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An Advisory to the West Coast Regional Council

9 February 2019 2 comments

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In July last year (2018), the West Council Regional Council announced in a submission to the Ministry for the Environment that they would not be supporting the Coalition Government’s proposed Zero Carbon Bill. The Council stated;

The West Coast Regional Council (WCRC or ‘the Council’) does not support the Zero Carbon Bill (ZCB) as it creates too much uncertainty for the West Coast region. There are too many unknowns that arise from this discussion document to gain the Councils support. Further, the discussion document has not presented the science behind the proposed bill. We suggest the science that underpins the ZCB should be clearly discussed and summarised in order for the layperson to understand and potentially accept it. Climate change is a very complex issue and to ask the people of the West Coast to commit to an emissions target (and accept the subsequent adverse effects discussed below), the evidence proving anthropogenic climate change must be presented and proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The statement was repeated further on in the submission;

While the framework of the ZCB appears to be well-intentioned the science behind the bill and Anthropogenic climate change needs to be presented and proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The West Council Regional Council’s submission was reported on 29 January this year;

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Unfortunately for the Council, it juxtaposed with the same week that soaring temperatures hit Australia and New Zealand;

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It was simply bad luck for climate change deniers on the West Coast Regional Council that their submission was made public the same week that data revealed January 2019 as the hottest month since records began in 1909;

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The data was obtained by New Zealand’s own research organisation, NIWA, with the organisation’s climate scientist, Gregor Macara, stating;

“It was unusual that the entire country seemed to observe temperatures that weren’t only above average, but really considerably above average.”

NIWA obtains it’s data from a range of advanced scientific instruments;

Partnering with NOAA, NIWA is not short on a wealth of climate data gathered by sophisticated devices and skilled, dedicated scientists. It may be an over-used cliche, but New Zealand “punches above it’s weight” on climate science.

This is the information which the West Council Regional Council laments that it lacks;

“We must be objective and base our decisions on science and that’s why we want the science presented really simply; we don’t have climate change experts on our staff so we just want everyone to understand it.”

There are processes that the Council can go through to be briefed on climate change and better informed.

In fact, the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MoBIE) provides an Envirolink Grant which is specifically designed  “to provide regional councils with advice and research on environmental projects”;

The funding available

Funding of $1.6 million (excluding GST) is available each year for Crown research institutes, universities and private research organisations to provide regional councils with advice and research on environmental projects.

Envirolink funding is invested through 3 on-demand processes:

  • a Small Advice grant to provide councils with initial expert advice on proposed environmental research
  • a Medium Advice grant to provide more detailed advice
  • a Tools Development grant to fund the development of environmental management tools for councils.

Those eligible are listed on the MoBIE website;

Who can apply 

The following regional councils and unitary authorities are currently eligible to apply for Envirolink support via the small and medium advice grants:

  • Northland Regional Council
  • Gisborne District Council
  • Hawkes Bay Regional Council
  • Horizons Regional Council
  • Nelson City Council
  • Marlborough District Council
  • Tasman District Council
  • West Coast Regional Council
  • Environment Southland.

All regional councils and unitary authorities are eligible to apply for the Tools development grants.

The information from NIWA is available and extensive.

However, it appears that the real question is not whether the information is available and whether or not climate change has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. As NASA scientist, Compton Tucker, said three years ago;

“We’re starting to see the death of climate change denial, that is the evidence accumulated from multiple sources.

The evidence is overwhelming and there are people who are wilfully ignorant about climate change and they invoke a wide variety of mechanisms which are pretty silly.”

No, the real question is not the science which exists in abundance – but a quasi-religious belief which does not recognise or understand the science.  These are people like one of the West Coast Regional Councillors, Allan Birchfield.

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Mr Birchfield owns several coal mines. Coal is a prime source of carbon dioxide. And carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases.

Despite rejecting that he is a climate change denier and opposing the Zero Carbon Bill “…because I’m a coal miner”, Mr Birchfield is also a devout follower of Donald Trump;

“I strongly support what Donald Trump has done in America bring all the miners back to work again.”

It would cost nothing for the West Coast Regional Council to be briefed by NIWA. The real question is: do they want to be?

Because whether or not people accept climate change is happening is ultimately irrelevant. Like it or not, climate change is impacting on the West Coast. The same natural force that created coal 360 million years ago is now reacting to the carbon dioxide we are releasing into the atmosphere from burning that same coal.

Count on it, Councillors.

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References

West Coast Regional Council: Submission on Zero Carbon Bill Discussion Document

Radio NZ: West Coast council rejects government climate change bill

Radio NZ: Scorching weather – Temps set to soar to 34C

Radio NZ: January 2018 NZ’s hottest month on record

NIWA: Climate stations and instruments

NIWA: SST Analyses for Standard Areas

NIWA: Argo Floats

NIWA: Environmental monitoring

NIWA: CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth)

NIWA: Underwater glider touches down in Wellington

Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment: Envirolink Scheme

NIWA: National Climate Database

Fairfax/Stuff media: West Coast Regional Council wants proof of human-caused climate change before supporting Zero Carbon Bill

Radio NZ: Impossible to deny climate change – NASA

NIWA: What is climate change and why is it happening?

Other blogs

No Right Turn:  Climate Change – (Local) government in denial

The Daily Blog: The West Coast Regional Council is the face of climate denial – let them drown!

The Standard: Does the West Coast Regional Council Exist?

Previous related blogposts

The Many Mendacities of Mr Bridges – National’s fair-weather “commitment” to a Climate Change Commission

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 January 2019.

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The Many Mendacities of Mr Bridges – National’s fair-weather “commitment” to a Climate Change Commission

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Current National Party Leader, Simon Bridges has been making ‘noises’ about his Party’s new-found revelation that climate change is a major environmental issue

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: 24 June 2018
subject: Letter to the editor

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The editor
Dominion Post

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National leader Simon Bridges recently announced that his Party would “sign up” to a Climate Change Commission. However, his so-called commitment contained so many caveats as to make it meaningless.

On TVNZ’s Q+A, he said;

“But he can’t even say what exactly that means. My point to you, let me give it straight on, my point to you really is this – there is a difference in politics, there still is today. And it is around, on our side, us thinking we need to be practical, have sensible environmental solutions. We don’t want to see the disruptive damage to the economy quickly.

[…]

And we don’t want to see real costs imposed on hard-working Kiwi households overnight.”

A day later on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, Bridges repeated the same carefully-rehearsed speech;

“You want to be considering not only the environmental impacts but the economic impacts.”

[…]

We’re going to be practical, sensible, and solutions-oriented. We’re not going to veer to the extremes that mean really dramatic effects on our economy and huge costs on household, that disrupt quite quickly.”

Despite acknowledging that “Climate change is real”, he refused to commit to a Commission’s findings.

Mr Bridges has a long way to go.

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Frank Macskasy

[Address and phone number supplied]

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As if to underscore Mr Bridges’ double-think on this grave crisis confronting our civilisation;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 24 June 2018
subject: Letter to the editor

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The Editor
NZ Herald

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How can current  National Party leader, Simon Bridges, expect to be taken seriously on his so-called ‘signing up’ to a Climate Change Commission when;

(1) He will not undertake any meaningful change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it may “harm our economy” or “drive up costs” – both propositions being examples of hyperbolic fear-mongering to do nothing meaningful. (Or as little as possible.)

(2) He refused to undertake to commit to any findings from a proposed Commission despite acknowledging that “climate change is real” and solutions should “be science based”. If he doesn’t commit to science based solutions, what will he commit to?

(3) On 12 April, National launched a petition to “Stop this Ardern-Peters Govt from banning oil and gas exploration”. Two months later, Bridges was ascending the moral highground demanding that “National wants to take the politics out of climate change and work with other parties to create an independent climate change commission. Climate change is a major environmental issue”.

Interviewed on  Radio NZ and TVNZ’s Q+A, Mr Bridges’s qualified his “commitment” to a Climate Change Commission with so many caveats, “ifs”, buts”, and “maybe in the future”, as to expose his supposed Road to Damascus conversion as politically expedient vote chasing.

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Frank Macskasy

[Address and phone number supplied]

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As an example of That was Then, This is now,  nothing better illustrates National’s duplicity than their two recent posts of Twitter.

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Now

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So much for “National want[ing] to take the politics out of climate change”.

Some things do not seem to have changed much from May 2005, when a certain Member of Parliament dismissed climate change as a hoax;

“This is a complete and utter hoax, if I may say so. The impact of the Kyoto Protocol, even if one believes in global warming—and I am somewhat suspicious of it—is that we will see billions and billions of dollars poured into fixing something that we are not even sure is a problem. Even if it is a problem, it will be delayed for about 6 years. Then it will hit the world in 2096 instead of 2102, or something like that. It will not work.” – John Key, Debating Chamber, Parliament, 10 May 2005

Hat-tip: MickySavage, The Standard

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Green Party leader, James Shaw, took a more charitable view of Mr Bridges’ sudden change-of-heart;

“I think it is a genuine offer. National as the so-called party of business has been hearing from particularly the corporate end of town who have been saying that there really has to be a stable policy environment that has to survive multiple changes of Government.

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I think it is pretty unreasonable to ask them to support a piece of legislation that they haven’t seen yet and I think that engaging them in the process of drafting increases the chances that they will eventually vote for it.”

National may vote for it – but will they honour and abide by findings and recommendations from a Climate Change Commission? Especially when in 2012, National scrapped a crucial  five-yearly State of the Environment Report.

Broken promises have also played a significant part in National’s climate change policies. In May 2007, John Key promised to bring farmers into the Emissions Trading Scheme;

“National will bring all Kiwis – industry, energy producers, farmers, mums and dads – closer to a shared and well-understood goal. We need to be united in our pursuit of a ’50 by 50′ target”

By 2012, National had reneged, passing legislation exempting agriculture indefinitely from the ETS.

It is unclear why anyone would believe National’s concession to a Climate Change Commission when their track record has been one of broken promises, back-tracking, prevaricating, and conflicting statements on addressing emissions.

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Meanwhile, Nature waits for no Man, Woman, or out-of-touch political careerists. For the last quarter of a century, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures have quietly wrought it’s damage;

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BBC: Antarctica loses three trillion tonnes of ice in 25 years

13 June 2018

Satellites monitoring the state of the White Continent indicate some 200 billion tonnes a year are now being lost to the ocean as a result of melting.

This is pushing up global sea levels by 0.6mm annually – a three-fold increase since 2012 when the last such assessment was undertaken.

Scientists report the new numbers in the journal Nature.

Governments will need to take account of the information and its accelerating trend as they plan future defences to protect low-lying coastal communities.

The researchers say the losses are occurring predominantly in the West of the continent, where warm waters are getting under and melting the fronts of glaciers that terminate in the ocean.

[…]

Space agencies have been flying satellites over Antarctica since the early 1990s. Europe, in particular, has an unbroken observation record going back to 1992.

These spacecraft can tell how much ice is present by measuring changes in the height of the ice sheet and the speed at which it moves towards the sea. Specific missions also have the ability to weigh the ice sheet by sensing changes in the pull of gravity as they pass overhead.

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In total, Antarctica has shed some 2.7 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, corresponding to an increase in global sea level of more than 7.5mm.

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“At the moment, we have projections going through to 2100, which is sort of on a lifetime of what we can envisage, and actually the sea-level rise we will see is 50/60cm,” said Dr Whitehouse. “And that is not only going to impact people who live close to the coast, but actually when we have storms – the repeat time of major storms and flooding events is going to be exacerbated,” she told BBC News.

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For those with an aptitude for science, the raw date can be found on the Nature website. As well as orbiting satellite sensors,  the Argo Ocean probes continue to feed continuous data on temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean. Real-time data is collected and made publicly available soon after collection.

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New Zealand’s own NIWA has been part of the Argo Project since the early 2000s. Dedicated crew and scientists from New Zealand’s research vessels Tangaroa and Kaharoa placed over a thousand Argo Floats between 2004 and 2011.

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(Images courtesy of NIWA)

From space; to the planet’s surface; and undersea, sensitive instruments are revealing a grim picture of humanity’s impact on the environment and on our climate.

It is against this backdrop that Simon Bridges is playing silly-buggers with the greatest existential threat to humanity since the Americans and Soviets confronted each other during the Cold War.

Small-minded politicians can play their games to win elections.

But it will be at our expense.

Addendum

A recent survey by Horizon Polling has revealed that the majority of respondents “support all parties in Parliament agreeing on plans to act on climate change”;

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Cross-Party support for action on climate gas emissions showed a majority in favour;

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  • 41% of National voters support an all-party approach (31% are neutral, 21% oppose)
  • 67% of Labour voters support, 17% are neutral, 6% oppose
  • 93% of Green voters support, 3% are neutral and none oppose
  • 47% of NZ First voters support, 30% are neutral and 21% oppose

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Simon Bridges’ luke-warm ‘support’ for a Climate Change Commission threatens to make him more irrelevant than he is already. At this rate he will have to run to catch up with the rest of the country.

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References

Radio NZ: Nats change tune on commission for climate change

Scoop media: Q+A – Simon Bridges interviewed by Corin Dann (transcipt)

Scoop media: Q+A – Simon Bridges interviewed by Corin Dann (video)

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Bridges offers to work with govt on tackling climate change

Twitter: National – Sign our Petition

Twitter: Simon Bridges – Climate Change Commission

Parliament: Climate Change Response Amendment Bill – First Reading

NZ Herald: Climate change minister James Shaw welcomes ‘genuine’ approach from Simon Bridges

NZ Herald: National scraps crucial environmental report

Scoop media: John Key Speech – Climate Change Target

Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

BBC: Antarctica loses three trillion tonnes of ice in 25 years

Nature: Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017

Argo: What is Argo?

Argo: Argo Floats

NIWA: Argo Floats

Horizon Polling:  Majority support all-party action on climate change

Additional

Fairfax media:  Simon Bridges blows hot air into climate change debate

Parliament: Climate Change Response Amendment Bill – First Reading – John Key

Radio NZ: ‘The science is clear – climate change is real’ – National

Other Blogposts

No Right Turn:  Climate Change: National’s forked tongue

The Daily Blog: National proclaiming they want to find climate change solutions is like the Tobacco industry proclaiming they want to find solutions to cancer

The Standard: Does National really want climate change to be a bipartisan issue?

Previous related blogposts

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

Simon burns his Teal Coalition Bridges

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 June 2018.

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