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No Right Turn: Climate Change – The problem of air travel

Written By: - Date published: 6:02 am, November 19th, 2020 - 147 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster - Tags: ,

No Right Turn wrote on yesterday:

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Until the pandemic, air travel was one of the fastest growing causes of greenhouse gas emissions. And its obscenely unequal, with just 1% of the world’s population causing 50% of the problem:

Frequent-flying “‘super emitters” who represent just 1% of the world’s population caused half of aviation’s carbon emissions in 2018, according to a study.

Airlines produced a billion tonnes of CO2 and benefited from a $100bn (£75bn) subsidy by not paying for the climate damage they caused, the researchers estimated. The analysis draws together data to give the clearest global picture of the impact of frequent fliers.

Only 11% of the world’s population took a flight in 2018 and 4% flew abroad. US air passengers have by far the biggest carbon footprint among rich countries. Its aviation emissions are bigger than the next 10 countries combined, including the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia, the study reports.

The researchers said the study showed that an elite group enjoying frequent flights had a big impact on the climate crisis that affected everyone.

So how do we stop this? Taxing the fuck out of it, for a start. But the really rich aren’t price sensitive like us plebs, and also tend to travel privately to avoid having to mingle with the peasants, which in turn results in far higher emissions than cattle class. So banning private jets needs to be part of any solution. We cannot let a handful of billionaires destroy the world for their own convenience.

147 comments on “No Right Turn: Climate Change – The problem of air travel ”

  1. Maurice 1

    … yet timely aid and Covid vaccine will be distributed by air – if there are any planes left flying!…..

    • weka 1.1

      that's right. If the non-necessary flights stop, there will still be the necessary ones.

      • Phil 1.1.1

        If the non-necessary flights stop

        Who are you or I, or anyone else for that matter, to judge what is necessary travel? We rightly deride those who would pass judgement on the spending habits of beneficiaries, and I don't really see what the difference is here.

        When I think about my own travel experiences, they have made me a far better person than if I had sat at home or limited myself to what is on offer in New Zealand alone. We're a nation of 5 million in a world of 7,800 million (0.06%) and I would far rather drive us toward a future where more people, not less, have the opportunity to do the things I and others have been lucky enough to experience, not less.

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          Shopping trips to Sydney is a pretty easy one to name.

          If one accepts that flying is a block to limiting the damage of climate change, then we have to have the conversation about necessary flying, and flying behaviour that can change.

          While I appreciate your point about not denying others things we have had ourselves, the limits of nature are saying exactly this, that we have over spent our budget and there isn't enough left for others now. This is another good reason for us to change our behaviour now, so that there is more for people in the future.

          • Phil 1.1.1.1.1

            If it's more cost effective for someone to fly to Sydney for a shopping blow-out than it is to go to Sylvia Park or Queensgate Lower Hutt, that probably says a lot more about the state of the retail sales industry than it does about the ethics of air travel. 😛

            Overall though, I hear what you're saying. I get that we're all going to have to make economic/financial sacrifices, that's a given. My concern is if we choose to make sacrifices that lead us to being a more insular small nation at the end of the earth, they will ultimately be a lot more harmful and damaging to New Zealand than if we remain globally connected.

            • weka 1.1.1.1.1.1

              climate change suggests we don't have the luxury of making that a priority. But, I would say that given mass communications, this is less of an issue than it would have been 20 years ago. And we can change our patterns of behaviour. Going overseas is a once in five year trip, and we stay for longer because of that, and we are better at measure true costs in climate and ecology terms.

  2. Ad 2

    Maybe one day Parliament will be able to lead by example.

    From my company's perspective, Zoom and Teams are simply a more appropriate way to engage than using combustion engine travel.

    By the end of this year we will have seen the greatest drop in Auckland commuter traffic in a decade.

    Public transport and flights are now highly regulated for health reasons.

    And discretionary air travel will be for the more discerning, assisted by government policy on better targeted tourism.

    People and companies are reading the signals.

    There's no need to ban anything at all – just a bit of regulation and a lot of education.

    • Phil 2.1

      From my company's perspective, Zoom and Teams are simply a more appropriate way to engage than using combustion engine travel.

      Exactly. I'm Wellington-based in quasi-government, and all of my clients are in Auckland, Sydney, or even further afield. We've been in closer contact this year via VC than at any time in the past when we would have physically travelled.

  3. RedLogix 3

    Why is it that the left seems to have only two solutions to every problem, tax it or ban it?

    The airline industry is acutely aware of the need to reduce it's CO2 footprint and there is plenty of development going on in this space. How about just incetivising that?

    Or is it just more important just to fuck the rich?

    • solkta 3.1

      Why is it that the right seems to think that if we always do nothing there will always be a technical fix that will arrive in time?

      • Robert Guyton 3.1.1

        And that the wealthy will provide it, in their munificence.

      • RedLogix 3.1.2

        Who said do nothing?

        If we were serious about air travel CO2 we'd set up an international agency dedicated to funding and accelerating the work already underway. Combine resources and develop a framework to deliver results within 4 – 6 years. Very achievable.

        But it seems your priorities lie elsewhere.

        • solkta 3.1.2.1

          Your first link, efficiency and biofuels, what a joke. Your last link, electric planes, very long way if ever to having long haul passenger jets. Do nothing, yes it is you saying it.

          • RedLogix 3.1.2.1.1

            Why exactly do you conclude that the very many people heavily involved in developing real world solutions are all a joke? What is your qualification for making this claim?

            In many parts of the world, short haul flights of less than 1 hour form a very large fraction of the total flying hours. Small general aviation and commuter type trips are very common. Electric planes have a very real potential application in this space; companies would not be investing in this otherwise.

            The linked article (dated 2017) discussed biofuels, which were the original obvious option, but steady progress has been made on expanding the concept to electrofuels since.

            If you were actually interested in how this problem is being tackled, what the challenges are and what progress is being made, then some simple searches would yield plenty of information.

        • William 3.1.2.2

          Improvements in efficiency of aircraft have been happening for many years. The problem is that they inevitably also lead to cost savings, which are then used to reduce ticket prices, which leads to more bums on seats, which lead to more flights, which leads to greater total emissions. Tax or restrictions are probably a useful way out of that vicious circle.

          Bio fuels have been trialed for awhile, AirNZ were reportedly the first to test and doesn't seem to have pursued it. Virgin Australia has/had blended fuel available in Brisbane more recently, but it's all miniscule quantities at this stage.

          Electric batteries have poor energy density. Fossil fuels are much better in that regard and give the advantage that the planes mass decreases during flight, so they can safely land at their destination while carrying a useful payload. Batteries would reduce emissions, but also drastically increase fares due to payload limitations, so total passenger numbers would be drastically reduced.

          To reduce emissions, the inevitable path seems to be a smaller aviation industry.

          • RedLogix 3.1.2.2.1

            Your first point is a recycling of Jevon's Paradox. Of course in the growth phase that humanity has been through over the past 200 years, efficiency gains have largely been converted to increasing total prosperity because that was the dominat priority.

            However that doesn't mean this growth will run forever; and indeed in all the developed nations growth is pretty much at an end, populations are now static or declining and are rapidly aging.

            If you want to think about the big levers we have to control CO2 the Kaya Identity pulls it all back to just four factors:

            Kaya identity is expressed in the form:

            {\displaystyle F=P\cdot {\frac {G}{P}}\cdot {\frac {E}{G}}\cdot {\frac {F}{E}}}

            Where:

            • F is global CO2 emissions from human sources
            • P is global population
            • G is world GDP
            • E is global energy consumption

            And:

            If we want to get F, total carbon to zero, we have to get one of these four factors to zero.

            Setting P = 0 is the human extinction plan and I think we can rule that one out, not even Donald Trump was that bad. The good news is that it’s not going to increase without limit.

            Setting GDP/capita to zero is the mass poverty option, or it's close cousin 'power down'. Lot's of would be hippies who missed out on the action in the 70's are keen on this one, but ask any of the actually poor people in the developed world and you'd get a more informed answer.

            Setting the Energy Intensity/GDP to zero is physically impossible. Otherwise commonly thought of as 'energy efficiency' it's been improving steadily right from the beginning of all technical progress and rightly continues to. Capitalism is highly motivated to improve it, because it confers a competitive advantage. But, as you point out, it's not the solution by itself.

            This leaves setting the Carbon Footprint/Unit Energy to zero as the only viable option. This means we stop using fossil carbon altogether.

            At this point the discussion branches down two separate ideological paths, those who would revert to a pre-industrial, pre-carbon era where we relied on photosynthesis energy only, eg muscle power and burning wood. Because we know this works it can be safely advocated as a very conservative solution, but that would also imply that P would likely drop from 7.5b back down to the pre-industrial 1b. Almost as bad as Donald Trump, but not quite.

            The other path is to run with the idea that a rapid ramping up of non-fossil carbon energy sources, solar/wind/storage or nuclear, can drive this factor to zero within several decades. This is the only logical path that works, but the left sneers at it as a 'technological fix', because … well I think it's because many of them are secretly very conservative at heart.

            • solkta 3.1.2.2.1.1

              Yes that's right, all those emerging middle class people in developing countries will obviously not be into international travel like we are. Why would they?

            • KJT 3.1.2.2.1.2

              "run with the idea that a rapid ramping up of non-fossil carbon energy sources, solar/wind/storage or nuclear",

              The "Left" have been fucking well advocating for it. Wherever it makes sense.

              Long before whoever the hell you are talking for, Obviously not “the left”, Discovered it.

              You talk some shit!

              • RedLogix

                The "Left" have been fucking well advocating for it.

                According to quite a few leftie people here, all this is just 'technofix'. Read the thread.

                The value of the Kaya Identity is that it separates out the four underlying factors involved, that are all too often muddled up and conflated, making constructive discussion impossible.

                It makes it clear that transitioning to energy sources with zero carbon … regardless of all other considerations, like population, GDP, power-down, economic system, energy efficiency … is the only lever that will deliver the necessary result. If we could just focus the discussion on this and this alone, we might get to some useful clarity.

                • KJT

                  Yeah. Three people are "the left".

                  “If we could just focus the discussion on this and this alone, we might get to some useful clarity”.

                  No. Because removing green house gas producing energy sources is less than half the answer. reducing energy use is another necessary part.
                  And yes, energy efficiency can, and has been increased. However if it simply is used to allow more of the same, so that overall energy use remains constant of increases, we are back where we started. In the shit!

                  Like aircraft being much more energy efficient, leading to an exponential increase in total flyer miles and greater, not lesser, overall fuel use.

                  • RedLogix

                    reducing energy use is another necessary part.

                    Indeed necessary, but not sufficient on it’s own. Lets break 'total energy use' down into it's components again.

                    One is population (P). For the purposes of the discussion we can safely set that one aside and consider it fixed.

                    The next is GDP/capita G/P … in other words how prosperous are we?

                    The third is energy intensity per unit of GDP (E/G) or 'energy efficiency' in terms of how much energy do we consume to produce a unit of GDP.

                    Multiply these three together and you have 'total energy use'. However you cut this, we cannot get that total to zero. Jevon's Paradox alone confounds you.

                    Therefore the only lever really available is to get the carbon footprint per unit of energy to zero. Now this of course demands that we make a dramatic transition of our energy infrastructure, an energy intensive process itself. And for the purposes of making that change, the less total energy we are using at the time, the easier the transition will be.

                    But here is the really interesting consequence … that once we have made the transition to zero carbon energy … total energy consumption is no longer important.

                    • KJT

                      As an engineer you know that is a logical fallacy. Of course?

                      Not to mention all the other effects of overuse of resources, such as soil depletion.

                    • RedLogix

                      Depletion of mineral resources is a related topic, but as I've outlined above, the only path forward is totally closed loop economies. We can technically visualise them, but they remain out of reach as long as energy is expensive and harms the environment.

                      As for depletion of natural resources like soil and biodiversity, this is where the resilience/sustainability people like Holmgren bring enormous value to the table. Learning how to intensify agriculture while restoring ecosystem health is a complex and essential skill that I fully believe will become increasingly vital as this century progresses.

                      As for your logical fallacy claim… you might want to clarify what you have in mind.

            • William 3.1.2.2.1.3

              "The other path is to run with the idea that a rapid ramping up of non-fossil carbon energy sources, solar/wind/storage or nuclear"

              Which is an admirable aim, except that none of those energy sources are a good fit for keeping aircraft flying (just to focus the discussion back to the original post).

              You seem to present the options in the last two paragraphs as mutually exclusive whereas a combination works for me.

              To paraphrase your first comment;

              "Why is it that the left (you) seems to have only two solutions to every problem"

              • RedLogix

                You seem to present the options in the last two paragraphs as mutually exclusive whereas a combination works for me.

                Because technically they are.

                • William

                  Muscle power (from your second to last paragraph) can include cycling & walking, which can happen at the same time as we use non fossil energy where appropriate, yet for some reason you think they're technically exclusive!

                  They won't allow overseas travel, but climate physics doesn't give a fig for your nice to haves.

                  • weka

                    "They won't allow overseas travel, but climate physics doesn't give a fig for your nice to haves."

                    that's the framing I was looking for.

                  • RedLogix

                    Muscle power (from your second to last paragraph) can include cycling & walking, which can happen at the same time as we use non fossil energy where appropriate, yet for some reason you think they're technically exclusive!

                    Because so much of what makes our industrial tech society work goes on in specialised niches, often out of view, it's hard to get a big picture sense of how extensive, complex and layered it is. The devil is in the detail when you say use non fossil energy where appropriate because nowhere in the system is there a sign that says 'this is appropriate' or not. The entire entity functions as one vast organic, evolving whole.

                    The idea that you can in any meaningful way just selectively retain those parts of the industrial world that you like, and somehow shutdown those parts you deem are 'not appropriate' just doesn't align with how it all works.

                    They won't allow overseas travel, but climate physics doesn't give a fig for your nice to haves.

                    And this is exactly why the Greens with their current approach to the issue remain in the 5 – 10% ghetto after decades of work on this issue. You may not put much value on these 'nice to haves' that you seem to happy to discard, but that's just not how most of the voting population see it.

                  • Poission

                    Muscle power (from your second to last paragraph) can include cycling & walking, which can happen at the same time as we use non fossil energy where appropriate, yet for some reason you think they're technically exclusive!

                    Muscle power requires respiration,it also produces CO2.

            • Drowsy M. Kram 3.1.2.2.1.4

              Agree with rapidly ramping up solar/wind/geothermal/storage to replace fossil fuel energy generation. Not sure about "secretly" – as for "sneers", such behaviour is evident (to some extent) at all points of the political compass.

              In the Harry Potter stories, Draco Malfoy and his father are notorious for their sinister sneers, which represent these characters' sense of entitlement over and contempt for those judged lacking in monetary, power, or family status.
              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sneer

              Conservation is a cause dear to my heart, and the inevitable load that the totality of (more) human 'development', energy use, etc. etc. will impose on the rapidly degrading ecosystems of spaceship Earth is fearful.

              In Facing the Anthropocene, I have tried to show how changes in capitalism during and after the Second World War caused the global changes that scientists have named the Great Acceleration. As a result, what Karl Marx called “an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism” has become an interrelated network of global rifts. The greatest challenge facing our generation is to heal those immense breaks in Earth’s life support systems before it is too late.
              https://monthlyreviewarchives.org/index.php/mr/article/view/6006/7470

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_economics#Schools_of_thought

              We must be prudent in ‘our‘ choice(s) of future ‘developments’. At an estimated cost of ~$120 per NZer, how essential is the recently approved four-lane highway to replace the Manawatu Gorge road? Mind you, the Gorge road is now an interesting and easy walking/cycling track, and the video for the new highway looks great.

              https://www.stuff.co.nz/motoring/news/300079143/new-highway-between-manawat-and-hawkes-bay-to-create-350-new-jobs?rm=a

              • RedLogix

                Agree with rapidly ramping up solar/wind/geothermal/storage

                All well and good, but you are aware of the fundamental limits of this? Do I need to post the David Mckay presentation again?

                I'm not throwing rocks at this SWB (solar/wind/battery) approach; I'm willing to give the guys who support it all the elbow room they want to make it work. But we should be at least a little clear-eyed on some basic arithmetic.

                Because what I see is a path that will hit some hard limits, and it will be the rich, developed world that will be able to afford to lay claim to it, while a huge fraction of humanity will get left out.

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  It's great that you're "not throwing rocks at this SWB (solar/wind/battery) approach" – tbh I already thought you supported it, given the last paragraph of your comment @3.1.2.2.1.

                  There's no question that 'we' can do more with more; that's a large part of how civilisation generated the Anthropocene. IMHO, the best path to an ecologically sustainable future is to direct our considerable creative talents to fostering resilience and making do with fewer optional extras. It's the responsibility of the 'golden billion' to get the ball rolling with a bit of self-sacrifice – unappealing, I know, but preferable to ecocide.

                  Pope Francis also called on the international community to recognize ecocide as a “fifth category of crime against peace.”

                  In the synod’s final document, bishops defined ecological sin as a sin against God and future generations that “manifests itself in acts and habits of pollution and destruction of the harmony of the environment.”

                  A true model of justice, the pope said, can find “its perfect incarnation in the life of Jesus” who, after being treated violently and put to death, brought “a message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

                  “These are values that are difficult to achieve but necessary for the good life of all,” the pope said. “I don’t think it’s a utopia, but it’s a big challenge. A challenge that we must all address if we are to treat the problems of our civilized coexistence in a way that is rational, peaceful and democratic.”
                  https://cnstopstories.com/2019/11/15/catechism-will-be-updated-to-include-ecological-sins-pope-says/

                  • RedLogix

                    Good. Now all we need to discuss is how to get there.

                    The 'golden one billion' of the developed world have reached static or declining populations, and are aging rapidly. While there is a moral argument that maybe they could trim off some of their more lurid excesses, the reality is that their consumption has generally plateaued already, and will decline over this century.

                    I realise how seductive it is to beat the 'white man guilty' drum these days, but the hard arithmetic says that you can demand as much self-sacrifice as you like from the developed world, it ain't going to make a lot of difference in the long run. It's the developing world which is where the game is at.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      Tbh, the argument that the ecology of spaceship Earth wouldn't benefit significantly if the ‘golden billion’ "could trim off some of their more lurid excesses" seems self-serving. At the level of the individual it's prudent to at least try to live within one's means. Similar (physical) limits apply to our species as a whole. Voluntary self-sacrifice by those who have (much) more that they need would set a beautiful example, but (of course) 'I worked hard for my excesses and didn't get where I am today by setting an example of self-sacrifice!'

                      I'm struggling with the relevance of your 'white man guilty' comment. Each of us is at least partly responsible for the consequences of our choices (and some have more agency than others) – recognising/ agreeing that the Anthropocene is a product of human behaviours is a starting point for reversing the most damaging trends while trying to (partially) conserve the significant advantages of civilisation.

                      The Sacred and the Profane in the Ecological Politics of Sacrifice – Karen Litfin

                      "An affirmative politics of sacrifice in an ecologically full world is about seeing the bigger picture, which simultaneously enlarges us. While sacrifice has always been about creating bonds, one consequence of our global economy is that we have unwittingly extended our bonds spatially across the planet and temporally into future generations. An ecological politics of sacrifice is therefore about embedding ourselves in the larger community of life that extends to other people and creatures living now and in the future. And because the structure of sacrifice entails that the lesser is offered up for the sake of the greater, sacrifice also contains an evolutionary impetus. While the politics of sacrifice in an ecologically full world may spell the end of progress as it was defined by consumer society, the evolutionary task before us is to recontextualize progress with a deep appreciation for our lives as threads within a vast tapestry of earthly existence."
                      http://faculty.washington.edu/litfin/research/Sacred_and_Profane.pdf

                    • RedLogix

                      I did indicate that I accept there is a decent moral argument, for the developed world to trim back the more lurid excesses. Even if they mainly served a symbolic purpose.

                      But the reality is that we've been driving toward lower energy intensities for some decades now.

                      And just to be specific on this point, the single largest CO2 emitting nation is still China by quite a large margin, yet this is still just one of the developing nations.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      But the reality is that we've been driving toward lower energy intensities for some decades now.

                      Time will tell if 'we've' been doing enough; sacrificing enough – hope we have, for the sake of future generations, but I'm not optimistic.

                      It's not an unreasonable stretch to lay a substantial fraction of the blame for the climate change crisis directly at the feet of a so called green movement that has for 30 odd years now, irrationally blocked the development of the one tool we had which could have readily solved the problem … decades ago.

                      Seems shallow (to me) to assert that the "so called green movement" is to blame for a "substantial fraction" of global warming. No-one is entirely blameless, but is it credible that the "so called green movement" had sufficient political and/or industrial clout to block the global development of the 'tool' that shall not be named "for 30 odd years"? Why, for example, was the Green movement's ‘irrational‘ blocking of development so spectacularly unsuccessful in France?

                      Perhaps some critical self-analysis is in order to identify why you believe such an assertion is credible.

                    • RedLogix

                      There is no question that the history of the anti nuclear movement and the green movement are deeply entangled, even if we accept they are not one and the same thing. An irrational opposition to anything with the word 'nuclear' attached to it, is not confined to just green party members.

                      Nonetheless there is no doubt that it's the green movements throughout the world that have been the primary locus of this anti-science opposition. The same as with their adamant objection to GE technologies, an initially well justified sense of precaution has morphed into fixed coda of their ideology.

                      As for Helen Caldicott, I found this older piece from George Monbiot this morning:

                      Over the past fortnight I’ve made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice.

                      I began to see the extent of the problem after a debate last week with Helen Caldicott(1). Dr Caldicott is the world’s foremost anti-nuclear campaigner. She has received 21 honorary degrees and scores of awards, and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize(2). Like other greens, I was in awe of her. In the debate she made some striking statements about the dangers of radiation. So I did what anyone faced with questionable scientific claims should do: I asked for the sources. Caldicott’s response has profoundly shaken me.

                      Monbiot goes on to make it clear, Caldicott made an entire career of just making shit up.

                      We have a duty to base our judgements on the best available information. This is not just because we owe it to other people to represent the issues fairly, but also because we owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairytales. A great wrong has been done by this movement. We must put it right.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      I understand that the "so called green movement" and the anti-nuclear movement are broadly co-aligned. I may even understand why it might be convenient for you to believe and promote the idea that the "so called green movement" is responsible for blocking the development of the nuclear energy industry. Just seems (to me) that you're crediting the "so-called green movement" with way too much power/influence on politicians and the military-industrial complex.

                      If the "so called green movement" has in fact been responsible for blocking the development of nuclear weapons and power, then more power to them. I support a nuclear-free NZ (no nuclear weapons; no nuclear power), although the use of nuclear technologies in medicine and some industries is OK. I don't believe that NZ's current and projected energy needs warrant the construction of even one small nuclear power plant, but if a future Government decides that's a bonza idea, then why not situate it off-shore – maybe Whakaari?

                      Re Caldicott, I regard her as an inspirational figure in the fields of pediatric medicine and nuclear disarmament, whereas you perceive her to be a career lying con-artist, so there's little prospect of us finding common ground. In support of my view, I refer interested readers to previous comments. A 2015 PhD thesis provides some insights on what motivates Caldicott's activism.

                      16 Nov – 8:51 pm

                      16 Nov – 11:09 pm (correct site https://www.helencaldicott.com/ )

                      17 Nov – 12:45 am (includes the link to that 2015 PhD thesis)

                      Leadership for Social Change:
                      Illuminating the Life of Dr. Helen Caldicott

                      https://aura.antioch.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1217&context=etds

                      17 Nov – 2:40 am

                    • RedLogix []

                      NZ and Australia are both in a position where SWB will suffice for the foreseeable future. I've said that a number of times already.

                      But it's not at all obvious the same will apply globally. And there is no doubt at all that misinformed public attitudes toward nuclear power constitute the single biggest barrier to solving the climate change problem.

                      And if a figure such as Monbiot is not good enough for you, then this puts you firmly on the problem side of history.

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      "And if a figure such as Monbiot is not good enough for you, then this puts you firmly on the problem side of history." – in your opinion. If Monbiot told you to jump off a bridge…

                      I hold a similar opinion on a wide range of your views – unlike you I have no need to declare that you are on the problem side of history smiley

        • KJT 3.1.2.3

          The techno fix is never going to allow continuation of international air travel on the scale and at the low prices fossil fuels allowed.

          That is dream territory.

          Just as replacing fuel oil for ships will certainly make international freight more expensive. Making local production more important.

          Not necessarily a bad thing.

          Building up local resilience is a must in future. Especially in third world countries currently relying on limited commodity exports and low priced tourism.

    • Patricia Bremner 3.2

      Some of the "Rich" put bloody big targets on their backs lol. We have not taxed many new things through this new government, but generalisations are cheap aren't they?

  4. mango 4

    It's been reported that current international air travel volumes are at about 10% of "Normal". This is probably a glimpse of the future even if things do return to pre covid levels for a while. I didn't expect to be agreeing with I/S after what he said yesterday but there you go. If business travel doesn't recover then airlines will struggle to offer low fares anyway (because they make all their profit from business and first class passengers). Again despite the hype air travel will always be dependent on liquid hydrocarbon fuels-which in practice will mean biofuels of which there will be limited amounts.

    • weka 4.1

      what did he say yesterday?

    • RedLogix 4.2

      Again despite the hype air travel will always be dependent on liquid hydrocarbon fuels-which in practice will mean biofuels of which there will be limited amounts.

      Electrofuels.

      • mango 4.2.1

        A nice idea but I will believe it when I see it.

        • RedLogix 4.2.1.1

          I'm not trying to be mean here, but honestly that just comes across as 'I'm going to sit on the sidelines and naysay, while others do the work'.

          And you're far from the only one here who does this all too often.

          • Stuart Munro 4.2.1.1.1

            There have been a great many promises of technological fixes, made to justify the inroads the private sector was allowed to make on our systems of governance. Largely speaking these have not been delivered.

            If we want real technical solutions, governments will need to get involved. They really can't be bothered – instead of rebalancing our labour market in a sensible fashion, Faafoi is poised to find a finangle for hundreds of thousands of RSEs. This is how they roll – desperately stupid short term "solutions". And that's why we're in the mess we're in. Failure of governance by abdication – they love the salary but aren't much on responsibility.

            • RedLogix 4.2.1.1.1.1

              Largely speaking these have not been delivered.

              A great deal already has been.

              And then there is this:

              Today's aircraft use roughly 80 percent less fuel per passenger-mile than the first jets of the 1950s – a testimony to the tremendous impact of aerospace engineering on flight.

              Or these methods either being implemented or developed. Just use a search engine, there is endless information if care to find it.

              What governments can do is to accelerate the process with various incentive programs … the industry already wants to do this, just make it easy for them.

              • solkta

                Economy of fuel consumption is meaningless in a context of continuously increasing demand, but you know that.

                Taxing the fuck out of aviation fuel would be the best incentive.

                • Pat

                  "Economy of fuel consumption is meaningless in a context of continuously increasing demand, but you know that."

                  Indeed

                  https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IS.AIR.PSGR

                  • solkta

                    Doubled in the 12 years from 2006 to 2018.

                  • RedLogix

                    Again just recycling Jevon's Paradox. We've known this since the mid 1800's.

                    Of the three factors of the Kaya Identity that I outlined above that we can reasonably control, the first two are tightly coupled. Improving G/P (GPD per capita) makes a society more prosperous and able to invest in more innovation, which often leads to an improved efficiency E/G (Energy Intensity/Unit GDP). However Jevon tells us that improved efficiency creates a competitive advantage and this can (all other things being equal) drive more GDP.

                    Together this circular linkage gives a more general view of Jevon's Paradox and explains why innovation and efficiency, while desirable for many good reasons, cannot and will not solve the fossil carbon problem.

                    But it's not useless either, because a lower E/G reduces the total energy being consumed for a given level of prosperity and makes the target of converting our energy infrastructure so much more achievable. That's why it's worth keeping an eye on.

                    But the only approach that delivers the zero carbon outcome we all want is to pull on F/E, the carbon footprint lever.

                    • Pat

                      "It has been pointed out that the Kaya identity is a tautology because it is nothing but a rewrite of the identity: {\displaystyle F=F}{\displaystyle F=F}, i.e., "Carbon is carbon" [8]. This implies there are a number of alternative formulations for calculating net carbon emissions, which highlights the different possible ways of thinking about emissions reductions"

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaya_identity

                      Not to mention it disregards time in its equation

                    • RedLogix

                      And should I wait around for your brilliant re-formulation?

                      Because on your track record here all you have is an unlimited supply of negativity.

                    • Pat

                      Someone has to counter the dangerous baseless optimism.

                    • RedLogix

                      OK. I'll calibrate my expectations of you accordingly.

              • Stuart Munro

                The commodification of travel is most of the problem – mass jet travel is simply undesirable. Significant numbers are best moved by ship. Perishable freight can go lighter than air if it must.

                What governments can do is to accelerate the process

                Is to leave the cost plus bill-padding private sector the hell out of it and secure proper in-house technical capacity – without which they cannot even make good calls on what to fund. Once the private sector comes in, the last skerrick of public interest is invariably annihilated.

                • RedLogix

                  Significant numbers are best moved by ship.

                  I'm not wholly against that personally; but only if you're ok with them being nuclear powered.

                  • Cricklewood

                    Yeah most of them burn bunker fuel once they are out to sea before switching to come into port.

                    Dunno why so many dont have any faith in our ability to develop new tech rapidly.

                    Many naysayers are prob posting on a modern smart phone…

                    • RedLogix

                      Dunno why so many dont have any faith in our ability to develop new tech rapidly.

                      Well it's because they have lost faith. They've become a generation with no narrative or purpose for our society that they believe in. But that's not really for a political blog … devil

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                This iteration of human civilisation hit 'peak convenience' 12 – 20 years ago, if the availability of cheap direct flights between Palmerston North and Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane/Gold Coast/Nadi is anything to go by. Those Freedom Air flights were a 'nice to have', but we adapted. And we're adapting again – how many international passenger flights are actually essential? In my case, maybe 20%, and that's if I set the threshold for 'essential' quite low.

                "Private motoring has passed the point of peak convenience. Until recently we would drive our cars without thinking about the consequences. That is now changing."
                https://ecomore.co.uk/taking-responsibility

                "I know people who would circle the Walmart parking lot 10 times before they would walk from a parking spot that isn’t within 50 feet of the front door."[2008]
                https://energycentral.com/c/ec/peak-convenience

                "The great Australian dream of being able to order burgers, sushi or even lobster from the comfort of our lounge rooms has finally been realised. It’s peak convenience and it sounds almost too good to be true – which, it turns out, it actually is."
                https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/voices/culture/article/2016/04/01/ethics-convenience-can-we-justify-cheap-home-delivered-food

                "Viewed as a whole, the inflection point in online shopping that we mentioned earlier could be getting close. We may have reached peak convenience and cheap prices, and might now be entering a world of more targeted offerings, with less geographic coverage, variations in order turnaround and perhaps even higher prices – all of which will slow the growth curve."
                https://insideretail.co.nz/2019/06/13/online-shopping-why-its-unstoppable-growth-may-be-coming-to-an-end/

                • RedLogix

                  Yes it's easy to be more efficient if you go half the speed and carry a fraction of the payload.

                  But in the long run, as I’ve tried show above, efficiency by itself is only part of the story. Ultimately, whether it’s a jet aircraft, a turboprop, or piston engine … the fuel source has to be carbon zero in order to deliver the outcome we want.

          • mango 4.2.1.1.2

            I'm not expecting "others to to the work" if the "work" is a tech fantasy that stands no chance of ever actually working. I am just trying to be realistic based on the evidence as it appears to me personally . If you suggest something that seems like a credible idea I'll be all in.

            • RedLogix 4.2.1.1.2.1

              If you suggest something that seems like a credible idea I'll be all in.

              Nope. Without exception everytime I do that there is a queue of people here reflexively lining up to tell me it's a 'technofix'.

              tech fantasy that stands no chance of ever actually working

              And usually the people telling me this have pretty much zero real life technical background, rarely bother to educate themselves on what is being proposed, and consistently assure us that progress never happens.

              • mango

                "Ultimately, whether it’s a jet aircraft, a turboprop, or piston engine … the fuel source has to be carbon zero in order to deliver the outcome we want."

                I agree completely on that point.

                "And usually the people telling me this have pretty much zero real life technical background, rarely bother to educate themselves on what is being proposed, and consistently assure us that progress never happens."

                You have every right to be aggrieved if someone disagrees without knowing the facts. I don't claim to be an expert but I do have some knowledge of science and engineering and I also try to keep myself informed as much as possible.

              • McFlock

                The promise of tech is in the future. Maybe it'll happen, maybe not.

                But a tax or levy can be implemented almost overnight.

                • RedLogix

                  Or you can incentivise/enable the new tech directly.

                  • McFlock

                    Again, it's what we can do that will have an effect now, vs what we can do when that tech matures.

                    By developing tech instead of reducing (via tax or whatever) current outputs we leave a response gap when the sooner (and more strongly) we respond, the less hardship we face.

                    To use the other imminent crisis analogy du jour, an equivalent covid "Plan C" would be to have said last feb/march "the people demanding lockdowns and training of cases ignore the fact that if we incentivise/enable vaccine development directly, Covid19 will be eliminated".

                    If we do the immediate measure now and "incentivise" tech, if the tech doesn't come through we've still mitigated the problem a little bit.

                  • AB

                    Nobody is against tech per se. Some of us are concerned about two things:

                    • is the promise of tech going to delay necessary action and does it provide those with an economic interest in maintaining the status quo with a rationalisation for resisting the change that might just save us?
                    • who will own future tech and how will they use it? Will they abuse its criticality to human survival to embed and deepen existing social pathologies of inequality?

                    These are legitimate concerns – and to write then off as 'the left' hating on rich people or wanting to inflict mass poverty on everyone or being 'Marxists', is an ideological charade.

                    • RedLogix

                      Good thought provoking questions …

                      is the promise of tech going to delay necessary action

                      All the more reason to get behind the effort and find out we can make work ASAP.

                      At present we're not likely to get to carbon zero before say 2050; if we really got serious about it, we could deliver by 2030.

                      Will they abuse its criticality to human survival to embed and deepen existing social pathologies of inequality?

                      Quite possibly. Which is why inequality is the other theme I return to here most often. I'm not going to pretend I have the 'winning' idea on this; but your question seems like a great framework to run a thought experiment with.

                      For the sake of argument let's imagine we have the energy problem solved, let's go all out and propose a world in which energy is cheap, abundant and safe. That we 100% recycle all finite resources, and we've restored a large fraction of the biosphere to a healthy state, and that humans no longer need to extractively exploit the planet in order to thrive. Let's imagine a world of abundance rather than scarcity, a world in which the poverty problem has been put entirely behind us.

                      Immediately however it's not clear how we should deal with the Pareto Power law problem that's embedded in all hierarchy, the law that says that competency, innovation and competitive advantage always accumulates, that roughly 20% of participants always wind up with 80% of the benefits. (Or even more brutally look at Price's Law).

                      The Libertarian response is that this doesn't matter, that no matter how extreme the outcomes are, everyone benefits from the competition. At the other extreme the Marxist response in very rough terms, proposes that more or less equal outcomes should imposed regardless of the cost. The ancient bargain goes something like this, you can have freedom to act and unequal outcomes, or equal outcomes but with profound constraints on the individual.

                      But this presupposes the conditions the conditions of scarcity that we have evolved in over millennia. It assumed zero sum games everywhere, that one person's gain was always another's loss. Competition between groups was always the primary (but not sole) social driver.

                      Now what if instead we had a new condition of virtual abundance? What if competition as we always understood it, no longer served the same purpose? What if a) the primary group was the entire human race and b) that we re-shaped our competitive instinct to vie with each other to be of service to humanity?

                      I freely accept that this must feel like a very low bow to be stretching, but I hope might also see how a super-energised, super abundant future may just open the door to this possibility. A door that at present only a few souls are courageous enough to crack open and fully step through.

                    • William

                      Relevant to your first point, there's also the wisdom of experience due to a long history of future technical promises not being fulfilled.

                      e.g. during the fifties when nuclear energy was being developed it was widely presumed that electricity would become so cheap and plentiful there would no longer be a need for electricity meters.

                      That example seems particularly apposite to the discussion here.

                    • RedLogix

                      during the fifties when nuclear energy was being developed it was widely presumed that electricity would become so cheap and plentiful there would no longer be a need for electricity meters.

                      And until roughly the 90's it was generally the cheapest form of electricity and over 400 odd reactors have been built, many of them from that era, precisely because they were so competitive. The French still run a very successful and cost effective nuclear fleet.

                      However there are about 1000 possible ways to technically configure a fission reactor. There are at least three fuel cycles, three moderator types, fast and slow spectrum types, solid or liquid fuel, and multiple cooling options. It's a long old story but in a nutshell the industry went down a less than optimum path by using solid fuels and liquid water. And combined with a gross hysteria in the wake of Three Mile Island, the regulators laid on enormous costs. Most of which could have been completely avoided if only these obsolete designs had been set aside and far safer and more cost effective ones developed instead. Huge missed opportunity.

                    • McFlock

                      lol because 3 mile island was the only nuclear accident ever. /sarc

                      Even if we got the VHS of nuclear industry standards instead of betamax, none of that addresses what we could do immediately that would address carbon emissions as soon as possible.

                    • RedLogix

                      @McFlock

                      Your concern is admirable. In it's entire history the nuclear industry has maybe led to about 100 direct deaths, and perhaps 10,000 indirect. Every single one of them regrettable, and probably avoidable if Nixon had not defunded the correct alternative.

                      In the meantime burning coal has been estimated to cause around 10,000 deaths from air pollution alone …. per day.

                      If you do some simple arithmetic, when nuclear power substitutes for coal power it actually saves lives.

                      It's not an unreasonable stretch to lay a substantial fraction of the blame for the climate change crisis directly at the feet of a so called green movement that has for 30 odd years now, irrationally blocked the development of the one tool we had which could have readily solved the problem … decades ago.

                      So whining that it's all too late to do anything now is just a bit rich.

                    • solkta

                      maybe, perhaps.

                    • McFlock

                      All very interesting, and with error margins on the data a mile wide, but also beside the point.

                      Unless you think the only thing humanity should do about AGW is to sign research grants and hope that someday very very soon we all get wonderfully safe nuclear power that also sequesters gigatonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere.

                    • RedLogix

                      If this isn't the point then what is?

                      If we had abundant, cheap and safe nuclear power then we'd be would have already substituted all fossil carbon liquid fuels with ones made directly from electricity. And this entire thread on aviation's impact on climate would be mute.

                      The core research was done decades ago, what we've finally gotten to in the past year or so is funding to support real pilot programs and plants. An actual 250MW commercial reactor within 5 yrs.

                      The founders of a nuclear power startup company called ThorCon have abundant experience in designing and building some of the biggest ships in the world. They realized that molten salt nuclear reactor technology was compatible with the construction techniques used in state-of-the-art shipyards. So why not build complete floating power plants using the latest shipyard building methods and technologies? Such vessels could be self-contained and ready to connect to the power grid in any country. Quality control and cost control could be assured, as would the rapid construction time. The size of the ship necessary to house a fully-functional 500MW or 1,000MW power plant would be considerably smaller than ships they've previously built.

                      Such power ships can realistically be expected to cost about one dollar per watt. That price has been the holy grail of solar panel designers for decades, but unlike solar panels, the power ships would be available 24/7 at full power. Since the cost of fuel for such reactors is trivial, they would be cheaper than any other source of commercial electrical power, with perfectly reliable on-demand clean power.

                      The solution is right under our noses but we're choosing not to use it.

                    • McFlock

                      So do nothing but hope green field research funding produces a hail mary before we get too far into mad max territory, huh? That's your take-away?

                    • RedLogix

                      As you already know, an experimental MSR design that has already run successfully for four years. In the 1960's.

                      Former ORNL Director Alvin Weinberg was a staunch proponent of liquid-fuel breeder reactors, and the MSRE was his crowning glory, successfully operating from January 1965 to December 1969 with a variety of fuel configurations.

                      "Here we had a high-temperature fluid-fuel reactor that operated reliably and, even in the primitive embodiment represented by MSRE, had remarkably low fuel costs," Weinberg wrote in The First Nuclear Era.

                      The fundamental physics is now well understood, most of the effort is now directed to optimising designs and engineering lifecycles. Misrepresenting this as 'hail mary', 'green field' research in a post grad lab is dishonest at best.

                      And while the MSR pathway is my personal preferred choice (because from a lifetime working in heavy industry the advantages are obvious to me) … there are plenty of viable alternative strategies also being heavily progressed.

                      A great deal is being done, and the more urgently it is progressed the better. The only actual solution to the climate crisis is to transition to energy sources that are 100% carbon free. This means SWB (solar/wind/battery), and/or some form of nuclear fission or fusion program at mass scale.

                      All other measures are stopgaps; or worse still dangerous distractions.

                    • McFlock

                      But, and this is the point, even if the government wrote a cheque today (and if MSRs were an actual solution to AGW rather than just a moral hazard to further enable an essentially unstustainable and exploitative economic system), the first MSR won't be online for years.

                      Whereas a tax can be implemented overnight. Petrol levy price changes, for example.

                      The thing about "stopgaps" is they fill the gap and stop things getting too much worse before real solutions come online.

                      Lockdowns and border controls are working until vaccines become available. cf: USA/UK/Sweden, with little to no attempt at "stopgap" measures.

                    • RedLogix

                      Fair enough McF.

                      As I did say somewhere else on this thread, the less total energy we are using while we make the transition to zero carbon energy the better. So anything we can do in the meantime to keep a lid on our consumption, by way of improved efficiencies and eliminating gross excesses, is worth doing.

                      But they are at best stopgap measures; they aren't the destination. Too many people here seem to believe they are.

                    • RedLogix

                      and if MSRs were an actual solution to AGW rather than just a moral hazard to further enable an essentially unstustainable and exploitative economic system

                      Well I can appreciate the honesty. There is of course the anti-capitalist (and presumably pro-marxist) agenda out in the open.

                      An agenda that cares less about the climate, and more about exploiting the climate crisis for a political purpose. And most people can smell it a mile away

                    • Drowsy M. Kram

                      This is the only logical path that works, but the left sneers at it as a 'technological fix', because … well I think it's because many of them are secretly very conservative at heart.

                      Well I can appreciate the honesty. There is of course the anti-capitalist (and presumably pro-marxist) agenda out in the open.
                      An agenda that cares less about the climate, and more about exploiting the climate crisis for a political purpose. And most people can smell it a mile away

                      RL, these seem to be contradictory presumptions. On the one hand you’re suggesting that many of 'the left' "are secretly very conservative" – presumably this means that you think they're against change. But then you presume that there is this pro-marxist agenda for change?

                      Seems that you’re trying to paint ‘the left‘ into a imaginery corner of your own making. Maybe refine your broad brush positions for consistency, preferably without referencing "sneers" and smells?

                    • RedLogix

                      I'm tempted to respond with Waldo Emerson's tart observation about the demand for a 'foolish consistency'.

                      But to appease your concerns; I'm certain the large fraction of people irrationally opposed to nuclear power are not all of a hive mind. Many just seem to be sentimentally attached to the idea of 'the good old days' before things got complicated. A kind of yearning to return to the garden of innocence, a Hobbiton with solar panels, that was a less complicated, less threatening world.

                      Yet others always find a way to return to the old devil capitalism as the root of all evil and given that all attempts to storm the ramparts front on have failed, they propose to engineer the revolution by closing down the infernal engines from within.

                      Both motives can be true at the same time; even I daresay within the same person on different days. Consciousness is not a computation after all.

                    • McFlock

                      Well I can appreciate the honesty. There is of course the anti-capitalist (and presumably pro-marxist) agenda out in the open.

                      Your assumptions and presumptions are always pretty wild.

                      Nope. I'm not a Marxist in the sense of the word you seem to love. All that Hegelian crap is a massive dose of "woo". Dialectic discussion bored the shit out of me, and resolves nothing. And central planning (capitalist or communist) always tends to fall down because people aren’t slide rules.

                      But Marx as a socioeconomic documenter and historian was pretty bloody accurate. I know you love it, but capitalism sucks shit. It reduces everything and everyone to commodities to be used, exploited, exhausted and discarded. Marx's concept of alienation was bang on. We see it most obviously in slumlords, slavers, employers, pimps, and multilevel marketers. But it corrupts every relationship in a capitalist society, to greater or lesser degrees. It's the motivation to, in one way or another, "monetize relationships".

                      The root cause and continuation of AGW is capitalism.

                    • RedLogix

                      @McF

                      Well give me a break here, first of all you vehemently deny being a Marxist in any sense, and then in the next para tell me what a wonderfully perceptive thinker he was, and then embark on an anti-capitalist tirade any shipyard comrade would be proud of.

                      If you are going to stand right next to marxists, don’t be surprised if you get counted as one.

                      The root cause and continuation of AGW is capitalism.

                      The root cause is using fossil carbon based energy sources. It was the Industrial Revolution that was bootstrapped into existence based on the advent of cheap British coal, which after three hundred odd years of progress, is now bumping hard up against physical limits.

                      That modern capitalism is the economic system that has evolved to function most successfully within the context of the Industrial Revolution is a fact related to climate change, but it's absolutely not the root cause.

                      As I've elaborated on in some detail elsewhere in this thread, the only thing that matters in the long run is transitioning to zero carbon energy sources. All other considerations are either secondary, or in the case of proposing to 'smash the economic system in order to save it' … downright dangerous.

                    • McFlock

                      OK, I'll use smaller words:

                      Marx clearly identified and demonstrated exactly what was wrong with capitalism. His solution to the problem was a bit pants, though.

                      British coal was cheap because of capitalism. We're still using fossil fuels because of capitalism – the oil industry hasn't exactly been passive (let alone progressive) on AGW. You love to preach the benefits of capitalism, but refuse to accept its drawbacks.

                    • RedLogix

                      British coal was cheap because of capitalism.

                      British coal was cheap because a) it was abundant, generally close to the surface and easy to get at with methods of the day, and b) Newcomen's newly invented steam driven pump was able to keep the drifts dry enough to work.

                      This of course generated uniquely good capital returns, and drove a rapid expansion of technology, especially the cotton mills and on to a host of other consumer goods, that were now for the very first time in human history, available to a rapidly expanding middle classes at affordable prices.

                      If you have any feel for how industry works, it's hard to overstate just how dramatic this positive feedback loop was, creating an economic momentum over the next 300 odd years that is absolutely unprecedented, extending relative prosperity to huge swathes of humanity.

                      Without the Industrial Revolution 99% of the human race would have remained dirt poor as they had done for millions of years, and the modern social concerns that everyone here frets about … entirely unborn.

                    • McFlock

                      Dude, focus.

                      Did the industrial revolution have anything to do with capitalism, or are the two unrelated?

                    • The Al1en

                      Did the industrial revolution have anything to do with capitalism, or are the two unrelated?

                      Capitalism sure had something to do with the need for safe work places, fair work hours, holidays, sick pay, unionisation, child labour laws and so on and so on

                    • McFlock

                      Bit of a large jump for some in the thread to handle though, Al1en. Obviously got to go a bit slower in places lol

                    • The Al1en

                      Just thought it was worth stating while the righty in drag was off scouring wikipidia for the benefits of the industrial revolution on the unwashed masses.

                    • McFlock

                      lol

                    • RedLogix

                      This is short and to the point; he identifies three main reasons why change began to accelerate during the past 400 years.

                      1. The invention of deep water navigation by the Portuguese in the early 1500's enabled world wide trade and exchange networks to arise efficiently

                      2. The discovery of coal burning steam boilers, bootstrapped the entire technological system into a vastly more developed state.

                      3. These two technological advances signaled the end of feudalism and the increasing dominance of competitive commercial markets. Which in turn rapidly grew more sophisticated and the most successful evolution of it is what we call capitalism.

                      Short answer yes the Industrial Revolution and capitalism are tightly linked, but latter was only possible in the environment created by the first.

                    • RedLogix

                      Capitalism sure had something to do with the need for safe work places, fair work hours, holidays, sick pay, unionisation, child labour laws and so on and so on

                      Before the Industrial Revolution none of these things were physically available; most ordinary people worked long hours at brutally hard, dangerous, or plain dreary work. The concept of a holiday was limited to a handful of annual festivals and you certainly didn't get to travel anywhere. If you got sick you were on your own, and children were widely regarded by families as free labour. Fully half of them died before the age of five anyway.

                      Ironically it was the very industrial/economic system that you irrationally hate so much, which made the eventual delivery of these unprecedented benefits possible.

                    • The Al1en

                      Ironically it was the very industrial/economic system that you irrationally hate so much

                      Link/quote or it never happened.

                    • RedLogix

                      Make an honest argument and I might be arsed.

                    • The Al1en

                      So we can take that as an admission you made my up "irrational hatred"

                    • McFlock

                      Lol and I'm sure none of the mines that profited from the new pumps paid for the privilege. /sarc

                      Innovation in production is good. Capitalism has brought many great things into the world. But it always has a core of exploitation, from children being crushed by looms to today's industries using their power to extract more profit from the hardship they inflict on future generations.

                      Capitalism is a rat's nest feeding on itself.

                    • RedLogix

                      @McF

                      As with any human narrative, institution or history there are many grievous errors that we look back on with regret and sometime horror. We make many mistakes.

                      At the same time, it’s also useful to ask the question, but compared to what? Yes industrialisation had to our modern eye a brutal aspect, but so did pretty much all of human history prior.

                      But nowhere in capitalism is there a policy that says it children must be crushed in looms. If we point to Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations as the first substantive overview of capitalism, it's notable that while Smith was intimately aware of ethical considerations, it's notable just how pragmatic and utilitarian the general tone is. For the most part it speaks to a relatively narrow economic concern, and largely leaves social and ethical questions to a wider society. That this same society has often fallen short in this obligation is an open and valid question, and to lay all the blame at what really amounts to an economic model, is a massive evasion of it.

                      And at no point have I suggested that capitalism as we know it represents any kind of ideal or ultimate expression. It's obvious shortcomings and limitations clearly signal that it's an evolving work in progress.

                      The problem here is a lack of imagination; the conviction that some version of neo-marxism and anti-capitalism are the only valid expressions of being 'left wing' these days. Desperately dull really.

                    • McFlock

                      The entire point of capitalism is to make money. If it's cheaper to crush children than design a safer loom, children will be crushed unless the factory owner turns away from capitalism at that point.

                      Sure, any normal person – even Adam Smith – balk at such points, and even suggest government intervention agiants the worst abuses of capitalism (like slavery). But capitalism gives an advantage to people least likely to balk at those abuses. The lying salesperson. The con artist. The manufacturer who cuts corners where it won't be easily discovered. The merchant buying stolen goods on the cheap. These are all at an advantage in a purely capitalist system.

                      If Salk hadn't rejected capitalism, we'd still have polio throughout the world today.

                    • RedLogix

                      The entire point of capitalism is to make money.

                      Exactly. But to expect your economic model to stand in for your moral one is the height of folly. Indeed Adam Smith's other major work was indeed on Moral Sentiments, but his economic theory is largely value free. He understood that although they operated in different domains, capitalism shorn of a value system would fall tragically short of his vision for it.

                      It's sometimes said that money makes a person more of what they already are, and I could go a step further and say that capitalism does this for societies as a whole. And as long as we remain a materialistic society, then capitalism will deliver all the material wealth we could want, but still fail to make us happy.

                      But to argue that the root cause of our unhappiness is capitalism and thus it should be smashed, might well deliver us back into that other kind of ancient misery … poverty. The correct question to be asking is, why are our collective ethical narratives so scattered and weak that for all our wealth we remain unsatisfied?

                    • Incognito []

                      The correct question to be asking is, why are our collective ethical narratives so scattered and weak that for all our wealth we remain unsatisfied?

                      Good question but the answer would be inconvenient to many and create discomfort, at least initially. We have become lazy and complacent, seduced by another ‘tree of wisdom’ and ‘fountain of youth’ and our monkey brain is easily distracted because we lack discipline and focus – we tend to focus too much on illusions and we are blind and deaf to experiencing the world as it is and only see what we want to see. It is evident in our collective response to the pandemic too.

                      Blaming capitalism is blaming ourselves but because that is too self-confronting, we project it (in Jungian psychology) outwards and away from ourselves. This is never ever going to work and lead to a ‘solution’ because we cannot deny and run away from ourselves. Once that dawns on us, the hard task begins, again, or rather it continues. We are like petulant children, brass and ignorantly arrogant one moment, scared and timid the next. To be clear, I’m speaking from my personal perspective.

                    • McFlock

                      Capitalism rewards people who commit that folly.

                      That's just a fact. Sociopaths have the ultimate competitive advantage.

                      And capitalism has lifted people out of poverty – while it displaces millions with rising sea levels.

                      I'm more of a democratic socialist than a marxist, if you want to label it. But as long as we need it, capitalism needs to be kept caged. And when we no longer need it, it should be put down.

                    • RedLogix

                      And capitalism has lifted people out of poverty – while it displaces millions with rising sea levels.

                      I'll give this one last go, and then give it away. Rising sea levels is a consequence of burning fossil carbon; this is regardless of the economic system that is doing it.

                      As a technologist I'm acutely aware that in order to get out of the poverty trap set by the limits of photosynthesis, ie muscle power and wood burning, it is essential to have a cheap, accessible form of stored energy to call upon to bootstrap your technology. You simply cannot go from the low tech bullock carts to high tech nuclear propulsion. You don't leap from wood fires in winter, to solar panel driven heater pumps. The technical gap is too large.

                      And on our planet we had fossil carbon coal, oil and gas … and we absolutely had to burn them in order to escape poverty. And this would have been true regardless of the economic system in place.

                      But as it turned out there is also a boundary to this development phase, we cannot go on burning fossil carbon without limit, we must transition to higher tech zero carbon energy sources …. or revert back to the poverty of photosynthesis. Again regardless of the economic system in place. This is physics not economics.

                      Now as much as you want to put capitalism down, the moment zero carbon energy gains a competitive advantage, a market system will adopt it rapidly. We are seeing this right now with SWB energy systems.

                      The problem was never the technology, we've had the zero carbon energy solutions available to us for decades, we just had to choose to use them in a timely fashion. The real problem was always a conflict between those who would exploit the crisis to for their own ideological purposes. And the longer we continue to frame the crisis in political terms, the longer the solutions will be delayed.

                      The good news is that millions of researchers, technologists and engineers around the planet don't give a shit for your anti-capitalism, and are just getting on as best they can solving the problems in front of them. Please just keep out of our way.

                    • McFlock

                      Rising sea levels is a consequence of burning fossil carbon; this is regardless of the economic system that is doing it.

                      Verily, 'twas not the smoking that killed the patient, 'twas the cancer.

                      That livestock carrier that sank a few months back – you'd have it nuclear powered, but not question why we were shipping live cattle thousands of miles in the first place.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    "For the love of money is the root of all of evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

                    Capitalism currently promotes a love of money, don't you think? Maybe it always has.

                    Possibilities for decarbonisation will be constantly frustrated and limited under capitalism; effective moves towards decarbonisation will inevitably conflict with structures of power and wealth. While I do not deny that some limited progress towards decarbonisation can be made under capitalism, I just cannot see how the most deep-going changes in technological systems can be made without deep-going social changes, that is, transitioning to a post-capitalist society.
                    https://www.resilience.org/stories/2020-01-29/socialism-capitalism-and-the-transition-away-from-fossil-fuels/

                    • RedLogix

                      Wealth is not the problem here, after all who is for poverty? The problem is when the motive for money is not sanctified; when it is used to buy status instead of service, and substitutes power for respect. It's when money becomes the materialist end unto itself that it stands condemned.

                      And I think your second reference falls into the common mistake of not understanding that human history is at core, a series of technological revolutions, that precipitate social change in their wake. Not the other way around.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    Wealth is not the problem here, after all who is for poverty?

                    NZ is a wealthy country – there's more than enough wealth in NZ for all NZers to enjoy a good standard of living, so some must be for poverty. Or are you suggesting that the wealthy are powerless to act? What use is wealth if it can't end poverty?

                    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/2018743986/the-salvation-army-says-covid-19-will-create-a-new-underclass

                    In her essay below, Liang describes poverty as a “heritable condition” that perpetuates and amplifies through generations: “It is also not hard to see how individual poverty flows into communities and society, with downstream effects on economics, crime and health, as well as many other systems. Loosen one strand and everything else unravels.

                    A Kete Half Empty

                    Poverty is your problem, it is everyone’s problem, not just those who are in poverty. – Rebecca, a child from Te Puru
                    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/118809656/why-poverty-in-new-zealand-is-everyones-concern?cid=app-android

                    And I think your second reference falls into the common mistake of not understanding that human history is at core, a series of technological revolutions, that precipitate social change in their wake. Not the other way around.

                    Must it always be so? What was the (series of) technological revolutions that precipitated the French revolution? Things are heating up, and getting a little crowded in places.

                    • RedLogix

                      NZ is a wealthy country – there's more than enough wealth in NZ for all NZers to enjoy a good standard of living, so some must be for poverty.

                      You make an inconsistent leap from 'NZ as a wealthy country', which is true in total, to a related but different question about how that wealth is distributed among individuals. And I'm happy to explore that important theme on another thread.

                      As for the causes of the French Revolution, yes there are many moving parts to it, but arguably it was the Industrial Revolution and in particular the advent of cheap cotton clothes (which represented a dramatic improvement in living standards) and other consumer goods, that dramatically expanded the presence of the middle classes, shifted the balances of social power, and destabilised the old orders.

                      You might enjoy this somewhat cheerfully manic, but very to the point clip. It focuses strongly on the role cheap coal played in the Industrial Revolution. Probably for the sake of brevity it omitted mention of the other critical technological revolution, deep-water navigation, the crucial tool that gave this Eurocentric revolution rapid access to virtually the entire planet all at once.

                      But put these two things together, in a geography that advantages them (first the Iberian peninsula, then the British Isles, and then North America) and they became an irresistible force that changed everything in their wake.

                      Now having done the setup, here is my crucial point and I'm done. We now have within our grasp two new revolutionary technologies; cheap abundant and safe energy, and virtually unbounded computing power. (From these two we can readily expand to a long list of subsidiary technologies, but for the sake of clarity I'll nominate these two as my root causes. Nor am I ruling out something new and unsuspected being discovered either.)

                      Over the next few centuries they in turn will also change everything, in such a way that social problems that we currently find intractable, such as inequality, will find a resolution we currently cannot grasp. And to be a little more specific on this, both will tend toward making geography a less crucial factor in the life of nations. driving us toward universality.

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                I'm struggling to understand how one can be so imaginatively gun-ho when it comes to combatting global warming in the near future:

                We now have within our grasp two new revolutionary technologies; cheap abundant and safe energy, and virtually unbounded computing power. (From these two we can readily expand to a long list of subsidiary technologies, but for the sake of clarity I'll nominate these two as my root causes. Nor am I ruling out something new and unsuspected being discovered either.) [Does COVID-19 count as unsuspected?]

                while being curiously unimaginative about solving the much easier problem of poverty in NZ by redistribution of wealth now – those clinging to wealth and status will cry 'Unfair!', 'But how?', 'How much?', 'Too hard!' and (maybe) 'Soon.'

                Over the next few centuries they in turn will also change everything, in such a way that social problems that we currently find intractable, such as inequality, will find a resolution we currently cannot grasp.

                Global warming & poverty might be fuelled by the same human behaviour, i.e. a desperate aversion to voluntary sacrifice; to living within our means. Without behaviour modification this iteration of civilisation is poked, imho

                In her essay below, Liang describes poverty as a “heritable condition” that perpetuates and amplifies through generations: “It is also not hard to see how individual poverty flows into communities and society, with downstream effects on economics, crime and health, as well as many other systems. Loosen one strand and everything else unravels.”

                A Kete Half Empty

                Poverty is your problem, it is everyone’s problem, not just those who are in poverty. – Rebecca, a child from Te Puru
                https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/118809656/why-poverty-in-new-zealand-is-everyones-concern?cid=app-android

                • RedLogix

                  curiously unimaginative about solving the much easier problem of poverty in NZ.

                  As I said above, I'd prefer to address that elsewhere. But in a nutshell it's a mistake to think of relative poverty in materialists terms as simply a money and redistribution problem.

                  It's much harder than this.

                  Without behaviour modification this iteration of civilisation is poked

                  Indeed. And I do allude to this from time to time. Now what is the one force that has modified human behaviour for the better more consistently than any other in human history?

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    It's much harder than this.

                    I fully understand why some might contend that a ‘wealth redistribution‘ solution to poverty is "Too hard!". But I do wonder if that solution is really as difficult as some would have us all believe.

                    Now what is the one force that has modified human behaviour for the better more consistently than any other in human history?

                    Scarcity of the necessities of life?

  5. Pat 5

    As we have discovered air travel has grown and evolved as a key component of the entire self destructive system….curtailing it necessitates considerable reconfiguration of the entire model.

  6. Pat 6

    banning private jets

    This however could be done without much difficulty

  7. WeTheBleeple 7

    I have many friends who talk the talk on climate change yet fly for any frivolous fancy that takes them. Shopping trips, visits, holidays, no problem.

    There's a disconnect between the rhetoric and reality and I have no idea how individuals educate others without coming across as increasingly shrill killjoys. Yet things need to be addressed.

    There are several trains of thought here that are useful. Education, taxes, and technical improvements aka techno-fix.

    I say we use all the tools at our disposal rather than fighting over who's got the winning idea. The winning idea is everything at our disposal. It is not a small problem.

    International flights (of fancy) should not be readily accessible and dirt cheap. Sure, in the future, should tech fix us a solution, we can resume globe-hopping, but right now, we should keep it as limited as we can.

    Education on the issue will help a bit, but the disconnect of the wealthy between their platitudes and their actions suggests a large proportion don't give a toss, except for image. Nothing like an instagram post of you draped over some monument in a foreign land, right. Makes you one of the cool people.

    Make it uncool.

    We should absolutely be exploring technical solutions to problems, but not blindly hoping for them while things get worse. We could use tax and education to keep people more grounded as industry and government work together on a solve.

    Another valid point made above. Human development. Travel is great for the soul. It expands your mind and opens your eyes like nothing else. However, exploring while contributing to a dying planet is not that cool.

    Save the world, then explore it guilt free.

    • RedLogix 7.1

      Yup I agree with pretty much all of this.

      Just for clarity, I'm not trying to present a 'winning idea' here. Energy and it's related systems have been at the core of a lifetime career in heavy industry; it's given me a good sense of what we're up against with the climate change story.

      There is every reason to use energy efficiently; if for no other reason than it's a competitive advantage. All other things being equal it also translates to technically safer and more reliable systems in general.

      And as I've tried to argue above, keeping a lid on our total energy consumption, greatly simplifies the task of converting our energy infrastructure away from fossil carbon. With so much of the developing world coming online this century, energy intensity matters in as much as if we do it well, then total energy demand by 2100 might only double, do it badly and it could be ten times or more. That's a big difference.

      But regardless at what rate we use energy, the only thing in the long run that matters is that it's fossil carbon free. Otherwise all we do is kick the can down the road.

      • solkta 7.1.1

        You agree with all of that but just thought you would waste a couple of hours writing bullshit through this thread? Yeh, good onya.

      • WeTheBleeple 7.1.2

        "Just for clarity, I'm not trying to present a 'winning idea' here."

        No worries. I was addressing the battering you were taking for daring to dissent. Some good points were:

        We can't bank on a hope
        We need action now

        Otherwise, all the tech stuff we're seeing lately is bloody brilliant. Better solar, batteries, wind, plane prototypes, even sailing ship designs coming through. It's all damn kewl man.

    • weka 7.2

      "Sure, in the future, should tech fix us a solution, we can resume globe-hopping, but right now, we should keep it as limited as we can."

      That's an unexplored point. I think people get so freaked out by the idea of any drop in standard of living or restriction on personal freedoms, that we often don't get to the other conversations. What would happen if we dropped to near zero emissions fast and then used our remaining GHG budget to careful design around actual needs.

      What if a drop in standard of living/freedom led to an increase in life satisfaction, health outcomes, safer communities, better work/family balance and so on? These are all the things that the hippies and regenagers are doing and finding out. How to educate on that? Or are people addicted to the rush of fossil fueled life and don't know how to give up it?

      • RedLogix 7.2.1

        What if a drop in standard of living/freedom led to an increase in life satisfaction, health outcomes, safer communities, better work/family balance and so on?

        That is happening as populations in the developed world age and become more mature. It's mostly during the first 20 years of adult life that we're absorbed with consumption and growth at the expense of other considerations.

      • WeTheBleeple 7.2.2

        The more uncertain people become the more they tend to cling to familiar things. It's important to keep communications open and address things honestly. Let them see it coming.

        We all know WHY governments needs to make calls on how we consume, but the delivery of such communications could help (team of 5 million) or turn into complete shitfuckery (don't tread on my freedom). There will always be an idiot element that won't budge but the majority of people (in New Zealand and many other countries) showed us they are perfectly capable of making sacrifices for the greater good.

        1. Make the best plan you can.

        2. Sell it.

        • weka 7.2.2.1

          I heart you. If we're talking about the current, the problem is that Labour aren't on board, so how to educate them I guess.

        • Pat 7.2.2.2

          "…but the majority of people (in New Zealand and many other countries) showed us they are perfectly capable of making sacrifices for the greater good."

          When led….you may wish to re-examine that sentiment if you consider the reaction to the likes of taxation, health provision, welfare etc.

          As you yourself noted the reality isnt matching the rhetoric….and that isnt just the politicians

    • AB 7.3

      Sounds good – although my material needs are modest, and as an ex-affluent ex-centrist I seldom fly anywhere these days, and though I aim at a Keatsian absorption in the immediate and sensory*, I also like the idea of fully automated luxury Communism.

      * "if a sparrow come before my Window I take part in its existence and pick about the gravel"

      • greywarshark 7.3.1

        Ive got a book of short story science fiction. One is about an elderly couple with a devoted advanced-robot carer. The wife confides to 'her' that she is afraid of getting old, sick and dying . When she does get sick the carer checks with her compassion chip, and sends her to hospital for a few weeks then brings her back in an ambulance. Her husband is glad to see her but notes she is cold when he gets into bed. Her body has been replaced with a synthetic one. Her head is attached and she is her ordinary self but confused. He is upset, rushes out, falls down the stairs and breaks his spinal column. So the carer looks after him, and sends him off to hospital, and when he returns the two heads look at each other and wonder what next?

        So don't be too quick to wish for robot care. When you get it, you might find you don't want it after all. I presume you will want to retain your life force and will.

    • Graeme 7.4

      Make it uncool.

      Covid has probably achieved that outcome for the foreseeable. People just don't want to be in confined crowded spaces like airplanes, airports and cruise ships anymore for some reason. Then the insurance industry will be taking care of those that still think international travel is a good idea, for a not so small charge.

      Nash's comment that New Zealand Tourism's only marketing spend, that's the government funded marketing, would be to the 'high value' end of the market was an acknowledgement that mass tourism, and air travel, won't be a thing for some time. Even with opened borders, seats will be limited by low demand, hence few flights, and high cost as the fixed costs of running an airline are spread over a fraction of the passengers.

      Then there's the insurance. The only certainty here is that it will be very expensive and most countries will insist on all travellers having comprehensive policies, including pandemics, to enter and leave. Repatriation cost have been rather large with this pandemic and mostly borne by governments as the insurance industry generally didn't insure for pandemics. This level of insurance won't be cheap.

      So the only people who will be flying internationally will be the few that can afford current first and maybe business class fares. That'll probably work out to 50 -150 seats spread over a 787 coming across the Pacific and a much reduced schedule.

      The world's going to be a much bigger place, especially the more distant corners.

  8. Bazza64 8

    What about Harry & Meghan who did several flights on Elton John’s private jet after they lectured everyone that we need to reduce our carbon footprint. When they got a lot of stick for this, Elton’s response was that for each flight he made a donation to a charity that planted trees to offset the carbon emissions.

    So it seems that only the mega-rich “carbon-aware” tree planters can fly with no environmental cost. Or would it be better not to fly & not plant the trees ?

  9. Henry Filth 9

    Out of idle curiosity, has anyone ever seen an estimate of the emissions attributable to military aviation vs civil aviation?

    • mango 9.1

      I don't know Henry. But I recently came across the factoid that total US military emissions are equal to the entire emissions of south america. According to the interweb that is a population of 423 million people.

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