Science when it suits

April 8, 2019

Anyone who dares to challenge the politically accepted view on climate change  is told to accept the science.

But  during Question Time last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw, showed again he is prepared to accept only the science that suits:

. . . Todd Muller: Does he stand by his statement made on 4 March during an interview on Q+A that when it comes to the application of GE technology in New Zealand, he—and I quote—”will be led by the science on it.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the former Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who said—and I quote—”I’ll go as far as to say that I cannot see a way that agriculture in New Zealand will be sustainable over the long run in the face of environmental change and consumer preferences without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the then Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who also said at the time—and I quote—”There is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: When he said he would be—and I quote—”led by the science”, did he mean all science or just the science that fits his political narrative?

Hon JAMES SHAW: If the member looks at the previous supplementary questions, he’ll see that what Sir Peter Gluckman was saying is that he didn’t see any other ways than GE to achieve those outcomes. I do see other ways.

Todd Muller: What are the other ways of addressing agriculture emission reduction that he thinks the chief scientist has not captured in his assessment?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I can’t comment on what the former Chief Science Advisor included in his assessment, but if the member’s interested, I would advise him to read the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group that the previous Government set up. It took a number of years looking at a range of options for how agricultural emissions could be reduced and found that, actually, with a high degree of confidence, agriculture would be able to reduce emissions by at least 10 percent by 2030, and found with a similarly high degree of confidence that it would be able to reduce it by at least 30 percent by 2050.

Todd Muller: A final supplementary: does he consider climate change to be a sufficiently serious global issue that all science and innovations, including GE, need to be considered, or does he just think it is a pick and choose menu?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I think that policy makers always have options in front of them about what choices to make, but I certainly do believe that climate change is not just the greatest challenge of our time but, potentially, the greatest challenge of all time. . .

If he wants us to accept that climate change is such a challenge and take the need for action seriously, how can he shut the door on technology that could address at least some of the contributors?

Federated Farmers correctly points out his closed mind is unhelpful:

The Green Party’s apparent unwillingness to even have a discussion on the potential of genetic engineering to provide solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues is extremely disappointing, Federated Farmers says.

“Terse answers from Climate Change Minister James Shaw to Parliamentary questions this week indicate the Greens find the GE topic too hot to handle. But discussions on pragmatic and science-based policies should not be held to ransom by merely trying to keep a vocal section of your political party’s membership happy,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been plenty of media reports about a ryegrass developed by NZ AgResearch using gene editing. It can substantially reduce methane emissions from cattle which eat it. Under our current laws the grass cannot be grown in New Zealand, and field trials are having to take place in the United States. . . 

“Mr Shaw didn’t have to agree with Sir Peter Gluckman but we do hope he won’t be so quick to shut down discussion of GE’s potential in talks with groups such as Federated Farmers and others,” Andrew says.

“We’ve already had Green MP and Conservation Minister  tell Predator-free NZ not to pursue the option of GE technologies as an answer to eradication of possums, rats and other pests.

“Farmers are being called on to make deep cuts in emissions from their livestock. Just about the only way were going to be able to do that, without crippling the viability of many farms, are breakthrough technologies still being worked on.

“Federated Farmers’ position is that we should at least be open to the potential of GE, and we need to continue scientific and field research on its advantages and disadvantages, at the same time as having an open-minded and rational debate with all New Zealanders.”

James Shaw is playing to his political supporters and putting their opposition to GE, which is based far more on emotion than science, ahead of his ministerial responsibility.

In doing so he is denying New Zealanders tools which could reduce greenhouse gases and increase the pace of the journey towards a predator-free country, both of which ought to appeal to those of a green persuasion, but sadly not enough who are Greens.

It’s a pity they and the Minister, can’t, or won’t, accept the science that shows the very low risks and high potential benefits of GE.


No violence is acceptable

March 14, 2019

Green Party leader James Shaw was attacked on his way to parliament this morning.

. . .Wellington police Snr Sgt Matthew Morris said on Thursday the assault took place at around 7:50am outside the entrance to the Botanical Gardens in Wellington.

“We understand members of the public have assisted the victim and we believe there may also be other witnesses to the incident,” he said. . . 

No violence is acceptable and if this attack is politically motivated it’s even worse.

Facts and logic are the best weapons in a political argument. An inability to win with words is no justification for resorting to brute force.


Govt can’t cope with CGT oppositon

March 8, 2019

The normal course of events for government working groups is to do the work, submit a report and leave what happens next to the politicians.

That this government feels the need to keep the chair of the Tax Working Group, Sir Michael Cullen, on at  $1000 a day to explain and defend the group’s recommendations is a sign the politicians don’t think they’re up to explaining and defending it themselves.

Paying a working group chair $1000 a day might be the going rate while he’s actually chairing for a day but continuing to pay him that to lobby is outrageous:

The Tax Working Group process has become blatantly politicised with the Government’s decision to pay Sir Michael Cullen to continue lobbying for a capital gains tax, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The advertised purpose of the Tax Working Group was to deliver an expert-driven appraisal of the tax system along with a series of recommendations. That advice has now been received, but Sir Michael is still being paid over $1000 a day to argue for higher taxes. Funding for expert advice is one thing, but taxpayer-funded public campaigning is outrageous.”

“If the National Party set up a Steven Joyce led Working Group and paid Mr Joyce to get on radio and attack the Labour Party and advocate for lower taxes, the political left would rightly get up in arms. It’s the same principle here: expert advice should not be politicised at taxpayers’ expense.”

“Grassroots organisations like the Taxpayers’ Union campaign using voluntary donations. Proponents of the capital gains tax should try to do the same.” . . 

Paying Cullen is in effect a government vote of no-confidence in themselves and their ability.

Government MPs have had remarkable little to say on the TWG’s report, with the exception of James Shaw who asked if the government deserved to be re-elected if it didn’t introduce a capital gains tax (CGT).

That it needs to hire the group’s chair to speak for it, shows it doesn’t deserve to be re-elected anyway.


We need green not greenwash

January 14, 2019

Danyl Mclauchlan says the political process isn’t working and people don’t care about climate change.

He is right that the political process isn’t working. In many cases is making matters worse.

He’s wrong in saying people don’t care about the environment including climate change.

But they also care about people and the economic and social impact of policies which might or might not save the planet, and will come at a high human and financial cost.

This is why National Party climate change spokesman, Todd Muller, is looking for not only a bi-partisan approach but one which isn’t blinded by green ideology:

We are not a party of “climate villains” dragging our feet as they would paint, but rather a party of economic and environmental pragmatists who are taking a principled approach to climate change: allowing science to paint the picture, with technology leading the way, pacing ourselves at the pace of our competitors, and being relentlessly honest about the economic implications of the transition. . . 

National takes climate change seriously. That’s why have I been working behind the scenes with James Shaw negotiating a framework for an Independent Climate Change Commission to take the short-term politics out of what is a very long-term issue and guide the response of successive future governments.

Generation Zero is trying to paint climate change as a partisan issue, with the Labour and Green Party in one corner, and National in the other.

We are seeking to move climate change beyond partisan politics to provide stability to this issue. National is proud of its record on climate issues, but those who are dead set on New Zealand always moving harder and faster no matter the cost, often under the guise of “ambition”, will never let the truth get in the way of a good story. . .

That cost isn’t only a financial and social one. It would be an environmental one if, for example, the dark green calls for drastic reductions in stock numbers here led to increases in other countries where farming practices are far less efficient.

Another example of policy on the hoof leading to more emissions, not less, is the oil and gas ban.

The key difference in policy has been the Labour Government’s ban on oil and gas exploration – a change of direction that the National Party continues to oppose vigorously. This decision was pure politics with the Government’s own officials advising that banning oil and gas would cost our economy billions of dollars and likely lead to an increase in global emissions.

The people of Taranaki don’t need a “safe space” to “grieve the change of identity”. What the people of Taranaki need is economic certainty and a Government that isn’t blinded by Green ideology.

National is ambitious when it comes to climate action. We are also ambitious for New Zealand. It is absolutely critical that we move – but let’s not move at a pace that leaves businesses and communities behind and puts our economy at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world.

Modelling provided to the Minister for Climate Change by NZIER indicated that achieving an all-gases zero emissions target by 2050 would reduce New Zealand wages by 60 per cent and GDP by 40 per cent. This may be palatable to Generation Zero, but I doubt the rest of New Zealand would agree.

It’s sadly ironical that some of the people calling loudest for reducing poverty are also calling loudest for radical environmental policies that will hit the poor hardest.

New Zealand is already a low-wage economy with at best modest growth in GDP. A 60% drop in wages and a 40% fall in GDP would be devastating for us all.

When our total emissions account for 0.17 per cent of total global emissions, leadership isn’t being first, fast and famous.

Leadership is taking what we already do well, food production, and doing it even better over time by investing in innovation and technology.

The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, is an example of putting money into science to reduce emissions without reducing production and making food more expensive.

While all parties are working together to support New Zealand playing its part on climate change, we can’t ignore the reality that, ultimately, it will be decisions made in Washington, Beijing, Moscow and New Delhi – not Wellington – that will determine the level of warming we will see over coming centuries.

Future generations will thank us for working with, and at the pace of, global partners.

A cleaner, greener world requires us all to think globally and act locally but the thinking and acting must be based on science not politics.

That is the only way to get green policies, not greenwash.

 


Can’t be green when in the red

December 17, 2018

National’s Climate Change spokesman Todd Muller understands the problem:

Any government which sabotages its country’s economy and its people’s standard of living is doomed.

No matter how seriously a government takes climate change, it won’t survive to act on its concerns if can’t take the people with it and it won’t take the people with it if they feel they, and the country, are going backwards.

Economic growth and environmental stewardship aren’t mutually exclusive.

Furthermore, unless we’re prepared to regress to a subsistence existence, economic health is required for environmental improvements.

It’s no coincidence that more successful enterprises and wealthier countries have better environmental standards.

Whether you’re an individual, a business or a country, you can’t be green if you’re in the red.


What dirty deal bought Greens?

August 2, 2018

Bryce Edwards has a leaked document showing the Green Party lied about having to support the wake jumping legislation:

. . . The Greens have never been willing to front up over how they were going to deal with this contentious bill. First, when the coalition was formed, we were told by co-leader James Shaw that his party wouldn’t vote for any policies that they disagreed with. The Greens later changed this to say that they would support the waka-jumping bill through the first stages of the legislation, but wouldn’t guarantee that they would vote for it in the end.

Then last week the party finally revealed that they would indeed vote for the legislation, even though they still opposed it. They justified this capitulation with the notion that their hands were tied by the coalition agreement that they signed up to with the Labour Party – especially the part in which they promised to deal in “good faith” with Labour to fulfil coalition agreements with New Zealand First.

It turns out that the Greens have always known that there is nothing in the coalition agreement they signed with Labour that obliges them to vote for the waka-jumping bill. A leaked Green Party caucus document from January, titled “Advice to caucus – Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill”, reports on official advice informing the Greens that there is nothing in their coalition agreement that binds them to provide support.

This is what the document says about the “good faith” provision in their agreement with Labour: “Advice from the Cabinet Office is that firstly this is a political statement around how we’re endeavouring to work with the Government. It commits us to work through areas of concern in good faith, but does not bind us to support everything set out in the Labour/New Zealand First coalition agreement”.

Why pretend it did?

The fact that the Greens have tried to tell the public the opposite therefore raises some big questions about why they’ve mislead the public on this, and what the real reasons are for their U-turn on the bill.

There are two main possible explanations: weakness or opportunism. In the “weakness” explanation, the Greens have acted like doormats – the leader of New Zealand First has simply demanded that the Greens vote for the bill, or there will be some sort of very negative consequence (perhaps even threatening to walk away from the coalition Government). In this scenario, the Greens have meekly rolled over and given away their principles easily.

Under the “opportunist” explanation, the Greens have demanded some sort of price for voting against their principles. Perhaps it was the oil and gas exploration ban. Perhaps there is an upcoming policy announcement about mining on conservation land, or a deal on the Kermadecs sanctuary. What other horse-trading deals are being done between the three parties in government?

The problem is we will likely never know. We now have an opaque Government in which the official coalition agreements aren’t the full story, and instead we’re being governed by backroom deals that the public isn’t allowed to know about. It seems therefore that the waka-jumping deal epitomises the continued decay of principled and transparent politics, and how even so-called principled politicians such as the Greens are willing to buy into it all. . .

Principled? If they ever were they certainly aren’t now.

Not when the MPs’ line has been they are supporting the Bill because they have too and just last week co-leader Manama Davidson said: “We are doing this because the confidence and supply agreement holds us to it.

MMP requires an occasional diet of dead rats, it doesn’t require lies.

We might never know which of Edwards’ two explanations for them swallowing this large and very dirty rodent is the right one.

Both wrong their supporters and the rest of us who have to suffer them in government.

If the MPs have rolled over because they’re scared of the consequences of sticking to their principles what else might they acquiesce to?

If they did a deal, what is the price of their principles and what dirty deal bought their support?

Whatever the answer to that question is, the fact that someone leaked the document suggests someone in the Green camp is very, very unhappy and isn’t afraid to hurt the party because of it.


What are the benefits?

June 6, 2018

The decision to ban future offshore petroleum exploration was a political one that didn’t go before Cabinet:

The Cabinet has made no decision on ending oil exploration, documents being released today will show, with April’s announcement made on the basis of a political agreement between the coalition parties.

On April 12, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led a group of ministerial colleagues into the Beehive theatrette to confirm news that the Government had decided it would offer no new offshore permits for oil and gas exploration, with onshore permits offered in Taranaki for as little as three years.

Although the news was delivered by ministers affected by the decision and in a forum usually used to discuss decisions made by the Cabinet, politicians made the decision in their roles as party leaders.

Today the Government will release a series of documents generated in the making of the oil and gas exploration decision, but it has already confirmed to Stuff that no Cabinet paper was created and that the Cabinet has not voted on the matter. . . 

We already knew this major decision with large and detrimental economic, environmental and social impacts was made without consultation with affected parties.

Now we know it was a political decision made without even consulting with Cabinet.

That is no way to run a government or a country.

But wait, there’s more and it’s worse – MBIE produced a paper that warned of the detrimental impacts of the ban  which include but aren’t limited to:

* Increased risk to security of future gas supply to major gas users, most notably Methanex at a time when New Zealand has its lowest reserve to production ratio since the Maui reserve re-determination of 2003. The lead time from exploration success to commercial production takes years, so it is not possible to simply turn on gas supplies once they become tight.

* Increased gas prices to consumers following an tightness in future gas supply.

* Increased uncertainty for major gas users in the industrial sector that rely on gas as an input to their processes.

* A negligible impact in reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions but a likely increase in global gas emissions (from methanol produced from gas in New Zealand being displaced by methanol produced from coal in China). It also removes the opportunity, both domestically and internationally, of any future gas discovery being used to displace coal.

A negligible impact in reducing domestic greenhouse gases and a likely increase in global gas emissions?

This isn’t thinking globally, actIng locally. This isn’t thinking at all.

* Increase perceptions of sovereign risk as this would mark a Marjory policy shift.

* Potentially accelerating decommissioning timeframes, alongside the associated Crown liabilities (measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars) for a portion of these decommissioning costs that represent the amount of taxes and royalties that have effectively been overpaid over the life cycle of the field’s production. . . 

* A detrimental economic impact on the Taranaki region. Methane alone contributed 8 percent of the regional economy of Taranaki in 2017. Methane will be the first company affected by future tightness in gas supply. . . 

To sum up, the ban increases risk around security of supply, costs to consumers and global gas emissions and reduces Crown revenue from future royalties and decreases economic activity in Taranaki.

Added to the detrimental impacts MBIE lists, are decreasing trust in the government and increasing jitters over the Labour, NZ First, Green coalition which now looks more like an Ardern-Peters-Shaw dictatorship.

If it can do this to the energy business and Taranaki without warning or consultation what might it drop on other businesses and other areas?

And the benefits?

I can’t think of any that justify the economic, environmental and social sabotage of the ban and the way it was delivered by decree.


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