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When the levee breaks…

Written By: - Date published: 1:07 pm, September 20th, 2016 - 99 comments
Categories: climate change, global warming, Media, science - Tags: , , ,

During the week someone alerted me to Rod Oram being interviewed by Lynn Freedman on National Radio. One particular moment jumped out as Rod went silent and seemed to wrestle with what he was about to say.

It immediately brought to mind a piece I read in The Guardian a few weeks ago, maybe a month back,

I’ll come back to Rod Oram, but first to the Guardian. They print heaps of reports and articles on global warming. Common to all those reports and articles, dire as much of the information they contain might be, is an underlying assumption that things will be okay. This headline from an August article kind of captures what I mean. – Australia will need to remove CO2 from air to keep warming below 2C, climate body says (sub-head) Climate Institute report says negative-emissions technology is imperative because risks of global temperature reaching 2C are ‘unmanageable’

So, you get that? There’s no questioning the feasibility of negative emission technologies – just a call for them to be applied.

Go through article after article and the same refrain comes up over and over again. Things are really bad, but we’ll be okay – we have the technology.

But then there was this one where, for the first time to my knowledge, a Guardian article cast serious doubt on the feasibility of negative emissions technologies. Of note, and unlike other pieces, they were providing direct quotes from scientists throughout this one.

But what form that (negative emissions) technology takes is unclear. Several techniques have been proposed. One includes spreading crushed silicate rocks, which absorb carbon dioxide, over vast tracts of land. Another involves seeding oceans with iron to increase their uptake of carbon dioxide. Most are considered unworkable at present – with the exception of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. Under this scheme, vast plantations of trees and bushes would be created, their wood burned for energy while the carbon dioxide emitted was liquefied and stored underground.

“It could do the trick,” said Cambridge University climate expert Professor Peter Wadhams. “The trouble is that you would need to cover so much land with plants for combustion you would not have enough space to grow food or provide homes for Earth’s wildlife. In the end, I think we just have to hope that some kind of extraction technology, as yet unimagined by scientists, is developed in the next couple of decades. If not, we are in real trouble.”

I don’t pour over the Guardian’s environmental section and so don’t know if that piece was a one off. But I seriously hope it’s not; that it’s the beginning of more realistic reporting.

Back to Rod Oram. The following attempt at a transcript is from 11:08 on this pod cast link.

“There are things we can do. There are things we can do right now and try and um help encourage people and um bring people together who do relate to these issues so we can make these extraordinary leaps that we have to do. Em otherwise, um , well quite frankly um we, well civilisation as we know it is..is not just at risk, I mean, the trajectory we’re on um is to see em em (long pause before he rushed out) I’m thinking really hard about saying this, I’ve never actually said it before – about the collapse of civilisation as we know it…

Now I know some people will accuse me of desperately casting around seeking something positive to cling to; of seeing things that aren’t there. And maybe I am guilty of that. But if liberal commentary is now beginning to acknowledge that we’re out of our depth and beyond the limits of our ‘god given’ prowess and cunning, and if that’s going to presage a call for action based on a realistic assessment of our situation, then I’ll take it.

The levee might not be gushing forth, but any slow seepage is a start.

99 comments on “When the levee breaks… ”

  1. Sabine 1

    just because

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    I thought we still had carbon budget that we can still burn through and which still gives us some chance of avoiding 2 deg C.

    (To clarify, my stance is that we blew past an inevitable 2 deg C in the late 1980s, or 1990s)

    • Bill 2.1

      Don’t pull this shit CV.

      The post is about the commentary from liberal media and a possible shift (or the beginnings of a shift) in how they couch their reporting on global warming.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        So we’re marking the fact that the liberal media might possibly be shifting their coverage on climate change to being a bit more accepting of the fact that we are ‘out of our depth’ and ‘beyond the limits of our technological prowess’?

        OK I guess that’s something which might have potentially positive implications in the future.

        • Garibaldi

          “Out of our depth” and “beyond the limits of our technical prowess”. These are the very things you have been so capably posting on for ages CV. Liberal media have , imo, already pointed out that we are in unknown territory re cc and that there is no sign of feasible technological solutions ( and unlikely to be) .
          I think the human animal is simply too slow to comprehend the extent of the damage done and the consequences we are about to face. Our greed is our undoing.

          • Colonial Viper

            We can get it. Individuals have. But as a collective mass, turning a blind eye (and then justifying why doing so is sensible/necessary) is a speciality of modern humans.

            • greywarshark

              You have nailed what I have just recently personally realised. We are not rational animals, we are rationalising ones. Bill you have been watching this and I hope you are right that the tide is turning. So many people are caught up in the present local difficulty they face and that is understandable as the wealthy and ambitious/aspirational (obssessed with possessions and status, or greedy) have desired to keep more and more of what they receive, and don’t have the grace to even thank God for it.

              The neo liberals have been wrecking our country, our resilience, and our resources at the same time as we should have been making moves to combat and also prepare for the changes coming. It demands from those of us who have seen this, and tried to hold, improve, think creatively, protest, sacrifice money and time from our lives to stand up to, in the Courts, the polling places, the streets, the media but virtually to deaf ears and to be made the butt of jokes, well it demands a Christ-like magnaminity ‘Forgive them..they know not what they do’.

              To resent, be angered, punish them eventually will be wasted energy, and they will probably be our family, our neighbours, good people but not prone to reflection, embedded propaganda from childhood drives them
              along the ‘right’ tracks.

              We are a sports loving country though, so if we can get sportspeople on board sometime soon, we will have powerful, trained, committed people working together for good. Perhaps that’s where the crux of the push-back will come from to make an impact on the dozy buggers and teetering high-heelers that spend their days, looking after their physical selves, women dyeing and dieting, men growing their necks and stomachs – the comfortable observers and mercenaries of the financial and business community.

    • Richard Rawshark 2.2

      Stance or side, open to review is it?

      In that I don’t think anything is set in stone except the speed of light, and that actually changes depending on the medium it’s travelling through so meh.., if you get what I mean,

      Proper scientific research with masses of funding, could produce a viable carbon scrubber maybe. Though it certainly won’t happen under our current planets leadership and ties to industry.

      With almost an approaching cataclysmic urgency this planet needs to act, as the signs of mass climate upheaval are well and truly showing from starving polar bears to storms like the recent one that was a record setting force cyclone, but I fear fuck all will happen, and the planet will turn decidedly pear shaped and well into oblivion before they start making an effort in earnest.

      We are screwed CV I got maybe 50 years left, probably 20 in reality.., good luck people.

      You know why we are screwed because we all have to work to survive do you understand what I mean? .., changing the planets fuels, eco friendly products and everything else required to fix the problem, will cause so much trouble, drive so many businesses like those connected to the oil industry in some way under, I don’t think it can’t be done by the present leaders. None of them have the guts to say what’s happening why, what the causes are and what we all have to stop doing if we want our future generations to have a planet to live on that’s healthy.

  3. CnrJoe 3

    Well I clearly heard the catch in Rods delivery…

    and then there’s this

    “The estimate of 40 years for climate lag, the time between the cause (increased greenhouse gas emissions) and the effect (increased temperatures), has profound negative consequences for humanity…….

    With 40 years between cause and effect, it means that average temperatures of the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly putting into the air in the 1960’s. It also means that the true impact of our emissions over the last decade will not be felt until the 2040’s”.


    • barfly 3.1

      Just as well humanity has an enormous supply of nuclear bombs…….continuous mini nuclear “winter” anyone?

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        I predicted a while back that when the real crisis hits, the ‘serious talking heads on TV’ will be discussing proposals to detonate nuclear bombs in the desert to provide sun cover.

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      CnrJoe: yep. It takes between 30 and 40 years for half the warming effects of the CO2 put up this year to be felt.

      Currently, we have experienced about half the total warming which will result from the emissions we put up in the 1980s.

      We’ve only experienced a small fraction of the total warming due from the emissions that China has put up since 2000. That’s when China started burning coal and using concrete in a truly massive way.

      • Robert Atack 3.2.1

        We ‘feel the heat instantly a carbon molecule starts radiating heat back down to the earth, the so called ‘lag’ is the ice and deep oceans. Guy gives the ‘lag’ 10 years ?

        • Colonial Viper

          Yes the CO2 molecule starts trapping extra heat immediately, but it takes decades for enough heat to be trapped that the affect of that one CO2 molecule reaches thermal equilibrium i.e. the extra heat it is trapping is balanced out by the extra heat radiated back into space due to the increased temperature.

          At least that is how I understand it.

          The “thermal inertia” of the oceans etc is another factor providing “lag” which slows down measurable surface temperature increase.

    • Bill 3.3

      From your link

      “A paper by James Hansen and others [iii] estimates the time required for 60% of global warming to take place in response to increased emissions to be in the range of 25 to 50 years. The mid-point of this is 37.5 which I have rounded to 40 years.”

      Any time lag has repercussions in terms of how we deal (or don’t deal) with shit. One paper giving a range of between 25 to 50 years does not mean the time lag is 40 years and doesn’t take into account that the lag may vary.

      • Colonial Viper 3.3.1

        But there is a lag time, and that lag time is measured in decades.
        No one is suggesting that the lag time is 5 years or 500 years.

        So whether that lag time is at the low end (25 years) or at the high end (50 years), that’s only a 25 year difference.

        • Richard Rawshark

          We are, talking a planet.. we are talking mans(pardon the sexism)destructive abilities, and things are different apparently


          “Models predict that Earth will warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius in the next century. When global warming has happened at various times in the past two million years, it has taken the planet about 5,000 years to warm 5 degrees. The predicted rate of warming for the next century is at least 20 times faster. This rate of change is extremely unusual.”

  4. Pat 4

    I was also pleasantly surprised to hear it stated in more realistic terms….now it needs to be far more widespread

  5. Phil 5

    Prof. Kevin Anderson addresses this very point of the need for realism and the very wishful thinking not only in the political/journalism sphere, but in science itself. His talk “Delivering on 2°C: evolution or revolution?” is sobering, but worth watching and reflecting upon.

    • maninthemiddle 5.1

      The realism needs to come from the alarmists. For over 25 years we’ve been fed this ‘catastrophic’ scenario, and for 25 years the forecasting has been wrong. In May 2005, the UN said we had 8 years to avoid a “dangerous global average rise of 2C or more” (2degreehttps://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/may/05/climatechange.climatechangeenvironment). Even according to NASA, global average temperatures have only risen by 0.8degrees since 1880.

      I’m interested in viable solutions to genuine problems. I’m not interested in reading more Chicken Little scenarios from people with their heads firmly imbedded in their backsides, and their hands equally firmly embedded in a trough.

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        The first 99% of the journey out the back of a plane without a parachute doesn’t cause much health problems.

        Don’t let that fool you though, eh.

        • maninthemiddle

          There is evidence that the fall from the aircraft will harm me. The evidence we can have any discernible impact on climate change is sparse.

          • Colonial Viper

            There’s very little evidence that the fall from the aircraft will harm you – what evidence is there? Has it happened to you before and you were harmed?

            • maninthemiddle

              When I was young, my parents took me to an airshow at Ardmore (or was it Whenuapai?). During the event, one of the parachutists parachute failed to open. He tried in vain to open an auxiliary chute. I remember my father desperately trying to hide the sight from the eyes of my self and my two siblings, but the sound and sight of the man hitting the ground will be in my minds eye for ever.

              How’s that for evidence?

      • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1.2


        Illiterate innumerate bolsters reputation for illiteracy and innumeracy: the UN didn’t say two degrees would arrive by 2016.

        The report said global emissions must peak by 2015 for the world to have any chance of limiting the expected temperature rise to 2C…

        What kind of fuckwit can’t even get that right?

        • In Vino

          Maninamuddle. That’s pretty consistent for him.

        • maninthemiddle

          “the UN didn’t say two degrees would arrive by 2016.”

          I didn’t say they did. Why can’t you learn to read. My point was that the UN gave us 8 years, 9 years ago. On the basis of that hysteria, we’re too late. I really don;t know why I have to keep spelling out the detail for you.

          • In Vino

            8 years for what? To reduce our emissions, not have them still increasing as they are. Got that? Another fail, you twit. Not hysteria – science. Calling it hysteria does not make you an intellectual – just another dumb denier. You have just admitted that (on that basis) that we are all in really deep shit, and we are too late – but have you actually grasped it yourself? Time you did. If you are young enough, maybe you will live through it, and your reluctant penny will finally drop.

      • Bill 5.1.3

        I’m not interested in reading more Chicken Little scenarios from people with their heads firmly imbedded in their backsides, and their hands equally firmly embedded in a trough.

        Then listen to Anderson you fool.

        • maninthemiddle

          Anderson said this:

          “There is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global mean surface temperature at below 2°C”


          • Bill

            You do know that Anderson is one of the most optimistic people out there, yes?

            Going by the most optimistic side of the science and embarking on unprecedented levels of action today we get something like a 33% chance of holding to two degrees.

            Feed current political reality (inaction) into the science and 2 degrees is gone.

            I think there’s only something like 5 or 6 years of current emissions before 1.5 becomes absolutely impossible. Think about that. Cleave to the most optimistic side of the science and no matter what we do, temperatures will be set to exceed 1.5 degrees in the time it takes a child to go through school or get a degree at Uni.

      • Macro 5.1.4

        Even according to NASA, global average temperatures have only risen by 0.8degrees since 1880.

        The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1.0 degree Celsius) since the late-19th century, a change largely driven by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

        That is a NASA link by the way, and refers to last years record breaking warmest recorded average global temperature . This year has seen the first 8 months of the years each successively breaking the previous years record for the warmest month ever recorded, and Sept looks to continue the trend (i.e. the warmest Jan ever recorded, the warmest Feb ever recorded etc. 15 months of successively breaking records. There is a 99% chance that 2016 will be the warmest year ever in modern history breaking the record of 2015. We are well over 1 degree C above pre – industrial temperatures and we caused it.
        But wait there is more which you obviously fail to understand. Earths temperature will continue to rise until such time as the energy being emitted by the Earth in Black body radiation equals the energy being received by the Earth from the Sun in solar radiation. At present the Earth’s radiation is being trapped in the atmosphere by Greenhouse Gasses. There is an energy imbalance (the energy of around 4 Hiroshima Bombs per second) which results in the rising ocean and surface air temperatures, and temperatures will continue to rise until such time as this energy imbalance no longer exists. While we pour more GHG’s into the atmosphere, this imbalance will increase and persist.
        The current level of 400ppm CO2 is enough for at least 1.5 degrees C depending on the climate sensitivity of the Earth being relatively benign. Current observations would indicate that climate sensitivity is not benign and we are in for far greater warming that was anticipated even a few years ago.

      • lprent 5.1.5

        In May 2005, the UN said we had 8 years to avoid a “dangerous global average rise of 2C or more”

        I think that your ability to think has been significantly retarded – Alzheimers perhaps?

        Firstly you can’t paste in a page link which makes it hard to point out exactly what a munter you really are. Because I can’t be bothered wasting time on you trying to figure out which article you were referring to. I’d probably have better luck googling whatever scientifically illiterate denier site you plagiarised the quote from.

        Secondly what the “UN”* was saying in 2005 was that we had about 8 years to avoid a average global 2 degree C by the end of the century. Do you see how much of a ignorant fuckwit you are? Somehow you are equating 2016 with the year 2100.

        Thirdly this temporal lack of focus (and a natural level of stupidity) probably also explains the profound ignorance of your statement “for 25 years the forecasting has been wrong”. It appears far more probable that you simply didn’t read when the forecast was for. You expected it to be lat year – not in 20-30 years time.

        Fourthly this backwards thinking – well you have to be a Act supporter. They are generally the only crazed loons around who work backwards to rewrite history in their own heads like that.

        I’d probably have more fun explaining your personal flaws to you in finer detail. Unfortunately my spoilsport alter-ego moderator has already banned you for two weeks for diversion commenting in another post. I will wait with an educational barb…

        * actually probably one of the UN’s agencies – which is a distinction even an idiot like you should understand. However it is hard to tell when you quote without providing any details.

        • lprent

          Yeah I was right.
          The Guardian article is here.

          The critical quote that our lying and plagiarising mid-level fool forget to read down to says (my bold)

          Yesterday’s report follows two studies by the IPCC this year, which said unrestrained greenhouse gas emissions could drive global temperatures up as much as 6C by 2100, triggering a surge in ocean levels, destruction of vast numbers of species, economic devastation in tropical zones and mass human migrations.

          The report said global emissions must peak by 2015 for the world to have any chance of limiting the expected temperature rise to 2C, which would still leave billions of people short of water by 2050.

          That seems pretty clear. Global temperatures wasn’t going to rise 2 degrees C by 2016 – the reports were looking at the end of the century. And our peanut brained monkey has a pretty severe case of temporal lunacy and should probably be put on ice until 2100 so he can see how it plays out in reality.

          The “UN” that our moron of the extreme was referring to was the IPCC. That was established as joint operation between World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Programme. All three are subsidiary operational organisations of the UN.

          However they are not the organisations who set UN policy of make announcement on their behalf. That is the role of the UN General Assembly and the resolutions they pass. Even a cursory search of the net would have found that out.

          So I guess that just goes to show the monkey of the middle wasn’t capable of even doing that.

  6. Macro 6

    Of all the regular commentators on RNZ, Rod certainly gets it wrt AGW. He has toured the country with Jim Salinger advocating for action on CC, he has chaired numerous meetings on the same theme, he is an active member of groups working for action on CC, and he also is acting in his own way to reduce his carbon footprint.
    The window of opportunity for the world to take decisive action is just about closed. We are in for a catastrophic future in terms of increasing severity of weather events, increasingly rapid sea level rise, land becoming so hot it is uninhabitable, and expanding tropics with the consequent spread of tropical diseases. eg. Malaria continues to kill 100’s of thousands per year.

  7. vto 7

    Well it needs repeating….

    always follow the hippies.

    the hippies have been saying such for decades.

    the conservatives on the other hand….. useless… and only ever followers. Never look to a conservative party for new ideas, let alone critical thinking. The conservatives (National Party) will eventually get in behind this stuff, as they always do

    just such a shame that conservatives have so much power in society – they are a deadweight, like the ballast in a ship

    see also https://thestandard.org.nz/economics-is-still-lost/#comment-1233883

    • TC 7.1

      Only when theres votes in it.

      they gag climate change science and rubbish claims about global warming to ensure those votes are as small as they can make them which keeps backers happy.

      The cycle of denial and self interest is alot more powerful than reality and taking action.

    • esoteric pineapples 7.2

      It could be argued that the ridiculing of the hippy movement from the late 1970s was part of the agenda of the new right or at the least very convenient for them. Of course, it was the punk movement which started the trend of attacking the hippy movement in the mid-1970s so perhaps they need to take some of the blame. The punks never really knew what they stood for politically, apart some vague and misguided notion of anarchy which may be why you still see so many people still dressed as punks eg Pink without a shred of irony.

      • Bill 7.2.1

        Ah, esoteric – you obviously only knew or engaged with certain punks. Sure, like the hippies, many were just vacuous little fashionistas….buying their punk from HMV and wrapping it around with received attitudes and bullshit 🙂

        Some were on point though.

    • Richard Rawshark 7.3

      Right on Brother. I’ve been seeing smoke in my eyes for years dude, been telllin everyone , where was I oh, I new it was smog mann!

    • gsays 7.4

      Well said vto, I agree entirely.

      Sometimes the hippies are right too soon, which apparently is a political no-no.

      The Tories will act when it effects the bottom line.

  8. Adrian 8

    If it is going to require covering the earth entirely with forest to extract the co2 on harvest have they allowed for the enormous amount of co2 generated by rotting biomass such as what happens now in the Amazon the largest creator of co2?

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Sure, climate change means that drought and fires have now turned the Amazon rain forest into a net CO2 producer. This is just part of the reason we’re fucked.

    • Bill 8.2

      To quantify the amount of land. Estimates range from 1x to 3x the land area of India being planted and harvested every year.

      Infrastructure wise, we’d need something way in excess of what currently makes up the infrastructure of the fossil industry spread across the entire world within 30 years.

      Oh yeah. And we’d need the shit to actually work 😉

      As an aside, the normal carbon cycle absorbs(absorbed) slightly more carbon than it expels (expelled). It’s the fossil that knocked the balance the other way. No point in worrying about tipping points that may knock that balance even further – that’s the point when we might as well get all religious on it.

    • Editractor 8.3

      If it’s even possible to grow the trees – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/19/tree-death-california-hawaii-sudden-oak

      In the article the beetle infestation is attributed to climate change.

      • Bill 8.3.1

        Oh – in two degrees, there’ll be a lot of stuff not growing, a lot of stuff dying and some stuff thriving. (I wonder how many of the 20 000 species of bee will survive?)

        Storm’s will be fun.

  9. Sabine 9

    its fairly easy, once the mainstream media – liberal or conservative – admits that something is adrift we should all know that it is too late. That in essence the only reason the MSM is admitting the issue of global warming, climate change or climate weirding (choose whatever one is comfortable with) we should understand that it is not starting, not at the beginning but we are in the middle of it. (this was better said in Ben Eltons Stark https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stark_(novel))

    will we adapt? I doubt, considering that everything has to be for profit under our current dominant business philosophy. How can we create machines and the likes to help us survive when there is no other profit to be made then a surplus of humans on a planet with diminishing resources.
    We won’t adapt, we will die pretty much like the flies that we are. In the low lying areas of the planet first – drowning due to rising sea levels, then every where else.

    If anyone thinks that the current refugee crisis in Europe is a biggie, wait another ten to twenty years and re-evalute that thought, once the people from the islands, bangladesh, florida, bahamas and the likes start running for higher ground.

    the levee’s aint holding, and we got no where to run.

    • Bill 9.1

      The thing about acknowledging our situation is that the need to dump our profit driven economy…the market economy, capitalism (call it what you will)… becomes incontrovertible.

      I’d suggest that the current insane (I can’t emphasis the insanity enough) situation where protection of an economy that is trashing the bio-sphere, trumps protection of any likely future that would make any such an economy possible, is about to hit a dead end.

      Whether that dead end is made up of resistance/demands from society or whether it’s the stomp and squish of climate change is…well, there are optimists and pessimists on that front.

      Even opting for the sooner rather then later and more positive scenario, it’s not going to help the many, many people who are already going to die because we’ve done nothing to date.

      I wonder what all those fucking liberals who’ve been known to tut-tut the inaction of train drivers in war time Germany will be saying in a decade or two? Honest guv, I didn’t know, I was only a passenger/a car driver/ doing what I was told/ putting bread on the table/nobody knew….?

      Add up the numbers of dead from all the 20th C’s despots and bastards and stack them against those about to be delivered by climate change. One of those stacks pales in comparison to the other.

      And the liberal whines echo back from the future…”I only ever wanted to do what was good and right and everyone was doing it and no, the career didn’t really matter and I didn’t even really like the foreign travel and you don’t understand what it was like, I had to do it.I had to! There was no option….”

      • Sabine 9.1.1

        The thing about acknowledging our situation is that the need to dump our profit driven economy…the market economy, capitalism (call it what you will)… becomes incontrovertible.

        i simply don’t see it happen. The ‘apres moi la deluge’ – ‘ I did not do it’ mind set is just to prevalent.
        I mean just look at the roads and the gas guzzlers on them. Every one of these drivers sits in a 5 tonne vehicle, by themselves, for several hours and nothing can be done about it, cause i don’t want to rock the boat.
        And besides, Mr. Jones next door has a much bigger and more guzzling car and i must make amends.

        some of us may start alternative communities, but again no one seems to think further then food. While the one thing i am least worried about is food. NZ is good for foraging, there are enough cows for all to eat for a year or two, lets not speak about the hens laying eggs.
        But i’m more worried about health services, education, water treatment etc. These will be the big killer as eventually we will simply not be able to a. produce enough, b. recycle the short fall, and d. be rich enough to get a gallon of water ever three days.
        so this comes to mind, cause we must continue

        • Bill

          Even just three years back, I’d have hesitated before submitting some of the posts I submit on AGW. The reason for that was that the comments would disintegrate into a pointless argument over whether AGW was real or not.

          And the comment you’ve just submitted would have unthinkable a very short time ago. You’d have been mobbed and called for all the mad shits under the sun. Not now though.

          Now we even have Mr Rod ‘cotton candy safe liberal’ Oram seriously contemplating the end of civilisation on a national radio station.

          That said, it’s still only a growing minority who turn to face this in any way whatsoever (and many of them are hypocrites). But who knows….state capitalism fell really bloody fast off the back of, at least in part, people simply not believing any more.

          Think for a moment about the current panic besetting ‘western’ political classes as they flail around trying to understand why people feel the way they do or vote the way they do. It could, all of a sudden, just go.

          And after capitalism, surgeons won’t suddenly forget how to operate and plumbers won’t wake up not knowing one end of a pipe from the other…

          • Sabine

            And after capitalism, surgeons won’t suddenly forget how to operate and plumbers won’t wake up not knowing one end of a pipe from the other…

            i agree, they did not in Germany after the war ended. but, you still had to pay them, cigarettes were good currency, meat worked, young women were good currency and if one desired so were young men, alcohol, stockings, chocolate.

            as i said, as long as you have something to trade you may live, if that stops cause you are old, or disfigured, or don’t have kids looking after you it very quickly becomes like so many war ravaged countries all over the planet.

            There will always be money maker. Will it be you or me? Props not.

            And yes, we don’t need a lot to loose that thin veneer of humanity, civil rights, human rights and all that other good feel stuff that we pretend are inalienable rights.

            • Bill

              But did the end of the war in any way threaten an end to capitalism? If not, then sure, people would go on distributing and offering services by the rules of capitalism – dog eat dog. (Maybe kill both and trade ’em?)

              I believe there were attempts in Northern Italy to do things differently. The US gave it short thrift and reinstated capitalist norms tout suite.

              From my distant observations of catastrophes, I get the impression that people pull together – although there’s precious little reporting that would admit as such.

              For example – remember Haiti? People were civilly passing cardboard boxes out to one another over the fence of some enclosure and a reporter (an atrocious beast), using it as an illustrative backdrop to her piece, breathlessly told the world how things had all gone to hell and that people were dangerous/in danger and looting.

              • Sabine

                the time immediatly after the war and before the currency reform in 1948 was quite interesting as virtually the Reichsmark had no value, the people that had goods to sell held them back just in case and everything was done a. by ration book and b. by bartering and trading.

                my mother and her siblings have good memories of hanging out near the us army barracks to collect cigarette butts. to be fair the yanks would have a paff and drop the cigarettes. These were then taken home, cleaned and re-rolled. Currency. My nana was a truemmerfrau so not paid much, and they all also worked on farms for goods. i.e. harvest potatoes, go home with a bag full of spuds.
                We also have a beautiful African American German uncle who was born in 1954. 🙂

                this is the only thing i can see in our future, lest we have a dictatorial regime and then all bets are off. I don’t see enlightenment. Humanity is too greedy to share, even if their life depended up sharing.

          • Corokia

            Modern health care needs supply chains that work. Heaps of specialized equipment and materials. We don’t make stuff like that in NZ.

            • Sabine

              yep. that is what i am talking about.

              there are several tonnes of crystalfloc that goes to Watercare every week into the water treatment circuit. we don’t make that here.
              there are several tonnes of chlorine that gets send every week to various water treatment stations in nz, most of it is not made here.
              medication? how much is made here?

              heck when / if the supply lines break apart a simply cut during gardening or a bite can kill you.

              we will still have some of it here, for the highest bidder, or the seller of the youngest meat, or or or, but one thing is for sure, ain’t no one gonna sing kumbaya and advocate for sharing. I don’t see this mindset here in NZ nor elsewhere.

              • Colonial Viper

                Chlorine we can make ourselves very easily, but we do need to gear back up some basic industries to make other necessities, for sure.

                • Sabine

                  i used to work in this industry here in NZ having scheduled all the deliveries of the water treatment products, and no you can not make enough to statisfy demand.

                  but then i guess we can all start digging for a tree bog or several, in certain areas that is a smart thing to do, or have ‘community’ latrines that are self composting, but there is no way – sadly so – that without a functioning supply chain you will produce enough chlorine to keep the country supply with clean water.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    OK, good to know.

                    Tbh I don’t really understand what is required to manufacture some of the products you speak of, but the large scale manufacture of chlorine gas can be organised IMO in just a few months as long as you can source satisfactory anode/cathode materials and of course, electricity.

                    Chloride salts for use as the feedstock should not pose a problem and can be recovered from the sea if required.

                    • Sabine

                      christalfloc binds microscopic bio mass


                      chlorine can come from the Mill in hawera but is suplemented with dry chlorine from china as the Mill has been known to run out / low in stock


                      and again, you need to re-read your comment and put it into context of a total crash of supply lines, lack of energy to transport your goods from a to b, lack of energy to transport your goods from island to island.

                      We might be ok for a while with the stock at hand, especially in dry chlorine, but after a good hot summer its going to be hard. You still have to take into account that you may have 6 million people wanting to flush twice a day. Especially if you have no rain, and the reservoirs and damns run low which they do every other year or so. The most sensitive thing in NZ is water. Next emergency services.

                      in your survival scenario you really need to include self composting toilets and community latrines. And plants that love some nitrogen to help brake down the goodness of our human poop.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Yes indeed our problems go exponential if global logistics systems experience a prolonged breakdown lasting more than a few weeks.

                      And yes I agree that household by household and neighbourhood by neighbourhood solutions which take load off the larger network are critical to avoid total collapse of the larger network.

                  • Red Hand

                    I lived on the shore in 40s/50s and we used tank water and had a long drop and septic tank, vege garden and fruit trees, old man next door milked two cows and we had a dinghy for fishing. Now in the city, still use roof runoff for watering veges and cleaning and grow fruit trees. It’s easier than people might think and cheers you up when you give the fruit you don’t need to friends and neighbours. My parents always looked for things that would last and that could be repaired. Shoes were resoled, socks and jumpers darned and good parts of old sheets cut out to make new ones. The Christmas chook was a real treat. People would relearn the old skills.

      • adam 9.1.2

        The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

        This economy is hell, and rehashing it will mean we all going to die.

        No one is brave enough to say stop.

        No wait here goes.


        Stop buying useless crap, Stop, just stop being a pawn in a broken system.

        Because every time you buy gas, or have another round in this rat wheel – you are the problem.

        Grow a spine.

      • Garibaldi 9.1.3

        You are dead right Sabine and Bill. Short term greed and to hell with the consequences , and it’s universal. But wait ,there’s more…. perhaps those wonderful right wing deniers are going to save us. Or perhaps that wonderful god that the Jews , Christians and Muslims rely on could do the decent thing for once.

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.4

        The thing about acknowledging our situation is that the need to dump our profit driven economy…the market economy, capitalism (call it what you will)… becomes incontrovertible.


        To have any way of even humanely coping with the consequences of what is coming, we have to dump our profit driven free market economy.

        • Bill

          Well…to have any remote chance of avoiding what CC will deliver we have to dump all that shit.

          But if we don’t, then there are some will do quite well, at least for a short time post hell landing. I agree there will be very little if anything humane going on in that case – not unless it’s stuff flying under the radar of today’s cliques desperately trying to preserve their power in any number of post Holocene scenarios.

  10. Gareth 10

    The Radio NZ link seems to be down. It comes up with “No item playing”.

    Has anyone got another way of finding the audio segment?

  11. esoteric pineapples 11

    A hard rain’s gonna fall

  12. weka 12

    Nice one Bill. Tipping points and where we can intervene in the system. Once the middle classes get on board we could see major shifts. And then action. This is why I support Gen Zero, the GP etc, because they’re the power holders who have the resources to enact the change we desperately need. And that enacting will come once the culture shifts. We can encourage people like Oram, who have power, to keep speaking out.

    • Bill 12.1


      I precisely don’t support Gen Zero et al because the action they call for is woefully inadequate; is based around the very assumptions I mentioned in the post that, happily, some liberal commentator/outlets might be finally moving beyond and it locks us into a particular course of action.

      We can’t speed up or scale up from the type of stuff Gen Zero/Greenpeace are advocating – it locks us in place until the horses are over the hill, far away and the barn’s just a soggy, cold charred mound. If we do what they want, then that’s all we’ll be able to do. And it’s not even in the ball park in terms of getting us 2 degrees or anything anywhere near 2 degrees.

      But I believe we’ve had this debate before and know full well we don’t see eye to eye on it, so hey.

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.1

        “I’m willing to make major sacrifices to reduce my carbon emissions, as long as you can guarantee that my standard of living won’t be affected.”

      • weka 12.1.2

        Yeah, but you also don’t present a strategy for how to get from where we are now to where we need to be. It’s pretty easy to talk about what we should be doing. Coming up with how to do those takes strategy.

        I’m saying there are steps in between where we are now and true change, and getting the middle classes on board is a massive step. They’re not reading the more radical stuff on The Standard, they’re listening to Rod Oram on RNZ. When he starts talking about the end of civ I think we are getting somewhere. But if we didn’t also have a range of other middle class voices talking about climate change, in various ways, in middle class language not ts radical language, then Oram would sound like a nutter. The tipping point needs to happen in the middle classes, and radicals telling them what they should be doing isn’t a particularly potent strategy IMO.

        Which isn’t to say the radical voices aren’t important. They’re imperative, that goes without saying, because eventually they will become normalised (hence Oram talking about the end of civ). And when the radical voices and the moderate ones start talking to each other, then we might get somewhere.

        We don’t need Gen Zero for the solutions to what we should be doing, so we don’t need to scale up their ideas. What we need from them is normalise climate change action and change. That would be the most vital thing that would come from the Greens being in parliament. Not them being radical (that ship sailed quite some time ago when NZers weren’t voting for them when they were still radical), but NZ having a government that takes climate change seriously. At that point, we will all be lobbying them to up their game and take on board the next level of action. But we will be far closer to being able to do that than from where we are now.

        The technical stuff that will need to be scaled up, but I’m not sure we even need to worry about that. We’re quite capable of doing that already, even despite the fuck up of neoliberalism. What’s stopping us is cultural.

        • Bill

          Oh, I have presented a strategy. All that governmental strong arming of the aviation and shipping sector? The incentives and behavioural changes that flow (and mutually reinforce) from free fossil for business and individuals?

          And I agree that the likes of Rod Oram and The Guardian doing some straight talking is vital….that’s kind of what the entire post was revolving around, yes?

          And then back to the 15 years we have to be done and dusted with fossil…that doesn’t leave much time for much, aye?

          So the Oram’s and the Guardians (the liberal voices) telling their peers that the game’s a bogey is again, what the post revolves around. Of course we could spend another quarter of a century having meetings and passing resolutions while the world goes to hell in a hand basket. That along with some fairy tale belief in huge carbon capture tech is what’s radical – not me.

          On climate I’m not at all radical – on the contrary, my approach is incredibly precautionary and conservative. Climate change (basic physics) has no place for radicalism.

          • marty mars

            Part of the issue may be right here in front of us – weka and bill. Both believe in climate change. Both believe we must do more to prepare people, populations and society for the changes coming and visibly here now. You’d think you two would be buddy buddies working in sync – but you aren’t are you? I feel you are talking past each other. Why is that and isn’t that just a microscopic view of the macro problems facing getting ANY action going at all.

          • weka

            Oh, I have presented a strategy. All that governmental strong arming of the aviation and shipping sector? The incentives and behavioural changes that flow (and mutually reinforce) from free fossil for business and individuals?

            That’s strategy for technical change. I’m talking about the cultural change that needs to happen before anyone will agree to the technical change. Cultural change is what would enable NZ to have a government that will regulate strongly.

            • Bill

              When you go to the toilet, what’s your strategy?

              Mine is to go out ‘that’ door there, along the hall and out the other door. Maybe yours is to go up the stairs or through a hallway or whatever. Point is, it’s different to mine and to everyone else’s but driven by the same need – the same simple understanding or realisation that there is a need.

              The same with CC.

              Unfortunately, many people are at what we might call the toddler stage with regards the need to act; move; do something.

              There is no ‘one strategy’ beyond impressing on people that the need exists. Mention it and talk about it to and do it differently depending on your audience. Sometimes a casual remark in passing, sometimes an in-depth conversation.

              Get to any Greenpeace and Gen Zero meetings and kick them in the pants. Present them with the actual numbers and time scales. (Posts have been done on that)

              Host or attend ‘Coffee, Cake and Revolution’ evenings.

              In all of the above there’s the opportunity to use the realisation of a need as a springboard into the finer details of the hows and what not’s (Posts have been done on that too)

              Send a single sided A4 letter (not an email) to your local MP with the numbers and time scales.

              Ping emails off to radio shows or TV programmes that spin a line. Hold them to the numbers and government commitments (Copenhagen and Paris) ie, – 2 degrees by the science and ensuring equity is promoted/maintained.

              And so on.

              • weka

                I think we have very different ideas of what strategy is, We don’t generally need a strategy to use the toilet, because it is a habitual behaviour that happens without much thought or need for strategy.

                I’m not suggesting there is a single strategy, but it appears you are,

                “There is no ‘one strategy’ beyond impressing on people that the need exists.”

                All the things you suggest are ideas on what should be done. They’re good ideas. They’re not strategy. Strategy would be how to make those things happen given they’re not.

                Having said that, I suspect that where you and I are thinking more closely is that when you say “impress on people that the need exists”, I’m thinking about cultural change. They’re similar.

                • Bill

                  Reacting to any need is habitual or reflexive, be it toilet, itch, big bus, climate change…

                  They do involve a degree of strategy. Eg – must stand up, walk, open door, sit down etc. All things being equal, none of it’s difficult once the need is recognised…. jump out of the way (bus)…stop burning fossil (climate change)

                  Me reacting to climate change given the confines of society and the fact I’m one among many will have next to no effect unless we allow for the possibility of a cascade effect (eg – the Tunisian stall keeper who set himself on fire set off an unpredicted sequence of events)

                  Beyond talking, engaging and pushing, there is no strategy…no need for one – patterns emerge and ‘develop’ and eventually result in cultural change. Seeking a strategy at some cultural level, or demanding that one be provided, can easily become an excuse for not acting or, just as bad, a pathway towards some imposition of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and all that entails.

  13. Paul Campbell 13

    Here’s a carbon reclamation scheme we can do here in NZ … It’s very simple,take all the newspapers we currently recycle (made from atmospheric carbon) and rather than using them to make more newspapers throw them down old coal mines …. We’ll have to grow more trees to extract more atmospheric carbon to replace the recycled papers but that’s not a bad thing

    • In Vino 13.1

      Yes… maybe we could throw in all local body election booklets as well, for all the few who read them, and for the little good it does those who do. Half the left-sounding candidates turn out to be Act Party types wearing sheep’s clothing to gain votes off the very people they will betray.

    • Bill 13.2

      What if we wrapped the industrialists and politicians up in those newspapers and election booklets first…stuffed their pockets and what not? Just – y’know – the possibility of them getting caught in an updraught and littering the place…

  14. corokia 14

    We really, really don’t want collapse of civilisation as we know it.

    Unfortunately, thanks to deliberate ignoring of the seriousness of the climate change problem by politicians and the media, that is exactly what we are heading for. Barring some epiphany by those in power , followed by immediate war-type effort on a global scale, it’s when, not if, for the end of current lifestyles as we know them.

    Trouble is, it worries me that the media will to leap from ignoring or denying climate change to “it’s too late to do anything”

    • weka 14.1

      There are different ways society could ‘collapse’, and they’re not all bad. We might get to have some say in how that goes.

      I agree that one worry is the jump from denial/ignoring to it’s too late. We need to challenge that story wherever it arises.

      • Corokia 14.1.1

        We are not getting very far with having a say on the way things are being done now. I think it’s incredibly unrealistic to expect to have any influence over a ‘collapse ‘

        • weka

          The permaculture, Transition Town, and other subcultures have been preparing for collapse for a long time. That’s influence on the collapse, because when it happens, we will find that there are a whole bunch of people that are prepared and willing to show others how to change. That’s huge. The more we can do that the better. It doesn’t mitigate CC, but it does mitigate collapse.

          Politically, having L/G in power rather than National when the collapse happens means that we will more likely go in a direction of something useful, than the direction of our greatest fears. I’m thinking the difference between a government that introduces war footing measures vs one that goes full on fascist.

          That’s a couple of examples 🙂

  15. A friend gave me a good analogy the other day – he said imagine the mass of humanity heading down the road and up ahead is a tunnel. This tunnel is much smaller than the mass of humanity. this tunnel is tapered so that as the mass of humanity hits the tunnel the outer edges will hit the walls and the middle bit will go through the ever decreasing tunnel. The closer you are to the middle (whatever and where ever that is – but likely western countries, wealthier countries, less populated countries) the less chance you will scrape against or hit the wall.

    I suppose the question then is – is it a tunnel or a cave – does the opening continue or eventually close.

    • Andre 15.1

      Yep. The outer edges are the billions living at very high densities from the Middle East through to Southeast Asia (and parts of Africa) that are already experiencing heat stress and water shortage. It’s already ugly for them and it’s getting uglier very quickly.

      The tunnel might close as a result of an event like the oceans going anoxic, which can then lead to release of toxic gases. Very low probability, but as I understand it the geologic record suggests it may have happened before. Or maybe from a failed dumb geo-engineering project.

      The choices we make now and in the very near future will have a huge influence on how narrow the tunnel becomes. At the moment, our choices look like that tunnel is going to get very small indeed. As in the areas where the large majority of humans currently live becoming too hot for agriculture or human habitation.

  16. Richard Rawshark 16

    Perhaps the destruction of our own planet in the long run will cause humans to be the first known species to leave their home world and seek other hospitable planets.

    Every now and then species need a survival test of biblical proportions to transcend current limitations.

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      Apart from a handful of hitch hikers who might be picked up by passing UFOs or vogons, that’s not going to happen.

    • Bill 16.2

      Maybe we already trashed out Mars. Possibly Venus too? Maybe Earth was a planet that some previous expression of humanity sent a wee ‘explorer’ space ship to and the microbes….

      There must be a sci-fi novel out there that plays with that idea, no? 🙂

      • Colonial Viper 16.2.1

        In Battlestar Galactica (home of the starfighter “Colonial Vipers”) humanity creates a race of AI slaves who eventually rebel and wipe out their human masters and the home worlds of man. Leaving a ragtag fleet of a few refugees to escape who finally discover Earth, tens of thousands of years ago…only for us to do it all over again

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