Should never have called it ‘global warming’


Yesterday was supposed to be the first day of summer but the weather wasn’t co-operating with the calendar.

It got down to 9 degrees in the middle of the afternoon with a wind chill that left it feeling even colder.

We woke to a light frost this morning but now the sun is shining and the forecast promises us a balmy 14 degrees.

Whoever first came up with the name ‘global warming’ made a big mistake.

What we’re experiencing is weather and a few unseasonal days isn’t enough on which to base climate science but the name ‘warming’ sticks and makes it much harder for those with genuine concerns about climate change to get their message across.

GW or GM


If you see a member of an endangered species eating an endangered plant, what do you do?

That’s an environmental conundrum and here’s another: what if genetic modification could reduce globbal warming?

AgResearch is seeking approval for trials of transgenic grasses which it thinks could reduce greenhouse emissions.

AgResearch’s applied biotechnologies manager, Jimmy Suttie, said the transgenic grasses had both environmental and productivity advantages.

The grasses were high in energy, which meant fewer animals were needed to get the same production, reducing the amount of methane released.

The science behind the forage meant digestion of the plant was more efficient, cutting the amount of methane produced by animals and increasing energy that went into tissue and productivity.

But Dr Suttie said the technology also had implications for further research to cut methane emissions and reduce the volume of water required by the plants.

A lot of people who oppose oppose genetic modification also support radical efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

Would they be prepared to relax their opposition to genetic modification if it could be part of the solution to global warming?

GW or GM? Some see both as threats but GM also provides opportunities.

Getting them young but getting it wrong


From the Gisborne Herald:

Global warming message misfires
My son and his primary school classmates went to the Fonterra Science Roadshow last week.

The Roadshow was quite informative with factual presentations and then a fun interactive time for the students.

However, I started to get a little uncomfortable when, towards the end of the session, the young presenter started to talk to the students about global warming.

She told her young audience about the detrimental effects of years of burning fossil fuels and the resulting gases it sends into the atmosphere — she is probably quite right. However, she then proceeded to tell everyone that cows were emitting gases which were contributing to global warming.

She informed us that farmers will have to change their grasses and vaccinate their cattle to alter the bacteria in their stomachs to decrease the gases they were emitting.

We (parents and teachers) were pretty horrified that: (a) The cows scenario is not scientific fact and she was telling this to our children;

(b) She was telling children that unnatural modification was the answer (ie. vaccination to alter digestion).

(c) This science roadshow is sponsored by Fonterra.

(d) Not the business of a roadshow for children to even raise the global warming topic.

We all agree that we should do all that we can to look after our world, but to be passing the above information on to our children sounds like propaganda and not fact to me.

Sarah Gault


From the Concise Oxford Dictionary:
Science n. 1. (arch.) Knowledge. 2 Systematic and formulated knowledge . . . 4. Branch of knowledge (esp. one that can be conducted on scientific principles), organised body of the knowledge that has been accumulated on a subject . . . 6. – fiction, fanciful fiction based on postulated scientific discoveries or environmental changes . . . 
Which definition do the teachers at the road show use?


Southerner taking Labour caucus to court


The Southland Times editorial commends Basil Walker  of Queenstown who has been granted a High Court hearing on September 22 against the entire Labour caucus.

 His beef with them is the apparent lack of scientific evidence supporting the Government’s move to enact the emissions trading scheme.

He sees the proposed legislation as ill-founded and is determined to prevent it being made law before the general election this year. The Government is trying to force expensive legislation on the country and someone has to stand up and say there is no evidence to support it, he says.

Much of his argument is based on the work of two men: former Thatcher adviser Lord Monkton and scientist David Evans.

Lord Monkton picks something like 35 significant holes in the global warming debate raised by Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. Some of these have been supported by a High Court judge in the United Kingdom.

Dr Evans developed the carbon accounting model that measures Australia’s compliance with the Kyoto Protocol.

“When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good,” he said in a paper this year. “The evidence was not conclusive, but why wait until we were certain when it appeared we needed to act quickly?” Since then new evidence had seriously weakened the case and by 2007 it was “pretty conclusive” carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of recent global warming.

That led Dr Evans to change his opinion, adding that the lack of public debate about the causes of global warming meant people were not aware of some basic facts: wThe greenhouse signature — which would prove the greenhouse effect — was missing.

  • There was no evidence carbon emissions caused significant global warming.
  • Satellite data showed the warming trend ended in 2001 and the world was cooling.
  • Ice core data showed global temperatures rose around 800 years before the accompanying rise in atmospheric carbon.

This created a greater urgency than ever to get answers, he said.

That’s a compelling argument for Mr Walker. He doesn’t know the answers, he says, but neither has the Government supplied any solid evidence to prove the emissions scheme is needed.

Our Queenstown battler is going to struggle to reach his goal on this one, but at least he’s fighting. How many of us can honestly say that?

I don’t know whether or not the world is warming and whether or not people are causing it. But I am certain that Labour’s proposed Emissions Trading Scheme will not help the environment and will do great harm to the economy.

The Hive  reckons that Labour has the numbers to pass the ETS and Keeping Stock  notes this shows labour hasn’t learned from the mistake of rushing through the Electoral Finance Act and wonders what deals have been done to get the legislation through so the legal action is timely.

Regardless of the merits of his case, if it delays the passing of the ETS until after the election when the whole matter can be given the proper consideration it needs, Mr Walker will have done us all a favour.

Good on ya mate 🙂

Politics and consumers require climate change action


The ODT has two stories about climate change. One is an opinion piece headlined Debunking the climate change deniers by Doug Mackie, research fellow in the chemistry department at Otago.

The other is a news story on consent hearings for a wind farm and quotes Professor Bob Clark who said available scientific data on global warming did not justify the belief carbon dioxide emission controls could be used as a means of managing or stopping future climate change.

I spent last Thursday with a discussion group learning about climate change. Chatham House rules apply so I can’t discuss the presentations. But my conclusion was that regardless of what science has established, consumer demand and politics require producers to reduce carbon emissions.

Our competitors would grab any opportunity they can find to impose non-tariff barriers and could use carbon emissions, real or invented, to do it. Retailers will use low carbon emissions to give a marketing advantage and consumers wealthy enough to have a choice will take the carbon footprint into account when making a purchase.

That isn’t all bad news because using water, fuel, power and fertiliser more efficiently has enviornmental and economic benefits.

However, not everything required by the Kyoto Protocol makes sense. For example you can cut down trees and replant in the same place or leave the land to regenerate without incurring a carbon liability; but if you replant somewhere else, you will.

The people negotiating on our behalf need to address stupidities like this to minimise the economic cost and maximise the enviromental gain.

Climate change debate distorted by dogma


University of Otago geographer, Professor Geoffrey Kearsley, says that while human activity is changing the climate there is an increasing body of science that says the sun may have a greater role than previously thought.

It is now pretty much taken for granted that global warming is ongoing, that climate change is being driven by human activity and that it is critically important that extraordinary changes be made in fundamental aspects of our economy and way of life.

On the small scale, people plant trees, examine food miles, purchase carbon offsets and modify their travel behaviour.

Cities and even countries vie with one another to become carbon neutral; as a nation, we are contemplating emission controls, taxes and carbon-trading schemes that will have a profound effect on individual households and the national economy alike.

When linked with the other great crisis of our times – peak oil – it has become not only socially desirable to embrace all of this, but sustainability has achieved the status of a higher morality.

It has become politically unacceptable to doubt any of the current dogma.

So politics not science is driving the debate.

Not to subscribe wholeheartedly to the sustainability ethos is to be labelled not just a sceptic but a denier, with overtones of Holocaust denial and a wilful, unreasonable immorality.

It is said that we are now beyond the science and that the science of global warming has been finalised or determined and that all scientists agree.

Sceptics and deniers are simply cynical pawns in the pockets of the big oil companies.

And no one points out the vested interests in what has become the climate change industry.

This is unfortunate, to say the least.

Science is rarely determined or finalised; science evolves and the huge complexity of climate science will certainly continue to evolve in the light of new facts, new experiences and new understandings. Read the rest of this entry »

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