MEDIA WATCH: What Peter Williams climate denial epitomises & countering the whole ‘NZ gas emissions are tiny’ defence


I like Peter Williams.

I always thought he was a great newsreader on TV and I once saw him talk about the death of his partner with such raw humbling beauty that I always put him in the good bugger category.

So I think Peter Williams is a top bloke.

I disagree passionately however with his climate denial column last week.

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I feel sad for his misplaced anger as it has blinded him to reason because what his position epitomises is that despite the title of his column, the climate change debate isn’t a scientific argument, it’s really a cultural one.

Climate change stopped being a scientific argument a long time ago because the science IS settled, the way evolution as a hypothesis IS settled. What Peter is really fighting against is the way the debate is settled with activists on social media and how that makes him feel.

We have a huge swathe of older white men who have benefited immensely from the neoliberal free market and they don’t want to hear that their carbon footprint or affluence their position has privileged them with has contributed to a psychotic form of capitalism that is rapidly destroying the planet’s ability to keep pace with our never ending growth models of consumption.

The unfortunate truth for Peter is that activists can continue to be smug and damning in their criticism of feet draggers and the ‘just asking questions’ brigade because the planet IS super heating rapidly and will continue to do so with all the news generating damage the climate crisis brings with it…

Arctic summer melt shows ice is disappearing faster than normal

Ice covering the Arctic Ocean reached the second-lowest level recorded for this time of year after July temperatures spiked in areas around the North Pole.

The rate of ice loss in the region is a crucial indicator for the world’s climate and a closely-watched metric by bordering nations jostling for resources and trade routes.

…there is no escaping the climate crisis future we face, and those attempting to minimise it or deny it for the purposes of vested interests or cultural resentment will find nothing but ever increasing anger.

While I’m exposing the intellectual bankruptcy of climate deniers, let’s take a moment to counter the whole ‘NZ gas emissions are tiny’ defence because this seems to have become a favourite argument from Agricultural protagonists of late

New Zealand’s entire contribution to climate change represents just 0.17 percent of global emissions

…the position is that even if we were to be sustainable, our contribution is tiny and meaningless in the face of global polluters.

While that is true, the obligation to change remains.

NZ, BECAUSE WE ARE SO SMALL, has an obligation to lead and trailblaze new technology and ways of sustainable agriculture that the rest of the planet can adopt.

This same argument would have been used against universal suffrage – the NZ population is tiny so why bother giving women the right to vote when the total number will be meaningless against a global population.

We make these changes because they are the right thing to do and because it leads progress for the entire planet, which is NZs legacy as a country.

Just because our emissions compared globally are small doesn’t mean our carbon footprint per person isn’t huge and it doesn’t remove the obligation to become totally sustainable.

The reality is that the planet is super heating because of human pollution, that it is faster and worse than Scientists had conservatively predicted, and that the level of civl disobedience and radical reform is inescapable.

Choose a side, because it is going to get rough.



  1. “The position is that even if we were to be sustainable, our contribution is tiny and meaningless in the face of global polluters.

    “While that is true, the obligation to change remains.”

    Indeed. We are obligated to change as we (as a nation) have signed up, thus are internationally obligated. Moreover, it will cost us billions of dollars (representing a significant transfer of wealth overseas) if we don’t.

  2. “We have a huge swathe of older white men who have benefited immensely from the neoliberal free market”

    I noticed a while ago that the majority of the critics of man-made climate change (they are at the point where they can’t simply say climate change isn’t real) are older white males. I call this the Men’s Shed Climate Change Syndrome. Older white males seem to think that simply researching the science of climate change and then taking all this information down to the shed at the back of their quarter acre section, they can figure out what is really happening and why actual scientists are getting it wrong. It’s that good old Richard Pearce No 8 wire attitude.

  3. It’s deeper than this.
    The divide is strongly spread left/right in politics and in the authoritarian/libertarian divide.
    In short, right leaning authoritarians are way more likely to deny man-made global heating.
    Why is that?
    Because the physical world by its reaction to increased greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent effects on climate effectively shits on a political philosophy that says “man has dominion” and that the planet is a passive resource to be plundered.
    This anathema to the right. The physical world invalidates their political philosophy.
    That’s way too big a threat and a truth they can’t accept.
    If you follow the work of Dan Kahan at Yale on cultural cognition you’ll see that his research shows that the more these people know about the science the more entrenched their position becomes.
    Again, why is this? As their scientific and debate position becomes more untenable the more they hold to it. Because, it’s who they are.
    Can we bridge this gap to solve the global heating issue?
    Only by removing the politics from it as fast as possible – we need citizen assemblies now who can deal with the problem as people not politicians.

    Watch Dan Kahan on the left/right divide with climate change.

    Climate change deniers add nothing to the science but clearly spell out their politics.

    • Your right on the money that personality structure has a bearing on the persons ability and likelihood to be open to examine new information.

  4. Climate change stopped being a scientific argument a long time ago because the science IS settled,
    When I was one I’d just begun.
    When I was two I was nearly new.
    When I was three I was hardly me.
    When I was four I was not much more.
    When I was five I was just alive.
    But now I am six I’m as cleaver as cleaver,
    And I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.

    This has been the position of science and scientists since time began. Everything that was once believed settled knowledge has had to be modified or completely overturned, but scientists always believe that now they know , even though they can see how often science has got it completely wrong in the past.
    Scientists do actually recognise this; but anyone who says any science is settled doe not qualify as a scientist.
    D J S

    • “anyone who says any science is settled doe not qualify as a scientist.”
      100% David.

      Just like those who say something is “scientifically proven”.
      The process of testing information or evidence is what science is about.

  5. I love it that ‘economic rationalists’ are the same people who top the list of people who deny climatic reality. A slight victory before the ultimate end.

    Yet there power sits, established by ’84. What was different about ’35? A movement, when we are all divided, atomised now. Fury, fight and, yes, uncivilizedness. Polite differences of opinion among the economic elite doesn’t cut it. Since the elite, by definition of social-democracy of 35 to 84, is illegitimate.

    I myself think our state is rotten, just requires leaning on it. Just these polies have been trained up on it as their measure. OK, we all despise them and they’ve proved us right. Don’t know where Jacinda gets her truth-talking. She’s either stupid or self-deceptive. Or maybe a working politician.

    • Good Stuff Joseph.

      There are many more reports similarly pointing to a dire need for human activity to change – but all similarly ignored.
      Capitalist greed leads to human suicide.

  6. Most folk don’t know what to think.. The Political/Business elite don’t know what to do. They are looking for opportunities make a buck…. but, but…

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