Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Language of Climate

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  • Tom Semmens,

    My preference would be to tax aviation fuel

    Yeah, well… I see this comment as classic Green Presbyterianism. Lecturing people and trying to force them to do something they don’t want to do is always a good way to win an election… or not. So good luck getting anyone to vote for that proposal. Cheap, safe and reliable air travel is one of the miracles of the modern age. Why would you want to stop that? Let’s work on finding alternatives to coal fueled thermal power stations (i.e. safe nuclear technologies like Thorium) before we start pinching hard working peoples cheap holidays to the Gold Coast or Thailand.

    I’ve always been a bit envious of my early 20th century predecessors of the International Settlement era and their long home leaves and travel by ship.

    Everyone would love to have crossed the Atlantic in the gilded age, but only because we all imagine we’d be in first class. Ocean travel for all but the mega-rich was always much more dangerous, boring, expensive and uncomfortable than air travel.

    As for airships they have very limited potential not because of speed – they go around 160 kph, would be fine for overnight mail and cargo from Sydney or sub three day delivery from the USA – but because they cannot fly above the weather, which means they would have to fly around/sit out bad weather. And that means they can’t guarantee delivery times, which is a commercial death sentence.

    Dear New Zealand, that’s what happens when you show leadership.

    Talking of environmental leadership, to go on a slight tangent – the much maligned EU moved decisively several years ago to halt the slump in eel numbers across Europe. Every member state, including the British, were required to develop and enact a waterway management plan to save the European eel. The results speak for themselves. Remember, these are countries with many tens of millions of population and heavy industry and all sorts of competing interests. Now let’s compare and contrast that with the attitude of our government who rule over just 4.5 millions, who see rivers mainly as convenient open sewers for cow shit.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • david kinniburgh, in reply to Gareth,

    have a bit of a go at that.

    Kudos Gareth:-)
    I could expect that sort of tosh from WhaleOil/Slater, whose grip on reality in tenuous at the very least. But the Herald is meant to be the paper of record in NZ. Here, with the planet heading to conflagration, they are passing out buckets of petrol to the bystanders, so they can help put out the fire.
    So.. no more subs to the Herald.

    And while I'm on about my awakening from a media induced torpor,
    I'd suggest a look at
    http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.co.nz/
    for a perspective on the current Ukraine crisis from the POV of a RussoPhile living in the UK. He does things like actually print and comment on Putins speeches, which suddenly gives a point of contrast with the enormous stream of 'Pro Western' perspectives coming primarily from the US. To me its a classic demonstration of the framing theory of George (Don't think of an Elephant ) Lakoff which the 'backroom boys' use to 'create reality' by excluding alternative perspectives..

    Hmmm...must be time for my morning nap.. ;-)

    Auckland • Since Jan 2012 • 29 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Chris, your link seems damaged or misdirected?

    No, it seems I just forgot to put the url in. Damn. Anyway, Hebe linked to the same thing I wanted to.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Farmer Green, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    our government . . . who see rivers mainly as convenient open sewers for
    [cow ] shit.

    Not just our government - but in any case you are wrong about the cow shit. Depending on the area and river under consideration , the problem is either nitrate, or phosphorus (either in soil sediment or from urban discharge) or coliforms.
    That's what the science says for what it's worth.

    That is not to say that successive governments have not been all in favour of agricultural intensification.

    Lower North Island • Since Nov 2012 • 778 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    reliable, affordable genuine hi-resolution video will change that. We don’t have it yet.

    Unlikely. Actual real world personal contact communicates things that we can't reproduce over the internet (yet). I'm only too happy to use the internet but I also recognise the very real value of a face to face meeting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Remember, these are countries with many tens of millions of population and heavy industry and all sorts of competing interests. Now let’s compare and contrast that with the attitude of our government who rule over just 4.5 millions, who see rivers mainly as convenient open sewers for cow shit.

    What if the EU moved to block out our exports on the grounds that we're not pulling our weight on the environment? Basically NZ needs to do something now, before it gets foisted on us. And if it did get foisted on us, the usual suspects will probably go Tea Party instead of wising up.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5443 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW, in reply to WH,

    Ezra Klein's Vox is up, the marquee piece is about how people use and accept evidence selectively

    ... when the subject is already polarised between ideological tribes, as for climate change and others.
    It's a long piece, but very worthwhile all the way down, relating particularly to RB's subject, seeking better language and approaches to climate-change policy debate.

    But (a niggling aside) I strongly doubt that the word 'marquee' has any useful role in the language of climate change etc. I trust it/they will soon be blown away.

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    real world personal contact communicates things that we can’t reproduce over the internet (yet)

    and how many of those things are not a matter of sufficient resolution?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Farmer Green,

    How does a high speed train in full flight cope with a significant earthquake?

    Spectacularly, I would imagine, but not in a way the passengers and crew would appreciate. But that's what we have engineers for, right?

    Agreed, though, all electric would be a good start.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Everyone would love to have crossed the Atlantic in the gilded age, but only because we all imagine we’d be in first class.

    Well, no, actually, I'm not romanticising it. And besides, we have much better technology and slightly less obnoxious ideas about class than back then. I would quite like to see a network of nuclear-powered ferries transporting people trans-Pacific, and I would love to try travelling on such a service.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    and how many of those things are not a matter of sufficient resolution?

    Hugging my children over the internet just wasn't the same.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    So um yeah can we please let our imaginations really stretch and do this?

    +10000000000

    A fine precision example of the use of inflated hyperbole in climate change debate - speaking up for all 10 billion readers? ;-)

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 851 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    and how many of those things are not a matter of sufficient resolution?

    Smell and touch are the obvious two.

    We are impressively visual beings but not everything can be reproduced on a screen. Also even just focusing on the visual you need high speed cameras to capture images of micro-expressions, they are too fast to ever get an image of them at normal frame rates - yet we respond to those incredibly rapid expressions even if we don't "see" them consciously. Yes you could argue that it's just a matter of always using high speed cameras and display systems but that would be a stretch.

    You'd be talking about huge upgrades to VC cameras and displays (at the limits of current technology) and the bandwidth required to transmit the data would be spectacular.

    Personally I'd rather take an overnight airship powered by electric engines to Melbourne for a face to face meeting and lunch at a nice restaurant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to ChrisW,

    speaking up for all 10 billion readers? ;-)

    No, just trying to replicate bouncing up and down in gleeful agreement.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    Oh, and people have always travelled over vast distances. What air travel changed is the speed with which we could cover those distances. Why should we stop travelling now? Isn't it better to use our imaginations to come up with cleaner ways of powering ourselves around the world?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Isn’t it better to use our imaginations to come up with cleaner ways of powering ourselves around the world?

    It is weird to me that there is so much focus on the (non-gasoline) transport net in this thread. Much as I would also love to take the overnight sleeper electric airship to Sydney (if the demand was there, the technology to build such an airship has existed for almost a century) it isn’t flying to Bali or LA that is fueling global warming, it is the road trip to the mall and SUV commute to work multiplied by 10 billion times a day. The three biggest contributors to global warming are:

    1. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants.
    2. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning gasoline for transportation.
    3. Methane emissions from animals, agriculture, and from Arctic seabeds.

    It seems to me that if we could replace coal, oil and rubbish (i.e. plastic) fueled thermal power stations with nuclear power, and get as many people and as much cargo as possible off the roads and onto bikes, trams, trains, ships, barges and buses then we could huge inroads into carbon emissions with an agenda that might have a realistic chance of making it past consumers. And when it comes to stopping the cows farting it seems to me that is exactly the type of agricultural scientific inquiry that New Zealand should be a world leader in.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Farmer Green,

    How does a high speed train in full flight cope with a significant earthquake?

    The freeways certainly didn't in San Francisco in 1989 and Kobe in 1995.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5443 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R, in reply to BenWilson,

    If 320km/h lines around Europe managed to connect up most of the major centers, they'd definitely rival air travel around the continent.

    The train from Paris to London was much preferable to (and faster than) flying from CDG to Heathrow (and then training from Heathrow to central London) - the two hour check in for flying made a critical difference.

    Then we made the mistake of buying a cheap flight from London to Edinburgh. After figuring out logistics involved, it turned out to be cheaper (and not actually much slower) to abandon the plane tickets and catch a train, even though the plane tickets were a sunk-cost. 4 hours of train with free wifi went very quickly and delivered us to central Edinburgh rather than Glasgow Prestwick which would have required another train to get to Edinburgh anyway.

    Trains from Paris to Barcelona, or Rome to Paris were less successful, but probably because they were slower/older trains.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to BenWilson,

    and how often would you do that in your working day?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    using high speed cameras and display systems

    and more intelligent processing to focus on what's meaningful like humans do

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    Let’s work on finding alternatives to coal fueled thermal power stations (i.e. safe nuclear technologies like Thorium)

    Yes, this! If NZ devoted a significant proportion of GDP to training a generation of nuclear scientists and engineers, then once they graduated embarked on a crash program of reactor design, within a couple of generations of reactor build and test we could have safe, secure, reliable nuclear power for all.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Moz,

    If NZ devoted a significant proportion of GDP to training a generation of nuclear scientists and engineers, then once they graduated embarked on a crash program of reactor design, within a couple of generations of reactor build and test we could have safe, secure, reliable nuclear power for all.

    No no no no no no. I mean yes by all means build a safe stable reactor, although the need in NZ is dubious, but please don't reinvent the wheel. Other people have worked out all that stuff elsewhere - to pretend we need to do it ourselves is just all kinds of stupid.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    For those abandoning air travel perhaps it might be worth considering the cultural and social value of travel.

    But to work in that application, does air travel have to be cheap and frequent? Is it necessary for the cultural benefits that a lot of people travel to Bali to get drunk for a couple of weeks every year? Especially when it's easier to download foreign video than ever, or even replace the old "pen pal" with video chats?

    I think on a personal level that just making the diversity we already have more visible does wonders. You don't have to see starving children in third world countries to realise that not everyone is just like you, you could instead talk to someone with a disability or from a different race or culture. Which we do have in NZ.

    It might even be the case that we're better off having a diverse refugee and immigration program (by reversing the "prefer white people from rich english speaking countries" bias), and funding overseas cultural things to come here. Is it better for (say) 30,000 people to see a touring production of Manon, or for 1,000 people to fly to Sydney to see it? (I happened to run into a couple of retired dairy farmers wives from Ashburton at Manon last week)

    Personally, I prefer to travel infrequently and stay for extended periods. Obviously I think everyone should do that :)

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    . I mean yes by all means build a safe stable reactor, although the need in NZ is dubious, but please don't reinvent the wheel. Other people have worked out all that stuff elsewhere - to pretend we need to do it ourselves is just all kinds of stupid.

    If you could link to performance figures on a proven design for a thorium reactor or 4th gen uranium-plutonium reactor I'd be much obliged. Cost to build, reliability in operation, decommissioning costs, that sort of thing.

    My point is that if NZ is going to participate in an experimental program with new reactor designs, we really need to be able to participate in the research part rather than just funding it.

    I actually object because the competition for nuclear is something we already have and have been building for a long time now, while nuclear remains theoretical. We don't even really talk about "thrid generation" hydroelectric stations, because the technology is so mature now that it's just "which proven design would best suit this location". With wind power, it's "which supplier do we buy from". With nuclear it's "of the few builders who will sell to us, which is closest to having a fourth generation design ready to build". Ooops, sounds experimental again. Maybe we could build a few of the least unreliable third generation designs? Plus we would have to seriously compromise what's left of our national security to be allowed to build one.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth, in reply to Moz,

    Personally, I prefer to travel infrequently and stay for extended periods. Obviously I think everyone should do that :)

    I suspect that the biggest impact of carbon-constrained travel on NZ (and anywhere where fast trains don't go/aren't built) will be on speed. Fast air travel will be expensive, slow air/sea travel cheaper. The tourist market will contract to people coming here for extended periods - backpackers at one of the market, gourmet travellers at the other - but the "two weeks to see NZ" trip will only be feasible for the wealthy.

    Bucolic in the backblocks… • Since Jan 2008 • 269 posts Report Reply

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