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%)

 

“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.”

 

Climate related trends

NASA has several interesting trend animations in their Climate Time Machine.

Carbon Dioxide

September 2002:

Time Series: 2002-2016, image #0

This time series shows global changes in the concentration and distribution of carbon dioxide since 2002 at an altitude range of 1.9 to 8 miles. The yellow-to-red regions indicate higher concentrations of CO2, while blue-to-green areas indicate lower concentrations, measured in parts per million.

December 2016:

Time Series: 2002-2016, image #171

Global Temperature

1884:

Time Series: 1884 to 2016, image #0

This color-coded map shows a progression of changing global surface temperatures since 1884. Dark blue indicates areas cooler than average. Dark red indicates areas warmer than average.

2016:

Time Series: 1884 to 2016, image #132

Arctic Sea Ice

1979:

Time Series: 1979-2017, image #0

This visualization shows the annual Arctic sea ice minimum since 1979. At the end of each summer, the sea ice cover reaches its minimum extent, leaving what is called the perennial ice cover. The area of the perennial ice has been steadily decreasing since the satellite record began in 1979

2017:

Time Series: 1979-2017, image #38

Obviously climate and it’s affects will fluctuate, and the climate is affected by more than man-made effects, but the trends and the human influence on them are a concern for the planet that needs ongoing monitoring and also mitigating efforts. The risk is too great to do nothing.

https://climate.nasa.gov/interactives/climate-time-machine

G19 versus USA on “irreversible” Paris climate agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Yes – 69%
  • No – 13%

Yes by political affiliation:

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

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

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

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

Most important reason to reduce global warming:

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

 

 

Antarctic glaciers may be melting less quickly

A study of some glaciers in Antarctica has found that they may be melting less quickly than previous studies have found.

UPI: Study suggests Antarctic glaciers are more stable than previously estimated

New research suggests ice flow among the glaciers on the southern Antarctic Peninsula isn’t as dramatic as previously estimated.

Glacial flow has increased since the 1990s, glaciologists at Leeds University found, but only a third as much as what was previously reported by scientists at the University of Bristol.

“Dramatic changes have been reported in this part of Antarctica, so we took a closer look at how its glaciers have evolved using 25 years of satellite measurements dating back to the early 1990s,” Leeds researcher Anna Hogg said in a news release.

Researchers used satellite data to track the advances of 30 different glaciers on the peninsula and found a significantly smaller rate of glacial advance and ice loss.

Bristol researchers reported significant ice loss and glacial thinning using a different set of satellite observations, but Hogg and her colleagues say their measurements don’t agree with such an interpretation.

The latest study, published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, suggests most of the glaciers in the region of the Antarctic Peninsula known as Palmer Land are still moving relatively slowly and have only accelerated slightly over the last two decades.

This is how science works – more research generally moves science towards greater accuracy.

But glacial trends are complex. An acceleration may stop or reverse, or it may speed up.

A cynical post on this marred by omissions at Whale Oil: The south pole is melting at only a third of the rate “scientists” have been saying it has

“Cameron Slater” claimed:

They actually checked on the assertion made by “scientists” and found there was no basis to their inflated and scary numbers.

That’s not what the report or the scientists said at all.

I may be a layperson, but if the largest mass of ice on the planet is melting at two thirds of the rate we have been expecting, aren’t we just getting a bit ahead of ourselves predicting substantial sea level rises?

The report said “only a third as much”, but they also said “suggests most of the glaciers in the region of the Antarctic Peninsula known as Palmer Land” – that’s nothing like “the largest mass of ice on the planet”, it is just a part of the Antartic Peninsula, which itself is just a small part of Antarctica.

And “predicting substantial sea level rises” misrepresents the range of predictions that have been made about possible sea level rises.

And “Cameron Slater” omitted a key paragraph from the report:

The authors of the newest analysis say they aren’t discounting the risk of climate change and global warming’s effects on Antarctica glaciers. They say it’s essential that scientists continue to monitor the impacts of warming on glaciers and sea level rise.

Further scientific research is essential on such a complex and potentially world changing thing.

There is one certainty with climate change science – variability. The climate varies all the time. Research on climate and associated science will give us varying results. And if the planet is in fact warming there will be varying effects in different places, including different parts of Antarctica.

This will mean different rates of melting and different rates of accumulation of ice over time and in different regions.

Rubbishing past scientific research because newer research gives different results is either dumb or trying to discredit things people don’t want to hear.

All research has to be considered on it’s merits accumulatively, and if it is done well greater accuracy will be attained over time. As will better knowledge and more informed debate amongst those who want to consider all science and not just the bits that suit their agendas.

Rising ranks of scientists doubt Darwin’s Theory

Does this sound familiar?

Ranks of Scientists Doubting Darwin’s Theory on the Rise

Another 100 scientists have joined the ranks of scientists from around the world publicly stating their doubts about the adequacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“Darwinism is a trivial idea that has been elevated to the status of the scientific theory that governs modern biology,” says dissent list signer Dr. Michael Egnor. Egnor is a professor of neurosurgery and pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook and an award-winning brain surgeon named one of New York’s best doctors by New York Magazine.

Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture today announced that over 700 scientists from around the world have now signed a statement expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution. The statement, located online at www.dissentfromdarwin.org, reads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

More scientists than ever before are now standing up and saying that it is time to rethink Darwin’s theory of evolution in light of new scientific evidence that shows the theory is inadequate,” said John West, associate director of the Center for Science & Culture.

That was from the Discovery Institute in 2007. This was also from the Discovery Institute in 2010.

What Do Darwinism and ‘Climate Change’ Have in Common?

Leslie Kaufman in the New York Times reports on budding initiatives in state legislatures and boards of education to encourage or require balance in classroom discussions of global warming. The point of the piece, though, is to connect the teaching of evolution to the climate change debate:

Critics of the teaching of evolution in the nation’s classrooms are gaining ground in some states by linking the issue to global warming, arguing that dissenting views on both scientific subjects should be taught in public schools.

Some things they want to accomplish with this piece:

(1) Divide and conquer skeptics of global warming orthodoxy and Darwinism, by painting the latter as ignorant religious zealots, in hopes of starting a fight among conservatives. No doubt they’re hoping that, say, Richard Lindzen will have to explain why he agrees with those nefarious creationists on the global warming issue, and that he’ll have to spend his time issuing statements of agreement with evolution.

Funny. Opponents of evolution and climate change and tobacco control use very similar tactics – try to divide and conquer science by spreading unscientific doubts

(2) Make it harder for official bodies to encourage critical thinking on global warming, since attempts to do the same with regard to evolution have, in recent years, met with fierce resistance and only modest success.

That’s not funny. Opponents of evolution and climate change try to discredit critical thinking.

Is the debate over “evolution” the same as the debate over “climate change”?

Well, I think they’re both alike and different. First, the similarities, which I think are mostly sociological:

*Both issues suffer from “semantic creep,” which tends to prevent rational discussion.

So a vague word like “evolution” can range in meaning from the trivial and tautological—change over time and survival of the fittest—to the uncontroversial—certain organisms share common ancestors and natural selection explains some things—to the questionable and ideological—everything is the result of a purely impersonal process, we don’t exist for a purpose, we’re just carriers for selfish genes, natural selection and random genetic mutations explain everything interesting, and so forth. If you doubt the latter, you get lumped in with doubting the former.

‘Evolution’ is not a vague term. It is a widely accepted theory based on a massive amount of science.

*With both issues, dissenters, especially in science, are severely punished, and if possible, ostracized and denied tenure.

*Both issues have broad metaphysical implications, which are recognized, if not quite admitted, on all sides.

*Skeptics of both issues are customarily accused of bad faith, bias, religious bigotry, and the like.

*With both issues, the chaff of ideological assumptions has a way of contaminating the wheat of empirical evidence, and in the process, damaging public trust in science.

*If you doubt either idea, you’re accused, not of doubting that one idea, but of doubting science itself.

*With both issues, we hear a lot about consensus.

*Both have a way of surviving at the theoretical level even when individual pieces of evidence bite the dust.

*They’re both deeply embedded in the worldview of what David Brooks, perhaps with tongue-in-cheek, has called the “educated class.”

Another similarity – the Discovery Institute been a major player in trying to discredit both the science of evolution and the science of climate change.

Evolutionary theory, Neo-Darwinian or otherwise, attempts to reconstruct the past in very broad terms, and so can’t make detailed predictions about the future. Orthodox global warming theory does try to predict the future. So it’s much easier to qualify or decisively refute than is Neo-Darwinism.

A bizarre claim. They are trying to say that predictions about the future can be decisively refuted. How? By making counter predictions?

On the Discovery Institute:

The Discovery Institute (DI) is a non-profit public policy think tank based in Seattle, Washington, best known for its advocacy of the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design (ID). Its “Teach the Controversy” campaign aims to permit teaching of anti-evolution, intelligent-design beliefs in United States public high school science courses alongside accepted scientific theories, positing that a scientific controversy exists over these subjects.

From ‘Teach the Controversy’ Comes to Climate Science

A spokesperson for the Discovery Institute said that although it takes no position on climate change, “we definitely have a position on whether or not there should be investigation in schools on that subject,” and claimed that the legislation it favors would “give teachers the right to teach both sides of a scientific controversy,” providing legal protection for educators who might want to introduce “other sides of the topic” to students.

There’s no doubt that climate change science is controversial, but it needs to be challenged with science, not pseudoscience and anti-science.

Same with the science of evolution. In the US it seems to be the same people opposing evolution science and climate science.

Perhaps the weather is Intelligently Designed too.

Doubting climate change science

It’s not just mainstream science that suggests that climate change is a problem of major importance, mainstream media tends to agree.

The Press has an editorial on Doubting climate change science is no joke

There are times when the Donald Trump presidency seems comical or even fun, an absurdist exercise in postmodern political theatre.

But in other ways the Trump administration is too potentially dangerous to joke about. Its approach to climate change is one of them.

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s appointee as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has broken with global scientific consensus and argued that carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming. He told that a US news programme that “measuring with precision human activity on the climate is … very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact”.

Doubting science by claiming that a theory is just a theory without broad consensus behind it is a favoured technique of tobacco industry lobbyists and others who try to confuse or dissemble. They pretend disagreement exists where it does not or they attempt to turn very small differences into polar oppositions.

It’s not just a big business tactic, it is also a religious tactic, like on evolution.

Does this sound familiar? Discovery Institute (which also opposes climate change science)  – Ranks of Scientists Doubting Darwin’s Theory on the Rise – “Another 100 scientists have joined the ranks of scientists from around the world publicly stating their doubts about the adequacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US have all been clear that rising temperatures have been “driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” as a report from the latter two bodies put it in January.

As noted in US media reports, Pruitt’s statement even contradicted the position held by the EPA itself and conflicts with the laws and regulations the EPA is expected to enforce. The EPA’s own website says that “carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change”.

Most observers of US politics expected that Trump would follow through on the anti-environmental rhetoric of his campaign. They expected a retreat from positions taken by Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. As a Trump insider explained last week, his campaign commitment was to undo Obama’s “entire climate edifice”.

Pruitt was known to be an advocate for the energy industry before his appointment by Trump. The New York Times reports that “in his previous job as the attorney general of Oklahoma, he sought to use legal tools to fight environmental regulations on the oil and gas companies that are a major part of the state’s economy”. He drafted letters to send to the EPA and other bodies pleading economic hardship if environmental rules were not relaxed and reportedly sued the EPA 14 times.

Pruitt is now expected to preside over funding cuts and a review of his agency’s role in monitoring emissions and protecting waterways. The implications of a wholesale attack on an environmental agency are enormous, and not just for the United States. There is nothing remotely funny about any of it.

Climate science is complex and evolving as more is found out about it. Claims should certainly be challenged claims are scientifically questionable, but cannot just be dismissed, just as tobacco harm could not just be dismissed because companies might lose some money and just as evolution cannot just be dismissed because some religious groups might lose some faith.

It is quite possible that the effects of climate change are a much bigger threat to the world, and to many more people in the world, than extreme Muslims and Islamic terrorism.

Many more New Zealanders are likely to be affected by increasingly severe weather events than they are by terrorism.

Doubting some climate science is healthy, if based on science.

Doubting the possible severity of climate change is understandable – but this doubt works both ways, it may turn out to be not as bad as generally predicted, but it could just as easily turn out to be worse than predicted.

Those who doubt the accuracy of current climate change science can’t have it that it is just inaccurate in a way that suits their ideology.

There is far less climate science that suggests we won’t have any problems with climate change than otherwise.

Doubting all climate science is not based on science, it is based on denial.

There must be some degree of climate change, there always has been. Science will help us learn more about it, it will help us limit our effects on it, and it will help us deal with whatever changes end up happening.

We should aim for better climate science, and not just dismiss it with claims of doubts.

 

 

Should climate denial be a crime?

Dr Jarrod Gilbert provocatively at NZ Herald: Why climate denial should be a criminal offence:

There is no greater crime being perpetuated on future generations than that committed by those who deny climate change. The scientific consensus is so overwhelming that to argue against it is to perpetuate a dangerous fraud. Denial has become a yardstick by which intelligence can be tested.

The term climate sceptic is now interchangeable with the term mindless fool.

I think this is over the top, perhaps deliberately.

Scepticism with any science, especially one as complex as climate science, is healthy. More than that, scepticism is essential in science.

Likening climate science scepticism to denial and mindlessness is foolish.

Since the 1960s, it has been known that heat-trapping gasses were increasing in the earth’s atmosphere, but no one knew to what effect. In 1979, a study found “no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible”. Since then scientists have been seeking to prove it, and the results are in.

Scientists have been researching climate in many ways and the results keep coming in. While most results point strongly towards human influenced climate change things are far from conclusive or final.

As this recent article illustrates: Antarctic is cooling, but climate skeptics aren’t going to be happy.

Back to Gilbert:

One way in which everyday crime can be discouraged is to ensure that “capable guardians” are around to deter criminal activity. When it comes to climate change, the capable guardians are educated members of the public who counteract the deniers.

There may be differing opinions on what policies to pursue, but those who deny that climate change exists ought be shouted down like the charlatans that they are. Or better yet, looked upon with pitiful contempt and completely ignored.

There is no room to sit on the fence and say, “I don’t know if it’s true”. Ignorance of the law excuses no one – and so it is with the laws of science.

It’s sad to see Gilbert resorting to this line of attack. It’s unlikely to change anyone’s mind about climate change – it’s more likely to entrench views because it is so obviously over the top.

There are serious issues facing New Zealand and the world regarding climate change. We have to consider possible effects of continued warming and ongoing scientific research is essential to monitor and to learn.

Suggesting scepticism is criminal and denigrating differing views is unhelpful and unscientific.