The Climate Show #35: elections, extremes and a big wind

We’re running a bit late with this one: recorded last week before the big wind left Gareth powerless for six days (a bit like Glenn’s PC), John Cook ruminates on the result of the Australian election, the boys marvel at the Mail’s myth making about Arctic sea ice, and look forward to the release of the first part of the next IPCC report. And much, much more. Show notes below the fold…

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Show notes


Australian election, and prospects for climate policy:

Australia’s new government is likely to repeal the carbon price, by striking a deal with crossbenchers in the Senate after July 2014, or possibly going to a special election if it looks electorally attractive. Still, carbon pricing remains the logical choice for Australia’s longer term climate policy.

In the run up to AR5, British right wing media up the ante by claiming that Arctic sea ice in “recovery” and cooling’s on the way:





But the truth is:

AR5 WG1 summary for policymakers due at end of month:

The Twelfth Session of Working Group I (WGI-12) will take place from 23 to 26 September 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden. This Session of WGI is being convened to approve the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (WGI AR5) and accept the underlying scientific and technical assessment.

The WGI AR5 Summary for Policymakers will be available on 27 September 2013.

AR5 web site:

NOAA/BAMS State of the Climate 2012:

2012 was one of the 10 warmest years on record globally. The end of weak La Niña, and unprecedented Arctic warmth influenced 2012 climate conditions.

NOAA/BAMS extremes report:

New analyses find evidence of human-caused climate change in half of the 12 extreme weather and climate events analysed from 2012.

Auckland Anglican Church votes to get out of any fossil fuel investments:

A link for the bit about the “Walkie Scorchie”

Rooftop solar becoming so attractive in US that some power utilities are lobbying against incentives/wider adoption

ClimatePrediction Dot Net celebrates 10 years this week:

(Will be in Aus and NZ soon).

38 thoughts on “The Climate Show #35: elections, extremes and a big wind”

  1. Gareth, I was bemused when you tried to tell John Cook how fast these Americas Cup cats can go. You mentioned 50 kph. The following numbers illustrate:
    43.44 knots = 50 mph = 80.45 kph
    1 knot =1.151 mph = 1.852 kph
    When Oracle was doing a little over 32 knots to windward a couple of days back she was touching 60 kph – that’s sure moving!

  2. I’ve been following those reports on the increasing deployment of solar PV. My own ascension to that particular heaven is now delayed to October 10th I assume the German electronics did not arrive in time.

  3. Not sure how effective a strategy disinvestment in fossil fuel companies will be. It could just mean that anyone with a conscience about it gets out of ownership, but the oil majors still make record profits for those who haven’t. Only a few of us are investors, but we’re all customers.
    ( Disclosure- I’m an accidental fossil investor. When the NZ government sold Contact Energy, I bought some shares in the hopes of helping keep the hydro assets in New Zealand ownership. Instead control went to Origin, an Australian gas company. When the other major generators, under Helen Clark, were only supposed to add geothermal, wind and hydro to their generation mix, Contact was still free to add gas turbines. If anyone has plans to use shareholder voting rights to good ends, get in touch.)
    With respect to home solar power, New Zealand gets more sun than Germany or Britain, but we’re still a cold country with peak power demand on winter evenings. Places like Queensland and Texas both get a lot more sun, and have high demand for air conditioning in summer when solar produces the most power. At the moment solar panel prices are falling, but even if everyone in the country put in a solar roof, winter peak power requirements would be the same. The big power companies supplying the grid would need the same capacity, but would have lower volume sales to cover it. Perversely, this would push them to install power sources with low capital costs but higher running costs, like gas, rather than hydro or geothermal, which are expensive to build but cheaper to run. In Germany there is even talk of subsidising gas or lignite plants to keep the lights on, since midday summer PV has hollowed out their baseload profits.

    1. I know of an old car. The owner has not been able to afford to use it for two or three years. As it is now a vintage car he hopes to get some money for it and he has a basement filled with spares. It is very greedy on fuel, very inefficient. Divestment is selling it to someone who thinks they can afford to use it. Real divestment would be to scrap it and all the parts. The analogy is far from perfect but people want to protect their funds so divestment is only a matter of selling to other investors. It does not reduce carbon emissions directly.

      There is an indirect benefit. A group of people have decided to get out of fossil fuels – they have changed. That change may lead to other changes that may reduce their carbon addictions. It may change other minds and if it is a large group political pressures may noticeably change for the better. I am of course being optimistic.

    2. The big difference between Germany and NZ is that NZ gets 75-80% of its power from hydro. The dams act like batteries for the system, so it really doesn’t matter when the wind blows or sun shines (up to a point, obviously, but a point a long way away from having to keep base load generation equivalent to solar PV as back up). Local storage (i.e. batteries as in the Vector system discussed here recently, or in the form of an EV’s power pack) also has to be taken into account.

      1. Germany is a bit bigger in area than New Zealand, and gets almost exactly the same amount of power from hydro, in Terawatt/hours per year, as we do. The real difference is that their population is eighteen times ours. Our population will grow, not least because people such as those from low lying Pacific islands will have to move here.
        But the major reason our electricity production must go up is because renewables only produce about thirty percent of our primary energy supply. (Most of this is from geothermal, which has a low thermal efficiency.) Even if future uses are more efficient – heat pumps instead of gas, electric vehicles instead of internal combustion – replacing all that fossil fuel will require a lot more carbon neutral generation.
        Hydro is a great resource, but in cold countries, with peak demand in winter, the fuel is frozen up on the mountains when you most need it. Hot countries have the opposite problem – high demand for air conditioning in summer when the rivers, if any, are low. For PV, places like Texas and Queensland have the double advantage over New Zealand of much more sunshine, and high electricity demand on hot summer days.
        My friend’s PV array ( in Otago ) made nearly 550 kw/hrs in January, but barely 200 in June. New Zealand hydro storage was nearly 4000 Gigawatt/hours in January, but only about 2000 in June. But this was with the operators able to burn gas at will and conserve water for the winter; if hydro was filling in the gaps for wind ( about 40 percent capacity at good New Zealand sites ) and solar ( Hagen got just over 25 percent ), with no fossil backup, it would be a very different story.
        Electric vehicles could massage down the diurnal lumpiness from solar, though not the seasonal shortfall, but even if batteries come to be an order of magnitude cheaper and better, it’s unlikely that EV owners would accept the inconvenience, and the wear and tear on their batteries, that Vehicle to Grid would entail. For their own houses, maybe, especially in emergencies, but V2G would also require a big upgrade of local networks. According to ‘From Smoke to Mirrors’ ( Kevin Cudby, 2010 ) if most of the country’s private car fleet switched from petrol and diesel to EVs, the cost of battery imports averaged over time would be greater than the current cost of fuel imports. Relying on the same batteries for a big slice of power demand would raise that considerably.

  4. Here we go, it wasn’t that hard after all. Now lets see if any scientifically minded people read this site. The IPCC was 90% confident that the climate was going to warm within a certain range. That is not happening. So now that the models are proving inaccurate does anyone here question the models? The IPCC is more politics than science so I don’t expect them to, but good free thinking people like yourselves surly would right?

      1. Now this is pretty sad. I asked a very relevant question and was actually half expecting a well thought out rebuttal, but all you can manage is a sarcastic comment. It’s my fault, I got the impression off Gareth that this was a place for genuine discussion, my bad. You have just shown why people are losing interest in your little theory. You have zero interest in finding out what is actually going on with the climate because you are so committed to your theory. In any other field of science results that don’t match predictions would provoke a review of the model. Not one of you is prepared to even question the failed models so please don’t pretend that this is actually about the science.

        1. Boring. Seen your ‘innocent seeker after truth followed by tone troll’ schtick before. Always contains the ‘you have just shown why people are losing interest in your little theory’ bit, I might add. You probably think you’re enormously clever; I doubt that anyone else does.

          1. Forgive him for his myopia, for he is stuck in a 2D reality. It must be rather painful indeed to imagine other dimensions from that perspective and the advantage these convey for those who inhabit them. But perhaps even for a true flat lander, there is some hope:
            The Climate-Literacy-course, a free course offered by the University of British Columbia.

            1. What a surprise, you hide behind personal attacks because you can’t answer my question. You guys really need to get over the lighthearted username and focus on explaining why the models were wrong. I am starting to think you don’t have a good answer now, or do we just need to wait a few days for the IPCC to think for us? If you are honest, you must have noticed more people/media/scientists are questioning global warming now. This will not stop unless more answers are given in place of scare stories and insults to anyone who dares to have a different view.

              Any one on this site prepared to have an intelligent debate on the issues?

            2. What a surprise, you hide behind personal attacks because you can’t answer my question. You guys really need to get over the lighthearted username and focus on explaining why the models were wrong. I am starting to think you don’t have a good answer now, or do we just need to wait a few days for the IPCC to think for us? Where is the discussion on this? Is climate model accuracy not important anymore? The IPCC has got things wrong before, could they be wrong on the models? So many good questions. If you are honest, you must have noticed more people/media/scientists are questioning global warming now. This will not stop unless more answers are given in place of scare stories and insults to anyone who dares to have a different view.

              Any one on this site prepared to have an intelligent debate on the issues? I’m not sure a link to a YouTube video passes as an answer. And apparently I must be pretty cleaver because no one is willing to debate me.

            3. Flat: intelligent debates require well informed minds, not ‘pretty cleavers’…. 😉

              If you are looking for answers to your questions, this site below has everything you need, plus links to all the science you can brush up on:

              Repeating all this here for you privately is utterly pointless.

            4. Yep, you’re ‘pretty cleaver’ indeed.

              All you need to do now is refer to ‘CAGW’ and I can call a row on my Denier Bingo card…

  5. Good to have you here FlatEarth.

    I too share your sense of outrage and frustration that the IPCC models have grossly underestimated the rate of Arctic ice loss, a process that propels us into climatic doom. Now, whether we like it or not, a hothouse flat earth beckons, God help us all!

    1. It seems that you are right; climate change is what is coming. China and India are building new coal-fired power stations at a merry clip,; it looks like Germany is going to do the same, and maybe Japan will have to do so if it can’t sort out its nuclear problems.

      I’m wondering if it’s time to start talking about what we in NZ are going to do, given that the stage is set.
      What do we need to start doing to build resilience into our agricultural systems to cope with the inevitable floods and droughts?
      I don’t think that there is much that town folk can do except try not to cover up so much of the soil with concrete and tar seal ; we need all the rain catchment that we can get.
      I don’t share your view that the situation is hopeless for NZ; we live in a temperate pluvial climate , so we are in the best possible place.
      But we owe the rest of the world quite a lot of money and we need reliable , profitable exports.
      I think we’ve done the “Think Global ” bit. There’s not going to be any emissions reductions.
      Is it time to start “acting local”?
      Should we shift our focus away from debate and start adapting?

      1. I think you are certainly right that we need to seriously talk about adaption to what seems now an inevitable path to a hotter world with all the issues that this will bring with it. A much needed development.

        But as a country we could still do so much though to develop our own de-carbonisation strategies for energy and transport. Even if our effort will not do much to lower global emissions, it will inspire others plus it could put us in the position to develop and supply components for this technology, if we got into it early enough to be a global green-tech player. Besides, any de-carbonisation will also lower our dependency on a fuel that at some time in the future surely will be priced out of the market, when the rest of the carbon junky world has awoken to the disaster we all created. At that time Abbot will be crucified or burned at the stake (pick your favorite millennium for appropriate torture traditions) for their crimes. Having de-carbonised the economy prior to this, will then look like a glorious strategy in hindsight…

        1. I’ve just been reading the farming papers for this week and the recent weather was a feature. It seems that sales of diesel powered generators went through the roof. I guess this shows what happens when we are not prepared for the inevitable.
          Under severe economic constraint we are all going to use as little fossil fuel as possible, but if there is still a profit in using it , then that is what will happen.
          Do you have some ideas for the future-proofing of agriculture , given that this country is going to be relying on it for the foreseeable future?

          1. I am not an agricultural scientist and will leave this to the experts gladly. But I think we have excellent people in NZ to take on these issues and work towards strategies to enable us to remain productive into the future, were we will be energy (and fertilizer!!) restrained, as well as having water problems (too little, or too much or at the wrong times) plus temperature issues (no frost no cherries… is just one of the very many). I hope that our government will fund the institutions well who can work towards these solutions.

  6. A dystopian future would likely lead to complete breakdown of any laws of
    economics which have no meaning in the natural world. so we needn’t bother thinking about paying our way.

    Assuming New Zealand will be immune to a hothouse earth, our top priority will be what to do when our shores are flooded with refugees from countries whose agricultural systems collapse. I bet some of them won’t be friendly.

    We will be so bogged down with the breakdown in international law and order, we will not’ have time to think about adaptation, but more spending time defending our borders. If there was no one else on the planet but us, we might be OK, but there are 7 billion other people in a potentially dog eat dog world. I know I wouldn’t sit around in a desert waiting to starve, when there is good old New Zealand to flee to. I would get all my mates together arm ourselves to the teeth and make a go of it.

    That said, I don’t believe New Zealand climate will be immune as our water tables have already shown signs of diminishing, and we haven’t even begun with the really serious climate change effects down the track.

    I also don’t agree that New Zealand has done anything like ringing alarm bells in the global arena, other than a few scientists such as Jim Salinger, who gets ignored. The likes of Groser et al, assuming they truly comprehend the gravity of the situation, they are certainly not making any noise about it. They are more concerned about economics, which will soon no longer have meaning.

    1. Thanks Tony; there’s a few pointers in there. Looks like water storage might be a consideration.
      Your view is fairly apocalyptic, but assuming that we are all still here in that view, what are we going to be doing? Feeding say 10 million people ?

      1. On water storage I recall some laconic advice given to farmers back in February i think to “Build more dams.” I wondered if there was more info to back that up. On nearly every farm I’ve visited over my life there has somewhere been a “tank’ or small earth dam but only one.

        I did read of a policy of building micro dams in a desertified area {it used to be forested] of India. It began with one small dam near a small village alongside a creek that only ran during the monsoon.

        It took several years for the dam to retain water all year round because its major purpose was to recharge the soil with water. It also helped with a bit of direct irrigation. Trees started to grow and spread in the vicinity and eventually the creek began to flow year round too. An argument was that many microdams are much more effective in maintaining soil moisture than one large dam.

        Has your thought on water storage turned in this direction at all?

  7. Great topic bio farmer. Wether you believe the world is warming dramatically or not, adapting farming practices to be more resilient is always a good idea. Our pasture based dairy industry produces milk with a smaller carbon footprint than almost any other country (for those who think that’s important). It’s in the worlds interests for us to produce as much as possible so Chinese babies can reduce their dependence on carbon intensive grain produced milk and beef. Things actually look really good for NZ farming in this context. Nothing we do will actually change the climate, by its good marketing to people who think it will.

    I’m sure we can both agree increasing top soil depth via biological means and sowing different pasture species will go along way. Ryegrass ain’t the answer.

  8. I would add to that. New Zealand’s entire agricultural system is dependent on high consumption of phosphate amongst other things. We are among the highest phosphate consumers in the world.

    So we will be struggling to maintain productivity in a world hit by climate change and depleting phosphate reserves. Without phosphate our productivity would plummet, and dairying is highly dependent on phosphate. Why? Because grass has shallow root structures that are very inefficient at capturing this critical nutrient. So when you get drought or flood, the nutrient gets washed or blown away, not to mention the effects of soil erosion.

    I agree topsoil depth is one important factor, but how and what to do to achieve it is where we might disagree. There is a whole field in agricultural sciences on this subject. Recommended Management Practices is the term often used with respect to managing crops in a way that encourages topsoil growth, and minimises erosion. The trouble is not many farmers practice it, and prefer the convenience of the plough, which is widely condemned as it results in the release of CO2 to the atmosphere, disrupts, soil biota, and reduces topsoil depth over time. So the long term effect forces farmers to add more fertiliser to compensate. As you can probably guess, the plough is fine for the short term, but long term it is not sustainable.

    Believe it or not, if we all pulled finger, we could reverse climate change. But to do so is going to require a concerted effort by humans not seen since the second world war. We need to get off our arse and get to work. But to do that we need leadership, we have none! Leaders are just stalling because people are having just too much fun, and no one wants to be a party pooper. But I would argue that during the war people were more united, worked hard, probably had more fulfilling lives working as a closely knit community, and were more tolerant of a little austerity, a stark contrast to today’s hedonistic, self interested bunch of lazy no hopers. We need a cultural change, but to get that we need leadership to tell people the truth, and not pretend that things will be just fine. The truth is losing the Arctic is going to drastically affect our climate and the ones who will be hardest hit are the farmers.
    Perhaps if we made carbon sequestration a sport, with a world cup, that might motivate people. Who knows??

  9. Two issues there Noel. 1. Councils want consents for even micro dams these days , so it becomes more restrictive and expensive than its worth. 2. The answer is to irrigate which requires large scale dams to be effective.

    To get people to act on climate change, the public need to be convinced its a problem. When the scientists models say its going to warm within a certain range and it does not, people stop being worried. This is made worse by the lack of exclamations given. The heat is being trapped in to ocean? Why then didn’t the models reflect this?

    1. On models and observations you have been largely deceived in your reading. Climate models are based on physics. They do predict “decadal” slowdowns of surface warming because of natural variations such as ENSO, but not when each occurs. They can be constrained however to accurately reproduce the similar variations that have occured in the past century say. You have been referred to the skeptical science site. On the right of the home page is a graph called “The Escalator” this will show you the effect of natural variation on the 2.3% of global warming described in the Renwick video as surface warming.

      However, to seriously educate yourself on what ocean heating reveals about global warming follow this link. It is one of the most useful descriptions yet with links to all the relevant papers.

  10. That’s an interesting one Tony; I hadn’t given it too much thought. What I’ve found is that we are using 225,000 t of elemental P on 5.32 m Ha of pasture annually which averages out at 42Kg elemental P/Ha. That is slightly more than what is going off in product. And some areas are getting too much; others, too little. But overall it is not a lot although clearly we could use less in some places with no loss of productivity.
    Usage of P /head of population is high for obvious reasons.

    But what is needed is to keep those hill country soils (that have received phosphorus) in place on the hills and not washing down into the rivers. Phosphorus appears to be the most serious pollution threat to our waterways.

  11. Tony -” We need a cultural change, but to get that we need leadership to tell people the truth, and not pretend that things will be just fine. ”

    Well , there’s zero chance of a world leading individual appearing; there is some merit in the argument that a country such as Godzone might take a lead, but that would require some leadership to emerge here.

    The chances of that leadership emerging from the political class are also about zero.
    So, what to do?

  12. Thanks for that Noel- ” An argument was that many microdams are much more effective in maintaining soil moisture than one large dam.
    Has your thought on water storage turned in this direction at all?”

    For me personally, no. But I’m an anomaly. I milk cows at VERY low stocking rates, producing the same amount of milk every day all year round, on a shallow drought- prone alluvial soil, and irrigation is not attractive ; possibly uneconomic with the present technology which involves large electric pumps throwing water up into the hot dry wind, on a soil with high percolation rate; surrounded on three sides by ample water in a large river; plenty of calcareous soil, well- suited to growing an extremely deep-rooted species such as lucerne , probably increasing when the PDO shifts back to its warm phase around 2030.
    At the moment, the cool wet summers that have been prevalent since 1999 mean that I’m not even thinking about it, preferring to simply carry feed reserves on hand as home-made pasture silage to cover the occasional dry summer that will occur at a frequency of about two years in ten in this current cool PDO phase.
    In any case my farm is probably operating at the economic optimum in terms of EBIT/Ha, as a consequence of being 100% added-value dairy products i.e. clean green and fresh as opposed to selling milk powder to the poor of the world.

    The idea of large -scale dairying on Canterbury dry thin soils seems to me to be both uneconomic and undesirable in the long term. These soils have traditional uses which worked well. In time they may revert to the best use.

    Small on-farm dams may involve less disruption to ecosystems but may be less cost effective to construct.

    1. You must be one of those people I particularly like to see on Country Calendar, a sustainable farmer, or have you been on there already? I have made a dairy farmer twitchy when I dropped in. I claimed to be an almost-vegan though he did stop growling when I put some cheese on my bread – that’s the almost bit 🙂

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