Envirologue by Dave Hansford

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Envirologue: Too Big to Fail – Why National will Never Act on Climate Change

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    “What is truth, anyway?”

    So in a completely random side track. I work at PFR* one of our Crown research institutes and as much as I bitch and moan about the state of our CRIs I do get to work with some amazing folks.

    One of these Richard Newcomb (now our chief scientist) did some really lovely work with the people in our sensory group at PFR that has relevance for "THE TRUTH".

    Two papers in Current Biology, a journal which is sadly pay to view, looked at the ability of people to detect odours, the odours typically found in fruit. They found, as you might expect, different people can smell different odours with different sensitivity. Then they genotyped all the people and looked for and found evidence that the ability to detect some odours is a fairly simple genetic trait.

    In short, it is your genes that determine what you can smell.

    That means since your genes are different from everyone else's, how you perceive the world, in this case how you smell the world, is unique to you.

    Your truth is yours and yours alone.



    * as a complete aside one of the pictures on our website at the moment - the one with the blue light shining on some fruit swirling in water - is a machine called The Turbulator - which is bloody noisy and is right outside my office door!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    They found, as you might expect, different people can smell different odours with different sensitivity. Then they genotyped all the people and looked for and found evidence that the ability to detect some odours is a fairly simple genetic trait.

    Bart... I know this is slightly off-topic, but can I ask if this is the reason some people can smell asparagus pee and others miss it altogether?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Alfie,

    I know this is slightly off-topic, but can I ask if this is the reason some people can smell asparagus pee and others miss it altogether?

    This is from memory but as I recall there are two things going on ...

    First only some people convert the compounds in asparagus into those really smelly compounds in urine. So only some people make the smell. The ability to produce smelly asparagus pee appears to be a fairly simple genetic trait.

    Second only some people can smell those asparagus pee compounds. Again it seems to be a fairly simple genetic trait.

    The fun thing is that both traits appear to be independent. So it is entirely possible to produce the smell and not be able to smell it yourself :). Or not ever produce yourself but if you walk into the loo after a producer ...

    Full disclosure I'm ... nah ... probably TMI

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    * as a complete aside one of the pictures on our website at the moment – the one with the blue light shining on some fruit swirling in water – is a machine called The Turbulator – which is bloody noisy and is right outside my office door!

    Thankyou for the introduction. I want a Turbulator that’s built into a modified AG jar:)

    I like the fruit preserving process. Being an addition to the traditional sugar preserving systems and all that. This would be a good product for offshore sailers and mountain explorers, but one thing bothers me about marketing it as a general convenience food, as per the video.

    The plastic packaging.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4316 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Your truth is yours and yours alone.

    The smelling is subjective, but the smell is objective. More mind bending is "is there really such a thing as subjective truth"? Am I really imagining the smell of asparagus pee, or am I mistaken in my imagination, and that's really the smell of strawberries?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Some smells are more objective (and objectionable) than others,
    but how we react subjectively depends on who they’re associated with:

    Congratulations, baby’s due;
    Your home will shortly reek of poo.
    But don’t your darling child rebuke:
    It helps to mask the stench of puke.

    ( The Right Time, series 1, episode 3)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    White Man Behind A Desk -- on climate change

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Here's a great little infographic from Bloomberg... What's really warming the world.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    I used to love singing "turn off the sun, turn off the sun, darken the world, no radia-shun" at anti-nuclear rallies. I met some STEM geeks with great senses of humour doing that. And attracted some blank looks from... um... non-STEM people.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    In what must rate as sticking up a political finger to climate change, KiwiRail is replacing more than a dozen electric trains with diesel-powered engines for the Wellington-Auckland route.

    Naturally, KiwiRail is buying the locos "dirt cheap" out of China. I wonder if they come with free asbestos, fan blades which fly loose and faulty brakes this time?

    Simon (Ten) Bridges is the Transport Minister with special responsiblity for 19th century thinking. Why does that not surprise me?

    Thanks to Anthony Robbins for the headsup.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Labour MP Meka Whaitiri's private member's bill which reinforces the role of the Government's environmental protection agency amazingly passed its first reading by one vote this afternoon, with backing from Labour, Greens, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and... wait for it... United Future.

    The bill made sure that protecting, maintaining and enhancing the environment was explicitly stated as one of the Environmental Protection Authority's goals.

    Thank you Peter Dunne! Naturally, National is not happy and rolled out one of their attack dogs who, given his role, should know better.

    Environmental Minister Nick Smith said it was a "bad joke" which showed how shallow Labour's policies were.

    "Labour seems to think that by repeating the words 'environment' and 'protection' in the law we will somehow magically save the kiwi, address our water quality challenges and eliminate greenhouse gases," he said.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Alfie,

    Flightless Club...

    ...we will somehow magically save the kiwi, address our water quality challenges and eliminate greenhouse gases

    In related news, that big friendly Aussie bank is apparently about to announce that they are no longer interested in helping kiwi!
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/70458070/bnz-to-end-support-for-kiwi-recovery-programme

    They must have too much tied up in Dairy Business loans...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Leaders of countries are usually remembered for their big decisions.

    When it comes to climate change, David Cameron is determined to get rid of all the green crap, Tony Abbott intends to kill Australia's renewable energy sector and our own government is pussyfooting about in the hope of some yet-to-be-invented miracle technology might save us all.

    So it was refreshing to hear President Obama announce his Clean Power Plan yesterday. That requires US power plants to cut their carbon dioxide emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030 and encourages investment in clean energy technologies. It will also serve the fracking industry with a well-deserved whack.

    Remember the agreement Obama reached with Chinese President Xi Jinping late last year --- the world's two biggest polluters are making the right noises. Obama's latest announcement takes this a step further.

    Note that 2005 rather than 1999 (Kyoto) levels are being used as a reference and Obama is bound to strike a lot of resistance from the powerful US coal industry. Even so, coming from the world's most powerful man, this initiative is great news.

    What a pity our small, once-green country didn't take the initiative on climate change when we had the chance. We could have provided an example for the rest of the world. Now that would be a legacy any politician could be proud of.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Genesis will shut down the last two coal-burning generators at the Huntly power station in 2018. That will save them $20-$25m a year and effectively achieves 20% of the government's latest carbon emission target in one easy exercise.

    Green Party co-leader James Shaw said Genesis' decision had highlighted how unambitious the Government's emission reduction targets were.

    "If the Government's aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030, this move takes care of more than one fifth of that – and that's just one business representing only 40 per cent of the country's coal use."

    New Zealand could (have) achieved the Government's target "sleep walking".

    There's no mention of Genesis moving into solar or wind or anything remotely green or sensible.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Alfie,

    dam(n) buster(d)s...

    no mention of Genesis moving into solar or wind or anything remotely green or sensible

    ..and let's not forget 'we the people' had only just finished building a brand new geothermal powerstation and before it could even start returning money the National Gov't sold half our share along with Mighty River!
    Nga Tamariki, indeed - will no one think of the children?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Alfie,

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    They have 5 dams and a wind farm.

    I'd forgotten that Genesis inherited the Tekapo stations from Meridian as part of that levelling out of power companies. However their wind farm is really only a toy one (22GWh pa) and over 75% of their generation still comes from gas.

    As a solar advocate I'm disappointed that at this stage solar generation only provides 0.1% of our electricity. Solar farms are becoming commonplace throughout the world, yet NZ still doesn't have a single one. I'd really like to see Genesis and the other power generators at least considering this option.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    there is no Plan(et) B...
    Interesting to note how out of step Tony Abbott is with his 'best bud' Barack Obama on the renewables and clean power front - Obama is ramping up the action pushing solar and wind, while Abbott is distancing himself and removing support from the same sectors...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Alfie,

    As a solar advocate I’m disappointed that at this stage solar generation only provides 0.1% of our electricity. Solar farms are becoming commonplace throughout the world, yet NZ still doesn’t have a single one. I’d really like to see Genesis and the other power generators at least considering this option.

    Two possabilitys to consider:

    Manufacturing solar technology has a higher enviromental cost than hydro, geothermal and wind. And solar technology has not reached its energy payback ratio to be economicaly viable for New Zealand conditions yet?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4316 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to steven crawford,

    And solar technology has not reached its energy payback ratio to be economicaly viable for New Zealand conditions yet?

    I can assure you that solar is viable these days -- to me it's a no-brainer to add solar panels to your home. Yet there are just over 5,000 installed systems in the country at the moment.

    I have a modest 4kWh system down here in the south where we get less sun than many. I've saved $2,500 in the 18 months it's been operating and I'm looking at an 8 year payback. From that point all generated energy will be free for the following 15 years, probably more.

    Living rurally we pay more for power than urban users -- currently a ridiculous 42.99 cents per unit. That certainly increases motivation and speeds up the payback. But users in sunnier climes would benefit from feeding more power back to the grid.

    Honestly... every home should have solar.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    off the grid...

    I saw that the other night Ian and was so impressed I tracked down the architect who is doing some great zero energy work.

    I must confess, I'm secretly musing with the idea of building a small off-grid home. Maybe 10kWh solar, a couple of small windmills, battery storage and a backup generator, just in case. The technology is there now and it doesn't cost a fortune to build a warm, dry home which uses no external energy.

    Think of it as a retirement plan. ;-)

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1386 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Urquhart,

    Solar panels are appearing on my garage roof here in Christchurch as I type :D

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2009 • 161 posts Report Reply

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