Responding to the two global crises: thoughts on the Rio+20 conference

This piece was originally produced for the UN Association of Australia Conference, Brisbane, August 2012

Humanity today faces the first truly global crisis in its 5,000-year political history.  As we enter the Anthropocene:

–       Our ecological footprint, surpassing Earth-share (bio-productive capacity per capita) in 1981, recorded an overshoot of 18% in 1992 and 50% in 2010.  Humanity is grossly over-consuming the planet’s resources, engaging in permanent ecological theft from the next generation.   If each human pursues the consumer lifestyle of North America, the sustainable population is some 2.2 billion; at present, we are 7 billion, heading to 9.

–       Biodiversity loss continues, at 100 to 1000 times the natural rate.

–       Our emissions continue to rise, portending serious anthropogenic climate change with average global temperature rise between 2°C (difficult) and 6°C (intolerable).

It is not clear that we have the foresight and resolve to get through the ecological crisis successfully.

The international community responds to this situation through the means of UN conference machinery.  I have attended the most critical of these – the Rio Earth Summit in ‘92, Cairo ’94 on population, Copenhagen ’09 on climate change, and Rio+20 on sustainability.

Our contemporary machinery is proving incapable of solving global problems.  The international community of states, configured along Westphalian lines of national sovereignty, is failing the global community of peoples, who existentially embody the common interest.  Our 193 UN member states competitively strive to maximise national interests through international negotiation.  By definition, that cannot resolve a global problem.

In addition, we have a dysfunctional interface between the scientific and policy-making communities – wherein the integrity of objective and impartial science is impugned by direct consumption, even intrusion, from political interest.

So we have two global crises: an ecological crisis and a governance crisis.

It is a question of cognitive framework.  If this were a normal problem, it would not matter – these things would be resolved at evolutionary pace.  But if it is of an imminence and magnitude that constitute a crisis, then a qualitatively different cognitive framework is necessary.

As early as 1982, UNEP observed:

“At the [1972] Stockholm conference, it was generally assumed that the world’s system of national governments, regional groupings and international agencies, had the power to take effective action. …. By the early 1980s, there was less confidence in the capacity of national and international managerial systems to apply known principles and techniques or in the effectiveness with which international debates lead to action.   …. Twenty years after Stockholm, it is still not possible to … say with confidence that the Governments of the world have the knowledge or the political will to deal with the global problems which we already know exist”.  (Saving Our Planet, p. 165).

Forty years after Stockholm, twenty years after the Earth Summit, Rio+20 validated that prescient insight, with its limp declaration of 283 platitudinous paragraphs.

Popular attention focuses on climate change.  Yet the Global Ecological Crisis is comprised of an inter-locking series of nine planetary boundaries.   Three are already exceeded: climate change, biodiversity loss, and nitrogen removal from the atmosphere.  A fourth (stratospheric ozone depletion) is recovering from boundary excess. Three others (freshwater, ocean acidification, land use) are approaching the boundary.  With the final two (chemical pollution, atmospheric aerosol loading) we lack sufficient data to be certain.

International negotiations have bequeathed framework conventions for ozone depletion, climate change and biodiversity.  Their subsequent binding protocols proved successful with ozone but manifestly inadequate with the other two.  With the six other boundaries, little or no policy development has occurred to date.

Rather than international legislative negotiations, we need global executive action.   This would be based on a creative interpretation of the UN Charter, for the sake of the (imperfect) legitimacy we have devised to date.  It might take the following form:

–       the UN Security Council declaring the Ecological Crisis a threat to international peace and security, triggering its binding powers on behalf of the total UN membership;

–       an empowered Secretary-General, taking more personal initiative (already sanctioned under the Charter);

–       an independent high-level panel, on behalf of the SG, acting as intermediary between the scientific community and the policy-making community, making analytical and prescriptive input into the Security Council.

The next few decades may be all we have left to take decisive action on the crisis we are in.

110 Comments Posted

  1. BJ – your link has found a small number of brand new cars, that use…wait for it…new technology… that allows a small number of autos to be more efficient than manuals. They are listed as exceptions.

    Your link even states manuals are generally more efficient.

    But back in real world NZ the average car is not a small number of select new models – they are in fact, on average, 14 years old.

    Considering your concern for the environment, I don’t know why you are coming up with excuse after excuse on why people shouldn’t bother reducing their emissions when they could easily do so.

  2. Photonz

    I have pointed out, and Trevor has pointed out, that your focus on this is misguided and trivial. You continue to bang on about it as though it means something, even though I personally managed to find a stick.

    Note this phrase in particular –

    “Remember, despite a manual transmission’s advantage, you can sometimes do better by buying a different model altogether. For example, at 32 mpg overall, an automatic Toyota Corolla still beats a manual 29-mpg Focus.”

    You are not correct, though the the automated cycle test shows data you are probably relying on.

    People in the real world with real cars know better.

    You have made an error in generalization and your trust in the “official” figures which are almost entirely useless except for comparison purposes… if that.

    SOME people can do better with a stick in the city… most cannot. Some people can beat ANY auto with their frugal driving of a stick, most cannot, but anyone can buy a good automatic that lets them come close to the expert driver’s best efforts.

    Thus for most people and that includes most Greens, in urban settings, a modern “slushbox” is apt to be as efficient FOR THEM, as the stick.

    Now can we get on with rubbishing one another on some more relevant issues?



  3. BJ says “I can, with a stick, get less mileage than the equivalent or more depending on how I drive.”

    “In stop-and-go traffic, the driver of the stick is apt to spend too much time in lower gears simply because of the nature of the traffic and human laziness.”

    The efficicncy advantages of a manual are even greater in urban driving.

    You are just coming up with more and more excuses NOT to lower emissions when buying a manual is an easy way to do that.

    BJ says “The fact that you bang on about this minor issue ….”

    It’s an easy and simple way that most people could cut their emissions, but they don’t bother.

    Lets cut through the BS –

    The banging on is from some greens who feel guilty, so they keep coming up with more and more (really feeble) excuses for doing the wrong thing.

  4. Photonz

    I can, with a stick, get less mileage than the equivalent or more depending on how I drive.

    Most drivers who choose a stick, do so because they want that level of control and can do the same as I do.

    Many of them are a lot younger and more aggressive than I now am.

    A driver with a slushbox is not so encouraged to race.

    In stop-and-go traffic, the driver of the stick is apt to spend too much time in lower gears simply because of the nature of the traffic and human laziness.

    The fact that you bang on about this minor issue of individual choice in an environment that has no effective price on the emission of CO2 to begin with, is an indication too that you haven’t got much else to offer us.

    Put the price on the CO2. Make it high enough to HURT people who abuse the commons, and let people choose.


  5. Maybe this from Monbiot explains photonz’s difficulties:

    There are no comparisons to be made. This is not like war or plague or a stockmarket crash. We are ill-equipped, historically and psychologically, to understand it, which is one of the reasons why so many refuse to accept that it is happening.

    What we are seeing, here and now, is the transformation of the atmospheric physics of this planet. Three weeks before the likely minimum, the melting of Arctic sea ice has already broken the record set in 2007. The daily rate of loss is now 50% higher than it was that year. The daily sense of loss – of the world we loved and knew – cannot be quantified so easily.

  6. photonz1,

    “And you say technology doesn’t make any difference.”

    Actually, I didn’t say that but it sure doesn’t seem like it will help us get to sustainability.

  7. Trevor says “However Photonz1 has not shown that choosing a manual over an automatic will result in any savings for the average driver,”

    How easy is it to get greens to come up with arguements why they SHOULDN’T be green?

    For over half a century it’s been common knowledge that autos use significantly more fuel than the same car in a manual.

    Show me an auto that uses LESS fuel than a maunual – (there may actually be one or two models with the very latest CVT gearboxes, but not for the other 99.5% of cars on the road)

  8. Tony says “I very much doubt throwing more technology at the problem is going to help. … Technology can’t change the laws of nature.”

    With better technology, I’ve HALVED the petrol I use from my old car.

    With high speed internet I have ZERO commute cause my business can run from home.

    With a new heat pump, energy efficient bulbs etc, my power use had dropped by a third.

    And you say technology doesn’t make any difference.

  9. photonz1,

    “No – what it is, is a great example of how a simple choice when buying a car can have a significant reduction in carbon emissions over the years you own that vehicle.

    …What that shows us, is that if it is difficult to get greens to make simple choices like this, then it’s going to be even HARDER to get the general population to change their habits and lifestyles.”

    Well, yes, but that action, itself, is irrelevant, as are most of the baby steps that so-called environmentalists urge us to take. We need to take much bigger steps than that, to have an impact. So don’t rail against just greens for not being able to change their lifestyles. They have, at least, demonstrated some awareness of the problems we’re causing ourselves but most are unaware of the big changes that are needed to make a real difference.

    “Which reiterates the point I continually make – that new technology will have a far greater impact on peoples emissions than trying to get them to change.”

    Well, it’s technology that has allowed us to make this mess, I very much doubt throwing more technology at the problem is going to help. Until we change our unsustainable lifestyles, no amount of technology will cut the mustard. Technology can’t change the laws of nature.

    “add up to a 25-30% improvement in fuel efficiency on the previous model in auto (which was already pretty efficient).”

    And that will be a significant stride towards a sustainable future? I think not. Even if everyone did it (and you know they won’t), we’d still be destroying habitat, destroying the oceans, warming the planet, eroding the topsoil, polluting water, and so on. My recent experience in England of an almost total lack of birdsong was a frightening taste of what may be to come.

  10. bj,

    I’ve pretty much given up on hoping for leadership from the top. The economy and individual prosperity always wins. All that’s left, then, is individual actions. If that makes no difference, then that’s sad and tragic but it is all that is left. Walk the walk, and all that.

  11. However Photonz1 has not shown that choosing a manual over an automatic will result in any savings for the average driver, only choosing a newer car rather than an older car will result in fewer emissions while driving. (It may cost more emissions to scrap the older car and replace it with a newer car.)


  12. Tony says “The discussion about automatic versus manual is largely irrelevant. ”

    No – what it is, is a great example of how a simple choice when buying a car can have a significant reduction in carbon emissions over the years you own that vehicle.

    But even among greens, this easy choice to reduce carbon, is often not being made.

    What that shows us, is that if it is difficult to get greens to make simple choices like this, then it’s going to be even HARDER to get the general population to change their habits and lifestyles.

    Which reiterates the point I continually make – that new technology will have a far greater impact on peoples emissions than trying to get them to change.

    You dismiss “baby steps”, but lots of baby steps add up. A low friction engine, low rolling resistance tyres, slightly smaller engine, and getting a manual instead of an auto, add up to a 25-30% improvement in fuel efficiency on the previous model in auto (which was already pretty efficient).

  13. Tony

    I let the market chastise them. I let them make their choices.

    I reckon a Carbon price around $150/tonne would cause many to choose to take up knitting instead.

    As you say, we can’t do this with “baby steps” it is a tragedy of the commons and as such can only be properly addressed by laws or prices that everyone must abide by, when accessing that commons. That is why I don’t really care to chastise anyone for their choices. Individual actions are not that relevant. I construe my MORAL duty much as you do and work hard to keep my footprint as low as I can, but that isn’t the same as actually making a difference.

    The only person it pleases to do it is me, and I am the only one affected by it. There is a coal plant being built in china this week that wipes out my individual effort, with interest. To actually be effective we have to get the prices and laws in place to protect the commons, and that is no easy matter. This is the only country we can directly effect changes in, and we can’t even get THAT done.

    We have to then persuade China that it must not build that coal plant. Which gets easier when they see we have taken the problem seriously, but is not by any means, easy.

    ..but when the climate gets horrible enough they will shut down coal plants too. Our help and Australia’s help and support for them to do that is important. They have to lead now, and our respect for them, shown by not demanding that they do things we have not done, makes that an easier thing, and so they will shut down sooner.

    No mistake here. We are going to get beaten up pretty severely over the next couple of centuries.

    …but the choices of individuals, informed by proper pricing placed on their decisions, do not need to be restrained by either regulation or ridicule.

    The price however, has to be high enough to reflect the damage being done.

    High enough that the 5-10% difference between a stick or CVT and a slushbox makes a difference to people.

    High enough to make electrified public transport and vehicles look cheap.


  14. The discussion about automatic versus manual is largely irrelevant. These so-called baby steps (like changing to LED lights or turning down the shower pressure, etc) are not steps that will lead to a sustainable way of living; they are attempts to keep the unsustainable going a bit longer. BJ doesn’t want to chastise people for choosing petrol powered modes of transport and leisure but does want to price the petrol to discourage that sort of activity. This is a bit disingenuous. Such activities are contributing to the slow (but accelerating) deterioration of the only place we can currently call home. I’m talking many of those baby steps myself, though trying to lengthen those strides as quickly as I can, within the context in which I live. I’m as guilty as anyone for the mess we’ve collectively made of our own habitat but I can recognise that and am trying to do something about it, and I can certainly say that some choices are bad choices.

  15. Photonz1,

    “Something else you’re wrong about – ostriches don’t, and never have, put their heads in the sand – like your claim that no aspect of the environment is getting better, it’s a myth that gullible people believe.”

    Oh boy, talk about missing the point.

  16. Photonz

    You have a ridiculous standard of what a Green “should” be.

    I may meet it in most ways, but I know where I often enough fail.

    We all have trade-offs we have to make, and we do what makes sense for us in the circumstances. The trade-off between a stick and a slushbox is not a “Green” standard, and nobody is going to make the “GreenEST choice every time on everything they do.

    This DOES NOT affect whether we are Green.

    As I pointed out earlier, the sustainable and universal protection of the commons that is necessary for the continued survival of our civilization is NOT affected by the individual lifestyle choices of the advocate… provided that that advocate is going to have to abide be the laws proposed.

    Which is why I am happy enough to put a price on the CO2 and leave the regulations to the market. If we can’t have a price then we have to have “regulations”, and the current government is removing both, to its shame.

    Except that the perpetrators have no shame. I don’t regard them as much different from the pure essence of evil. The only question is whether they have any understanding of what they are ACTUALLY doing.

  17. Photonz1 – you claimed a 15-20% penalty for using an automatic, and then backed this up with one example only – 13% – which contradicted what you said. I claimed that the difference would be smaller for the average driver because of poor use of the manual transmission, which you ignored, and added that it may be safer to drive an automatic, which is an equally valid concern when buying a car, which you also ignored. (Note that an accident will cause a serious amount of GHG emissions because of the resources required to replace or repair the vehicle(s) involved.) When everything is taken into account, the difference between manuals and automatics may be negligible for most drivers.

    I admit that I have an automatic. This model of car has never been made in a manual. Even if it were, the difference in CO2 emissions would be much less than between the last house I own and the one I currently own, because my current house is all electric – no LPG heating or water heating – and is better insulated and uses heat pumps for heating. If the SOEs would shift to using more wind and geothermal rather than gas for electricity generation, it would be better still. My petrol bill has dropped because I now live closer to my work – a much more important consideration than whether my car is manual or automatic.


  18. In other words, the price of petrol gets high enough that the difference between the stick and the slushbox gets noticeable, then people will make their own choices. That’s FINE with me. People are allowed to choose how they live, they always have been. All we require is that the price of the destruction of the commons be added to the price of the fuel they use in the process.

  19. Uh… Photonz… I DID wind up with a stick.

    I think you are in full fledged “I gotta find something wrong with these guys” mode because the data says you’re wrong to try to rely on either the increasing efficiencies of our automobiles and other technology or errors in our science in attempting to avoid actual changes to the structure of our society.

    It is NOT hard to change people’s lifestyles. As long as everyone gets the same rules it is actually pretty easy. The problem comes when people demand DIFFERENT rules.

    That happens to be where the USA and China and India are having a perceptual difficulty.

    The USA “got theirs” and is saying nobody can have any but have to suck it in and “take one for the team”. Whilst the other nations are crying foul because allowable CO2 has all been emitted and the US sucked up all the economic benefits… and wasted most of them. The fundamental disagreement here includes the fact that no GOVERNMENT of the USA can (because it is a “democracy”) agree to any redistribution of wealth, and no one else can agree to accept as final, the current mal-distribution of wealth.

    In the meantime the planet burns.

    It is going to change Photonz. If we don’t change it Mother Nature WILL kill enough of us that it changes anyway.

    For our part, the cost of doing the right thing is lower and if we do and we get enough of the old white guys in nations other than the US to join us, it might be possible for China to ignore the US and take the lead. This is something THEY can do better than the USA.


    So we pointed out something, independently as it happens because we BOTH knew it to be true, that you are omitting from your attacks. I don’t agree with people attacking YOU because you like Motorbikes, fast planes, or outdoor heaters for your patio. Those things are choices.

    I object to the energy they use being subsidized at the cost of the environment our children’s children have to live in. THAT is what riles me and puts us at odds often enough, and that subsidy really will NOT change based on what any individual person (or state) does… it is something we have to work together to change. Self government, self organizing, or if not that, someone with a big enough stick to force us all to cooperate will take charge. That may be Mother Nature. It isn’t unlikely… but it would be a lot better for our civilization if we made it happen.

    The refusal to lead is pretty damning. I find it so at least. It tells me that the values aren’t there. The ethical and moral basis for leading the country is lacking in the country’s foremost leaders. Which comes as no surprise.

  20. BJ – despite presumably being environmentalists, you and Trevor quickly managed to find reasons why you couldn’t do the right (and easy) thing and buy a manual car instead of an auto.

    When greens have trouble doing the right and easy thing, I think that illustrates how difficult it is to change peoples habits and lifestyles.

    Which is why new technology will have a far greater effect on reducing the impact on the planet than preaching, fearmongering etc.

    Especially when much of the fearmongering and preaching is coming from people whose emissions are little different to anyone else, and much higher than the world average.

  21. I never chide people about their pastimes, hobbies and other things of that nature Photonz. As long as the price of petrol/other-fuel reflects the CO2 damage of burning it, people are entitled to spend their money and their time as they wish.

    You are very big on finding ways in which Greens aren’t perfect. We aren’t of course, but this seems a special sort of revelation to you.

    The problem is that it makes no damned difference to the creation of a law that protects the commons. THAT has to be done and it does not matter if I individually drive a Hum-Vee that gets 3 gallons to the mile, or the Sirion I finally got.

    I have the right to ask for the commons to be protected AND pay the price of my particular automotive fetish when it is. I am not required to change my behaviour first, in order to speak out about the need for the law.

    I don’t criticize people for their individual choices like that, and I am not sure I know many Greens who would … and I understand how you’d be annoyed with what you described.

    … but you have to also understand that it has nothing to do with the policies that say that the commons must be protected and our society must put sustainability ahead of growth.


  22. BJ there’s at least 50 of EACH of those models available in manual on Trademe. Plus over 300 manual Suzuki Swifts. And hundreds of small Toyota, Mazda, and Nissan manuals.

    It’s all very well going on about what the world should do, but most greenies I know have carbon emissions that are not much lower than the average Kiwi. Which means they are still putting out nearly double the current world average.

    I was criticised at a party a while back because my past time is trail riding on a motorbike, and that wasn’t environmentally friendly.

    The couple doing the criticising thought of themselves as environmentalists, but used more petrol going on their clean green tramping trips EVERY year, than I would put through my bike in TEN years.

    The point is even greenies need to radically change their lives, JUST to get down to world average emissions. If such a fast and radical change is unlikely in greenies (which I beleive it is – most don’t even bother to buy manual cars) then trying to get such a radical change across the globe will be largely futile.

    As I’ve argued all along, new technology will have a far greater impact than trying to change peoples habits – CVT transmissions, heat pumps, energy efficient light bulbs etc.

    The reason they will have a greater impact is because people right across society will adopt these new technologies (not just greenies), primarily for the reason that they save money.

  23. BJ,

    BMW 2002 very prone to rust, especially around the top of the guards under the bonnet.

    Nicest looking car especially with flared guards, wide wheels and a decent donkey under the bonnet.

    Being a left foot braker, it is interesting to drive a manual again.

    Takes a few miles to reprogramme the brain to being back in my 105E Anglia with the 2 litre cortina motor.

    Braking is good, just the bunny hops as the clutch is still engaged when coming to a stop are not good for the ego 🙂

  24. Silly Photonz…

    I has me standards 🙂

    One of them is the age of the car. If I allow no other considerations but that it be a stick I can find plenty of 15 and 20 year old beaters with crappy economy, bigger engines and maintenance issues. You can’t get “economy” by focusing on just one part of the picture.

    I wanted something newer than 2005 with a small engine. Daihatsu Sirion, Hyundai Getz, Honda Jazz that sort of thing. The manual requirement pushed me through 5 dealerships for various vehicles before finding something. I have no ability or time to wander the countryside and check out vehicles myself, that’s for when you have time to waste.

    The CVT tech has been around more than a decade, not new at all any more.

    That’s my other car and it is a 1999… but runs fine.

    Was just looking at the BMW 2002 circa 1973-4… but can’t afford such a toy. Best cars EVER made, except that they had the aerodynamics of a barn door.

  25. Tony says “Talk about ostriches.”

    Something else you’re wrong about – ostriches don’t, and never have, put their heads in the sand – like your claim that no aspect of the environment is getting better, it’s a myth that gullible people believe.

    Trevor and BJ – now you’re comming up with excuses to NOT be green (that manuals are expensive and hard to find).

    Both of these claims are rubbish. On average manuals are CHEAPER than autos. And around 1/4 of all the cars on trademe are manuals.

    BJ – yes, CVT gearboxes produce far more efficient cars – almost as efficient as a manual, but the vast majority of cars on our roads are not new.

    And not all new autos are CVT. My new car is 13% more efficient in manual than the same car in auto.

    Another 5-10% eficiency is gained over the old model by having a low friction engine, and low rolling-resistance tyres.

  26. “There are numerous aspects of the environment that are massively improved from a few years ago.”

    Hooray, we’re all saved. At least in photonz1’s mind. Nothing to see here, folks. Move right along.

    Talk about ostriches.

  27. I certainly don’t advocate for large families, and I’m not sure that Green policy does either, and I believe there should be strong education focus on the need for smaller families. If religion was abolished, women worldwide would have access to decent contraceptives and would be able to say no to unwanted sex.

    Ozone hole: We were supposed to see a noticeable increase in stratospheric ozone about 5 years ago – it did increase for one year, and then it started decreasing again. Last early autumn there were unacceptable depletion spikes (satellite confirmation) that destropyed a lot of ripening fruit in NZ. No doubt the spike has a lot to do with continuing and increasing use of methyl bromide, a more powerful ozone depleter than CFCs.

    I live in a rural area where dairy expansion is occurring, where I am seeing huge areas of high value indigenous forest and wetland being replaced with swathes of humping and hollowing, sanctioned by a council that loves “progress”. Concurrent gross degradation of waterways is also sanctioned by council, where a complaint will see farmer-friendly council take water samples after huge storms have flushed the waterways. These forest and wetland areas are places that should be included in the significant natural areas programme (RMA requirement) but unfortunately the programme broke down here long before it was completed due partly to farmer aggressiveness. Much of the remaining lowland forest is on private land and farmers have to take responsibility to ensuring that enough lowland forest is retained to sustain indigenous ecology and to provide ecological/ ecosystem services.

    Photonz 1, I believe you are a virus on a green website and unfortunately my AVG doesn’t extend to putting such viruses in a vault.

  28. Photonz

    1. It took me a good month of additional search to find a suitable manual. The VAST bulk of cars out there are automatics. The manual is my car.

    2. The efficiency hit is not so large as you make out. Nearer 5% for the more recent CVT variants. Hmmm… technically not automatics, do NOT EVER put Automatic Transmission Fluid in one, but the deal is that the slushboxes have been getting better. That’s what my wife drives.

    However, it is really difficult to come up with a decent little stick around here.

  29. Photonz1 says “…it turned out they ALL drove automatic cars – a choice than means they emit 15-20% more carbon than someone with the same car in a manual.”

    Apart from the small detail that most affordable (i.e. second-hand) cars available are automatics in models with no manuals available at a comparable price, modern automatics are less inefficient than those of years ago. They have improved operation and electronic control and make better decisions, probably better than many manual car drivers. Arguably it is also safer to drive an automatic for the majority of drivers.

    Do you have any recent studies to back your 15-20% claim?


  30. Tony – whether you can admit it or not, you got caught out making an extreme assertion.

    Locally, it’s now safe to swim at a beach that was off limits for decade due to it’s nearby sewer outlet.

    A town stream that was famous for being the black water outlet for untreated waste from a valley full of factories, now has fish in it for the first time in over half a century.

    A local estuary that was continually contaminated from the local landfill is now clean again and wildlife is now thriving there.

    Sea lions are now back and breeding in numerous places on our local coastline – something that wasn’t happening anywhere on the NZ mainland 20 years ago.

    Towns that had dangerous levels of air polution most of the winter, are now at safe levels 99% of the time.

    There are numerous aspects of the environment that are massively improved from a few years ago.

  31. Frida – you are worried about the planets population, yet there are Greens here who defend the “right” of someone on the DPB to have ten children.

    At the weekend I had people lecture me on our need to reduce carbon emissions. After asking, it turned out they ALL drove automatic cars – a choice than means they emit 15-20% more carbon than someone with the same car in a manual.

  32. Photonz1,

    You need to learn the difference between “is” and “was”. Perhaps those things you list, for a time, improved some aspect of our environment, but I’m talking about now, not 50 years ago, or 30 years ago. Try and find some research that actually shows some aspect of our environment getting better. If you find some, great, but the search would convince you that the vast majority of aspects are getting worse.

    So, OK, “every” may be the wrong word because you managed to think of the ozone damage possibly being healed. Nothing else shows that NOW our environment is improving in any other way. The oceans, our soils, climate change, biodiversity, and on and on.

  33. But North Korea is still testing nuclear bombs.
    But cities in China and elsewhere in Asian have increasing air pollution.
    But car numbers are increasing as is their fuel usage – between recessions.

    And the thermometers continue to climb including those measuring sea temperatures.

    And the oceans are becoming more acidic.


  34. Tony says “Again you list things that don’t address my point that every aspect of our environment is getting worse.”

    So EVERY aspect of the environment is getting worse –
    EXCEPT damaging the ozone layer
    EXCEPT doing nuclear testing
    EXCEPT putting lead into paint
    EXCEPT using asbestos in buildings
    EXCEPT pumping raw sewerage into the sea
    EXCEPT pumping untreated toxins into the air
    EXCEPT pouring so much pollution into rivers they catch fire
    EXCEPT reducing car emissions with catalyctic converters, better efficiency, taking lead out of petrol etc.
    EXCEPT cleaning up the air quality in our cities
    EXCEPT stopping acid rain
    EXCEPT stopping nuclear testing.

    Perhaps you should get a dictionary and find out what “every” and “aspect” mean.

    And people wonder why as Greens they are sometimes perceived as extremist by the general population.

  35. photonz1,

    Again you list things that don’t address my point that every aspect of our environment is getting worse. Apart from one; the ozone hole problem appears to be improving, though we won’t know until mid-century. That we’ve stopped doing some crazy things does not mean that any aspect of our environment is getting better, it merely means that our environment could have been a lot worse. I explained this before but you just repeated your list which didn’t address my point at all (apart from the ozone hole – well done on that).

  36. Photonz

    We are correcting things in the environment because our government took actions to correct them.

    I won’t defend Tony, he is focused on what is wrong and while there is plenty, we have managed to fix some things. Ozone and DDT and nuclear test bans are good examples…

    However, I have presented mainstream climate science, and pointed out quite specific things that are VERY important to human civilization which are very clearly “getting worse”. I have also extended the climate analysis to likely social and geopolitical consequences. You object to that… but I do not notice any actual argument that it cannot happen, just childish ridicule. I do hope you enjoy yourself playing the clown, but it isn’t HELPFUL… I very much want to be wrong as I am too pessimistic for civilization to manage well by proving me right time and time again.

    An important sensitivity here in NZ will be conflicts over fishing in our economic zone. What to DO about that is not as clear to me as the increasing likelihood that we are going to have to work harder to enforce our control over our fisheries, and that hungry nations may challenge that control.

    The commons you see, is not just the atmosphere.

    “Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”

    – Alanis Obomsawin

  37. But Photonz1 IS an extremist who cherry picks data ………,

    He’s proved that on this site so many times we’ve all lost count 🙂

    A cherry picking national party extremist ….. on this site that makes him our local national troll.

  38. Photonz 1, you make a list of things that are improving. This is true (mostly) but why are individual species extinctions happening at a rate that may see the first anthropogenic global species’ extinction? We overstepped global population sustainability somewhere in the ’80’s, and I believe it is only a change of outlook and direction that will sort this out. The really terrible thing about this burgeoned population is that most of the wealth is in the hands of a few, so harder to emplace good policies and directions, and then there’s religion; it probably needs to be banned to find a good way forward.

    We are pumping GHGs into the atmosphere LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW Many western countries e.g NZ, may be hedging on cleaning up GHGs but it is India that is pushing on with Thorium. Thorium is an alternative, but no nuclear is best. Hydro has a huge underside – anoxia (destroying oxygen in the water, and causing reduced forms of heavy metals to coat the benthos downstream), fish migration prevention, drowned forests, lack of connectivity, displacement of peoples and their livelihoods etc. There’s also induced earthquakes, with scientific hypotheses that the Senchuan earthquake may have been induced by the filling of the Yantse’s Three Gorges.

    Even though the planet has an unsustainable population, drastic measures can be put in place to direct the future in a way that provides for species besides humans (read wealthier humans); that was what Rio +20 was about, and it failed. When Hitler was going down he banned nightclubs and restaurants to channel resources; we need to ban big stadium events for a start – a huge carbon footprint, sheer luxury that could easily be done without, and ban huge footprint global tourism. A tough stand has to be made, and it shouldn’t come out of the pockets of the poor in yet more taxes at every turn, but it should come from the top down, and that’s the problem, the top are the rich and powerful, that aim to stay there, often through corruption.

  39. Trevor – you may have missed the earlier posts with lists of things we can do to adapt to climate change.

    I’ve never denied climate change – just argued against the extremists who cherry pick the most dire predictions they can find, while ignoring any more moderate evidence that doesn’t result in the end of the world.

  40. Tony – your cultish beliefs won’t allow you to see that many aspects of our environment have improved –
    – no longer put asbestos in our buildings
    – no longer put lead in our paint
    – we recycle plastic
    – we recycle cardboard and paper
    – European forests have stopped being killed off acid rain
    – American rivers have stopped catching on fire spontaneously
    – our factories no longer pour untreated toxins straight into our streams, and untreated toxic clouds into the air, as of right.
    – we have removed lead from out petrol
    – we have catalyctic converters, and much higher emmission standards on our cars, which are now much more fuel efficient.
    – our cities have stopped pouring raw sewerage straight into the sea.
    – the pesticides we use are now much safer for the environment
    – air quality in many major cities has significantly improved since the 1970s
    – we no longer damage the ozone layer with CFCs
    – atmospheric, underground and surface nulcear testing no longer happens.

    But I’m sure you’ll find some reason why none of these aspects matter, and that “every” aspect of the environment is worse.

  41. Photonz1 – my apologies, but you certainly appeared to support climate change deniers because most people who accept the science of climate change also accept the predictions from that science. And many of those predictions are coming true sooner rather than later, so the extreme predictions don’t seem to be extreme any longer.


  42. photonz1,

    It may be “blatantly obvious” that some aspects of the environment are better than they were are few decades ago but you haven’t actually stated any (lists of slightly altered behaviours doesn’t prove your statement). However, I stated that every aspect is getting worse, I didn’t state that every aspect is the worst its been. But changing the subject is an easy way of fooling oneself. Which aspects of our environment are actually improving? I’m willing to accept that a few are (though I doubt it) but they would be the exceptions that prove the rule.

  43. Trevor says “But that appears to be exactly what the people you support have been doing, when they come up with arguments that attempt to deny the effects of AGW.”

    You are making up nonsense – I’ve never supported those who deny climate change, nor supported those at the other extreme like BJ.

    Or like Tony who says
    “Look at the list you posted when I said every aspect of the environment is getting worse.”

    It’s blatantly obvious that some aspects of the environment are better than they were a few decades ago, so to say EVERY aspect is getting worse is extremist nonsense.

    You guys should start your own doomsday cult – the brainwashing is already done – it should be easy.

  44. You mean the gas they burn instead doesn’t cost them enough – yet.

    Geothermal plants have some of the highest capacity factors of all forms of generation and can generally be hidden relatively easily unless they use a large cooling tower.


  45. “In New Zealand we have electricity companies down-sizing their renewable generation teams…”

    I think it’s something to do with renewal generation costing too much and not generating enough power – the installations cost too much, nimbys dont want them because they spoil the view and the wind doesnt blow long enough or strongly enough to justify the expense.

  46. At least China is aiming to build a raft of electricity generation from renewable sources including hydro, wind and solar, with enough hydro pumped storage to fully utilise the wind and hydro resources, and a lot of transmission grid to link it together. They are not just building coal-fired generators, although they are building a lot of those as well.

    In New Zealand we have electricity companies down-sizing their renewable generation teams…


  47. You can either give up or set about at least changing your own behaviour. What we have is a predicament. There are no solutions to predicaments, only responses.

  48. If you don’t think we have any solutions, like Thorium, then you might as well give up, because you are not going to change people’s behaviour in countries like China and India.

    Unfortunately, this nihilistic world view is commonplace these days.

  49. Sorry… that was you Tony… post in haste… Correct that the timing of the Thorium development is important… and unlikely to happen.

  50. In spent 1979 in an abandoned church, and some deep philosophical conversations filled that year. Our conclusions were that there was probably no hope for the ploanet, but we would live our lives as though there would be, but we would do our best to avert the problems. I have fallen by the wayside many times but been picked up by those who care, and now, probably some of our direst predictions back then are eventuating.

  51. Cherry picking, and worse, is exactly what you do, photonz1. Look at the list you posted when I said every aspect of the environment is getting worse. The list does not argue against what I wrote; it only shows that things could be even worse. That, indeed, is an horrendous thought but things are pretty bad now and getting worse. Just because it could be even worse is no reason to pop your head into a hole in the ground. You will be affected just like everyone else.

  52. There is a good blog
    covering the essence of our blog here. The blog is in conjunction with the unprecedented recent Greenland melting (unprecendented equivalent to, “the satellite age”). It reveals that even NASA, which is generally a climate-change believer, got it wrong and promoted an obfuscation in relation to the Greenland ice melt, in that its glaciologist said that the melting was a 150 year event, but he was using a 10,000yr ice core that actually showed that there had not been a melt in the last 600-800 years. It is such publication that boosts the climate-skeptics’ arguments.

  53. I first read about thorium reactors at least 15 years ago, so what has happened in the interim? According to Wikipedia, India ia well on the way to realizing the potential of thorium, with a 300MW prototype ready to produce in 2013, and plans to have 30% of its power needs from thorium by 2050 – still not a short enough time-frame, in global terms, to divert the extant crisis.

  54. I think you’re right Trevor, with the timing of development being critical to the ability of Thorium to kick-the-can a lot further down the road.

    If the kick misses the can (the timing is off) we’re in deep trouble.

    What we can hope/expect is that the existing changes and potentially the ice-free in 2016 or so Arctic Summer, will focus some of the tiny brains North of the Equator, and currently in government here and get us a proper tax/cost on CO2 emissions.

    The Thorium DOES have the potential, as we both know. It is being pursued in some countries and not in others. Canada has the CAANDU reactors, which are also good solid performers… and Bill Gates is actually doing something better with the money he’s so cleverly obtained, than hoarding it.

    So there are some promising signs. Of course I also hear that fusion power is just around the corner. So my salt intake increases.

    In the MEANTIME, we still have a wholly broken monetary system, no tax on CO2 and a bunch of kleptocrats in control of government both here and overseas.


  55. What about your cherry-picking on food prices, photonz 1? Where’s your proof that they have dropped 0.4% recently (I’m not stating you are wrong, but where’s your proof)?

  56. “And I’m never going to believe anything from anyone about any subject – if they cherry-pick the most extreme predictions they can find, and ignore all facts that disagree.”

    But that appears to be exactly what the people you support have been doing, when they come up with arguments that attempt to deny the effects of AGW.

    In the last few days, satellite measurements have shown that Arctic Ice is at its lowest recorded size ever, but still has another month or so of melting before the colder weather sets in. How do you explain that?


  57. What facts that disagree Photonz?

    Every FACT indicates that climate change is real, is happening and just at the moment, looks worse than our most pessimistic projections.

    Being a pessimist/realist is different from being “negative”.

    Expecting the worst and preparing for it as policy, is not the same as being depressed.

  58. bj says “I just keep pointing out what is happening and you find it depressing.”

    If I was to find it depressing, FIRST I would have to believe your extremist predictions.

    And I’m never going to believe anything from anyone about any subject – if they cherry-pick the most extreme predictions they can find, and ignore all facts that disagree.

    And you try to claim you’re not negative – you’re doing a great job of pretending you are.

  59. Whether or not Thorium has the potential you say it does, Andy, how long do you think it will take to get the right decisions made and then have those decisions implemented? I don’t think that there is the slightest chance of getting any action on climate change (and energy) in a timely manner, though I can’t see thorium “solving” our energy problems.

  60. I have sponsored the Thorium 2012 documentary “LFTR 2012” via a small Kickstarter project (made by Gorden McDowell)

    I believe Thorium has the potential to solve all of the world’s concerns about energy and climate change (yes I know this sounds crazy)

    When this doco is released, I believe I can redistribute it via creative commons

    if you are interested in a copy please email me andy at scrase dot com

  61. Also… I am not NEARLY as negative as the reality we’re facing.

    I just keep pointing out what is happening and you find it depressing. I do not know WHY you find it so. We are going to hell, this handbasket and all of us in it, and we may as well enjoy the ride. We are obligated to paddle against the flow and look for some means of escape. Success is not something for which I’d give good odds.

    We aren’t obligated to be miserable about the whole thing. Never studied stoicism much, did you.

  62. Photonz

    With the exception of India every major producer of food on the planet got hammered with a 3-sigma event. That is NOT normal. Usually it is one or another but not all at once. The reserves are still declining.

    Let me help you with a link.

    There is on that page, a link to the full paper and it isn’t behind a paywall, so you CAN get the whole thing.

    Climate is changing. It isn’t what it was before…. and it is going to get worse.

  63. Photonz 1 you forgot the recent devastating floods in Russia, where 2 months’ rain was dumped in about 24 hours. When I wass a kid there were NEVER photos of wrecked cars stacked up by floodwaters, that I can remember. The first I remember was a huge flood in France, maybe 25 years ago, and it was shocking then, now such photos are common-place; we have become desensitized to such events because they are becoming the norm rather than the unusual (and not for lack of reporting either, we have had excellent communications at least since the late sixties).

    You say food prices have dropped 0.4% recently. whether or not this may be true, where is your proof? Otherwise these statistics are meaningless. Conversely, we are not having devastating Queensland floods and huge Australian bushfires as a common-place occurrence yet, so our food prices could well have stabilized in the interim, but look out for the huge American drought right now.

    As for the UK population; I am so glad I do not live in one of those cities made of high-rise slums, nor in a city of double-storeyed, semi-detacheds – where are the wild places in Britain, where is the old growth, climate-stabilizing forests?

    In an article in nat geog on the 7 bill problem, Rwanda’s population has risen from 4.5m in 1950 to 19m in 2010. The African Rift Zone, housing Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, is some of the richest land on the planet, due to its geographic properties, yet there is NO spare land anymore, and people are moving into the national parks, cutting the forest down to live there, destroying essential wild corridors for other mammal species, this sanctioned by electioneers wanting to stay in parliament. With all the terrible recent wars in the area, some locals say they were good in the end because at least the population has reduced. This is tragic.

    As for all your new tech – what did you do with the old stuff? Toss it to the tip, no doubt; plenty more natural resources, eh? A resilient self-healing planet, no doubt, for all the heavy metals and pcbs in electronic goods, heavy gear oils in all the washing machines, the cfcs that have not been collected properly before being tossed to the chaos called tips (ah, transfer stations – nice euphemism, although transfer stations ARE an improvement on tips).

    The planet might be a more stable, healthier place one day, because of grass-roots people cleaning it up, not because of think-biggers, who want bigger motorways to increase GDP, bigger this and bigger that e.g. real recycling started from the bottom up, not the top down; people pressure got it going.

    Its cancer week in NZ now, and I never heard when it was supposed to be that NZ had a cancer epidemic, the things we shouldn’t be noticing. 1 in 3 NZers have cancer (advertised this week); this is a modern-day scourge, and not because of under-reporting in days gone by, but because of a very unhealthy and unbalanced world in which we are living.

    What’s your problem, photonz 1, that you are trying to uphold a corrupt and unhealthy system, what is your part in it that it is so important for you? It is good for people that can’t face their fears, that need to put up psychological barriers; face them and you will start helping to shape a better and healthier future.

  64. When wealthy countries have droughts, no one starves – in that country. They simply export less food or buy in more food. However when there are droughts, floods or firestorms in a number of countries, world food prices go up and people starve – in the poor countries, not the wealthy countries. And AGW will lead to more droughts, more floods and storms and more wild fires. This will be even worse if we don’t cut back our emissions as fast as possible.


  65. BJ says “China has had regional droughts – floods in other regions, ”

    Get used to it – there’s been floods and droughts for thousands of years. There’s probably going to be more than there has been, but then we’re more able to cope than ever before.

    The worlds biggest desert used to be grasslands and forests. That has changed in a very short time, and not from carbon emissions. The weather is not (and never has been) the very same year after year.

    Low ratings for wealth, governance and infrastructure are what causes famines. When wealthy countries can have droughts no one starves.

    BJ – another example of how totally negative you are – “Nor do people who don’t have electric lights have a lot of benefit from one that uses 20% of the power.”

    When they get power they’ll need much less electricity, and until then, they’ll use 80% less batteries for their torches. It also means a reduction on burning kerosene.

    It might be time to limit my exposure to such negative people. In my experience people who really achieve things in life are not like this.

  66. Photonz, there is a difference between the incremental improvements in efficiency of doing some things, which give you the examples you cite, and the gross production of power, food and clean water that our civilization needs.

    Engineers know you can negotiate with the laws of thermodynamics but you cannot break them. You seem to believe that by whittling around the edges we can solve the world’s hunger problem. I find your optimism annoying but then ALL optimists tend to be a bit annoying.

    The real world doesn’t often justify the rose tint to the glasses.

    The fact that North West Australia contains some arable land and a big lake means that THAT spot can produce food just now. That’s a drop in the global bucket, as most places that produce food have just suffered serious setbacks. China has had regional droughts – floods in other regions, Russia and the US both have had heat-waves and droughts. This is all in one year… 3 sigma events kicking production down several notches… and the reserves are less each year. India did well.

    High-Tech answers work (though they use energy to work), but for the masses we’d need more than we can build. THEY are reliant on rain-fed agriculture where it is and as it is, and if that changes (as it is changing) there a lot of people will be in deep trouble if they stay where they are.

    Nor do people who don’t have electric lights have a lot of benefit from one that uses 20% of the power.

    I am optimistic to the extent that WE might maintain OUR civilization over the next century. I am pessimistic that rainfall and temperature changes over the next 20-30 years will render it impossible for some major states to maintain and improve their food production to match their populations… and food instability leads to political and social instability.

    We don’t have to tell them anything Photonz. We’re going to hold onto everything we can grab and let climate change kill them. Isn’t that the plan?

    Seems like it to me.

  67. photonz1,

    I’m talking about the state of the environment, not the attempts to try to slow the damage we’re doing. Look at the scientific papers on the environment, rather than list anecdotal evidence of why it should be getting better. If only dreams came true, eh?

  68. Tony shows another dimension of doomsday cult with “Every aspect of our environment is getting worse”

    Thirty years ago
    -we were pumping so much pollution onto some streams and rivers that they were black, and dead fish were common.
    – In the states, rivers were so polluted they actually caught fire.
    – Whole forests were in Europe were being killed by acid rain.
    – ships pumped oil straight into the sea routinely
    – factories pumped whatever they wanted out their chimneys
    – you could put any toxin and poison you wanted into a landfill
    – we fished until there were no more fish in some places, instead of having quotas.
    – we logged far more native trees in an unsustainable way
    – it was normal to pump raw sewerage into the sea
    – we put lead in paint
    – our bottles, paper, plastic etc were not recycled but dumped in a landfill
    – factories could pump untreated waste straight into rivers
    – we put asbestos on our buildings

    If you really think “Every aspect of our environment is getting worse”, you’re obviously brainwashed by some doomsday theory.

  69. photonz1,

    And the issue for scientists is that if you can find radical changes you get more funding, but if you find little change you’re probably going to lose your funding.

    What? Do you have any proof of this hypothesis? I, personally, think it is garbage, but convenient for those who don’t want to think.

  70. photonz1 has his blinkers on with his head in the sand, at the same time. Every aspect of our environment is getting worse and we’re stealing from future generations to enjoy/endure a few more years of partying and pretending. I was in the UK recently, visiting friends and family (the flights had loads of empty seats, by the way, even with the Olympics about to start) and was astounded and shocked by the lack of song birds (or almost any birds except pigeons) there. Bird populations in Europe were down by 50%, more in the UK (with some species down by over 80%), over the last 30 years though that research is now dated, by my experience, with almost no birdsong heard – only an occasional single voice. There was no dawn chorus and I remember it being almost deafening even a decade ago. Agricultural practices are a primary factor apparently.

    That’s no way to feed the world and definitely not sustainable even with lashings of wishful thinking. Fingers crossed that NZ doesn’t follow Europe’s lead; it was a joy to hear birds again when I got back.

  71. photonz1 – unfortunately it doesn’t solve the problem of coal being used for electricity generation, etc. And as far as adaption is concerned, much of the world is already uncomfortably hot. Heating it another 3 or more degrees C will make that even worse, killing crops and causing food production to fall. A few people will be able to live comfortably in air conditioned buildings, but there are an aweful lot of people who won’t have that option.


  72. Photonz, it’s the parallels you noted which is whyI thought you might find the documentaries interesting.



  73. samiuela – thanks for the link. Few people would disagree that politicians around the world have ramped up fear from terrorism to promote their own agendas – particularly (but not exclusively) the American right.

    I see a parallel with climate change. There are people who cherry pick the most extreme predictions to push their own agenda.

    And the issue for scientists is that if you can find radical changes you get more funding, but if you find little change you’re probably going to lose your funding.

    I have no doubt humans are making a significant shange on our climate.
    But I also have no doubt that we will learn to adapt to it.

    And technology (like an 80% reduction in power use from new light bulbs) is likely to have a greater positive impact than trying to convince people to change their habits, which is something that usually happens very slowly over a long period of time.

    And who is going to be successful at telling the majority of the planets population in the developing world that they can’t have what we’ve got?

  74. Photonz,

    You might like the documentary “The Power of Nightmares” by Adam Curtis. Curtis’ political views are quite different than yours, and you may not agree with the “story” he presents in the documentary (I don’t fully agree with it either), but it is certainly thought provoking. You can see all three parts on You Tube:

  75. Trevor says “It will be about as practical to be using petrol powered transport in 25 years time (one generation, not four)”

    Fantastic – that’s the carbon emmission problem solved.

    But why celebrate one problem solving another, when you can have a doomsday scenario about both (and a third – China invading). The doomsday cultists need their fix of paranoia.

  76. photonz1 said “It will be about as practical to be using petrol powered transport in 100 years time as it is for us to use century old technology today – horse and cart or steam.”

    Right but not quite there.

    It will be about as practical to be using petrol powered transport in 25 years time (one generation, not four) as it is for us to use century old technology today – horse and cart or steam.

    Yet there is little effort to move us away from an oil-based culture.


  77. BJ says “You are suffering from a form of magical thinking, common on the Right Wing, which extends the past success of engineers and puts faith in scientists, to somehow manage to squeeze ever more “stuff” out of the planet.”

    You might think it’s magic. I call it technology.

    It means I can power 5 lightbulbs for the same power it used to take to power one just a couple of years ago.

    It means, that with nothing more than a change to a CVT gearbox, new model cars will use 20% less fuel than last years model.

    That by swaping to a heat pump, I can get the same heat using 75% less power than I did last year.

    A new fridge uses half the power of an old one.

    That new low friction engines in cars can save 10% in fuel.

    That new tyre design saves 5% in fuel costs.

    That a house built to current building standards will use 70% less power to heat it compared to an old villa.

    Technology means my fuel and power use is WAY lower than it was 5 or 10 or 20 years ago.

    Note, “technology” (not magical thinking).

  78. Trevor says “Both are almost exclusively derived from fossil fuels, i.e. taken from our children.”

    It will be about as practical to be using petrol powered transport in 100 years time as it is for us to use century old technology today – horse and cart or steam.

  79. What about the energy used to make the fertilisers that have allowed these higher productions, or the fuel for the tractors and the transports? Both are almost exclusively derived from fossil fuels, i.e. taken from our children.


  80. bj asks “At what cost in energy use Photonz?”

    The Sydney desalination plant supplying 1.5m people is powereed by wind.

    The water that feeds the new breadbasket in northern Australia – Kununurra -also supplys hydro electricity, and exports the excess.

    And the area under cultivation is only a pinprick on the map of what could be used.

    The problem is your doomsday cult requires you to only belive the very worst possible scenario in all cases, and ignore anything that’s positive.

    The UK has a population 1600% larger than ours, in a smaller landmass, and it is still over 90% rural land – it’s urban areas cover less than 10%.

  81. At what cost in energy use Photonz?

    At what cost to the future Photonz?

    Measured with money or with energy or with CO2 emissions and climate change that “productivity” costs our kids… and their kids, and it keeps getting harder.

    You are suffering from a form of magical thinking, common on the Right Wing, which extends the past success of engineers and puts faith in scientists, to somehow manage to squeeze ever more “stuff” out of the planet.

    That process is kicking the stuffing out of the planet, but you don’t care.

    The Scientists who you trust to innovate us out of trouble are telling you that the trouble is gaining, and you ignore it.

    The Engineers tell you there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch and you say sure there is, because YOU don’t have to pay.

    Pretty disgusting overall performance mate. What you’re advocating we do to our kids makes simple “greed” look positively benign.

    Notice how the stocks keep shrinking. If this continues and as they get closer to zero, the value of food will exceed the value of petrol.

    You spend your time looking for the bright side… and so you lie to yourself that it is all going to be “ok”

    Doesn’t work. TANSTAAFL works. You need to ask yourself who is actually PAYING for what they consume. Ain’t the USA, absolutely not. Not anyone living today really. Almost all our prosperity is stolen from our kids.

    It is a shameful thing not to acknowledge the theft when it you can see the whole crime unfolding.

  82. Frida – you sound like you belong to the same doomsday cult as BJ.

    DESPITE your list of doom and gloom, the planet is producing more food PER PERSON than it ever has – at any time in our history.

    Frioda asks “haven’t you seen that reflected in your food bill yet?”

    Actually in the last year food prices have gone DOWN. Food is now cheaper than it was a year ago by 0.4% according to statistics NZ and the food CPI index.

  83. The Sahara was once a forest, now desertification is spreading at an increasingly alarming rate. Desertification is also spreading in Australia, as well salinization and bigger and bigger forest fires due to drought, and then there are the Queensland floods, temporally closely allied extremes that contributed strongly to some of the largest food price increases seen in modern times. There is also alarming losses of topsoil, soil poisoning from the unbalance of chemical fertilizers, there is a serious drought in America right now, threatening to top the 1930’s dustbowl, there is the drying up of once bounteous rivers, there is the death of lakes and even seas through over-extraction e.g the Aral Sea. When oil supplies were cut off from Cuba, each person in Cuba lost kilos in weight over a period of about 3 years, until organic gardening was established, now Cuba will never look back to oil-intensive food production. Collapse of fishing industries is common news these days as is exteme flooding events, even in little ol’ NZ. Unprecedented melting of ice caps and glaciers; chaos in the plant world, where flowering is happening way out of habitual cycle, crops failing with increasing regularity to extreme weather events, haven’t you seen that reflected in your food bill yet? Most people have. Deforestation is leading to greater desertification and sedimentation and loss of climate regulation. One of the terrible things involved in this crisis is that food crops are being diverted to combustion engines – now that’s desperate! The best thing about people like you photonz 1 is that your ignorance highlights the imperative that imminent action is crucial to divert this ecological crisis.

  84. With all DUE respect to Ms Clark, and the various agencies involved, the cheap energy that makes all this bounty possible is ending. They look at what was and mistake it for what is and will be…. and if there is ample then why is there still starvation? I said stretching, which is not exceeding, and so there is “ample” in the sense that there is enough… right now. Neither Ms Clark nor WorldHunger are counting the cost of the supply of food OR reckoning the sustainability of that supply. That isn’t their job.

    Nor, despite the “potential” of Africa, has it ever realized that potential. People starve there, and in other parts of the globe and whatever the potential WAS, it is changing now.

    …and to get the calories you are willing to force us all to be vegetarians? What a change for you! Phil would be proud.

    No Photonz… in terms of energy issues we’ll have to move people to where food can be grown, not the other way… and the migration of Chinese into Siberia has some serious political issues associated with it. Increasing the NZ population through forced migration isn’t that good a thing either.

    You really have no idea how much trouble we are actually in. I can see that from the statistics you are pinning your hopes to… and the way you look at those and not at the changes, or the changes and not at the statistics, and never the full set of either… the whole is larger than that.

  85. BJ says “We have 7 billion people to feed and we’re just barely ABLE to do it (and we DON’T do it because some of us are inconveniently poor). That’s ALREADY stretching the abilities you are bragging on. ”

    Helen Clark, head of UNDP, and, both disagree.

    She said just a day or so ago, that the world has more than enough food to feed itself.

    She has also said that even Africa has an ample water and fertile land to feed itself now and into the future.

    It has massive potential to improve on low productivity, poverty and structural issues that lead to famines. says “The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day ”

    And if we start to run our of food, simply changing the type of ffor we grow can massively increase productivity.

    For example if you change a hectare of beef farm into growing potatoes, you will produce 1700% more calories, or 1200% more calories per hectare by growing corn.

    Similarly we have predictions of massive population growth on the planet. Half that growth is predicted to from Africa, which is predicted to double in three decades. However it has recently been reported that like Japan, China, Russia and much of Europe, Africa’s population has declined recently.

    50 years ago average world fertility was 5 children per woman. That has now halved to 2.5. So we’ve gone from 3 children per woman above a fertility rate that would give a static population, to just 0.5 children per woman above the static level.

    Unfortunately for you these facts don’t fit with your doomsday scenario. Does that make you more or less depressed?

  86. Yes, humans can live in fairly diverse environments but they need the biosphere to be healthy in those environments or else draw on resources from wider areas, using limited energy and resources. As our climate changes and as we continue to destroy habitats through our behaviours, the ability of humans to continue to exist in extreme environments diminishes. What photonz1 demonstrates is a purely human-centric view of the world that completely ignores the reality that we need a habitable environment not only for our own species but for a diverse set of species and the reality of finite resources.

  87. bj says “The water resource is shifting, and places where dams make lakes now, may be useless in the future. While places where there used to be not enough will get too much. The heat extremes are changing too.”

    So we’ll build new dams in places where there’s more water. We’ll have more than the current 14,000 desalination plants. We’ll have more pipelines. And we’ll have new cities in new places.

    A lot of the worlds big cities were little more than villages or even non-existant 150 years ago. How many major dams were there back then? How many roads or railways? Airports?

    If you look at the difference between now and 150 years ago, it’s easy to see that with new technology and even faster change, how different we can make things in the next 150.

  88. Vegas uses a LOT of power, and….

    “There is insufficient rainfall in the Timbuktu region for purely rain-fed agriculture and crops are therefore irrigated using water from the River Niger”

    “A change in the hydrographs of large basins (Niger, Lake Chad, and Senegal) has been observed. Between the mean annual discharge of the humid and drought periods, the percentage of reduction varies from 40 to 60% (Olivry, 1993).”

    Which begs the question of how long that is going to work.

    Photonz, you are arguing against reality. It bites, but it is what it is.

    “Adding water” takes energy… and there are limits to how much and where. The water resource is shifting, and places where dams make lakes now, may be useless in the future. While places where there used to be not enough will get too much. The heat extremes are changing too.

    We have 7 billion people to feed and we’re just barely ABLE to do it (and we DON’T do it because some of us are inconveniently poor). That’s ALREADY stretching the abilities you are bragging on. Any change is going to kick us in the teeth.

    Australia will no longer export ANY food.

    The US probably not much either.

    Nor the Ukraine.

    Magical thinking will destroy human civilization. We have these things between our ears to be able to figure out the future before it happens and to manipulate our environment so we get the future we want. We unfortunately evolved the ability to do this at a SMALL scale, not the large one that is needed to understand how a civilization can die.

    I don’t believe in magic. I know how hard it is to engineer it. You’re telling me that we could establish a colony and my rejoinder is of course we can.

    We could establish a colony on the surface of Mars if we really wanted to do so… for a small population.

    If we make the surface of OUR planet over to look like the surface of Mars (which is where your ambitious optimism is leading us), we’ll have to have the correspondingly smaller population.

    Getting there won’t be pleasant.

  89. With modern technology we can supply dry cities with water via pipelines, canals etc.

    Actually perhaps not such new technology – pipelines have been used for 5000 years.

    And a 600km pipeline supplies Kalgoorlie with water. Today, 110 years after it was built, it still supplies over 100,000 people, as well as mines, farms and businesses.

    There are water pipelines that supply cities nearly 3000km from the water source. We can even do pipelines across the ocean like the one between Norway and UK (although that one is for gas rather than water)

    New technology has meant desalination is now practical.

    A desalination plant (powered by wind) supplies water to 1.5 million people in Sydney.

    There are now dozens of countries with desalination plants with over 14,000 plants worldwide. Typical costs are 50 cents to desalinate 1000 litres.

    We can also recycle water more than ever before. Water in the Thames in London goes into and out of houses, and is purified again, over and over, a total of seven times before it gets to the sea.

    In Israel they farm on a layer of top soil over a layer of tar seal so that irrigation water can be recycled.

    In Australia, an irrigation scheme has turned tens of thousands of hectares of empty desolate outback at Kunuurra into a thriving town with some of the most productive land in the country. This once dry baren landscape is so productive that it is now being looked at as a major food bowl for Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

    Just add water, and anything can happen, anywhere.

    And it’s never been easier than any time previously in human history.

  90. photonz1 – I suspect neither Vegas, Phoenix nor Lima support the bulk of their population through local food production. I could be wrong though!

    Bj’s point is valid – while a desert city might be sustainable (assuming there is a whole bunch of surplus food around it and the ability to get it there) no modern ‘major civilisation’ (I’m readings this as millions of people, multiple population sites, contiguous borders, common infrastructure / institutions, common social themes / objectives, some form of central government) could be sustained within a desert.

    There could well be a variant of modern urban ‘civilisation’, just on a much smaller scale.

  91. BJ says “Yup… but not in large numbers. No major civilization is possible there.”

    There’s 50,000 in Timbuktu, 75,000 in Tammanrasset in the Sahara. And quite a few large desert cities in the US – 2 million in Las Vegas, 4 million in Phoenix, a million in Tucson, 320,000 in Windhoek in Africa. etc. Lima is a desert city with 8 million.

  92. Like I said… “With everything connected you draw boundaries, and where there are boundaries you connect everything”

    You ALWAYS get context wrong. I talk about “optimists like you” and you go off on how powerful I think you individually are. Sophist argumentation and entirely stupid and irrelevant.

    Fortunately you added something more meaningful below that. I was beginning to think you were slipping. 🙂

    Humans have lived in the planet’s hottest dryest places, in some places (i.e. Kalahari) for tens of thousands of years.

    …. For hundreds of years we’ve managed to have cities in the middle of the Sahara.

    Yup… but not in large numbers. No major civilization is possible there. We can build domed cities and trap moisture and recycle waste so that we can continue to live in places like Houston and DesMoines and Mexico-City and…. (many other cities that will be caught by the changes as we render a swath of the planet around the equator uninhabitable for unprotected humans).

    With modern technology we can take places that are 25 degrees below zero, completely dark for months of the year, and produce 140kg of fresh produce a month, in a space no bigger than the average house (i.e. one of several greenhouses in Antarctica).

    Not however, without a source of power that is reliable and relatively inexpensive. Nor is such an effort cheap. We still need that.

    What you are describing is the sort of work needed to establish a colony… on the fncking moon. With us STILL working hard to make that sort of effort necessary to live on THIS planet.

    When the costs of such changes is considered in light of being able (as can be done now) to plant seeds and stand back while they grow, making large chunks of our current habitable and agricultural zones inhospitable and unfit for purpose isn’t smart.

    As for the Island states being able to feed themselves, that isn’t so surprising. The Sea still has a dampening effect on the more pronounced changes that occur in the continental interiors. I didn’t ACCIDENTALLY come to New Zealand.

    You do have to understand that I know all of what you say here, and it is all true, and it is all entirely irrelevant to the effects of Climate Change on the food supply for our current population of 7 billion…. because you are filtering out the rest of the information.

  93. BJ says “You’re going to be the death of this country AND human civilization. ”


    Now you think I can kill New Zealand and destroy human civilisation. I didn’t realise I had such powers.

    You don’t thinks that sounds just a little tiny bit extreme?

    BJ says “The only thing that depresses me is optimists like you mate.”

    Wow – now even optimism depresses you. Are you sure you’re not part of a doomsday cult?

    Sorry to depress you, but here’s some optimistic thoughts. Humans have lived in the planet’s hottest dryest places, in some places (i.e. Kalahari) for tens of thousands of years.

    For hundreds of years we’ve managed to have cities in the middle of the Sahara.

    An that was WITHOUT modern technology.

    With modern technology we can take places that are 25 degrees below zero, completely dark for months of the year, and produce 140kg of fresh produce a month, in a space no bigger than the average house (i.e. one of several greenhouses in Antarctica).

    We have a continent like Africa that only produces a very tiny fraction of the food it is capable of producing.

    We have small countries a similar size and climate to NZ producing food for 40 and 50 million people (UK and Japan).

    I’d better stop before all this good news makes you too depressed.

  94. They will help NZ, which is not at risk for starvation, to keep from destroying its productive land in a vain attempt to feed the entire world.

    They will help NZ, which is not at risk for starvation, to keep from destroying its watersheds in pursuit of the almighty dollar to the exclusion of all other considerations.

    The only thing that depresses me is optimists like you mate. You’re going to be the death of this country AND human civilization.

    With everything connected you draw boundaries, and where there are boundaries you connect everything, and always ALWAYS so that the wealthy and powerful retain and extend their wealth and privilege. Absolute predictability.

  95. BJ says “If there is starvation the likelihood of war is greatly increased,”

    So polices of anti-irrigation, anti-GE, anti-dairy – will do what to help this?

    Your doom and gloom knows no bounds. It must be incredibly depressing being you.

  96. WWII and WWI, the Flu, Aids and the depression are not in the same class and I am not responsible for mistaken beliefs other people hold about what can end human civilization and what cannot.

    Had Hitler won or lost there would be a civilization, maybe not a nice one, but it would have worked and in time it could and would change. Of the others only Nuclear war COULD be a crisis in the same category but it isn’t, because WE AREN’T HAVING A GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR right now.

    We ARE having climate change – right now.

    Which has the ability to lead us into war if not addressed.

    Nor are any of the other side issues you bring up relevant. Those aren’t anything like an “extreme”. You are now doing your best “Gish Gallop” trying to conflate a bunch of stuff so you can support your unsupportable claim.

    Your precious perfect leader has the soul of a pimp, and he is selling us off/out as fast as he can do so.

    Human Civilization IS at a crisis point that it has never reached before, and you can’t show me that it is not.

    If there is starvation the likelihood of war is greatly increased, and you can go through the stats and discover that that is true.

    I find your credulity and stubbornness amazing at times. I have no idea what you believe any more, just that you mis-state and mis-characterize Green positions on just about everything.

  97. BJ – Kennedy talks about the first truely global crisis. Yet on google you’ll find this is not the first global crisis – the term has been used a billion times previously to cover a whole range of issues from WWI, WWII, nuclear war, the depression, SARS, Aids, flu epidemic, famines, volcanic erruptions etc.

    And in the space of half a page, Kennedy’s first global crisis and already morphed into TWO global crisis.

    You claim selling the Crafar farms could lead to China invading.

    Gareth tried to scare everyone that we’ll suffer from earthquakes if we keep fracking.

    Apparently the education system is going to fall to peices because of NS testing (thats very similar to existing testing).

    The 90 day employment trail law was going to be an absolute disaster for NZ.

    The doom, gloom, negativity, and paranoia that comes from you guys is so ingrained that I’m surprised any of you still have the will to live.

  98. I will be encouraging my children to learn Mandarin.

    I have no need of it with the timing I am expecting, and the probabilities.

    You consider those statements to be extremes, but mine was conditional, based on certain knowledge of the USA and undeniable for anyone who has lived there and knows how it works. While Dr Graham’s was simply true.

    YOU labelled them extremes. Which is how you perceive them. The truth IS an extreme for any follower of the the National ideology though… you don’t want the truth at all. It is necessary therefore, to try to keep people from saying it, or understanding it, or believing it. You aren’t alone out there Photonz, there are a lot of people out there lying to themselves and believing in “the smiling assassin”.

    Just not a lot of us in that category.

  99. BJ says “One wonders why you bothered to comment at all. ”

    Just tempering the extremist comments

    (have you decided whether you will learn Mandarin or flee to somewhere else when the Chinese invade us?)

  100. Whu does Kennedy graham not come out of the closet and say that ALL his proposals are part of the UN Agenda21 directive

    “Effective execution of Agenda 21 will require a profound reorientation of all human society, unlike anything the world has ever experienced a major shift in the priorities of both governments and individuals and an unprecedented redeployment of human and financial resources. This shift will demand that a concern for the environmental consequences of every human action be integrated into individual and collective decision-making at every level.”

    Will the Greens stand up at the 2014 elections and promote the Agenda21 directive before being elected?

    Interesting observation

    Agenda 21 is not an environmental management policy, but an attempt to impose a global centrally planned quasi-government administered by the United Nations. Under Agenda 21 all central government and local authority signatories are required to conform strictly to a common prescribed standard and hence this is just communism resurrected in a new guise. Now that Agenda 21 has gained a stranglehold on global regulatory and planning processes Maurice Strong and his Club of Rome colleagues have moved on to the next phase of the Global Green Agenda.

  101. Great wiki articles BJchip. As far as I am aware N2 is a stable 80% of atmosphere but it is the anthropogenic NOx and other N-containing gases additions that are destroying the natural balance of the planet’s gaseous envelope. I was imagining somehow the Haber-Bosch process was decreasing the 80% level of N.

  102. It isn’t the N2 in the atmosphere, it is the reactive Nitrogen and its effect on the rest of the environment

    – Oxygen Starvation in the Gulf of Mexico – etc. That phrase is confusing, as there isn’t a problem with the N2 in the atmosphere (as it implies) but with NOx and its reactants which are nourishment for some things but a problem for others. More information here

    and here

    and here

  103. Photonz – both statements are true so all you have left is vapid sarcasm. One wonders why you bothered to comment at all. It is not as though you added any value to the forum.

  104. Good catch Frida… I sometimes skip bits that make no sense, and that one I missed. It isn’t making sense to me either.

  105. BJ “Armageddon” Chip says “in the USA there is ample reason to expect any move to alldow it to result in Civil War if a simple bloodless coup isn’t adequate”

    Kennedy “end of the world” Graham says “Humanity today faces the first truly global crisis in its 5,000-year political history”.

    Tune in again next week to see who wins the battle to give the most extreme predictions.

  106. The global crisis is so much a critical challenge to peace and security, but depletion of atmospheric nitrogen? What the?

  107. Dr Graham

    I understand that your focus on diplomacy and that you favor this idea of the UN declaring an emergency and getting on with “fixing” things.

    It cannot do it.

    The organization will disintegrate first. Major member nations will withdraw before they allow the prerogatives of the corporations that actually run them, to be abridged.

    They may cite other reasons, indeed, in the USA there is ample reason to expect any move to allow it to result in Civil War if a simple bloodless coup isn’t adequate… but however that part resolves itself, there will be no US participation in such a scheme.

    Which makes it necessary to reach for the alternative.

    We can start here, with the Green Party advocating that the government take over directly, through the reserve bank, the issuance of money.

    The dollars issued would NOT be fractional-reserve dollars.

    We move from there to a redeemable currency once sufficient of the NZ dollars in circulation are ours rather than the banks. The redemption in terms of KwH of electricity delivered at outlets near our major reserves.

    Exchanges of money will require exchanges of energy in some form, and subject to conversion inefficiencies as well as transport inefficiencies. These may be minimal but the are real enough, and so there will be impedance in the speculation in money.

    We arrange and declare a debt-jubilee, per Steve Keen’s suggestion, to rid ourselves of private debt and foreign debt. We WILL be p!ssing off the banks.

    We make the currency subject to demurrage.

    Such a monetary system has a key advantage. It is NOT subject to interest, it requires no inflation or growth to function. It can be used in a sustainable economy. The fractional-reserve debt-based money we currently have – cannot.

    Replacing the currency and changing the basic economic system we are working under as a result, makes the cost of buying from overseas much higher. It makes doing things here more reasonable. It gives us a chance to alter OUR system.

    …and it shows the rest of the planet how wrong THEIR version of money actually is.

    The effort needs the touch of a real master Economist to work though, I am not that.

    Steve Keen will be touring in Wellington shortly.

    Someone from the party SHOULD have a chat with him and see if he is interested in providing advice.


  108. Don’t hold your breath. We also have an economic crisis and the governments that comprise the UN Security Council will do nothing to imperil their economies (as they see it), even though taking no action threatens to doom us all.

    An example of the ecological crisis: I was recently in the UK visiting family. I was astounded at the lack of song birds there, in the 4 locations we visited. It should be headline news but most people I talked to hardly blinked. It was a relief to get back and actually hear a dawn chorus again. Whatever the reasons for the precipitous decline (7 years ago, I hadn’t noticed a problem), it seems likely that human activity is the main culprit. Severe ecological damage is already being done and I fear that it is already too late to do anything about it, even if there was the will, which there isn’t.

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