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No more excuses, time to act

Written By: - Date published: 5:39 am, July 22nd, 2009 - 48 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

Greenpeace and others are campaigning for the Government to agree to a target of 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Where did they get that number from? From the science. The scientific consensus is that if we let carbon dioxide rise stay above 350 parts per million in the atmosphere we will cause heating that will seriously destabilise the world climate and create a disastrous feedback loop (the Amazon burning, release of greenhouse gases that are currently frozen, disruption of ocean currents, over-acidification of the oceans) that will be ruinous for humanity.

Currently, we’re at 390 ppm. We need to get back below 350ppm and fast. The best way to do that is to reduce emissions. Sharply. Now. 40% is the bare minimum.

Of course, those with a short-term interest in not having to pay the cost of reducing emissions are dragging their heels like they have been doing for 20 years. The people who have stuffed up our world’s climate by pumping climate changing gases into the atmosphere don’t want to have to pay the cost of cleaning up their act. So they and their lackeys oppose any solid programme to reduce emissions.It’s just endless excuses. If you go a little deeper, they usually don’t make any sense and fundamentally misrepresent the issue.

It used to be they could just deny climate change was happening. Now they say action would be too expensive (as if inaction bore no cost). They claim that it would be impossible to reduce emissions by 40% of 1990 levels because we are 20% above those levels. That’s bollocks – that’s a lie they know they’re telling you. A lie told by omitting to mention that we’re discussing net emissions, and while New Zealand now emits more GHGs than it did in 1990, its forests absorb even more than that increase.

According to Treasury, our net emissions over the 2008-2012 period will be a few percent below 1990 levels. We’re already on our way down. It just takes a concerted government effort to get us down 40% in 11 years.

The best way we can cut emissions by 40% would be to plant more trees. All that’s needed is more financial incentive for rural land owners to convert marginal farmland to commercial forests. Add to that the phasing out of thermal power plants aided by investment in energy efficiency, greater use of electric-power public transport, and smarter farming enabled by R&D investment and 40% isn’t so far away at all. With some effort, commitment, and leadership on the part of the government we can do it.

Of course, the former deniers, now the do-nothing lobby, just don’t want any action on climate change. All they see is the cost to government (‘oh noes, my taxez!’) and to emitters of reducing emissions. They fail to see the cost of inaction.

48 comments on “No more excuses, time to act”

  1. NubbleTrubble 1

    Yes, Marty.
    You can list your ‘evidence’ based on ‘science’. But we all know that according to JK “wealthy nations are the ones that look after the environment” (cant find link or proper quote, but we all remember, right?)

    So we need to increase our economic profitability first right? By that time Cap’n Tubbs will be on his death bed or close so he doesnt need to worry. Shame he doesnt seem to care about the world his kids will have.

  2. lprent 2

    Nick Smith doing something, or indeed this government doing something effective? Slim hope. They are too wedded to doing meaningless PR in public like the jobs summits, and doing the dirty quietly (like the Auckland super shitty was meant to be).

    I’m not holding my breath for them to be capable of understanding the science, let alone having the political will to making effective targets. They’ll probably make this into the meaningless PR

    • gingercrush 2.1

      You mean like Helen? Whatever did happen to New Zealand being carbon neutral. Labour has no credibility on this subject. Any decrease in emissions by National will be seen as a success compared to the rise in emissions that occurred over Helen’s watch.

      Of course NZ could get emissions down 100%. If the science is right we’re screwed. Why? USA, China and India will not set big enough targets. As they are huge contributors to greenhouse gases. What they do will actually have an impact. Anything New Zealand or other smaller countries do is icing on the cake. But it isn’t the cake.

      BTW isn’t it great that in the nineties National actually planted trees. You don’t get much out of Labour. If they allowed tree felling on the West Coast and in Southland we could have planted new trees which could have provided carbon banking in the future.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1

        Cutting trees down adds to carbon emissions.

        • jagilby 2.1.1.1

          So then how do we do this:

          “more financial incentive for rural land owners to convert marginal farmland to commercial forests.”

          How do you put the “commercial” into “commercial forests” if you can’t cut them down periodically and re-plant???

          • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1.1

            Cutting down trees and replanting isn’t automatically carbon neutral. A young tree doesn’t absorb as much carbon as a mature tree.

            It could be done but you don’t just cut down all trees and then replant as GC seemed to suggest. You cut down 1 in every 5 or so and replant. Wait 5 to 10 years (perhaps longer depending upon actual figures brought about by research) and then do the same.

            • jagilby 2.1.1.1.1.1

              “It could be done but you don’t just cut down all trees and then replant as GC seemed to suggest. You cut down 1 in every 5 or so and replant. Wait 5 to 10 years (perhaps longer depending upon actual figures brought about by research) and then do the same.”

              Profound, truely.

              I think that is exactly what Ging was saying and is how commercial forests are run.

              Of course replacing a mature tree with a seedling isn’t carbon neutral and no one was ever saying we’d clear the whole country of trees periodically.

              You really don’t understand forestry at all, do you? Do you have any consceince when it comes to commenting here when it’s clear you really have little understanding of the industries you’re placing judgement on???

              You don’t cut down “1 in every 5”, you plant in blocks and as one block matures it is felled. You have to cut down trees as the forest matures to thin the forest to that other trees have the space and access to fertile soil to grow. That’s just standard forestry practice… it’s nothing new, it’s not some super fantastic idea dreamt up with the advent of “environmental responsibility”.

              The problem is as Ging said that the ETS, as it was, actively discouraged investment in forestry assets because there was no way you would be able to cut down trees at maturity without incurring loss.

      • So Bored 2.1.2

        Hey Ging,
        On this subject pointing fingers at the comparative guilt of National, Labour, sectoral interests etc adds absolutely no value. Because we ar small does not mean we dont have to act. In the words of Dogdy Roger, TINA (there is no alternative).

        • Bill 2.1.2.1

          Fuck the politicians. They are not usually agents of change unless the change is dictated by the business community. They will need to be forced to change; to reflect the changes we make.

          So naively perhaps. You have 19 neighbours. Everyone has a car. Every week, 20 cars drive to the supermarket which is 10km away (20 km round trip).

          Why not put in a ‘neighbourhood shopping list’? One large vehicle making one trip rather than 20 vehicles making the trip.

          Change the function of the supermarket to something more akin to a warehouse.

          From a nascent sense of community could grow further initiatives. And the sky is the limit…or our initiative is. Obviously, car pooling could become the norm. What about community gardens as opposed to the preposterous amount of energy used in the growing and distribution of food under a monoculture system.

          A community windmill? Why not?

          What about all those appliances burning at the same time for the same purpose? Lets take the TV. 10 houses watching the same thing. Why not watch it together? Why not eat together? Not 20 households in one, but three or whatever. Six less ovens running. Six less heaters etc.

          How many washing machines are actually needed to service 20 houses? Construct a washing block? Over time as, and only if, we reclaim our communities there are 1001 stupid, energy hungry duplications that can be done away with that would save us money into the bargain.

          And anyone remember the days when your neighbours might have taken care of your kids? Before you were suspicious of your neighbours? When we still had communities?

          If we can be bothered to build new realities, the policies of the political parties will shift to fit in with them.

          But we’d rather have good GDP, right? And we’d rather blame politicians for not agreeing on a framework that could be imposed on us.

          • So Bored 2.1.2.1.1

            Thanks Bill, from my viewpoint we have to act rather than await our “leaders”. Got to start somewhere and the idea of engaging our friends and neighbours aswell shows real lleadership. No ideologies, just practical actions. I grow and give away produce, also do some geurilla gardening around the traps.

          • jagilby 2.1.2.1.2

            “A community windmill? Why not?”

            Heard of baseload electricity?

            “What about all those appliances burning at the same time for the same purpose? Lets take the TV. 10 houses watching the same thing. Why not watch it together? Why not eat together? Not 20 households in one, but three or whatever. Six less ovens running. Six less heaters etc.

            How many washing machines are actually needed to service 20 houses? Construct a washing block? Over time as, and only if, we reclaim our communities there are 1001 stupid, energy hungry duplications that can be done away with that would save us money into the bargain.”

            I think you’re talking about a trailor park, holiday park or backpackers hostel… they work fantasically well and everyone really desperately wants to permanently live there.

  3. StephenR 3

    Scotland has declared they will reduce their emissions 40%, although:

    “Scotland’s bill included an option to curb its ambition if no strong global climate deal is reached in six months’ time.”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE55N3ZV20090624?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews

    What about that? i.e. pointless for NZ to do anything if nobody else does.

    • Marty G 3.1

      If everyone says ‘I’m not acting unless you do’ no-one ends up acting

      If you like Scotland’s approach, fine, we could imitate Scotland – it’s a side issue – what we need is a serious target

    • The Voice of Reason 3.2

      Spot on Stephen.There is absolutely no need for NZ to lead the way on anything, especially things that can end our way of life. It’s equally pointless to oppose apartheid, nuclear weapons or discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and I certainly hope we’re not the first to give votes to women.

      And as for climbing mountains…bah humbug!

  4. outofbed 4

    i want that 42″ flat screen tv in my bedroom so I will be able to watch people in sub Saharan Africa starving from the comfort of my bed

  5. Peter Johns - bigoted troll in jerkoff mode 5

    Why do the left want to destroy the economy of NZ? 40% will do this as there is no way we can achieve this in 11 years without increasing un-employment.

    Why is the worlds climate wrt temp not warming since 2002, but CO2 has increased 5%? The models did not predict this at all. What is the major forcing going on here?
    Why has the earth cooled over the past 2-3 years which co-incides with lower sun activity and lack of sun spots?

    • snoozer 5.1

      It’s called a trend you moron. Not each year has to be warmer than the last. The trend is up.

      If there’s a cold day in spring, you don’t suddenly declare that there is no spring. Or do you? I wouldn’t put it past you.

      • jagilby 5.1.1

        Good to see you’ve been taking in the sermons word for word at the church of climate changeology.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.2

      If we don’t do anything the economy will be far worse off than if we do.

    • lprent 5.3

      PJ: You appear to have answered yourself. Perhaps you are too illiterate to understand?

      Why is the worlds climate wrt temp not warming since 2002, but CO2 has increased 5%?

      Why has the earth cooled over the past 2-3 years which co-incides with lower sun activity and lack of sun spots?

      The earths climate is in a equilibrium with the suns input of energy. The sun is where all of the energy comes from into the earths climate apart from a teensy bit from radioactive decay and other microscopic sources.

      CO2 and other greenhouse gases increase the retention of heat in the climate. They do not create energy out of thin air. Something has to provide energy before they have any effect.

      So if the energy input drops then so does the total retention of heat. This is most noticeable in the mini-ice-age of the Maunder minimum in the 17th and early 18th centuries when the sunspot activity dropped off.

      The sun has a cyclic output based on the sunspot cycle of about 11 years. As you noted we have dropped off the peak energy output in the late 90’s and early 00’s (which was luckily lower then previous sunspot cycle peaks). So the earth is cooling down from its peak as is normal. Sunspot frequency is starting to climb about now, so everything is going to get hotter.

      Because we’ve poured even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the last solar peak, the retention of energy will be higher than at the last peak. There will be more scattering and consequently more energy converted into heat.

      The models did not predict this at all.

      Wrong, and that has to be a deliberate lie.

      They all predicted a relative cooling in this phase of the solar cycle, as would anyone with even a smidgen of scientific knowledge. However you either appear to lack that basic knowledge of science (in which case why are you bothering to comment), or you’re deliberately lying (far more likely).

      Your idiocy of trying to infer meaning in climatological measurements that are in years rather than decades is pathetic. You are comparing between different contexts, one with a high energy influx to the climate to one with a low energy influx. If you want to infer meaning, then look at temperatures at equivalent points in the sunspot cycle sunspot cycle – peak to peak (or trough to trough) temperatures.

      If you want to argue, then either learn something about the topic or stop lying by being selective in your picking of data points.

  6. StephenR 6

    If everyone says ‘I’m not acting unless you do’ no-one ends up acting

    With the US (fairly important leader-type) kinda-more-or-less on board, I don’t think it’s a bad way to go.

  7. Peter Johns

    “Why do the left want to destroy the economy of NZ? 40% will do this as there is no way we can achieve this in 11 years without increasing un-employment.”

    So we have to destroy the environment so that the economy survives? Do you realise how strange that sounds?

    There is no such thing as “balance’. Either we take steps to stop the devastation of the world’s environment or we insist on the further pursuit of material wealth but with the understanding that it will all end in tears.

    A few steps the Government could take include the following:

    1. Stop building thermal power stations and insist on new generation being from renewable sources.
    2. Start the production of biofuels. Concerns about their sustainability can be achieved by an adequate certification process.
    3. Ban inefficient lightbulbs. The new generation ones are much better.
    4. Electrify Auckland’s rail system and continue investment in upgrades.
    5. Institute either a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.
    6. Have a levy on farm animals to be used for researching how to decrease animal ruminations.

    Guess what? These are the steps the last Government was taking that were either bitterly opposed by the National opposition or overturned within the first few months of this Government.

    • jarbury 7.1

      Electrifying Auckland’s rail system is just a start though. We need to look at vastly overhauling our entire transport system so that it’s more evironmentally friendly. Fortunately, cities that are built around public transport rather than auto-dependency also manage to be the very same cities where people spend far less of their income on transport.

      One has to ask why then that Auckland’s trasnport planning documents propose to spend $3.276 billion on new state highways over the next 10 years, but only $1.9 billion on all new public transport (including rail) infrastructure.

      In the 2015-2019 time period it’s even worse: $900 million on new state highways (read motorways), and barely $100 million on new public transport infrastructure (including rail). Sounds like there’s an expectation once electrification is complete we can go back to normal and build roads and nothing else again.

      Think that’s bad though? The government’s policy statement for transport proposes spending $27 on new state highways FOR EACH DOLLAR spent on new public transport infrastructure.

      • mickysavage 7.1.1

        Agreed

        The first thing that is required is having a metropolitan urban limit to stop sprawl. Then you need to intensify around train stations so that trains are a greater option.

        The last Government’s approaches were not ideal in terms of motorway/PT mix but there was a significant increase in the dollar amount of the PT spend. The local share (paid by local authorities) was a big problem and impediment.

        This current government has transferred resources from a variety of different areas into further motorway building. I do not detect any reason apart from the desire to not be like the last government.

        • jarbury 7.1.1.1

          The first thing that is required is having a metropolitan urban limit to stop sprawl.

          We’ve had one for the past decade. National’s property developer buddies are trying their hardest to get rid of it though.

          Then you need to intensify around train stations so that trains are a greater option.

          Absolutely. New Lynn is an example of where that is going to happen over the next few years. Most other places are hopeless though – for example why are we letting Flat Bush develop so much when it has terrible transport links to the rest of the city?

          The last Government’s approaches were not ideal in terms of motorway/PT mix but there was a significant increase in the dollar amount of the PT spend. The local share (paid by local authorities) was a big problem and impediment.

          Labour’s transport policies were pretty pathetic, although they were finally heading in the right direction. What we need is ONE pot of money for all transport projects, funding different types of projects differently is a disaster – it means there’s heaps of money for state highways and nothing for anything else.

          This current government has transferred resources from a variety of different areas into further motorway building. I do not detect any reason apart from the desire to not be like the last government.

          Three words: Road Transport Forum.

    • jagilby 7.2

      “1. Stop building thermal power stations and insist on new generation being from renewable sources.”

      That would work but the same people who champion renewable energy don’t seem to like the idea of a 120m high windmill in their backyard, or the valley adjoining their lifestyle block being flooded for a new hydro scheme.

      Captcha: Locations … how apt.

  8. Jared 8

    When you mention “thermal generation” are you referring to Geothermal, or are you referring to Gas/Coal Generation? Either way, we would be looking at replacing 28% of current gas and coal stations. But with what? more Hydro? Project Aqua was slated by activists, narrowing potential renewable options. We would need more than 1000 new wind turbines just to cancel out the gas and coal options, and considering how unsuccessful applications for new farms have been recently, we could be waiting an awfully long time, and then what happens when we have dry periods and the lakes run low, limiting supply?
    40% in my opinion is a pipe dream, we should be aiming for something that is actually achievable.

    Also, I take offence to the way you have marginalised farmers in particular in your rant. We owe our entire economy and way of life to the way they have supported us over the last 100 years, sure their industry isn’t the most environmentally friendly, but planting out farmland with forestry is going to severely impact the economy, and more importantly, unemployment.

      • jagilby 8.1.1

        I don’t think 2020 is going to sit around and wait for us to design a capable tidal generator and then construct and install the hundreds of megawatts necessary to meet our additional electricity demands by that point.

        Where do we intend to put these tidal generators? I have big reservations about any suggestions that include the words “Cook Strait”…. the Frigate sunk there (that was supposed to become the greatest tourist attraction since LOTR) broke up in a matter of months.

        • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1.1

          Oh, look at that, there’s some already designed.

          The frigate was broken up due to wave motion IIRC because it was sunk in too shallow water. Oh, and, IIRC, the divers said it made it much better. Oh, would ya look at that, there’s even some wave generators been designed.

          • jagilby 8.1.1.1.1

            RE: Tidal. You’re talking about prototypes that generate less that 1MW. As an example a single Vesta wind turbine generates 3MW… a wind farm can have 70+ of these to be viable. Wind technology is extremely borderline from a viablility standpoint… afixing something to the seafloor is not easy and comes at a high price… you have absolutely no clue about how unrealistic it is to suggest that we could replace all high emission plant with this type of thing by 2020. Frankly it’s preposterous.

            Haha, I’d love to be a fly on the wall at a submission hearing if anyone ever tried to install a wave generator.

            You lot got up in arms over the new aquarium on the south coast of Wellington…. how would you feel about power generators along the coastline?

    • snoozer 8.2

      Thermal means electricity generated by burning stuff. It doesn’t include geothermal.

    • Geothermal good, coal, diesel and natural gas bad.

      • jarbury 8.3.1

        Geothermal is particularly good, as it’s renewable baseload generation that you can ramp up whenever you like. Pretty much the holy grail of energy generation.

    • So Bored 8.4

      Jared, we all just love the way farmers have supported us making our economy possible, huge thanks due. Also huge thanks to the people who make and man the roads rail and ships that bring in supplies for the farmers, and take out the produce. More thanks to the sellers of these products, the designers of ag machinery, the barbed wire makers. Who have I forgotten, oh, thats right, the rest of us. Yes we are all in this boat together.

  9. Bill 9

    What if we decreased production while increasing consumption as a plan to getting a 40% + reduction in greenhouse gasses? Would that satisfy the Capitalist nay sayers? Probably not. But it could be an attractive proposition to a critical mass of citizens.

    Decreasing production is the easy part. Outlaw inbuilt obsolescence…make stuff that lasts a life time.

    If I buy a toaster that will last 50 years, if my house will stand for 300 years, if my car will run for 100 years…then am I not consuming more? (Or is it a sin to think of consumption in substantive terms?)

    Maybe such an argument would begin to overcome the fear of many people that they would somehow have to sacrifice and suffer to bring about substantial CO2 reductions?

    Nobody really wants the fall apart at a fart consumables that are foisted on us. And nobody really wants to work 40 – 50 hours per week. Have we really nothing better to do with our time?

    Maybe it is time oxygen was given to ideas that offered people enhanced lives under a CO2 reduction programme rather than leaving the assumption that saving the planet = suffering and sacrifice as an unchallenged ‘fact’.

    It’s a big ask. A mass of propaganda has us equate personal well being with corporate profit. Offering some positive alternatives rather than attempting to demolish that myth head on might be a highly productive exercise. Just don’t tell Don Brash and his ‘productivity’ mates.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      Actually Bill, those methods will decrease production and consumption while increasing living standards. A decrease in consumption and production will mean a decrease in profits and a decrease in the all important GDP.

      There’s a reason why our society is called a consumerist society and people still don’t realise the damage that it does to them or the environment.

      • So Bored 9.1.1

        Spot on Draco and Bill, the issue is that we are going to have to change how we live big time. We can either make our new arrangements without kicking and screaming, or we will have them made for us by the planet. The cynic in me sees the planet being rid of us, the optimist says plant a tree and a few cabbages and just maybe we will make it.

        • Draco T Bastard 9.1.1.1

          Yeah, the cynic in me tells me we won’t learn until Gaia has finished her lesson.

      • Bill 9.1.2

        Draco. It will decrease facile consumption while increasing worthwhile consumption. I’m calling that an increase in consumption. Whatever, the point I was trying to make is that the current message runs along the lines that we all must suffer and sacrifice to get CO2 reduced. That assertion sits unquestioned and feeds into a general resistance to making any changes. And I’m saying that the assertion simply isn’t true and we can offer ideas that highlight the untruthfulness of it and even enhance lives along the way.

        Profit? GDP? Get discussion, debate and action on the positive alternatives to the suffering and sacrifice b/s and when there is traction and hopefully something approaching a critical mass let the Capitalists argue their profit and GDP position.

        At that point I think they’d lose the argument.

  10. StephenR 10

    Tidal power.

    When might that be?

    Geothermal is particularly good, as it’s renewable baseload generation that you can ramp up whenever you like. Pretty much the holy grail of energy generation.

    I would say that’s actually nuclear fusion, which is apt you’re we’re going with religious terms like ‘holy grail’ 😀

    • jarbury 10.1

      There are trial tidal generators in both the Cook Strait and the mouth of the Kaipara Harbour at the moment. So wider rollout might not be too far away.

      I guess fusion is the holy grail, but geothermal is pretty damn fantastic. And we sure do have a lot of geothermal potential in NZ.

      • jagilby 10.1.1

        Do you have any idea of the LRMC of tidal generation and when the electricity price path is likely to hit a level where these things come anywhere close to viable on a large scale?

        I’m sure I’ll get the whole profits=evil sermon but the reality is that is where the rubber hits the road for generators.

        I’ll just put it out there and say that it’s not going to happen in the next decade… i.e. no commitment to construct these things will be made in this decade let alone be submitted for consenting and then built and generating.

        There is simply not the geothermal resource available for it to cover demand.
        MED estimates that there is only 365MW of additional resource that could be developed with high confidence by 2015… that is almost equal to only one year’s GROWTH in demand at current rates… it’s no where near our current generation from coal, so won’t be able to replace coal.

        40% is an absolute pipe dream by 2020. This is an absolutely frivolous ill-informed argument.

        • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1.1

          I’m sure I’ll get the whole profits=evil sermon but the reality is that is where the rubber hits the road for generators.

          If the generator was the state/society then we wouldn’t have to wait for the capitalists to get it done nor would we have to put up with the dead weight loss from the profit maximizes.

          PS. Yes, profits are evil, it’s because of the profit motive that the economy is now in a recession and possibly headed for depression.

          There is simply not the geothermal resource available for it to cover demand.

          Gee, then we really need to look at cutting back our power consumption don’t we. Also another good reason not to wait for the capitalists. Where are we going to get the resources? We’ll divert them from those who don’t actually need them – the capitalists.

          • Jared 10.1.1.1.1

            Alright then, we cut back on power consumption. First stop, no electrification of railway lines.

            • jarbury 10.1.1.1.1.1

              So we replace a mix of renewable power generation and a bit of coal/gas (electrified system) with 100% diesel power generation (if we don’t electrify). How does that make sense?

          • jagilby 10.1.1.1.2

            “If the generator was the state/society”

            You idiot.

            Do you know what an SOE is??? Heard of Meridian? Heard of Mighty River Power??? Heard of Genesis???

            They still make investment decisions based on the LRMC and price path because guess what…. IT MAKES SENSE. If you just invested on the basis of what’s nice to have then power prices would be insane, that only hurts people at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum.

            Seriously, go back to school and stop repeating socialist rubbish.

  11. StephenR 11

    There are trial tidal generators in both the Cook Strait and the mouth of the Kaipara Harbour at the moment. So wider rollout might not be too far away.

    Might be, might not be. I would be extremely wary of citing tidal as a way of reducing emissions on a bigger than micro/trial scale any time soon.

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