Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Hide: global warming is good for you!

September 8, 2008

Continuing on from the last post, yet another right-wing nutbar…

Rodney Hide. Following on from his insane accusations that the EPMU is racist (true), Hide goes beyond climate change denial in a speech to the ACT Upper South Regional Conference (hat-tip: Hot Topic, where Gareth Renowden dissects the wilful ignorance):

“A warmer climate with more CO2 in the atmosphere is an unambiguous benefit to New Zealand and to the world. I don’t know what we are scared of. A New Zealand that was one or two degrees warmer would be a better place to live and better environment for agriculture. The same is true for CO2. We pump the stuff into our greenhouses to stimulate plant growth. It’s the number one nutrient with carbon through photosynthesis being the source of all life.”

Um, Rodney, it’s not being one or two degrees warmer in New Zealand that concerns so many scientists. It’s the effects on the global climate, ecological systems, and other places. You know, stuff like permafrost melting, unprecedented Arctic sea ice melts, the acidification of oceans…


Heather Roy green, as in naive

September 4, 2008

Heather Roy asks in her weekly diary:

“The real issue should have been: do we need an Emission Trading Scheme at all? Science and commonsense seem to have been placed on the back burner but they should certainly have been the basis of sensible decision-making.”

She then proceeds to give us a little lesson about climate change, and why there’s really nothing to worry about. Gareth Renowden pinpoints the loopiness in his post at Hot Topic.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, things are getting worse in the Arctic, and a new study published in the Proceedings of National Academy Of Sciences (pdf 765KB) shows that:

“… hemispheric-scale warmth of the past decade for the [northern hemisphere] is likely anomalous in the context of not just the past 1,000 years, as suggested in previous work, but longer. This conclusion appears to hold for at least the past 1,300 years…” (Hat-tip: Hot Topic.)

Yep, it finds that the last decade was the warmest for at least 1,300 years. That’s including the Medieval Warm Period.

Still, nothing to worry about, says our Heather, who states:

” I do not fully subscribe to the mainstream view, for which the science is inconclusive … “

Update: Gareth has also posted on Hide’s ignorance about climate change science.

Listen up climate sceptics — it’s Boris talking

August 31, 2008

London’s new Mayor and hero of the kiwiblog right has issued a stern warning to Londoners. Launching London’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy he says that in the future…

“Londoners will face an increased risk of floods, droughts and heatwaves that will endanger the prosperity of the city and the quality of life for all.”

Yup, even Boris Johnson has recognised the terrible consequences of climate change, and the need to take action now, before it’s too late.

Listen to Boris!

Listen to Boris!

Green in every way

August 22, 2008

I see Chris Trotter’s beaten me too it, but “What the hell are the Greens on about?”

Having failed to get the emissions trading scheme they wanted in their talks with National, they are asking the public to tell them what to do. By Tuesday morning. All right then…

The Herald’s report offers a few possibilities for this extraordinary move:

“Theories around Parliament about why the Greens held the press conference ranged from it being a publicity stunt through to a belief the party was trying to strengthen its hand at the negotiating table by threatening to bring down the legislation. It is possible, however, that the Greens are genuinely conflicted about which way to vote.”

Whatever, it defies belief. Sure, the ETS on offer is a dog’s breakfast, and doesn’t go nearly far enough. But it’s better than nothing, which is what we’ll get from National.

National “outlined” its climate change policy last Wednesday, but it got little coverage. Why? Here are the main points:

  • National has set an achievable emissions reduction target … a 50% reduction in New Zealand’s carbon-equivalent net emissions, as compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.

But they have no hard policy on offer to achieve this.

  • National “will ensure New Zealand works on the world stage to support international efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions”

They’ll be at the table. But what will they be doing at the table? Why, they’ll be working “with fellow countries on finding a pragmatic way to include large emitters like China, the United States, India, and Brazil.”

  • An emissions trading scheme for NZ.

Their scheme will be “robust”, and able to “stand the test of time.” Government won’t “profit” from it, we’ll know how much it will reduce emissions, we’ll know what the economic effects will be, and it won’t be introduced in a rush. It will, “strike a balance between New Zealand’s environmental and economic interests”, be compatible with Australia’s, and “will encourage the use of technologies that improve efficiency and reduce emissions intensity, rather than encourage an exodus of industries and their skilled staff to other countries.”

At last, some detail you say. Nope. I’m prepared to bet National’s understanding of where to strike the balance between environmental and economic interests is very different from the Green’s, for one thing.

Greenpeace can see the stark realities of the situation. Take the bird in the hand, they say.

Better still, the Greens should listen to Big Biz. They are keen to kick the ETS into touch, until their vassals are safely installed in power and we can be served up some toothless wonder of an ETS scheme that won’t achieve cost anything.

It may be difficult to swallow, but it’s not really such a difficult choice to make.

Neil Stockley: Clever frames, shame about the policy

August 22, 2008

A Neil Stockley guest post looks at McCain’s success in framing an issue on which he’s weak (the economy) in a favourable way. The problem is, it’s pure deceipt. For more on framing, policy and the US elections, see this recent post of Neil’s.

Politics isn’t just about getting the frames; it’s about moving them too. If you can’t win on the issues being talked about, change the subject, and fast.

Framing Science explains this week how John McCain’s campaign has successfully framed “the economy” as being about “energy”. They quote one pollster as saying:

“The Republicans’ biggest problem in this election is that they are viewed as lessable to fix the economy. When the economy is defined as job loss, mortgage foreclosures, high health care costs, that’s Democratic territory. Obama wants to play on that field.

“McCain wants to define it as being about energy, because his being in favor of drilling is on the right side of the [opinion poll] numbers.”

That’s an impressive bit of framing. But the policy is bad. Climate Progress and Tom Friedman (to name but two) have demolished the notion that allowing more offshore drilling will solve America’s energy problems.

Investigating the reality of Wishart’s ‘reality’

August 16, 2008

MacDoc and Inventory pointed me to Ian Wishart’s Investigate piece on mercury in compact fluorescent lamps because I might find it “informative”.

It was. I have discovered for myself that Wishart’s account of the Maine incident is distorted and that one can never take Wishart at face value.

Wishart outlines “the official NZ Government position” and then pronounces grandly, “Now let’s examine the reality.”

Okay, I say, let’s do a sampling of Wishart’s “reality”.

Wishart features the story of Brandy Bridges — who Wishart tells us is a “mother” not once but twice, and calls “Brandy”, presumably in order to elicit our sympathy. Ms Bridges broke a CFL and called the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, who:

“suggested she call in a hazardous waste crew. When the hazard contractor quoted US$2,000 to clean the bedroom, Bridges decided simply to seal off the room and make her daughter sleep elsewhere in the house while the issue was sorted out.”

Wishart went to the trouble of interviewing Ms Bridges, presumably because we might learn something from her experience. How much we can learn from someone who merely broke a CFL and discovered that the Maine DEP didn’t really know what to do is questionable, but never mind. (Remember, Maine is a very small state in population terms, 40th in size, with fewer than 1,300,000 inhabitants. Its environmental protection agency could not be expected to be one of the best resourced in the Union, though I’m sure they do a fine job with what they’ve got.)

Anyway, we read that at first the Maine DEP recommended that the floor be professionally cleaned, but that on learning the cost Ms Bridges went to the  “papers” with the story, and the Maine DEP changed their advice so that broken CFLs could be cleaned by householders “with just paper and duct tape”

But Ms Bridges was taking no chances, sealed the room and had her daughter sleep elsewhere. “And then the DEP offered to come back out and remove the carpet for me. They removed the carpet, re-tested everything and sealed everything in containers and disposed of it as hazardous waste.”

Sounds like serious stuff! And as told by the individual involved to our intrepid reporter, who presumably used directory assistance to find her number. But had Wishart also ventured onto the Maine DEP website, he might have found their account of the events (also in pdf), and been able to provide more detail:

The Maine DEP says that it:

“… has extensive experience with other types of mercury spills, but did not have experience with the mercury levels that might occur from a CFL breaking on carpet. In addition to evaluating the levels in the home, the Department planned to use this breakage event as a means of gathering information to better respond to future events.”

So, the Department’s actions were driven by a desire to learn more, and not due to the incredible danger posed.

We also learn that, “The carpet, squares of multi colored carpet, was planned for removal as part of an intended renovation.” Wishart dwells on the removal of carpet.

Maine DEP also gives us a better understanding than Wishart [edit: in the online version — see Wishart’s comment below] of the significance on the 300 ng/m3 guide:

“The Department responders work under a guidance value of 300 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) for mercury. If readings are 300 ng/m3 or less, the area is considered to not require any additional actions and no additional clean up advice is given. In situations with values over 300 ng/m3, the Department responder consults with the State Toxicologist for a more refined evaluation.”

And what did they find (albeit two days after the event, and after the area had been cleaned)? Although in all other parts of the house mercury levels were well below 300 ng/m3, in an area of carpet the size of a dinner plate, the reading was 1,939 ng/m3, more or less at the surface.

Then it gets interesting. The Maine DEP’s account:

“The homeowner expressed particular nervousness about exposures to mercury even in low numbers. Based on that concern, the responder explained two ways to minimize exposures to mercury: one way was to wear respiratory protection and another way was to hire a clean-up contractor.

“Since the homeowner did not have any respirator protection, the responder referred her to a commercial clean-up contractor. The responder further suggested that the homeowner talk with their homeowner’s insurance company to see if her policy would cover the cost of a professional clean-up contractor.”

Note the bit about, “particular nervousness about exposures to mercury even in low numbers.” Giving rise to the suggestions about what to do if you’re going to be particularly nervous about this. And, after getting a quote for $2,000 from a professional cleaning firm, the story hit the media.

Two (not three, as Ms Bridges says) months later, according to the Maine DEP:

“The Department tried to reach the homeowner to determine the current levels of mercury on the one spot with readings over 300 ng/m3. The homeowner called the Department on May 15, 2007 and agreed to have the Department come to her house on Friday (May 18, 2007) to obtain measurements and potentially remove the carpet piece in question. Upon arrival on Friday, the Department responder found no measurements over 300 ng/m3, including at the point of impact. However, the carpet piece was removed by the responder at the request of the homeowner.”

Ms Bridges says “the bag where they had placed the carpet into still had readings higher than the state’s danger level”; the Maine DEP says, “found no measurements over 300 ng/m3, including at the point of impact.” Wishart, and his new-found friend “Brandy” make much of the removal of the carpet; the Maine DEP says, “the carpet piece was removed by the responder at the request of the homeowner.”

So, two parallel realities here. You decide which one is the real reality.

But note, as the Maine DEP says, “… CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, they do need to be properly cleaned up when broken, and they need to be taken to a recycling facility for fluorescent bulbs when being disposed of.”

Eco bulbs

August 15, 2008

Energy Safety, the governmental agency charged (oops) with ensuring the safe supply and use of electricity and gas, has warned the Fire Service about the potential hazard of eco bulbs (compact fluorescent lamps). Eco bulbs are reported to be “melting, blowing up and blackening surrounding electrical equipment.”

This comes a couple of months after the Minister of Energy (along with the Government Spokesperson on Energy Efficiency and Conservation, Jeanette Fitzsimons) announced that new energy efficiency standards would lead to traditional incandescent bulbs being phased out from late next year. The move is part of the Efficient Lighting Strategy. NZers could save an estimated almost $500 million of the $660 million spent on lighting electricity annually.

It’s not clear from the DomPost’s report whether there has been a sudden upsurge in reports of problems with the eco bulbs. Energy Safety says it has received 13 complaints about eco bulbs in the past fortnight. However, a spokesperson for the Minieter said the agency had received no reports of “serious problems” and a spokeperson for the Fire Service says, “We do not know if there is a manufacturing fault, a user fault or a dud batch…”

In other words, we need to know more before we start drawing conclusions.

Well, not all of us. Egged on by David Farrar — “… they may burn your house down!” — the kiwiblog right greeted this news as more evidence of a big brother conspiracy to foist dangerous and user-unfriendly light fittings on the unsuspecting citizenry, presumably for the sheer hell of it since eco bulbs don’t save energy anyway.

Never mind that the Efficient Lighting Strategy was developed in partnership between the lighting industry, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, and the Electricity Commission. What would they know!

No arctic summer ice by 2013?

August 11, 2008

Gareth Renowden on Hot Topic writes about the news that the North Pole ice is melting at an unprecedented rate and by 2013 the Arctic could be ice-free in summer.

As regular readers of Renowden’s excellent blog will know, the Arctic ice is of particular interest because (1) it’s going to be one of the first major effects of climate change, and (2) there’s a lot of it.

This summer could see less ice in the Arctic than ever before. However:

“‘It does not really matter whether 2007 or 2008 is the worst year on record for Arctic ice,’ [US Navy researcher] Maslowski said. ‘The crucial point is that ice is clearly not building up enough over winter to restore cover and that when you combine current estimates of ice thickness with the extent of the ice cap, you get a very clear indication that the Arctic is going to be ice-free in summer in five years. And when that happens, there will be consequences.'”

“Major meteorological, environmental and ecological implications.”

For more background on the arctic ice story, read Gareth’s earlier posts here and here. Lots of good links. Renowden has a bet about the amount of arctic sea ice this summer with William “Stoat” Connelley, but it’s one of those bets that you’d want to lose. Sadly for us, it’s looking like he might win it.