place in Belgium.

“We demand more ambition from our Belgian decision makers on the European and international level,” Climate Coalition Nicolas Van Nuffel said. “But this ambition also needs to be realised at the Belgian level. Since 2012, we have been waiting for a national plan for the climate which implies a strategy, in the short and long term.”

RNZ:  David Attenborough tells UN climate talks ‘time is running out’

The naturalist Sir David Attenborough has said climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years.

The broadcaster said it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of “much of the natural world”.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

Sir David said: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change.

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

Once force behind this rise in activism: Extinction Rebellion

FIGHT FOR LIFE

We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. The government has failed to protect us. To survive, it’s going to take everything we’ve got.

Extinction Rebellion is a campaign by the  network. We aim to promote a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm.

Here in New Zealand last year Jacinda Ardern said that climate change was our new ‘nuclear free moment’, and also talked our climate change stance up at the United nations, but has since been criticised for not matching her words with appropriate action.

(The Spinoff) – What’s behind the surge of new energy in the climate movement?

Tired of the procrastination and timidity of government-led change, climate rage is now ripe for rebellion. Cordelia Lockett explains why. 

All mouth and no trousers. That pretty much sums up New Zealand’s response to climate change. A lot of words but little demonstrable action.

Our new government is promising large but delivering light.

However, that may all be about to change. In the last month, there’s been a sudden surge of new energy in the climate movement. In the United States, several cities (sensibly circumventing any hope of leadership at a federal level) have declared a state of climate emergency. The dynamic new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is championing a visionary Green New Deal: a mobilisation plan to rapidly reduce carbon while simultaneously addressing associated social problems.

Australian kids are skipping school to protest about the climate. And in Britain a new people’s movement has emerged – Extinction Rebellion – which is disrupting the streets and spreading like wildfire.

In early October this year, the IPCC released a special report highlighting the catastrophic consequences of allowing global temperature increase to exceed 1.5 degrees. The tone was stronger and scarier than previous reports, and the wording unequivocal.

To have any hope of getting climate change under control we need to halve emissions by about 2030 and then drive them steadily down to zero by 2050.

And to do so, it says, would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. That sounds to me like systemic change: a social, political and economic transformation, no less.

Our Prime Minister regularly mentions the issue in her speeches, even saying climate change is her generation’s nuclear-free moment. I agree. But where’s the bold programme of policy initiatives to match the strong words and size of the problem? We need leaders who act, not just talk about acting. Let’s do this.

The government needs first to acknowledge the scale and urgency of the problem by declaring a climate emergency and develop a credible plan to decarbonise the economy as quickly and as justly as possible. To do this will require a decent-sized tax on carbon and methane. Cars and cows: a scary agenda for many Kiwis, admittedly.

A massive education and social marketing campaign would help communicate the need for widespread change. This should focus on the financial and other costs of inaction, as well as the multiple benefits of a comprehensive, transition to a fossil-free, climate-protecting society.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) is a mass movement emerging from the long-standing UK social justice network Rising Up. It’s a response to climate inaction and incrementalism by governments, and instead advocates non-violent direct action and civil disobedience. XR’s radical campaign is sweeping through Europe and beyond. Local groups have cropped up all over the UK, and the spark has already caught fire in Canada, Germany, Sweden, the United States, Australia, Denmark, Czech Republic, France, Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, Scotland, Spain, Norway, India, Italy, Solomon Islands.

And Aotearoa. Here, there are groups springing up in short order: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Thames, Waihi, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Nelson and Tauranga.

But why now?  Was it that latest IPCC report? Or the WWF announcing that we’ve wiped out 60% of the world’s vertebrate animals? Or the wildfires in California killing 88 people – with 200 still missing – and demolishing a whole township? Or the record-smashing Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures? Or just an idea whose time has come?

The speed of the XR pile-on shows a thirst for something big, a grand project. And collective direct action is a great vessel in which to pour one’s climate-related anger, fear and despair. It’s collegial and energising. Tired of the procrastination and timidity of government-led change and frightened by what is being called a direct existential threat, climate rage finally has a home.

It’s something of a cliche, but New Zealand really could be world-leading in its climate response. We have a vibrant indigenous culture of kaitiakitanga, practical virtues of courage and hard work, moral values of equality and harmony with the environment, and a legacy of taking radical political initiatives which have global impact. We can do it again with the climate crisis. It’s not only necessary: it may just be possible.

Are we heading towards “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, or, as Attenboriugh claims, we face “the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

 

More on Stuff’s climate change conversation control

Not surprisingly there has been a lot of discussion on Stuff’s decision to exclude climate change “scepticism” from articles and discussions. See Anti-climate change comments no longer allowed.

I linked to that post on Twitter and got this response:

In political debates ‘ignorance’ and ‘differing views’ are often confused. There seems to be increasing attempts to shut down discussion at variance to one’s political view – this is common from political activists, but when major media like Stuff do it, it becomes alarming.

A key quote from Stuff:

Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react. We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time. The experts have debunked denialism, so now we’ll move on.

I think it is alarming that they implied that “scepticism” of an issue as reliant on science as climate change would be excluded. Scepticism is a fundamental tenet of science.

Using the term ‘denialism’ is also a concern – that is often used to dismiss any arguments that question and aspects of climate change and action to mitigate it.

It reminds me of people holding religious power condemning anyone who doesn’t by their dictates unquestioningly.

We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.

Certainly “hoax advocacy” and arguments that aren’t based on facts or commonly accepted science should not be supported, but Stuff implies they are going much further than that.

Adam Smith:  Stuff admits it is a biased rag and not a newspaper

This is totally disgraceful. A newspaper now saying it will censor any views that differ from the viewpoint it chooses to advocate for.

It means that all stories in Stuff should be read as opinions not as fact. It means their journalists are advocates, not reporters.

Whilst this may well have been the case for many years, their blatant disregaard for alternative views, especially in such a public way is very concerning.

Yet Stuff  should be applauded as well for openly stating their bias, but will they clearly state that bias when publishing articles on climate issues?

Clearly, they will not publish climate sceptical articles. In that regard it could well be argued, they are failing in a publication’s duty to hold authority to account.

That was also discussed at Reddit:

Stuff has a terrible comment section which does not encourage proper discourse, does not have adequate moderation against hate speech or racism, uses a completely pointless and easily rigged voting system, and only requires an email address to post anonymously.

For a news agency these are appalling standards in my opinion. As a news agency you should be holding yourself to certain standards when it comes to reporting the news and yet those standards are completely disregarded when it comes to their social media aspect. Why? Why work so hard on reporting in a quality fashion just to have all your readers scroll down to an absolute cesspit of a message board after they read the article and risk having that as their parting impression? Why open comments to controversial subjects when you’re well aware most people are just going to announce their opinion regardless of what your article has just said? Why claim you stand up for things you care about but allow users to post vile comments? Why close comments on hugely important but non-controversial issues?

Well, we know why. You don’t actually care. You want to retain visitors as long as possible and you know that engagement is the key and you clearly don’t give a fuck how they go about it. And this stand, this stand against climate deniers, is your attempt to try and claw back some iota of self-respect.

Your peers are closing their comment sections because they know it has failed miserably.

Like countless other news outlets, NPR found itself overwhelmed by trolls, anonymous contributors who had too often hijacked comment threads with offensive and inappropriate submissions.

Wise-up, Stuff.

I linked to my pos

Stuff seem to be limiting their coverage and discussion to “the appropriate response to climate change”. What an appropriate response is should still be very much up for discussion, and that should allow for questioning the responses that some advocate – some extreme responses are advocated by some, like rapidly eliminating the use of fossil fuels and halting meat production. Counter arguments should be allowed.

Anti-climate change comments no longer allowed

Anyone arguing against climate change happening can’t comment any more – don’t worry, not here, but that seems to be what Stuff are imposing on comments there.

I think that climate change is potentially a major problem facing our planet, and facing humankind. We are having a significant impact on the planet, and most probably on the climate.

I largely disagree with those who say there is nothing to worry about. We should be concerned, and we should be doing more to reduce the human impact on the climate and on the environment.

Not all climate change effects will be negative, some areas may benefit. But overall it poses a major risk, especially considering the huge and expanding human population and the need to feed everyone.

However we should not, must not close down arguments against climate change, or for natural climate change, or against doing anything. For a start, a basic premise of science is that it be continually questioned and challenged, no matter how strong the evidence is one way or another.

And there is a lot to debate about what we should be doing in response to our impact on the planet.

So censoring one side of a debate is a major concern to me. There are whacky extremes on both sides of the arguments. Why target just one side with censorship?

From The Standard: Stuff is banning climate change deniers from articles and comments

Congratulations to Stuff.  Instead of the endless on the one hand but on the other hand reporting, where on the other hand is nothing more than incomprehensible babble from the anti science right, they have adopted this policy:

Stuff accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.

The change in policy is accompanied by the announcement of a new series of stories and opinion pieces under the title of Quick! Save the planet which is described in this way:

Quick! Save the Planet – a long-term Stuff project launching today – aims to disturb our collective complacency. With insistent, inconvenient coverage, we intend to make the realities of climate change feel tangible – and unignorable.

This project accepts a statement that shouldn’t be controversial but somehow still is: climate change is real and caused by human activity.

Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react. We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time. The experts have debunked denialism, so now we’ll move on.

There were 268 comments to the editorial written by Editor in Chief Patrick Crewdson, mostly supportive, but a few were clearly testing the boundaries.

Well done Stuff.

It is great that the tide of opinion is flowing towards accepting climate change as a reality and working out what needs to be done.  The question will be is this too little too late.

Maybe, but it is not great to see a banning of opposing views. That is bad for debate, bad for democracy, and bad for science.

This is just one of a number of very concerning developments in trying to shut down free speech that are happening right now.

Two contrasting comments early in the Standard discussion:

Robert Guyton:

Stuff’s sidelining of deniers is bold and decisive – good on them. I made this point at our regional council meeting yesterday, with any closet deniers who might be sitting around the table, in mind. There was a squirm 🙂

Chris T:

Totally and utterly disagree.

Deniers of climate change are blind, but to censor differing views that are being put foward (that aren’t breaking swearing rules etc), no matter how stupid they are, or no matter how they may differ from yours, on topics that are as contentious as this, is ridiculous.

There is another argument currently about whether media should provide ‘balance’ by giving a voice to whacky extremes, or at least whether they should provide a forum for minority views with significant slants – Bob McCoskrie comes to mind.

Media articles should be balanced towards factual and scientifically backed information. They shouldn’t give anyone a voice who wants to spout nonsense, or extreme views. Media can choose what they publish.

But when they start to censor comments – free speech – I think they are getting into worrying territory.

Chris T: Is there a master list of topics people aren’t allowed to disagree with or do we just make it up as we go along?

mickysavage: Claiming that climate science is a Soros funded attempt at world government would be a start, saying that scientists are engaged in scare mongering for money is another and claiming that ice cover is actually increasing and that temperature increases have stalled for years is a third topic.

Wayne: Your list, especially the last two, looks indistinguishable from censorship.

Banning arguments against “ice cover is actually increasing” is a particular worry.

Ice cover actually increases every winter. Obviously it decreases in summer. It always varies with seasons. Most science generally suggests that ice cover is decreasing overall, but even with climate change (warming) it can increase in some areas.

The biggest danger facing our planet

Some people are very concerned about the future of our planet due to the predicted effects of climate change. Given the strength of scientific concern I think this is to an extent justified, although I think the degree of threat is still debatable, as is what should be done to minimise adverse effects. We need to balance against this probably positive effects, in some parts of the world at least.

I have concerns about climate change, but I’m not convinced it will be catastrophic unless we make huge and urgent changes to how we live as some seem to think.

I think there are greater threats to the planet, and also to human civilisation.

There appears to be a slight chance of a collision with an asteroid or some other piece of debris speeding around or into our solar system, However i think the odds of

A nuclear holocaust is one threat that hasn’t gone away. All it may take is one leader making a stupid decision that escalates. Or one mistake. Oddly most people don’t seem to care about this much any more, while countries like Russia and the US are looking at increasing their destructive power.

But I think there is a bigger threat to our planet. The odds are it won’t happen in our lifetimes, or this century. But it is certain to happen sometime, and with the current levels of human population it could easily be catastrophic.

It has happened before numerous times, including about 1500 years ago – they actually had a double whammy then.

CNN: The worst year to be a human has been revealed by researchers

A team of historians and scientists has identified A.D. 536 as the beginning of a terrible sequence of events for humankind.

A massive volcanic eruption spewed a huge cloud of ash that shrouded the Northern Hemisphere in darkness and caused a drop in temperatures that led to crop failure and starvation, said co-lead study author Professor Christopher Loveluck of the University of Nottingham in the UK.

Then the misery was compounded in A.D. 542 as cold and hungry populations in the eastern Roman Empire were struck by the bubonic plague.

Now, in collaboration with glaciologist Paul Mayewski at the Climate Change Institute of the University of Maine in Orono, Loveluck’s team has identified the source of the cloud.

By analyzing ice samples from the Colle Gnifetti Glacier in the Swiss Alps, the researchers were able to identify atmospheric pollutants deposited over the past 2,000 years, according to the study, published last week in the journal Antiquity.

Substances found in the ice provide evidence that the eruption took place in Iceland.

The eruption and the 542 plague outbreak caused economic stagnation in Europe, which lasted more than 30 years until 575, when there were early signs of recovery, Loveluck said.

There is certain to be another massive volcanic eruption at some time in the future. It could happen in Iceland again. or the Mediterranean. Or Alaska. Or the US or South America. Or Indonesia.

Or New Zealand.

Lake Taupo is in a caldera created by a supervolcanic eruption which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago. According to geological records, the volcano has erupted 28 times in the last 27,000 years.

…several later eruptions occurred over the millennia before the most recent major eruption, which is traditionally dated as about 180 CE from Greenland ice-core records. Tree ring data from two studies suggests a later date of 232 CE ± 5. Known as the Hatepe eruption, it is believed to have ejected 100 cubic kilometres of material, of which 30 cubic kilometres was ejected in a few minutes.

This was one of the most violent eruptions in the last 5000 years (alongside the Minoan eruption in the 2nd millennium BCE, the Tianchi eruption of Baekdu around 1000 CE and the 1815 eruption of Tambora), with a Volcanic Explosivity Index rating of 7; and there appears to be a correlation, to within a few years, of a year in which the sky was red over Rome and China.

The eruption devastated much of the North Island and further expanded the lake. The area was uninhabited by humans at the time of the eruption, since New Zealand was not settled by the Māori until about 1280. Possible climatic effects of the eruption would have been concentrated on the southern hemisphere due to the southerly position of Lake Taupo.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Taupo

An only southern hemisphere effect would have a major impact on the whole planet – but as “the sky was red over Rome and China” suggests it may not be limited to that.

There is nothing we can do to prevent a major eruption. Can we do anything to prepare, or to mitigate the effects? It could have an immediate and potentially catastrophic effect via sudden natural climate change.

Or should we just carry on arguing about what we are doing to affect climate change?

NZ scientists call for faster action on climate change

Again the Government is being pressured to live up to it’s hype on climate change. Jacinda Ardern said that climate change was her generation’s ‘nuclear free moment’.

A hundred and fifty ‘academics and researchers’ are ‘demanding bold and urgent action to tackle climate change’.

In August 2017: Jacinda’s speech to Campaign Launch

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.

Last month (October 2018):  Jacinda Ardern ‘upgrades position’ on climate change as nuclear-free moment

Jacinda Ardern says she has “upgraded my position” on her characterisation of climate change as her generation’s “nuclear-free moment”.

As part of a wide-ranging interview with the Spinoff, the prime minister said the challenge of climate change had one critical difference to the nuclear-movement. Then, “we were unified”, she said. “And yet what we’re doing on climate change – it is just that much harder, because it’s a call to action for everyone. And so I’m hoping we can get to the place of having that same unified moment that we had around nuclear free for climate change.”

It was an elaboration of a position she outlined in a speech to the One Planet Summit in New York last month. Then she identified the “stark difference between the nuclear free movement and climate change: unity”, adding: “In the past we were defined as a nation by the coming together for a cause, and now, as a globe, we need to do the same again. Not because of the benefits of unity, but because of the necessity of it.”

But ‘academics and researchers’ want action rather than words – Top academics call on government to take climate action

One hundred and fifty academics and researchers from around Aotearoa, including Dame Anne Salmond, Emeriti Professors and several Fellows of the Royal Society, have signed a strongly-worded open letter to the Government demanding bold and urgent action to tackle climate change.

I don’t know why Salmond has been highlighted – her own description: Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond, FNAS, FRSNZ, FBA, FAHNZ, DBE, CBE, Department of Māori Studies, University of Auckland.

The letter refers to the recent Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which contains its strongest message yet about the seriousness of the situation and the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5C. The report says we have about 12 years to make the dramatic reduction in global net carbon emissions necessary to get climate change under control. And, it says that to do so will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

“There’s a big gap between the severity of the warnings from the world’s most authoritative scientific body on climate change and the actions of our government. They need to be honest with us about the risks we’re facing and act accordingly” says senior lecturer Cordelia Lockett, who wrote and coordinated the letter.

“Cordelia Lockett, Senior Lecturer, Bridging Education, Unitec”

“Clearly, academics and researchers around the country are deeply concerned about climate breakdown and want the government to act swiftly and decisively.

“But it’s the wider New Zealand public as well. A survey from earlier this year showed that 79 percent of people believed climate action needs to start immediately. A large majority also said we need to meet or exceed our international commitments, and that we should act even if other countries don’t. The message is clear.”

Climate scientist Professor James Renwick:

“This government has shown a commitment to addressing climate change, including the Zero Carbon Bill and steps to limit fossil fuel prospecting, but it needs to ensure that its policies actually produce the deep and lasting emissions reductions required, especially in the transport, industry and agriculture sectors” .

An open letter to the NZ Government urging immediate action on climate change:

We the undersigned, representing diverse academic disciplines, call on the government to take robust and emergency action in response to the deepening ecological crisis. The science is clear, the facts are indisputable, and it is unacceptable to us that future generations in Aotearoa and globally should have to bear the terrifying consequences of climate breakdown.

Infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is not viable. And yet successive governments have promoted free-market principles which demand rampant consumerism and endless economic growth, thus allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise. If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is disastrous.

The recent special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is unequivocal. The world’s leading climate scientists warn that we have only 12 years to halve global emissions and get on track to avoid warming of more than 1.5C and catastrophic environmental breakdown. They have advocated urgent and unprecedented global action. As Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC working group says: “this is the moment and we must act now”. The message could not be clearer.

New Zealand has a history of taking courageous political initiatives which have had global influence. We can, and must, do it again with bold and urgent action on climate. New Zealand could lead the world by immediately developing a data-informed plan for rapid decarbonisation of the economy. We demand that the government meets its duty to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come.

Letter with 150 signatories (.docx)

They describe themselves as ‘top academics’ – I am not able to judge that – but their areas of speciality are diverse, including (words in their descriptions):

  • 1 with ‘climate’
  • 22 with ‘environment’
  • 5 with ‘psychology’
  • 2 with ‘creative arts’
  • 3 with ‘philosophy’
  • 5 with ‘sport’ or ‘physical education’
  • 8 with ‘architecture’
  • 4 with ‘community development’
  • 2 with ‘nursing’
  • 22 with ‘health’

Some have general descriptions that don’t rule out climate expertise.

Diversity of expertise could be a good thing but not all of the academics appear to be ‘top’ in climate science.

Also yesterday: Joint Statement by His Excellency Sebastián Piñera, President of the Republic of Chile, and the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern

The Leaders shared their concerns on climate change, noting the need to take urgent action.  They undertook to work together during the upcoming COP24 in December in Poland, in order to achieve an ambitious outcome that includes clear rules and procedures for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Chile and New Zealand share a common interest in collaborating to develop better climate policies, including carbon pricing mechanisms and developing national legal frameworks that address the specific needs of each country.

Note “noting the need to take urgent action”.

What urgent action is New Zealand taking?

Effects of climate change in the mountains and elsewhere

The effects of climate change are not just predicted and theoretical, they are real and observable. I have noticed changes here – more mild winters, the decrease in number and severity of frosts, and earlier flowering.

Not so visible changes from Reuters:

We know that the iconic Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are receding.

And observations from New Zealand mount climbers (in relation to the avalanche that killed two people in the Southern Alps this week) – Climbing tragedies: Why climate change is becoming a factor

Climbing guides Martin Hess and Wolfgang Maier were killed on Mt Hicks yesterday – and adventurer Jo Morgan was lucky to survive – after an early morning avalanche.

Climate change has become a factor in climbers’ decisions about when to venture into the Southern Alps.

While climbing in spring risks avalanches, climate change is – more frequently than in the past – presenting another obstacle for climbers who wait for summer.

Owner of Wanaka guiding company Adventure Consultants, Guy Cotter, said yesterday this is the time of the year when climbing begins to “ramp up”.

“This whole November, early December period is a very popular time for climbing the big mountains here.”

“With the snow left over from winter we have very good access around the glaciers and up the mountains.”

But, he said, “glacial recession” meant some areas are not accessible from about New Year, because of crevasses opening up in glaciers “a lot more quickly than what they used to”.

“The crevasses open up because the snow melts that’s covering them … and filling them up.

“That all ablates over the summer and we’re down to the raw skeleton of the glacier with all of its crevasses.

“So it really does make a very big difference in what you can access.”

Cotter said Mt Hicks was one of those mountains where there was now an issue with access in summer and it was “very rarely climbed” for that reason.

Cotter said the loss of snow was happening earlier than it did 30 years ago when he started climbing.

“We could access most places all through the summer.

“Now it’s a lot more difficult to get to some of the mountains and get off.

“It’s definitely part of climate change and the glaciers are definitely disappearing.

“Anyone who’s denying global warming is not a mountaineer because we can see it first hand.”

Of course this won’t stop arguments about climate change caused by humans versus normal cyclical climate change, but it all adds weight to the fact that our world is changing. and we need to be able to adapt to it. If we can mitigate the impact, then we should be doing what is possible and practical to do that.

After a year how transformative has the Labour-led Government been?

Not much, yet.

The Labour-NZ First-Green government is now a year old. Thomas Coughlan at Newsroom asks whether the current Government is truly a government of change – One year on: Change worthy of its name?

Transformation is a word we hear a lot to describe this Government.

The Government’s speech from the throne promised a “government of transformation”, and followed that up in May with a Budget that Finance Minister Grant Robertson said was “the first steps in a plan for transformation”.

The second word we hear a lot is “transition”.

What they mean to say is “government of change”, which was Ardern’s wording in what became known as her reset speech, which she made in September.

All governments change things, and the world changes. The pertinent question here is whether Ardern and her government are living up to her hype.

The Government has finished just 18 KiwiBuild homes (although it has started construction on more), the waitlist for social housing has grown, and the $2.8 billion investment in fees-free tertiary education hasn’t changed enrolment numbers, although the University of Auckland has tumbled down global league tables.

As for climate change, apparently our “nuclear-free moment”, under the current Government, big dairy can still dial up a a $600 million M. Bovis bailout for a self-inflicted crisis, while the much-lauded Green Investment Fund gets just $100 million.

Nuclear-free moment? Pardon me, but I think I can smell the methane on your breath …

The problem for this Government is that it knows what change looks like and it’s afraid.

It knows that true change is ugly and real people get hurt.

People living under the big-change governments of the 1980s knew they were living in a time of massive change.

So, can Ardern be kind and transformative at the same time?

One year on, we’ve seen this Government’s definition of change.

With the exception of KiwiBuild, its flagship change policies signal change in direction without enacting specific policy.

Supporters say this means the change will be more lasting – and they’re probably right. Both the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the Zero Carbon Bill have bipartisan support, meaning they will likely survive into the future. Likewise, the Wellbeing Framework has the potential to change how we look at the economy, although proof of that is many years away.

But, especially on the issue of climate change, its slowly-softly policy platform absolves the current Government from making any of the tough decisions necessary when implementing change.

It’s an unpalatable truth that change means picking losers as much as picking winners.

The question hanging over the Government now is whether there is time to implement what it calls a “just transition”, to a halcyon economy of low unemployment, high productivity, and fair incomes.

“Just transition” is essentially the oil and gas exploration ban writ large — big change, but slowly. But a just transition doesn’t need to be slow and there’s nothing just about waiting 30 years for house prices to stabilise.

Just transitions could mean using the power of the welfare state to cushion the pain of change, like the governments of the 1980s should have done.

There’s little room to be complacent. The window of opportunity is closing.

Change is the sword of Damocles hanging over all our governments. And while this Government thinks the lesson from the 1980s is that slow change is best, it would be wise to pay attention to the other lesson from that decade: governments are not the only agents of change and those who fail to act in time will often find their hand forced by events.

Governments are always forced by events to act. They need to manage forced change along with reforming or transformative change, if they can.

In their first year the Government has changed some things, but they have only talked about most changes they propose, and it’s still not clear what they are going to change this term as they await the outcome of their many working groups/inquiries etc.

Also from Newsroom – One year in: the fault lines ahead

The first anniversary has provided a chance for Ardern and her team to look back on their successes and failures so far – but what challenges lay in wait for them before the next election?

Here are some of the fault lines the Government may need to navigate if it is to hold onto power in 2020:

Waterfall of working groups

National’s gleeful mockery of the coalition’s working group fixation seemed a little insincere at the start, given the party was not averse to the odd policy review and panel during its first term.

However, there is a kernel of truth in that the Government is now waiting on the results of numerous inquiries into some critical policy areas, some of which will not report back until just before the next election, until it takes action.

As the reports and recommendations trickle in, the potential bill for implementing all that is asked for will slowly mount up.

Justice reform:

The Government’s plans to shake up the criminal justice system loom as perhaps its highest-risk, highest-reward reforms.

If Justice Minister Andrew Little and Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis succeed, the prison population will be reduced by 30 percent within a decade, addressing what Bill English once called the “moral and fiscal failure” of prisons.

However, National’s cries of the coalition being “soft on crime” provide a taste of its likely campaign against any firm proposals for reform, as well as the outcry which may result from any crimes following law changes (no matter their merit on balance).

Tax reform:

Part of that proliferation of working groups, but worthy of mention in its own right, is the Government’s Tax Working Group – a political slow-burner that could divide the coalition right up to the next election.

Chaired by former finance minister Michael Cullen, it will present its final report on the future of New Zealand’s tax system next February.

However, the Government has committed to putting any recommendations from the group to the electorate in 2020, meaning any changes would not be implemented until at least April 2021.

The sticking point is the issue of a capital gains tax.

So at best this will be a plan for transformation put to voters at the next election.

Climate change

It’s one thing to call climate change the nuclear moment of our generation, it’s another to do something about it.

Climate Change Minister, and Green co-leader, James Shaw said the IPCC report was broadly in line with the Government’s direction on climate change. But talk, as they say, is cheap.

There have been some climate-related policy changes, including a ban on new oil and gas permits and the establishment of a $100 million green investment fund. Also in the wings are a Zero Carbon Bill, emissions trading scheme changes and the creation of a Climate Change Commission.

The biggest pressure on the Government is its own rhetoric. Those disappointed by the environmental record of Helen Clark’s Labour-led coalition will be looking to the Green Party to push the Government into taking stronger, tangible steps.

Ardern has talked big on climate change, but we are yet to see how her Government will transform things.

Also, not mentioned in the Newsroom article, is another issue that Ardern has staked her reputation on, child poverty. Her Government quickly increased some benefits, but there has not been much sign of a revolution on poverty yet.

The Government has another two years to prove to voters that they are capable of walking the walk and delivering meaningful transformation at the same time as they competently manage normal management and also dealing with things that are thrown at them.

Greens also have a lot at stake – they have talked about a green revolution for long enough. They have to deliver something significant to justify voters’ trust in them.

NZ First probably just need to deliver Winston Peters to the voting papers for the party to survive.

As a whole the Government has been far more talk (and working group) than walk.  They may end up sprinting to the next election hoping voters will pass them the baton for another term.

The issues with methane emissions

Livestock methane emissions are contentious as New Zealand looks to how it can do it’s bit in reducing the greenhouse effect and global warming.

With calls to significantly reduce herd sizes there is obviously a lot at stake for farmers – not just their incomes but also their assets.

This information is from Pastoral Farming Climate Research:


Fact sheet Methane emissions, what they say and what is the issue?

With the upcoming Carbon Zero Legislation bound to create discussion about the impact methane emissions have on global warming. This fact sheet is intended to help those involved in that discussion to understand the issue.

It is commonly stated that livestock are responsible for half our greenhouse gas emissions.

This statement is misleading and gives the wrong impression of the extent to which livestock biological emissions are a problem.

Livestock are responsible for half our ‘carbon’ emissions but carbon is not a greenhouse gas. Carbon is a theoretical unit only and is correctly called ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’

All the greenhouse gases are quantified in terms of the amount of warming they are said to cause when compared to CO2. A tonne of methane for example is said to equate to 25 tonnes of CO2 so an emission of 1 tonne of methane is quantified as 25 tonnes of ‘carbon’

The majority of the carbon emissions attributed to livestock are from their methane emissions.

The carbon unit however is highly problematic, as is the concept of trying to equate different greenhouse gases. It is simply not possible because they are too different.

The following statements from well-respected individuals and organsiations demonstrate the problem;

Dr Andy Reisinger Deputy Director NZAGR said of the use of the carbon dioxide equivalent system to quantify methane emissions, that it does not measure the actual warming caused by emissions and ignores the fact that methane does not accumulate in the atmosphere in the same way as CO2. (1)

This is a significant admission. If the carbon unit does not measure the actual warming methane may cause and ignores the fact that methane does not accumulate in the same way CO2 does then it is of no use at all.

ALSO

Motu Economic and Public Policy Research state in their paper Cows, Sheep and Science;

To stabilise the climate, it is necessary to reduce the overall (net) emissions of long-lived climate forcers (CO2) to zero. By contrast, emissions of short-lived climate forcers (methane) do not have to decline to zero; they only have to stop increasing. (2)

AND

Ministry for Environment in its Carbon Zero Consultation document.

Reducing long-lived greenhouse gas emissions (like CO2) to zero and stabilising our short-lived gases, (like methane) which would mean our domestic emissions would not contribute to any further increase in global temperatures. (3)

AND

Dr Jan  Wright (former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment)   MANAGING BIOLOGICAL SOURCES AND SINKS IN THE CONTEXT OF NEW ZEALAND’S RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Methane in the atmosphere is short-lived, in contrast with nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. If the flow of methane into the atmosphere stopped rising, and there were no other greenhouse gas emissions, the temperature of the atmosphere would stabilise in a few decades. (4)

AND

Productivity Commission In its 620 page report Low Emissions Economy methane produced by the belching of sheep and cows – is unsuitable for inclusion in a single-cap ETS due to the difficulty such a scheme would have in driving emissions reductions in a manner that recognises the different atmospheric properties of short and long-lived gases. (5)

____________________________________________________________________________________

The quotes above demonstrate why it is universally accepted now that long lived gases like CO2 need a different target and policy response to short lived gases like methane.

However it is not possible to state that in order to stabilize the climate carbon emissions sourced from CO2 need to reduce to zero and carbon emissions sourced from methane only have to stop increasing, without concluding carbon is not an equivalence unit. Carbon’s only purpose is to equate the impacts of a number of different greenhouse gases and quantify them using one unit and it fails. One carbon emission is supposed to be the same as another and quite clearly it is not. It is not a credible unit and should not be used.

So the statement that half our greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock is wrong and therefore misleading for two reasons.

1         Carbon is not a greenhouse gas

2         Carbon is not a credible unit and emissions of ‘carbon’ do not reflect the impact an activity may have on global warming.

Putting methane emissions in to perspective’

Livestock emissions of methane when produced from a stable source of livestock do not cause the atmospheric concentration of methane to increase at all.

Most biogenic methane emissions in NZ are produced from a stable source and do not contribute to an increase in atmospheric methane.

Methane emissions in NZ have increased by 4% since 1990. Transport emissions of CO2 have increased by 82.1% since 1990

For full explanation view video The Methane Mistake (7mins)  https://youtu.be/BOJdz_LgDBE

___________________________________________________________________________________

1 Andy Reisinger, Harry Clark, How much do direct livestock emissions actually contribute to global warming?

2 Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Cows, Sheep and Science 2016 written by Michele Hollis, Cecile de Klein, Dave Frame, Mike Harvey, Martin Manning, Andy Reisinger, Suzi Kerr, Anna Robinson  http://motu-www.motu.org.nz/wpapers/16_17.pdf

3 Ministry for Environment Carbon Zero consultation document http://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/Consultations/FINAL-%20Zero%20Carbon%20Bill%20-%20Discussion%20Document.pdf

4 Dr Jan Wright Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Climate Change and Agriculture 2016

5 Productivity Commission Low Emissions economy 2018

0.5-2.0 metre sea level rise possible, more frequent floods

A ‘best case’ scenario of an average 0.5 metre sea level rise, with far more frequent extreme coastal water levels, would caause a lot of problems. A ‘worst case’ scenario is an average 2 metre rise, equivalent to ‘100 year floods’ every day. If scientists are wrong it could be less – or more.

Noted:  The impact rising sea levels will have on New Zealand

Under present projections, the sea level around New Zealand is expected to rise between 30cm and 1m this century as warming ocean waters expand, mountain glaciers retreat and polar ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica shrink. Even if global emissions were to stop today, more warming over the next few decades is inevitable, bringing a trail of storms, ocean surges, flooding and erosion.

The Ministry for the Environment says extreme coastal water levels, currently expected to be reached or exceeded once every 100 years, will, by 2050-2070, occur on average at least once a year.

Evidence is already piling up. Waihi Beach in the Bay of Plenty, Beach Road south of Ōamaru, and small seaside towns in Taranaki and the West Coast  all bear the signs of coastal erosion. Low-lying areas in Napier, Whakatane, Tauranga, Motueka, Nelson, parts of Auckland and Wellington have all been inundated by storms.

Just before Christmas, the Whakatane District Council declared 34 properties in Matata in the Bay of Plenty “unliveable” due to severe flooding risk.

“We are a coastal nation so we are going to get whacked by sea-level rise,” says GNS climate scientist Tim Naish, head of a new Government-funded programme set up to assess the magnitude and rate of sea-level rise. “We’re talking places we will not be able to live in because a so-called one-in-100-year flooding event becomes a daily event.”

Worst-case scenario, he says, is an average 2m sea-level rise by the end of the century. Best-case scenario, if we achieve the goals of the Paris climate agreement and keep temperature rise well below 2°C, is 50cm of sea-level rise.

A 2 metre rise would cause major problems for a large part of Dunedin, the reclaimed South Dunedin area. It would also stuff the Portobello road, parts of the road to Port Chalmers (which links the city and Otago province to the port) and also the road to Aramoana.

Stuff:  Coastal hazards report warns sea-level rises a ‘slowly unfolding red-zone’

The threat of rising sea levels has been likened to a “slowly unfolding red-zone” as a major Parliamentary report warns thousands of homes could become uninhabitable.

Environment Commissioner Dr Jan Wright released her national report on coastal hazards on Thursday, recommending a major overhaul of the way New Zealand prepared for coastal erosion and rising sea-levels.

She found Christchurch and Dunedin would be the cities most affected by future sea-level rises, resulting in potential damage costing billions of dollars.

In Christchurch, nearly 10,000 homes and 200 kilometres of road were less than 1.5 metres above the spring high tide mark, more than Auckland and Wellington combined.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull said the report showed the city would likely be the “most extensively affected” by coastal hazards.

“We have an exceptionally large number of homes at risk, as well as infrastructure.”

The report found nearly 2700 homes, mostly in South Dunedin, were less than 50cm above the spring high tide mark.

This already impacts on many property values. Anything like a 2 metre average rise would also impact significantly on Mosgiel and the Taieri Plain, where floods are already common. The Momona airport runway would go under.

But we always have the option of arguing that nothing adverse will happen and doing nothing is fine.

2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C

A new IPCC assessment warns that urgent action is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and this would “require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.


Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds, added Pörtner. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5°C, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be. “The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I.

Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development, the report notes.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Priyardarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future, said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

“This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” she said.

The IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options.

The report was prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups. Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change.

The Paris Agreement adopted by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015 included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

As part of the decision to adopt the Paris Agreement, the IPCC was invited to produce, in 2018, a Special Report on global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. The IPCC accepted the invitation, adding that the Special Report would look at these issues in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Global Warming of 1.5°C is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Cycle. Next year the IPCC will release the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and Climate Change and Land, which looks at how climate change affects land use.

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) presents the key findings of the Special Report, based on the assessment of the available scientific, technical and socio-economic literature relevant to global warming of 1.5°C.

The Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) is available at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15 or www.ipcc.ch.

Key statistics of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C

91 authors from 44 citizenships and 40 countries of residence
– 14 Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs)
– 60 Lead authors (LAs)
– 17 Review Editors (REs)

133 Contributing authors (CAs)
Over 6,000 cited references
A total of 42,001 expert and government review comments
(First Order Draft 12,895; Second Order Draft 25,476; Final Government Draft: 3,630)