The midweek omnibus: #37 (Putney to Peckham)

There’s been some good news, and not too much bad news. Let’s start with some good NZ news.

  • The Hillary Institute of International Leadership, launched in Antarctica a year ago with Sir Ed in attendance, has announced that “Leadership in….Climate Change Solutions will be the topic for the Institute’s first four year work-cycle, 2008-2012.” The Institute will appoint annual Hillary Laureates who will give public lectures in the US and NZ (the first in Christchurch in June), and a major award, to be called the Hillary Step, in 2012. There will be substantial cash awards – they’re aiming for $1 million by 2012. Good interview on Radio Nz National earlier this week (scroll to 18:46) with an Institute spokesman. Meanwhile Helen Clark won an United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Champions of the Earth award, which recognises individuals from each region of the world who have shown “extraordinary” leadership on environmental issues. The cynic in me comments that if wishes (and good words) were horses, she’d be riding a virtual Melbourne Cup winner. Unfortunately, in the real world she’s stuck on My Little Pony.
  • Christchurch Airport has achieved carbon neutrality through Landcare Research’s CarbonZero programme, making it the second in the world to do so (behind one in Sweden). Good marketing, at the very least, though it would be better if the international tourists arriving were as well offset.
  • Mass market electric vehicles take a step closer with announcement of a deal between Project Better Place, Renault-Nissan and the Israeli government. “The Israeli government would provide tax incentives to customers, Renault would supply the electric vehicles, and Project Better Place would construct and operate an Electric Recharge Grid across the entire country. Electric vehicles will be available for customers in 2011.” According to the launch press release, the scheme will use an “innovative business model” where drivers will not have own a battery, but will subscribe to the service on the basis of kilometers driven. This (and the tax incentives) will presumably keep the cost of the cars down. Over to Meridian… (Hat-tip: Joe Romm at Climate Progress). Meanwhile, Tesla are promising to (finally) deliver the first of their electric sportscars in March.
  • The EU has announced its climate plan, designed to reduce European emissions by 20% by 2020 [Economist, New Scientist, Guardian], and there will undoubtedly be a lot of fighting over how individual countries targets have been allocated. Meanwhile, the US has warned the EU not to use climate policy as a trade barrier, and the EU has warned the US that if it has no climate policy its products will face tariffs.
  • Technology Review has more on the Australian hybrid battery being successfully tested, and the BBC had a reporter on the Beluga as it began its transatlantic voyage to test the SkySail kite system.
  • Gar Lipow has made the full text of his book No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming available as a free download [PDF]. I’m looking forward to reading it.
  • The BBC has done a couple of good pieces on king tides in Tuvalu and sea level rise, and The Economist finds encouraging signs of the success of eco-labelling (especially of sustainably harvested fish).
  • More wind farms on the way: Meridian has announced it intends to proceed with a 31 turbine installation in Wellington’s Ohariu valley – the $420 million Makara development. Meanwhile the Herald prints poet Brian Turner’s thoughts on the impact of wind farms on the NZ landscape. I don’t necessarily agree with his take on wind energy, but it’s hard to disagree with his conclusion: “Our oft-warbled claims to be ahead of the game and clean and green are no more than self-congratulatory chitter. Sort out what you think our legacy ought to be, people, and stand up for it before it’s too late.”
  • Finally, Weather Channel senior meteorologist Stu Ostro continues his analysis of weather developments in the northern hemisphere, and how they could be (or already are) are sign of the impact of rapid climate change. Well worth a read if you are in the slightest weather literate, and worrying for those who are. And lest we relax, scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder report that the ice cap on Baffin Island in the far north of Canada has reduced in size by at least half over the last 50 years.

11 thoughts on “The midweek omnibus: #37 (Putney to Peckham)”

  1. My understanding is that the person in charge of the Herald’s opinion columns is of a sceptical persuasion – which explains the outbreak of nonsense over January (perhaps the big editor was away).

    Tom Harris is a Canadian lobbyist, and his “National Resource Stewardship Council” is disarmingly open about its goals. How disappointing that the Herald should print his thoughts without explaining more about his background.

    My next post will be about Muriel Newman and the NZCSC.

  2. I sent off a letter to the Herald editor explaining Tom Harris’s background and protesting at his content. My letter wasn’t published this morning, and now probably won’t be if previous experience is anything to go by.

  3. Bryan,

    Good on you for sending the letter. I’ve often found that the hardest letters to have published are those that imply some sort of failing on the paper’s behalf. Here’s hoping your one makes it though.

  4. Here it is:

    It was disappointing to find yet another climate change denier being given hospitality in the Perspectives pages of the Herald.

    Tom Harris writes from the Canadian Natural Resources Stewardship Project, one of those mysteriously funded organisations linked to fossil-fuel energy industry sources that campaign against climate change regulations.
    The content of his article was just silly bluster in the face of the serious scientific evidence of global warming caused by human activity.

    If the vast majority of scientists are right – and we don’t normally doubt them in such matters – we face a fearful future if we don’t drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is important that we all understand this to be the case and support the measures necessary to achieve the reduction.

    Mr Harris and his like may continue to appear in Herald articles, but we would be unwise to suppose this means that the matter is still debatable or that there is little we can do to mitigate the dangers ahead.

  5. Nice letter Bryan W and thanks for the pointer terence. The Tom Harris article certainly looks like someone clutching at straws (and hoping that one of them will break the camels back – to mix a metaphors or two). I feel much better knowing that diamonds don’t alter the climate.

    On the subject of windfarming I see Anton Oliver also had a go at Project Hayes and wind farms in general in the SundayStarTimes yesterday. (Sorry I can’t find a link, I actually read it in a carbon-based print format – soon to be sequestered in a landfill somewhere near Gareth, or, with a bit of luck, recycled).

    Anyway, Anton raises carbon credits four times in his article (showing a need for him to update his ‘research’ since wind farms are no longer eligible) as if to suggest that if the look of them doesn’t offend you enough the fact that they avoid carbon emissions makes them even worse. And, let’s not forget intermittency.

    Maybe he has been talking to Bryan Leyland and we’ll soon see the committed environmentalist as a member of the NZCSC.

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