Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Language of Climate

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to JWT1,

    Rumen bacteria produce methane as an end product because of the highly reducing (anaerobic) environment in the rumen.

    A lot of what happens in the rumen does not involve methane producing bacteria. Nor is it clear you must have methane producing bacteria to do those things. Simply having an anaerobic environment does not necessitate the production of methane and a huge amount goes on in the rumen without methane production. I'd be really surprised if you couldn't alter the rumen bacteria to reduce (if not eliminate) methane production.

    But I don't for a second think it is an easy project nor one guaranteed of success.

    On the plant side alone I know very well that changing the metabolism to make more digestible carbohydrates is hard and likely to have unexpected consequences that will need to be thoroughly examined before you get to a viable product.

    But Russell asked if it was feasible and I think it is, just perhaps not quickly and definitely not without a serious commitment to the effort.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4458 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to George Darroch,

    But it's okay to drive to an anti-oil protest.

    yeah, we need to drive cars. there are limited options to get around otherwise, even for greenies. i think the real hypocrisy is driving to the dairy when you could walk. or refusing to take public transport, etc.

    let me put on the record that i'm not against oil extraction - even with the pollution. or entire civilisation is based on cheap plastics.

    i'm against burning it, or using it to fertilise.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • steve black,

    Back to the original theme about the language of climate. One thing I've noticed is that when Climate Skeptics talk about it they often say "Global Warming" and when other people (especially scientists) talk about it they often say "Climate Change". Anybody else notice that?

    I blame the MSM for simplifying things down in headlines to "Global Warming" and I blame naysayer politicians and skeptics for using the opening which the MSM gave them. Talk of "Global Warming" is often a prelude to mentioning things like "but we've had the coldest winter ever" or "but the average global temperature isn't really going up".

    I try and keep the focus on variability. If the average temperature stays the same, but we have higher high temperatures by 50% and lower low temperatures by 50%, we will get fried and frozen by turns. All with no change to the average. Ditto for wet and dry periods. We'll be desiccated and flooded by turns. It is a statistics thing, but as we know the MSM often have a bit of a problem with the relevant concepts like variability.

    sunny mt albert • Since Jan 2007 • 116 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Che Tibby,

    and most importantly. when that day comes that an angry young tibby stands up in front of me and demands to know, "WHAT DID YOU DO?!" while the world was being poisoned, i can look him in the eye and say, everything i could.

    I'm inclined to accept your quiet (conditions apply) there, but it would be nice to acknowledge it.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to steve black,

    Yep that's exactly how I wish it were framed.

    My other big problem is the way reporters feel like they are being balanced by doing an article on climate change. They interview a scientist saying it's happening; so for 'balance' they go to a scientist who says it's not happening. Then they finish the clip. This leaves the impression that the science is divided.

    Instead I wish they'd pick scientists at random and get this type of response: A says it is happening, B says it is happening, C says it is happening, D says it is happening, E says it is happening and that's all we have time for. If they want to have an opposing voice then they should cover the other 19 who say it is happening.

    In their attempts for balance they end up distorting the picture. I've watched news clips like that before and heard someone say "Sounds like they can't agree what's happening. Why should we do anything." I think if people actually realised just how much the experts do agree there would be a lot more pressure.

    How we've ended up in this situation I think is partly a result of the media's methods and the fact that the opponents have done an excellent (from their point of view) job at creating the impression of controversy.

    Since Jun 2010 • 327 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    "What are you, personally, doing about it?" the doubters ask us, "And how much quality of life are you prepared to give up?"

    Being a bike riding vegetarian doesn't really stand out the way that, say, chaining myself to the gates of a concentration camp does. But it does more to reduce AGW than most things, even buying 100% wind power (which we do). And despite saving frantically to buy said house, we donate about 5% of our pre-tax income to various environmental groups every year. Many are tax deductable, but also some that are not (somehow every year I donate to NZ deductable groups and every year can't find anyone in NZ willing to claim the deductions).

    What I don't do is "anything I can". Starting, most obviously, by reducing my consumption to zero by killing myself. I'm also not, for example, going to blow up a coal export ship in the channel at Newcastle, even though that would significantly reduce Australi's coal exports. Nor will I kill John Key, even if it seems likely to be dramatically effective.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Moz,

    In their attempts for balance they end up distorting the picture

    And they only do it sometimes. You don't see "balance" about car crashes, for example, where they interview the grieving relatives then for balance they find someone to say "good riddance, I'm glad they're dead". Or even on less controversial things, like the Royal Visit. Wouldn't it be great if every single mention had a republican slot as well?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Che Tibby,

    we're in deep car-car...

    we need to drive cars ...even with the pollution.

    then again, this may explain why we can't put two and two together and get 4 anymore...
    and a lot more!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    what the. why the liberal edit?

    i'm pretty sure i meant that we need cars - but they don't need to be hydrocarbon powered. otoh we need plastics, and they'll have to be from oil or coal.

    regarding "global warming" vs. "climate change". i used to think the same. but then someone pointed out that climate change is more accurate. the freezing temperatures in the US over the past two winters are explicitly linked to global warming, but it's a tough sell. call it climate change, and ur munters are more easily convinced.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Che Tibby,

    i'm against burning it, or using it to fertilise.

    An interesting fact, which you may already know,, is that the fertiliser we use is made from hydrogen extracted from natural gas:
    CH4 + H2O ⇌ CO + 3 H2 => CO + H2O ⇌ CO2 + H2
    N2 + 3H2 => 2NH3

    Hydrogen can also be produced from water using electrolysis with renewable electricity.

    There have been many schemes proposed to use H2 as a transport fuel, but very little in the much simpler task of producing ammonia for fertiliser electrolytically.

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

  • steve black, in reply to bmk,

    My other big problem is the way reporters feel like they are being balanced by doing an article on climate change. They interview a scientist saying it’s happening; so for ‘balance’ they go to a scientist who says it’s not happening. Then they finish the clip. This leaves the impression that the science is divided.

    I've puzzled over how we could "assist" the broadcast media to come up with a way to indicate the strength of numbers behind the two scientists they interview when they do the old "in favor" vs "opposed" one per view notion of balance. Maybe they could always present a graph showing the relative sizes of the two groups behind them as they speak if there is video. I though of tweaking the mic volume to represent the relative number of mainstream scientists (100,000) to the skeptics (100)* but then the skeptics would be completely inaudible. Nice, but probably not a workable solution just yet...

    * just making up numbers of course, it might be much more extreme.

    sunny mt albert • Since Jan 2007 • 116 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Thrift,

    We do nothing, shrug and carry on as before because we are not designed to react to long term threats. Immediate problems ( a wolf jumping at us) gives us an immediate, and effective response which we inherit from out forebears. But long term? Meh, cycle, not drive? Stop smoking? Take exercise? etc We need a way of thinking and reacting that, until now we have been, by dint of out genetic past, been unable to do.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    my gut feeling

    well played

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19707 posts Report Reply

  • JLM,

    Interview plus transcription that gives some insights I hadn't thought of as to why even (or especially) flood victims dont make climate change attributions
    http://www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-03/george-marshall-communicating-climate-change-following-extreme-weather-eve

    Judy Martin's southern sl… • Since Apr 2007 • 241 posts Report Reply

  • Amanda Wreckonwith, in reply to bmk,

    'If they want to have an opposing voice then they should cover the other 19 who say it is happening.'

    Wrong.

    They should cover the 32 who say it is happening as balance for the 1 who says it isn't. (The 97% consensus).

    I would also like to see this applied to all media - for every article dismissing climate change they should broadcast 32 that support it.

    If they do not - let their names be recorded for posterity.

    They were complicit in the misinformation campaign.

    Our descendants can judge them.

    Since Sep 2012 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I just spent a week in Shenzhen - the first thing you notice is all the electric bikes , they keep sneaking up on you- I don't think I saw a single petrol powered motor bike - compare this with Taipei or Saigon and their 2-stroke fumes. maybe 10% off the taxis were electric too - there's an extra 3RMB tax if you get into a petrol powered one.

    For all its problems China seems to be doing stuff while we just argue

    They have far more polite drivers too

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Che Tibby,

    fuming...
    Sorry - no offence meant, or dispute of what you said,
    I was just trying to connect to the idea that those words triggered for me -
    that diesel emissions were possibly compromising the cognitive abilities of future generations...

    as you were...
    ;- )

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    I just spent a week in Shenzhen

    Wish I'd gone there...
    I just spent a week round Melbourne - gridlock city,
    too many cars and trucks, takes forever to get anywhere...
    and now Chchch is getting the same...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7943 posts Report Reply

  • Michelle Ducat,

    There has been lots of work on ways of reducing methane through manipulating stock feed http://www.nzagrc.org.nz/methane-faq.html and http://www.globalresearchalliance.org/
    I can't help but feel this is a hope that may materialise at some future time but could also end up being appropriated in the name of growth. Fonterra made great energy efficiency reductions so its carbon per unit of output went down - but its total footprint has grown.
    So I put my energies in campaigning to keep fossil fuels in the ground - not that I'd be much use in the lab.
    I would love to hear people's thoughts about Russell's question - is there a better way to talk about this? I see multiple conversations. I'd love to see the one inspired by Tom Bennion's proposal to get high profile folk to give up flying . I'd also love to see more happening around community resiliency - which could be along the lines of this: http://www.agresearch.co.nz/our-science/land-environment/climate-change/Pages/default.aspx. And I'd love to see more ways we can connect this to the inequality discussion. I felt disgusted by Tim Groser's response to the IPCC report last week. His comments on RNZ on Sunday seemed to say when we got our insurance bills we'd start to act, that there was no need for central government to show any more leadership. What about the conversation with the other 50% of NZers who do not own their own homes?

    Lower Hutt • Since Apr 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to George Darroch,

    Agreed. But it's okay to drive to an anti-oil protest.

    “Until they personally run their own lives without fossil fuels I’m not prepared to consider their position about not extracting fossil fuels.” Dunedin city councillor, former ACT MP Hilary Calvert.

    There's a fallacy here in Debating 101, but I can't quite pin it. It does sound like a variant of "my argument is so powerful, it's not necessary to talk about it.", as well as a close relative of the 'champagne socialist' epithet.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5429 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    For all its problems China seems to be doing stuff while we just argue

    They have far more polite drivers too

    EH?!??!!!!!!!!!!!!! Polite drivers?! Well, maybe Shenzhen... I've never spent more than a couple of hours there.

    Yep, China is doing stuff, I just opened up this article on the always interesting, not always reliable Asia Times, for example:

    China is known widely as the world's largest user and producer of coal, and the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    That is true. Less noticed has been the fact that China is also building the world's largest renewable energy system - which by 2013 stood at just over 1 trillion kilowatt hours - already nearly as large as the combined total of electrical energy produced by the power systems of France and Germany

    And if you click on the "more" button at the bottom of the page, there is, funnily enough, more, though I would be curious to see somebody with a better knowledge than myself of electrical engineering and statistics critique it.

    I'd also be wary of the China - doing stuff vs. NZ/"The West" - blethering comparison. Not only does China have fairly well-known methods of getting stuff done that not many of us would like to copy, some of the things China has tried have had some unfortunate unforeseen consequences. Take cars, for instance: Various methods used to restrict the number of cars on the roads seem to have had the perverse effect of encouraging gas guzzlers - if you're going to have to pay megabucks at an auction for a licence plate (Shanghai style) or enter a lottery for permission to buy a car (Beijing style), you're going to save up for something big, fancy, and not particularly efficient. I'm also not sure how relevant the climate change thing is - we're living with severe pollution on a daily basis. There are many more immediate reasons to be cleaning up than climate change.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Caleb D'Anvers, in reply to Russell Brown,

    On the subject of London, yes, the smog last week was unpleasant, but what really scares me is the long-term viability of the Thames Barrier. And there is, of course, no joined up thinking evident about the possible impact of flooding on the capital and what effect this might have on planning. The Greenwich peninsula, for instance, has been earmarked for intensive development over the next decade. There are multi-storey apartment blocks going up everywhere along the Thames Path. This on an area of marshland that wasn't even permanently settled until the nineteenth century because it flooded all the time. Meanwhile, here's a cheerful picture of how much of the capital would be under water if the Thames Barrier ever failed. Fun times ahead!

    London SE16 • Since Mar 2008 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    There’s a fallacy here in Debating 101, but I can’t quite pin it

    You participate in a system not of your choosing, therefore you are disqualified from attempting to change that system. I'm sure we could neologise some of a dead language to fit the concept.

    The other form of the argument is: You refuse to participate in the system, therefore you are disqualified from attempting to change that system.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Porter,

    Hi Russell,

    You might be interested in the work of Drew Westen who has done extensive work on psychology, language and persuasion.

    If you can find a spare hour I highly recommend you watch this talk:

    It's on a variety of things, but there's a strong focus on the language of climate.

    His book, The Political Brain, is excellent.

    Jeremy

    United States • Since Apr 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Jen Ferguson, in reply to Caleb D'Anvers,

    Not only is there a lack of joined up thinking, it’s handily combined with that old chestnut, short-sighted government policy (is there any other kind here right now?), such as the Tory’s exemption of maize cultivation from soil conservation measures, leading to widespread soil erosion and surface water run-off, meaning even worse flooding. Hurrah!

    Peckham Rye, London • Since Jan 2007 • 26 posts Report Reply

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