Guy McPherson and the end of humanity (not)

Is climate change going to wipe out humanity over the next 10 years? Prof Jim Renwick doesn’t think so…

Ecologist Guy McPherson has been touring New Zealand for the past couple of weeks, explaining why humanity has only 10 years to live (a kind-of Ziggy message that has immediate appeal to me). After his appearance on the Paul Henry breakfast show, I was called by TV3/Newshub for comment. Based on my understanding of climate change science I said that though the situation is very serious — dire even — extinction in 10 years is not going to happen. When I gave my remarks to Newshub, I knew little about McPherson but I understood that he is a very knowledgeable biologist who should not be dismissed lightly.

So, what’s the story? Is McPherson right? Is the IPCC woefully conservative and keeping the truth from us all? I had the opportunity to hear Prof McPherson speak in Paraparaumu on Saturday (Dec 10th) to get more insight into what his views really are. It was a very interesting presentation, and a very interesting discussion with the audience of 50-odd Kāpiti coasters who showed up to hear him. As the old saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What we heard was extraordinary for sure, but was not too convincing in terms of evidence.

Continue reading “Guy McPherson and the end of humanity (not)”

The Lost Art Of Conversation…

…or a challenge foregone

It seems that Richard Treadgold, he of the “climate conversation” that isn’t, wants me to engage in an exchange of views. Following a brief flurry of comments at the Coal Action Network blog, Treadgold writes:

Here’s my challenge: let us, you and me, persevere with this most crucial of national debates.

I am afraid my answer is no, Richard, and I shall explain why.
Continue reading “The Lost Art Of Conversation…”

Christchurch coastal cock up: sea level “expert” de Lange clueless in NBR

IssacCordalBerlinWillem de Lange, the Waikato University coastal processes lecturer and one of the panellists nominated to review sea level rise advice relied on by Christchurch City Council, helpfully demonstrated the true extent of his climate expertise in the National Business Review last week [WebCite]. In an article titled Evidence doesn’t support rapid future sea level rise, written with Bryan Leyland, de Lange demonstrates just how slapdash his approach to the subject really is.

The piece is riddled with errors and misrepresentations. Here’s a selection:

  • The “recent” paper on sea level rise de Lange and Leyland (dLL) reference in their first paragraph is from 2010! The latest Royal Society of NZ climate info was published last month, and is presumably what dLL meant to refer to.
  • The rise in sea level around NZ over the last 100 years is 17cm, not 14cm, according to the RSNZ (page 28 here).
  • dLL claim that climate models are “flawed”, and have failed to predict current temperatures. In fact current global temperatures are more or less bang in the middle of model projections.
  • In discussing tidal gauge measures of sea level rise they refer to a denialist web site, not the primary sources.
  • They reference a textbook on sea level rise, but neglect to point out that it was published 15 years ago.
  • dLL state that the current rate of sea level rise measured by satellite is 3.2 mm per year, with “indications of recent decline in the rate”. In fact it is 3.4mm per year, and shows no signs of any recent slowdown. If anything, there are hints of an acceleration in the underlying rate.
  • dLL claim that satellite measures are “about twice the tide gauge rate”. They’re not. They’re in good agreement. From Trends and acceleration in global and regional sea levels since 1807, Jevrejeva et al, Global and Planetary Change, 2013 (pdf)
    There is an excellent agreement between the linear trends from GSL12 [latest tide gauge data] and satellite altimetry sea level since 1993, with rates of 3.1 ± 0.6 mm/yr and of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr respectively.
  • The latest RSNZ projections are not “much more than anybody else” – they’re based on the IPCC’s AR5 and draw on the current literature. Larger projected future rises are widely used in planning overseas.
  • dLL state: All the observational evidence indicates that the sea level is likely to rise 0.1 to 0.2 m by 2100.” This appears to be nothing more than wishful thinking. The current SLR rate gives 30cm plus by end of the century as a minimum.
  • There’s strong evidence of increased and increasing ice sheet mass loss in Greenland and Antarctica, which will add significantly to the amount of sea level rise by the end of the century. If we’re lucky, that might only be a metre. If we’re unlucky, it might be a great deal more.

If this were de Lange and Leyland’s only contribution to the debate on how communities should cope with sea level rise, it might be possible to shrug it off as a slapdash attempt at propaganda from a couple of people with a long history of climate denial. But de Lange is getting involved with the Christchurch community’s efforts to deal with this most challenging of issues.

Do Christchurch ratepayers really want to pay for advice from an “expert” who can’t get his facts right, and who is apparently happy to put his name to rubbish? The council should immediately ask for his withdrawal from the panel.

Future sea level rise is a certainty. Dealing with it is going to be challenging for any coastal community. We need a national framework that covers realistic assessments of local risk, and provides a process that allows communities to adapt as equitably as possible as their coastline changes. Trying to ignore or downplay the problem is only going to increase the costs faced by ratepayers and taxpayers in future years. If we allow the process to be contaminated by the input of propagandists we simply set ourselves up for greater losses.

Christchurch’s coastal cock up: review panel padded with climate deniers

IssacCordalBerlinThe long running saga of the Christchurch city council’s attempt to introduce new planning guidelines for suburbs threatened by flooding and sea level rise has reached a new level of absurdity. A five person panel appointed to conduct a second peer review of a key report on coastal hazards includes two high-profile climate deniers with strong links to extreme right wing climate propaganda groups. From Friday’s Press:

The list of experts approved by the council included New South Wales University coastal engineer Dr Ron Cox, Canterbury University coastal studies senior lecturer Dr Deirdre Hart, Waikato University earth sciences senior lecturer Dr Willem de Lange, retired Environment Court judge Shonagh Kenderdine and statistician Dr Keston (sic) Green, of South Australia University business school.

Cox, Hart and Kenderdine are all highly respected experts in the field. However, Kesten Green and Willem de Lange both have long histories of working with and for groups seeking to delay action on climate change. It appears they have been added to the panel as a sop to deniers amongst the coastal residents campaigning against the council’s proposals. Continue reading “Christchurch’s coastal cock up: review panel padded with climate deniers”

Too hot (and here comes the surge)

GISS20152015 was the hottest year since records began in all of the major global temperature datasets, and by a huge margin. The world is now more than 1ºC warmer than pre-industrial temperatures — pushed there by rapidly rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and helped a little by the current very strong El Niño. And because El Niño’s major impacts on global temperatures happen as an event declines, we can expect 2016 to be even warmer.

Carbon Brief has an excellent analysis of the new record here. See also NASA and NOAA’s joint announcement, the NASA press release, and Hansen et al’s overview (pdf). Here’s the latter on the outlook for the rest of the decade:

We can also say with confidence, because of Earth’s energy imbalance (energy absorbed from sunlight exceeding heat radiated to space), that the present decade will be warmer than last decade. Already the first half of the present decade is almost 0.1°C warmer than last decade. Strong La Niñas commonly follow strong El Niños, so it is likely that 2017 and perhaps 2018 will be quite cool relative to 2015-2016, but the decade as a whole should be considerably warmer than the prior decade.

Kevin Trenberth provides an interesting overview at The Conversation, detailing some of the weather extremes delivered by the current El Niño, and notes:

What we have seen this past year will likely be routine in about 15 years, although regionally the details will vary considerably. Indeed, we have had a glimpse of the future under global warming.

You wouldn’t want to bet against it continuing… Continue reading “Too hot (and here comes the surge)”