The climate tectonics of the age of stupid

By   /   November 27, 2013  /   65 Comments

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The obvious clash between self-interest, self-preservation and political ideology is not new, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that the negotiations are taking place on a strange parallel planet. It’s a world where diplomatic contrivance trumps fact, expedience rules over reality

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Did you feel a small earth tremor then? That’s the grinding of geopolitical plate tectonics as it struggles to come to terms with the physical reality of climate change.

So the latest UN climate conference – the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw has come to an end, and the climate action can has been kicked down the road for another year. Dubbed the Carbon COP because of Poland’s decision to run a coal conference in parallel with the climate event, the rifts between the rich, the poor, the rapidly growing and the slowly sinking were on clear display. Like the plate tectonics that drives the great rocky plates on the earth’s surface, the various blocs of nations ground up against each other in the weird geology of international climate diplomacy, generating small earthquakes and lots of volcanic hot air, but little in the way of rapid progress. The world still waits for the major seismic shift that will generate real change.

The obvious clash between self-interest, self-preservation and political ideology is not new, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that the negotiations are taking place on a strange parallel planet. It’s a world where diplomatic contrivance trumps fact, expedience rules over reality. Keeping the process going is everything — even if it means that the goal you’re aiming at has shifted beyond reach.

Every year, great wodges of climate information are released to coincide with the annual COP-outs. The World Meteorological Organisation summarises the extreme weather of the preceding 12 months and points to record levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. UN bodies earnestly report on our dying oceans or weather extremes. Looming over this year’s affair was the recently released basic science section of the IPCC’s fifth report, a paragon of scientific conservatism that spelled out the terrible maths of the carbon budget.

Put simply, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a “stock” problem. What matters is not how emissions change, or the pathways that emissions follow, but the total final amount of carbon that remains in the atmosphere. To stay under 2 degrees of warming we can add about 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon to the atmosphere in total. We’re halfway there already. If we make no emissions cuts, at the current rate we’re burning oil, coal, and felling forests, we’ll use up the reminder of that allowance in a couple of decades.

The big issue, therefore, and the main reason why climate negotiations get nowhere slowly, is how we divide up the remaining carbon “pie”. Ultimately, it’s all a fight over who gets the biggest share of a rapidly diminishing resource. It’s a tough fight, and the only way to make it easier — to keep the process alive — is make a couple of assumptions. The first is that as soon as we have a global deal, every nation on earth will rapidly mobilise emissions cuts, the brakes will slammed on, and everything will be fine. The history of the last 20 years suggests that’s a pipe dream.

The second is that we’ll be lucky, and that if we overshoot the budget by a bit, we’ll have time to put things right before the climate system bites back hard. That’s just as optimistic as the first assumption, and flies in the face of what we can see happening in the climate system now. It’s also terrible risk management.

Something is going to have to give. One climate scientist who has looked at the issue is Kevin Anderson of the University of Manchester. At a presentation in Warsaw, Anderson laid out his conclusion: the sorts of emissions cuts required to hit a 2ºC target are already incompatible with economic growth in the developed world:

“… for a reasonable probability of avoiding the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change, the wealthier (Annex 1) nations need, temporarily, to adopt a de-growth strategy.”

It’s worth reading Anderson’s article explaining his reasoning. Central to his conclusion is that the developing world be given room to grow their emissions temporarily (and not for long — peaking in 2025). That leaves the rest of the world having to make emissions cuts that no economist currently believes are compatible with economic growth.

What’s going to give? Are politicians going to give up on economic growth as their panacea? It doesn’t seem likely. Promises of future prosperity are the very stuff of electability. What’s much more likely — and is already observable in the machinations of climate diplomacy — is that the “safe” target will get quietly revised upwards. Governments will effectively cross their fingers and hope for the best.

The crunch will come when climate change really bites, when a cascade of extreme weather disasters or the disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice make the fact of climate danger undeniable and impossible to ignore. The world will move on to a wartime footing, and commitments to continuing growth will be replaced by promises of survival. And those of us who are still alive will look back on the first decades of this century and curse those who helped to prolong The Age Of Stupid.

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65 Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    New Zealand breaks its climate treaty with the Pacific Island Nations and then abandons its victims.

    White Australians seeking relief from bush fires and heatwaves, caused by climate change, are allowed to come and go as they please.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9444559/Climate-refugee-loses-appeal

    New Zealand with a history of racist thuggery in the Pacific, bars a Kiribati man seeking refuge from climate change that is destroying his country.

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-21/kiribati-climate-change-destroys-pacific-island-nation

    In September this year in the Marshall Islands, another Pacific Island country threatened with extinction due to climate change, the NZ government signed the Majuro Declaration. In the Majuro Declaration we promised the people of the Pacific to endeavour to cut down our CO2 emissions.

    http://www.majurodeclaration.org/

    In October in an act of betrayal of the Majuro Declaration, the New Zealand government handed over a $155 million to Solid Energy to keep producing coal the number 1 global cause of climate change, with a promise of even more money if needed.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/9229790/Govt-unveils-Solid-Energy-bailout-plans

    The slow genocide that is working itself out in the Pacific is being fuelled right here in New Zealand, by us.

  2. Jenny says:

    Kiribati President Anote Tong, stressing the “real and existential threat” his low-lying Pacific nation faces from rising seas, called for immediate international action to mitigate climate change and rising sea levels.

    “We are disastrously off course. The scientists tell us that calamity awaits – and not just for those of us on low-lying islands,” he said. “What we are experiencing now on these low-lying atolls is an early warning of what will happen further down the line. No one will be spared. We cannot continue to abuse our planet in this way. For the future we want for our children and grandchildren, we need leadership.

    “We need commitment. And we need action ….now,” he declared, noting that while Kiribati is taking adaptation measures to remain habitable for as long as possible, it is also looking to improve its people’s skills to a level where they can compete for jobs in the international labour market with dignity if the rising ocean forces them to migrate.

    “All those countries with the ability to do so must contribute to the prevention of this calamity, or be forever judged by history.”

    http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46027&Cr=general+debate&Cr1=#.UpTubCpXspI

    We are being judged and we are being found wanting.

  3. Gosman says:

    What I find interesting is that the people pushing for the zero growth strategy are suitably vague on how exactly it will be implemented. What they don’t advise is it would likely entail a HUGE curtailment of individual liberties that would not be temporary. If this is not the case they aren’t detailing how they would avoid it.

    • …And you are pulling this “loss of civil liberties” out of your hat. Evidence for this assertion, please.

      There is absolutely no reason why de-growth should involve any loss of civil liberty. I would argue that a far greater loss would result from a forced wartime response to climate change and decarbonisation. It will, however, almost certainly result in a result in a loss of corporate liberty, in that big companies will no longer be free to dump their waste in the atmosphere.

      It’s one of the great ironies: the people arguing that climate change isn’t real or not worth doing anything about are (mostly) extreme right wing or libertarian, and the consequence of their actions will be much greater government intervention

      • Jenny says:

        The crunch will come when climate change really bites, when a cascade of extreme weather disasters or the disappearance of Arctic summer sea ice make the fact of climate danger undeniable and impossible to ignore.

        Gareth Renowden

        The “crunch” is already here. The “danger” is already “undeniable and impossible to ignore”. If anyone doubts it, look to the Philippines struck by the most powerful storm ever recorded. Look to Australia with the worst ever heatwave, look to the shrinking Northern ice cap. Look to Kiribati and the Marshalls.

        As the effects of climate change become even more apparent….

        Will ‘government’ act positively in response?

        Will the “change” come?

        All the the indications are, that in the face of this crisis ‘government’ and the state will get more treacherous, more brutal, more racist, more manipulative, more greedy and violent and repressive, in defence of the quest for fossil fuel profits.

      • Gosman says:

        Tell me how a zero growth strategy would work then using your own words Gareth.

        • I always use my own words, Gosman.

          I’d prefer to think about a zero-impact economy, rather than a zero growth one. “Growth” is fine, as long as it isn’t based on one-time use of non-renewable resources. In fact, great technological and scientific ingenuity is going to be required to arrive at a zero-impact economy that can deliver a good standard of living for as much of humanity as possible. Developing and deploying that knowledge will undoubtedly be rewarding for many.

          • Gosman says:

            Interesting concept Gareth and it would be fascinating to see you expand on that in a future post perhaps at Hottopic. However that is nit was was being advocated by the person you linked to. He was quite specific in meaning a zero growth rather than a zero impact society. It is quite clear this is in the economic sphere and means GDP growth. Taking such an approach would be a huge impact on how we currently structure society. Your answers though do serve to illustrate that even people who have spent a significant amount of time looking in to this tend to suffer a bit of fuzzy logic when it comes to solutions.

            • Anderson is really articulating the dilemma faced by the developed world, with expectations of continuing economic growth, when confronted by the harsh maths of a realistic carbon budget. As I say in the post, the most likely casualty is the carbon budget.

              Could the developed world achieve the sorts of emissions cuts Anderson’s scenario indicates? Yes, but only restructuring the economy – and in my view, that effectively means a wartime response. Consider what was achieved in the early years of WW2.

              Doable, in other words, but difficult to sell unless you have some sort of climate Pearl Harbour – and it seems we’re pretty good at not noticing those as they happen.

      • Andrea says:

        ‘Reason’ doesn’t come into it.

        The wartime footing will probably be the first choice of corporates and governments because under that footing it is so easy to dismantle rights for individuals and dissidents. To delay and defer any personal discomfort for the Great and Good. Pass it down the line to the plebs and fly speck on the map countries. Happens every time – even when the black markets and the ‘rebel’ gangsters step in to make money from the opportunities.

        Look north, Gareth. Look at the bundle of civil liberties already lost to American citizens and Mexican migrant workers because of the ‘war on terror’. Use all Five Eyes if you have to.

        Your current ‘rights’ to travel, hold a barbecue at any time, import anything – just imagine. Or read what happened for citizens living through WW2.

    • What they don’t advise is it would likely entail a HUGE curtailment of individual liberties that would not be temporary.

      That comment reflects more on your own personal fears that reality, Gosman. Unless, of course, you equate the pollution and degradation of our planetary environment with “individual liberties”?

      Do you see “individual liberties” as defined by the “right” to fill our waterways with effluent; our atmosphere with polluting gases; our oceans with plastics?

      Perhaps you civil libertarians should try to weigh individual (and collective) responsibilities with rights. Most grown ups recognise that one goes with the other.

      • AndyS says:

        Nobody wants oceans fill of plastic or waterways that are full of effluent.
        However, the climate change agenda isn’t about that, it is about throttling CO2 emissions which means throttling industrial civilisation

        We could migrate away from fossil fuels fairly quickly if there was a concerted effort to move to Thorium power or similar, but those that promote the green agenda don’t want that, because it is not about “pollution”. It is about control and wealth redistribution.

        Even the IPCC admit this

        • Ah, a visitor from that strange planet where climate change isn’t real, and even if it is, carbon is certainly not the cause, and – by the way – evil greens are plotting to eat your children.

          Sorry Andy, until you join the rest of us in the real world, your peculiar views are little more than a weird sideshow.

          • AndyS says:

            By the way, I was pleased to get an email from RWE Renewables advising me that the Atlantic Array wind farm project has been cancelled.

            Good to know that my efforts are not wasted

        • Jenny says:

          “We could migrate away from fossil fuels fairly quickly if there was a concerted effort to move to Thorium power or similar, but those that promote the green agenda don’t want that, because it is not about “pollution”. It is about control and wealth redistribution.

          Even the IPCC admit this”

          Andy

          Gee what a Right Wing fantasy devoid of any facts.

          This is a new twist, that a global Left Wing conspiracy for world domination is deliberately ignoring our only saviour “nuclear power”. I suppose it is more refreshing than outright denial.

          How about some links? how about some reasoned debate?

          In the meantime you might like to consider this:
          A Plan to Power 100 percent of the Planet with Renewables

          “A large-scale wind, water and solar energy system can reliably supply the world’s needs, significantly benefiting climate, air quality, water quality, ecology and energy security. As we have shown, the obstacles are primarily political, not technical.”

          Scientific American

          As SA says, all that is missing is the “Political will. It is up to us, Rich and Poor, Left and Right, You and Me, looks like, to supply it.

          • AndyS says:

            Powering the world with 100% renewables is pure fantasy.
            There are two main problems with this argument: The low energy density of renewables, which means a huge amount of real estate is required to achieve any reasonable level of power and secondly, the intermittency, which is not solvable without some not-yet-invented storage technology.

            Germany is heading back towards coal fired power, after canning its nuclear programme, as is Japan.

            Not sure how these arguments are “right-wing”. Basic arithmetic is all that is needed

            • Basic arithmetic is all that is needed

              As well as an ability to accept all the evidence, not just the bits you like.

              The technology exists (including storage), and will get better. If carbon use were being priced properly then the transition would happen much more quickly than at present.

            • YogiBare says:

              “Powering the world with 100% renewables is pure fantasy.”
              I agree but using fossil fuels instead isn’t the answer. We all have to start using less power or we’re gonna cook the planet…basic arithmetic.

              • Jenny says:

                “Powering the world with 100% renewables is pure fantasy.” I agree….”

                Yogibare

                LOL I had no idea the Scientific American was a fantasy journal.

                Have you got any evidence to prove this slur?

                And waddyaknow, some more “basic arithmetic”.

                Am I missing something? Is there an ACT party reunion today?

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B9MqNzQuuk

                All these math wizards coming out of the woodwork. Come on YB indulge us, how about you showing us some of your workings too?

                • YogiBare says:

                  You’re quite right, Jenny, I don’t have the maths to back up this claim but it seems self evident that fossil fuels are the most efficient form of energy so, if we don’t reduce our energy consumption, alternative sources aren’t going to cut it…unless someone comes up with ‘cold fusion’.

            • Jenny says:

              “Not sure how these arguments are “right-wing”.

              Andy

              To quote you back your own words Andy “It is about control and wealth redistribution.”

              This is a time honoured recognised Right Wing conflation aimed at the Left.

              • AndyS says:

                The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated. – Ottmar Edenhofer

                Edenhofer is co-chair of IPCC WG3

                That is what he said, apparently.

                I hadn’t realised this as a “time honoured” “Right Wing” conflation aimed at “The Left”

                I have been accused of being “anti-science” for quoting IPCC WG1, and now I am being accused of being “right wing” for quoting the co-chair of IPCC WG3

                Why does anyone bother anymore?

                • Jenny says:

                  Yes Andy it is a Left project to redistribute the world’s wealth more equitably. I never disputed that. I would go further and say that it is probably a necessary step if we are to combat climate change. But it is a “conflation” of the Right that it is conspiracy about “control”. For you to combine the two ideas, is the intended slur in your “conflation”. That the left are Stalinist control freaks plotting to use climate as an excuse to take hard working individual’s freedoms away and take “control”.

                  • AndyS says:

                    That the left are Stalinist control freaks plotting to use climate as an excuse to take hard working individual’s freedoms away and take “control”.

                    Yes, that is a fairly accurate summary of my position on this, especially the “Stalinist” bit.

                    • …which nicely demonstrates just how daft your world view is.

                    • AndyS says:

                      My “daft” worldview can be seen by scrolling through the comments on this and similar threads. We have people proposing massive wealth redistribution (presumably by force), the inevitable population control, and removal of “conservative thought” from society.

                      These ideas have been tried out several times over the last century, with sub-optimal results.

                      Countries like Poland have seen it all before; this might have something to do with their attitudes to the climate change agenda.
                      Vaclav Klaus has expressed this view several times.

                      I am sure that if “climate change” is a big problem, then we have technological solutions, but there seems a lot of resistance to that.

                    • No, Andy, your daft world view is what you impose on what others have written. You don’t approach any of this with an open mind. And that’s why you’re incapable of offering useful input to any discussion.

                    • AndyS says:

                      Well, I may misinterpret people when they write of forced population decline, silencing conservatives, a radical redistribution of wealth, and a “great leap forward” or similar.

                      Maybe they would like to tell me what they really mean, but it sounds awfully like Marxist-Leninist doctrine to me.

                    • Jenny says:

                      Yes, that is a fairly accurate summary of my position on this, especially the “Stalinist” bit.

                      Andy

                      I thought so. And of course from the Left point of view we don’t see it that way. We see our project of a more equitable distribution of wealth as creating more freedom not less. But as long as we understand each other that’s OK. Typhoon Haiyan didn’t care if you were Left or Right, or rich or poor when it slammed into the city of Tacloban.

                      Humanity in all its schisms is facing a crisis like no other. And we have to start acting to deal with it.

                      Let’s discuss that.

                      I asked you for some links and some reasoned debate.
                      Are you up for it?

                    • andyS says:

                      No Jenny, I don’t want to debate with you.

                      Your position is so extreme to me that rational discourse will not be possible.

                      Good night.

            • Jenny says:

              Hi Andy I asked if you could supply some links and a reasoned argument to back up your view. And your reply has been:

              “Basic arithmetic is all that is needed”

              Andy

              Could you supply us with some of your sums?

              Just a couple of links, even one would do, to show us your workings.

              • AndyS says:

                Try David Mackay or Gordon Hughes on the economics of wind power, for starters.

                You can find the stuff easily enough with Google

        • Jenny says:

          “We could migrate away from fossil fuels fairly quickly if there was a concerted effort to move to Thorium power or similar, but those that promote the green agenda don’t want that, because it is not about “pollution”. It is about control and wealth redistribution.

          Even the IPCC admit this”

          Andy

          Gee what a right wing fantasy devoid of any facts.

          This is a new twist, that a global left wing conspiracy for world domination is deliberately ignoring our only saviour ‘nuclear power’. I suppose it is more refreshing than outright denial.

          Andy how’s about some links? how about some reasoned debate?

          In the meantime, Andy you might like to consider this: A Plan to Power 100 percent of the Planet with Renewables

          “A large-scale wind, water and solar energy system can reliably supply the world’s needs, significantly benefiting climate, air quality, water quality, ecology and energy security. As we have shown, the obstacles are primarily political, not technical.”

          Scientific American

          As SA says, all that is missing is the “Political will. It is up to us, Rich and Poor, Left and Right, you and me, looks like, to supply it.

        • Nobody wants oceans fill of plastic or waterways that are full of effluent. –

          Really? And yet that is precisely what is happening. Not by deliberate design, but by negligence. The latter being as bad as wilful dumping of rubbish into our oceans.

          …but those that promote the green agenda don’t want that, because it is not about “pollution”. It is about control and wealth redistribution.

          Even the IPCC admit this

          Reference please? Making unsubstantiated assertions doesn’t make it so.

          Was the curtailment of CFCs – damaging to the ozone layer – also about “control and wealth redistribution”?

          We could migrate away from fossil fuels fairly quickly if there was a concerted effort to move to Thorium power or similar …

          We have so many environmentally safe options that it beggars belief that folks like you are blind to them. It is madness that given a choice between clean power generation and dirty energy, that so many humans are compelled to opt for the latter.

          And thorium power stations appear to be more expensive that sustainable, alternative systems such as wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, etc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power#Possible_disadvantages

    • YogiBare says:

      I suspect the “HUGE curtailment of individual liberties” you allude to all revolve around the use of fossil fuels, which have given us a quality of life unsurpassed during humanity’s brief sojourn on this planet. Now the time has come to ‘pay the piper’ you don’t want to dance to his tune.

      • Gosman says:

        Not at all. Whether someone uses hydro carbons or not is largely irrelevant from an economic point of view beyond their cost. If they are made uneconomic via pricing the externalities of their use then alternative sources of energy will likely be developed ( as is currently happening albeit slowly).

        What is being discussed here though is a zero growth strategy for developed nations. What that is likely to involve is a big increase in the coersive role of the State if only to disuade individuals from engaging in economic activity deemed ‘harmful’. This would be similar in my mind to how anti drug activity by nation states has led to multiple negative outcomes and hasn’t succeeded in suppressing said activity.

        • YogiBare says:

          I’ll be interested to see if the author responds to your query -“Tell me how a zero growth strategy would work then using your own words Gareth.”
          I would respond by saying we need a different mind set and to throw out the economical model where, as “Jenny” says- ‘Growth’ has often been used as a euphemism for ‘Profit’. Reducing our fossil fuel addiction would certainly create more work for us all to do.
          I would also turn the question back on you by asking how a positive growth strategy can work in the long term on a world of finite resources. (Please don’t tell me that this can be answered by the use of alternative energy supplies as fossil fuel materials are required to manufacture wind farms, solar panels, hydroelectric plants etc.) Perhaps we’ll get lucky and some bright spark will invent the elusive ‘cold fusion’ machine!
          Perhaps the State should “dissuade individuals from engaging in economic activity deemed ‘harmful’ ” to the majority judging by some of the current behaviour of our oligarchs.

        • What is being discussed here though is a zero growth strategy for developed nations. What that is likely to involve is a big increase in the coersive role of the State if only to disuade individuals from engaging in economic activity deemed ‘harmful’.

          So? The State often engages in coercive activities to dissuade “economic activity deemed ‘harmful’”, whether that is controlling poor building standards; banning CFCs, and other harmful substances and polluting activities; outlawing child labour; etc.

          Nothing new here.

          Of course, in your libertarian world, it would be a free-for-all, with minimal (or no) regulations. But would anyone want to live there? I suspect not. For one thing, the ozone layer would be gone by now. And every river and lake in this country would be a giant cesspit for the dairy industry.

          Perhaps you need to understand, Gosman that the “State” is not some alien entity divorced from human society. The State is us. It is the collective expression of public concerns and how we want to govern our lives and activities.

    • Jenny says:

      For such a small statement Gossman, it is so full of lies and oil industry propaganda it is hard to know where to start.

      Those who want to seriously combat climate change cannot support zero growth. There needs to be urgent and massive growth in the jobs and technologies that Gareth Hughes of the Green Party says “…don’t fry the planet”.
      Gareth Hughes made this comment in his strong forthright condemnation of the bail out of Solid Energy with $155 million of taxpayers money. Investing $tens of millions of dollars into a dying industry is not growth it is economic suicide. Hughes called for investment for a just transition of the coal workers away from coal. It is the huge investments in the fossil fuel economy that is strangling growth in this country. $billions for motorways while public transport is starved of funds and our cities grind to halt under massive traffic congestion is one more example of the anti growth policies of the fossil fuel fossils like yourself. But this sickness just goes on and on.

      The strangulation of the Hauauru Ma Raki project with the loss of a potential 1033 permanent well paid jobs in an area hard hit by coal lay offs is another example.

      And now we are taking a huge risk with our coastal waters to destroy the climate even more. I might ask you Gosman where are the jobs where is the growth? The government will get some royalties sure but that is it, nothing else no jobs no growth apart from the royalties zip.

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/9341650/Deep-sea-drilling-does-not-add-up-to-a-win

      And what about your claim that this change; “…would likely entail a HUGE curtailment of individual liberties that would not be temporary”

      It is those who like you who are trying to cling on to the fossil fuel past who promise the greatest suppression of civil liberties and freedom, (even the ability to freely move about our cities is being constrained by huge traffic congestion created by being locked into the fossil fuel economy and a lack of imagination and ability to change by our policy makers.)

      As the climate crisis hits the suppression of civil liberties will require more and harsher repressive legislation to quell protest against the insane quest for more and more extreme and unconventional fossil fuel reserves through destructive technologies like fracking and deep sea oil drilling and mountain top removal coal mining. A really deeply depressing and dystopian future for all of us. Wake up Gosman!

    • Jenny says:

      What I find interesting is that the people pushing for the zero growth strategy are suitably vague on how exactly it will be implemented.

      Gosman

      I am never vague on how the change is to be implemented. It is my rectitude and pinning down the facts and details that has infuriated those who attempt to fudge the facts for opportunist political gain.

      We need to immediately stop the inauguration of all new coal mines in this country, and wind down the existing ones. In particular Denniston and Mangatangi must not be allowed to start.

      We must ban all deep sea oil drilling and all other unconventional oil and fossil fuel exploitation, like fracking and coal seam gas extraction.

      We must fast track Hauauru Ma Raki and other projects like it.

      We must stop all government subsidies to the oil drillers and coal miners.

      We need to make New Zealand completely coal free.

      As a start we need to immediately and totally ban the import and export of all coal across our borders and recognise coal as a prohibited substance as dangerous and restricted as asbestos.

      We need to fast track the planned shutdown of Huntly coal fired Power Station.

      We need to make all our electricity generation completely fossil fuel free. (We are 70% there already though bizarrely this is being lessened in favour of fossil fuel generation)

      We need to be able to hold New Zealand up as an example to the world of what can be done with the right political will.

      This will be our greatest contribution to fighting global climate change.

      None of the above policies are extreme or unachievable and none will hurt the living standard in this country in fact most will enhance and increase the liveability in this land, creating more jobs and a cleaner environment. it is those who argue for Business Usual,who are all for tearing into our environment that are the extremists.

      • Gosman says:

        What I find interesting here is you seem to disagee with the zero growth strategy as mentioned in the article. It seems you believe there is an ability to reduce the impact of the externalities of economic activity while increasing the economic activity of the whole economy. In this we are both in agreement. We are not in agreement with those pushing the zero growth path though.

      • Andrea says:

        This response seemed to end too soon.

        We shall stop harvesting Old Carbon sources. Fine.

        And we shall start…?

        And we will export…?

        And we will develop skills in…?

        And we will share …?

        I think those are the missing starter questions.

        Not that many people here in NZ are engaged in the mining industry. It’s a relatively small money earner, despite the fevered dreams of avarice of some.

        However, we do have small and smart alternative polymer production/development companies. Can they produce enough, can our lands and waters and wastes produce enough raw materials to make obsolete – without causing new harms – the baggies and tyres and polyesters and Stuff used now, today, by kiwis, for their cheapness and convenience?

        And that’s what we want to know.

        Where’s the carrot? WII-FM for me to shift away from Old Carbon to new and untried? (This is like buying a 286 computer with gasp! crash-prone Windows 3.0)

        And until assorted posters move from the Repent! Abstain! Organic sackcloth! stance we won’t be shifting to New Carbon and smarter fuels any time soon. People, by and large, simply aren’t like that.

  4. Tom says:

    Either find a way to remove conservatives from power permanently, or start planning what do to when things really warm up.

    It’s that simple.

    • Jenny says:

      Climate Change and the specific issues relating to it, like Denniston and Mangatangi and Deep Sea oil need to be made election issues.

      Let the political opposition parties be real diametrical poles of attraction for all those opposed to the Business as Usual wreck the planet policies of the National Government.

      Labour need to dump their support for Denniston, and Deep sea oil, and the bail out of Solid Energy, and new motorways, and give the voters some real choice.

      Climate change is the defining issue of our age, Labour can no longer hide on these issues. Are Labour with the Nats? or with the Greens, Mana, and the majority of the public?

      “People want more action on climate change”

      64.4 per cent wanting Parliament to do more
      60.6 per cent wanting the Prime Minister to do more and
      62.9 per cent saying government officials should do more.

      The news isn’t good for Prime Minister John Key, with 15.4 per cent saying he’s doing the right amount, 26.1 per cent saying he should do more, and 34.5 per cent saying he should do much more. Just 2.7 per cent want him to do less.

      Horizon August 10, 2012

      Labour says views on mining close to Govt’s
      NZ Herald July 27, 2012

      Labour’s finance spokesman, David Parker, says his party’s policies on oil, gas and mineral extraction are close to those of the Government.

      “I don’t think we are much different from National,” Parker said. “They’ve continued on with the programme that we started in respect to oil and gas,”

      “Blow-up over oil blowout study”
      New Zealand Herald October 23, 2013

      Labour’s energy and resources spokesperson, David Shearer, said his party did not rule out deep-sea drilling but expected that any companies making applications would have to be “world class” and demonstrate they had robust safeguards in place.

    • Gosman says:

      Are you advocating some sort of ‘benign’ progressive dictatorship then?

      • Jenny says:

        To my mind there is no such thing as a benign or progressive dictatorship.

        We already have that.

        What we have, (and I think you will agree) is a democratically elected dictatorship, who for three years are free to do what they like. This elected dictatorship is showing itself to be not up to the task.

        To make the change will require a huge increase in democracy. At the moment most economic and political decisions are made centrally by and for a remote economic elite. Things cannot change while this remains the case.

        The means of achieving change that I perceive will require a huge increase in democracy, involving free and open discourse at every level of society. The specifics of some to this increase in freedom and democracy that I think will be needed are:

        Elections free from the taint of big money.

        To guard against capture and corruption of leading figures by vested interest groups, The electorate should have the right of democratic recall at any time.

        MPs should not be paid more than the average wage.

        I would like to see the voting age dropped to 15 and active participation in democracy be part of the secondary school learning experience.

        The right to democratic protest, and freedom of assembly, even mass civil disobedience on Ghandian principles must also be part of this picture of greater political freedom of expression.

        Every community should have the right to elect those who have power in that community and the power to recall those officials at any time. To my mind this includes those empowered to use force to keep the peace and fight crime right down to individual police officers. Instead of acting as an occupying para military force taking their orders from some remote central authority, the police need to become directly accountable to, and earn the respect of, the communities they serve.

        For such a democracy to work connectivity must be an essential ingredient. Possibly only with modern instant communications is such a form of democracy finally possible.

        A pipe dream? possibly, but in the meantime we must work to make all our democratic institutions more accountable. This means supporting the actions of groups like Greenpeace who actively lobby and pressure the politicians for people friendly legislation over corporate friendly laws.

    • AndyS says:

      Either find a way to remove conservatives from power permanently –

      Sounds a bit creepy. Do you have some suggestions on how this vision may be achieved?

      Re-education camps, perhaps?

  5. […] would be a good time, because she provides the context for my ruminations at The Daily Blog today: The Climate Tectonics of The Age Of Stupid. Kicking the climate can down the road doesn’t cut it as a response to a major […]

  6. Kath Lauderdale says:

    A couple of issues remaining unaddressed in the article 1. Naturally occurring methane emissions from the Arctic melting have not been figured into this report so its probably much worse than it seems.

    2. IPCC has said Geo Technology should “continue” to prevent to mitigate the effects of Global warming…what is happening now?

    Would an alternative banking system mitigate the economic effects on sovereign nations of conversion to renewable resources and planning for lifestyle changes which could, in fact be beneficial? (I think it could but stand to be corrected if not).

    • Forget methane (for the time being) – recent research indicates that the carbon budget may already be overstated, before we figure in what might happen in the Arctic.

      “If our results are correct, the total carbon emissions required to stay below 2 degrees of warming would have to be three-quarters of previous estimates, only 750 billion tons instead of 1,000 billion tons of carbon,” said Frölicher

      [Source]

  7. I’m not sure how many readers will get this far into the comments thread, but for those who are interested there is a lot of coverage of COP Warsaw on http://www.democracynow.org Including an excellent interview with Kumi Naido from Greenpeace. Democracy now (also on face tv, ch 83 on sky 11pm tues -sat) one of the few news programmes to take climate change seriously.

  8. Jenny says:

    Some sort of storm. It blew in the window in the lounge waking us all up. My partner wedged a towel over the frame to try and keep some of the wind and rain out and save the carpet. Left me thinking of Tacloban. What if a real storm hit? What if all the windows blew out? We would be completely helpless, partially dressed and soaked through. And that is even without losing the roof, or having the house crushed by a storm surge.
    Couldn’t get back to sleep. Googled ‘Weather report Auckland. Read “Hottest November in Auckland since records began in 1956”. Gee was the Auckland weather so benign before 1956 that people did not need to note it down? It wouldn’t surprise me. We are blessed. We have the Great Barrier Island and the Corromandel ranges in the East and the Waitakere ranges in the West acting as walls protecting us from the worst of storms. (Hopefully)
    We are a bit exposed to the North. The last two years in a row two fatal tornados have come down from the North and into the city. Following the exact same path. Is this New Zealand’s new Tornado Ally? The storm has stopped the wind has died down just gentle rain falling now. Will try and get back to sleep.

    http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/auckland-hits-record-high-november-temperature-5725171

    God bless you all.

    • YogiBare says:

      Since you told me off, I have been reading Ramez Naam’s articles on his new book, “The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet”, in Scientific American on line. He’s quite the optimist and I hope he’s right but even he says “I’m not claiming here that we’re assured of victory.”
      There are so many differing views out there in cyber space that I’m amazed “Andys” didn’t take up your challenge and throw you a few links instead off throwing his toys out the cot.

      • AndyS says:

        I didn’t throw my toys out. I can’t be bothered that is all.

        I have wasted enough of my life arguing with climate change cultists. I have better things to do with my time.

        • YogiBare says:

          “climate change cultists” sounds almost as bad as the Ku Klux Klan!
          Please don’t loss your sense of humour and I hope you come out to play again soon, I’ll even let you cuddle my bear – now I’m pandering to Andys panda.
          Here’s a few quotes from the other Berri to cheer you up…
          “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
          “I wish I had an answer to that because I’m tired of answering that question.”
          “I tell the kids, somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just try to get better.”
          “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
          “Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”
          “I never said most of the things I said.”

      • Jenny says:

        Since you told me off, I have been reading Ramez Naam’s articles on his new book, “The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet”, in Scientific American on line. He’s quite the optimist and I hope he’s right but even he says “I’m not claiming here that we’re assured of victory.”

        Yogibare

        I am sorry I told you off. This sounds quite interesting can you give me the link?

  9. Jenny says:

    Sea Level Rise

    The main choice here may be between “some” and “a lot.”

    Brad Plumer The Washington Post, Nov. 26 2013

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/11/26/how-high-will-sea-levels-rise-lets-ask-the-experts/

  10. When I was young (about 10, I think), we had pet mice. I kept them in a large wooden cage and it was my job to change their water; give them food; clean out and replace old newspaper…

    Being a kid, I began to forget that chore more and more until my parents asked me when was the last time I’d cleaned out the cage. My mum occassionally fed and watered the mice, but reminded me it was my job, as they were my pets.

    I checked the cage one day. It was a mess; soiled shredded newspaper; faeces everywhere; no food; not much water… and the mice had been eating their young.

    They had kept breeding whilst exhausting their environment. Eventually they resorted to cannibalism to survive.

    We took the surviving mice to a local pet shop, and gave them away.

    But it was a salient lesson in ecology that I never, ever forgot. In an enclosed environment, with limited resources, we eventually over-populate and begin to run out of said resources. The result is a filthy, polluted environment where the tough survive, and the weak perish.

    I’d like to think that we are smarter than mice and can adapt our economic and social behaviour to take into account the limitations of our planet. Those mice certainly never saw it coming and couldn’t understand why their little world was being degraded more and more.

    But according to some people, there are no such limitations and we can carry on blindly… until our “cage” becomes barely habitable.

  11. […] See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/11/27/the-climate-tectonics-of-the-age-of-stupid/#sthash.l2PtcaOV.dpu… […]

  12. cindy says:

    I have a few problems with Kevin Anderson, as do many other scientists. He has a peculiar mixture of politics and science, and neither of them are applied properly.

    But again, you’re blaming the UN process here.

    When I was in Warsaw, a journalist asked me why she wasn’t being battered by press releases from big business. She was being overwhelmed with messages from NGO’s, from Governments, but very little from business. She was confused. Why weren’t they there? Had it always been like that?

    No, I said, it hadn’t. In the early days, big business was there in droves, with the Global Climate Coalition and the International Chamber of Commerce, holding press conference after press conference challenging climate science and shouting at Governments to wait for China or to ignore the science, or a combination of both.

    But those coalitions got wise. They realised they didn’t need to parade around in the spotlight of the international stage. All they needed to do was put pressure on Governments at home, through political funding, through cosy backroom deals. Which is what they’ve done ever since. And still do. So those diplomats come to the talks armed with the instructions from their Government, who, in turn, are armed with instructions from the fossil fuel industry. And everything goes backwards.

    This is why the talks fail, I told her. If every government came with high ambition to make deep cuts and put money on the table, the process would work pretty darned well.

  13. Marc says:

    “Like the plate tectonics that drives the great rocky plates on the earth’s surface, the various blocs of nations ground up against each other in the weird geology of international climate diplomacy, generating small earthquakes and lots of volcanic hot air, but little in the way of rapid progress. The world still waits for the major seismic shift that will generate real change.”

    A very good article by an enlightened, conscientious science writer, I must say!

    I throw this whole challenge back at every citizen of a democratic society. I know democratic societies are in the minority when looking at political systems on the planet. But that is no excuse for those who live in a democracy, and who could and should lead by example.

    The challenge is one every individual one of us has to face and come to terms with. The truth is, only a minority are. Many pay lip service and want a change away from a wasteful, climate altering way of life and running things, but most of them are insincere, as they continue jumping into their cars every morning, continue living in poorly insulated homes, continue to buy one-way, throwaway goods, continue to grow grass or have pavement on their section, rather than grow vegetables or even native plants. Most continue to rely on governments made up by parties that offer them the cushy way ahead, with little change, with little challenge, with a go ahead as usual approach. Most continue to buy plastic bags, many consumer products and so, that are not really necessary.

    It is like they are caught by a “charm”, a “charm of temptation”, a “charm of evil”, to focus rather on an easy, comfy and consumerist buy and turf lifestyle, than to be open to true information, education and responsible change.

    As long as environmentally minded parties only are runners up in elections, and voted for only by minorities, as long as most continue to rush ahead like lemmings towards the cliff, there will be no government that will dare rocking the boat and bring in policies that may force those complacent ones to change.

    And that is also why the same government spend endless summits and meetings with less than mediocre outcomes, with problems and suggested solutions postponed again and again.

    The other countries’ governments, that are not even voted for, they will simply follow their own national agendas, and hence all is going nowhere. Look also at the economic and political and strategic realities, human species is not as smart as it tries to make out it is, it still behaves rather like hunters and gatherers, ripping the last fossil fuels out of the grounds, to keep the fires going.

    It happened all before, the self destruction of civilisations, also forced partly by environmental changes, partly caused by humans themselves. Go to the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Central and Souther America, Easter Island, and other places, history will repeat itself, only this time on an unprecedented scale!

    This will happen, as every one of us, is not quite up to the task, I am afraid.