Bill McKibben must have been doing something right during his New Zealand tour: he’s drawn the ire of the local climate cranks in no uncertain fashion. Perhaps it was the packed houses he addressed in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington, or his interview on RNZ National’s high-rating Saturday Morning show with Kim Hill, but the clarity and certainty of his message drew a vituperative response from “Climate Conversation” blogger Richard Treadgold. In an ill-tempered personal attack, Treadgold described McKibben as a “climate nutcase” and “a madman”.
His voice is engaging, almost reasonable, but his wild eyes cannot help but flash his burning lunacy at the camera.
It’s par for the course for Treadgold, whose tenuous claim to fame is as the man who kicked off the climate cranks’ losing attempt to sue the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)1, but his fact-free and ill-informed rant was not the only attempt to counter McKibben’s message.
This year’s NZ climate change conference is fast approaching, and I’ll be heading up to Palmerston North at the beginning of next month to cover proceedings for Hot Topic. The conference runs over June 4th and 5th at the Convention Centre, and covers just about every aspect of work on climate and related issues in NZ, organised under four main themes:
The Physical Science
Impacts, Vulnerability & Adaptation
Integration & Cross-cutting Issues
Keynote speakers are Professor Jon Barnett from the University of Melbourne, Andy Reisinger, Dave Frame and Professor Robert Anderson. I’ll be blogging/tweeting from the conference, and plan to post some short audio interviews with key participants. I’ll have to sing for my supper too — my abstract for a short talk entitled When two worlds collide: Communicating climate science on the internet1 was accepted by the organisers.
In other conference news, Wellington readers might like to pitch up to Parliament on Friday, June 7th, where Green MP Kennedy Graham is organising a one day meeting “with the aim of fostering cross-party and public dialogue on climate change”. Speakers will include the UNFCCC’s Christina Figueres (by video) Dave Frame, Andy Reisinger, Adrian Macey, Judy Lawrence, HT’s own Cindy Baxter, Peter Weir, Suzy Kerr, Simon Terry, Jonathon Boston and more. Should be an interesting and worthwhile day: register (for free) here.
Occasionally — but only occasionally — the political pantomime that is parliamentary question time throws up something interesting. Yesterday, NZ’s deputy prime minister Bill English managed to dig himself into a drought-ridden hole, only to emerge looking like a climate denier. Green Party co-leader Russel Norman tried to get English to expand on his earlier comments that the government would not be able to help farmers hit by increased incidence of droughts, which led to this astonishing little exchange [Hansard transcript here]:
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the Government’s own research body the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) when it states: “Droughts are projected to become more frequent and more intense under climate change.”?
Hon Bill English: I would not want to question the scientific effort that has gone into that, although there is always uncertainty about these predictions. I recall similar predictions made by similar scientific bodies in Australia just 4 or 5 years ago and it has not stopped raining since.
Astonishing stuff. English gets the uncertainty issue completely wrong1, and then manages to insult Australians who have been suffering through their hottest summer ever. Here’s a little chart from the Aussie Climate Commission that he might find helpful.
A question-time exchange in the New Zealand Parliament a few days ago seemed worth drawing to the attention of Hot Topic’s readers. Green MP Kennedy Graham (pictured) put this question to the Minister for Climate Change Issues:
Is he concerned by a recent report of an international team of scientists that, even with a two degree Celsius rise in average global temperature, future generations could face sea levels of up to 12 to 22 metres higher than at present?
Kate Wilkinson, the Minister of Conservation, replied on behalf of the Minister for Climate Change Issues:
Yes. The estimates of sea level rise in this report are in line with estimates from the science community over the past few years. But I note that the author himself puts these estimates in context by stating that such changes could take centuries or millennia and that “The current trajectory for the 21st century global rise of sea level is 2 to 3 feet …”.
Graham’s follow-up question pointed out that the current Government guidelines for councils for sea level rise for 2100 are lower than the level estimated by scientists and asked whether the need for correction would be admitted.
Possible the longest ever title on a Hot Topic post: Simon Johnson continues our series on the NZ election by examining the entrails…
So whats happening with climate change in the election?
I was originally thinking about writing a wonkish post comparing climate change policies between parties. You know the sort of thing. Which parties have policies that reflect the seriousness of the impacts the science predicts? Who has got the science wrong? Which politicians are all talk and no action? What are the minute details of the each party’s NZETS policies. Such as delays to sector entry dates, partial price obligations and varying free unit allocation regimes in the . MEGO, anyone? (My Eyes Glaze Over….)
Then I thought, Nah! I am looking through the wrong end of the telescope. You know what really strikes me about climate change in the election? It’s the absence. It is as if climate change is nearly completely absent from the campaign. When climate change does pop up, it’s portrayed in simplistic soundbites.