NZ Govt's Climate Report- Ken's reaction

2nd  August 2013
To view report:
New Zealand’s changing climate and oceans: The impact of human activity and implications for the future. Ah well no hint of presumption and bias there then?

Sir Peter Gluckman’s report to government out today summarises the ‘science” for the public. Mostly it is a reiteration of the dogma and rhetoric we are familiar with, but a few phrases caused me some mirth….

Many decisions will be required at both national and local levels, and within both the public and private sectors. These decisions will need to be made in the face of inevitable and unresolvable degrees of scientific uncertainty.

In the foreword, and a foretaste of the maybe, might, coulda, shoulda, don’t blame me, everyone else said it, tone.

Here’s another cracker as the first paragraph of the exec summary:

An assessment of current scientific reports on the global climate show a very high level of consistency with previous work and with the continuing scientific consensus. There is unequivocal evidence that the Earth’s climate is changing, and there is strong scientific agreement that this is predominantly as a result of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Oh good! Well now we know we were right, because we checked with what we said before. And it hasn’t changed. Today seems to be a day of aggregating what many have said and seeing that as proof. Consensus is the modern scientific benchmark, but how will we know if it is only a popular delusion?

Here’s another massive hedge:

The magnitude of environmental changes will depend in part on the global trajectories of greenhouse gas emissions and land use change. Given there is significant uncertainty in such future trajectories, and natural variability within the system, future climate projections are best represented as probabilistic distributions. It is important to understand that the average predictions represent what is calculated to be the most likely pattern of change, but there is always the potential for more or, indeed, for less extreme change to occur.

Right. So ran our models based on our biased view of the climate system and our guesses are published for the public to be ‘informed’? They follow this with a summary table of the impacts to NZ.

Temperature: The midrange of projections is an average temperature increase of 0.9°C by 2040, 2.1°C by 2090.

The temperature increase from the beginning of this century being 0.00c means it will have to rise 0.90c in the next 27 years, despite it taking 133 years to rise 0.80c previous to that?

Wind: Increase in strongest winter winds by 2100.

Yeah….not sure what that means exactly. A bit, a lot, a whole lot?

Precipitation: Little change in the mean for all New Zealand but large geographical variation.

Hurrah! Well they do predict up here and down there.

Extreme weather: Heavier and more frequent extreme rainfalls, but also more droughts.

Yeah. Well, maybe it will rain sometimes and maybe it will be dry. There, that was helpful, eh? Yeah, nah.

However, the full response to a rise in greenhouse gas concentrations is not felt immediately but manifests itself over many decades to centuries as different aspects of the climate system respond at different rates. Given these systemic lags, there are likely to be further temperature rises as the system stabilises, even if there were little or no additional anthropogenic emissions.

And as is pointed out elsewhere in the paper, it is almost all driven by everyone other than New Zealand, since we are about 0.1% of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. So we are doomed and there isn’t anything we can do, really. I give them marks for informing us about that at least. So it is about adaptation not mitigation, whether its 100% possible or not!