A tale of two hemispheres

Jim RenwickAt the end of June, Professor Jim Renwick of Victoria University gave his inaugural lecture. As you might expect of a climate scientist, it concerns what we know about the climate system and where we’re heading. He pulls no punches. Jim has been kind enough to put together a text version of the lecture for Hot Topic: it follows. You can watch the full lecture, with accompanying slides, on the video embedded at the end of the post.

We live in a golden age of earth observation. With a few clicks of a mouse on a web browser, any of us can see the state of the global ocean surface, the current condition of the Greenland ice sheet, how much rain is falling in the tropics today, and on and on. Plus, the International Space Station (ISS), and a series of satellites such as MODIS give us wonderful images of our home planet. The climate science community can tell, with unprecedented coverage and timeliness, just what is going on in the climate system. It is a great time to be a climate researcher, but also a worrying time, in both cases because we can see exactly what is changing.

One thing the ISS pictures emphasise is just how thin the atmosphere is, a thin blue layer between the solid earth and the blackness of space. Not only is this life-supporting envelope very thin, some of the key gases in the atmosphere are there in only trace amounts, so we can change the properties of the atmosphere easily, by targeting the right gases. The discovery of the ozone hole 30 years ago brought this home with a bang. And we’ve found that build-up of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere can have a profound effect on the climate system, right down to the bottom of the oceans.

Carbon dioxide is important because it’s a crucial control on the surface temperature of the earth. It is very good at absorbing heat (infrared radiation) welling up from the earth, then re-radiating both up and down, in the process warming the earth’s surface. The effect is very like a blanket put on a bed – what’s under the blanket warms up. More CO2 is like putting another blanket on the bed and less is like taking away a blanket. No CO2 and the earth freezes – temperatures like we had in the South Island in late June would be the norm everywhere, all the time. While there are several other “greenhouse gases”, carbon dioxide is the most important since it stays in the atmosphere so long, hundreds to thousands of years.

Since direct atmospheric measurements began in the late 1950s, CO2 concentrations have gone from 315 ppm to about 400ppm (0.04%) now. Concentrations of CO2 are rising steadily, but the numbers hardly sound “dangerous”. But one thing to realise is that many natural changes take place over thousands to millions years. So instead of human time scale of the last 60 years, we must look on the planetary time scale… Luckily, ice cores store bubbles of ancient air that can tell us what CO2 concentrations were, far back in time. If we join the ice core record up with the observations from Hawaii, we get a very different picture – and now it does look alarming!

CO2 in the atmosphere has increased blindingly fast, by planetary standards. We have really put a lot of it up there in a handful of decades. For many thousands of years before the present, back to the beginnings of agriculture and modern civilisation, CO2 concentrations have been fairly steady, between 260 and 280ppm. Suddenly (in geological terms) they are 40% higher at around 400ppm.

So, how far back do we have to go to find the last time CO2 was this high? The answer is about 3 million years. We are making changes in decades that left to its own devices, the earth system might take hundreds of thousands of years to effect. Back then, in the “mid-Pliocene warm period”, temperatures were around 2-3°C higher than present, but sea levels were around 20m higher. That much sea level rise takes time, but it will happen again if we allow CO2 levels to stay up there.

How do we know about what was in the atmosphere 3 million years ago? From the chemistry of rocks – no ice core goes back far enough so we must look at the chemical composition of the rocks laid down then, as they carry the fingerprint of the chemical composition of the atmosphere. That is, we can read it in the earth itself. The flip side of this is that sediments being formed today will tell the story of today’s big CO2 spike. In other words, our actions today are being written into the crust of the earth and will be visible for millions of years to come, if there are any able to read it.

But what about what happens in our lifetimes, what’s happening now? The geological record is no help there – we must just experience it as we go. Global mean temperatures are going up, just what we’d expect from increased carbon dioxide levels. Things are simple at that level: more CO2 = higher temperatures. But climates vary strongly around the world, and so does climate change, as a result of geography, latitude, land mass size and so on.

For example, surface temperatures are changing at wildly different rates in different places. Over the last 60 years or so, the global average warming has been around 0.6°C. The Arctic has seen much more and the southern oceans and Antarctica much less. This brings up the issue of “Polar amplification”, the observation from the geological and paleoclimate record that both poles always warm or cool about twice as much as the global average. This is visible for the cooling at the last glacial maximum, and for the warming during the mid-Pliocene warm period. We know from the past that this always happens, but we are now learning that the two poles do not respond at the same rate. The Arctic, with its thin layer of sea ice and snow, can warm quickly. The Antarctic, with its massive ice sheets and turbulent circumpolar ocean, warms only very slowly, over centuries.

Where this difference between the hemispheres is really visible is in sea ice. In the Arctic, sea ice is disappearing at a rapid rate, while it is increasing (slowly) around the Antarctic, especially over the last 5-10 years. How can Antarctic sea ice extent be increasing, in a warming world?

The number one reason is geography. The Northern Hemisphere features ocean at the pole and lots of land in the middle latitudes. At the pole, there is only a thin cover of sea ice, a few metres thick. The Southern Hemisphere is almost the exact opposite, a big continent over the pole and almost no land in the middle latitudes. At the pole, vast ice sheets have built up, thousands of metres thick.
Following from that, the winds in both hemispheres are quite different in form too. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winds are strong over the oceans but not so much over land, and over the Arctic, the winds are very light on average. So the Arctic Ocean is mostly quiescent, with weak currents and little vertical mixing. Any extra sunlight absorbed when Arctic sea ice melts stays in the upper ocean, warming the surface quickly and promoting more melting.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the westerlies are very strong and unimpeded over the southern oceans, the most turbulent region of ocean in the world. Here, water is mixed down several hundred metres, so the heating from absorbed sunlight gets drawn down to depth quickly, leaving the surface temperature mostly unchanged while waters warm at depth. So that “ice albedo feedback” works less well for the sea ice over the southern oceans.

The Antarctic sea ice grows out around the edge of a continent, over very turbulent waters, with strong winds and storms above. It seems almost miraculous that it manages to grow to such an extent, so regularly every year. The westerlies, their strength and position, are very important for determining how the sea ice grows. And those westerlies have been strengthening and contracting farther south over the last few decades.

The strength of the westerly winds and the turbulent storm tracks that accompany the strongest winds, are controlled by the north-south temperature gradient, the difference in temperature between the tropics and the poles. A bigger difference means stronger winds. How that is changing is a key to understanding what’s going on with Southern Hemisphere winds, and with the sea ice. There are several things that affect the north-south gradient…

  • The ozone hole (surprisingly!) – removing ozone from the atmosphere over Antarctica cools the polar region (since ozone absorbs sunlight), so increases the north-south gradient.
  • CO2 (GHG) increase – away from the earth’s surface, greenhouse warming increases temperatures faster in the tropics than at high latitudes, so also increases the gradient.
  • El Niño/La Niña (ENSO) – an El Niño event warms the tropics and increases the north-south gradient, while a La Niña does the opposite, for a few months. Crucially though, the ENSO cycle puts kinks in the westerly flow, making it more southwesterly in some places and more northwesterly in others.

Putting it all together, it adds up to the non-uniform pattern of sea ice change we have seen in the last 40 years: increases over the Ross Sea (south of New Zealand) and over the Weddell Sea in the far South Atlantic, where the winds have trended more southerly (colder), and decreases near the Antarctic Peninsula, where the winds have trended northerly (warmer). Other factors in the overall sea ice trend include the melting of ice from the Antarctic ice sheets, putting easily-frozen fresh water into the southern oceans, and changes in ocean surface waves that have affected the break-up and merging of ice floes.

Meanwhile, back in the Arctic, we have a fairly quiescent situation with the sea ice melting away at an accelerating rate, as the ocean surface soaks up sunlight. The differences in what’s happening with sea ice at both poles has a lot to do with the detail of geography, winds, the nature of the ocean circulation, and even El Niño and the ozone hole. What we are seeing from year to year are intermediate steps along the way to that generally warmer world, with less ice all round and “polar amplification” at both ends of the earth. We will get there, if we wait long enough.

So what’s in store for the future? The last IPCC report demonstrated clearly that the amount of global warming we experience depends a lot on how much more CO2 we emit. The two extreme scenarios considered by IPCC were the low-carbon future of scenario “RCP2.6” and the high-carbon future of scenario “RCP8.5”. I call these the blue future and the red future, from the colours used in the IPCC report. Under the blue future, emissions are projected to go to zero by around 2060, then become negative after that (CO2 removal, using technologies we haven’t quite invented yet). That scenario stops the warming before we get to 2°C change, and is the only one considered in the IPCC report to do so.

The red future is “business as usual”, just keep burning the coal and oil like we have the last few years. That results in global change beyond anything seen for probably 50 million years. This is the “crocodiles swimming at the North Pole” scenario.

So, what about that blue future…? The one all the governments signed up to in Copenhagen a few years ago? There is a clear illustration of the situation in the Ministry for the Environment’s “Discussion Document” issued in May as part of the brief and poorly-publicised public consultation round on what our future national emissions targets should be. That document shows that we have a limited budget of CO2 we can emit, since the stuff stays in the atmosphere so long and just builds up. To have a good chance (67%) of staying under 2°C of warming, we have a limit of 2900 Gigatons (2.9 trillion tons) of CO2. The bad news is that we have already used two thirds of the budget, and at current rates it will be all spent within 20 years. So some really significant action is needed if we are serious about reining in climate change.

We have all heard of the 2°C limit, the “safety guardrail” that we don’t want to cross. Yet 2°C is nothing magical, no guarantee of safety. Already we have had nearly 1°C of warming and we know already that floods and heat-waves are more likely than they were 50 years ago. Still, keeping under 2°C of warming may stop the big ice sheets from melting too much and would avoid the really extreme changes that are possible.

Whatever happens with the total warming, things are bound to play out differently around the globe. For instance, we can look at how long it would take to get to 2°C warming in different places, assuming “middle of the road” emissions. A paper in 2011 by Manoj Joshi and co-authors did just that, and found that much of the Arctic will have passed 2°C of warming within the next 10 years. Going by the huge increase in wild fires in Alaska in recent years, the Arctic may have already over-achieved. Farther south the changes are slower, and over New Zealand and the southern oceans, we’ll have to wait until late in the century. Most of the climate change issues for us will come sooner from what happens to our neighbours and trading partners. There are economic, social, and moral issues associated with climate change impacts in other countries that will put pressure on New Zealand, well before the climate turns nasty here.

More importantly than temperature change, rainfall patterns are shifting. It is becoming drier in the subtropics and wetter nearer the poles (and on the Equator). At the latitudes of Australia and northern New Zealand, we are likely to see a lot of drying over coming decades. In the Northern Hemisphere, a very worrying sign is the drying out of the Mediterranean region, from North Africa to the Middle East to southern Europe. This is already a place with lots of issues – political unrest, terrorism, war, economic crises, huge flows of refugees… beyond its direct effects, climate change is an aggravator of all these things. Organisations like the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, even the Pentagon, recognise this and list climate change as an immediate threat to social order worldwide

And let’s not forget sea level rise – another big worry, largely because it is so inexorable, and so much of the global population lives close to sea level. Once perturbed, the ocean circulation and the big ice sheets take a long time to respond, so we are in for a long period of sea level rise regardless of the emissions future. Going back to the blue and red futures, the models show sea level rising steadily through this century and beyond under both scenarios. Even on the zero-carbon track, we are set for at least 1m of further sea level rise, over centuries. And as the geological record says, we will see 8, 10, even up to 20m or more if we carry on as we are going now.

So, what are the consequences, the impacts? Key ones that concern me are:

  • Drought – recent droughts and heat waves in North America and Russia have led to partial crop failures and price spikes for corn, wheat and other staples. Future droughts have obvious impacts on food security and water availability for large fractions of the global community.
  • Flood – as we have seen three times in New Zealand in the past two months. Warmer air holds more water, and the near-one degree of warming so far globally has put about 5% more water vapour in the air compared to the 1950s. So it’s fair to say that some of the rain that fell on Dunedin, Kāpiti and Whanganui was there as a result of the warming we have already had. Further warming just means more moisture and an ever-greater chance of heavy rain.
  • Coastal inundation – higher sea levels, even small-sounding amounts like 30cm or so, lead to dramatic increases in the chance of inundation events when there are big swells and strong winds.
  • Health issues – as the globe becomes more “tropical”, tropical pests and diseases can spread farther. Malaria, dengue fever and other diseases are broadening their range right now. The same goes for plant and animal pests. And the health dangers of heat waves are only too apparent, as we have seen in India and Pakistan lately.
  • Fire – the incidence of wild fires, and the length of the fire season, is increasing almost everywhere. Siberia and Alaska are now experiencing major forest fires regularly, events that were almost unknown 30 or 40 years ago.

This is what we face. In fact, this is what we are starting to experience already. So how do we get on top of it? Can we get on top of it?

Yes! There are many technologies and ideas on the shelf that we can use right now. Renewable energy is an obvious one (go China!). For all their coal-fired power stations, China is leading the world on solar panels and wind power installation and technology. New Zealand can ride on the coat-tails of the Chinese and go to 100% renewable energy – despite a high base, we can go a lot further here. And if we wished, New Zealand could be a world leader on renewable technology – are we content with being a “fast follower”?

Same story with electric vehicles (go Tesla!). The transport sector a big one in New Zealand and transport emissions have grown rapidly in the last two decades. We love our cars – which is fine, if they aren’t burning fossil carbon. Let’s see moves to bring electric vehicles in to the country in much greater numbers, while at the same boosting public transport and making the most of renewable power sources. That could cut our emissions significantly in just a few years.

In the agriculture sector, continued intensification of dairy farming is exactly the wrong direction to be going. It is just not sustainable, especially in dry regions like Canterbury, in terms of water quality, water availability, and greenhouse gas emissions. A much better approach in the short term would be intensified afforestation, which would at least buy us some time to do the research on ruminant emissions.

The solutions that already exist can work in New Zealand and can be applied world-wide. We need all of the above, and we need to find new and better approaches every day. As put so eloquently by the Pope just last month, there are moral dimensions, questions of equity, of love for one another, that must take centre stage. Narrow economic considerations must be secondary, as no known economic modelling framework can cope with the true realities of climate change.

What is lacking across the board is political will. Governments set the scene for a country’s economic and social activity. All countries, including New Zealand, need to tackle climate change head-on through legislation, through incentivisation of desirable investments and behaviours, through economic instruments that encourage research and innovation in the sectors that we need to boost.

The recent ruling by the Dutch courts that their government is harming the population if they do not adopt stringent emissions reductions (25% reduction in 5 years) is exactly right. Governments the world over are indeed putting their citizens more at risk every day by not dealing effectively with climate change. Where is the sense of urgency? Sure there are many worries and concerns in the world, but unmitigated climate change exacerbates almost all our short-term concerns, and ultimately trumps everything. Do we really want to put billions of lives at risk through hunger, thirst, disease, dislocation and conflict, in order to appease the corporate sector and win the next election?

As a global community, we have squandered the last 25 years. The Paris meeting in December (COP21) is a critical opportunity to really get good things happening on a global scale, and on the home front. Greenpeace’s protest at Parliament in June was spot-on – what we really need is climate action, now!

63 thoughts on “A tale of two hemispheres”

  1. Good to see a climate scientist speaking out. As he said we have wasted twenty five years while the, largely American, oil and coal companies have orchestrated a campaign of misinformation and this is going to cost us all very dearly if not fatally. The oil companies will be in Paris with a host of lawyers tasked with making sure that their business is not effected so I don’t hold out much hope of a deal.

    1. The oil companies will be in Paris with a host of lawyers tasked with making sure that their business is not effected

      Do you have any evidence to support this assertion?

      1. Andy, have you never heard of Google?

        The UN’s top climate official has called on oil and gas companies to quit lobbying against efforts to tackle global warming.

        In a letter to the CEOs of Shell, BP, Statoil, ENI, BG Group and Total Christiana Figueres said civil society and governments needed clear signals that the industry was committed to a low carbon future…

        Figueres was responding to an offer made on 1 June by the six European hydrocarbon giants to help plans for a UN climate deal, due to be finalised in Paris this December.

        There the companies indicated their willingness for a “direct dialogue” with governments and the UN on the proposed Paris pact, and stressed the need for a global price on carbon….

        But as the Guardian revealed in May, BP and Shell have long lobbied the UK government to allow them to expand oil and gas extraction projects around the world.

        In the US oil major Exxon-Mobil, which along with Chevron did not sign the letter to the UN, has been linked to groups that attempted to destroy the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only legally binding climate treaty.

        According to the Open Secrets website, Shell, BP, Statoil and BG spent $3,720,000 in the US on lobbying this year alone.

        And despite calling for a global carbon pricing system, leading fossil fuel companies do not appear to be changing their investment strategies. Scientists estimate a third of oil and half proven gas reserves must stay in the ground to stay within the 2C limit.


        1. I missed the bit that said that oil companies would be in Paris

          I have no doubt that oil companies spend money lobbying governments, just like every other multi-national company.

          That’s what they do.

            1. This “civil society” space seems to be aimed at young people who can discuss what to do about “climate disruption” as they call it.

              I very much doubt that oil companies will be there.

              They have work to do

            2. andy the coal companies certainly won’t be there: Certainly not Solid Energy.
              Thought you might be interested in this little snippet:

              “The development of lower cost renewable generation, principally wind and geothermal, investment in the HVDC link, and relatively flat growth in consumer and industrial demand for electricity have combined to reinforce the decision to retire the remaining Rankine units, which will deliver further operational efficiencies to Genesis Energy,” he said.

              You might like to discuss this with your pals over at NZCCC. I’m sure they will be overjoyed!

            3. I note that according to EM6Live, coal is generating about twice the output of wind at noon today

              I presume if they bring on more geothermal by 2018, the planned phase out date for the Rankin generators, then this will replace that generating capability.

            4. And at 3pm?
              Coal peaked at about the constant supply of Geothermal, and there is enough wind consented to replace coal within the year.
              Really andy you need to wake up to the obvious fact that wind will replace coal sooner, rather than later, and good riddance.

            5. There are plans to expand NZ’s geothermal generating capacity, but none to build anymore windfarms as far as I know

              I’m not sure how a random supply of wind will replace coal when the reliable geothermal is so readily available

              Even the Green Party of NZ have been promoting geothermal recently, and seem very quiet on wind

  2. On a positive note, go see the film “How to Change the World” on the early history of Greenpeace, coming soon to a film festival near you.

    Andy, you’ll love it, as your hero, Patrick Moore, plays a major role.

    BTW, here’s photos of a spectacular Greenpeace blockade of a Shell Oil Arctic drilling vessel in Portland Harbour.


    1. Apparently Greenpeace are being fined $2500 an hour for blocking that rig, rising to $10,000 an hour by Sunday

      Probably not a problem that a bit more tin rattling will solve

      1. Wow, that hourly rate must be almost as much as erstwhile Greenpeace member Patrick Moore makes, rattling his tin to front for anti-environmental corporations.

        Nice work if you can get it, Andy, but I hope that you would at least have the decency to drink the proffered glass of weedkiller!

        Just after the World Health Organization released a study concluding that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is “probably carcinogenic,” Pat Moore told a French filmmaker that glyphosate is safe to drink.

        Upon being offered some glyphosate to try, Moore refused to take up his own suggestion, ending the interview and telling the filmmaker, “I’m not an idiot.”


      2. Andy, your selective amnesia when it comes to the acts of deception, manipulation, conspiracy and agitation of the fossil fuel barons is sickening. I suppose you never read “Merchants of Doubt” or watched the movie? I guess for a true believer into the “right wing cause” like yourself those materials are probably on the “Index” just as the works of Galileo where on the index of the Catholic church!
        But really, go an oven your eyes. Its never to late for an “intervention” to break through the fog of denial. Perhaps even you could be saved.

        1. You claim that I am “sickening” and I need to get an oven on my eyes.

          All I did was ask for evidence that oil companies will be at the Paris COP. Surely this is just a simple question that someone who has been to these COP meetings can answer.

        2. “But really, go an oven your eyes” oops, and the v and p aren’t even close on the keyboard! So please open your eyes and do not put them into the oven as previously suggested. I guess I better make that clear as not standing accused of causing harm to the very organ you should use more widely than staring at WUWT or other denileraty hangouts 😉

            1. AGW is far more dangerous than the Nazis, Andy, as the latter were only in power in one country for 12 years, whereas unregulated AGW will torment humanity for millennia to come.

              Those who promote climate change denial are working to bring about a global Holocaust that Hitler could only have dreamed of.

              They will be the willing executioners of their own families; Stalin and Mao could not have asked for any greater loyalty to a depraved ideology.


            2. Ha! Oh sweet, that implication of my fingers versus keyboard failure did not even dawn on me. Indeed, if humanity was made up of Andy clones, “oven” would be a rather fitting metaphor for where we are heading. 🙂

            3. For those interested in history, here’s an account of how Andy’s style of “debate” came about:

              Movement Conservatives began their corruption of American politics in the 1950s. Faced with opposing the New Deal reforms that regulated business and provided a social safety net, they had the terrible problem that those reforms were enormously popular. When voters weighed policies based on facts, they backed the New Deal and, later, Eisenhower’s similar Middle Way.

              To sell Movement Conservatives’ unpopular ideology, the young William F. Buckley Jr. attacked the idea that voters should engage with facts, openly debated in public. Since such debates had created the New Deal government, which was, to his mind, godless and communistic, they must be the wrong approach. Instead, he urged Movement Conservatives to push a worldview that inculcated their principles of religion and a free market economy.

              He illustrated how this was done in his 1951 “God and Man at Yale,” cherry-picking quotations, misrepresenting his opponents, and posing as a persecuted victim. In place of reality-based argument, Buckley substituted a narrative based in fear and outrage.


            4. The reader can sift through this thread and see how I asked whether oil companies would be present in Paris, and make their own minds up about your delusional “theories” about my style of “debate”

            5. Poor Andy – always so misunderstood, and unjustly persecuted by those nasty warmists…

            6. As has been pointed out before, Andy belongs to those web trolls who blah out an opinion without any fact checking whatsoever, then change the topic when caught out. The poor lad has been whipped so many times over this, count has truly been lost.

              On his delusions that fossil fuel interests are perhaps not present at Paris it would have taken the man just seconds to type:
              “fossil fuel company lobbyists at Paris climate talks”
              into Google to get a significant hit list of articles pointing the matter out with clarity and revealing the nasty back room wheeling and dealing that has been going from vested fossil fuel interests to water down the talks.

              Examples of the long list of complaints:


              Andy is either too lazy or too arrogant to actually inform himself of the matters he is dabbling with in his discussions. His “contributions” such as “Questions” are normally just polemic rhetoric just as the tosh one finds at “Movement Conservative” hang outs on the net in general.

            7. Neither of Thomas’s links show that oil companies will be represented at the Paris COP. The first link is about a separate summit prior to the COP, and the second link is about corporate sponsorship of the COP by various French companies.

              Incidentally, when you describe me as “too stupid”, my original question was aimed at Bob, who made the claim It is usual protocol to back up your claims, not to leave it to others to fins the evidence.

              Similarly, Thomas claimed that my statement that solar companies were failing was my “opinion” only. Yet when I provided a list of solar companies that had gone bankrupt, (by using Google), my link was ignored.

              So thanks for claiming me to be stupid, lazy and arrogant.

  3. Thomas, I don’t believe that Andy is lazy, arrogant or stupid; I think he is just doing his job – which is to manufacture doubt regarding AGW solutions, anyway he can.

    There is no discernible intellectual honesty with Andy, no questing for understanding, just the angry vacuity of reactionary ideology in thrall to US pollutocrats whose time has passed.

    1. just the angry vacuity of reactionary ideology

      So asking a simple question, namely whether oil companies would be present at Paris COP (which someone here can probably answer, and I don’t have a hidden agenda – it’s a simple question) amounts to “angry reactionary ideology”

      Most odd. I though my questions were expressed in fairly moderate language.

      1. Good point, Andy, it has indeed been months since you were last banned from this site.

        [Snip – tone it down please Rob: GR]

        Keep up the good work, old son.

        1. Thanks for reminding me of the facts we can’t verify because the comment was deleted.

          Needless, to say, you can refer to me as a “rent boy” with impunity.

          I always delight in how these threads degenerate into content free abuse.

        2. As a contrast to Andy’s studied dishonesty, you can easily find plenty of stupidity in general weather forums, which almost invariably have a coterie of ignorant individuals trotting out long discredited memes – and among them there are bound to be some farmers with a “I can weather anything – seen it before” attitude.

          1. SInce you are adding to the choir singing that I am dishonest, perhaps you’d like to find an example for us to discuss

            Anyone will do. Take your time

            After all, it would be dishonest of you not to cite an actual example.

          2. Andy: you come to this site with a long record of arguing the counterfactual. It’s a heritage you can’t escape.

            Nevertheless, tone the abuse down everyone, please.

  4. Heavens above, even bankers are becoming “warmists” – here’s the ex-CEO of the National Australia Bank:

    Strong leadership needed on carbon reduction policies

    I accept the overwhelming consensus of scientists that climate change is real, human beings are causing it, and the threat is existential and quite unlike any that we have faced before. But let’s say you don’t and on that basis, let’s ask a simpler question about the diversification of Australia’s economy and energy sources.

    The truth is that Australia’s lack of diversification is economically reckless. Most of our electricity generation is reliant on coal; an overwhelming majority of our transport and a very large percentage of our export industries are reliant on fossil fuels. When you look at this, you would be blind to not see a myriad of looming business risks…

    There is the oldest reason of all: competition from a better product. The quiet energy revolution has been gathering pace, with the average cost of solar and wind power (and battery technologies) plummeting as technologies develop and deploy. I mention “average” costs, because the marginal costs of solar and wind are, of course, zero, and I don’t think any of us have grasped quite how revolutionary that will prove to be for energy markets in the longer run.

    So you can be as angry as you like with environmentalists and “environmentalism” but from an economic point of view, it still wouldn’t make sense to be so heavily addicted to this polluting business as Australia is.


  5. Just been reading that the American coal and oil industries have spent $500 million on lobbying the ESA to soften the clean air rules. How much do you think they will spend in Paris. My guess is that they will think that this is the end of their industry and will spend up big.

    1. My guess is that they won’t spend anything when they need to lobby the US government, not the UN, who have no jurisdiction over their energy industry

      Of course, the “end of their industry” will also mean the end of the USA, which will no doubt give you pleasure, as industry relocates to India and China

      1. Andy, fossil fuels are finite. Even if AGW was not an issue, we would need to evolve beyond depending on them or bust. With AGW pressing, that end of our ff dependency is neigh. The USA will end its supremacy unless it understands the task at hand as a challenge and rises to provide solutions. Elon Musk sets an example into the right direction.
        Of cause “Movement Conservative” has long bet on the wrong horse…. now its too late and they double down with each new argument. You are a point in case.

        1. I’d love to have a Tesla. Even better if the government mandate that the poor people of NZ subsidise my extravagant middle class lifestyle

          Vote Green!

          1. Idiotic comment once again. Andy, currently the taxpayers around the world subsidize fossil fuels to the tune of trillions over the last years alone. “Movement Conservative” clowns like yourself should protest and picket their offices as you hate tax subsidies. So off you go trolling to the nearest gas station and protest.




            Andy, do you comprehend the concept of “investment”?
            Do you comprehend that societies invest into their future infrastructure?

            1. I understand the difference between “tax breaks” (which apply to all companies, not just the oil industry) and direct subsidies, like for example the RoC system in the UK.

              This is a good example of “studied dishonesty” that you use here, and that I am accused of, with no evidence of that is forthcoming, yet.

            2. Andy said: “tax breaks apply to all companies…”
              Well, I gotta complaint then my troll: None of the companies that founded or had been involved with have been given tax breaks. All paid tax at the official corporate tax rate of the jurisdiction they were in.

              So here we have another of these not-true statements of Mr. Andy, who is making up tosh as he pleases.

              In case of new technologies on their way to mass production that have not yet reached break even (and therefore do not yet pay any tax on profits) subsidies are the only way to support them if their objective is aligned with the public good.

              Oil and Gas industries however, well, tax breaks are a total waste of money. The public good is not interested in cheaper and more consumption of what is wrecking the planet. Tax breaks for these industries in the 21st century are obscene, unnecessary and counterproductive.

          2. Andy, can you please provide proof the Greens have policy for subsidising the Tesla, and imposing taxes on poor people to do it? You are making silly, unproven claims again.

            1. No I didn’t claim that the Greens were going to subsidise the Tesla.
              The US government subsidise the Tesla.

              Why do I need to provide evidence that the Greens were going to subsidise the Tesla when I didn’t make the claim that the Greens were going to subsidise the Tesla.

              I merely said “vote Green”.

              Please provide evidence that saying “vote Green” implies that the NZ Green Party are planning to subsidise the Tesla

            2. “andyS August 6, 2015 at 8:37 pm
              I’d love to have a Tesla. Even better if the government mandate that the poor people of NZ subsidise my extravagant middle class lifestyle

              Vote Green!”

              This looks very much like you are implying the Greens propose subsidising the tesla, or other very expensive types of cars, and that they are suggesting poor people subsidise it. You can try sneaking your way out of it, but my interpretation is fairly based.

              This is what you consistently do. Make unfounded claims, either directly, or by “subtle insinuation”. Then when challenged you deny the undeniable, or change the subject.

              Bob said something about oil companies being at the 2015 conference. This seems likely to me. I don’t think he has to provide a guest list.

              However I will hold you to exactly the same standard of proof. So far you have never come close in my books,

            3. NigelJ writes:

              This looks very much like you are implying the Greens propose subsidising the tesla, or other very expensive types of cars, and that they are suggesting poor people subsidise it. You can try sneaking your way out of it, but my interpretation is fairly based

              I am suggesting that the Greens propose subsidising electric cars, and that a side effect of that policy is that people who can afford Teslas will be subsidised by those who can’t.

              Of course, I wrapped my statement up in a Breitbart-esque polemic for effect.

              The Greens policy is this:

              Speeding the transition of the private vehicle fleet to electricity by investing $10 million into the roll-out of fast-charging electric car refuelling stations across New Zealand and $10 million in cash-back payments to electric car buyers and over time, we will replace the Crown car fleet with electric vehicles where there are appropriate electric vehicles available

              (my emphasis)


              NigelJ’s assertion thus:

              This is what you consistently do. Make unfounded claims, either directly, or by “subtle insinuation”. Then when challenged you deny the undeniable, or change the subject

              appears to be without basis

            4. Goodness Andy, $10 million is very little. It gets buyers of the first 2000 cars a $5000 rebate. Of cause we don’t know how the Greens intend to divide these $10 million up. It is a symbol to assist the movement into EVS to get rolling. Also, it allows perhaps people to buy one who otherwise would not.
              Your constant lament that any government incentives equates to “poor people being robbed to pay rich people” is complete tosh. Of cause it is the propaganda of the right wing to attempt getting votes for their political platform that is always stacked in favor of the rich in the first place.
              For many government incentives it is actually the other way around. Poor people getting a hand to get ahead. Also most the government tax take is certainly not coming from the poor in the first place!
              For NZ the figures are:
              Income bracket | % of Govt Income Tax Revenue
              0-20,000 | 6%
              20-50,000 | 18%
              50-100,000 | 37%
              100-125,000 | 8%
              125-150,000 | 5%
              >150,000 | 22%

              Besides that only 40% of the Govt tax revenue is personal income tax. So from 1$ of Govt expenditure only about 10% is collected from the income tax of those with incomes under $50,000 and only 2.5% is collected from those with incomes under $20,000

              Your argument (and the argument made by the “Movement Conservative” frequently) that govt subsidies are paying the rich with the money of the poor is generally moot!

            5. “Goodness Andy, $10 million is very little”

              How many school lunches could $10 million buy, and where are the Social Justice Warriors when you need them?

            6. AndyS

              So you admit you implied the Greens want to subsidise the Tesla, either “directly or indirectly”. Thankyou.

              But you are unable to prove they want to do this. Your own quotation from their manifesto proves nothing.

              You also claimed this would all be subsidised by the poor. Again you have been unable to prove any of this.

              So you may at least have admitted some things, but you are still wrong in all your initial claims.

            7. But you are unable to prove they want to do this.

              Their policy statement clearly states that they will subsidise electric cars via a cash-back scheme

              This will include the Tesla, unless there is some special clause that excludes the Tesla.

              How much proof do you want?

            8. In the UK if you buy a new electric car you avoid the vehicle purchase tax and the VAT which is worth about 5,000 pounds. The benefit to the UK is that in not consuming oil for home consumption there is either more to export or it reduces the imports. We have an oil import bill in NZ which amounts to $6 billion a year and an abundance of renewable energy.which we could utilise.

      2. Coal energy has been put out of business by their close mates the oil owned gas industry and they will in turn lose out to solar wind and thermal. There is an abundance of renewable energy so why should we worry about the coal industry? They are small employers compared to renewable s and will not be missed. The Americans have been exporting their jobs for decades and to make it worse their companies do not repatriate their earnings because they have to pay tax. If their own people do not want to support their own country they deserve to fail.

          1. What a stupid comment Andy. Nowhere in his post did Bob suggest every last coalmine be closed. The obvious intent of his post is the days of coal fired electricity plants are looking numbered. Good job as well.

          2. You prove my point yet again in your comments above, Andy old troll:

            cherry-picking quotations, misrepresenting opponents, and posing as a persecuted victim. In place of reality-based argument, a narrative based in fear and outrage…

  6. Who posed the Tonkin Taylor Coastal report on Christchurch? It was down loaded to my phone before I could see the source.
    At long last they are beginning to talk about a 1.5 to 2Mt sea level rise by the end of the century. A lot of expensive infrastructure is going to be lost. If Brownlee had not been a denier and had stopped to think things through we might have had a CBD on higher ground and changed the course of discussion about climate change in NZ.
    They could have read my blog and saved thousands. http://www.climateoutcome.kiwi.nz/latest-posts–news/infrastructure-loss-in-new-zealand-due-to-sea-level-rise

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