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Climate change in action

Written By: - Date published: 9:26 am, September 7th, 2009 - 43 comments
Categories: climate change, economy - Tags:

The world’s oceans reached a record high temperature in July of 16.37 degrees, 0.59 degrees above the 20th century average. That might not sound a lot, and it wouldn’t be if we were talking about the variation in day to day temperature where you live, but we’re talking the whole world’s oceans. It takes an enormous amount of energy to increase their average temperature by such an amount. All that extra energy has a dramatic effect on the climate.

The El Nino climate system occurs when the Pacific Ocean is well above normal temperature, like now. It’s basically a breakdown in the normal flow of ocean currents and the trade winds (and all the energy they carry). For some countries this means warmer temperatures, for others colder, for some there’s more rain, for some less. For New Zealand, El Nino means drought.

NIWA predicts that El Nino conditions, presently expected to be moderate and not as severe as in 1998, will persist throughout our summer, with the odds being on below average rainfall and soil moisture for most of the country. If there is a drought, it will be very tough on the farmers and could derail any stuttering economic recovery.

This is climate change in action. The gases that we have released into the atmosphere by the billions of tonnes are trapping more heat. That heat is resulting, as the models predict, in warmer oceans leading to more frequent and more severe El Ninos. And that means more frequent and more severe droughts for New Zealand. We’re not yet at the stage of dramatic events like the ice caps melting and the rainforests burning that will happen if we allow the world’s temperature to rise by two degrees sparking runaway climate change, but we are beginning to experience the persistent and significant cost of a changing climate caused by our refusal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Our economy is inextricably linked to our climate. There is no ‘balancing of our economic opportunities and our environmental responsibilities’ as the Crosby-Textor line the National ministers mindless parrot would have us believe. Environmental problems are economic problems. We are dependent on a stable climate. And we are destabilising it.

[search google news ‘El Nino’ to see how it affects different parts of the world. Everything from a too warm winter threatening the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, to floods in Nairobi, to poor fishing in Peru, to a bumper soy crop in Argentina]

43 comments on “Climate change in action ”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    The icecaps won’t melt. They haven’t through hundreds of thousands of years and during periods when temperatures have been warmer than now.

    What is not often mentioned is that the polar glaciers are mainly located in large basins. Hence the glaciers can’t flow anywhere.

    Here is an excellent article that explains the situation:


    • Gareth 1.1

      That would be a “paper” by this Cliff Ollier, would it? He’s an Australian denier, not a glaciologist, and you’re wrong. You confuse glaciers with ice sheets, for starters, but you are also wrong about the “large basins”. Check out Fig 7 in Chapter 3 (p46) of the new WWF Arctic report (PDF available here). Most of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and large parts of East Antarctica and NW Greenland ice sheets are grounded below sea level, and therefore vulnerable to the sort of ocean warming that’s already causing the Pine Island Glacier to thin dramatically.

      And for your further edification, during the last interglacial (the Eemian), when temperatures were a degree or two warmer than now, much of the southern Greenland ice sheet melted (and probably a good bit of the WAIS too), and sea levels were 5 or 6 metres higher than now. Not good news…

      • Andrei 1.1.1

        And for your further edification, during the last interglacial (the Eemian), when temperatures were a degree or two warmer than now, much of the southern Greenland ice sheet melted (and probably a good bit of the WAIS too), and sea levels were 5 or 6 metres higher than now.

        It was the high carbon lifestyles of Homo neanderthalensis that done it

        • snoozer

          the fact that the climate varies naturally does not preclude the fact that we are changing the climate now, rapidly and with major consequences for our economies.

          • Andrei

            What it really shows is the vapidity of this debate.

            The period in question coincides with the beginning of modern humans and temperatures were a degree or two warmer than now which were unquestionably natural in origin.

            Furthermore there have been several “unprecedented” climatic events since then again unquestionable natural in origin – the collapse from that benign period into the last glacial and the “unprecedented” warming that saw the earth move from that climate regime to the current more benign one. Furthermore human development and history has all taken place in the later period.

            There is no need to invoke human activity to explain all this.

            Humans do have an impact – the problem is there is no way of determining what it really is one way or another and the same thing applies to anything we do to try and ameliorate it. You are just as likely to make things worse as better – assuming anything you do has a real impact anyway.

            You cannot alter time and tide.

            • snoozer

              The climate changes you’re talking about took place over thousands of years. The change we’re causing is several degrees per decade. The rate of change will exceed the ability of human societies and economies, as well as ecosystems, to adapt.

              Look, you can continue to pretend that humanity isn’t doing it. At the end of the day, the change is happening and that’s really really bad because (even leaving aside truely catastrpohic run away climate change) our entire economic structure is premised on the current climate. We must do what we can to avoid that happening or pay the price.

            • Gareth

              Allow me to make the obvious point: if the climate system can deliver sea levels 5-6m above present and hippos in the Thames at around 310 ppm CO2 entirely naturally, without any input from humans, what’s going to happen when the system catches up with current CO2 levels – 387 ppm and rising, and all of it coming from us…?

              Just in case you miss the obvious: this is not good news.

            • lukas

              Gareth, you have always been a dooms day merchant though really haven’t you? I always turned the radio off when Paul Holmes had you on to talk about the economy, you are a depressing wee man.

              How are the book sales coming along?

            • BLiP

              Lukey-Pukey back again to throw insults around – what a chap! Science got you baffled, has it? Why don’t you go kick in some windows and relieve the tension . . .

            • felix

              Hey BliP, what’s this about wittle wukey-pukey kicking in windows?

            • lukas

              wow BLiP, you really are a piece of work aren’t you?

              Hope you never have to take a six month old baby to a hospital in the middle of the night and get locked out.

              Gareth- sorry about that mate, I assumed with the name and the link in your name that you are Mr Morgan.

              Felix- BLip seems to find amusement in people having to call 111 from the ambulance bay of a hospital to get into the emergency department.

            • felix

              So you kicked in the windows of a hospital.

              Good for you, Wukey-Pookey.

          • Gareth

            (replying to lukas)

            Best laugh of the day. Wrong Gareth…

  2. Nick 2

    And looking outside my window I can see the sky falling.


  3. StephenR 3

    I do appreciate the update but if you could stop crapping on about Crosby/Textor that’d be fabulous thanks.

  4. Jeremy 4

    Oh dear, the first three comments are all from idiots!

    • tsmithfield 4.1

      I think the idiot is the person who makes insulting comments without even addressing the arguments made.

      • Zorr 4.1.1

        I didn’t see an argument made. Just the usual crap spouted by the same denialists as last time. If you aren’t going to educate yourself then don’t be surprised when we don’t actually bother responding to your “points” any more and just relieve some of the tension you generate by going straight to the ad hominem attacks.

        As the saying goes, don’t argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. It is not worth our time arguing with you because you will just come back tomorrow with some more questionable science or conspiracy theory that we will just have to debunk all over again. All in all, not worth the anguish when you just close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and go “LALALALALALALALALA I CAN’T HEEEEEAR YOOOOOU!”

        captcha: corrections

  5. StephenR 5

    I did appreciate the update.

  6. Walter 6

    What we need is a ‘Wish(they had a)Hart Society” – where all climate change deniers can chisel their names in stone, signing a declaration like:

    “we the undersigned believe that climate change is a complete and utter hoax and support a ‘no-action’ approach to reducing carbon emissions.”

    Later, when we are looking for something to plug the cracks in the dykes, this list may prove useful.

    Personally, I’m in the: ‘Shit, this might really be happening, we better do something’ camp.

    Which is the more sensible position?

  7. StephenR 7

    May depend what exactly you mean by “do something” 😉

  8. singularian 8

    I’m still wondering why all the ‘believers’ are wasting precious resources posting on the internet about this stuff? You guys need to cut your electricity usage by at least 40%, so switch off and get smart, right?

    They need to put their carbon footprint where their mouth is.

    Speaking of carbon footprints – Keisha was in France last week for The Vinters Luck launch, Saturday night she was at the Film and Television awards. As far as I’m aware the overland/sea journey takes far longer than a couple of days, so I’m assuming she personally spewed out 5 or 6 tonnes of Co2 to go to a film launch, I mean, come on (sign on), isn’t she all worried about what sort of world her daughter is going to inherit?

    Really these people need to lead by example if they’re going to preach to the rest of us. I’m sure she has some really, really good excuses as to why she just had to be there but………

    To me that is the biggest problem with this whole AWG thing ( the legitimacy of which I am still undecided about ) is that we need to see the people pushing it as a settled thing practicing what they preach. I will look forward to our MP’s cutting their resource useage by at least 40% the moment they pass an ETS. They can hardly expect anyone else to get on the bandwagon unless they are will to do that, right?

    The irony of hundreds, if not thousands of people flying to Copenhagen to debate the pollution of our planet has not escaped me either.

    All in all, at the moment, I find the hypocrisy a little cloying in the nostrils.

    • Clarke 8.1

      Oh dear. First we have your entrenched position:

      To me that is the biggest problem with this whole AWG thing ( the legitimacy of which I am still undecided about )

      … and then we have this gem:

      All in all, at the moment, I find the hypocrisy a little cloying in the nostrils

      Here’s the thing, singularian. No-one is going to come to your door to try and convince you of the reality of climate change. There is a fundamental difference between science and Scientology – the former requires no “belief”; the Universe simply doesn’t give a rats whether you believe in fundamental physics or not.

      in other words, climate change is a little bit like an IQ test. It’s a complex, messy business with all manner of unexpected influences and subtle linkages. If you can’t be bothered working your way through the detail, educating yourself about non-deterministic systems and drawing your own conclusions, then you have yet to pay the intellectual entry cost for participating in the debate.

      So your statement that “the legitimacy of which I am still undecided about” is one of two things; it’s either a genuine inability to grasp the science and its geopolitical implications, or it’s a smoke-screen for inaction. I hope it’s the former rather than the latter, because the former implies that further education – such as Marty’s post – might help matters.

      However if it is simply an exercise in prevarication, then it’s time to call a spade a spade, and characterise your skepticism as nothing more than selfishness in a pseudo-scientific wrapper.

      • snoozer 8.1.1

        wow, that’s a gem of a comment.

      • singularian 8.1.2

        Well Clarke, like several billion other people around the world I’m trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. You appear to be suggesting that I just accept what, to me ( not being a scientist ), are not proven hypothesis. I’d rather keep an open mind thanks.

        Then the fact that I’m asking questions about the apparent insincerity of some of the media campaigners on this issue somehow means that I don’t have the intellectual rigor to participate? Hmmmm. OK.

        Do you disagree that whatever has to be done in the future will have to be done by the individual?

        Do you disagree that if people are going to be the ‘face’ for issues like these then they should walk the walk?

        Do you disagree that taxing people/business to bring about a change in habits is merely going make prices rise thereby disadvantaging those with the least money to spend?

        Do you see ANY irony in thousands of people flying into Copenhagan, pumping thousands of tonnes of Co2 into the atmosphere, to talk about how bad it is pumping out Co2 into the atmosphere?

        Can you glimpse the end game in all this? Not the end game for the planet, but the end game for us, humanity?

        Or have you over intellectualised things?

        Stephen R – 2 comments down – I call bullshit on ‘offsets’. You’re either doing it or you’re not. If you really believe then you don’t do it in the first place. The similarities to organised religion are growing by the day.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Do you really have any idea as to how much of an idiot you are?

          are not proven hypothesis.

          >90% probability of being right is, in my book, beyond reasonable doubt.

          Do you disagree that whatever has to be done in the future will have to be done by the individual?

          It will have to be done by the global community which includes individuals.

          Do you disagree that if people are going to be the ‘face’ for issues like these then they should walk the walk?

          Do you see ANY irony in thousands of people flying into Copenhagan, pumping thousands of tonnes of Co2 into the atmosphere, to talk about how bad it is pumping out Co2 into the atmosphere?

          Being the face for these issues requires something other than staying at home hiding beneath the bedsheets.

          Do you disagree that taxing people/business to bring about a change in habits is merely going make prices rise thereby disadvantaging those with the least money to spend?

          And? Prices may not rise – there’s an equal or better chance that some unsustainable products will be removed from the market.

          Can you glimpse the end game in all this? Not the end game for the planet, but the end game for us, humanity?

          I can, yes.

          Or have you over intellectualised things?

          That’s always a possibility but, as I said above, >90% probability of being right is beyond reasonable doubt.

          You’re either doing it or you’re not.

          And here you prove, with the usual RWNJ false dichotomy, that your mind is closed.

          • singularian

            >90% – pleeeaassseeee. Pull the other one, it may ring.

            And yes thanks, I know exactly how much of an idiot I am, do you know the same about yourself? I doubt it somehow.

            At the end of the day it will be down to the individual.

            Being the face for these issues requires something other than staying at home hiding beneath the bedsheets.

            So Keishas film launch in France was so fucken important that the planet will just have to load up with a few more 10s of tonnes of pollutant?
            HaHa, what bullshit.

            When it comes down to it very few of the people preaching are actually willing to do what they say has to be done. In fact, like you, they don’t even want to think about the reality of what they’re preaching. There’s a word for it….begins with H.

            And? Prices may not rise there’s an equal or better chance that some unsustainable products will be removed from the market.

            Fuck me and you think I’m an idiot?

            So when Food, Oil, Electricity, Clothing, pretty well all consumer goods rise by 10 -20% (at least, can’t you just see all those greedy corporates rubbing their hands together ‘ price rises and we can blame the Govt’ ?) and low wage earners really can’t afford to put food on the table what then Einstein?

            You people are unbelievable, the disconnect with reality is quite scary but of course I’m the one with a closed mind.

            Too much. I think I’ll just go to bed laughing.


            Edit – Nothing to say about Copenhagen?

        • roger nome


          this is a problem of systems, not individuals. If you leave it down to individuals , it will just become another “tragedy of the commons” i.e. everyone wants to maximise their individual enjoyment, so, will pollute if the costs of doing so don’t outweigh the gains.

          So tax systems etc need to make it more painful for people to pollute than to not pollute. Understand?

        • roger nome


          This is a problem of systems, not individuals. If you leave it down to individuals , it will just become another “tragedy of the commons” i.e. everyone wants to maximise their individual enjoyment, so, people will pollute if the costs of doing so don’t outweigh the gains.

          So tax systems etc need to make it more painful for people to pollute than to not pollute. Understand?

        • Clarke

          like several billion other people around the world I’m trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. You appear to be suggesting that I just accept what, to me ( not being a scientist ), are not proven hypothesis.

          Public awareness of the implications of climate change has been growing since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 – that’s 17 years ago. So it’s reasonable to assume you’ve had every single one of those years to look into the issue, read the scientific literature and make some decisions about how to lead your life, given the clear and present threat to planetary ecology.

          The fact that you’ve clearly failed to do any of this doesn’t mean your more skeptical than anyone else, or more rigorous, or more scientific – it simply means you’re slower than the rest of us. Perhaps we need a course on climate change for the special needs students like you who still have “uncertainties”.

          Perhaps actually making the effort to understand the science and the issues that have been in the public domain for decades might improve your credibility when it comes to calling others hypocrites. Right now – Pot. Kettle. Black.

          • singularian

            So the science is settled then Clarke?

            The point of it is we have people like Kesiha spouting one thing and then doing something else. In her case she is flying all over the world to promote vapid entertainment. To me that shows she has very little understanding of what a 40% reduction in resource use will actually mean.

            All I’m saying is that the people that are calling for a 40% reduction in resource use need to reduce their use by 40%, I can not see any of them doing so and here lies the crux, all the urban liberal green handwringers are sitting in their enclaves screaming ‘won’t somebody save the children’ while waiting for someone else to do something, in this case the government. So they can sit back feeling smug that they are on the side of good but don’t really have to do anything except change their light bulbs. They need to put their lifestyle where their mouth is and they are repeatedly failing to do so.

            I have educated myself reasonably well on this subject, considering I’m not a scientist and taking into account the vast amounts of digital propaganda out there ( hence wheat from chaff ) and in my mind the failure of the current models being used to correctly predict actual real, now historical, climate change and our limited understanding of the DO’s and how the sun affects earth combined with my complete mistrust of authority to do the right thing as compared to doing whats in their best interests leads me, at the moment, to the conclusion that things are definitely not settled.

            • lprent

              Arrggh these old chestnuts. Favourites of the CCD’s – and neither are in anyway correct.

              There is no significant lack of consensus amongst scientists who know what they’re talking about – ie earth scientists in general and specifically climatologists specifically. Any other scientists outside that group trained in the discipline can be treated as being ignorant amateurs.

              The model fallacy is that models are perfect. They aren’t in any moderately chaotic system. Doesn’t matter if it is the inside of a piston of a car – something that has been massively modelled for a 100 years or so, or whatever. If you want model certainties then I suggest you get religion – they don’t exist in ANY science. They are all approximations.

              However the climate change models are deadly accurate at predicting climate changes forward and backwards within our current timeframes for which we have accurate data – ie the last couple of centuries. They are within the expected range of variance, and when you take the models as a group (because they are often quite different internally), their averages are almost bang on. That tends to indicate that in aggregate they are tracking pretty closely.

              I have a couple of posts on the way just for you tomorrow – just to help you clear the bullshit.

  9. StephenR 9

    Heard of offsets? Hard to know which of the above have or will use/d them but still.

  10. ben 10

    What has Crosby-Textor got to do with anything?

    National has just put forward a ridiculously ambitious carbon reduction by 2020, a 35% reduction in current total carbon output just 11 years from now – and you want to cite Textor Crosby as a reason for what exactly? Providing spin to make it look like National is doing enough when its not? Please.

    This blog must be among the most ludicrous collection of ideas on the internet.

  11. Martin 11

    Climate Change is the new religion.

    The key to determining this is to ask – “what would cause you to change your mind?” When you ask this question to the diehard climate change people you get responses like Nothing – there is no debate.

    Anybody who questions the new “god” is denounced.

    Just like the inquisition really….

    Oh, by the way – when you look at who makes the most money out of Cap and Tax – It’s a certain Mr Al Gore and Goldman Sacs… Now theres a coincidence…

    • Zorr 11.1

      You ask what it would take to change my mind? I’ll tell you.

      Certifiable scientific evidence that the current model is actually wrong to the extent that it is false.

      I have stated it deliberately in these terms as models are inaccurate by their very nature and therefore being constantly updated as more information is able to be added to the model.

      So basically, provide equivalently accurate and credible scientific research that shows the current issue surrounding the reality of climate change is unfounded and I will listen. However, I personally doubt your ability to provide such evidence.

      Also, I take personal offence at anyone calling a branch of science a “religion”. There are nutjobs on all sides of the spectrum, I readily admit this. However, the science at the core is not religious in nature as it is based in the observable, natural world. Next time you care to insult my chosen profession, bring an actual argument. Not this bullshit.

      • no leftie 11.1.1

        Global warming is a religion – it’s now official.


        [lprent: Bullshit. That is dismissal because of a difference of opinion and belief – not religion. Read your own link.

        The same as I’m not allowed to dismiss someone for thinking changing tax rates to a flat rate is good for a society (despite all evidence to the contrary), that the Titanic would be unsinkable, that animals have feelings, that the world was created in 4004 BC, or you can make pigs fly (ie they can ignore gravity. None of those are part of a religion either. I’m sure other people will be happy to extend the list.

        Basically all you have confirmed in my opinion is that you’re a dickhead who has no idea of the basis of employment law. I’ll bet that you’d be a useless as someone to work for. ]

  12. StephenR 12

    Can you explain further please?

    Yeah sorry the moderation seems to be holding a lot back, making several comments look a bit odd. Was replying to Singularian at 12:18.

  13. no leftie 13

    What angry reaction!

    I used the article to make a point about Zorr’s precious complaint about use of the term religion when it comes to global warming.

    I don’t think you should be able to sack someone for believing the end-is-nigh regardless of how much I disagree with that belief.

    Rant away though – I especially like the part where’d I’d give you a job.

    [lprent: The link didn’t mention religion. Are you such a fuckwit that you equate belief with religion? Yeah looking at your previous comments it is evident that you would. I’m afraid I don’t work for people who are that thick. I like to be able to have a hope of explaining what I’m working on.

    But it looks more likely to me that you are just repeating something mindlessly – ie troll. Fits with your ‘comments’ over the last few weeks. I’ll pulled you up about it before. Anyway, I’m tired of ‘ranting’ – so permanent ban. I’m tired of having to leave notes on your comments. ]

  14. no leftie 14

    Thank you for the ultimate compliment. It’s been fun.

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