RTFR, Jack

homer.jpg The old sea dog at the helm of our little flotilla of climate cranks has fired a broadside at the NIWA scientists involved in the preparation of this week’s revised climate projections for New Zealand. Yes, step forward Rear Admiral Jack Welch, who’s in fine bombastic form (perhaps he’s been taking lessons from Heartland’s J Bast Esq.) in a media release from the NZ CSC. According to Jack, “NIWA scientists have become political propagandists”:

The State Services Commission should investigate whether scientists of NIWA have crossed the boundary into politics with their sudden flurry of advocacy for action on so-called global warming at a time when the Government is struggling to gain support in Parliament for its Emissions Trading Scheme Bill. This today from the chairman of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, Rear Admiral Jack Welch. “This flurry of advocacy has all the hallmarks of political spin, which has appalled the scientists associated with our coalition. Worse, NIWA is breaching the principles of good science by not qualifying its climate predictions with appropriate disclaimers.

Oh, the shock and the shame. Bow your heads, ye Nobel prizewinners, because the Admiral has spoken. He continues:

“Projections of future climate are not predictions, but speculation. They come from global climate models that have not been verified, so their output is merely conjecture. This is recognised across the Tasman, where the Australian CSIRO attaches a disclaimer to all its reports, such as this one on a report from the Queensland Government: ‘This report relates to climate change scenarios based on computer modelling. Models involve simplifications of the real physical processes that are not fully understood. Accordingly, no responsibility will be accepted by CSIRO or the Queensland Government for the accuracy of forecasts or predictions inferred from this report or for any person’s interpretations, deductions, conclusions or actions in reliance in this report.’

Unfortunately for the Rear Admiral, here’s what it says on page 2 of the report he’s complaining about:

As explained in the report, developing projections of future climate changes is still subject to significant uncertainty. The authors have used the best available information in preparing this report, and have interpreted this information exercising all reasonable skill and care. Nevertheless none of the organisations involved in its preparation accept any liability, whether direct, indirect or consequential, arising out of the provision of information in this report.

And a little bit later, in the executive summary (p xiii):

A definitive single quantitative prediction of how much a particular climatic element (eg, heavy rainfall intensity) will change over coming decades is not feasible. This is because the rate of climate change will depend on future global emissions of greenhouse gases, which in turn depend on global social, economic and environmental policies and development. Incomplete scientific knowledge about some of the processes governing the climate, and natural year-to- year variability, also contribute to uncertainty in projections for the future.

Seems to cover all of Jack’s points, and we haven’t even started reading the main body of the report (which is well worth reading in full).

Read The Flaming Report, Jack, before rushing to the media to complain about it. Sadly, I don’t think you bothered. I hope and expect that you will issue an equally speedy apology.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Look out, here comes tomorrow

prsum2090_hs2.png Hot off the presses: NIWA’s latest projections for the climate of New Zealand over the coming century were released this morning as part of a new MfE guidance manual (here, PDF) for local government. Based on IPCC modelling for AR3 and AR4 downscaled to local climate, plus early work with NIWA’s new regional climate model, the picture is broadly similar to earlier results: modest warming everywhere, a reduction in frosts and more hot days, increased frequency of droughts and heavy rainfall events, and steady sea level rise. NIWA’s press release is available at Scoop (link to full .doc here). At the same time the Ministry of Agriculture has released its latest EcoClimate report, which takes the new projections and assesses their impact on key agricultural sectors. I’ll be picking through these reports, and the associated coastal hazards guidance over the next few days, but here are a few of the headlines:

Continue reading “Look out, here comes tomorrow”

Swell maps, and other stories

GoogleBAS.jpg Time for another round up of climate-related news. Hot on the web today (for cartophiles, at least) is that Google Earth has gained a swag of new climate change related information, the result of collaboration between Google, the UK Government, the Met Office Hadley Centre and the British Antarctic Survey. The Climate Change in Our World project, launched at the Google Zeitgeist conference by UK PM Gordon Brown offers two new layers based on Hadley Centre predictions, BAS research in Antarctica, and impacts worldwide. You can animate global temperature changes, visit crumbling ice shelves, and view climate change impacts around the world. Google Earth blog here, download .kmz files here. Hours of geographical fun are guaranteed.

  • A major new study finds strong links between recent climate change and large scale changes in the planet’s natural systems. It’s our fault, in other words [Nature (behind a paywall), BBC, Science Daily News, Guardian]. Lead author Cynthia Rosenzweig from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York told the BBC “…look at all the effects this relatively low amount of warming has had. It reveals the sensitivity to relatively low amounts of warming in many physical and biological systems.” A key point for anyone who thinks that “only a few degrees” won’t make much difference.
  • The growing number of humans on the planet is having a dramatic impact on wildlife populations, according to the Living Planet Index compiled by WWF and the Zoological Society of London. Populations of land-based species have fallen by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29% since 1970. We’re losing about 1% of all other species every year, and one of the “great extinction episodes” in the Earth’s history is under way, the index finds. [BBC, Independent, Guardian, Telegraph].
  • More bad wildlife news: the 2008 Bird Red List “warns that long-term droughts and extreme weather puts additional stress on key habitats,” according to the BBC. “The assessment lists 1,226 species as threatened with extinction – one-in-eight of all bird species.
  • RNZ National’s science programme Our Changing World is always worth a listen, but last week’s (15/5/08) was a cracker. Ice core expert Richard Alley on Antarctica’s future, an update on the University of Waikato’s UltraCommuter EV, and one of the most cogent overviews of biofuel options I’ve ever heard from Doug Cameron, Chief Scientific Officer of Khosla Ventures, the Californian clean tech company. If those streaming links expire, podcast versions are available here, and the programme’s archive is here.
  • Wired reports on Renault’s plans to make EVs for Israel, and then the world, and EcoGeek discovers that Audi intends to have EVs in production in ten years. They might have to hurry… (my son announced yesterday that “one day’ he intends to own a Porsche. I’m willing to bet that by the time he can afford one (if ever) it’ll be a hybrid or EV).
  • #35 with a bullet! Tim Selwyn’s latest NZ blogosphere survey (at Tumeke!) finds that Hot Topic has moved up from #68 in February to #35 in March/April. I’d like to thank The Listener for making it all possible… 😉

Tangled up in blue

NZETS.jpgJohn Key has announced that National will not support the Emissions Trading Scheme legislation in its current form [Stuff]. When the select committee reports back to parliament next month, National will vote against a second reading. The reactions are as you might expect: from praise at Kiwiblog to righteous indignation at No Right Turn. Hot Topic (for what it’s worth) is disappointed that climate policy is effectively becoming a political football. Key’s move doesn’t mean that the ETS is dead, but it does radically change the political landscape on climate issues. Helen Clark is insisting the ETS will proceed, but she will now need to ensure that the Greens and Maori Party are on side, and rustle up some votes from New Zealand First and/or United Future. Good luck with that.

It appears National, despite their fine words about being committed to emissions trading and firm action on emissions reductions, have made the crude political calculation that in the general clamour being raised by submitters on the ETS they can keep both their business constituency happy and lessen problems with the remaining sceptics in their ranks (and in a future support arrangement with ACT) by delaying the introduction of a scheme. Note the speed with which the climate cranks have been rushing out supporting press releases. I hope Key realises that he’ll need a long spoon to sup with that lot.

Delaying action on climate change is now an election issue. If National form the next government, it doesn’t take much of a crystal ball to see that substantive action will likely be years away as officials return to the drawing board for a third time. Those who aren’t bald already could be forgiven for tearing their hair out.

Never mind the bollocks…

RRSwindle.jpg Occasionally my rural postie (hi Jenny!) brings me something more interesting than bills. Last week, I received a package from Sky TV. Packed in a brown paper bag that looks remarkably like an airline sick bag, sealed with a “Warning: content may offend” sticker, was a DVD copy of The Great Global Warming Swindle, the sceptic “documentary” that caused a furore* when first shown on Channel 4 in the UK last year, and which Prime plan to show here in the next few weeks. Full marks for creative PR, but a definite fail for factual inaccuracies in the promotional leaflet they sent out (copy here). Apparently “the theory that man-made emissions of CO2 have a discernable (sic) effect on climate lacks robust scientific evidence”, “there’s overwhelming evidence indicating that it’s solar activity that determines temperature”, and “everything you’ve ever been told about Global Warming is probably untrue”. Sorry Prime, none of those statements are true, and the Advertising Standards Authority might have a thing or two to say about that…

The Great Global Warming Swindle is not a documentary, it’s a one-sided piece of propaganda made on behalf of climate sceptics that alleges that the world’s climate scientists are lying about global warming. It contains glaring inaccuracies, distortions of fact, and misrepresentations of the real state of climate science (and yes, I have watched it). It’s been the subject of 250 complaints in the UK (a ruling is expected from OFCOM, the UK broadcasting standards body, any day now), and the version being shown here still contains factual errors and distortions that were drawn to the film-maker’s attention at the time TGGWS was shown in Australia (July last year). It’s worth taking a moment to watch ABC’s science correspondent Tony Jones’ interview with Martin Durkin, the film’s producer (here and here). Neither of the two graphs Jones mentions have been corrected in the version Prime apparently plans to show in NZ. Nor have any of the serious scientific errors pointed out by Aussie scientists last year (Jones, D., Watkins, A., Braganza, K., and Coughlan, M. (2007), “The Great Global Warming Swindle”: a critique. Bull. Aust. Meteor. Ocean. Soc., 20(3) 63-72 – available as html, or PDF), or summarised nicely by Bob Ward at Climate of Denial. The Australian Science Media Centre also has a good resource page on the film. It remains a fundamentally flawed work that fails to meet any reasonable standard of accuracy.

Prime are clearly hoping to stir up a bit of controversy and boost their audience. They plan to show a “debate” following the screening, pitting cranks against scientists. By doing that they’re playing straight out of the sceptic playbook. They’re “teaching the debate”, when the debate has long since moved on to more interesting and relevant stuff. And they’re poisoning the well of public debate by showing material that’s been repeatedly demonstrated to be wrong. Prime should insist that Durkin corrects all the errors before the film is shown here, and identify it clearly as one man’s opinion, not a factual documentary. To provide some semblance of balance, they should drop the idea of a debate and replace it with a counterpoint from NZ’s climate scientists.

Freedom of speech should not extend to freedom to lie. The climate cranks want to make a political argument about climate policy – do nothing, or not very much, and then only slowly – but that is a political not a scientific argument. I’m happy to defend their right to hold their political opinions, but making up evidence in support of their arguments is simply wrong.

* Good summary of the row, and comprehensive links, at medialens.