Envirologue by Dave Hansford

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Envirologue: The Agony of Vanuatu and the New Climate Colonialism

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  • Marianne Elliott,

    Thank you. For articulating this so well. This whole business of giving aid with one hand while we advocate for non-binding emissions targets (and deliver mass data to the NSA) with the other is the worst kind of neighbourly behaviour imaginable.

    New Zealand • Since Sep 2014 • 6 posts Report

  • Peter Griffin,

    Some commentary from our colleagues at the UK Science Media Centre about Cyclone Pam and the link to climate change http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2015/03/17/vanuatu-pam-and-climate-change-expert-reaction/

    Wellington • Since Apr 2011 • 3 posts Report

  • Hebe,

    Great work. I will share this far and wide.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report

  • Tom Bennion,

    Thank you for this beautifully written, very important and moving statement.

    Also see the Guardian newspaper this morning. When you load up the front page it displays a major campaign asking the Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels. Bill McKibben is tweeting that Oxford's University's former Director of Finance has joined the sit-in demanding the university divest. The UN has joined the call for divestment. Things are afoot.

    Wellington Region • Since Nov 2006 • 4 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Stormy weather…
    Last year it was announced (alleged?) that aerosol pollution from China was creating bigger storms in the pacific and affecting North American weather, and ours also as the bigger storm tracks were pushing the storms towards both arctic regions – just as we have seen in recent years.
    I’ve never understood why all the debate goes on about anthropogenic climate change causes when the real debate should be about planning for what we will have to deal with, the weather and climate will do what it wants – it’s us that are the mutable elements.

    Deeper detail here

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Martin Connelly, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    I agree with Ian Dalziel. It may be true that NZ is the 4th highest per-capita emitter in the world. But if NZ just vanished it would not make one iota's difference to what happens next - climate wise. On the other hand we could put some energy/thought/investment into matters such as architecture and infrastructure that would help our neighbors deal with such events.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2012 • 28 posts Report

  • Gareth,

    Good to have you back on the climate beat, Dave.

    Ian/Martin: The problem is that the present government long ago decided that climate change was a foreign policy problem, and that the best course of action - that is, the course of least aggravation for their supporters - would be to pay only lip service to emissions reductions. Hence we have an emissions trading scheme that has had zero impact on domestic emissions.

    At the same time, because this view is really only tenable if you believe that the impacts of climate change are either not going to be too bad, or only for some distant future, you have no incentive to address the really difficult policy decisions associated with adapting to present and future changes.

    Can you really just leave dealing with the impacts of sea level rise on coastal property (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin etc) to the insurance market, or should we be doing some serious planning for how to cope? Like not rebuilding a major city on ground that will almost certainly be returning to the sea over the next 100 years...

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

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Bennion,

    Thank you for this beautifully written, very important and moving statement.

    Thanks for popping in Tom :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • cindy baxter,


    The other side of this "if we disappeared there'd be no impact on global emissions" argument is how New Zealand behaves at the climate talks.

    So the UNFCCC's a consensus-driven process (yes, I know, it ought to not be, but the rule introducing a vote-based decisionmaking process has been permanently blocked by the Saudis). New Zealand plays this one pretty hard and fast at the meetings. A couple of examples. The NZ delegation has:

    * sided with Russia, Ukraine, Khazakstan, et al on opposing a proposal to get the Eastern European "hot air" out of the system (because we want to keep our precious 'kyoto forests' in order to be able to appear to be acting on climate without actually doing anything)

    * pushed for extremely weak LULUCF rules (extending them further so that we can, again, play with these to look like we're taking action)

    * tried to push (in Doha) a rule that would allow anyone to trade as part of the Kyoto system, without signing up to CP2. This was rejected in Doha, but the NZ delegation thinks the wording of that decision is sufficiently vague and has wilfully misinterpreted it to mean the opposite of its intention

    You get the picture. We side, in the UNFCCC, with a bloc including the US, Canada and Australia, and certainly we rarely side with the Small Island States, our Pacific neighbours.

    So while we are small in emissions, we play a starring role (and not in a good way) on the international stage.

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 102 posts Report

  • william blake,

    Yes climate change. Yes much to do.

    The population of Tuvalu in 1950 was less than 5,000. Global population growth is implicated in spiralling consumption based on petrochemicals, which increase climate change but also demand that people live in greater vulnerability. Both economically and literally, with poor housing in places exposed to the full force of the elements.

    Two solutions are obvious both requiring revolution. One would be a dramatic redistribution of wealth the other a one child policy. Both of these have been tried and have some very bad side effects, neither is likely to happen without authoritarian governance.

    I think it will need a cyclone of Pams' magnitude to rip through Auckland, Sydney, Tokyo, Shanghai and many other powerful population centres before the majority will willingly start to change their behaviour on a meaningful, world population scale.

    Force is required to effect behaviour change on this scale either from an authoritarian state of by reaction to the simple force of nature. Neither option is palatable but if left alone nature will reduce the worlds population until it is back in balance, as it has done before.

    Since Mar 2010 • 380 posts Report

  • Dave Hansford, in reply to Martin Connelly,

    Hi Martin: one can continue to argue that New Zealand's contribution to climate change is negligible, but that disregards a number of points that I think are important. One: if every nation formulated climate policy on that basis, we would never achieve anything – Groser is right when he insists on collective action, because this is a collective problem. Two: it is absolutely vital that we try – as the minimum responsibility to those generations in front of us – to constrain warming to 2ºC. Whether we can, or whether it's already too late, is moot: we must have a global ambition. That immediately makes New Zealand's emissions significant, and the fact they're on track to blow out by another 50 per cent makes our climate policy critically important. Yes, adaptation is a critical part of our response, but we must rise up to the responsibility we bear to do no further harm in the first place.

    Nelson • Since Apr 2008 • 28 posts Report

  • Euan Mason, in reply to Martin Connelly,

    But if NZ just vanished it would not make one iota's difference to what happens next - climate wise.

    Any small group of people anywhere could say this, and yet we all contribute to the problem. Per capita we in NZ contribute far more than most. This is a shameful excuse for doing nothing.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 259 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes,

    On a side note...
    I was appalled this morning when I watched the early News..
    49 "Kiwis" were flown home on a Hercules aircraft.
    My first thought was "Why didn't they get out earlier?" I was gobsmacked to hear the next statement. "Nobody knew it was going to be this bad, the first thing we knew it was on us, nobody was prepared"
    Considering this has been forefront on the News for the last week here with panicky scare stories of what a disaster it was going to be I was outraged that , even though we are spying on these people for the Americans, nobody thought to let them know what was going on or how bad it could be for them.
    And of course, the real "story" was that "Kiwis" were in danger.
    Sucks to be brown eh?.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • LizR,

    This is great, and I have spread it around as much as possible - but I do have one question - where does the figure that NZ has the fourth highest per capita GHG emissions come from? I've searched for this on the web but all the lists I could find had us way down. I admit the search wasn't 100% thorough however, and probably turned up a lot of outdated info.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2015 • 3 posts Report

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    My first thought was "Why didn't they get out earlier?" I was gobsmacked to hear the next statement. "Nobody knew it was going to be this bad, the first thing we knew it was on us, nobody was prepared"

    I don't think that's quite fair, Steve. One of my colleagues headed up there last Wednesday, fortunately for her to Port Vila rather than the outer islands where she usually goes. I was just looking at last Wednesday's coverage on the Herald and at that stage Pam had just been upgraded to category 3 and the Fijian met service were predicting that it would track well to the east of Vanuatu. Given the difficulties of communication on Vanuatu I'm not that surprised that the ferocity took them somewhat by surprise. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    However I kind of agree with your final point. Disappointing how the Herald has already moved on to more pressing matters such as X-Factor dramas.

    Apologies for the tangent to what is a very compelling and timely post and discussion.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 830 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes,

    I really can't see the problem. Climate change has and continues to be observed and is inextricably linked to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    The human race has been pumping CO2 into the atmosphere for over 200 years and has increased that amount year after year.
    Whether or not Humans are totally or in part responsible for that change is a moot point but it would take a complete self centred moron to claim putting more CO2 into the atmosphere is the correct thing to do.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Our actual emissions are irrelevant.

    But being part of the club that take climate change seriously is not irrelevant.

    And most importantly we could develop innovations to reduce our emissions that could be applied worldwide, proven on our small (irrelevant) farms.

    The problem has always been our politicians are not statepersons. They think only of their own short career and how much wealth and power they can personally accumulate from it. None of them think or act for the good of the whole of New Zealand let alone the world.

    That's our fault. We voted for them. We sit back between elections and go tut-tut when they break every promise and sell our future to the fattest brown envelope.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    I don't think that's quite fair, Steve.

    I had been tracking this cyclone for a few days previous to it striking Vanuatu and couldn't understand why the Met service was saying it would track that far east as the small cyclone off the northern coast of Australia would tend to pull it westwards, as it did. It was only after Pam had passed south of the Australian system that it tracked east, putting Vanuatu clearly in its path.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • LizR, in reply to william blake,

    I agree with what you say, and suspect that nature will takes its course, though I hope not of course. Luckliy the Western powers seem hell bent on turning every country into a totalitarian regime, with increasing powers of surveillance that George Orwell could hardly have imagined, in the name of protecting us from terrorism - so we may just get those authoritarian regimes. Although it seems to me they will probably just look after themselves...

    Auckland • Since Mar 2015 • 3 posts Report

  • Steve Barnes,

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report

  • LizR, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    The problem is you can only vote for whoever is available, or not vote. Personally I've voted Green for decades in the hope they're slightly more ethical and climate aware.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2015 • 3 posts Report

  • Dave Hansford, in reply to LizR,

    Nelson • Since Apr 2008 • 28 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel,

    More input:

    POTSDAM, Germany, March 16 (UPI) -- Researchers with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research say melting ice caps are pacifying summer storm activity in the Western Hemisphere. It seems like a positive implication. But what sounds like a recipe for more pleasant weather is really an invitation for longer periods of stagnant weather and intense heat.

    and here's the Press Release from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research:

    **The Arctic factor: warming twice as fast as most other regions**
    Rapid warming in the Arctic might be the driver of the observed changes in circulation, according to the study. Greenhouse-gas emissions from burning fossil fuels make temperatures rise globally, but in the high North the warming is faster. Since the Arctics’ sea-ice cover is shrinking due to global warming, the polar region takes up more heat. The ice-free dark sea-surface reflects less sunlight back to space than white ice would do. Warmer waters then warm the air, which reduces the temperature difference between the cold polar region and the warmer rest of the Northern hemisphere. Since the temperature difference drives air motion, the reduction of this difference weakens the jet-stream, something the scientists also observed. Furthermore, they link this weakening to the observed reduction in storm activity.

    we live in a dynamic system which could swing either way (a Hot/Cold Chocolate Wheel perhaps) as it becomes unbalanced by its own standards (not ours) but it does seem that massive amounts of methane that has been kept inert for millennia in the Arctic is now becoming atmospherically viable - witness the mysterious 'blow out holes' in Siberia recently and all that tundra getting moist and continuing its rotting processes - who knows how much methane could suddenly be pumped into the atmospheric system (shallow little layer that it is) coupled with a coupla earth directed solar flares adding energy to the upper reaches we could see rapid changes...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Peter Malcolm,

    Great stuff. It should be compulsory reading for all New Zealanders Peter Malcolm

    Tauranga • Since Mar 2015 • 6 posts Report

  • Samuel Buckman,

    we’re the largest global trader in dairy, but not the biggest producer by some margin

    I’m afraid I’m ignorent of why there is a big difference. Would someone mind explaining?

    Auckland • Since Apr 2014 • 16 posts Report

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