Willem 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.
The 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”
Former ACT MP Muriel Newman — an extreme right-winger and no stranger to the wilder shores of climate denial — has waded into the debate about sea level rise and coastal hazards in Christchurch in a long-winded and unhelpful article at her NZ “Centre for Policy Research” web site. In many respects, her piece is par for the Hidebound course — full of misdirection, misrepresentation and schoolgirl errors of fact, motivated by a weird world view:
The reality is that unfortunately, carbon dioxide is being used as a political football. When radicals embraced the environmental movement in the seventies, driving out people like Dr Patrick Moore the founder of Greenpeace, they used the climate debate to conceal their real agenda – the global redistribution of wealth.
Newman takes as the text for her sermon a piece by Mike Kelly, a New Zealander who is a professor at the University of Cambridge in the UK. His offering is just as ill-informed as Newman’s — can it really be the case that a professor of technology, whose main expertise is in “advanced electronic devices for very high speed operation”, doesn’t understand the difference between weather forecasting and climate modelling? Perhaps Kelly should read a few introductory texts on climate modelling before pontificating so publicly — and so erroneously.
But what makes Newman and Kelly’s articles so unhelpful to coastal residents in Christchurch and elsewhere is not the parroting of climate denialist tropes, but the conclusion she reaches:
The Christchurch Council – and all other councils around New Zealand for that matter – should base their coastal hazard projections, on what has happened in the past. There is no perfect predictor of the future, but looking at what has actually happened in the past is better than seizing on unreliable models developed by those driving a political agenda.
Let’s do what Newman wants, and forget modelling future sea level rise. Let’s look at the past.
Continue reading “The advice of fools: Newman and Kelly risible on rising seas”
New Zealand’s merry little band of climate deniers are turning out to be a right bunch of Cnuts. Sea level rise and its implications for Christchurch and the wider world have been making news in recent weeks — as have new projections of rapid sea level rise over the remainder of this century. So what does a good climate denier do? To stay faithful to their core belief — that climate change isn’t happening, or isn’t going to be bad — they have to argue against policies designed to deal with its impacts, as well as those intended to cut carbon emissions. Sea level rise? Like Cnut, they line themselves up against the waves.
I’ve blogged many times on the challenge sea level rise poses for post-quake Christchurch. The 2011 quakes caused large parts of the city to drop by up to half a metre — effectively delivering decades of sea level rise in a matter of minutes. For some areas of the city tidal and run-off flooding are now commonplace.
The current debate on sea level issues has been prompted by the city council’s long term planning process — which recommends that development should be restricted in areas where future sea level rise is expected to cause problems. Not surprisingly, this has some owners of coastal properties concerned that they will lose out. The council has also looked at the idea of building a tidal barrier across the Avon-Heathcote estuary to protect the city.
Local politics and property owner self-interest is bumping into the harsh realities of climate change, leading to a wide variety of responses — including “it isn’t happening”.
Continue reading “Postcards from La La Land: the Cnut conundrum”
New Zealand is going to get its first taste of electric motorsport this Sunday, when the Mike Pero Motorsport Park at Ruapuna near Christchurch is hosting EVolocity, an amazing line-up of electric racing machines and their creators — including the world’s fastest woman on a motorcycle, Eva Håkansson and her creation the KillaJoule, recently clocked at Bonneville Salt Flats in the USA at 389 km/h. With her will be her husband, Bill Dubé, with his electric drag bike the KillaCycle, which takes under 1 second to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h. Also on show will be the first Tesla S to make its way to NZ.
Event highlights will include:
- A race between the world’s top electric vehicles.
- A race between 15 Canterbury schools who have developed their own custom design and built electric vehicles
- A showcase of three world record holding electric vehicles from the US, plus New Zealand’s first Tesla S (The highest performance electric vehicle commercially available).
- Electric bike acrobatics display featuring freestyle motocross star Luke Smith of Nitro Circus fame
- NZ’s largest ever parade of electric bikes
- Standing ¼ mile drag competitions: Killacycle, Tesla vs Ferrari, electric Falcon Ute vs XR8 Ute, combustion motor bikes vs electric motor bikes, lots more)
- Kevin Clemens who set 11 world, US National and US East Coast land speed records with electric motorcycles built in his Minnesota workshop.
Tickets are $20 online/$25 at the gate, and the day gets underway at 9am. Should be an exciting day for anyone who loves motorsport, and who wants to see the future. Going fossil-fuel free means going faster…