There will never be any peace (until God is seated at the conference table)

hot-topic-cover.jpg Some notes from Saturday’s conference. God may not have been at the conference table, but there was Swamiji, who is certainly revered amongst his followers. My presentation [PDF here: warning – 7MB] followed two Nobel prizewinners – David Wratt (NZ’s representative on the IPCC, who covered the basic AR4 findings) and Pene Lefale (lead author of the WG2 chapter on impacts in the Pacific). Pene’s talk was fascinating, based on a paper he’s preparing on what he’s called the “perfect political problem” – reconciling the differences between developed and developing countries views on how to approach climate change. All the other speakers were good, but it was Andrew West, CEO of AgResearch who made – for me – the most telling comments. Drawing on his background as an ecologist, he looked at the big issue – coping with 9 billion people. Not all of them will be able to eat a meat-rich diet… Andrew shares my enthusiasm for topoclimate studies as a means of adapting to climate change. Are you reading this MfE? Time for a full topoclimate survey of NZ…

Notes on my talk below the fold…

The slides cover all the basic points I made, but I talked around them enough to overrun by 7m 24s. Given that David Wratt was covering the basic science, it was perhaps a bit cheeky of me to begin with a few key science points – but I think I got away with it. I wanted the delegates to focus on the problem of the climate commitment – the 30 years of inevitable warming in the pipeline, and the important consequences that has for what we do. I also presented my thoughts on the consequences of the Arctic sea ice melt. There’s a risk that we are seeing rapid climate change in action, and if that turns out to be true, we may not have decades to get our carbon act together. The rest is pretty much as in Hot Topic. The scariest factor for many people appeared to be the fact that 17 million Australians have an automatic right of residence in NZ…

Alarmist? Moi?

25 thoughts on “There will never be any peace (until God is seated at the conference table)”

  1. What studies (slide 17) suggest that the real costs are relatively low, while the damages high? All I know of is the Stern Report, with Lomborg’s work at the other end…

    Coal to wind creating winners and losers – did anyone make a reference to ‘green collar jobs’ like the Democrats are doing in the US?

  2. Stern’s the classic example, but there’s also the whole of the WG3 report in AR4. The cites there are voluminous!

    No mention of “green collar” jobs, but Rachel Brown of the Sustainable Business Network was very good on businesses – early adopters of sustainability – who are being very successful.

  3. “the scariest factor for many people appeared to be the fact that 17 million Australians have an automatic right of residence in NZ…”

    heh. I hadn’t thought of that. Kind of like the scene in the Day After Tomorrow* where people from the US flee south across the Mexican border. Surely there’s a political platform in this: Desertification – Reversing the Brain Drain.

    *And, yes, before people pull me up on it TDAT was appalling when it came to the science. Heck it was appalling full stop. But I did laugh at that scene.

  4. The Taswegians will secede from the Australian Commonwealth and join NZ in the Cool Islands Coalition. Fortress New Zealand* will be a godsend for politicians in the Winston Peters mould…

    * There’s a book and web site.

  5. Sorry Bryan – the notes are just the extra paragraph you get when you click on the “Read More” link on the front page. The PDF of the presentation has lots of bullet points which were the notes I used when talking. I’m told there will be a video available at some point – it was certainly filmed. I’ll let you know if it does turn up.

    “Below the fold” is an old newspaper term, used in broadsheets. Above the fold is the top half of the front page – where you have to put all the headlines, big picture etc. Below the fold is the stuff you can’t see on the newsstand… the main part of the story, most often. I use it to refer to the bit after “Read more”.

  6. Thanks Gareth. I’d inexplicably (my age really, I suspect, but I prefer inexplicably) missed the link to the PDF of your slides in my concentration on the mysterious fold. Anyway I’ve now found the slides. It was good to see you bringing the latest reflections on the speed with which things may be happening into the frame, and reporting James Hansen et al. considering that we may well need to think in terms of 350 ppm levels of CO2 as the goal.
    (The latest – Mar 31- revised draft of their paper Target CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim can be accessed at I can’t remember whether you’ve already directed readers to it. )
    It will be interesting to see how the discussion develops. Do you have an inclination on the question yourself?
    I notice Hansen has now included the Australian PM in the leaders to whom he has recently written to urge a halt to the building of coal-fired power plants.

  7. My inclination depends on the amount of fine Waipara chardonnay I’ve had to drink.

    I’m pondering. There will be a post on the subject of targets for atmospheric GHGs soon. And phenology. Not to mention biofuels.

    So much to do, so little to drink!

  8. “a godsend for politicians in the Winston Peters mould…”

    “Looks like the Greens + guns, lots of guns.”

    Looks like there’s a bit of libertarianism in there as well: “each community needs to reclaim its own power from government and take its destiny into its own hands.”

    And Act: ” To a considerable extent, Fortress New Zealand sees national and local government as the source of many of our problems. People get the national and local government they deserve; governments assume those responsibilities which communities fail to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, given that the wrong sort of people invariably strive for bureaucratic power, the bureaucracy eventually becomes a huge parasite, feeding off the wealth of the people, but giving little or nothing in return. Sad to say, this is the state of affairs at which we have now arrived in most countries in the world today – even the less developed ones.”
    And the increased defence spending sounds more like National.

  9. Yes. Admittedly I barely gave it a second look, but now sounds like it’s the NZ equivalent of the US militias who think the UN is going to invade, but these guys needed a more ‘plausible’ excuse for their stance.

  10. I should say that I have met the author and his charming wife, and I find some of his logical leaps (and suggested policies) rather alarming, even if his analysis of the scale of the climate problem is similar to mine. Fortress NZ is perhaps a taste of the politics that damaging climate change might bring. The Press did a story featuring them a few months ago – I think there’s a link on their site.

  11. The foreign military action is the thing I can’t get my head around – the shakey reasons for invading *that have led to occupation* are or have been:

    1) We want your land and you’re gonna like it (WW2 Nazis)

    2)old territorial claims (iraq-kuwait, china-tibet, maybe china-taiwan)

    3)potential threats to national security (terrorism, WMDs);

    4)harbouring those who have attacked the country (like Israel’s invasions last year, or the assasination that led to WW1)

    There is a list of all invasions there

    I just can’t imagine anyone sacrificing trade potential and an expensive war by extending their grasp a very long way into the South Pacific in this interconnected world of ours…am I naive?

  12. Stephen, Their fear is that the problems facing the world: peak oil, AGW, population pressure, other resource depletion, eg. fossil water, will not be solved.
    This they fear could lead to a collapse and disintegration along the lines of what happened to the Roman Empire (and other civilisations). Exactly what would come out the otherside of such a collapse is hard to say, but the civilised(?) rules that govern the world today probably wouldn’t survive, it might well be every man, clan, country, for them selves.

    In such a situation the physical practicalities of invading other lands might be the only inhibition to those leaders able to rise to power in a barbaric world.

    Conquest over tranoceanic distances, even without modern technology, has not been a problem for many in the past, eg the British Empire, the Spainish conquest of Latin America.

  13. Andrew W,

    Their problem is that problems of the magnitude they imagine are still unlikely to occur, I think. And if they do, the internal ones we can deal with when they arise (or, at least, we can deal with them as well as their proposals will.) As for the external problems either our isolation will save us or nothing will…

  14. “Fossil water”? Sounds like they would LIKE a collapse of government at least though! I would say those conquests were deemed as a very acceptable activity of the powerful and god-fearing – christianity spreaders…outright conquest is certainly at least FROWNED upon, especially if as blatant as travelling thousands of miles to do it nowadays.

  15. Terence

    How do you judge the likelyhood of such problems?

    If we are at peak oil production now, and production declines at 3-5%/yr for the next 20 or 50 years as some experts claim and if natural gas production starts to decine in 10 years as is also claimed, what is going to fuel our transportation systems, heat homes throughout North America and Europe, what do we use to fuel the manufacture of nitrogenous fertilisers?

    There used to be far less people on this planet, it’s technology and energy that has enabled us to increase to the population that now exists, take away that energy, and much of the technology is useless, the Earth can’t feed the 9 billion people expected to live here by 2050 without a wealthy, stable technological civilisation.

    In 1929 the Western world suffered an economic collapse, by 1932 production had fallen to around half of that in 1929. Commodity prices worldwide collapsed. Countries responded by erecting tariff barriers, worsening the problem, and within five years, two-thirds of international trade had disappeared.

    The great depression also hit Germany where unemployment rose to six million, which in turn helped the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party.

    Think about this, there was no physical reason for the great depression, humanity did it to itself without any serious natural shortages to fight over, how much better a job could we do at stuffing ourselves with natural shortages fueling strife?

    If you look at mammalian populations, human or otherwise, shortages of food and other essentials causes conflict.

  16. Stephen, “fossil water” is the ground water that is used to irrigate many of the worlds crops, globally water tables are dropping and energy is needed to pump it out of the ground. In many areas sea water is finding its way into fresh water aquifers not as a result of sea level rise but because of water table fall.

    Another example of a resource under pressure is global fisheries.

    “I would say those conquests were deemed as a very acceptable activity of the powerful and god-fearing – christianity spreaders”

    The good guys always win, because it’s the winners who write the history books.

    “outright conquest is certainly at least FROWNED upon, especially if as blatant as travelling thousands of miles to do it nowadays.”

    If a collapse occurred on the scale that these people fear, other countries would be too busy with their own problems to care.

  17. Well from what I hear the effects, and the costs of mitigating the effects will not be uniform over the whole world…maybe the US will have an aircraft carrier or two to send over here 😀

  18. Andrew,

    Thanks, I enjoy reading your comments – even when we disagree. You paint, I think, a worst case scenario. And if the sh%t hits the fan that hard, distance will save us or nothing will. Any conflict of the magnitude of WW2 now days would almost certainly go nuclear. And then there’s no hope. So I plan, and hope, for a future that might work out.



  19. Stephen,

    Yes the US will have an aircraft carrier or two….they’ll use them to help take the last of our lignite. It’ll keep the fleet running for another few months.

  20. Well there’s this quote I got in an email from the site by Dr. Michael Klare, Professor of Peace and World Security Studies, Hampshire College, and author of “Resource Wars and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Petroleum Dependency”:

    “[With respect to conflicts over oil and water], I think that we should be thinking in terms of World War I, not World War II, not World War III or Korea or Vietnam, these are the kinds of wars that we’re accustomed to thinking about, but think more about World War I and the events that proceeded it, that is the kind of situation we are looking at in central Asia and the Caspian’s sea in Africa…unintentional conflict, miscalculation, bad decisions and the heat of panic.”

    I don’t think anyone could “unintentionally” waltz over to NZ and do their thing, but I can see how that *might* happen to countries with borders, as well as long histories with their neighbours.

Leave a Reply