Three years of “very serious” climate policy failure

A damning review of the climate policy of the current government by three leading academics finds that it has made “little substantive progress” on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, that work on adapting to climate change impacts has been “even more deficient”, and that current policies are likely to be “economically wasteful”. End-of-term review of the New Zealand Government’s response to climate change: a public health perspective by Nick Wilson, Ralph Chapman, and Philippa Howden-Chapman, published in last week’s NZ Medical Journal 1), looked at five main policy areas — NZ’s contribution to international action, giving carbon price signals to the market, supporting domestic R&D (for example, into renewable energy), supportive regulation and policy development, and supportive infrastructure investment. In each area, the National-led government’s actions were found wanting. Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

In summary, in this last electoral term there appears to have been little substantive progress by the current government on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (via work internationally or domestically), despite government targets (2020 and 2050) requiring material action. Government responses towards adapting to climate change impacts seem to be even more deficient (hardly more than some guidance documents). This lack of attention may be considered to be very serious given the potential size of the climate change threat — to public health and for the whole of society. It can also be considered economically wasteful in that the New Zealand economy is placed at increased risk of having to make a more abrupt and disorderly transition in the future. Also if other nations react to this lack of response by imposing carbon tariffs on New Zealand exports, this could also have serious economic consequences given the economy’s dependence on trade.

Lead author associate professor Nick Wilson of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago commented:

“Action on climate change needs to be considered as an urgently required form of catastrophe insurance, but we are clearly not seeing this with minimal government action in recent years.”

Full paper available here. See also: Scoop (press release), No Right Turn, TV3News.

  1. NZMJ 4 November 2011, Vol 124 No 1345, (behind a paywall []

29 thoughts on “Three years of “very serious” climate policy failure”

  1. And international action has been piecemeal and half hearted too Gareth. See the latest Ecologist, calling for a new strategy.The old one hasn’t worked and should be dumped.

    “But there is another way. Led by political academics, there is an emerging consensus that it is time to drop idealistic hopes of an all-encompassing and workable global deal…The summits in Copenhagen and Cancun continued what a number of observers believe is a forlorn quest to get the major polluting countries to agree a legally binding greenhouse gas emission reduction deal.

    ‘We’ve been doing the same kind of approach for 20 years now, and it’s going nowhere…”

    So this indicates, I think a more pragmatic and realistic future, one that doesn’t focus on income re-distribution but encompasses and enhances ecomomic development.

    Game on ! maybe ?

  2. National DO NO HAVE any policy regarding Climate Change – perhaps the single most important problem confronting humanity today! There is nothing on their Web site:
    except for a pdf statement on Resource Management.
    Just shows what sort of priority they put on this! So Nick is just talking for himself actually. And we shouldn’t place too much trust in that – because it’s just his opinion.

          1. “There are some gems in there:”
            – more like clods of clay.
            God it’s depressing. So from no policy they produce something that is next to useless! Brilliant.

  3. Depressing indeed on many accounts. The scientifically illiterate trample over the future of our planet and the well being of our descendents with careless abandon… when the puku is full today, who wants to give a toss about eating tomorrow? Even though the Titanic is sinking, who would leave the casino when a few more rounds of a winning streak are beckoning… Lets not worry about the Planet of our children, lets bigger consumption and crank up the vacuum that hoovers wealth from the 99% to the 1%, its so much fun!!!

    If CO2 gas was absorbing and opaque in the visible part of the spectrum and not just in the invisible IR bands, this entire fiasco would be entirely different as even the most hardened denier would “see” with their own eyes what we are doing to the planet. But as the effects of CO2’s absorption bands are invisible to the eye, the poor Bennydales of this world can’t comprehend what is happening when you double the amount of the stuff in the air (and that’s where we are heading).

    For the scientifically capable (but politically blocked) denier folks the site linked below has yet another great and very in-depth discussion of the matter of CO2 and the physics of CO2-Light interaction. Its a great collection of material, well presented and worth a look:

    1. Well Thomas, the green movement has to ask itself why it has failed so spectacularly, As the occupy movement claims, we, the doubters, are the 99%. How come ? with decades of warning and protest, with the news media onside and with the education sector so keen to teach children to save the planet ?

      Could it be that the dangers have been overblown, that the claims have been too dogmatic and that the innuendo re “big oil” and denial have been wrong and viscious ? Could it be too, that income redistribution via carbon trading and the UN has been a little too obvious ?

      The post-mortems are all over the place. I cite one above from the Ecologist.

      1. No Benny, your so wrong.

        The pressures of the powerful with their Heartland Institutes, cold war warriors Singer + Seitz and Co and the whole sordid cabal of right wing libertarian think tanks, pseudo scientific institutes, Fox news and a hobby army of right wing nutcases have continued to portrait the climate science as an unsettled affair, providing munition to those politicians who want to give lip service to change only and to those who are stuck in the pipe dream of denial.

        And don’t think for one second that you can count yourself on the side of the 99%… sorry but you do not belong to us, so don’t even try! You speak the words of the 1% overlords with their Gulfstream Vistas. You care only for a continuation of the polluting status-quo.

        And about the Ecologist: You don’t seem to comprehend anything the article is actually suggesting, don’t you?
        The failure of the established political leadership is not the failure of those who have provided ample warning – like this site. No, it is entirely the failure of the ilks like yourself Benny to comprehend or if not to simply get out of the way of the necessary change. You are a prime example of the embodiment of the failure of humanity to act while time is left.

        Your economist article states: “For all the vocal urgency by NGOs and politicians and the clear scientific consensus on man-made climate change, a deal does not appear any closer today than it was two years ago at Copenhagen.”

        Correct, a comprehensive deal seems still not in sight despite of the science being clear as a bell. Now who exactly has been working overtime to pervert any attempt to reach such deal since Kyoto?? Can you name a few culprits?

        So the Economist goes on to mention alternative measures to create significant CO2 emission reductions. We can debate about the effectiveness of those.

        But as it seems, if we carry on as we are, the 99% will one day simply make sure that their children will have a chance to inherit a planet with an ecosystem that is worth while inheriting. And the outcome of that might be much less pretty than an orderly transition to a sustainable society…..


        1. the 1% overlords with their Gulfstream Vistas

          Love it!

          Of course, to the Bennys of this world they’re just ordinary folk, going about their business with only the learjet, a half-dozen directorships and a handful of staff at each house to support them; those Warmist professors are the scary elitists wielding sinister power!

          The ‘we’re the 99%; no really’ thing just made me laugh; despite his apparent obsession with them this ain’t based on any polling I’ve ever seen! But, hell, it’s about how good he feels as he spouts the phrase; as in everything else *cough* ‘skeptical’ facts/evidence don’t enter into it…

        2. Yes, I did read the whole article, including the comments (there were only 2) . Both were very perceptive. Particularly this one…

          “The AGW cult is comprised of two groups. The first group (the followers) includes the uninformed, the gullible, the well intentioned but naive, the sincere but misled, many journalists and researchers, and yes, the just plain stupid…”

          No comment from intelligensia such as yourselves.

      2. You are a hoot. Listen to the language of the major parties around the world and you’ll see how far off you are. Here’s a simple test of your hypothesis on election night: ACT versus the Greens. There’s no question of who comes out on top, only by how much.

  4. Meanwhile this:

    World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns.

    “The door is closing, I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door [to holding temperatures to 2C of warming] will be closed forever.”
    Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency.

    Briol is not an alarmist, has frequently downplayed fears of Peak Oil and certainly not a loony greeny…

    We are commissioning new fossil fuel power plants at such a frenetic pace that withing 5 years we will have passed the point of no return of inducing irreversible and severe changes to our climate and the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be “lost for ever”.

    The full article on the Guardian:

    1. You surely don’t pay any attention to Mr Birol do you ?

      He wouldn’t have any credibility with paid up greenies such as yourselves would he ? Being such a fan of nuclear energy ?

      How is the green position on that these days ?

      1. Yes Benny, you are not the only looney trolling the net, exposing their misconceptions and nonsensical generalizations in ridiculous comments. You spotted a cute one there.

      2. I thought you might find it interesting that the chief of the IEA (with a fossil fuel centric world view, 80 to 90% of the worlds Energy supply is still based on carbon fuels) expresses serious alarm at the AGW issue.

        On the matter of Nuclear energy: I suggest you debate the idea of a nuclear revival with Bill’s Cat. Apparently she is quite able to organize a public revolt against such an idea since Fukushima just about anywhere… 😉

        Show me a country that has actually solved its final deposit problem for nuclear waste and I might buy Bills Cat a tin of sardines (as a gesture of good will… to make a start…)

  5. Meanwhile, we should celebrate Labour’s announcement today re ban on lignite mining. Whatever the politics of it (desperate for the Green vote?) – its a big breakthrough for the other major party in NZ politics to make such a move. Unthinkable even a couple of years ago.

  6. I have been thinking for a while that something else is happening here and elsewhere. The efforts to explain climate science and it’s implications is not in vain. As the inteligensia “get it” it will become inevitable that the population gets it too and will seek ways to give effect to our understanding.

    Not too long ago some survey in Oz on attitudes to climate change (I’ve lost the link) found oly about 10% to be even remotely convinced by the denialist campaignes, only 1.8% if I recall correctly, really convinced. The Oz ETS, although very weak now, at least turns the picture round there and importantly, can be strengthened without having to discard it and start again. The NZ ETS I’ve always regarded as worse than useless window dressing. We will have to start again. But what about this intellecual force I speak of? There is plenty of evidence of its growth in Australia, and some in NZ too: this blog for one, the academics report a few days back, on the abysmal performance of the government on climate change, for another.

    Surely more will see how blind this government is, specially as their current moves in favour of emmitters sink in.

    But with respect to the extension for agriculture, I have not yet heard of any political parties separating emmissions reduction of CO2 from methane issues as I have previously suggested and as Jim Hansen acknowledged during his tour here. So the gov’t uses the combination for its “do nothing yet policy” and a bit of research as the mask for its “we can’t bring in the farming sector yet but we are trying” meme.

    The blind will be dumped yet, the sooner as understanding, insight and activity grows, So we can expect nothing of this government, their expertise is in the failed love-of-money thinking of the past. They cannot come up with anything useful, but we can and must.


  7. Marx believed too, didn’t he that socialism was scientifically inevitable. Many here display a rigidity of thinking that time will prove wrong.

    In spite of all the bluster Thomas, the world’s climate is not behaving as the IPCC models have projected. The science is by no means settled. However much you wring your hands over it the general public are quite uninterested – not because of sceptics like me, but because the AGW case has simply been oversold.

    “…Thinkers who produce grand theories of history are no less provincial in their outlook than any other section of humanity, and it is only to be expected that they would imagine that their values should be those of the species at large—if not at present, then in the future that is unfolding. What is harder to explain is how these theorists could believe—as they all did—that science underwrites their faith that their values will prevail…”

    Says it all.

    1. “In spite of all the bluster Thomas, the world’s climate is not behaving as the IPCC models have projected.”

      You are right Bennydale the climate is not behaving like the conservative estimates of the IPPC would have had us hope.
      The observations are now past the worst scale margins of the last IPPC prognosis in several measures.

      Bennydale: Lying and fibbing and making bold statements of denial are no longer working outside the echo chambers of your mates at Watts Blog and others. The reality unfortunately for you and the rest of us, is clearly very different to your ideology.

      IPPC to Realty comparison:

      A detailed paper comparing IPPC expectations to reality:

    2. What precisely does Gray’s critique of the ridiculous Fukuyama have to do with it?

      Gee, I notice Hayek also gets a well-deserved guernsey as an idiot who believed in his own social ‘inevitable’ – why didn’t you compare the evidence-based community to him? You do understand Gray is mocking the ‘scientific inevitability’ of the neo-liberals?

      Let me guess; you picked Marx because we’re all Marxists, right? Boring.

      Yep, Marx really had all the world’s academies of science issuing statements supporting him, and biologists and ocean chemists confirmed his findings every day.

      Do you understand the distinction between the hard sciences – like atmospheric physics – and dignifying your social theories by appropriating their terminology? Clearly John Gray does – but all you’ve managed to cull out of the piece is Marx = Science = Wrong.

      Could your thinking be any more puerile?

      1. Well Bill. I bet you’re pleased to have got that off your chest.

        You’re all Marxists ? No, I don’t think so, but I do think the core belief behind many AGW adherants and the lothsome greenpeace is a sweeping financial re-distribution.

        No not Marxists. Crazy and fanatical perhaps like Marxists..

        Spoken to Chris de Freitas recently ?

        1. I’ll say this s l o w l y for the hard-of-thinking:

          You want this to be a political issue. It is not.

          AGW is a fact. Just like evolution. Just like smoking causing cancer.

          What we may do about AGW is certainly a political issue, and there one’s ideological preferences will come into play. But to deny the basic reality is to turn away from both science and rationalism. Goodbye Enlightenment!

          Sure, there’s an one/umpteenth fractional percentage chance that something may come along and disprove any or all of these theories – a scientific term we reserve for the most robust explanations we have for phenomena; delighting many of your fellow-travellers in the process.

          But it won’t.

          And you know it. That’s what frightens you most.

          This basic reality simply can never be acknowledged by folks like you, since it’s obvious the beloved Free Market™ is actually the core of much of the problem, and once that’s accepted then the majority will probably accept it has to go, at least in its hyper-capitalist neoliberal variant.

          So it’s easier to try to bamboozle the population into believing that those who are reporting inconvenient facts that may affect the future of the beloved cult are its opponents and ideologues to a man (or woman), motivated only by a spiteful desire to destroy its achievements.

          Again, there’s a lot of Stupid about. Bamboozle might work for a bit. Your beloved polls may even confirm this, but your claim to being ‘the 99%’ is not even close, and making it shows just how little interested you really are in facts.

          But how long can how many people be kept Stupid in the face of mounting piles of inconvenient facts? That’s the key question.

          The problem for you here is that the evidence does indeed keep mounting, and the evidence proves you wrong. Over and over again, it proves you wrong.

          But, as we can see, you’re not arguing facts; you’re defending a belief. You’d rather fry – or, more likely, other fry, you figure you’ll be right, Jack – than concede that ‘lothsome’ Greenpeace is on the right side of this argument.

          Which is not, as we have seen here over and over again, the Right side. Condemning you all to anachronistic irrelevance as the world wakes up from the stupor you’ve induced, and realises it needs to move on, and sharpish!…

          Are Hayek’s adherents ‘crazy and fanatical’ incidentally? Because almost all of them choose to ignore scientific facts when they conflict with their dangerously utopian delusion. Rather the point Gray was making, I would have thought…

  8. “The reality unfortunately…

    What this seems to be saying is that the IPCC have been reckless and irresponsible for being insufficiently alarmist.

    I see Sustainable Canterbury are hosting a water climate forum in Christchurch. Topic: “Co-governance means around water, towards 350ppm atmospheric CO2″

    Election year Water Forum: Monday 21 November 2011, 7.30pm at the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), 59 Gloucester Street, Christchurch.

    – asked of Labour, Green, Mana and NZ First representative speakers.

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