People talking’ #17

by Gareth on August 1, 2014

It being the weekend that truffle growers from all over New Zealand meet to discuss their trade and to eat the fruits of their endeavours, I will be absent from the Hot Topic helm for the next few days. Please use the occasion to discuss anything and everything climate-related, from the state of the climate to bizarre holes in Siberian tundra that may be caused by dragon breath… Keep it polite, please.

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TSB Today: Broken English

by Gareth on July 30, 2014

In my post at The Daily Blog today — Broken English, broken government, broken climate — I take a look Bill English’s unguarded comments on climate change. Apparently, it’s a non-issue. As you might expect, I am somewhat less than impressed…

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This article by Jim Salinger, University of Auckland; Blair Fitzharris, University of Otago, and Trevor Chinn, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, was first published at The Conversation. The photo at left shows the calving face of the Tasman Glacier in Dec 2013.

A third of the permanent snow and ice of New Zealand’s Southern Alps has now disappeared, according to our new research based on National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research aerial surveys. Since 1977, the Southern Alps’ ice volume has shrunk by 18.4 km3 or 34%, and those ice losses have been accelerating rapidly in the past 15 years.

The story of the Southern Alps’s disappearing ice has been very dramatic – and when lined up with rapid glacier retreats in many parts of the world, raises serious questions about future sea level rise and coastal climate impacts.

The Southern Alps’ total ice volume (solid line) and annual gains or losses (bars) from 1976 to 2014 in km3 of water equivalent, as calculated from the end-of-summer-snowline monitoring programme. [now read on…]

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Adventures in the Anthropocene

by Bryan Walker on July 28, 2014

Science journalist Gaia Vince left her desk at Nature and spent two years visiting places around the world, some of them very isolated, where people were grappling with the conditions of what is sometimes described as a new epoch, the Anthropocene. It dates from the industrial revolution and represents a different world from the relatively settled Holocene in which human civilisation was able to develop. Adventures in the Anthropocene tells the story of Vince’s encounters with some remarkable individuals and their communities. It also includes lengthy musings on the technologies the future may employ as humanity faces the challenges of climate change, ocean acidification, population growth, resource depletion and more.

Vince goes to the front lines of the human battles. In a remote village in Nepal she describes the extraordinary work of Mahabir Pun who gained a university scholarship in the US and returned years later to bring computers and Wi-Fi to the children of his village. It’s a fascinating story, full of hope for development in his region. But it’s also precarious. Electricity for the computers comes from a small hydro-scheme fed by glacier water. In the same chapter Vince points out that the warming rate in that Himalayan region is five times greater than the global average and the glaciers are melting. Once they are gone there is no meltwater and no power. Levels have already been diminishing in the once-deep stream near the village.

[now read on…]

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This guest post is by Alister Barry, producer and co-director of the new documentary Hot Air, which will be premiered in Wellington next week. Hot Air is screening in the New Zealand International Film Festival around the country over the next month.

Hot Air is a story of compromise, broken promises and corporate pressure, of misinformation and pseudo-scientific propaganda. It’s also a story of good intentions. The 1989 Labour government under Geoffrey Palmer began to map out the first emissions policy. In the 1990s Simon Upton, the National government’s minister responsible for climate change policy tried to put a carbon tax in place as did his successor Labour’s Pete Hodgson. After 2005 David Parker struggled to pass an emissions trading scheme.

I began work on Hot Air in 2009 thinking it might take a couple of years. I recall one of my partners saying, “You better get it done quickly, because within a few years the film will be out of date. Climate change will have been confronted and dealt with.” No such luck.

I soon found that while there have been some books written about the history of the politics of climate change in the UK, the US and elsewhere, there was no comprehensive account telling the New Zealand story. I spent a lot of time in the National Library doing the basic slog of getting the history down on paper. Then I had to condense it into a documentary script before beginning actually making the film.

One benefit of the long gestation period was the unexpected number of key figures that agreed to be interviewed for the film. Experts from both the environmental and economic fields, newspaper editors, businessmen, and a wide range of political figures including National’s Simon Upton, and Labour’s Pete Hodgson & David Parker, all one-time Ministers of Environment, contributed. Many of the major players (particularly Labour’s ruffled former Minister of Environment, Pete Hodgson) clearly welcomed the opportunity to tell their stories, as well as vent some frustrations!

Editing has taken a couple of years finding and fitting together archive footage with the original interview material and condensing that into an informative, and we hope entertaining film. Co-director and editor Abi King-Jones has done a masterful job creating a film that is a pleasure to watch.

On one level the film attempts to provide an understanding of the political landscape on which those of us who want to see some effective action on climate change will have to fight, on another level it is a case study of the extent to which power in our society has shifted to the corporate elite and away from the rest of us.

[now read on…]

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Barry Brill and Anonymous: U R A Fraud

by Gareth on July 22, 2014

People send me things. Brightening my email inbox last week was a pithy little email, headed U r a fraud. It didn’t have much to say. Here it is, in its entirety, exactly as it appeared:

Please take down your posts about barry brill or Anonymous may have to

Make some “unauthorized” changes to your shitty website.

I had to laugh. Barry Brill — the man who formed a charitable trust in order to avoid the financial consequences of a failed legal action against the New Zealand temperature record — must have some very strange friends1. The idea that hacktivists like Anonymous would side with Brill and his climate crank pals against climate reality strikes me as drawing a very long bow — but there are certainly hackers for hire in Russia and China who might be prepared to repeat their efforts against the Climatic Research Unit’s email servers2 in order to take down this little web site. But who would fund that? Not Brill, I’m sure. He’s too busy taking the Heartland shilling, campaigning hard for a worse future for the world, and avoiding payment of court-ordered costs.

Meanwhile, I shall watch my server logs with interest (but I won’t be holding my breath, and certainly won’t be removing any posts about Brill).

[Sheer Heart Attack]

  1. Indeed, he does – as shown by his attendance at the recent Heartland-funded climate crank networking event in Las Vegas, where he rubbed shoulders with all the luminaries of the crank pantheon, from Monckton to Don Easterbrook. []
  2. aka the so-called Climategate hack. []

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Labour’s dodgy drilling policy avoids climate reality

by Bryan Walker July 17, 2014

In his interview on TV3’s The Nation last weekend David Shearer declared a Labour Party policy on oil and gas drilling which, like the Government’s, fails to confront the reality of climate change. Drilling will continue. The approval processes will be improved, the regulations will be tight, the money gained will be used well, but […]

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TDB Today: The weather’s getting worse, and we did it

by Gareth July 16, 2014

At The Daily Blog today I take a look at the latest report from the World Meteorological Organisation — The Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes 1970-2012 (pdf) — which demonstrates that major climate and weather disasters have increased fivefold since the 1970s. The implications are clear enough: damage […]

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Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent

by Bryan Walker July 15, 2014

Science journalist Gabrielle Walker’s book Antarctica: An Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent (Bloomsbury, 2012) tells an absorbing story of the wide variety of scientific work undertaken in Antarctica and the support services that maintain it. It also attempts to capture the human fascination of the continent, not least for the author herself in her […]

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Generation Zero issues Big Ask to leaders

by therealpaulyoung July 10, 2014

This guest post is by Paul Young of Generation Zero. Last Thursday Generation Zero released our new report, The Big Ask. This was the follow-up to our earlier report A Challenge to Our Leaders, released in May. While we’re calling it the Big Ask, it shouldn’t actually be a big deal. All we’re really asking for […]

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