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Dog whistling climate change

Written By: - Date published: 11:24 am, January 12th, 2023 - 30 comments
Categories: climate change, Environment, national, same old national, science - Tags:

This is a tweet that Stuart Smith put up on Twitter yesterday.

It has received a significant amount of blowback, as it deserved.

The tweet is more than a little naughty.

Fancy proposing that climate change should not be taught in schools.  As the world struggles from the effects of climate change and the need for individual action has never been more pronounced to suggest students should not be alerted to this accelerating catastrophe is bizarre.

And fancy suggesting that students armed with sufficient skills should sift through the huge amounts of data that climate change science has accumulated and second guess scientists who have spent decades interpreting and understanding the data.  Now is not the time for second guessing.  Now is the time for remedial action.

And fancy implying that once they had completed their sifting they may reach a contrary view and that this contrary view is valid.  How many times do we need to show that climate change is actually a real thing?

The tweet follows the right’s tactic of dividing and picking sides.  There is a sufficiently large anti intellectual anti collective action grouping for which challenging climate change scores brownie points.

And it is not surprising.  When you look at National’s policy priority areas there is no mention of the environment.  Nil, zilch, nada, zero, a complete void, not even a fly speck of a mention.

It is almost as if we live on two different planets.

On Planet progressive it is clear the environment is changing dramatically, species extinction is accelerating, resources are being depleted and there is a clear sense that we are heading into a disaster.

On Planet National there are abundant resources, growth can be infinite and the extraction of wealth is of utmost importance and can be achieved without adverse consequence.

Some National MPs are not stupid.  They understand the science and know what the world has a major problem.  But they clearly place political advantage ahead of leading collective action.

Smith in particular ought to know better.  He is chair of Globe-NZ, a grouping of Parliamentarians from different parties that is exploring subjects such as discovering long term low emissions pathways.

Stuart Smith should be thanked for laying National’s approach out for us so publicly.  And the next time someone suggests that both sides are the same remind them that there is only one side that actually believes in the science and is trying to advance policies to address the issue.  And that the other side is happy to play games with the issue.

30 comments on “Dog whistling climate change ”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    As well as teaching kids about climate change, we should equip students with the capability to research and interpret data for themselves.

    There ya go, Stuey, fixed it for ya!

    • Julian Richards 1.1

      Very good point of direction to look at…? Who/what/when and why controls the mining/profits of our data? Are these algarhythms or structures of the new colonialism of our times as we progress further and further away from the natural world into the digital? Food for thought perhaps… I don't know, all I do know is it takes courage to drink upstream from the herd and think critically and question the present situation!

      Tech isn't a bad thing necessarily, but it is necessary to question and challenge the current status of it's direction and intent. Tech is not going to save the plants and animals/us as much as we'd like to believe it will… If people believe this, they really are delusional and far too removed from the natural world.

  2. Tony Veitch 2

    Yay, Stuart Smith for Minister of the Environment, always assuming there is still a Conservation Ministry after Act takes the axe to all the surplus ministries.

    And we still have Key's "Brighter Future" to look forward to, Luxon's version (but only if you're not a bottom feeder!)

  3. Anne 3

    "The tweet is more than a little bit naughty".

    Its a downright disgrace especially if micky is correct and it is politically motivated. Fancy pandering to the deluded and stupid, and those so far down rabbit holes they are a danger to society. I would go further and say such a person should be removed from public office because they are enabling a tiny minority viewpoint which has the potential to be devastating for this country and indeed – along with their off-shore morons – the rest of the planet.

    Given we have just experienced a Climate Change charged tropical cyclone – and I have noted there are two more quietly waiting in the wings for their turn to be a menace to us in the next while – that was about the silliest tweet imaginable.

    • adam 4.1

      He is sounding more and more punch drunk.

      Needs to be drug tested does Stuart Smith, followed by a cat scan of his brain – to see if big chunks of it are missing.

    • Jenny are we there yet 4.2

      I don't think National are anti-science as such. National are just pro-profits.

      If science can wring out the last possible piece of profit from the biosphere and the workforce they are all for science

  4. He has to keep popping up in the headlines every now and then just to remind us he is still there in Parliament.

    He is my electorate MP and a more useless critter would be hard to find.

    • Mac1 5.1

      I'm from there, too, and even local National supporters say the same thing. Smith replaced the 'do-nothing' King with more of the like. When will voters learn that they can unseat useless MPs under MMP and still party vote for their choice?

      Under the umbrella term ‘useless’ might come MPs who espouse strange causes and spout nonsense. There are a few like that in the National caucus.

  5. Tiger Mountain 6

    Greta Thunberg on the Daily Show a while back…

    Trevor Noah, presenter…“Do you feel a difference in the conversation around Climate Change travelling from Sweden to America?”

    Greta…I would say yes. Here, it feels like it’s being discussed as something you believe in or not. Where I come from it’s more like a fact.”

  6. Mike the Lefty 7

    "Climate change", or "global warming" as it used to be rather erroneously called, is easy enough to teach from a science perspective but when the politics inevitably added into the mix, it becomes a whole lot more difficult.

    It strikes me that the political right always blather on about how there should be a debate about this and that, but when it comes to the debate about climate change they are reluctant to talk about it.

    And we all know what ACT think about climate change. They barely acknowledge its existence.

    • KJT 7.1

      In reality, "Anthropogenic Global warming" is exactly what it is.

      The term was too confronting to right wingers so the euphemism "Climate change" was substituted.

      Unfortunately due to repitition, it has become the most used term.

  7. Jack 8

    NCEA is already pretty good at getting kids to think for themselves.

  8. A Unicef assessment of child wellbeing in 2017 had NZ ranked near the bottom of the OECD. At that time our 15 year olds had less understanding of the key environmental issues facing our planet then most other countries. Given our seriously degraded waterways, have the highest number of species facing extinction in the world and have one of the highest level of GHG emissions per capita this is concerning. Only 49% knew something about at least five environmental issues, while the average in other countries was 62% (82% for Portugal).

  9. Incognito 10

    That tweet is deliberately misleading.

    There seems to be this misconception or rather flawed idea that Climate Change can be reduced to small sub-problems that each can be represented by mathematical equations that can be solved. This means that each of those small sub-problems can be measured & monitored and have technical/technocratic solutions. In turn, each of those sub-solutions are stitched together as if they are fixed rigid flat pieces of a 2D puzzle that are independent of each other and producing one fixed overall puzzle picture aka solution.

    This may work with complex technical scientific problems but not with societal issues on a global scale such as Climate Change.

    Preachers of this false belief such as National and ACT know this, of course. They don’t believe that Climate Change has a purely technocratic solution. They don’t even care. They know that there are profits to be made, e.g., in the monitoring and managing of the very many technical (read: specialised) sub-problems*, and simply want to gain and re-gain power and control.

    The few at the top never let a good crisis go to waste and are more than happy to mislead the many into believing that only those few ‘special ones’ can lead us to that ‘brighter future’. Of course, they receive support from those that stand to profit from NACT’s ‘leadership’ such as farmers and others with vested interests and who are used to privatise profits and socialise losses.

    That tweet is outright dangerous.

    *a non-perfect example of this approach is the so-called ‘meth mania’ propagated by mainly National that should be seen in the much larger context of drug addiction and crime: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/104318112/meth-house-myth-why-hundreds-of-safe-homes-were-left-empty-in-middle-of-a-housing-crisis. It solved nothing and only created a myriad of other problems and made the lives of many at the bottom even more miserable. The Climate Change mirage by NACT is orders of magnitude bigger and worse than ‘meth mania’.

  10. Sanctuary 11

    The echoes of Trumpism from the National party are obvious, even if our horse race obsessed MSM strenuously ignore them in favour of a click bait driven ambiently pro-plutocratic (sorry, “pro business”) outlook.

    From Alberta in Canada to New Zealand to the GOP Taliban 20 the toxic Trump legacy is a radicalised right that consists of irresponsible clowns who seek to create a dumpster fire of cultural-idelogical culture wars where neo-fascist rhetoric enters the mainstream.

    God help us if they gain influence in power, because if there is one lesson we can take from the Taliban 20, or the toxic Brexit Tories it is that these guys are not interested in government, just sowing discord and promoting reactionary authoritarianism.

  11. SPC 12

    Rather than teach "market economics" how about giving students the tools to investigate whether the real world conforms to those models and (if not) why not ….

    and to compare national economic outcomes based on different policy settings (such as levels of inequality in nations without a CGT, wealth tax and estate tax)

    or comparison of levels of pollution in a nation based on the relative influence of industry sectors on parties formulating policy (mining in Oz, farming in Enzed).

  12. PsyclingLeft.Always 13

    IMO "some" NZ councils have embedded dinosaurs..with associated thinking.


    many more dinosaur types throughout NZ

    Possibly for NZ Councils a move to…



    I walked on some Climate Marches…notable the school kids at same . well Informed..and wanting Change !

  13. Macro 14

    Hmmmm I remember teaching AGW as it was known then, in 1972 to 4th formers (as they were known then) in Junior Science classes. The relevant text was called "Science Makes Sense". Obviously Mr Smith was not in class for this topic.

    We knew then the world was heating following increased GHGs in the atmosphere and the effect this would have climate. The evidence is even stronger today.

    • Anne 14.1

      Indeed we did Macro. It was long recognised by the science community in the 1970s but same old story… nobody wanted to know. Then when the evidence started to become obvious it was "why didn't you tell us"?

      The scientists of the day should have responded with "we &$&# well tried to tell you but you wouldn't &$&# well listen." 🙄

      • Macro 14.1.1

        Indeed Anne. In the late 1970's I was posted to serve on the Naval Staff (I joined the RNZN in 1974 teaching maths and physics to artificers and apprentices). We lived in Silverstream and I travelled into Wellington each day on the unit. I was very fortunate indeed, as my travelling companion to and from Wellington on many occasions was Jim Salinger, who was at that stage just completing his seminal PhD on the NZ 7 station temperature record. We discussed this alot and the evidence was quite clear.

    • higherstandard 14.2

      Blast from the past …


      'The unsavory afterlife of his 1975 story clearly has not soured his journalistic fervor. "I've been able to write for a lot of different audiences, physicists, engineers and the general public," Gwynne said. "I've been willing to accept that some of that is misused and misinterpreted."

      By and large, he added, the U.S. science press has done "a pretty good job" of covering climate change. But "the political press doesn't check. It tends to do 'on the one hand, on the other hand.' A lot of reporters simply will not go into issues like global warming with any understanding that the sides are not equal."

      Journalists should not ignore climate deniers, he cautioned. "You have to give all sides a fair hearing." But that does not mean they have to be treated equally "if they don't have the data." To do so, he said, is false balance "that leaves readers out on a limb."

      "Your job as a journalist is to give each side its best shot," said Gwynne. Even if the ammunition is four decades old.'

      • lprent 14.2.1

        I have always been amazed about the effect of that article, a couple of others and a science doco at the time.

        The cooling effect was a real enough observation in middle of the 20th century. Gywwne also commented about it here.

        “Three independent strands of science at the time got conflated in the articles: analyses of direct temperature data that showed a decline in temperatures particularly over the Northern Hemisphere since the 1940s; a very high level of pollution by sulfate aerosols that cooled the planet; and evidence that the timing of ice ages was caused by wobbles in Earth’s orbit,” explained Gavin Schmidt, deputy chief of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in New York. Indeed, he added, “some parts of the article are OK even today.”

        Some of it was where the temperatures were being observed. The North Atlantic has a weird climatology because of the effects of the gulf stream in a relatively narrow ocean and the arctic, but that was the place with the most complete records at the time. It was also the major pollution source in the middle of last century. Worst possible place on the globe to take readings. It was heavily affected by humans with polluting aerosols.

        But the 1970s was also when the deep sea sediment drilling as part of figuring out continental drift was providing evidence for another set of theories. Orbital cycle theories from the 1920s about effects on climate were proved to be likely by the evidence out of the sediments.

        Project CLIMAP (Climate: Long Range Investigation, Mapping and Production) finally resolved the dispute and proved the theory of Milankovitch cycles. In 1972, scientists compiled a time scale of climatic events in the past 700,000 years from deep-sea cores. They performed the analysis of the cores and four years later, came to the conclusion that in the past 500,000 years, climate has changed depending on the inclination of the Earth’s axis of rotation and its precession.[26] In 1988, a new major project COHMAP (Cooperative Holocene Mapping Project) reconstructed the patterns of global climate change over the last 18,000 years, again demonstrating the key role of astronomical factors.[27] In 1989, the project SPECMAP (Spectral Mapping Project), showed that the climate changes are responses to changes in solar radiation of each of the three astronomical cycles.[28]

        So in 1975/6 there were two effects with some degree of proof for cooling and heating effects on climate. Orbital forcing and aerosols.

        A different theory based on green house gases was physically possible but simply didn’t have enough evidence to override the orbital forcing or natural particulate aerosols from volcanism and other natural causes.

        Clear evidence for CO2 forcing started showing up before the end of the 1970s when I started a earth science degree. Mostly in the ocean sediments for holocene glaciations, but also geological evidence in previous ice ages further back in time.

        It helped that the 1970s were also when science started searching for evidence and monitoring climate outside of north Atlantic borders. But also that the north Atlantic states started to clean up their particulate pollution causing cleaner skies, and underlying climatic temperatures to show through.

        The evidence got pretty damn obvious by the end of the 1980s that, despite orbital forcing, human greenhouse gas emissions were a much stronger effect.

        Climate has always been a balance on Earth over the last 4.5 billion years. The biosphere has evolved for its vagaries to the point that mass extinctions are rare.

        The problem is that humans have spent the last 10 thousand years building a fragile technology based culture and population that has had a stable climate compared to the usual geological instabilities. Farming as a technology to feed the current world population almost certainly doesn’t have the resilience to survive much of the chaos of even a relatively minor (in geological terms) climate change.

        Best not to cause any without figuring out how to grow food in a more energetic climate.

          • lprent

            We examine the mathematical quantifications of planetary energy budget developed by Svante Arrhenius (1859–1927) and Guy Stewart Callendar (1898–1964) …

            Yeah the theories tend to arrive a long time before the evidence to support it. In the end only the measured evidence matters because it validates one of the many theories postulated earlier.

            The best way to look at this is to look at the similar radiative models of Mars or Venus from the late 19th and early 20th century. In both cases almost all of those theories were completely wrong at ground level on both planets because they didn't know the composition of the atmospheres.

            On earth we did know, so the theories were able to be better defined and closer approximations.

            But in reality it doesn't matter. And the paper you referenced is kind of pointless. What the physics theories were looking at was effectively the black body heat radiation at the edge of the atmosphere. That is inherently a steady state almost regardless of the temperature inside the atmosphere or oceans.

            It only takes a trace change in the atmosphere of the nitrous oxide or chlorofluorocarbons or methane or a number of other greenhouse gases to massively change the energy retention in the atmosphere. You'd barely notice any change in the black body radiation to space.

            CO2 has a massive effect on earths climate at ground level. But we measure it in parts per million

    • Incognito 14.3

      No mention of NZ sad

      • A study from a British university reveals that more than half of young people experience climate anxiety on a daily basis.
      • The UN is calling for climate education to become compulsory in schools from 2025 to better equip children to cope with global warming in the future.
      • Only a handful of countries currently mandate climate change studies in their education systems, despite many being signatories to this objective in the Paris Agreement.


  14. Jenny are we there yet 15

    Whatever became of the much vaunted at the time, bipartisan parliamentary climate change consensus between the government and the Nats that James Shaw laboured so long on to achieve?

    What a complete waste of everyone's time that was.

    Steve Abel November 12, 2019

    “Last week’s climate pact is as strong as a pale piece of paper flapping in the hand of Neville Chamberlain. As meaningful as his declaration of “peace for our time” with Germany, only a year before going to war against them”


    In my opinion, wasting time and effort giving concessions to the Nats, to get ‘consensus’, would be better spent putting in to place the necessary legislation to cut emissions. Then daring the Nats to repeal it.

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