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An Advisory to the West Coast Regional Council

9 February 2019 1 comment

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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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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.

[…]

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.

[…]

“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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Simon burns his Teal Coalition Bridges

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Act I – Post-election, Dealing the Cards

During the post-election coalition negotiations last year, there was much entrails-reading of which way NZ First would move to form a new government. Labour and NZ First? Or National and NZ First?

Then came the novel suggestion from several  media and mostly right-leaning political commentators – all with singularly hyper-active imaginations – of a potential  National-Green Coalition government. This was mentioned by Laura Walters and Katie Kenny, on 24 September (2017), both writing for Fairfax media; former National PM, Jim Bolger on 25 September, talking with John Campbell on Radio NZ’s Checkpoint; Bill English on 25 September; National’s deputy Paula Bennett on 29 September;  Jim Bolger again on 1 October; Fairfax’s Tracy Watkins on 2 October, et al…

The ‘cheerleaders’ were lining up to “encourage” (and in one instance, demand!) the installation of a ‘Teal’ Coalition.

Even former cricketer-turned-Mediaworks-AM Show presenter , Mark Richardson, offered his one cent worth of advice to Green Party leader James Shaw to  “be a risk taker and back yourself” by coalescing with the Nats. (Though Richardson admitted that a decision by Shaw to coalesce with National would “blow his Party to smithereens“. This did not seem to perturb Richardson, a self-confessed National Party supporter.)

Tracy Watkins had to concede that any coalition deal with the Nats was a lengthy, but guaranteed,  political suicide mission, “National has used up all its future coalition partners. United Future and the Maori Party are gone and ACT is on life support“.

Strangely, Shaw’s response was utterly predictable. He would take a phone call from then National-leader Bill English… but…

“It’s my responsibility to do so. And we’ll have to see what they’ve got to say. But one of the things I will be saying in return is ‘You know we campaigned on a change of government and you know what was in our manifesto … and how incongruous that is to what the National Party policy programme is’.”

Act II – Was a ‘Teal’ Deal the Real Deal?

So how viable would a coalition have been between two political parties that – on the face of things have as much in common as a chicken and a platypus?

Not much, it would seem.

On several occassions,  National’s current caretaker  Leader, Simon Bridges criticised the Green Party’s policies on social issues;

In terms of the Greens, if they were a true environmental party that wasn’t focused on other bits and bobs, they could be a party that we could work with and work with strongly,” Bridges said on Tuesday.

And;

You’ve seen me say that I think actually there is a role for us in the environment.

I do have problems with the fact that they’re more than simply an environmental party – a lot of other stuff I disagree with, but on the environment we know… New Zealanders care passionately about this.”

And;

It’s a deep red rather than Green. I’m interested in working with them on genuine conservation, environmental issues but not picketing on the streets.”

The sub-text of that narrative was for the Green Party to neuter itself. As James Shaw had to point out to Simon Bridges – much like an exasperated parent patiently explaining something to a young child;

“History has shown that people want to vote for parties on a range of issues. We’ve always said that sustainability is a function of society, of the environment, and of the economy, and you can’t disaggregate those things,”

It would not be dissimilar to the Green Party dictating to National to abandon it’s close links to corporate interests, the farming sector, and other pro-business lobby groups. A point made by recently-elected Green Party Party co-leader, and former Daily Blog contributor, Marama Davidson;

“They’ve got to change a lot. It’s not good enough that Simon’s trying to position himself as all of a sudden caring about our rivers and our water, when his very policies under his party led to the exact environmental degradation that we’re seeing. He wanted to open up drilling to our Maui dolphins’ home.

They don’t understand the connection of the flawed economic model that led to the environmental degradation in the first place. They would have to change a lot, and I don’t think that’s what they intend to do.”

So how ‘green’ is our true-blue National Party?

Act III – National plays the Green Card

On 28 April, at a so-called “Bluegreens” Forum – a greenwashed front for the National Party –  Simon Bridges made much of his party’s “green credentials“;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.

My view is that people aren’t used to hearing a National Party leader talk like this, but I’ve said right from the start that the environment is important to me and the National Party … The environment isn’t an optional extra.

Climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more.

We now need to wrestle emissions down, just staying stable doesn’t cut it … We need to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions.”

Note; the reported comment from Bridges – “Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren” – is almost a word-for-word repeat from last year’s National’s Environment policy on their website;

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Most crucially, note Bridges reference to needing “ to incentivise households, businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs to be developing and implementing technological solutions“.

Developing and implementing technological solutions” – not reducing reliance on fossil fuels. For National that was a No-Go Area.

Not so for this coalition government.

On 12 April, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced  that “There will be no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits granted“. She said;

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change.”

More than “a step”, it was a bold leap – perhaps one of the most radical since New Zealand declared itself a nuclear-free nation on 8 June 1987. Climate change officially became this generation’s “nuclear free moment” on 12 April 2018.

Without doubt, it would be an expensive proposition to forego possible, undiscovered, oil reserves that might be worthy millions – billions! – to our country.

But the cost of runaway climate change; increasing CO2; rising temperatures and sea levels; more energetic storms; growing threats of flooding and coastal storm surges; harsher droughts; heavier rains – would  cost us billions as well. With rising sea levels and more powerful storm surges, thousands of homes were now within coastal danger zones;

“Climate change will increasingly create severe risks for New Zealand’s coastal housing stock. Even a small amount of sea-level rise will substantially exacerbate the costs of flooding and storm surges. Under the most optimistic emissions scenario studied by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global average sea levels will likely rise by between 44cm and 55cm by 2100, and around 1 m with continued high emissions. Across New Zealand, for regions with high-quality data, there are 43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm.”

According to the Ministry for the Environment, the cost of not addressing climate change threats cannot even be accurately ascertained;

The costs of inaction are difficult to quantify as they depend on the actions that the whole world takes to reduce emissions, not just New Zealand. The costs of inaction will be large but are hard to predict accurately and hard to express in monetary terms. This is also the case for modelling co-benefits of action such as air quality and health benefits. Current research and model development is beginning to address these complexities.

As a rough indicator, the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes was estimated to be about $40 billion (in 2015 dollars), which includes $16 billion  for residential construction. Around 10,000 homes were demolished due to earthquake damage. Compare that figure with Motu’s; “43,683 homes within 1.5m of the present average spring high tide and 8,806 homes within 50cm“.

Regrettably, National’s green rhetoric and Simon Bridges’ pious claims were not matched with more recent stated intentions – intentions that pose a direct threat to the long-term environmental well-being of our country as well as the entire planet.

Despite Simon Bridges asserting that “climate change is going to be one of the most challenging issues of our time. We’ve made some good progress in recent years, but we need to do much more” – National was going to do everything in it’s power to oppose practical solutions to reduce climate gas emissions.

Bridges point-blank refused to “do much more“.

Act IV – Blue card trumps Green for Bridges?

Soon after Prime Minister Ardern issued her government’s 12 April Declaration, Bridges responded like a child with his favourite toy taken off him;

If we are the Government in two years we will change it back.”

Bridges’ double-speak on environmental matters was pointed out by Fairfax’s Laura Walters in no uncertain terms;

Bridges had made a point of talking about National’s future environmental direction, and saying he would be open to working with the Green Party in the future – something the Greens have said was unlikely to happen.

However, when he was asked about his plans for the environment on Thursday, he was not able to point to any policies, or general policy areas.

In case Bridges protests at being “unfairly misquoted” in the media, his follow MPs were also vociferous in their opposition to the coalition government’s decision to curtail further offshore oil and gas exploration. In a recent press release, National’s Energy and Resources Spokesperson, Jonathan Young, said;

“The Government’s decision to ban gas and petroleum exploration is economic vandalism that makes no environmental sense […]

This decision will ensure the demise of an industry that provides over 8000 high paying jobs and $2.5 billion for the economy.

Without exploration there will be no investment in oil and gas production or the downstream industries. That means significantly fewer jobs.

This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.”

And in a bizarre twist, National’s own Climate Change spokesperson, Todd Muller, also condemned winding back New Zealand’s fossil fuel industry. In the same press release as Jonathan Young, he said;

“The decision makes no sense – environmentally or economically – because less gas production means more coal being burnt and higher carbon emissions.

Many overseas countries depend on coal for energy production. Those CO2 emissions would halve if they could switch to natural gas while they transition to renewable energy.

By stopping New Zealand’s gas exploration we are turning our backs on an opportunity to help reduce global emissions while providing a major economic return to improve our standard of living and the environment.

We need to reduce global CO2 emissions. But there is no need to put an entire industry and thousands of New Zealanders’ jobs at risk.

The Government’s decision today is another blow to regional New Zealand, and Taranaki in particular.

It comes hot on the heels of big decisions that reduce roading expenditure, cancel irrigation funding, and discourage international investment in the regions.”

Todd Mueller has the wrong job title. With his unwavering support  for the fossil fuel industry and increased roading expenditure, he should be National’s Increasing Greenhouse Gas Emissions spokesperson. Nothing that Mueller has said would lead to any reduction in dangerous emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The press release from Young and Mueller was also dated 12 April;

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– the same day Prime Minister Ardern released her statement to wind-back oil and gas exploration off our coast. This indicates how long and hard Young and Mueller must have thought deeply on this matter  before issuing their press release.

Not content with being advocates for the fossil fuel industry, Simon Bridges announced eighteen days later that a National government would over-turn the coalition government’s regional fuel tax in Auckland;

“A re-elected National Party will overturn the Government’s regional fuel tax to leave more money in the back pockets of hard-working New Zealand families.

Regional fuel taxes are unfair on New Zealanders. They are regressive, and hit poorer New Zealanders the hardest.

The fuel taxes the Government has announced will leave a typical Auckland family around $700 a year out of pocket.

The regional fuel tax is simply punishing Aucklanders for the Government and the Council’s lack of fiscal discipline.

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And to Councils I say don’t get used to this raid on the back pockets of hard working New Zealanders because a re-elected National Government will repeal this tax.”

Bridges attacked Auckland Mayor Phil Goff;

“Auckland Council is a clear case in point. We know it is a free spender of rate-payers money. It was true under Len Brown and it’s true under Phil Goff.”

Which contrasted with former National Party leader and PM, John Key, who all but endorsed Phil Goff’s bid for the mayoralty in 2015;

“Phil Goff has been a very long standing member of Parliament. It was quite a combative relationship when he was leader of the opposition, but there’s no question he had a big work rate and he was a very effective minster.”

Simon Bridges obviously didn’t get the memo from Key’s office that Goff “was a very effective minster“.

It is also worth remembering that when National was in power, they also raised the petrol excise duty by nine cents per litre over a three year period, with Road user charges increasing similarly. In March 2009, National’s Transport Minister, Steven Joyce announced;

”Our preference is for a simpler system which delivers benefits to road users across the board.” From 1 October this year motorists will pay an increase of 3 cents per litre in fuel excise duty and drivers of diesel vehicles will pay the equivalent in road user charges. A second 3 cents increase will occur at October 1 next year. Each 3 cent per litre increase includes an annual increase of 1.5 cents per litre scheduled by the previous government.

…these smaller adjustments to roading excise and road user charges across New Zealand will make more funding available for roading across the country.”

Evidently, increasing fuel excise taxes for more roads (and thereby more cars) is a good thing. But increasing  fuel excise taxes to fund public transport initiatives – thereby assisting in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – is a bad thing. How else could one interpret National’s contradictory statements and policies?

National took matters a step further when they announced on Twitter a petition to persuade the coalition government to reverse it’s decision to ban offshore exploration;

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This wasn’t just Opposition for the sake of opposition. National’s petition signalled a deep ideological opposition to any steps  that would reduce the production of fossil fuels  in this country. The prospect of losing revenue from this industry – despite being a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – was simply too much for National to contemplate.

National was signalling to all and sundry that given a choice between maintaining the fossil fuel industry and keeping the revenue stream from it – or beginning a slow phase-out and reduced revenue, the winner would always be industry.

And the environment be damned.

So much for the pious sentiments from Bridges at the National’s Bluegreen Conference;

“Good environmental practice is crucial for securing the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren.”

So with National’s antipathy to taking the crucial, hard steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, what was National’s reasoning to entice the Green Party into a coalition deal (or at least a confidence and supply arrangement)?

The answer came from Bluegreens co-chairman, Geoff Thompson. Thompson was unequivocally clear in his stated intention to using his front-organisation as a way for National to return to power;

“We’re a well-liked party … but it’s not good enough. Forty-four per cent [in a recent poll] doesn’t get us there so we want to expand and we see the environmental side of the party, that’s us, as being an opportunity for that expansion.”

For National, “to expand … we see the environmental … as being an opportunity for that expansion” was the answer.

Appealing to the Green Party to work with National would have been made with generous offers.

But the reality is that the Nats would have demanded that the Greens abandon;

  • their “red green” “bits and bobs” social policies;
  • their policies to move away from oil and gas exploration;
  • and policies to improve public transport in Auckland through regional fuel taxes

In short, the Green Party would have found itself neutered on their environmental as well as social policies.

That would have left the Greens with no alternative but to dump their coalition deal, thereby probably triggering an early election. And we all know how voters treat small political parties that cause early elections.

Simon Bridges and his National Party have demonstrated through their opposition to abandoning offshore oil and gas exploration permits that they have very little interest in environmental issues. It is even doubtful they will ever fully  honour the Paris Climate Agreement.

As early as 2012, National had already broken it’s commitment to include agriculture in the emissions trading scheme;

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National’s behaviour in the last few months have proven that a coalition with the Green Party is not only impossible – but fraught with danger of broken promises and backsliding on environmental commitments.

National would always give pre-eminence to industry; fossil fuel production, and building roads.  Environmentalism, alternative fuels, and public transport would always taken second priority – if at all.

Epilogue – Whatever the game, Physics Wins. Always.

In June 2016, atmospheric carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million (ppm) at NIWA’s Clean Air Monitoring Station at Baring Head, Wellington;

It came a year after it was crossed at the Mauna Loa station in Hawaii, which has recorded a 24 per cent rise in carbon dioxide levels since it began gathering data in 1958.

[…]

Last month, the level was passed at the Australian monitoring station at Cape Grim, Tasmania.

Like something out of Neville Shute’s post-apocalyptic novel, “On The Beach“, but instead of a deadly radioactive cloud, heightened CO2 levels have reached Australia, and shortly thereafter, New Zealand.

In April last year, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory detected CO2 reaching 410 parts per million for the first time in our recorded history.

We should be recording that level about now, here at the bottom of the world.

It is a grim reminder that rising CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide wait for no man (or woman). Not even for Simon Bridges.

Meanwhile, NIWA reported that January 2018 was New Zealand’s hottest month on record;

NIWA figures show average temperatures for the month of January across the country was 20.3°C.

The temperature for January normally averages 17.1°.

NIWA climate scientist Gregor Macara said the month’s temperatures were unprecedented.

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

“The majority of observation stations we had observed temperatures more than 3° above normal and in fact there are quite a few sites that were 4° above normal which were essentially unprecedented – particularly for this time of year,” he said.

While we baked, Simon Bridges and his cronies in the National Party were planning to over-turn any practical steps taken by the current coalition government to do our bit to try to reduce CO2 emissions.

This is why any talk of a Greens coalition with National is ludicrous.  National’s policies, ideology, and base-support is not compatible with environmental protection.

National is part of the problem.

The Joker in the pack

From April 2014;

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“Out of touch” doesn’t even begin to cover Simon Bridges and the environment.

 

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Note: All National Party webspages have been downloaded and saved for future reference. (They have a ‘habit’ of disappearing after a while.)

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References

Radio NZ: NZ First to meet National and Labour today

Fairfax media:  The coalitions that could form NZ’s 52nd Government and how likely they are

Fairfax media:  The day after the election

Radio NZ: Former PM Jim Bolger on how to deal with Winston Peters

Newsroom: National single-minded about its only option

Fairfax media: National wants conversation with Greens, official talks yet to begin

Fairfax media: Greens have a responsibility to talk to National – Jim Bolger

NZ Herald: Grassroots petition calls for National-Green coalition

Fairfax media: Politically Correct – Green Party won’t pick up the phone

Fairfax media:  AM Show host Mark Richardson’s advice to Green Party leader – ‘Be a risk-taker’

Fairfax media: Mark Richardson declares himself as a National supporter, does that matter?

Fairfax media: Bridges offers olive branch out to Greens, only to be quickly shot down

Mediaworks: National open to working with Greens, NZ First – Simon Bridges

Mediaworks:  National needs to ‘change a lot’ to get Greens onside – Marama Davidson

Fairfax media:  National Party ‘resetting our approach to environmental issues’ – Bridges

National Party: 2017 Environment Policy

Beehive.govt.nz: Planning for the future – no new offshore oil and gas exploration permits

NZhistory.govt.nz: New Zealand goes nuclear-free

Fairfax media: How climate change could send your insurance costs soaring

Motu: Insurance, Housing and Climate Change Adapation:Current Knowledge and future research

Ministry for the Environment: Modelling the economic costs of New Zealand’s intended nationally determined contribution

RBNZ:  The Canterbury rebuild five years on from the Christchurch earthquake

NZ Herald: Christchurch Earthquake: 100,000 homes damaged, 10,000 unsavable

Fairfax media:  Nats would reverse Govt’s decision on oil and gas exploration

National Party: Gas and petroleum decision is economic vandalism

National Party: National to overturn Government’s regional fuel tax

NZ Herald: John Key willing to work with Phil Goff

Ministry of Transport:  Increases to petrol excise duty and road user charges

Beehive.govt.nz: Regional fuel taxes replaced

Twitter: National – Sign our Petition

Ministry for the Environment: The Paris Agreement

Radio NZ: Farmers’ ETS exemption progresses

NZ Herald: Scientists record symbolic milestone, and it’s not one to celebrate

NIWA: Baring Head greenhouse gases

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist: The continuing relevance of “On the Beach”

Scientific American: We Just Breached the 410 PPM Threshold for CO2

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

Mediaworks: Minister didn’t know park was in drilling plan

Additional

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  The Politics of Green Coalitions – rethinking our strategy and positioning

Monkeywrench (Sandor.net):  Which way Winston, and what’s in it for the Greens?

Ministry for the Environment: Overview of likely climate change impacts in New Zealand

Other Blogs

The Standard: How a National/Green coalition could work

Previous related blogposts

As predicted: National abandons climate-change responsibilities

ETS – National continues to fart around

National’s moving goalposts on climate change targets

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 May 2018.

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= fs =

When spin doctors go bad

24 November 2012 14 comments

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When Jack Nicholson bellowed that famous line in the 1992 movie, “A Few Good Men“, few would have thought that it would apply twenty years later; down under here in Godzone; but that this time the tables would be turned against an apologist for the Establishment.

Mark Unsworth – a right-wing lobbyist for a professional “government relations consultancy” company, Saunders Unsworth, seems to find difficulty “handling the truth”. Especially when that truth comes from respected and reknowned environmental scientist, Dr Mike Joy…

On 16 November, the New York Times carried a story on the upcoming release of “The Hobbit“. The article made reference to Tourism New Zealand’s publicity campaign centering around a supposedly   “100% pureNew Zealand” theme.

As we should all know by now, New Zealand is not  “100% pure”. In fact we probably haven’t been “100% pure” for several decades now.

Dr Joy stated as much and was duly quoted by New York Times,

There are almost two worlds in New Zealand. There is the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality.”

Green MP, Eugenie Sage, backed up Dr Joy’s brutal truth, and was quoted in the same article (from a statement she made in Parliament last month),

We promote our country as 100 percent pure and 100 percent Middle Earth. But to swim in our rivers, which is the birthright of Kiwi kids — you cannot do it in the majority of the rivers that the Ministry for the Environment monitored.”

See: New Zealand’s Green Tourism Push Clashes With Realities

And you know what? They are telling the truth. The clear, unvarnished, simple truth.

As early as  July 2010, NIWA reported,

There is now considerable evidence that the combined effect of light exposure, bank damage by livestock, and poor water quality has substantially degraded the ecological health of pastoral streams. Nutrient enrichment, when combined with sediments and other stressors, can cause irreversible shifts in aquatic ecosystems, particularly in downstream lakes and estuaries.

[…]

The fact that some heavily polluted rivers – mostly in dairying areas – have turned the corner in recent years gives us cause for optimism for the future, says Dr Davies-Colley. For instance, the NRWQN shows water quality has improved in some Taranaki rivers and the Manawatu. A programme of widespread riparian fencing and planting in Taranaki probably explains most of the improvement there, he says.

But although science identified the effectiveness of these measures 15 years ago, implementation has been lacking, according to Mr Deans. “There’s a bit of fiddling while Rome burns, I’m afraid. Unless we take action, we’re going to see continuing water degradation and be in a worse position in five or ten years’ time.”

See: How clean are our rivers?

When we read articles in our own media such as this,

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Full story

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… then we know we have a serious problem.

The Herald article above revealed in no uncertain terms, that we were turning  our rivers  into open toilets,

The results showed water quality was poor or very poor at 52 per cent of monitored river sites.

A further 28 per cent were graded “fair” – with a risk of illness for those swimming there.

Only 20 per cent of monitored river recreation sites were graded good or very good.

Health effects from swallowing water tainted with faecal micro-organisms or other bacteria can be unpleasant. They include diarrhoea or vomiting, and infections of the eye, ear, nose and throat.

See: Ibid

The New York Times article simply mirrors what we already know; our dirty little secret. A “secret” that is becoming more widely known with modern communications and tourists spreading the word,

But New Zealand’s reputation as a pristine place might not be exactly warranted. Since European colonization 150 years ago, as much as 90 percent of the country’s original wetlands have been drained to make way for towns, farms and roads. The wetlands are considered to be of international importance for supporting numerous species of birds, fish and plants.

For creatures like the black stilt, which lives in such places, it may be too late. There are only about 100 left, making it possibly the rarest wading bird in the world. It is just one species out of the 2,800 that the country’s Department of Conservation considers endangered.

In 2008, New Zealand ranked first among 146 countries in Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index , which ranks countries on the quality of their environmental policies. The report compares international data on criteria like habitat loss, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and protected marine areas.

In 2012, however, the country slipped to 14th. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, half of which are caused by the agriculture industry, are the fifth-highest per capita among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the association of free-market democracies. Most other countries in the O.E.C.D. have managed to reduce per capita emissions, but New Zealand’s have increased 23 percent since 1990 — from about 66 million tons of carbon dioxide in 1990 to about 83 million tons in 2009, according the country’s Environment Ministry .

Pure Advantage, a nonprofit group promoting green business, estimates that the country will overtake the United States in per capita emissions in less than eight years, putting it almost into the world’s top 10. But total emissions in New Zealand, which has a population of 4.4 million, are far lower than those of the United States, with 312 million people.

This month, New Zealand refused to commit to a second round of emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international agreement on reduction of greenhouse gases. Instead, it will align with several of the world’s largest emitters, including the United States, China and India, in negotiating an alternative agreement. That could be approved by 2015 and in effect by 2020.

This is a day of shame for New Zealand. Our reputation as a good international citizen has taken a massive hit, Moana Mackey, a member of Parliament who is the climate change spokeswoman for the opposition Labour Party, said in a statement.

See: New Zealand’s Green Tourism Push Clashes With Realities

Indeed, this very issue came up in a BBC  interview last year when Dear Leader was challenged by Steven Sackur about our supposedly “clean and green” and “100% pure” image,

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See @ 10:50

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Key dismissed Dr Joy’s research as “Mike Joy’s view“.

Since when is a river too filthy to swim in considered a “viewpoint“?

For Mark Unsworth to then send this offensively-worded email, criticising Dr Joy’s research,

From: Mark Unsworth [mark@sul.co.nz]
Sent: Wednesday, 21 November 2012 12:15 a.m.
To: Joy, Mike
Subject: Ego Trip

Dear Dr Joy
Is your ego so great that you feel the need to sabotage all the efforts made by those promoting tourism in NZ because of your passionate views on the environment ?
You have the right to hold strong views but you ,as an academic whose salary is paid for by others taxes, must also act responsibly .
Letting your ego run riot worldwide in the manner you did can only lead to lower levels of inbound tourism.

You may not care given your tenure in a nice comfy University lounge ,but to others this affects income and jobs.
Give that some thought next time you feel the need to see your name in print in New York .And possibly think of changing your name from Joy to Misery-its more accurate
Cheers
Mark Unsworth”

See: Facebook Page

…   is not just the hallmark of a narrow-minded person – but the height of futility.

Abusing a scientist doesn’t clean up the Manawatu River and make it suitable for swimming in.

Using gross insults such as “you guys are the foot and mouth disease of the tourism industry‘ will not change the tonnes of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, etc, that we daily spew into the air.

And what does it mean to say “you have the right to hold strong views but you ,as an academic whose salary is paid for by others taxes, must also act responsibly” ?

Is Mr Unsworth suggesting that anyone paid by the taxpayer should keep the truth to him/herself? Isn’t that what authoritarian regimes try to do; squash dissenting opinions and hide facts from everyone?

And since when is detecting, recording, and reporting levels of pollution “holding strong views“?

If the pollution of waterways like the Manawatu simply a “strong view“, I challenge Mr Unsworth to drink a glass of  ‘water’ from that river. (Note: have a medic with a stomach-pump standing by.)

Mr Unsworth; when it comes to choosing whether to believe an environmental scientist whose purpose it is to seek the truth about human impacts on our land and waterways  –  or to believe a spin doctor like you, who is paid to tell us whatever your employers want us to hear – who do you think we’ll believe?

Can you guess?

It beggers belief that someone with Mr Unsworth supposed education (?) cannot grasp a simple, inescapable fact; the truth about our degraded environment and poisoned rivers cannot be hidden.  People are not fools, and eventually the truth will out.

The NY Times has called us on our claim to be “100% Pure”. The bullshit has, literally, hit the fan.

So what are we going to do about it?

Sulk and malign the messengers of the truth?

Or get our act together and clean up the mess that we, ourselves, have made in our own country?

Time to roll up our sleeves, Mr Unsworth…

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Sources

NZ Herald Editorial: Green growth potential not to be wasted

NIWA: How clean are our rivers?

Pure Advantage: PURE ADVANTAGE LAUNCHES NEW ZEALAND INTO THE GLOBAL GREEN RACE

New York Times: New Zealand’s Green Tourism Push Clashes With Realities

NZ Herald: Lobbyist stands by ‘ego trip’ email

Other blogs

The New Zealand story: 100% pooer!

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