Federated Farmers: sticking their heads in the soil?

Dryland farmingFederated Farmers says farmers don’t need to worry about the causes of climate change, they only need to cope with the impacts. Feds President William Rolleston says they have “no position” on whether mankind is influencing global warming, and say that looking at the causes is not that helpful. No position?

“We [farmers] need to basically adjust to the realities that are being dealt to us, and why it may or may not be happening isn’t really as important, as actually being prepared for what we actually do get dealt,” their “climate change spokesman” Anders Crofoot told Radio New Zealand today.

You can’t have “no position” on the climate science — it’s like telling your bank manager you have “no position” on your finances, despite the numbers being there for all to see. I’m calling it climate denial. I’ll come back to that later, but let’s look at WHY they’re saying that.  If you were to take a position, that is, agree that climate change is real and caused by humans, you’d have to act. You’d think.

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Out of Africa: Nigerian environment minister warns of devastating climate impacts

The government in New Zealand may make soothing noises about climate change impacts, but that is not an option for the Minister of Environment in Nigeria, Mrs Laurentia Mallam. She issued this chilling warning about the impacts of sea level rise a few days ago:

“Studies have projected that with an accelerated sea level rise of 0.5 meters, 35 per cent of the Niger Delta land mass will be lost, and with accelerated sea level rise of 1.0 meters, 75 per cent of the Niger Delta will be gone under water.

“Given this scenario, it implies that nearly 32 million people (22.6 per cent of the national population) who live along the coastal zone are at the risk of becoming environmental refugees. Such forced movement could result in social frictions arising from demands of land resources for economic activities by the refugees.”

For good measure she listed the full effects of climate change on her country:

“In Nigeria, the impacts of climate change are manifested by erosion and landslides in the east, drought, and desertification in the north, raising sea levels in the coastal areas and flooding across the nation.”

The adaptation measures required by Nigeria will obviously be of staggering proportions, and add urgency to the need to prevent the problem from getting even worse than it is already going to be.

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Something (early) for the weekend: grim forecast for oceans and the roots of denial

Something of a miscellany today, coupled with an open thread, to keep you going during a brief pause in posting. First up: a study published this week in PLOS Biology looks at changes in ocean chemistry, temperature and primary productivity over the next century under two emissions scenarios, and finds that no corner of the ocean escapes untouched. From Science Daily:

“When you look at the world ocean, there are few places that will be free of changes; most will suffer the simultaneous effects of warming, acidification, and reductions in oxygen and productivity,” said lead author Camilo Mora, assistant professor at the Department of Geography in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. “The consequences of these co-occurring changes are massive — everything from species survival, to abundance, to range size, to body size, to species richness, to ecosystem functioning are affected by changes in ocean biogeochemistry.”

It’s been a productive few weeks for Mora: he was lead author on a recent study1 published in Nature that estimated when climate in different parts of the world would move beyond anything experienced in the last 150 years — have a play with this interactive map to find out when your part of the world will move into the unknown. See also Climate Central, Science Daily, and a huge amount of press coverage.

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Exxon boss: intellectually obtuse position on climate impacts

I sometimes wonder what the CEOs of fossil fuel companies think about the effect of their products on the atmosphere and whether they harbour any anxieties about climate change. One of them, Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil, has told us how he views the matter in his reply to a question following a speech he gave to the Council of Foreign Relations last week, a speech in which he had explained how unexpectedly vast the sources of extractable natural gas and oil in North American rocks are proving to be.

To get a full sense of his reply to the question you’ll need to look at it on the website – it’s about two thirds the way down the page. It’s copyrighted but I’ll try to give a fair paraphrase of his main points albeit accompanied by my criticisms. Tillerson is answering a question, not delivering a prepared statement, but his answer no doubt broadly reveals his basic stance on the question.

The questioner briefly outlined some of the devastating consequences for humanity of the burning of all the reserves Tillerson had talked about in his speech and asked what he was going to do about it. “We need your help to do something about this.”

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Minister of silly talks

Apparently there’s too much preaching going on from climate scientists. That’s the message from the UK’s new climate change minister, Greg Barker. Of all the things the minister might have found to say this is surely one of the silliest. Reuter’s report found its way into the Waikato Timesand disturbed my evening equilibrium.

Extraordinarily, the platform from which he delivered his remarks was the launching by the UK government of a new interactive Google Earth map showing the impacts of a  4 degrees warmer world.

He had some sensible things to say:

“This map reinforces our determination to act against dangerous man-made climate change.‪‪ We know the stakes are high and that’s why we want to help secure an ambitious global climate change deal.”

But it was the silly statements that gained media attention. He evidently considered the occasion suitable for an accusation that “some experts” have turned people against them by being too forthright and refusing to acknowledge any uncertainties about the science. Apparently they’ve been dealing in absolutes, and it wasn’t necessary. He’s not a scientist but he knows that they don’t have to deal in absolutes.

I haven’t struck any climate science experts who refuse to acknowledge any uncertainties about the science. The IPCC report is very open about uncertainties. Barker’s is a foolish accusation, and a damaging one. It’s all the worse for not specifying who he is referring to. But I suspect he hasn’t got anyone to refer to and is just parroting a complacent perception  that he’s picked up from the circles he moves in.

He acknowledges that the evidence behind the science is overwhelming, but enlarges on his complaints about the experts who have provided that evidence. They should try to be “more realistic, less preachy, more inclusive and a bit more tolerant”.

What on earth does all that mean? Is he accusing climate experts of lacking a sense of how to relate to ordinary people? Does he mean more realistic about what people can be expected to understand? Or is he suggesting they should adjust their findings to make them more palatable? Inclusive and more tolerant of whom? Lower standards of peer review perhaps? Regular dialogue with deniers?

I doubt whether he knows what it means himself in any detail. But it feeds his intention to lay some blame on the scientists for the high level of public scepticism about the science. They’re getting what they’ve deserved.

“There was a slight sense that the climate community, of which politicians of course are a large part, got what was coming to them, just by being a little bit too preachy, a little bit on the higher moral tone.”

Notice the injection of politicians into the accusation. Perhaps that is the key to why he spoke as he did. Perhaps he had the Miliband brothers in mind. Whoever he had in mind he has participated in a fiction and let down the scientific community.

This from the climate change minister in a government which aspires, according to his colleague on the occasion Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham, to be “the ‘greenest’ Government ever”.  Perhaps the reporting was selective. Perhaps he also spoke strongly about the deliberate disinformation campaigns, and the vicious attacks on the climategate scientists. Perhaps he lamented the media failure to convey the strength of the mainstream science. Maybe he enlarged on the importance of the community taking seriously the science that the Google Earth map was established to demonstrate. I hope so. But even if he did, he was still wrong to advance the smug notion that scientists are overplaying the issue and assuming an objectionable air of moral superiority as they do so.