Tomorrow is being written in New Zealand’s mountains

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The boat slowed as it moved into the floating ice crystals. I put my hand into the water, made sandy-coloured and cloudy by rock flour, and pushed at the the tracery of ice on the surface. It sounded like a glass chandelier tinkling, delicate wind chimes driven by my chilled fingers. This flotilla of 300 year-old ice shards was as delicate as snow on a winter morning, and disappearing just as fast.

The Tasman Glacier lake didn’t exist before 1973. Then a small puddle began to take up permanent residence at the end of the glacier, and set about growing. Now it’s 5km long, 2km wide, 200 metres deep, and growing longer by 150 metres every year (and often a lot more). It’s the most visible sign of what’s happening to New Zealand’s land ice, disappearing at a rate that’s frightening to anyone with the wit to realise that we are the root cause of this dramatic change to our landscape.
TasmanGlacier-4

During the depths of the cold period before Europeans arrived in New Zealand – the Little Ice Age – it has been estimated that there were 170 cubic kilometres of glacial ice on New Zealand mountains and filling the Alpine valleys. By 1977, climate warming had melted all but 54 km3 of that ice, and by 2012 another 30% had melted, leaving a rapidly diminishing rump of 37.6 km3 of ice. Warming of about 1.5ºC has been enough to decimate our ice fields, and the warming we expect in the coming century is likely to commit us to losing the lot. A few small glaciers may still cling to the highest of the Southern Alps, but the ice that so impressed the first European explorers of the South Island will be irretrievably lost.
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I’ve visited the Tasman Glacier many times over the last 17 years. Every time we have visitors from overseas, we whisk them off on a tour of “our” island. It never fails to impress them, and reminds us why we chose to live here. We always drive to the Tasman Glacier terminal moraine (turn right just before the Hermitage), and make the short climb up to the viewpoint at the top. When we first did it, we looked down on to rock-covered ice. Now we peer up the valley to the glacier’s calving face retreating into the distance. I’ve been there twice this year, and the glacier lake has visibly grown, the assortment of icebergs shifted and melted.

On Sunday, I made my final visit for the year. It was the first time I’d been out on the glacier lake, and the impact was visceral, like an icy punch to an ample gut. Beyond all the slick tourist trappings, and the easy commentary, the raw reality of huge chunks of ice tumbling into a growing lake surrounded by the largest mountains in our country left me hushed and contemplative. Normally I would regale any audience with the facts about warming, the grim future we all face, but nestled under icebergs, surrounded by cliffs of ice-torn rock and gravel, I was forced into submission by the sheer scale of the changes we have brought about.
TasmanGlacier-3

This is a trip every New Zealander should make. Every politician in this country should be required to front up to the Tasman Glacier and experience the shock of the changes that warming has wrought. Yet the vast majority of the people who clamber carefully into the little yellow boats that ply the lake are from overseas, their guides from Canada and Ireland. We who live here are sleep walking into our future, lost in the everyday while tomorrow is being written in the mountains.

81 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a tad confused here Gareth. Are you stating that the shrinkage of ice is a bad thing? If so then was the shrinkage in ice by two thirds up to 1977 that was caused mainly by natural warming a bad thing?

    • You seem to exist in a permanent state of confusion when it comes to climate matters, Gosman. The loss of ice is not value-neutral, for both practical and aesthetic reasons. Your assertion about “caused mainly by natural warming” is also debatable. Humanity has been influencing climate for far longer than that: I refer you to the work of Bill Ruddiman.

      • It was you who brought the natural increase in temperature in to the discussion when you mentioned the extent of the Ice at the time of the little ice age. Unless you are implying that the warming that occurred immediately after this was as a result of human activity. This would be both unusual and also show that we have benefitted as a result as the little ice age was very detrimental to human development.

        • Nope. I didn’t make any reference to natural versus human agency, or partition between the two. As is pointed out by another commenter, human influence has been around for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, but has only (relatively) recently begun to dominate.

          As NZ’s ice disappears, ice-fed rivers will experience changes in their flow regimes, slopes will be destabilised, and these beautiful features of our landscape will be greatly diminished. If you think that’s a good thing, then you are a philistine and a fool.

        • When your livelihood depends upon the constant flow of water from glacial fed rivers I am quite certain that your viewpoint would be that the loss of ice is a bad thing.

        • Gosman – I can fancy you frozen in permafrost, in a huge block of ice, I would feel happy about that! A dinosaur minded specimen kept frozen for posterity, for remembrance, great stuff. Ice is GOOD for such purposes, I have NO doubt.

          • Loss of of the current ice in NZ probably doesn’t have much benefit (environmental or economic) but there are periods in history when warming and ice loss were very beneficial to humans.

            For example, the Viking visitors to Greenland managed to cultivate crops in areas that are now covered in snow and ice (i.e during the Mediaeval Warm Period)

            Economic proxies such as parish records showed greater prosperity during warm periods

            I think that many economists who study the impacts of climate change state that a warming up to 2 degrees C would be net benefit and then that would turn into a net deleterious effect on the world, above that level.

            So, I don’t think we can say that all warming (whether natural or man made) is net bad or net good. There are different aspects to consider.

            • Andy said:

              Viking visitors to Greenland managed to cultivate crops in areas that are now covered in snow and ice (i.e during the Mediaeval Warm Period)

              This is nonsense. The areas cultivated by the Vikings are not “covered by snow and ice”, except in winter, and Greenland now produces a wider variety of temperate climate food crops than the Vikings could have dreamed of.

              …many economists who study the impacts of climate change state that a warming up to 2 degrees C would be net benefit…

              Not true. That’s a Monckton/Lomborg myth, not supported by more than one or two outliers in the literature. 2C warming is likely to be disastrous: see here for some recent work on “safe” limits to warming.

              • On the economics issue, I was thinking of Richard Tol, who is of course an IPCC author whose views may be not congruent with others, but he is a widely published economist and specialist in the economics of climate change, nevertheless

                • Tol is certainly an outlier in climate economics, but even he believes we should be aggressively cutting emissions by pricing carbon. I presume you’re happy to accept his expertise in that area, as you’re keen to espouse his views on costs?

  2. You can also visit the Visitor Centre at Lake Pukaki which shows where the glacier extended to since the last ice age over 10,000 years ago.

    The DoC visitor centre at Mt Cook has a very small display on “global warming” tucked near the stairs.
    On a recent school camp that I attended there, one of the kids asked the DoC ranger why the glaciers were melting, to which the response was that it was a combination of the accumulation of snow (or lack thereof) at the head of the glacier, and the melting at the snout. They didn’t mention “global warming’ so I guess they didn’t get the memo.

    • Thanks for pointing these facts out, Andy.

      This an interesting metaphor for how we deal with the question of climate change.

      I think we should all try and make sure that the message is no longer ignored or hidden behind the stairs.

  3. Gosman, your choice of 1977 as the date when anthropogenic warming kicked in is hilarious (unlike human laws, physical forces don’t come into effect at a certain point on a human calendar), but also interesting as it implies you accept that some human-driven warming has in fact taken place. Some progress in your understanding of cliamte change perhaps? Nobody denies that the climate has natural cycles of variation. What the peer-reviewed research continues to show is that human-emitted atmospheric carbon is amplifying those cycles, which is risky at best.

    AndyS, the ranger was technically correct, but the mechanism he described is totally subject to climate change, which is increasing the melting at the snout, and changing the patterns of snow accumulation at the top. It is doing the same to glaciers in every part of the world, which suggests it is a global trend, with global drivers, not just a local variation.

    • I didn’t use 1977 Gareth did. I merely asked about the natural warming that must have occured prior to this from the little Ice age that he also mentioned. Are you disputing his claims that there was a little ice age?

    • You may find the 1977 date “hilarious”, but it is consistent with the IPCC statements. i.e they ascribe anthropogenic warming post 1950s mostly (in fact they claim it is 95% certain that more than half of the warming since 1950 is anthropogenic)

      Since it was cooling between 1950 and 1977, referring to the warming as post 1977 is fairly accurate

      This is global temperatures however. I think NZ 20th Century temperatures increased mostly in the 1950s during a period of predominantly northerly airflow.

      • The 1977 date comes from the first major modern survey of NZ’s land ice, not from any interpretation of the long term temp record.

        The NZ long term temp record shows significant warming, as I mentioned in my post, but it does exhibit a tendency to “oscillate” about the long term rising trend. The warmest years in NZ were 1997 and 98, in that order, but 2013 could be about to challenge that…

  4. So the writer of this article travels back and forward to the glacier, emitting harmful vehicle or aeroplane emissions along the way.

    Author then jumps on this blog and tries to alert readers that we need to change our ways. Author suggests we should all travel to said glacier this emitting more and more harmful emissions.

    Does anyone else see a problem with this approach?

      • What is a little confusing here Gareth is you mention the little Ice age and the volume of ice lost from that time till 1977. The point of this is unlear. Are you claiming that warming post the little Ice age was a result of AGW and therefore the majority of the two thirds loss of ice up to 1977 was caused by that?

    • “…Author then jumps on this blog and tries to alert readers that we need to change our ways. Author suggests we should all travel to said glacier this emitting more and more harmful emissions.
      Mathew

      The greatest single cause of climate change is coal.

      James Hansen, (arguably the world’s top climate scientist) says:
      “If we can’t stop coal it is all over for the climate”

      What Gareth Renowden, or the author, as your refer to him, is trying to do is get to people to witness climate change in a way that cannot be ignored.

      Currently our top two political parties are desperately trying to avoid climate change becoming an election issue.

      Why?

      Because they both support the biggest expansion of coal mining in New Zealand’s history.

      Slated to begin excavation sometime in 2014, Bathhurst Resources open cut coal mine on the Denniston Plateau, will be the biggest coal mine in the country, and the biggest ever dug in this country.

      The last thing the Labour and National Parties want, is be asked embarrassing questions about climate change during an election year that may force them to try and explain themselves before the voting public.

      • “The greatest single cause of climate change is coal”

        Actually I think you will find the SUN is the greatest single cause of climate change. Hmmm… I wonder why the last ice age happened and its thaw. I don’t think we were burning coal then.

        • I meant Anthropomorphic Climate Change,

          I am sorry I didn’t spell it out for you Nick

          I thought everybody knew what is meant.

          But hey, maybe not.

        • Nick, I think you’ll find the existence of the Earth’s atmosphere is the single greatest cause of climate change. Not much climate change on the moon, eh? So what’s the atmosphere made of? Nitrogen, oxygen, and… carbon-based gases which drive the greenhouse effect. So, changes in the proportion of carbon-based gases in the atmosphere drive climate change, and humans shifting large volumes of carbon from underground (coal, oil, soil carbon etc) into the atmosphere amplifies natural cycles of climate change.

          Matthew, around 30% of fossil oil is used in the industrial food system, so growing a vege garden, or even buying local, organic food makes a much bigger difference than not driving your car.

          • Nice point, but what you are forgetting is that the SUN is the driving force in the system.

            Any changes in the suns output must directly affect the atmospheres that the sun is incident upon.

            From the current scientific data it has been shown that variations in the sun’s output is far more influential on global temperatures than the changes in CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is all relative.

            • The “current scientific data” shows no such thing. The evidence confirms that CO2 is the control knob for global temperature.

              The sun is the source of all the energy in the climate system, but its output varies far too little to drive the climate change we’re seeing.

              Orbital variations drive the 100,000 yr glacial cycle, but they work in tandem with CO2 – and at the moment would be pointing us in the direction of a new ice age.

              • Just to add the energy from the sun has been decreasing slightly since around 1970, google solar irradiance. Im mystified how sceptics think a cooling sun is driving the recent global warming. Perhaps Gosman could explain.

              • Not sure what happened to my original reply to your message, but the latest scientific data does show that temperature has stronger correlation to solar activity than CO2 levels.

                For a visual representation of Temperature vs CO2 levels for the last 10000 years can be found here. As seen it is a very hard sell to infer that CO2 levels are driving the temperature.

                Solar activity in terms of total solar irradiance (TSI) changes only by around 0.1% typically over solar cycles, but the interplanetary magnetic field (due to the sun) varies vastly more in percentage terms, with correspondingly substantial changes in cosmic ray flux. It is this cosmic ray flux change that appears to be responible for temperature changes.

                On Earth, tropospheric ionization changes by typically 5% over a single solar cycle. Global cloud cover has been observed to vary 3-4% in a solar cycle in a manner strongly correlating with cosmic ray flux change.

                It is this change in cloud cover that appears to be driving much of temperature change from the latest research. For those that would like to review and understand the new evidence can read and review the comic ray correlation plots here. It is fully referenced and data sets have mostly been sourced from NOAA and NASA.

                • Nick I disagree about all that.Cosmic rays have shown no overall trend up or down over the last 40 years, just a repeating cycle, so cant possibly explain warming over that period.

                • Sorry Nick, but that amounts to nothing more than scientifically incoherent handwaving. Go back and watch the lecture I linked to.

                  We understand the radiation behaviour of CO2 very well indeed, and have done for 150 years. You have to explain why increasing CO2 by 40% won’t have any effect, and that will mean re-writing quantum physics. Come back and argue about the science when you’ve done that…

                  • Incoherent handwaving? I watched your IPCC video link, but saw no datasets to confirm the CO2 link. I only saw powerpoint bullet points – real convincing. Cosmic Ray theory was not even covered.

                    At least in my links I have provided datasets / graphs that haven shown CO2 does not drive Temperature historically.

                    Now all of a sudden in the years 10 years CO2 is meant to be driving the temperature? If global warming is occurring from an increasing greenhouse effect due to CO2 additions by humans the temperature of the middle troposphere should be warming faster than Earth’s surface. However, the opposite has been happening it has slightly cooled.

                    Again I will post the CO2 vs Temperature graph for the past 10000 years

                    There is no proven track record that CO2 drives temperature. I am very happy to review any datasets you have that disproves this.

                    • Your graph proves nothing, and doesn’t show what you seem to think it does. I find it hard to believe that you watched the Alley lecture, or you would not assert that it contains no data. We have both the track record and the basic physics that show that CO2 is the control knob for planetary temperature, and no amount of handwaving can undo that…

                    • Again no informative datasets from you.

                      Heres another dataset for you to see.

                      How can CO2 be the driving force when it has been shown to lag the temperature change? Short-term global temperature changes precede CO2 levels by about 1 year as shown by observations, and by 800+ years in ice core data.

                      So how exactly is the CO2 the control knob? Evidence Pls.

                    • Nick, CO2 is a major factor in warming.

                      When the ice ages ended the data shows an increase in temperature followed by an increase in CO2 levels. Its believed the temperature initially increased due to a solar increase from a change in the earths orbit. Its believed this caused an outgassing of CO2 from the oceans which then hugely amplified this warming.

                      This explains the lag effect in the graph. There is a mountain of research to support this you can find listed on realclimate.org or skepticalscience.com running to dozens of published, peer reviewed papers.

                      You haven’t falsified this, and would really need to publish something to be taken seriously. Currently we are causing changes in CO2 levels.

                    • I doubt you’ll bother, given your arrogant ignorance, but if you really, genuinely want to understand the climate system and why CO2 is of crucial importance in the earth’s energy balance, then you need to invest little time (a few days of reading). A great place to start is Spencer Weart’s magisterial history of climate science, The Discovery of Global Warming. It’s a very interesting story…

                    • You want to hear the real history of CO2 from the experts themselves click here . Alternatively if you want a more mathematical approach you can try Climate scientist Dr. Murry Salby’s lecture (jump to 3min mark for the beginning of the lecture).

                      Either way I don’t think you are going to be swayed away from your “cult science” beliefs.

                    • The only person showing cult-like behaviour here is you. Linking to propaganda instead of confronting the facts doesn’t cut any ice in the real world. Come back to this discussion when you’ve read and understood the basic science.

    • So the writer of this article travels back and forward to the glacier, emitting harmful vehicle or aeroplane emissions along the way.

      Truly, Matthew, that is a weak argument to make.

      How else does one gain the data to determine what is happening to our atmosphere?

      Do you also complain that NASA is also “emitting harmful vehicle or aeroplane emissions” when it launches satellites to detect increasing CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide in our atmosphere?

      Or would you rather just not know?

      Did you also object when scientists determined that CFCs were doing great damage to our Ozone Layer?

      If you’re going to make a point about climate change, do it honestly. Engaging in trivial point scoring just makes your position weaker than it already is.

      BTW: Arguments like yours played a small part of what convinced me that anthropogenic climate change is real. When climate change deniers can’t muster a cogent response to a valid issue like this, it suggests to me you have none.

      • It’s not a weak argument at all.

        It’s all too convenient to blame governments and other faceless organisations when whinging and moaning about the lack of action.

        The future of the world is in the hands of the consumer, not the governments. Instead of whinging and moaning we need to take a pro-active stance. Don’t wait for someone else to do it, do it yourself and lead by example. Buy from non-polluters. Cycle to work. Walk the walk, don’t talk the talk.

        And yes I am against NASA doing the things you mention because we already know the answer to what they are testing.

        I’d also like to make a complaint with regards to the post of countryboy. Does this forum have a moderator? Calling me an idiot because I have an alternative point of view is immature and degrades the quality of the debate. If this forum had standards he would be banned for a week or until he can debate without petty name calling.

  5. I would recommend the documentary film “Chasing Ice” [DVD videorecording] / Submarine Deluxe presents as Exposure Production with Diamond Docs ; a film by Jeff Orlowski ; directed by Jeff Orlowski ; produced by Jerry Aronson, Paula DuPré Pesmen and Jeff Orlowski; written by Mark Monroe], it documents our melting glaciers to anyone interested- nay, alarmed- over this subject. It can be borrowed from any Auckland library for no rental fee, for a period of one month.

  6. Gosman, warming prior to 1970 was pretty modest and partly human caused and partly natural. Take out the human component and it was a very modest warming at best.

    Recent warming is almost entirely human caused, and is much more rapid. We are having a much faster impact than any natural changes recorded in the past, hence the concern.

    • Actually I thought the rate of warming for the early 20th C was about the same as during the later period 1976-1998, give or take.

      I’m not sure how you “take out the human component” since we don’t have a very good grasp on climate sensitivity to CO2 and and even smaller grasp on the effects of aerosols.

      • Andys no the earlier warming is slower, google nasa giss global temperature record. Take out the human component and it is slower still even if you use the most conservative climate sensativity figures towards the bottom of the scale.

        The point is the rate of warming since 1970 is fast compared to any natural rate of warming in many thousands of years, and the IPCC estimate it will likely accelerate furthur.

          • Why don’t the horizontal grid lines of the juxtaposed graphs line up?
            Why is the 1895-1946 graph called “Nature” when the Industrial Revolution stared well before then?
            Some figures alongside the Temp/Time scale may have helped.

                • Andys, the data on your link is hadcrut 3. This is out of date, hadcrut 4 is now used.

                  Recent research also states that hadcrut underestimates warming after 1970 (Cowtan, 2013). Clearly warming after 1970 is mostly human caused and steeper than any previous trend.

                  Please also note my post below, you are not looking at warming before 1970 in proper context.Take out the human component and its a weaker natural trend.

          • Andys, thanks. Regarding your link, Hadcrut 3 is an old and out of date temperature reconstruction, and has been replaced with hadcrut 4. The most reliable and global temperature reconstruction is actually nasa giss, which shows warming in the early 20th century as being slower.

            You also miss the point as between 20 – 40% of that early warming is man made, so take out that to leave the natural trend out and the slope is even less, regardless of what temperature data you use.

            Recent warming since 1970 has clearly been anomalous, and greater than what you would expect from natural forces. Recent warming is also steep if you look back 20,000 years. Refer to the study by Marcott and others(2013) carried out by Oregon and Harvard Universities.

    • It can’t have been that modest if it resulted in 2/3rds of the ice volume in NZ disappearing. Do you think that is a modest fall?

      • Gosman, NZ had quite a lot of warming prior to 1970 going back to about 1880, partly natural and partly man made, so yes plenty of ice loss. But NZ is not a typical case. The warming globally is fastest after 1970, with a slower rate before then.

  7. I guess AGW kicked in back in the Middle Ages when vast areas of forest were cleared, but the tempo didn’t pick up until large scale coal and oil use early last century. The increase in GHG really started taking off late last century. Because AGHG is locked into the atmosphere for centuries if not millennia, there is a component of climate change in ALL the weather. Warm days & nights will be a little warmer, frosts will be less frequent, droughts & heatwaves prolonged, storms a little fiercer, heavy rains & floods more common, ice more fragile. Even the extraordinary cold weather they’re having in the States has an element of Climate Change. Sure we can’t specify that this or that was caused by CC, but it is happening as predicted by physics and climate science. As Munich Re, they’re picking up the tab as weather related events increase far more than geophysical disasters like earthquakes and volcanos.

  8. Does anyone know how old Gosman is ? Did global warming start when he opened his maw ? There’s nothing quite so grotesque as the defenders of greed and libertine excess .

    @ Mathew . ” Does anyone else see a problem with this approach ? ”
    Yes , you are in fact an idiot . That’s the problem . What a pathetic and indeed puerile argument . We don’t need to be Quakers to see , and try to warn others of , an impending climate disaster and if you don’t know what your talking about , shut and and listen to people who do .

    And our environmental / weather issues aren’t confined to Global Warming per se . I’ve noticed down this way that farmers are spraying the shit out of their paddocks with Monsanto chemicals to kill off grasses to make way for new plantings . It’s known colloquially as ‘Spray and Pray ‘ . I’ve seen sheep and lambs grazing on yellow , poisoned fields . I also see that the local Council ( Also minions to Big Business ) have gone Spray and Pray crazy too . Every road side and berm . Every footpath , fence line and drive way is poisoned . And the dopy locals ponder ” Arrp ? Uncle Mac , Aunty Mary , cousin Bill Bob , his kids Bingo and Stacy … all gone with the cancer . None ‘o them smoked a day in their lives neither . ”

    They honestly think that dead , yellow , toxic plant material is more attractive than green , living plant material .

    They do actually say … ” Ohh Urrp ? That tree’s gonna get away on ya . Better cut it down . Let the light in . ” ( Sounds of chain saw being revved many , many times for effect . )

    If only …
    Stupid cunts .

  9. All this is happening over many places all over the world. Did I hear right, or did Jim Hickey, the weatherman on TV One say tonight, it was the 3rd warmest year on record this year?

    Indeed, we will have massive changes, and those living in Auckland, Northland and so forth, better prepare for dryer weather. The Waikato may deliver less water too one year, so what about a “growing city” like Len Brown and others dream of, like 2.5 or 3 million people living in Greater Auckland? Where is the water going to come from?

    Ah well, build desalination plants, like in Australia, I presume, we will have enough fossil fuel left to “fuel” the construction of such projects. What comes after that? What energy will be affordable, and safe and usable?

    New Zealand is one of few countries with some fairly good alternatives, but also prepare for the hundreds of thousands or millions, that will be forced out of their drowning, deserted, wind swept, destroyed, over-populated and otherwise harmed lands, to desperately seek refuge, by boat, plane or whatever, and come to reach here too?

    So are we ready to be the new “Noah’s Arch” on planet earth, or will self destruction of the human species and before that the environment come here only a bit delayed?

    I have less hope every year, as I see little if any change and awareness in human beings around me, just continued denial and ignorance, like such “species” as “Gos(h)man”, who pollutes this blog with rather unconvincing crap comments.

    • Yes Marc, Hickey said its looking like the third warmest on record.

      It amuses me the people that think warming will be “good”. Its not good, people near the equator wont like it, and if you live in parts of Europe, you will get more extreme weather, floods, etc. A no win situation for everyone.

      • So if warming is bad, is the corollary that cooling is good?
        If so, how much cooler would you like to see the planet get?

        Will you be happy that a large part of the human race ail not be able to heat their houses any more, thanks to climate change policies?

        These questions are not entirely rhetorical, since fuel poverty is on the increase in Europe.

        • Not entirely rhetorical, but certainly fatuous.

          We need climate stability. We need to stop the current warming, and get atmospheric CO2 back down below 350ppm at the very least – and if we’re not happy to accept 6m+ of sea level rise, better make that 300ppm.

          A large part of the human race will die if we don’t do this.

          But you don’t like policies that might achieve that object, so you’re happy to commit the planet to genocide.

          Take your objectionable posturing to another blog.

          • I have no objection to policies that reduce CO2 emissions in a reasonable way

            The problem is that I have yet to see any that work, anywhere.

              • Sorry, I forgot to mention the USA, which has managed to reduce CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by displacing coal with shale gas

              • I would dream of wasting your time with questions, rhetorical or otherwise.

                Thanks for your response. It is heartening that you can create a tax on everything and have no effect on the economy.

                We should implement it in NZ.

                  • So you are imlying that taxing everything will have a positive effect on the economy?

                    Perhaps you could give me the executive summary on how this works?

                    I see a carbon tax as something akin to GST or VAT

                    Does GST have no positive or negative effects on the economy?

                    • Andys, you are putting words in my mouth. I dont think a carbon tax (or ets) is remotely like gst, as a carbon tax is relatively specific.

                      Regardless of what you call the carbon tax in british Columbia, it has been quite beneficial to the economy as per the article I quoted.

                      There has been a meaningful reduction in C02, general support for the tax, and no reduction in growth or other negative consequences. It appears to have caused innovation in business.

                      You will probably dispute that but plenty of reputable publications like the Economist have supported the british columbia case.

                    • Well you will have to excuse my cynicism, but our economies are fossil fuel based, whether you like it or not.
                      Everything that I do from consuming food from the supermarket, to buying TV and washing machines, involves fossil fuels at some point along the supply chain.

                      If someone can convince me that taxing every single part of this supply chain will have no adverse effects on the economy, and will actually reduce emissions, then I will be impressed.

                      If BC is really such an exemplar, why aren’t they shouting from the rooftops about it?

  10. Andys, I gather you aren’t convinced we can reduce emissions significantly, and still have a decent lifestyle? But the article I referenced shows we can, and is supported by various credible authorities. Not saying they have it perfect, but they have shown significant progress.

    BC have promoted their cause, but plenty of people dont want to hear. I wont continue this discussion further.

    • Actually I think we can dramatically reduce emissions and improve our lifestyle if we adopt widespread nuclear power, such as Thorium.

      I am very dubious about the claims about BC. Similar claims have been made about the UK, which will become an economic cot case thanks to its climate change and energy policies.

      • Andys. Thorium is still really somewhat experimental and might have potential eventually, however like traditional nuclear power its unlikely to be as cheap in reality as the advocates promise.

        NZ probably doesnt need to consider either thorium or traditional nuclear power, as we have considerable other natural energy resources. We also need to be doubly careful about any risks, given we rely on farm exports. Wouldnt really want to wreck that with some contamination scare.

        The BC case has been shown to be very effective, please note my other post above. Basically the tax costs of the scheme have proven to be small, and have been outweighed by the carbon reduction benefits. You havent provided any real reasons to be sceptical about it, you are just “nay saying” for the sake of it. Britian is a different situation you cant really compare.

        • The reason that I am sceptical about the BC case is because there is no evidence to support their assertions.
          Look at the article you cited. Start at the top comment on the article, and find the first one that supports the case.

          Thorium may be experimental, but it was first prototyped in the 1950 s

          NZ probably can’t afford nuclear anyway, but as you say we have plenty of hydro so we don’t really need it anyway. It is India, China etc who will look towards these technologies as the west fades into obscurity and irrelevance on the world stage.

          • Andys, the article I linked to is just a brief general press release, and the article said refer to the full consultants report for details and evidence, so track it down if you are interested.

            I agree about India etc. I believe each country has to make its own decisions on energy. Thorium or other improved nuclear options may definitely suit some countries.

  11. Andys I will clarify one point on the economic issues you raise. I hadn’t said much on how the tax affects the economy, as I felt the articles on BC cover this issue.

    Obviously any tax can affect the economy, and may increase costs at least in the short term, but obviously taxes also bring benefits, so its a cost benefit thing ultimately. Tobacco taxes would be a good example.

    The british Columbia case has increased some costs in the supply chain as far as energy goes, but there has been no big increase, or reduction to company profits or gdp growth. Innovation, competition, and efficiences has apparently cancelled much of the potential increased costs.

    So there are significant environmental gains for rather small costs, which is the point of the exercise. Remember economics has to ultimately embrace not just crude accounting costs but also ultimate environmental and human costs. So the BC case is effective and interesting.

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