Before and after science

“We accept the science,” says Climate Change Issues Minister Nick Smith in a Brian Fallow article in the NZ Herald. But what does it mean for a politician to accept the science? For Caroline Lucas (left), leader of the Green Party in the UK and the sole Green MP in the House of Commons, it means taking some lessons from the World War II era. She calls for this in an article in the Telegraph.

“Our health and security, our society and way of life, our natural environment, even our coastline, are all at risk from uncontrolled natural forces – disease, drought, flood and storm. In terms of the human and financial cost in the UK and internationally, the impact over the coming decades has been compared to the world wars of the twentieth century.

“Since the 1980s, successive governments and their expert advisers have accepted the seriousness of the threat, and have known what actions are needed to avert it as far as possible and to prepare for the consequences. But they have not acted either to prepare the UK or to build an international agreement on reduction. And with every passing year, the threat to our country becomes more severe.”

 

At this point she turns back to the 1930s when many politicians of all parties ignored the threat of war brewing in Europe and failed to take steps to deter aggression or prepare defence.

“At the time, the two main excuses put forward to justify inaction and appeasement were that there was not enough money to pay for proper defences, and that the British public would not support a government that took tough measures.”

Rather familiar sounding, those excuses. Lucas continues:

“Yet by the end of the 1930s, public opinion was far ahead of Chamberlain’s government in demanding tough measures, and the costs of the war itself ultimately far outweighed the costs of the measures that might have prevented it. And during the war itself, the British people were willing to make the sacrifices needed to deal with the horror of Nazism and to try and build a fairer society for the future.”

She points to some of the same patterns becoming apparent today in relation to climate change. Some members of the public, some enlightened local government bodies, some firms, and many institutions and campaigning groups are ready to urge action.

“One of the lessons of history is that putting off difficult issues has a habit of making them far more costly to deal with in the long run: climate change is certainly in that category. Our aim is to help forge the national consensus that will support this or future governments in sustained, radical action.”

Lucas is far from the first on the climate change issue to draw parallels between the challenges today and those of the 1930s, but she does so unhesitatingly because she accepts the science.

Meanwhile back in New Zealand two recent articles in the Herald provided rather disparate examples of what it might mean to our politicians to accept the science. One announced Len Brown’s plans to ‘green’ Auckland. They include a goal of cutting Auckland’s carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2025. It’s aspiration at this point, but it’s way ahead of the government target of between 10 and 20 per cent by 2020, and it’s approaching the level that might put developed societies on track to achieve the much higher reductions that will be needed by 2050 if we are to stand any chance of avoiding dangerous warming. And it places Auckland among those enlightened local bodies which are pushing ahead of their central governments in various parts of the world.

It’s a rather different picture with Nick Smith, as portrayed in a Herald article by Brian Fallow writing about the key questions for the statutory review of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) over the coming months. Yes, Smith affirms the government accepts the science. And let me acknowledge that that is a welcome affirmation.  Accepting the science is an advance on the vacillation which was apparent in the National party in opposition not so many years ago. It means we don’t have to traverse the dreary wastes of denial which still have to be faced in parts of the US legislature and are still basic to the NZ government’s coalition partner, the ACT party.

However, accepting the science doesn’t seem to carry with it the imperative of decisive action. Fallow’s article portrays the Minister as cautious. He says the government wants to reduce emissions (though gives no indication as to how much), that they want to do it efficiently and with fairness between different sectors of the economy, and that they have an overall objective of New Zealand doing its fair share on climate change. Arriving at a fair share? Well, Smith points out, we are the 11th highest per capita emitters globally, but on the other hand we’re in the bottom third of the OECD and we have an emissions profile that is unusual for a developed country in that nearly half of it arises from the bodily functions of livestock, while the electricity sector is predominantly renewable already. No prizes for guessing that our estimation of a fair share won’t be setting any international standards for aspiration.

Indeed Smith wants to continue to signal that a National-led Government “will not be including agriculture [in the ETS] unless there are practical technologies that farmers can employ to reduce their emissions and there has been significantly greater progress than we have seen to date by our key trading partners in pricing emissions”.

Smith allows himself some optimism when it comes to electricity generation and forestry. He points to a substantial increase in the level of renewables in energy built since the passing of the ETS and also to an increase in forestry, “one of the cheapest ways of meeting current and any future international obligations”. But there is no suggestion that the government is looking to any more than the 10 to 20 per cent target for reduction in emissions by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2050 that they have so far adopted. And even those targets have a provisional air to them. What we do will depend on what others do.

We accept the science, says Smith. The science says that if emissions are not drastically reduced in the course of the next few decades the world will consequently experience sea level rise to heights horrifying to even contemplate. Droughts and floods will afflict us ever more strongly. Food supplies will be drastically threatened. And much more. Admittedly New Zealand appears likely to be one of the least affected countries, but that will be small comfort in a world so upturned.

That’s the message the government should be giving the country, and accompanying it with measures commensurate with the threat. Along the way they might show some confidence in the capacity of New Zealanders to manage a successful green economy. Accepting the science doesn’t mean the destruction of the economy, just its reshaping.

[Eno]

96 thoughts on “Before and after science”

    1. What else would a right wing (disguised well but when you dig you find) magazine in the UK publish but diatribes against wind farm developments. Interestingly the so called “Social Affairs Unit” that is the publisher of the Standpoint mag is part funded by – guess who – the tobacco industry – and is penetrated by right wing libertarian thinkers who are connected by their deep seated fear for anything left of the political center. A little digging among the source watch entries for the people behind this uncovers a lot…
      http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Social_Affairs_Unit

      Steve Wrathall never fails to be impressed by his anti-communist (read libertarian) peers rubbish.

      1. What on earth have your ideological aversions got to do with the fact that a Britain overly dependent on wind power will freeze when the air is becalmed?

            1. For goodness sake. Britain’s not a very big place and it has lots and lots of neighbours. They already source power from other countries when needed. With a more sophisticated grid, surpluses and deficits of wind or solar or tidal flows or whatever can readily be balnced by others with deficits or surpluses of their own.

              Of course, in Britain there’ll always be the need for the hydro surge to feed in at the instant the kettles get turned on after ‘corrie’, but most countries have their own little cultural demands for specific reasons.

            2. “…a more sophisticated grid, surpluses and deficits of wind or solar or tidal flows or whatever can readily be balnced by others with deficits or surpluses…”
              In other words, a vastly more expensive system with necessary huge spare capacity (both generation and transmission), with actual reliable baseload capacity on spinning standby. If you’re lucky, French nukes, but more likely good ole’ FF.

              And in the dark winter when Thor and Wotan have conspired to becalm all of Europe, they’ll still freeze.

            3. That’s exactly right adelady. When the UK grid failed to meet supply during the cold snap, and the wind turbines stayed still for weeks, electricity was imported from France at high prices. Most of France’s energy is of course Nuclear.

            4. We have the following streams of sustainable energy to use:
              Tidal (Earth/Moon rotational energy)
              Solar (including wind and waves, wind being a secondary solar/tidal energy)
              Geothermal
              Sustainable Biomass (incl. Algea)
              Nuclear (to dome extend perhaps sustainable for a while)

              The UK has Wind (even if there are still days, the UK has a lot of wind potential), Wave energy, Solar (heat pumps included), Geothermal (everywhere on the globe GT becomes possible if you drill deep enough), Tidal (great potential).

              Like all other developed nations the biggest and most immediate potential though is savings due to reduction of waste, ride sharing and a host of other measures.

              Steve, if you were actually interested in living in a sustainable world (as opposed to our current once-off get rich then die type of civilization) then I am sure even you could get enthusiastic about the possibilities to achieve that for your self and your children (do you have children??)

            5. Yes I have children. Now if you wouldn’t mind answering a question about yourself: Do you ride share every day?

            6. Thomas,
              You seem quite keen on Geothermal, yet this produces CO2 emissions and comes under the ETS.

              So it may be sustainable in the sense that it won’t run out, but it is not carbon neutral.

            7. Steve I transformed my life so that I can work from home. For my local transport needs I converted a Toyota Starlet to an Electric vehicle http://www.evalbum.com/1772.
              I made a ride sharing website for our local area.
              Does this answer your questions on if I ride share?

            8. Thomas, No I’m afraid you haven’t answered my question: Do you ride share every day?
              If not, what % of trips in your (max 80 kph) electrical vehicle are ride-shared? Does it maintain this speed over the hill to Matarangi Bay?

            9. Steve many of the local trips in my EV are ride shard (i.e. bring kids to school etc.). Other than that other local trips are consulting call outs which do not lend themselves to ride sharing.
              When I do need to leave town (perhaps once a week) I use a diesel car for my long range trips. These are mostly with family in the car. I take hitch hikers if I can.
              My EV is designed as a short range vehicle for trips around town. This covers about 80% of my weekly driving.
              While I could have built an EV that can go 150Km range and does highway speeds, I choose not to as I do not need the range nor the speed on 80% of my travels.
              Once high range battery technology has come down in price I might.
              If I was employed in a situation where I needed to commute to work, I would ride share.
              Have I now answered your question?
              Do you ride share?

            10. @Thomas January 27, 2011 at 10:40 pm

              The deep well Geothermal options look interesting, but has anyone done any sizable research as to the viability of these options?

              The same goes for tidal and wave power. Whilst they sound promising on paper, we actually need to start deploying these systems very soon, if we are going to meet renewable targets.

              Note that Britain’s only proposed tidal project of any size – the Severn Barrage – has been abandoned for cost reasons, I believe.

            11. Sorry, taking kids to school doesn’t qualify as “ride-sharing”. A true CAGW believer would put them on their treadlies and sent them on their merry ways. I mean, that’s what they’ll have to get used to anyway, right?

              The rest of your post is basically an admission that the trips people do in their private vehicles “do not lend themselves to ride sharing.”

              Do I ride-share? No I bike. And take my 4 1/2 year-old to Massey creche on the back.

            12. Steve, I thought I had mad it clear that I had organized my life (consciously) so that I can work from home and avoid unnecessary travel. The few trips I need to do locally I do in my EV. My client visits often involve the transport of gear that does not lend itself to bikes.
              Good on you for biking to work. Well done!

              My main question to you remains this: Do you favor a sustainable living arrangement for our civilization based on renewable energy options or do you favor a continuation of our fossil fuel dependent lifestyle?

            13. Of course the FF will slowly run out over the coming centuries. However for any country to forswear its share of this energy-dense lode now is economic suicide.

              It’s like deciding to ration copper and bakelite in 1911 because they’ve had a vision that in 100 years time billions of people will need telecommunication devices.

            14. Of course the FF will slowly run out over the coming centuries

              You know, Steve, for someone who appears to fancy himself a species of tough hard-headed realist you really believe some of the most amazingly pollyanna-ish bullshit!

              Optimistic estimations of peak production forecast the global decline will begin by 2020 or later [My emphasis], and assume major investments in alternatives will occur before a crisis, without requiring major changes in the lifestyle of heavily oil-consuming nations. These models show the price of oil at first escalating and then retreating as other types of fuel and energy sources are used. Pessimistic predictions of future oil production operate on the thesis that either the peak has already occurred, that oil production is on the cusp of the peak, or that it will occur shortly. The International Energy Agency (IEA) says production of conventional crude oil peaked in 2006. [Wikipedia]

              I’m afraid that with few exceptions even your corporate mentors think you’re off with the fairies on this one…

              (Let me guess; it’s all a conspiracy, Wikipedia is written by Marxists*, and it’s all fine thanks to Market Perfectionâ„¢: when the price of eggs rises high enough, the roosters begin to lay, right? )

              *a Libertarianâ„¢ term meaning ‘rational person’, apparently…

            15. According to even the conservative IEA peak (conventional) oil happened in 2006. The future of oil production will increasingly depend on costly unconventional sources such as risky deep water projects or gas to liquids conversions while the share of the most affordable oil will drop back sharply now.
              http://www.energybulletin.net/stories/2010-11-11/iea-acknowledges-peak-oil

              It is my belief that unless we use the current momentum (or what is left of it) of the world economy to fast track the development of sustainable energy systems and the model of society that can survive and hopefully thrive with these, we will find it increasingly hard to do so very soon as virtually all economic activity under our current model is predicated by cheap energy.

            16. How does the peaking of one FF source (conventional oil) negate my point that FF will remain a major energy source for generations to come? For you to advocate broke countries to borrow vastly more in order to subsidise unreliable, expensive technologies, will produce the same fiasco as happened in Spain.

            17. one FF source (conventional oil)

              You should do stand-up, Steve! (After all, you of all men should be handy with a retort…)

              And I’m not responding to your strawman, or to your alleged humanitarian concerns for the world’s poor nations, because I don’t believe for a moment you actually have any (shall I dig out the quotes again?)

            18. The peaking of coal is not far off either Steve. Do your research.

              Your rant against Spain’s solar systems is short sighted. Alternative energy investments are long term investments while advocating FF consumption is short sighted advocacy for something that has no future and wrecks our climate.

              There are some very interesting advances on the NH3 synthetic fuel front, using alternative energy such as Wind and Solar efficiently. Investing in these technologies makes much more sense especially for poor nations who can least afford our wasteful ways.
              On NH3 fuels below an interview with John Flemming on NatRadio NZ:
              http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ntn/ntn-20110124-1008-Feature_guest_-_John_Fleming-048.mp3

            19. And here’s a timely piece on coal and the massively accelerating demand for it. It comes from that well-known coven of Marxists* at The Economist.

              By Denier logic no doubt this increase in demand is yet another clear signal that there can be no AGW risk in building coal-fired stations, because if there was, then logically no-one would build them, right?

              Similarly, the mathematical and statistical genius known only to us mortals as ‘James’ has previously informed us that the escalation of Tuvaluan real-estate prices indicates there can be no actual danger of sea-level rise. Compelling stuff!

              *NB – remember, dear reader, ‘Marxist’ in the Libertarianâ„¢ dialect describes ‘any rational person’…

          1. The UK government is wanting a very high percentage of its power from renewables, which in this case means wind.

            And if you are not going to use electricity to warm your home, then the options are gas and oil. A small number of homes in the UK have wood-chip burners though.Solar is not a viable option in the UK

            1. Widen my focus? If you are not going to use electricity, oil, gas, or wood to heat your house in the UK, what other options do you have?

            2. See my post above to Steve W and also perhaps this here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jul/16/renewable-energy

              By trying to shoot down the wind energy option citing still days in winter the true picture of alternatives in their complete context is distorted entirely.

              In the end if humanity succeeds to transform itself into a sustainable society (the alternative is obviously our demise) we will need to learn to live with variable energy sources to a greater extent than today. Smart use of energy when and where available will need to be part of the solution, like it or not.

              As far as heating is concerned, wood chips (renewable bio mass) will be part of the picture.

            3. One thing you’ve not mentioned Thomas. Investing in nega-watts as much as mega-watts.

              The combination of insulation and other redesign of buildings as well as the purchase/ supply of high quality warm clothing and bedding takes care of a lot of the heating requirement that would otherwise require a source of power or direct heating.

            4. Yes Adelady Nega Watts (energy efficiency and avoidance of waste) must be at the beginning of any transformation to sustainability and this is the most effective initial strategy of any society to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
              Critiques of alternative energy often point out what a massive task it would be to transform our current energy requirements to sustainable sources, which indeed it is. But after taking out the massive amount of waste in our current system, the task becomes so much more manageable. The same is true for any home owner contemplating to go solar. Once all the demands within the home have been reduced to best practice levels this is very possible to accomplish in much of NZ.

      1. One more thing about this Alejandro Chaufen, who is involved with a lot of these so called “Libertarian” foundations, is a piece of his writing he left for us to ponder about: “How I became a Liberal”.
        http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig4/chafuen1.html

        Citing from his words: “With support from the military and friendly segments of the civil society, Argentines were able to prevent a Communist takeover of the country“.

        One can only assume that he speaks here about the time when perhaps up to 30,000 people vanished in Argentina under a brutal military regime supported by the CIA during the so called dirty civil war between 1976 and 1983.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Condor

        What a fine “Libertarian” he must be!

  1. “The science says that if emissions are not drastically reduced in the course of the next few decades the world will consequently experience sea level rise to heights horrifying to even contemplate. ”

    I am afraid the science is saying more likely we are going to see this anyway now.

    Please support and pass on….
    “Addressing Global Warming, I vow to eliminate all my non-essential flying. It’s a moral issue…”
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/ClimateFlightAction/165484890164497?v=info

    By signing up to reducing your non-essential flying you make a big impact on emissions reduction in multiple ways.
    >Your emissions are substantially reduce.
    >Your resolution highlights and focus the urgency of the issue and the sort of effort that will be required to address the problem with your peers.
    >Lead by example. We can not ask for climate action without making the first move.
    >You reenforce and provide suport
    to consolidate action in tackling global warming.

  2. On the agriculture front, I note that Fed Farmers chief executive Conor English wrote in yesterday’s Dompost business section (C3) about future issues farmers should be aware of.

    I think he is aware of climate change. Its hard to tell. Under a subheading, “The unpredictable” he notes “There will probably be a significant disease, either human or animal, just as we have had Aids and bird flu. There will continue to be significant weather events – just as there have been for a few million years. The weather is the weather, not some innate object that doesnt change shape, or that you can regulate.”

    He notes that the internet is allowing consumers to let everyone know what they think about products.

    He concludes with: “Stuff happens – we need to think much more about risk, manage it, stay positive, be innovative and just get on with the job.”

    So this is the best advice from our top farming leader. At so many levels, this is just insane.

    I think I am going to start breeding reptiles that I can milk.

  3. Smith’s words don’t match his actions. The NZETS should be “fair between different sectors of the economy”, yet the NZETS is full of inconsistent treatment between sectors. The fact that different sectors have staggered entry dates is unfair as the carbon price is distributed unequally over time. The fact that 100% of all the NZ emissions units to be traded are gifted free to emissions intensive industry and agriculture (eventually if it ever enters) is an unfair discount of the carbon price to emitters that will not be shared by consumers and small business.
    I regard Smith as a ‘climate delayer’, a more sophisticated version than a ‘climate denier’.
    Here is a graphic showing that New Zealand can’t just claim to be the ‘little-low-carbon-battlers’ of the South Pacific.
    New Zealand’s emissions of carbon dioxide have grown significantly since 1970, and now exceed those of the United Kingdom and the average for Europe. Thats not even including methane and nitrous oxide. Add them, and New Zealands per capita emissions of the ‘UNFCCC’ 6 greenhouse gases doubles.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/58637554@N02/5378959761/in/photostream/

    1. It’s difficult to categorise Smith and the government he represents. Delay is clearly at work, but whether it is deliberate or the consequence of timorousness coupled with sheer inattention to the science seems less clear.

    2. “I regard Smith as a ‘climate delayer’, a more sophisticated version than a ‘climate denier’.”

      Well said. Given that we have a problem of immense proportions, it never ceases to amaze me how governments think that a little action is better than doing nothing. A little action is no different to doing nothing, as they both do NOT solve the problem. When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, the Allies amassed all the armies and military hardware needed in order to win the war. They didn’t just send in dad’s army against the might of the German military machine, and pretend that the war would soon be over. This is exactly analogous to what the climate delayists are attempting to do.

  4. Troll alert – the delightful Delingpole has a recent article responding to Lucas’ call, which, of course, explains that what Lucas is all about is ‘Liberal Fascism’ – not an oxymoron among morons, it seems. (And Fascism is Left Wing, don’t’cha know, which might have been news to a good many of its proponents!)

    I have to say, I never cease to be amazed just how stupid you can be and still have a functioning central nervous system!

    Anyway, I flag this because this is the kind of source of cut’n’paste goodness all the little meat-and-sock puppets find it impossible to resist, so let’s not be surprised if the Neural-Outsourcing brigade (why bother to think when someone else can do it for you?) drops some of this sticky stuff on us…

      1. Yes, I tried to watch the actual program concerned online today but was defeated by copyright zoning. Have any of our English readers actually seen it?

        And since, while I posted this elsewhere earlier, it probably got lost in the comment melee I’ll see you and raise this charming effort! Seems some who are quick to spy out the allegedly ‘fascistic’ flaws of others can’t spot the brownness of their own shirts…

        1. Bill. Yes, I have seen it – It was a breath of fresh air. A very eminent scientist appearing on mainstream media and saying what other journalists were unwilling, unable, or too cowed to say. The true (in)significance of the hide the decline quote, the use of FOI requests to harass scientists (60 requests at CRU in a single weekend), and the distinction between a denialist and a sceptic were all explained. It was stated on numerous occasions that a scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change existed. None of this will be news to people here, but it will have been a revelation to many. And to cap it all there was Delingpole’s meltdown. Hopefully it will be shown in your part of the world sometime.

          1. Thanks Gareth – that’s a hoot!

            It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers because I simply haven’t got the time, I haven’t got the scientific expertise

            I am an interpreter of interpretations

            And where’s all that histrionic – ‘there simply aren’t enough bullets’ – posturing bluster?

            1. Ah, the moment where he strokes George Monbiot’s coat in this BBC debate – a natural Uriah Heep, or what?

              Anyway, if you’re going to run around routinely spewing bile about ‘eco-fascists’ and ‘not enough bullets’ to deal with them all you need to learn to man up and take your lumps. And he deserves plenty!

              If he’s not careful young James may well become the poster child for the particular brand of maladaptive bad-faith stupidity displayed by the worst of the deniers. Some of the very people who are fawning all over him now ( because he’s telling them they can keep their their outsize SUVs and everyone else can go hang! ) may be looking for someone to ‘have a word with’ – ‘cos it certainly won’t be their own fault they were stupid enough to believe him – in another decade or two…

  5. Farmers have a huge part to play in the effort to negate climate change. They can help grow massive numbers of native trees to lock up carbon. They can capture fertiliser and animal waste to keep it out of our rivers, lakes and estuaries and they can reduce soil loss to save our top soil. What worries them is a fart tax (ETS) and I am not surprised.The World needs food and it needs our NZ farmers help to produce it.
    We need them onside for the ecological issues and concentrate on shutting Huntley to make savings for the ETS.

  6. “Yet by the end of the 1930s, public opinion was far ahead of Chamberlain’s government in demanding tough measures.”
    This is a soft, but completely arse-about analogy.

    For five years as Chancellor of the Exchequer and then Prime Minister, while making public pronouncements about appeasement, Chamberlain’s government did prepare for war. It reversed the Depression-led cuts in Defence spending, developed infrastucture, modern fighters, radar etc, ensuring that Britain was capable of defending itself when war came about. Britain still wasn’t ready by 1938 (the infamous Munich Pact), but that capability didn’t magically happen when the pugnacious Churchill took over in 1940. It was established by years of careful, low key planning and delivery by a government that was about action rather than posturing, and was popular in its time, but unfairly pilloried in hindsight.

    We now see the reverse. We have governments accepting that “Climate change poses a threat to our way of life”, committing to tackling the “greatest moral challenge of our generation”, grandstanding to their public about accepting the science and need for action, but in reality doing nothing substantial about it, publicly or behind-the-scenes. Few governments have done anything other than dragged their heels, being unable or unwilling to build political consensus, to either “sell” or deliver any substantive changes in our energy production or consumption that will allow an adequate response to the problem they throw so many nice words at.

    Climate change is not just the greatest market failure in history, but perhaps the greatest governmental failure as well. When our governments are pilloried in 70 years, as Chamberlain’s is now, it will be undeniably justified.

    1. FrankD
      Absolutely spot on. How do we get people to meet in the town square and start to resolve a way forwards?

      Our present national and local government appears incapable of responding effectively at a scale that makes any difference, yet there is so much we could be doing.

      We have a responsibility to attend to the basics, and the first ‘basic’ is viable subsistence-level food production for each one of us. The community garden concept is gaining ground – why not simply occupy common public spaces as food production areas with the produce shared among the commoners. If that entails a little civil disobedience, so be it. We should ask nicely first tho.

      With increased self-provided food production we will be able to turn away from other less-sustainable food providers without having to resort to top-down law-making to achieve the same end.

      Once the food question is sorted then we can turn our attention to fiber (cotton, linen flax, harekeke and hemp) for clothing, and timber for building materials and coppiced for energy.

      One step at a time, and as soon as possible please.

      Nigel

    2. Yes indeed. Where leadership would be required, politicians simply eyeball their (scientifically illiterate) electorate while being pestered by right wing think tanks and industry lobby groups telling them to do nothing of any substance and better sit back and wait and see….

      There is a very strong dependency of our democratic societies upon a scientifically literate population which would demand that the right moves are taken. At the moment we can not at all count on this and therefore our democratic systems might fail to deliver at the most crucial junction in the pathway of our civilization.

      We need to make a well planed transition towards a sustainable future while there is still capital, law and order, or will miss our chance with dreadful consequences. Libertarians might get more of the personal liberty they wanted than they bargained for: everybody for themselves, he who has the biggest gun wins… Mad Max ….

      1. “When they turn the pages of history
        When these days have passed long ago
        Will they read of us with sadness
        For the seeds that we let grow?
        We turned our gaze
        From the castles in the distance
        Eyes cast down
        On the path of least resistance”

  7. Not wishing to divert the conversation, but the (I assume), randomly generated kaleidoscope patterns at the start of each comment have a frequent habit of looking like a swastika.
    Not even appropriate when discussing Liberal Fascism.

    1. Ah, Richard, this has been observed before – note that you yourself have been lucky, and will continue to be so. What part this particular WordPress theme plays in the Green/Liberal/Soci@list*/Fascist conspiracy is uncertain, but I’m sure it will transpire that Jim Hansen, Michael Mann or Al Gore is somehow behind it… 😉

      (*just being cautious – amusingly the WordPress spam filter particularly dislikes the ‘s’ word, apparently! Somewhat inconsistent of it, really…)

  8. Watching the king tide flood across roads in Auckland over the weekend, I couldn’t help but think of the predicted sea level rise. We are just not ready.

    (BTW where did the term ‘king tide’ come from? I’ve never heard it before)

    1. A term in common use here in Australia, as wikipedia confirms and then explains the details rather well… where I live – a long spit between the gulf and a large inlet that’s been formed by prevailing sand drift over the last few thousand years – we all dread a major rain event coinciding with a king tide…

            1. Carol, the thumbs down are due to the fact that the site must have attracted a large number of denier trolls. Perhaps it was linked to on a denier website.

      1. These forlorn single ‘dislike’ votes for neutral statements of fact and comments like ‘Thanks Bill’ are rather entertaining… the ‘watchers watched’, no doubt, in some little mind… ah, the pathos… 😉

        I wonder if this will garner one?

    2. The king tides are interesting and thinking about it it becomes obvious why sea level rise will sort of be masked for a while by king tides. Here is why:
      Sea level rise of say 10cm is still small compared to the daily flux between high and low tides (about 2 m or so).
      King tides are easily 10cm higher or more than normal tides.
      So the only time that a sea level rise of 10cm will produce a change in sea level appearance to the untrained observer indicating something rather unusual happening at all, i.e. sea level higher than ever seen before, would be during a king tide.
      Now king tides themselves are attenuated by weather. Low pressure systems ‘suck’ the tide higher than usual while high pressure systems ‘push’ them down somewhat. Add to that the factors of winds etc.
      So the only time an observer without the help of statistics would ‘see’ a sea level rise of 10cm would be during an exceptional king tide where the added 10cm would produce an effect never seen before.
      Hence sea level rise will be masked for quite a while to come to the untrained eye and deniers will point out the question: why don’t we see the sea level rise yet?
      Watch the King Tides!

  9. We see increasing divergence between the timeframes of the forces of change and the ability of our civilisation to conceive of and execute useful responses to those changes.

    Against us are ranked the three falling swords of resource depletion (time frames to bloody final impact measured in just years, perhaps months), climate change (time frames in decades, perhaps years) and consequent sea level rise (time frames in centuries, or perhaps just decades). All (as far as we individuals are concerned) irreversible consequences of our actions in any time frame we can comprehend.

    For us, we have our inertia-ridden (or is it fear-ridden?) governments, and our own individual inability to dodge the slow-moving spear.

    No matter what ‘policy’ our government thinks of, no matter how much the correctly-admired Mayor of Auckland changes his long term community plan or district plan, it will not be enough in time to change the outcome. The holes in the ship are too many and too big for such collision mats to stop the flood. She is going down no matter how hard we try. No matter how much effort we waste.

    We have to move beyond trying to save the ship of Business as Usual, to instead commencing desperate construction of our lifeboats and to row over to a new ship with a new chart to our children’s future.

    And what resources do we have for that essential task? We have resources that are depleting, we have energy supplies that are depleting and becoming impossibly expensive. And we have a clock that is ticking and opportunities for relief from our peril that are closing daily.

    So we have to mentally plot those declining curves against the physical, emotional and spiritual strength we have as a world, as a nation, and as individuals to see how long we have to save our souls.

    My view is that if we start today, then there is a chance for us. We can make the coming decades the most exciting and rewarding years of our lives, and we can save humanity from the worst of the coming catastrophes.

    But we need a vision, we need the immense courage to sever our umbilical chord from Business as Usual, to risk poverty, hunger and fear, and we need leadership by men and women who embrace the earth-family and inspire us with their love and determination to see it through.

    We must dare to hope, to pray, and to act; before the ship goes down with all hands.

    Nigel

    1. Nigel.You are right about the impending threats but the solutions are not incompatible. We need to move faster on natural energy as we need lots of it, remodel existing homes to save domestic energy and commence a programme of transport infrastructure to enter a World with very expensive oil. All the above are bid job creators.
      Incidental your list did not include population explosion.

      1. OK, I’ll bite: There is indeed a lot in common with our current predicament, in the quantity (and in some cases the quality) of rhetoric at least. Make your own substitutions for the prevailing conditions and there you go… Instant inspiration? We hope!

        “Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger greater than has befallen Britain since the U-boat campaign was crushed; perhaps, indeed, it is a more grievous period than that, because at that time at least we were possessed of the means of securing ourselves and of defeating that campaign. Now we have no such assurance. The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. We have entered a period in which for more than a year, or a year and a half, the considerable preparations which are now on foot in Britain will not, as the Minister clearly showed, yield results which can be effective in actual fighting strength; while during this very period Germany may well reach the culminating point of her gigantic military preparations, and be forced by financial and economic stringency to contemplate a sharp decline, or perhaps some other exit from her difficulties. It is this lamentable conjunction of events which seems to present the danger of Europe in its most disquieting form. We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now.”
        by Winston Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965)
        from his speech The Locust Years, 12 November 1936
        published in Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches

  10. Please support and pass on….
    “Addressing Global Warming, I vow to eliminate all my non-essential flying. It’s a moral issue…”
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/ClimateFlightAction/165484890164497?v=info

    By signing up to reducing your non-essential flying you make a big impact on emissions reduction in multiple ways.
    >Your emissions are substantially reduce.
    >Your resolution highlights and focus the urgency of the issue and the sort of effort that will be required to address the problem with your peers.
    >Lead by example. We can not ask for climate action without making the first move.
    >You reenforce and provide suport
    to consolidate action in tackling global warming.

    Its a moral issue…
    http://moralground.com/mission/

    >Yes, our lives must be an expression of what we most deeply value.
    >Yes, we can and must make conscience-driven choices about how we spend our money and time.
    >Yes, we must provide a safe and thriving future for our children.

    [Paul: I’ve let this one pass, but please don’t spam every comment thread with the same message. GR]

  11. John D January 27, 2011 at 8:27 am
    Widen my focus? If you are not going to use electricity, oil, gas, or wood to heat your house in the UK, what other options do you have?

    In your case? Wilful stupidity! You knew precisely what he meant.

  12. “The science says that if emissions are not drastically reduced in the course of the next few decades the world will consequently experience sea level rise to heights horrifying to even contemplate. Droughts and floods will afflict us ever more strongly. Food supplies will be drastically threatened…”

    Science does not ‘say’ this – what a load of bollocks!

    Did you know that Genghis Kahn was an environmental crusader – although he knew about as much as Doug Mackie about climate change?
    Mr Khan has been branded the greenest invader in history when he established a vast empire between the 13th and 14th centuries. The Mongol leader’s murderous conquests killed an estimated 40 million people. This meant that large areas of cultivated land grew thick once again with trees and huge swathes of cultivated land returned to forest and helped remove nearly 700 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere.

    1. Lank: EG Beck and Ken Ring?

      As predicted:
      -the trolls lay low for a few days and are back
      -the regulars feed them instead of forcing them to respond to simple questions.

      We go from revolting cockraoches and shits to all lovely dovey innocent questions in just one day and you guys lap it up. Not me; I shall red button until my questions are answered.

            1. It certainly looks like there’s been a concerted effort to game the voting — I can’t find any obvious source in the logs, but if someone really wanted to, they could find a way. I’ll keep it under review.

  13. Looks to me like this unpleasant character, Septic Lank, is part of an organised trolling expedition this time. There’ll be some giggling and nudging elsewhere at how clever and disruptive they are being.

    Notice the buttoning – they’ve got a gang going.

    Why am I reminded of silly high school age boys…?

    1. Interestingly, I checked Delingpole’s blog re the poor lamb being treated so unkindly by that nasty sir Paul Nurse, looking for ‘let’s get ’em’s’.

      Couldn’t see anything re our latest little plague, and that’s partly because the posts are completely overwhelmed by a cut-and-paste hyper-spamming prat whose handle is ‘reality returns’ and who sports the confederate flag (wowser, dude, like that’s so righteously un-PC; fully sick, man!) for an icon.

      What’s interesting? One – we’re familiar with a good many of these screeds already. Two, one of the other regular commenters – one our side of the debate – addresses said hyper-spamming prat as ‘James’!

      Could it really be that our hero has managed to escape from the clutches of that Blood-Diamond trafficking warlord in the pockmarked hinterlands of Sierra Leone that was torturing him by depriving him of broadband internet access?

  14. Hey, that’s not fair! My comment, reproduced below, deserves more thumbs down (only 18) than Carol’s 23 for saying thank you.

    As predicted:
    -the trolls lay low for a few days and are back
    -the regulars feed them instead of forcing them to respond to simple questions.

    We go from revolting cockraoches and shits to all lovely dovey innocent questions in just one day and you guys lap it up. Not me; I shall red button until my questions are answered.

    1. Interesting that the 2 posts hardest hit – at 24 each, are my effort asking what kind of sad individual bothers to ‘dislike’ neutral statements of fact and an associated ‘thanks for that’ post, and Carol’s ‘What kind of weirdo dislikes me thanking someone for information?’

      Of course, in my own mind this rather adds to the circumstantial case for who’s responsible…

  15. Perhaps, bill, more telling is the silence from the trolls. No “hey you other folk shouldn’t do that”.

    But seriously, just because once in a while the trolls make non offensive postings is no reason to engage with them. You all know it is insincere. All they are doing is getting you to recommit to them. Then as they quickly get more outrageous you will follow along and try to reason with them.

    I mean, as I say we go from cockroaches and shits to ‘sensible by Gareth standards’ in one day and you flock to talk with them. What is the point? You think reason will work? No. The only things that will work are ridicule, red thumbs and hammering the wedge of cognitive dissonance into their heads. But not feeding their egos.

    1. Doug,
      A troll is a person who disrupts a thread.
      So far, you have shown a lot of these characteristics. Hectoring and prodding anyone who doesn’t agree with you is a good way to provoke an inflammatory response.

      The fact that I am on moderation is probably a good thing. You guys really should try to listen to yourselves sometimes.

  16. John, you can’t possibly think I’m going to engage with someone who says what you have said about me. Red button John, and I urge all others to do the same with you on sight.

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