Hansen in NZ: first reports

by Gareth on May 13, 2011

James Hansen’s tour of New Zealand is off to a flying start, with an appearance on TVNZ’s Close Up, coverage in the Herald (they got his age wrong) and an interview with the Dominion Post‘s Kiran Chug, followed by a business lunch (or a lunch with business) and an evening talk to a packed room at Auckland University. Jim Salinger reports:

Jim Hansen’s lecture last night was great. The lecture room held 250, and there were 350 stuffed in sitting on the floor and standing room only, with an overflow room full and buzzing.

The talk was recorded, luckily, and can be seen here. Blogger No Right Turn was at today’s Palmerston North session and tweeted: It was a good talk. The thrust: “think of the grandchildren”. No surprises there. Hansen will be interviewed on Kim Hill’s show on Radio NZ National on Saturday morning at 8-15am, and although my sources suggest Kim may want to push a sceptical line, it should be well worth a listen. For a little amusement, Facebook users might want to check out the tour Facebook page, where a couple of NZ’s more incorrigible denialists — Steve Wrathall and Andy Scrace — have taken it upon themselves to post stupid comments. No surprises there, either. Meanwhile, plans are afoot for GR and The Climate Show to interview Hansen next week in Christchurch. Watch (and indeed listen) to this space…

[Update 14/5: Full report on Palmerston North talk at No Right Turn here.]

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

McTaptik May 14, 2011 at 6:45 am

Some odd comments in the diminion post article regarding solid energy’s lignite plans:

“Solid Energy is trialling technologies that will result in Southland’s lignite resources being turned into high value, energy-efficient products such as fertiliser and transport fuels.

If such projects lead to commercial-scale activities, the state-owned enterprise says they would make New Zealand less dependent on transport fuel and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Wow – I didn’t know that lignite was so green! What are we waiting for? Doesn’t Hansen know the facts according to The Diminion Post?

Kiran Chug is a chump – is he recycling Solid Energy’s PR? Or does his boss require ‘balance’ in the article? I sure wouldn’t let such tripe go out under my name.

Phillybillydilly May 14, 2011 at 11:15 am

First of all, Gareth, you are doing a great job covering climate in a very professional way together with Glenn Williams on the Climate show and blogs.

I don’t know if it is too late already, but I have a questions that I would like an answer to, and I can’t think of any other person more qualified to answer such a question than James Hansen, as it is his field of expertice.

Without the perturbation of the energy balance that human activity leads to (at present at a net anthropogenic component of approximately 1.65 W/m2), the climate would slowly drop back into a glacial state. Hansen has numerous times said that there will be no next ice age if levels of greenhouse gases continue to stay at todays levels, and higher (for instance in his book, The Storms of my Grandchildren). I have seen a lot of lectures by Dr. Hansen, but I have never seen him explicitly mention how much greenhouse gases (for instance in terms of CO2-equivalents) that is necessary at any given point in the next ice age cycle to keep the climate within the boundaries that human civilization developed.

My question is, are there studies suggesting how much CO2 is needed in the atmosphere at any point in the eccentricity/tilt/precession cycle we are currently in, in order to maintain a climate similar to the one that human civilization has developed (roughly the last 10000 years)? We know that the last million years have been mainly affected by the eccentricity mode (100000 year cycle), and that the two million years before then it was dominated by the axial tilt (41000 year cycle).

Hansen has stated that climate most probably needs to be stabilized in the 325-355 ppm level at the present stage in the precession. But how much CO2 should we theoretically have in the atmosphere in 30000-35000 years when the precession leads to the least amount of energy from the sun hitting the earth? If we are considering the last 800000 years (that we have atmospheric records of through ice cores) I am guessing that since we are already approximately 110 ppm above the “normal” interglacial CO2 level, and since the difference between glacial and interglacial climate is approximately 100 ppm and approximately 6 deg C in the polar regions and maybe ca 3 deg C globally (IPCC average), todays level of CO2 (390 ppm) could be the level needed at that point. I do see a chance that climate change denialists might continue to misinform people by stating that it is necessary to increase the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere in order to prevent the next ice age from happening since there is no “manual” explaining how much CO2 that is needed to keep the climate within the borders that will prevent disruption either way during these long Milankovitch cycles.

In the end I just want to link to three very informative lectures and a panel discussion about long term climate change in comparison to todays changes if that is not considered inappropriate.

1) Julia Daly

2) Paul Mayewski

http://vimeo.com/7989988

3) William Ruddiman

http://vimeo.com/8125718

4) Panel discussion

http://vimeo.com/8125889

These lectures are from the University of Maine, Climate Change Forum 2009, and they are very informative in terms of climate forcings (natural and anthropogenic).

PS: I do not work for or is affiliated with the University of Maine, I just find these lectures some of the best and most informative on the web.

Good luck on getting an interview with James Hansen! :-)

[Edited to stop link breaking layout. GR]

Doug Mackie May 14, 2011 at 10:48 pm

If the answer is a level of CO2 that causes p degrees of warming for the intervening q thousand years, then what state will we be in?

Gareth May 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Thanks for the interesting comment, pbd. My understanding (and it’s far from perfect) is that the orbital forcings are small when averaged over the whole earth, and so are swamped by current ghg forcing. Presumably, if humanity were to maintain CO2 at 280 ppm (pre-industrial), we’d get a climate state similar to the last 10,000 years. Higher levels imply reduced ice sheets and higher sea level at full thermal equilibrium. But I will ask!

Dappledwater May 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Pdb – not the paper I was referring to (haven’t found that – it had an odd title IIRC), however this 2003 paper ,The Earth's Climate in the Next Hundred Thousand years (100 kyr) calculates that the Earth will not experience a glacial inception for another 60,000 years, unless atmospheric CO2 drops below 215ppm.

Archer & Ganelpowski 2005 calculate that we have already emitted enough CO2 to sate off an ice age for 140,000 years.

I think we have more pressing issues.

Dappledwater May 14, 2011 at 8:33 pm

Really bummed that I couldn’t make the Auckland University lecture, but nice that the talk was given there, seeing some of the lecturers there are living in cuckoo-land. Cheers for the video link Gareth.

Phillybillydilly – bit of a silly discussion worrying about what’s going to happen in 50,000 years or so, when catastrophe is looming on the horizon. I did run across a paper specifically discussing your question (staving off an ice age with CO2) and thought it a really weird thing to study. See if I can track it down for ya.

Macro May 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm

“Really bummed that I couldn’t make the Auckland University lecture,”
Same here – but made up for it with listening to the Kim Hill interview this morning. I think it was good she asked the sceptical queries – it allowed him to explain the science and the reasoning well. I thought the choice between a “spoilt” view and rising sea levels was a good one. Well that is the nature of the human existence.

Dappledwater May 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

Macro, I see, in the No Right Turn link update, that Hansen has another talk scheduled for Auckland. The talk I’m well familiar with, I just wonder how long the Q&A session might be (if there is one). Just listening to the Kim Hill interview now.

Macro May 14, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Yes I see that advertised and shall make every effort to ensure I’m up in Auckland for it.
And from the sublime to the downright disgusting – I just read this!
http://www.odt.co.nz/your-town/gore/160262/no-public-input-coal-plant
Now if EVER that was denial of the democratic process and the right for input into decision making processes this is it!
Remember how the lobby groups were able to halt the building of a wind farm in central?
Now tell me how is this different?

Carol Cowan May 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Oh yes, Macro, Southlanders don’t like being told they can’t have a say. The Southland Times has promised an article on Wednesday on Dr Hansen’s “activism”. I am crossing my fingers for a fair article. It was a strange choice of words.

Macro May 15, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Actually Carol ALL NZ and, for that matter the whole world, should be upset that they have been denied a say. After all whose lignite is it? Just because it happens to lie under southland soil doesn’t mean that it belongs to southland – in the first instance it belongs to the people of NZ and it is to them that any royalties will be paid. (Strictly speaking it’s HRH’s coal hence the “royalties”).

Furthermore It’s the council’s task to ensure that environmental considerations are adhered too, and one wonders how they can be so certain that that is what they are doing particularly when CO2 emissions are taken into consideration, as well as particulates and other emissions. Just saying so doesn’t necessarily MAKE it so.

Carol Cowan May 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm

Exactly. Beautiful farmland is going to be destroyed – and not replaced – for the sake of something closer in nature to peat than to coal, something that will add more CO2 to the atmosphere, something that will pollute our local environment. And for what? Solid Energy has said that the trial run will employ 12 people. Once they get the infrastructure in place, they will want to keep going, it’s a big “investment”. Crikey, doesn’t anyone in government understand science? If I was conspiracy-minded I would think that the govt is rushing this through before coal-mining is banned!

I am very thankful that Dr Hansen will be speaking here, in Gore, on Thursday, and I intend being an hour early to the meeting so I don’t lose my place to one of the vocal ignorant that seem prolific in this province.

Dappledwater May 14, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Macro, see ya then. Finished listening to the Kim Hill interview, predictable nonsense from her. How many times did she say “uncertainty?”. And the ol’ “it’ll wreck the economy”, that dates back to the days of the slave trade. The plantation owners were wrong that cessation of slavery would wreck the economy, special interests were wrong about phase-out of CFC’sl (to stop destruction of the ozone layer) wrecking the economy too. Hmmmm……I see a pattern there.

Macro May 14, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Cool – look forward to meeting up with a fellow hot-topica :)
Yeah that is a pattern isn’t it! And it does occur just every 100 years.
And the Gore Council is wrong that not digging up lignite will hurt their rates income!

Dappledwater May 16, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Macro, James Hansen talk this Sat (21st May) 2.30pm at the Auckland Town Hall. See link

Macro May 17, 2011 at 8:05 pm

You don’t want to be late Dw
Jim Salinger is introducing him – haven’t seen Jim since 1983 when we both lived in Siverstream and traveled to Wellington together n the train. He was just finishing his thesis then, we discussed it several times.
Here is the schedule for the event:
http://planetfestival.org.nz/schedule/
The facebook page is here:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=210260172331821
I’ve already put my name down.

Dappledwater May 18, 2011 at 8:51 am

I’ll be there when the doors are opening. Looks like it could be chock-a-block.

Dappledwater May 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Macro,

I’ll be there around 12 noon. My cell is 022 6995251. Give us a bell, it would be good to catch up with ya.

Macro May 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm

I’ll text tomorrow morning. I’m arriving up there around 11 am – mines 021 170 5055
look forward to meeting you. :)

Dappledwater May 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm

The James Hansen talk went very well. Te Radar did a great job interviewing him. Was expecting maybe a couple of climate cranks, but didn’t run across any.

Te Whanau-a-Apanui (East Coast maori) aim to fight deep sea oil prospecting & drilling tooth and nail. Which is good to hear. Their spokeswoman was a great ambassador.

And nice to finally meet a fellow Hot Topic commenter.

Macro May 21, 2011 at 10:58 pm

My experience also!
Will keep in touch.
And don’t forget the Racing Commentary!

Richard Christie May 14, 2011 at 11:54 pm

predictable nonsense from her
Granted much of the skeptic argument put forward was nonsense but that shouldn’t be confused with Hill’s legitimate role in putting it to him.
Good performance from Hansen and Hill both.

Thomas May 15, 2011 at 9:49 am

I think Kim did a good job. But putting these denier arguments to him he had a chance to address these and he did a great job at it as he would.
I guess it is the journalists job to put critical questions onto the table and to not speak from a point of personal conviction.

Dappledwater May 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I guess it is the journalists job to put critical questions onto the table and to not speak from a point of personal conviction

Thomas, with the looming crisis, it’s time to move beyond the same ol’, same ol’. One day soon, they’re going to understand that they (the media), need to be sounding the alarm bells. Maybe not yet, but not many years away methinks.

Macro May 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm

It was a pity in a way that Chris Laidlaw hadn’t had the opportunity. He has pulled no punches on the occasions I have heard him speak on the topic. Whilst I’m not certain of Kim Hills position on AGW I’d be very surprised if her own position was sceptical towards AGW. She is one journo who has a good appreciation of science – interviewing Prof Paul Callaghan regularly and producing a book
see here:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4349870-as-far-as-we-know

Carol Stewart May 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm

In that interview, Kim Hill wasn’t taking a sceptical line towards the science at all; she was quizzing Hansen about the effectiveness of the policy responses.

“I’d like to hear Kim Hill interview Christopher Monckton”
That, and Ken Ring. He’s probably gun-shy by now and only coming out of hiding to give interviews to sycophantic science illiiterates (of whom there seem to be a depressing number).

Dappledwater May 15, 2011 at 12:50 am

Richard, who knows what her actual views are regarding climate science, it’s just the typical “performance” I was referring to. Nothing new there.

AndrewH May 15, 2011 at 9:42 am

I’d like to hear Kim Hill interview Christopher Monckton

Gareth May 15, 2011 at 10:43 am

Well, it’s been suggested he’s likely to make a return visit to Aussie, so who knows? Maybe the backers of ACT and the BRT will fund a trip over the Tasman…

Thomas May 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Perhaps HT readers could put their hands in their pockets to acquire an appropriately colored and appointed “Fools Cap”, jingles and all, to be presented to the good lordship upon his arrival in NZ. Sort of as a gesture of good will and as a sign of much amusement to be had at his expense over the content of his pontifications…… ;-)

Steve Wrathall May 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Thanks for the promo. Normal payment?

Carol Cowan May 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm

From a writer to the Southland Times today – “James Hansen is not a climate scientist, he is a (gasp) physicist.” Unbelievable!

robint May 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Just as well he’s not a journalist with a classics degree and a fake pass to the House of Lords….

Carol Cowan May 19, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I have just arrived home from hearing Dr Hansen speak in Gore. I don’t know how many people our civic hall seats, but it was full. I was 45 minutes early and bagged a seat at the front. The talk was very interesting – no new information for me, but he covered a lot. There was a lengthy question time afterwards and only one person said he didn’t believe carbon dioxide could have such an effect on climate. Most of the audience seemed very interested and attentive. And then …. I got to speak with the doctor and shake his hand (big smile). Humour me on my school-girliness, I’ve been reading this man’s writings for two decades and I feel honoured that I could hear him and meet him in person. If only all of our politiicans could have attended his talks around the country.

Dappledwater May 19, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Very cool Carol!. Did anything new, or interesting, get discussed in the Q&A?

Carol Cowan May 19, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Yes. If anything needs to be done about methane emissions from farm animals? – Dr Hansen considered this isn’t a problem for NZ. Is there enough uraniuim and/or thorium for nuclear power to take over from burning coal? – yes, probably over a billion years’ worth. Should we expect China and India to agree to limit fossil fuel use? – no, that would not be fair. Why isn’t an increase in CO2 good for the farmers? – Because CO2 alone does not increase nutrient value of crops/fodder. There was a concise explanation of how a carbon fee could be implemented. Dr Hansen also stressed that NZ is very fortunate to have a wide range of renewable energy options, especially hydro. He was very good at giving concise, precise answers. The total meeting time was two and a quarter hours and it flew by. I didn’t take notes so I can’t remember all the questions that were covered, but there was a broad range and all very sensible.

Leaps May 20, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I heard Dr. Hansen today at the University of Canterbury. He laid out a very convincing scientific picture of the what is going on with CO2 and what the consequence may be if we choose to do nothing about it. He also gave a few ideas about how to tackle the necessity of limiting the increase and ultimately reducing CO2 levels.

The big question is can we as a collective race choose to act or are we going to put it in the too hard basket and hope it goes away by itself. While I want to be hopeful that we can, my knowledge of human nature does not give me much optimism than we will.

Leaps

Gareth May 20, 2011 at 4:09 pm

I was there too. Managed to grab a 30 minute interview with him before hand, which the good Glenn Williams has recorded for a Climate Show to be released on Tuesday. I thought it went well – we covered much of the subject matter of his most recent three papers, not in daunting detail but in more depth than in his talks. Fingers crossed it sounds OK!

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