Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, a British Tory politician who was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet during the 1980s, is visiting New Zealand as a guest of the Business Roundtable to give this year’s Sir Ronald Trotter memorial lecture. Lawson withdrew from the mainstream of Conservative politics in 1992 “to spend more time with his family” (coining that phrase as he did so), but in recent years he has reinvented himself as a climate sceptic, a vociferous opponent of the Kyoto protocol and a scourge of what he terms “eco-fundamentalists”. Clearly, the Business Roundtable has brought in a wise elder statesman to provide much needed context to the climate debate, to better inform its members about the need for emissions reductions. Sadly, Lawson is far more likely to serve up a rousing speech packed with half-truths, distortions, and advice so bad it amounts to dangerous folly, if reports in the Sunday Star Times and Dominion Post are to be believed.
A few quick links before I post on the government’s just announced energy strategy: cleaning out the tabs in my web browser…
- Professor Graham Harris of the University of Tasmania addresses the issues I raised in my â€œecological overdraftâ€ post a few days ago, in Sleepwalking Into Danger – an article for ScienceAlert: â€œIt is time to admit how little we know and face the risks of planetary degradation â€“ this goes way beyond climate change. Biodiversity isnâ€™t just birds, primates and whales; it is planetary function and resilience.â€
- The Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds is planning [Guardian, BBC] to allow the sea to reclaim 728 hectares of coastal land in the Essex marshes on Britain’s east coast to restore habitat for wildlife – and as a pragmatic adaptation to rising sea levels. Could we see the same sort of thing here?
- The Andrill project – a sea floor drilling effort under the Ross Ice Shelf involving NZ and US scientists – is using nifty Apple computers, so Apple has posted an interesting perspective on the work being done. New drilling season starts soon.
- Brian Fallow in the Herald takes a look at the cost of carbon in the new ETS and speculates about ongoing impacts on the government’s accounts.
- Carbon emissions from shipping may be much higher than previously thought, according to The Independent (UK).
- German solar power company Conergy is planning a 500 turbine windfarm near Broken Hill in New South Wales. Meanwhile, BusinessWeek (US) profiles entrepreneur John O’Donnell, who has bought into Aussie scientist David Mills solar thermal designs, and plans to build a lot of generation at costs competitive with coal. With Silicon Valley money, and soon.
- The Dominion Post digs up some advice to government on dealing with â€œenvironmental refugeesâ€. NZ will probably want to help small Pacific nations, but refugees from the Asian megadeltas might be another matter.
Two very perceptive pieces of analysis over the last few days,and one deeply misguided one. Rod Oram in the Sunday Star Times takes a look at how nitrification inhibitors could be a major incentive for dairy farmers to get involved in emissions reductions sooner rather than later, and Colin James in the Herald rather gloomily acknowledges the realpolitik of international negotiations:
The odds are that humanity doesn’t think it matters, at least not enough to forgo significant amounts of its material gains or prospects. The odds are that humanity won’t really change its mind until (or if) climate change starts to have effects that cut significantly into material gains and prospects, the necessaries and luxuries of life, and people see it as the cause: that is, when it ceases to be a moral issue and becomes an economic one. That point has not been reached. So world politicians are likely to come up with a suboptimal arrangement to apply when the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012 and to implement it suboptimally. And so, if the climate change high priests’ measurements and predictions are right and warming isn’t offset by radical new technologies, there is a rough ride ahead.
Electric vehicles are becoming more newsworthy, following the government’s announcement that EVs are likely to be part of NZ’s answer to reducing vehicle emissions. The Dominion Post dealt with the subject over the weekend, but the online version is considerably shorter than the print version – at least the one that appeared in Saturday’s Press – and it’s much more positive about the potential for EVs. The print version gave Toyota NZ MD Bob Field the chance to plug hybrids as the answer, and to assert that the future lies with hydrogen as fuel – something that I’m resolutely sceptical about. It also quoted my least-favourite motoring journalist, Jeremy Clarkson, who recently slammed the Reva G-Wiz as a â€œstupid little car