Yes Minister, climate change requires action

I was blown away on Wednesday when Russel Norman asked Minister Smith if he thought central government should give local councils some direction on how to adapt to climate change, and the Minister spent heaps of words saying ‘no’.

Russel’s questions were in light of the World Meteorological Organisation and global insurance giant Munich Re both coming out and saying that the unprecedented amount of floods and other extreme weather events around the world right now are definitely part of a trend attributed to climate change. The head of GeoRisk at Munich Re had this to say:

Climate change cannot be identified from individual events but our figures, backed by verifiable changes in meteorological data, indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change.

The current state of knowledge leaves no doubt about the existence of anthropogenic climate change.

So, climate change is already causing an increase in extreme weather events, just as the science predicted. Go figure!

All Russel was asking the Minister was whether or not he would require local councils to plan for these events, through a National Policy Statement on climate change adaptation.

The Minister didn’t want to say no, so he pretended that Russel was asking for something else – like telling councils where they could build houses and the like.

It was really just smoke and mirrors to indicate that John Key’s Government is going to do absolutely nothing to help New Zealanders prepare for what the scientists and actuaries know is already happening!

This has really turned out to be a do-nothing government of empty rhetoric, busy tearing things down but not preparing or planning for the future.

‘Letting the market decide’ is a poor excuse for a lack of vision and leadership.

Here’s Russel in this week’s Green video:

20 Comments Posted

  1. Owen, the lie was stating that humans occupy only 2% of the earth’s surface. Occupation does not only involve living in a building; it includes all the area needed to continue that life. Consequently, humans occupy considerably more than 2% of the earth’s surface.

    By the way, you are also wrong to state that there is no such thing as a natural state. All parts of the universe are in its natural state. As far as earth is concerned, what we should be concerned about is whether that state is conducive to the continued existence of our species and the quality of that existence. I get the impression that you don’t care about those things at all and, if so, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  2. Owen,

    Thanks for the reply. As the Dominion Post does not archive its editions, and I haven’t kept a copy, I cannot for the moment go back to the original article but I am reasonably sure that the quote I provided is verbatim from that newspaper, I am not in the habit of inventing quotes; so if you have been misquoted, I am not prepared at the moment to admit that it is my fault. I am happy however to accept your denial as having ever been the NZ Business Herald environment correspondent. If this is a mistaken reading on my part from this article, I will have to track down the original, which I will do in the next week or two.

    However, what is illuminating is that your protesting about the quote attributed to you is a “gross corruption” of what you said, your rather spoil the denial by stating that this opinion is “hardly contentious” among “people who consider the costs and benefits of public policy and action” Owen, which people?

    Yes, there is an ethical dimension to making people “worse off” for the benefit of unborn generations, and it’s one that seems to completely escape you. First, which people are going to be worse off? The rich nations whose share of the world’s resources much exceeds that of the poorer nations? The rich people in those rich nations whose share of the nation’s resources much exceeds that of the poorer population? If making these people, and that includes you and me, “worse off” to meet our responsibilities to the future, then far from being a problem, it is the most moral and ethical action we could take because it should also be our action to meet our responsibilities to the present. But of course, even this argument is based on an arguable assumption, that there is a cost at all to the endeavour to save the climate; it is likely that reducing fossil fuel energy use will yield nothing to the world economy other than profit.

    But worse is your apparent misunderstanding of the nature of our existence on this planet. What you seem incapable of understanding is that our present level of wealth is not sustainable whatever anyone tries to do about it. We are already exceeding the planet’s ability to provide us with the resources we need, as Tony has already pointed out, in which case we are going to get poorer in any case. Living within our means might make some of us poorer, but it is the only way to avoid complete catastrophe. Our present “wealth” is an illusion, a temporary state of affairs built on a promise that we made to ourselves, but that the planet is incapable of keeping.

    Owen, I don’t know if you believe that anthropogenic global warming is a true problem or not, your opinion about this seems as chaotic as the chaotic world you say we live in, but I, and a host of expert scientists, with whom I have no logical reason to disagree, do believe it is a problem. And I use the bald word “problem” to mean the single most revolutionary and possibly destructive problem ever to face humanity.

    This being so, then one has to consider what one does about it. To you, it seems to devolve to some sort of cost-benefit and discount analysis, the nature of which is obtuse, to say the least. I would be prepared to bet that some clever person has already done the discount analysis that would prove that it is not economically worthwhile to save the whole planet in a hundred years time.

    To me, and most of those reading these pages I am sure, such an abrogation of responsibility to our future, that is our children’s future, to the microprocessors of economists and economic analysts is frankly an appalling moral and ethical cop-out. These “people” in whom you place such faith couldn’t even predict, in their own sphere of expertise, the collapse of the world economy six months before it happened, and we’re supposed to accept their predictions or advice about a whole planetary system one hundred years hence? Pull the other one, Owen.

  3. jockmoron
    I am not surprised your letter was not published because so many of its “facts” are quite wrong.
    I am not and never have been the Herald’s Environment Correspondent.
    And the emboldened “quote” attributed to me is pure nonsense.

    It is a gross corruption of what I actually said, which is hardly contentious among people who consider the costs and benefits of public policy and action.
    There is an ethical issue surrounding proposals to make current generations worse off for the benefit of unborn generations. After all, child born today can reasonably expect to live a hundred years. So benefits to generations yet unborn and over a hundred years away. Given the typical family has a discount rate of about 30% it takes some courage to make that child born today poorer for the benefit of someone 100 years out.
    One economist paraphrased this argument by saying “What has Captain Kirk done for me lately?”
    I was talking to a 75 year old only yesterday who was upset at being told he had to spend extra thousands of dollars on a drain on his property to cope with a predicted sea level rise of 1 meter in 100 years time.
    Don’t you think he may have a point?
    Especially as our tectonic plate movements (up) mean that in most of the North Island’s East Coast the net sea level is stable or actually falling.

    This has nothing to do with my belief or disbelief in AGW but simple the application of reasonable analysis to public policy.
    I don’t claim to know the answers to these questions (because they are embedded in a host of issues within the chaotic (ie deterministic chaos) world we live in, but do believe they deserve consideration by those who have to make the decisions.

  4. Owen McShane will deny climate change even when the waters are neck high. He is one of the founding members of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition (NZCCC), as we know. This organization is now wasting its and our money taking a court case against NIWA because they claim that NIWA have been fiddling the New Zealand climate date. We are, of course, all inordinately proud of the scientific prowess and knowledge resident in the New Zealand judicial system, so the NZCCC should be in its element in arguing such scientific matters before such august personages, who’s scientific knowledge may even exceed the NZCCC’s own.

    I know Owen of old, this is an unpublished letter is sent to the Dominion Post in May 2006 when the NZCCC was being established “I was dismayed by your report in today’s Dominion Post (1st May), that “a group of New Zealand leading climate scientists” are forming a lobby group to refute what it believes are unfounded claims in regard to global warming. This group includes Dr Vincent Gray, who’s appallingly misapplied science appeared in your paper recently, Gerrit J Van der Linden, who’s science is equally bad, and Owen McShane, who in his capacity as Business Herald environment correspondent (something of an oxymoron) was reported about two years ago as saying: “I don’t think we should care a stuff about future generations. They can take care of themselves. It’s immoral to care for someone who hasn’t been born yet.” This lobby group should find the global warming issue pretty straightforward then, having been absolved of any moral or ethical responsibility to our future, they are free to audit the 2,500 misguided climate scientists of the IPCC to their heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that any connection of global warming science to our children’s future is purely academic, and not to be taken to heart as a personal responsibility.

    Owen belongs to the separate sub-species of mankind, Homo sapiens hubristis, who’s own certainty of conviction is most paralleled in our society by the religious dogmatist. Yet Owen, in a throwaway line, writes “We are the planet’s gardeners, whether we like it or not”, suggesting that he does admit to mankind’s power over nature, though of course, if we do muck up the garden, that’s no problem to his children. Owen, if we are, as you suggest, the gardeners of the planet, does this not also suggest we are also likely to be responsible for the health of the plants and animals and the quality of the air and climate in the greenhouse?

    It would also help if Owen got his facts right; he states “we are in a currently high level of solar activity”, Well, no, we have had a coronal hole pointing towards Earth and some aurora in the last month but this comes at a time when the sun has come out of the lowest and most prolonged solar minimum since scientific instrumental records have been taken, and we are nowhere near maximum or “high level of” solar activity. Indeed, as I write today, there are no sunspots at all visible on the visible face of the sun. The so-called “cloud chamber” effect that Owen writes about is a highly contentious and nowhere near scientifically accepted postulate, but continues to be well (ab)used by climate change sceptics to suggest another mechanism for a warming world.

  5. This site is sadly suffering from a pollutant.

    Hopefully, the rest of us can maintain the spirit of civilized discourse.

    I strongly recommend Stephen Budianski’s “Nature’s Keepers: The New Science of Nature Management” for anyone based on a science of nature management based on reality rather than a collection of myths.
    From a typical review:

    Because paradoxes abound in nature, many of the straightforward solutions that have been proposed to save endangered species, eliminate pests, or enlarge populations of game animals have backfired again and again. Based on a mythical view of a natural world where man never treads, such policies threaten to destroy the very things they claim to preserve – biodiversity, endangered species, unique wilderness landscapes.
    Now, however, modern ecological research is providing the tools for effective environment management by revealing for the first time how ecosystems really work and interact. This new science of nature management, rooted in the mathematical relationships that link the fates of all plants and animals, is being applied to actual problems, such as elk overpopulation in Yellowstone, management of game bird populations and fisheries, and ecological restoration.

  6. hah..!..owen..!

    are you now denying yr long career as a denialist…?


    you are our local template of the denialist-spin-merchant…

    ..with a history of being funded/supported by denialist front-groups.. peddle yr ‘lies’…


  7. I do not know how quoting some clearly defined statistics is lying – to myself or anyone else.
    There are some people who are concerned that because of the recent doubling of the population our urban areas are consuming so much land that we will not be able to feed ourselves.

    Some even worry about our own cities using us far too much land.

    OF course you are right about our impact on the planet. I am always having to remind people that “there is no state of nature” any more anywhere. We are the planet’s gardeners, whether we like it or not.

  8. Humans occupy about 2% of the Earth’s surface.

    I think not. Humans also use about 12% of the earth’s surface for crops and much more for pasture. They consume about 1.3 earths every year. They have pushed past 3 of 9 critical boundaries (pushing past one boundary is bad) and are getting close in others. Humans have left their mark on about 83% of the planet’s surface. To say that human settlements occupy only 2% of the earth’s surface is both misleading and mischievous. Just what do you think you are achieving, by lying to yourself, Owen?

  9. you don’t see that .. as most others would…

    …as giving that ‘normally catastrophist (sic) climate science team’…

    … credibility…?

    that by their silence…they are proving that they know what they are talking about…?

    or are you just trying on some more of your denialist-spin/lies…?

    ..there..owen..?’s been decades now..hasn’t it..? must be ‘the old man’ of the denialist-industry…



  10. You may have noticed that the only people claiming that the rainstorms in the North are the result of AGW and folks like Rudman in the Herald and the some UN officials.
    Others will have noticed that most warming alarmists been remarkably quiet.
    That is because the climate is actually a complex chaotic system.
    You have all probably notices that there is currently an extremely high level of solar activity (notice those stories about aurora in the papers?) and this had let many climate experts to forecast high rainfall because of the “cloud chamber” effect in the atmosphere.
    Furthermore, the rain in Pakistan has been made worse by an unusually COLD jet stream moving south and sweeping across the Eurasian land mass – causing massive rain in Pakistan and China.
    That is why the normally catastrophist climate science team have been noticeably quiet.
    But the Rudmans step in where angels fear to tread.


    As I said last week regarding Moscow’s heat wave give the deniers aversion therepy, strap them in a seat, clamp their eyes open, talk a load of nadsack and roll the viddies bruther.

    We are living in a dystopian future and how bad is it really going to get before we listen to the scientists and LEARN!!!!!!

  12. It’s certain that people are spread to more places as the population increases but this in no way changes the fact that extreme weather events are increasing. The two things together mean that the human impacts are likely to get worse and worse.

    Careful that hole in the sand you’ve buried your head in doesn’t flood, deniosaurs….

  13. So let’s keep denying that there is any problem – or certainly one which might require some change. Humans have always done it and they certainly aren’t going to stop now. Ironically it’s part of our survival instinct. If what we’re doing now makes us feel comfortable and secure then who wants to change it for some future threat. Better to deny that there is any threat at all, or find a reason for it which doesn’t involve having to do anything. We don’t want to stop what we’re doing, we just want a different result. Understandable – just horrifyingly tragic!

  14. More evidence that the pursuit of the almighty dollar is the highest priority in many peoples lives..

    Try asking the folk in Pakistan & China (or even Whakatane) if they think the climate is changing ? worst floods on record !!


  15. I seem to recall similar comments from insurance companies after Hurricane Katrina and it was shown to be bullshirte. All the ‘experts’ quoted at the time said hurricanes were on the increase. Then it was found they were not…

    Insurance is based on property value. If values rise in an area which is flooded then of course the payout will increase. If people build on a flood plain then it is going to get flooded occassionally. So of course the appearance of ‘impact’ is going to be greater then when there was no building on that site, from an insurance company pov.

    Seems to me most floods are not the result of changes in weather due to climate chage but to changes in physical geography by people.

  16. Humans occupy about 2% of the Earth’s surface.
    New Zealand is less than one percent urbanised.
    About 3.4% of the land in the US is urbanised.
    However, costs of disasters do increase as people move to live in less suitable areas.
    For example, the migration of the elderly to the Florida east coast has led to increased costs of propery losses from hurricanes even while deaths and accidents have dramatically reduced because of better forecasting and preparation.

  17. If you are talking about the increase in costs, absolutely. But just how does the increase in population affect the increase in extreme weather events, except perhaps via increasing emissions, Jeremy? That’s my reading of frog’s linked article – the trend in extreme weather events (as well as costs) is upwards, and the actuaries are atribtuing the weather trend to climate change. The increase in costs is probably due to both increases in population and the type/value of the built environment, in both suitable and unsuitable places, as extreme weather hits both. The barrios/shanty towns aren’t often insured anyway.

  18. Does the Green Party attribute any of the increase in incidents to the fact that the world population has doubled since 1970 and many people now live in less suitable areas..?

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