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The risk of climate tipping points is upon us

Written By: - Date published: 1:20 pm, December 6th, 2019 - 82 comments
Categories: climate change, science - Tags:


  • the IPCC was for many years too conservative in its predictions and position around tipping points.
  • current science is suggesting a likelihood of reaching catastrophic tipping points much sooner than expected
  • if we keep doing what we are doing, we can expect tipping points to be reached and climate catastrophe
  • some economists are still operating on the old IPCC assumptions and think there is a cost/benefit to be had around climate action because there is little risk
  • current nation state pledges will give us 3C warming
  • to avoid tipping points and catastrophe “warming must be limited to 1.5 °C. This requires an emergency response”

The longer version from the Nature commentary piece,

Politicians, economists and even some natural scientists have tended to assume that tipping points1 in the Earth system — such as the loss of the Amazon rainforest or the West Antarctic ice sheet — are of low probability and little understood. Yet evidence is mounting that these events could be more likely than was thought, have high impacts and are interconnected across different biophysical systems, potentially committing the world to long-term irreversible changes.

Here we summarize evidence on the threat of exceeding tipping points, identify knowledge gaps and suggest how these should be plugged. We explore the effects of such large-scale changes, how quickly they might unfold and whether we still have any control over them.

In our view, the consideration of tipping points helps to define that we are in a climate emergency and strengthens this year’s chorus of calls for urgent climate action — from schoolchildren to scientists, cities and countries.

Some scientists counter that the possibility of global tipping remains highly speculative. It is our position that, given its huge impact and irreversible nature, any serious risk assessment must consider the evidence, however limited our understanding might still be. To err on the side of danger is not a responsible option.

If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization. No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.

Full article with the science is here.


82 comments on “The risk of climate tipping points is upon us”

  1. cleangreen 1

    It seems that our human instincts have been wiped out by miss-information coming from big oil and their cabal.

    Designed to dumb down where we are headed now, without any care for our very human instincts of ‘fear and flight’.

    Industry believe in “live in ignorance”

    We used to believe in “she’ll be right”

    Now what is understandable and real is; “we will not be all right”.

  2. cleangreen 2

    It seems that no change to human awareness will happen till we are all deeply affected by climate change and sadly then it will be beyond our power to change the spiraling worsening of life and weather events that will destroy us and life.

  3. Karol121 3

    Whatever we do or don't do, can do or can't do, will or won't do: DON'T PANIC!!!

    • Robert Guyton 3.1

      And if you do panic, ride that wave, recover and harness that energy for your particular response; garden like crazy, network like your life depends on it, support anyone who, like yourself, is fired-up by circumstance!

  4. Robert Guyton 4

    Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide: let's hope those cascades don't eventuate and that action now will deflect the harm. With that positive perspective mind, let's get busy, and by that I mean you and me getting busy; we know enough to be getting by on, let's make real our beliefs. Me, I'm planting trees for Africa!

    • weka 4.1

      I agree.

      I want to be writing more proactive, life affirming posts on CC, but I keep getting distracted by the crisis stuff. There's a tension for me between leaving the hard stuff alone or keeping on raising awareness.

      I'm also wondering if people are reaching their tolerance for the bad news.

      • weka 4.1.1

        to put that more clearly, I'm not sure if my energy is better spent on the proactive or the waking people up stuff. It seems like there is still a lot of complacency about what the situation, eg electric cars will save the day so the focus is on those things.

        • Robert Guyton

          I don't think you or I or anyone for that matter, can/will "wake people up", so let's just get down on paper smiley some things that "people" can do. Let the calls for tech-fixes slide and get down to earth with our/your advice.

          • weka

            Other people's writing wakes me up all the time 🙂 But I agree, there's not enough of what we can do in front of us right now.

  5. Stuart Munro. 5

    The best time to act on these problems was fifty years ago. And the best defense is to increase the size and diversity of local biomass. It's not that hard – plant a tree. Better yet a row of them. Change lawn to pergola, fruiting forest or beefodder and kiss the mower goodbye. Replant the kina barrens. Dig in and make like a therapsid.

    • Robert Guyton 5.1

      A "row of them" smiley I'm fascinated by what the "kina barrens" might be, but yes, make like the therapsid!

      • Stuart Munro. 5.1.1

        Kina barrens are coastal water areas where the removal of key predator species, such as snapper and crayfish, has allowed kina populations to expand rapidly until they browse away all the kelp forest, with consequent loss of biomass, productivity, species diversity and robustness. Not so common down south – the bracing weather 🙂 protects the fisheries to some degree down there.


        If you think terrestrial reafforestation is rapid, wait till you see how fast macrocystis can be re-established, given only a bit of a hand. No systematic replanting of it as yet however – maybe in fifty years.

    • weka 5.2

      Increasing size and diversity of local biomass is imperative, no matter what else happens. Reducing the burning of fossil fuels is critical as well. Afaik, reaching tipping points doesn’t mean it’s too late.

      • Robert Guyton 5.2.1

        You can't reverse the tip. Gird your loins. Give good advice. Get busy.

        • weka

          we don't know what the tips are yet, and there are ways to intervene in tips too. eg a mass decarbonisation of human activity at this point would really help.

          • Robert Guyton

            The atmosphere in Riverton is thunderous right now! I'm on the veranda, potting-up runner beans!

        • Stuart Munro.

          You can't reverse the tip.

          Give me a bit of a budget, a few tonnes of kudzu seed, a bunch of solar irrigators and Australia & I'd give it a sporting try.

          • Robert Guyton

            If not that, then what will you do?

            Edit: you can have Australia.

            • Stuart Munro.

              Not a lot of options left for me – the fisheries were stolen & NZ doesn't need ELT teachers. You don't get to plant on your landlord's land, and you'd need to win lotto to setup aquaculture under current models. Go bush maybe.

    • Grafton Gully 5.3

      The nice people next door with the tidy property might complain to the council, but on the other hand they might grow to like your wild backyard and with all the CC propaganda it could start a local trend. No takers so far in my neighbourhood.


      Tip – you can "cut the grass" with a chef's knife.

      • greywarshark 5.3.1

        What about an arrangement for the attentions of a rovin, tethered pair of goats or sheep for a couple of days.

        • Grafton Gully

          Thanks for that. If we had the space I'd use a scythe – avoids caring for animals. I use a non-stainless knife sharpened with a scythe sharpening stone. Gave up the push mower when someone said how much they liked the grass unmown. Enjoying the grass and clover flowers and looking forward to self sown grass seed. The knife works well as a hedge trimmer too. You have to be careful not to cut yourself, but paying close attention is good for my state of mind. I kneel to do the work and put the cuttings between plants to shade the soil and as a mulch. The sound of the knife cutting the grass is not quite as lovely as the scythe, but you are closer to it – more intimate with what you are doing.

          • Robert Guyton

            Me too.

            • WeTheBleeple

              Nice one Grafton. I have a dedicated wee patch of grass left and it provides all the straw I require for the chooks, and also some good mulch. I use a large knife too it only requires a couple of cuts a a year. The strips of lawn out front (paths between gardens is all that's left) get electric trimmed, and the whole shebang is a pleasing advertisement to growing your own.

  6. cleangreen 6

    I'm hunkering down 1650 ft up in the Gisborne ranges on our 10 area farm let.

    Still wringing my wrists attempting to lower my stress levels, because i am feeling a loss of ability to turn the tide of climate change.

    I agree with Stuart Monroe at 5 that 50 yrs ago we should have made changes then.

    I recall it was then in 1963 we were sitting in a pub listening to a wise elder on the west coast saying the atmospheric oxygen levels were diminishing then from around 36% to about 22 percent then.

    We have never forgotten that point but since then, but the press never said anything about it since.

    Now we know it is happening, and that CO2 levels have been rising.

    Then since oxygen atmospheric levels have declined somewhat it appears that the writing was on the wall then, but the media were not prepared to alert us all to the changes coming then.

    • Robert Guyton 6.1

      Let's get busy. We don't need the media to tell us that it's time to act…do we?

      • Grafton Gully 6.1.1

        A tip for transitioning from city driver to walker – although I'm guessing people are already on to this. You can explore your area with Google satellite maps and be surprised how much public green space there is that you didn't know about, including schools. I use this as a tool to plan routes and coordinate with the train. Not buses because I don't want to feel crowded and have to rely on the driver and traffic conditions. The nice things about trains is they have one track, more space inside, more predictable times and wonderful unmown and unlandscaped sidings and usually stations too – although Newmarket and Panmure in Auckland are totally designed and landscaped – but the contrast strengthens the appeal of others. I also enjoy the sound the train makes as it gathers speed and slows to stop, the amazing spells of no acceleration.

    • Andre 6.2

      Just in case anyone gets alarmed about falling oxygen levels, here's a piece that discusses it:


      tl;dr : In the time human activities have pushed CO2 levels from about 280ppm to 410ppm (which is a huge problem), O2 levels have decreased from about 209,560ppm to 209,430ppm – a negligible 0.06%. Indeed, going from sea level to 1650 feet reduces oxygen pressure by around 5%. Changes in atmospheric oxygen are way too tiny to be of even the slightest concern.

      Reductions in ocean oxygen are of significant concern – but that's not related to reductions in atmospheric oxygen. Ocean oxygen reduction is due much more to warming and to all the pollution we're dumping in it (mostly agricultural runoff).

      There are indeed some credible estimates atmospheric oxygen once got as high as 36% (it's about 21% now), but that was 300 million years ago (ie before even the dinosaur era). Other credible estimates have the highest ever oxygen concentration only a little bit higher than now. It's worth noting that higher oxygen concentration really help fires – if somehow there were oxygen concentrations of 35%, forests we have now simply wouldn't exist, they'd have burned a long long time ago.

      • Gareth 6.2.1

        Also for context, if you want to experience what the reduction in atmospheric oxygen over the last 800,000 years has meant, go to the 30th floor of any building and open a window. The difference in oxygen content between the ground floor and the 30th floor is the same as the reduction.

  7. greywarshark 7

    Perhaps someone could say 'I'm going to,,,,this week. And would others like to explore what is happening in their area and we'll all get together with our findings and opinions in the community and put them up on this blog Friday or Saturday. Could we have a doings post that goes up on Friday and gets added to over the weekend. Hearing about what is happening would be heartening and sharing what we have found out and plan is likely to be affirming for us.!?

    One little thing I have started doing is looking for something positive that the Labour Coalition is doing and putting those up under the Latin of (look it up starts with A). I'll come back with that my brain is mush. ACTA NON VERBA perhaps I’ll remember now. Anyone else can join in with something positive that is being done, or planned and likely. (Acta non Verba being deeds not words. I chose latin so it’s easy to call up as a search term. Please don’t start spoiling it any of you who have that inclination.)

    The Sunday How to Get There can still go on where there is thinking, ideas and reports of what is happening overseas.

    • greywarshark 7.1

      It will be good if someone has a constructive comment on this idea of running little projects and reporting on them. Others who prefer to do nothing can leave it be. If no-one replies that will be informative too. In my social policy studies they taught that when no policy was formed about obviously immediate and important matters, that actually constituted as a decision that noted lack of commitment and low priority for action.

  8. cleangreen 8

    This is enlightening and shows that we are entering the accelerated phase of oxygen loss phase again.

    Oxygen Level Decrease in Air from Climate Change

    Oxygen Level Decrease in Air from Climate Change
    Paul Beckwith University of Ottawa.
    Combustion of fossil fuels causes oxygen to decrease in the atmosphere/ocean system.

    As does deforestation, exponential population growth and phytoplankton loss in the oceans from warming stratification limiting nutrients at the surface.

    It is often said that the oxygen in every second breath you take is produced by photo plankton, that are the true lungs of the planet. I discuss the extend of the oxygen decrease, which is more than you want to know.

    [Another comment where it’s not clear that you are quoting someone else. You *have to make it clear. In premod now. If you don’t respond to this in a timely manner I will assume you have gone back to posting without reading replies and put you in the black list. Moderators have spent way too much time on this. – weka]

    [no response so now added to the blacklist until the end of Jan. Will review again then – weka]

    • weka 8.1

      mod note.

    • weka 8.2

      I have also edited your name, please don’t use CAPS.

    • Andre 8.4

      Just in case any is alarmed by the above, Paul Beckwith is a doomer in the Guy McPherson mould, trading off his academic credentials in an unrelated field (in Beckwith's case, laser physics) to spread wildly inaccurate alarmist nonsense. Fortunately for anyone trying to work out whether to assign him any credibility (he should be given none), he makes definite specific forecasts for the very short-term which quickly prove to be wildly wrong, such as the Arctic Ocean being completely ice-free by 2013.




      And here's a Guardian piece on the topic of way-over-the-top climate alarmists.


      • greywarshark 8.4.1

        Thanks for the steer Andre.

      • RedLogix 8.4.2

        Thank you for these excellent responses Andre.

        Indisputably the fossil carbon corporates spent hundreds of millions creating confusion and doubt. History will judge them very harshly indeed. At the same time there was also a strand of 'doomer environmentalism' that was happy to exploit the crisis as an excuse to 'smash capitalism'. Both were adept at covering their tracks and obscuring their motives, but ultimately I believe both have corrupted the debate and contributed to a deep erosion of trust that has prevented us achieving a political consensus in a timely fashion.

        Because while this was always fundamentally a science and engineering problem, when it was twisted into a polarised political issue, progress ground to a halt for at least three decades. However we now have considerable grounds for optimism, the public mood is shifting toward rejecting both extremes. We now have at hand all the technical and environmental tools needed to solve this crisis; many of which have been discussed here at TS over the years.

        Recently I've had good success in conversations with climate skeptics, or even downright deniers, with this approach. I explain my first hand experience informing me that the science, while never perfect, is compelling. I may not be a climate scientist’s little finger, but I understand enough to know it cannot be a hoax. And while this is a crisis historically created by science, engineering and capitalism … the solutions will be born of the same forces. Most people I find are quite receptive to this argument, one that presupposes an economic system that we know works and delivers astonishing outcomes, but retools it to better purposes. It re-frames the argument into a form that people can trust. Instead of parting in angry bitterness, there is a nodding sense that both sides of the debate have heard each other.

        There is so much work to be done Andre; I only wish I was at the beginning of my career not the end of it, so as I could participate in this revolution. The future lies with you now; I almost envy your opportunities.

        • Andre

          Sadly, I've yet to find my entry into renewable energy and/or climate change mitigation engineering. At 56, my career is much closer to its end than beginning. I talk about the opportunities a lot with my teenagers, maybe one or more of them will go down that path.

          My specialty is advanced composites engineering, how to design, structurally analyse, and build composite items (so if wind-turbine blades were being built in NZ I'd be doing everything I could to get involved). But I've had occasion to do a few projects where absorption and radiation of solar and thermal infrared were key issues. What I had to learn for those gave me a bit of a handle on those energy balance issues.

          It really bunches my undies when I see opposition to making serious efforts to get to zero-carbon on the grounds of cost and/or reduced economic growth (because it ain't true).

          All the activity needed to get to zero carbon is economic activity, creating lots of growth and winners, with the only losers being fossil fuel interests (that have had it way to good for waaaay too long). Reworking our energy supply and distribution to get to zero-carbon is a project on the scale of rebuilding after WW2, which was a long long spell of sustained high economic growth.

          Even if the cost/reduced growth argument were true (which it fkn isn't), it doesn't account for the way that not making the transition would be extremely costly and growth reducing.

          Finally (and most important to me), it's simply morally wrong to impose extra on top of the already massive burdens of locked-in change we've imposed on future beings on this planet, just for the sake of a few dollars now.

          I too get frustrated with those that use climate change as a stalking horse for other agendas. Other types of government with different socio-economic arrangements have fucked up their environments and spewed hazardous wastes into the atmosphere just as enthusiastically as western liberal-democratic mixed economies.

          The socio-political arrangements we choose for ourselves are a separate issue to to change our energy use habits away from shitting our collective bed. They are separate topics with separate arguments on the merits for each. Conflating them only serves to muddy them both, which serves nobody except the few skimming the massive benefits at the top that seek to keep their current gravy train going as long as possible.

          • Duncan

            Just out of curiosity Andre, can wind turbine blades not be made of carbon fibre epoxy composites.

            I would have thought with NZ's expertise in high performance Americas Cup boats and now Rocket Lab carbon fibre tech we would be well placed to create such industries.

            When you look at a wind turbine they seem like pretty rudimentary technology to me. The first thing I would do is add funnels that optimise the wind speed past the blades to maximise electricity generated in low or high wind speeds.

            Is it just funding that is preventing this? What about https://www.callaghaninnovation.govt.nz. Would they not fund a start up?

            [I have changed your username to the one that you used before. Is there any reason why you want or need to use a different one? – Incognito]

            • Incognito

              See my Moderation note @ 6:20 PM.

            • Andre

              Yes, turbine blades are indeed made of of epoxy composites using methods similar to those used in some marine industry and possibly for some Rocket Lab parts*. Certainly there are plenty of people in those places with the skills needed to make blades in low volumes, if not in massively high production volumes.

              But for cost reasons the vast majority of the fibre reinforcement is glass fibre, not carbon fibre. The main use of carbon fibre is in unidirectional spar caps on the top and bottom of the shear web running up the middle of the blade.

              It's a volume of production thing why we don't build the blades here. Factories in Europe and Asia are turning them out at incredible speeds, I vaguely recall reading an article about producing a blade a day out of each mouldset. Developing the capacity to do them that quickly takes an enormous amount of R&D and capital equipment, but the reward is a much lower per-unit cost when you build a lot of them.

              There have been attempts to develop wind turbines here. Windflow developed a two-bladed turbine with a very innovative gearbox and actually produced a few turbines. But through a combination of managerial and money issues, and the extremely rapid technology development overseas basically passing them by, they dropped out.

              Vortec were working on what was effectively a ducted turbine design, but they never even got as far as a full scale working prototype.

              IIRC, both companies got quite a bit of government R&D funding, but neither could really get a foothold against the incredibly rapid pace of development from overseas suppliers.

              *Technically speaking, turbine blades are generally made by infusing liquid resin into a dry fibre reinforcement stack, while the highest performing parts made by Rocket Lab and America’s cup etc will use prepreg, where the fibre and resin come from a factory in unidirectional rolls with the resin in a partially cured sticky solid state and a very precisely controlled resin/fibre ratio.

            • Duncan

              Only reason for changing it was because someone had taken up using Duncan on the Daily Blog and I thought they might be using it here as well and didn't wan't any confusion.

              • Incognito

                Good thinking but as far as I can see you’re the only one using that handle so it’s yours – first come, first served. If a newcomer uses a name that’s already in use, we generally ask them to change it to avoid confusion. We also don’t like sockpoppets.

                • Duncan

                  Considering how often I comment here I don't get your point.

                  It's not like I am trying to establish a following here and then try and then subvert that.

                  But yeah you make the rules so I will desist from making pointless comments in future.

                  • Incognito

                    It seems you misunderstood me. My point was that it is fine to keep using your current user name because nobody else is using it. I wasn’t trying to say that you were a newcomer and perhaps that put you on the wrong foot? I was also not accusing you of being a sockpoppet. My apologies for the confusion.

                    FYI, I don’t make the rules. I follow them just like anybody else here. They are very lenient ones: https://thestandard.org.nz/policy/

                    I hope that cleared it up.

          • Ad

            Did you get to work on the new ETNZ boat foils?

            The torque and complex displacements they have to take are massive.

            • Andre

              No. I've had very little involvement in that side of the marine industry for ten years.

              From an engineering perspective, yeah those foils are really interesting (along with a bunch of other stuff that doesn't get publicity). But I spent seven years doing America's Cup and Volvo and TP52 etc, and in the end it got to me putting my everything into making toys for big boys with way too much money and mine's bigger than yours issues. I much prefer working on projects that deliver real products that real ordinary people can go out and have fun or do useful stuff with, not the fantasyland way off in the megamoney clouds stuff.

              • Ad

                Completely understand. I've come from the reverse.

                After 20 years building public transport infrastructure, I'm doing a bit of the big boys' toys thing for AC36, before I head off the next mega-project. Not much socialist justification for it, but a whole bunch of fun nevertheless.

                • Jenny How to get there

                  Hi Ad, After your 20 years of experience building public transport infrastructure, can you give us your take on this?


                  And Andre, what do you think?

                  You talk a lot with your teenagers about these issues.
                  According to this report the movement for free public transport is being spearheaded by the young.

                  Public transit has become a focus on intense political activity in cities across the country as young climate change protestors demand investment in mass transit to help battle climate change.


                  • Andre

                    I reckon cost is only a part of the choice in what transport mode to use, and once you're above a fairly minimal income level cost is a very small factor in the choice.

                    Travel time, comfort, convenience, perceived safety, perceived control are much bigger factors than cost for all but the lowest income sectors.

                    For my kids, they're quite happy taking the bus and train where they want to go, and since the Hop fairy keeps their cards topped up, it's free to them. Nevertheless they're very keen to get their driver licenses for the freedom and time savings, even though they know they will start paying for their travel at that point.

                    It's for things like trips into downtown Dorkland that they still prefer public transport, to avoid the hassle of parking and gridlock. But to them, those are big reasons to just not go downtown unless absolutely necessary.

                    Big picture, I reckon free public transport is probably worth a try to see if it lifts ridership enough to make it worthwhile increasing services to improve speed and convenience which then further lifts ridership. But I wouldn't be surprised if it falls a long way short of that and would only do a little bit to get people out of cars.

                    The success of the Northern Busway is because it's a lot faster and more reliable than sitting on the motorway, not so much because it's cheaper (I suspect it probably isn't cheaper for a lot of the users). But the opportunities to spread that model to other parts of the city aren't great.

                    • Jenny How to get there


                      7 December 2019 at 9:38 pm

                      …..The success of the Northern Busway is because it's a lot faster and more reliable than sitting on the motorway, not so much because it's cheaper (I suspect it probably isn't cheaper for a lot of the users). But the opportunities to spread that model to other parts of the city aren't great.

                      Hi Andre.
                      Talking about the success of the Northern Busway. It has long been my contention that the busway needs to be continued over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
                      This of course would mean taking two car lanes off the carriageway .
                      (meaning less cars in the CBD not a bad thing in my opinion)

                      I was thinking of using the two Eastern lanes. Going South exiting onto Fanshaw Street. Going North from Fanshaw Street to Curran Street looping around Pt Erin to enter the north bound bus lane across the Shelley Beach Road flyover. North bound buses could also enter the Shelley Beach flyover from Jervois Road.

                      This would mean changing the direction of travel on the Shelley Beach flyover from south to north. Cars can exit/enter the Westhaven Marina through Curran Street, or Fanshaw. (not a big hardship for the relatively small marina traffic.)

                      The cost for making these changes would be minimal compared to the $6 to $10 billion harbour tunnel proposed by the Key Government. Which would only deliver more cars (and pollution), into the CBD.

                      And yes this cross harbour busway should be fare free. For two reasons, one to compensate commuters for leaving their cars at home. And two for the convenience, a factor that you have already mentioned as a positive. Hop on and off at your leisure, no coins to find, no hop cards to lose or forget to top up.

                      Speedily crossing the Harbour Bridge in comfort stress free, able to admire the views towards Rangitoto properly for the very first time with out having to keep a fixed forward gaze and your hands in a death grip on a steering wheel.

                    • Craig H

                      I think cost is a factor for families because one car ride is a lot cheaper in most instances than 3-4 bus/train fares, so owning a car is cheaper (and certainly a lot more convenient for younger children).

                      Cost obviously isn't a major factor for individuals, because if it was, more people in Chch would use the bus as their principal mode of transport with the occasional taxi or equivalent, rather than bothering with a car.

    • Incognito 8.5

      Sigh 🙁 For the umpteenth time, this is how you (could) do it:

      Oxygen Level Decrease in Air from Climate Change by Paul Beckwith, University of Ottawa:

      Combustion of fossil fuels causes oxygen to decrease in the atmosphere/ocean system.

      As does deforestation, exponential population growth and phytoplankton loss in the oceans from warming stratification limiting nutrients at the surface.

      It is often said that the oxygen in every second breath you take is produced by photo plankton, that are the true lungs of the planet. I discuss the extend of the oxygen decrease, which is more than you want to know.

  9. greywarshark 9

    Thinking of climate on a more immediate and local level – the West Coast has numbers of slips between Hokitika and Haast and places are cut off. Electricity is off for a while and I think Fox Glacier is affected. Lake Wanaka is rising steadily and parts of the town are under water.

    We may have to think about supporting such areas economies while they try to continue living with conditions that are becoming more trying. Perhaps some of us need to become 'disaster tourists' who will be invited to stay when there is sufficient recovery, and be prepared to brighten their lives with whatever music we can perform, and bring scones, butter

    It would be a great time with people who wished the visitors to come and welcomed the help, goodwill and revenue. And better than other samey holidays visiting some place where you pay good money then compare it unfavourably to last year's.

    • weka 9.1

      Tourism is a driver of climate change.

      • greywarshark 9.1.1

        That is not a reply that indicates green practicality. We have people who need an economy as we all do. It would also be good to show solidarity amongst NZs. While we keep our eyes open to the climate change matters, we cannot drop people off the end of the pier and say if you can't swim, then you're out of luck. What we need from thinking Greens is a reasoned transition down from our present practices not a few snappy words that are a general slogan applied to a situation of local need.

        • weka

          sure. And most of the green movement has been saying exactly this for quite some time now.

          However in the context of this post, which is a serious warning that we don't have time to waste, I can't see the political validity in promoting more tourism to solve adaptation issues. The push needs to be to get NZ off its reliance on mass tourism as well as our drive where and when you want attitude.

          Tourism as an industry is lagging worse than farming when it comes to climate transition, and are still largely in denial. When they can bring themselves to talk about it at all it seems to be around electrifying their industry. But as you are pointing to, that won't work in many of our high tourism areas with increased extreme weather events. And that's not even getting to what will happen to those communities and economies when the Alpine Fault shifts.

          I've been around the jobs vs environment argument since the 90s. Just transition really can't be about putting off emissions reduction because we're too mired in old thinking about how economies must work. This is pretty much the line farmes are running and it will kill us.

          I actually agree that one of the needed solutions here is for NZers to holiday closer to home, but that won't resolve the problems of small communities being so reliant on tourism to make a living. The sooner we all transition off that the better. The biggest block to that at the moment is people thinking green tech will save us, and that the middle classes don't want to sacrifice their lifestyles (in this case holidaying at will, but also those that own or work in tourism businesses that support their overshoot lifestyles).

          • weka

            anyway, in the spirit of being solutions focused, I will think about what small, tourism-dependent communities could to in a Just Transition context about the tourism dilemma.

            • Grafton Gully

              Experience it remotely ? I can imagine Hokitika hiring out a fleet of drones to remote tourists who want to explore the area without travelling there. The drones programmed to minimise intrusion. Like Youtube videos of exotic places – imagining adds to the pleasure. The service would be available at set times, a season to remotely explore Hokitika with your hire drone.

  10. Climaction 10

    What’s the outcome post tipping point? What happens apart from DOOM!!!0!!

    • weka 10.1

      Read the Nature paper, it describes the climate scenarios. Then read Extinction Rebellion, they're describing potential scenarios affecting humans and the biosphere. Also, don't troll my post.

      • Climaction 10.1.1

        I guess the problem I have with the nature paper is that it doesn’t allow for the possibility a time of plenty associated with more carbon and higher temperatures. Whether or not humans are there to enjoy it is largely irrelevant.

        Which brings me on to XR, the lower upper middle wokies, who have an amazingly blind human centric view of the environment. Their outcomes only focus on the inability of humans to survive, ignoring that the planet will always be here, regardless of our presence or activities.

        • weka

          One of the central tenets of XR is the importance of nature beyond human needs. Hence they core demand is around telling the truth about climate change and the ecological crisis. Not sure who you have been following from XR, but the people I am reading are deeply engaged with the impacts on nature and the rights of nature.

          "Whether or not humans are there to enjoy it is largely irrelevant."

          I disagree. Humans are part of nature too. But even if you don't care about the suffering of this particular life form, there are compelling, nature-centric reasons for humans to do the right thing irrespective of whether we go extinct or not.

          As for allowing for "the possibility a time of plenty associated with more carbon and higher temperatures", I'm going to guess the problem isn't so much that Nature didn't address that (why should they, the piece was about the problems of climate science underplaying tipping points), but that you have a kind of denialist approach that you're not being particularly up front about. You may know that I don't allow denialist lines under my posts. Despite having started this conversation by trolling, I guess there's an opportunity here for you to say what you really mean but you still need to abide by the rules.

        • greywarshark

          Foolish; "ignoring that the planet will always be here, regardless of our presence or activities." – what me worry said the guy on MAD cover.

          Is that a message from the Great Creator Climaction? The planet may go on despite all but we will kill off most of ourselves and most other living things of our time. Mars is still there, but it's environment and atmosphere are negative to life as we know it. Why not try to save the magical life that is here and not just treat it as a passing artifact although we ourselves, are the passing artifacts?*

          * Artifact – an object made by a human being, typically one of cultural or historical interest.

          (I was made through the combined work of two humans, with the living spark which comes from a distant Creator, and the rest of the definition is, I believe, true.)

  11. Bill 11

    I think the following excerpts from Charlotte Wood's piece in today's Guardian are pertinent to this post and some of the accompanying comments. The whole article can be read here.

    After our petulance (at the ongoing fires) comes a stoic, patient reasoning. It’s good for us to get this wake-up call. And it’ll be over soon. But that was weeks ago, and the patience has been replaced by a grim, creeping dread. A fear that it won’t be over soon, or ever. It feels like karma. This is what the scientists have warned us about, begged us to think of, all these years. It’s here. And it’s going to get worse.


    As conservationists, she and her partner do not stock their land and have always prided themselves on total groundcover. But now, with paddocks “shaved” by hordes of hungry kangaroos, exposed soil is everywhere. Rain is a distant memory. “This is how deserts form,” she said. Her daughters, in their early 20s, decided some time ago not to have children.


    Prime minister Morrison’s Instagram account carried grinning images of him – baseball cap in place – atop a ladder, draping his family home in twinkly Christmas lights. No matter what’s going on each year, says the PM of a burning nation, getting in the Christmas spirit has always been such an important part of our family life

  12. pat 12


    "Sydney has been choked by thick smoke for almost a week.

    Hospital emergency departments have seen a 25% increase in people presenting with asthma and breathing problems, and ambulance crews are responding to between 70 and 100 call-outs a day for respiratory conditions, including to school children as young as six."


    "Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist with the University of NSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, said she was “surprised, bewildered, concerned” that the emergency had prompted little discussion from political leaders this week.

    “Here we are in the worst bushfire season we’ve ever seen, the biggest drought we’ve ever had, Sydney surrounded by smoke, and we’ve not heard boo out of a politician addressing climate change,” she said.

    “They dismissed it from the outset and haven’t come back to it since.

    “They’re burying their heads in the sand while the world is literally burning around them and that’s the scary thing. It’s only going to get worse.”


  13. pat 13

    "Low oxygen levels are also associated with global heating, because the warmer water holds less oxygen and the heating causes stratification, so there is less of the vital mixing of oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor layers. Oceans are expected to lose about 3-4% of their oxygen by the end of this century, but the impact will be much greater in the levels closest to the surface, where many species are concentrated, and in the mid to high latitudes."


    Pretty much everything we do on an industrial scale is destroying us

  14. R.P Mcmurphy 14

    does this mean I cant go to mongolia, makoo peekoo, or patagonia and I cant have a chainsaw, leaf blower, horizontal grinder, hardly davison, jetski, replica winchester and go to far away places and laugh at quaint people?

    • Grafton Gully 14.1

      I often think about this too – what makes people buy and use all this and travel to remote places with no aim but the novelty. It must be to feel powerful and as Andre says above wrt transport choices "comfort, convenience, perceived safety, perceived control". The reassurance that comes from control is what I crave, and I think others too. Our perceived freedom has made us deeply fearful. I'm reluctant to bring religion into this, but the ancient teachings and warnings still stand.

      • greywarshark 14.1.1

        Touring overseas is a sign that you have 'made it.' You embark from little ol' NZ and keep going on numerous trips until you are satisfied you have visited all the main places of interest, and even done some ethnic tours. Then you come home and make discouraging comments about those NZ people who can't manage their lives materially and socially to the norms of the nice people here.

      • weka 14.1.2

        What ancient teachings are you thinking of Grafton?

    • Incognito 14.2

      Have you tried Facebook or Instagram?

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