A lot of hot air: High Water group confronts climate change through comedy

Auckland will go on without us

This guest post is by Damon Keen, one of the founders of new creative group High Water. Artwork by Lei Wen. If I were in Auckland, I would certainly be in the Classic Comedy Bar this Thursday…

The election is now firmly on the horizon, and despite a raft of extreme weather events globally, reporting and discussion about climate change seems to be quieter than ever.

That’s why a small group of artists and myself have decided to stop sitting on our hands and try to do something about it. We’ve set up a new group called High Water – to get creatives producing art and performance about climate change. And we’re kicking things off with a comedy night – focused entirely on our impending weathery doom!

We’ve convinced some fantastic comedians to get involved, including Michele A’Court (Female Comedian of the Decade 2010) and Jeremy Elwood (Best MC 2007), Mark Scott, Tim Batt and Maarten Idema. The show, named Hot Air, will run at the Classic Comedy Bar on Queen Street, Auckland on Thursday, March 20th.

Comedy might seem like a strange approach to such a daunting issue, but hopefully it’s a new way to broach the subject and get people talking about it again.

That’s why we want to do something different from what everyone else is doing. Artists – be they musicians, performers, designers, photographers, illustrators, or film makers – are natural communicators, and like many people are more and more anxious about the complete lack of progress on global warming. Our hope is that by creating a new platform for them to work with, we can find new ways to cut through the apathy and get climate change back onto the public agenda.

We have a number of projects planned for the year, including a climate change poster competition, a hard cover comic anthology and a play. But our first event is Hot Air – and hopefully creatives, greenies – and everyone else – will come along to find out more about the collective – and have a good laugh while they’re at it.

Find out more about High Water at:



Tickets for for Hot Air here:

84 thoughts on “A lot of hot air: High Water group confronts climate change through comedy”

  1. “climate change seems to be quieter than ever.”

    There is no denying that. Given the time that it is taking to verify the hypothesis (if that is even possible), it is little wonder that the public find the topic totally passé.
    And of course , crying “Wolf!” too often has predictable effects.

    1. Bio, you suffer – and you are in good company with many others – from the baseline shift syndrome. The same mental block that kills the frog in the slowly heated jar of water…

      For those borne in the last ten years, the next El Nino will just be a bit warmer than the usual summer and a ‘perfectly natural’ variation from what they know to be the ‘normal’.

      And for those borne in 2020 the world in 2030 will look rather normal too, and so on.

      The memories of a world that was will fade and for people without any memory of a healthy corral reef the green slime covered rocks of the future will be an interesting snorkeling ground….

      1. “For those borne in the last ten years, the next El Nino will just be a bit warmer than the usual summer”.

        Thomas the point is that from 1975 -1998, summer drought was “normal”.
        I suppose, as far as the individual farm is concerned, you might call it a lack of institutional memory.
        My family has been farming here since 1946 . . . we don’t forget extreme droughts 🙂

        1. Projection is a natural response bio, but if you really want to know is happening you have to look at more data than what is happening on your farm over the past 68 years.

  2. Gareth – the links at the bottom of the post don’t appear to be working. [Well spotted – fixed: GR]

    Damon – great to see creative people like yourself getting onboard to promote discussion/action on climate policy.

    In regard to extreme events, it looks like El Nino, or maybe El Hombre, is on the way. We haven’t seen a warm water volume anomaly in the subsurface ocean of the Pacific equatorial ocean of this magnitude since the El Hombre of 1997/1998.

    Looks like a bad drought may be brewing for New Zealand next summer…..

    1. ” of this magnitude since the El Hombre of 1997/1998.”

      That’s , like , nearly 16 years ago !
      I mean that’s, like, aeons ago dude!
      So it will definitely be “unprecedented” won’t it?
      If it happens that is.
      I wonder if I’ll even notice. Warm dry summers were a pretty regular occurrence for most of the period from 1975 to 1999.
      Farm totally brown and dead in November , developing into frost, on still brown dead grass , in early June .
      Yep! Those were the days!
      I wonder how I missed that “el Hombre” It must have been just another warm dry summer 🙂
      Wasn’t the 1977/1998 summer drought fairly severe too? In fact there was a bad one around 1975 as well. Some older farmers in this district still recall it.

      1. Yes there have been droughts in the past.. your point is?

        The point Rob is making is quite clear.

        The worst ever recorded drought (and we are not talking old farmers tales here) was last year, and that was during a period when SOI was relatively weak:

        Should the SOI develop into El Nino
        (from the reference)
        “Conversely, a ‘deep’ and consistently negative SOI pattern (less than about minus 6 over a two month period, with little change over that period) is related to a high probability of below median rainfall for many areas of Australia at certain times of the year – El Niño.”
        ie we can expect an intensified drought.

        Just warning…

        Good idea to be thinking of reducing stock, increasing water capacity, and investing in feed – but of course you will already be doing that.

        Oh! the kicker is – this will be the new normal because the so called “pause” will move to a new high. But you’ve already been told that.

          1. Hi Rob! Yes it has been rather dry on the Plains more rain than last year – but the wind this year has dried things off to almost the same extent as last. Not as wide spread as last and the rain over the weekend is a god send. Also I’m sure that things were only just catching up from last year – a huge amount of water was evaporated. The cracks in the ground were quite impressive and they have returned. Also shifts in the ground. Not as bad as an earthquake – obviously – but walls that had stood perfectly for 40 years were cracked as the ground shrunk, and they never moved back.
            Interestingly the eastern side of the Coromandel has had a lot more rain. Waihi has been positively green all summer, but through the Kairanga gorge the hills and the plains are quite burnt off. Same last year. A little pocket of green in a an otherwise parched land.
            Luci was relatively mild here – hope she treated you all up there as well too. 🙂

            1. Macro, good to hear that the rain has brought some relief, however meagre it may be. We’ve been lucky, with enough rain to keep local farmers happy. Dry over on the west coast of Northland though.

              Great to see your daughter out there doing something too.

  3. I wonder if I’ll even notice

    Well if you didn’t notice the worst NZ drought in 70 years back in 2012-2013, there’s zero chance of you noticing another extreme drought in 2014-2015. Not sure that there are many other farmers are as delusional as you though.

    For the remainder of the world, an El Hombre (if it occurs) will likely cause a weak monsoon in Asia (drought), mass coral bleaching and mortality worldwide, and another exceptional drought in the Amazon rainforest. Global surface temperatures might see the record broken in 2014, but more likely in 2015.

    1. “worst NZ drought in 70 years “.

      Yes , on some limited criteria e.g. geographical extent.
      On other criterion , e.g. duration it was no big deal.

      You find many agricultural scientists who have concluded that the big factors were :-
      1. farmer complacency after a clutch of cool wet summers , beginning in 1999
      2. the advent of the practice of carrying no feed reserves in support of higher stocking rates
      3. the chronic low profitability of many farms.

      In the past , when the Hawkes Bay area turned to dust in October , the lambs all went to the King Country and Taihape areas.
      That was the difference last year.

      So the economic impact for Godzone was probably the worst ever. But not because the drought itself was unprecedented.

      There is no delusion: I farm conservatively. I had adequate reserves on hand ( a spare 150 acre silage stack from previous wet years).
      This year the picture is much the same.

      The point is , that from a purely weather/dryness/duration perspective , the 2013 summer was no big deal for any farmer with a few decades of experience.

      1. sorry to dispute your recollection – but the drought was unprecedented in many parts of the country. We are NOT talking old farmers tales here we are discussing no. of days without rain, average temperates, total precipitation. Yes farming practices have changed over the years – and not for the better. But please be quite clear, from a climatic records point of view the 2012-2013 was unprecedented. Furthermore, in the Waikato, the drought last year brought the number of droughts over the past decade to 4 – again unheard of in the past, and that, from the president of federated farmers.

    2. “. Not sure that there are many other farmers are as delusional as you though.”

      You are absolutely wrong.
      The words you were looking for were “well-prepared” – not “delusional” . . . . that was just you admitting the paucity of your argument with an attempt at insult.
      You lose 🙂

      1. Actually Bio, you are probably one of the more delusional climate science deniers to ever comment here. That’s your prerogative.

        I still don’t see how your smug attitude is going to help other farmers in New Zealand cope with an El Hombre-driven drought, should one occur. Forward planning can only accomplish so much. And with a probable shift to more intense and more frequent drought, many farmers are heading into trouble – as are we all.

        Even without the poleward expansion of the subtropical dry zone toward New Zealand, the warming of the ocean & atmosphere has, and will continue to, intensify the hydrological effects of El Nino & La Nina. That indicates that drought in New Zealand will grow ever more damaging in time.

        By all means continue to be as smug as you like, just remember that physics will always win in the end.

      2. Rubbish. Your position is intellectually bankrupt. What a coincidence that after a particularly dire run of extreme climate events, deniers come out in droves. I have noticed this on a number of forums – the same old discredited memes over and over again.

        1. RW – yes, it’s actually quite noticeable. Deniers come out in their droves to protest the latest dose of reality meted out by Earth’s climate system.

          We do need to come up with a witty, fitting description for that…..

  4. A comedy about the putative effects of enhanced IR radiation from CO2 .

    Not an obvious choice, I must admit.

    I’m more of “an Irishman walks into a bar…” kind of guy.

      1. putative
        “generally considered or reputed to be.”

        Not sure how that makes me a “slayer” (is that a heavy metal band?)

          1. I mean “putative” in the context of not knowing the response of the climate system to the small change in forcing due to the increased concentrations of CO2, as acknowledged by the IPCC in giving a range of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celcius to a doubling of CO2 levels above pre-industrial levels

            (boom-boom, just trying to see how to fold that into a stand-up comedy routine)

            1. ” small change in forcing…” hey here we go, your straw stuffed golliwog has amnesia. If you multiply the “small change in forcing…” with the km2 of the globe, presto: 4 Hiroshima bombs or there about per second induced in the heat balance of the Earth. Henceforth: http://sks.to/heat

              But heck that’s ‘only natural’…. yea right! Oh and who cares about few degrees warmer he? The last Ice age was only on average a few degrees colder than today…..

            2. Yes and gosh what that does to the climate. Just look back to the mini ice age of the last Mauder Minimum. What change in forcing was it that caused that? You guessed it: 0.32 W/m2 or about 1/10th of the CO2 forcing since the industrial revolution.
              If you think yourself so smart to ‘know’ how little effect a 3% change in forcing has, how about you and your golliwog publish a paper and submit it to Nature…

          1. No but I collected a few links here:


            Presumably you will be able to pick up some cheap properties next to wind farms and rest assured that you will sleep peacefully, despite the “nimby’s” having abandoned their homes because of the noise that they complained about.

            Presumably they left their homes without compensation for some reason other than noise. Who knows?
            You will be able to tell us when you buy one of these abandoned properties for a knock-down price

            The “AMA” have said it won’t affect your life, despite there being GPs who think otherwise.

            You obviously trust the AMA over a few crackpot GPs and “nimbys” so what have you to lose?

            1. That’s great Bill. I enjoy “playing” too.

              We have has some success this year:

              At least 3 major offshore wind farm projects in the UK cancelled.

              Not due to activists, but apparently the lavish subsidies aren’t enough to keep these useless piles of junk in business.

              The good news is that investor confidence in the UK energy sector is now so low that sky-rocketing energy prices and/or brown outs are almost a certainty.

              What’s not to like?!

              Imagine the delight that the collapse of the UK industrial economy will bring!

              Even our furry friend “Beaker” might look forward to emigration to NZ. I will of course provide a welcome party for him/her/it

  5. The Pacific ocean has been soaking up heat for several years and although 2010 was the most recent hot year the temperature has not been shooting up the way that id did between 1972 and 2005.
    An El Nino creates havoc with farming and food production and it will adversely affect millions of people.http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/blog.html
    Nasa are forecasting the El Nino to arrive sometime around September which will coincide with the Arctic ice minimum so it should be an interesting time.

  6. AndyS says “small change in (C02) forcing as a percentage of total solar forcing.”

    This is the wrong measure. You have to compare changes in the CO2 forcing to changes in the solar forcing. Thus it appears from the research that the CO2 forcing can overwhelm the solar forcing.

    The prediction is that even radical falls in solar energy such as a new maunder minimum would have little impact on the increasing greenhouse effect and temperatures over the next 100 years.

      1. That’s 340W/m2 average over earth’s surface, and roughly 3W/m2 increase in CO2 forcing over the last 150 years, so not nearly as small as you suggest. 1% might not seem like a lot, but in terms of the earth’s energy budget it’s huge – because it’s accumulating in the system. Hence the energy widget in the sidebar.

        1. I’m always reminded of Wilkins Micawber –

          Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery.

          andy and his tribe share the impecunious Micawber’s conviction that ‘something will turn up’; not a reasonably founded hope, but asserted very noisily – and airily – indeed, nonetheless…

          1. as always trying to find some socio-political context to my statements Bill.

            1% of something is a small percentage.

            Is this really so difficult? Does it offend you?

            1. No, because, as you know, the forcing effect of CO2 is logarithmic with increasing CO2.

            2. good to see you linking to something sensible for a change andy – the trick is tho… you actually have to read it.. especially the last paragraph – I’ll quote it for you.
              “So if we continue in a business-as-usual scenario, we should expect to see atmospheric CO2 levels accelerate rapidly enough to more than offset the logarithmic relationship with temperature, and cause the surface temperature warming to accelerate as well.”
              and further on…
              “Thus the exponential increase in CO2 will outpace its logarithmic relationship with surface temperature, causing global warming to accelerate unless we take serious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

            3. AndyS thinks that 1% of anything is so small that it will have no effect on anything.

              So here is a question for deniers like AndyS. How long will you remain alive if your core temperature is raised by a measly 1% (310 K to 313 K)?

            1. Careful, andy; many readers may not be able to distinguish your playing dumb from your being dumb… 😉

            2. On the classic NZ Routeburn track, which I walked with my family this summer, they have a great system of stoat traps that are keeping the predators at bay and increasing the local bird life.

              Many of these traps are funded by visitor donations.

              I’m sure we would all agree this is a positive thing.

        1. We are given to understand that andy has a degree in mathematics, and so therefore has some understanding of what a rate of change might be. It is after all a fundamental concept of calculus. However, his inability to correctly use the mathematical term “likely” in a previous thread.
          a. casts doubt on the quality of the university that conferred the degree, or
          b. he has had a massive attack of amnesia similar to that suffered by our Prime Minister and his Minister of Justice – i.e. forgotten almost everything that actually matters, in andy’s case particular fundamental mathematical concepts, or
          c. he is being deliberately deceitful, in attempting to spin and twist words to a meaning that is not intended.

          I suspect the latter…

            1. I repeat once more since andyS may have missed it.

              AndyS thinks that 1% of anything is so small that it will have no effect on anything.

              So here is a question for deniers like AndyS. How long will you remain alive if your core temperature is raised by a measly 1% (310 K to 313 K)?

            2. Dear Ian Forrester,
              Please show me where I said that 1 percent of something won’t have any effect

              I said that 1% is a small percentage. I think most reasonable people would agree that 1% is a small percentage and 99% is a large percentage.

              I realise that saying 1% is a small percentage may be offensive to some people and have already apologized for this.

              Numbers can cause offense. Pythagoras had Herodotus drowned for suggesting the concept of irrational numbers.

              Irrational numbers, imaginary and complex number, low percentages, and even zero. These can all drive people crazy.

            3. Your previous comments were based upon the assumption that a 1% rate of change in forcing was neither here nor there. Now that it has been pointed out to you that that is a false assumption, you waffle about what you were really saying – which as usual is absolute tosh!

            4. A 1% rate of change has the effect of doubling every 72 years. But of course you already knew that.

            5. That assumes that the forcing increases linearly, which it doesn’t (unless emissions increase exponentially)

            6. You have seen the Keeling curve andy? Humans are emitting more and more GHG not less. It’s a function of this obsession with “growth”. Growth by its very nature is exponential.

            7. I don’t think emissions are increasing exponentially

              We don’t actually know how emissions will pan out, which is why the IPCC use “representative concentration pathways” (RCPs) to model various scenarios

            8. I don’t think emissions are increasing exponentially

              That’s just it andy ..
              you don’t think.. 🙁

            9. It obviously doesn’t to you – you seem to think its linear, but then you also seem to think that a 1% rate of increase is always insignificant.

            10. No I don’t think it is linear. There appears to be a slight increase in gradient

              However, there isn’t enough to determine that it is exponential

              Exponential increases in emissions don’t seem likely to me. For example, the USA has decreased emissions over the last few years

            11. The other thing is that it is not sufficient to say “y is exponential against x”

              There is the question of scale factors that needs to be taken into account

              Emissions *may* be exponential against time but at a completely different scale to the logarithmic decline of CO2 forcing. The latter has been observed. Hansen in fact suggested that partial saturation of CO2 bands is being observed.

              The key metrics are climate sensitivity and emissions scenarios (RCP’s)

            12. There you go again! making unfounded assumptions and putting words into others mouths! You really have to stop that. exponential curves can look very flat if you only take a small fraction. Eye balling is not a particularly sound analytical tool.
              There are many influences on the Keeling curve, anthropogenic carbon emissions is one of them – deforestation is another, the ability of the oceans to sequester another and so on. But one major factor we do know is human generated CO2. GHG emissions continue to increase exponentially, as the world economy continues to “grow”. More and more stuff = more and more emissions simple as that. There is the decoupling of course that some economists are want to push – increasing efficiency meaning growth without increasing inputs, but at this stage it is more of a myth than a reality.
              Then there is the fact that our politicians are stuck on one side of the equation.

              “Policymakers are too focused on the supply side, on trying to change the mix of energy sources we rely on, and not doing enough to unlock the gains that can be made on the demand side through greater energy efficiency.”
              Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council

              But what it all boils down to is the sad fact that our western economy is not about meeting peoples “needs” anymore but about creating “wants”, the major corporates cannot exist with continually increasing their profit, and that demands creating more and more “wants” within the consuming public. To satisfy those wants demands more and more resources and more and more energy – released inevitably from fossil fuels. So it may not look like an exponential curve, but just for interest, create a curve in excel that has a rate of change of 1% with 70 increases and what does it look like? But then, the Keeling curve is obviously not as simple a function as that, and can and needs to decline when we humans get our act into gear.

            13. Macro March 20, 2014 at 6:06 pm
              There you go again! making unfounded assumptions and putting words into others mouths!

              for example?

  7. Andys maybe I was a bit harsh in my comments about trolling, but think of it this way. We know small changes in a trace gas carbon dioxide can have significant effects on temperature.

    I think by rough analogy this is similar to a catalytic convertor in an automobile, or semiconductor transistor where small things do big things.

    Changes in solar output seem to be at a lower level and have less effect on temperature from my understanding of the research.

    1. Looks like my comments have been deleted and I am blocked.

      [You are on moderation. That means I will only pass your comments if they contribute to the discussion. Snips are usually for matters of taste/fact. Read the comment policy if you are in any doubt. GR]

      [Nonsensical accusation snipped. GR]

      I did try to point out I was merely repeating the title of their post, but this was deemed too offensive.

      Some people are easily offended, even, apparently, by referring to 1% as a “low percentage”

      Does the Occupy movement get offended this easily?

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