You can learn enough in high school to know these things:

Bunsen

(Note: Next podcast episode contains a talk with Sigurd Magnusson. No dummies, not the Norwegian nobleman from the Battle of Florvag, he’s dead now. This is the one about Electric Vehicles)

Biology:

Evolution is slow. You don’t need to be attached to animals to be alarmed by rapid species extinction.

Physics:

Global Warming is very simple; you can demonstrate it in a school lab. Global climate modelling and prediction is really, really hard.

Economics:

People are resources just like trees, cows and oil.

Maths:

The amount of carbon increase in atmosphere is proportional to the amount of carbon extracted and released by human activity.

English:

Grapes of Wrath captures the plight of millions whose lives were crushed by the failure of crops and financial systems. It showed the indifference of those who profit from disaster. It awakened the nation’s comprehension and compassion.

 

Just saying this now because:

  • I used to think most people saw things this way and now I’m not so sure
  • There is a good reason for the Greens combined environmental + social agenda
  • Pointing out that scientists disagree on the outcomes doesn’t remove the problem
  • I don’t care what you thought of Finding Nemo. The dying Barrier Reef is a massive warning.
  • You will find yourself caught up in this eventually. Maybe read some Steinbeck.

Did you get all of that?

I’m just making a quick list of things that stuck in my mind during this campaign. I’m sure there’s plenty more, and I haven’t gathered the links for these (I will!). I just thought I’d make a list before I forget some of them.

It was a blizzard.

 

National PM recorded employee illegally and lies about it. PM is involved in scandal. He also lies about it. Nothing happens.

Green Leader reveals minor benefit fraud while a single parent to highlight the current poverty issues. She winds up resigning after continued pressure. Her situation compared to Deputy PMs, a couple of scathing letters appear from old acquaintences appear then lawyers appear. Her situation compared to PM’s ‘double dipping’ more recently but are dismissed as absurd because a) he paid the money back by now b) his name was cleared but mostly c) the number were so much bigger and he lived in a much nicer place.

Documentary released about polluted rivers release by Al Jazeera – so everyone knows about them now.

Documentary released about mismanaged housing. Includes solutions around the world that (it appears) has not been considered here.

Television pieces showing large parking areas filled with families living in cars in Auckland. Another showing large numbers of pensioners in caravans.

Herald article tracing admissions for malnutrition. Show third world conditions for tens of thousands of young families.

Television article comparing school lunches between high and low decile schools. For the most part, the poor children had no lunch at all.

Greens release report from Environmental Commission on coastal inundation – 130,000 people, 2000kms of road, 5 airports, 43,000 houses. It had been withheld since april 17.

Offical information act request reveals report on decomissioned electric train – it was neither slower nor more expensive.

Report on 13 new coal mines to be created post election.

11B Fiscal hole invented, dismissed as false immediately by every available expert, then falsehood continued for rest of campaign.

Wildfires and drought destroy crops in US high plains. Wildfires out of control in West Australia. Half of an entire country goes under water. A one-in-one thousand year hurricane wipes out Huston. Another larger one wipes out Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Cuba and Florida a fortnight later. Another takes out Puerto Rico within a following fortnight. Nighttime satelite imagery shows the entire country in darkness.

Farmers gather in Morrinsville to complain about taxes that don’t exist and/or don’t affect them. They bring the tractor they used last time climate change came up as a subject. National MPs present are ordered by their party not to speak. Once gathered, they begin to talk about how badly the extra rainfall is affecting them.

Income, Water, Fart tax presented in TVs – ranging from misleading to false. Advertising standards authority dismiss complaints, finding some middle ground between ‘clearly misleading falsehood’ and ‘permissable narrative when you’re clearly taking the piss’.

PM dismisses housing crisis – ‘We have a housing solution’, PM dismisses poverty numbers – they haven’t formulated a method to count them yet, although they appear to be as high as 1/4 million. After much pressure, vows to drop them a little.

No one asks PM about carbon emissions. Or maybe they do – the usual answer is ‘our goals are ambitious’. The emissions have not reduced, since nothing has been done that might cause them to. Many things have been done that will cause them to increase. Huge amounts of infrastructure has been planned or built that will lock in those increases for decades – new coal mines, new coal burning facilities, new roads. One is touted as the most expensive ever built.

Plans for cheap, carbon neutral transport solutions in Greater Auckland area are revealed under official information act. They were abandoned without reasons.

Fonterra chief gets 8 million dollar pay packet.

Now we wait to see whether, for the second time in its history, National gets a fourth term. Under them we are assured to make no progress on reducing emissions, taxpayers will foot huge agricultural emissions costs, and poverty, homelessness and flooding will continue unabated.

Mutually Assured Destruction is a term from the days of Cold War. It referred to the proliferation of Nuclear weapons, when there were enough to destroy the planet seven times over. We now have enough investments in oil, coal and gas extraction to destroy ourselves several times over. So lets bring that word back.

And note, that while its happening, many of us will be watching it from cars with empty stomachs.

 (Edit) of course I missed this. The day before the election a man sets himself on fire in front of parliament. He died the next day. We’re reminded of the appalling levels of suicide and under funding of mental health services. And the 600 empty shoes. And the national MP conflating suicide with euthanasia in a weird way that manages to trivialise the pain on both sides of the argument at once. David Seymour responded with something thoughtful, catching me a little off guard. 

Whatever that barrier was that kept the weirdness away, it has fallen to the ground. Not sure when we’ll see it again.

 

Lets talk to an expert.

Goodness we talk about climate change a lot. And yet we rarely spend time with a specialist. That’s a bit silly. So this week I invited Victoria University’s James Renwick over for a chat. It really was that easy.

I made blue cheese and chilli salt scones and we talked about impending nightmare that is the destabilising of the planet’s climate.

James and I talked for two and a half hours. We wound up talking about quite a few books, some non fiction and some sci fi. Turns out we’re both nerds. I cut it back to make the episode shorter but can re-release the full talk later if anyone’s interested.

Here are the books we talked about. Sorry if they don’t all come up in the edited conversation – I was a bit ruthless. Like I said, if you want the longer discussion I can make it happen.

Naomi Klein – This Changes Everything
Naomi Klein – No is not enough.
Hyperobjects – Tim Moreton
The Uninhabitable Earth – (New Yorker)
The Three Body Problem – Cixin Liu
Elizabeth Kolbert – The Sixth Extinction
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox
The Windup Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi
The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi
The Mote in God’s Eye Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/100365.The_Mote_in_God_s_Eye
Ronald Wright – A short history of progress – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/331227.A_Short_History_of_Progress
Bruce Chatwin – Songlines

Because its 2017 and the Nats are still making jokes about fart tax I wrote and angry letter to Bill

It’s still a joke to you.

And because Leighton Smith decided to make the problem go away with talkshow host magic I gave in an finally created the Imagine My Relief List. There’s a tractor on it.

The Imagine My Relief List…

It’s still a joke to you.

bill_and_fergie

You can’t tell me no one has tried to explain this to you. You can’t tell me its any different for the members of your cabinet. I have tried and tried to understand you and yours. But it’s still a joke to you.

The deaths will keep coming. The homes will be destroyed. The crops will collapse and the fires will burn. The same way they are now but worse. The wars will come. They just will. The refugees will come knocking. As for the jokes, well they may just keep coming too.

Who are you going to blame? You are only answering to the voters, and they don’t know any better? It was your job to tell them. It was your job to pass the terrible news on. People were right to assume that if you didn’t care, if the appointees with the words ‘environment’, ‘energy’, ‘transport’, ‘primary industries’, ‘agriculture’ and (God help us) ‘climate’ in their job titles didn’t care, then surely it was under control. Things were being managed. We were on track.

Listen to a climate scientist for ten minutes. Ten thoughtful, attentive, respectful minutes and let them catch you up on the news four million people are trusting you to understand. Lose some sleep over this, even if its for the first time in your life.

You are deeply unfortunate. Any other time in human history, you could get a pass. You’re getting a pass now. You really don’t deserve it, it won’t last and you will be remembered. The climate has started to collapse, and this collapse will rage on for all generations to come.

In India 60,000 farmers have committed suicide as a result of continuous crop failure. In Britain supermarkets are already rationing sales of vegetables. In August 2017 alone we saw Harvey and Irma, unprecedented floods in Bangladesh, India, Sierra Leone and Nepal, wildfires in California and Australia, massive crop failures in the High Plains. Every article affects surprise – ‘freak weather’, ‘one in one thousand years’, etc.

But the scientists predicted this and they were right. They were telling you when that tractor first appeared and it’s still a joke to you.

If you lose this election you’ll be glad for it later. Someone else will be at the helm when the penny finally drops.

I’ll do my best to ensure you’re not forgotten though. It’ll help to pass the time. We can look back and laugh together.

https://thestandard.org.nz/always-an-excuse-to-do-nothing/amp/

https://cleantechnica.com/2017/08/05/flash-drought-us-high-plains-may-already-destroyed-half-years-wheat-crop/

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/aug/31/bushfire-conditions-at-near-record-levels-following-dry-winter/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/31/suicides-of-nearly-60000-indian-farmers-linked-to-climate-change-study-claims/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/02/03/causing-2017-vegetable-shortage-does-mean-consumers/

 

 

The lost episode: A bad week for the skeptics.

bangladesh_floods

Salvaged from a high tide somewhere round the end of August 2017.  
The memory stick appeared to come from a mac laptop. 
Presumably one using OSX Yosemite.

:Veena
Welcome back to the we might be screwed podcast.

:Fiona
The day the 45th US president assumed office the White House’s climate change web page was removed. It contained the nation’s plan for addressing the problem. Soon after the president appointed Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency in that country. Mr Pruitt does not believe in climate change and referred to himself as a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda. The president also appointed Rex Tillerson, a former head of Exxon Mobil as State Secretary. Mr Tillerson presumably did believe in climate change, since his company had studied it for some time, however he and his company devoted a lot of energy to downplaying or covering up the issue so that profits would not be affected.

:Oliver
This is old news and I’m only bringing it up now because not thinking or talking about climate change is still a very popular activity. Back here in New Zealand the Ministry for the Environment delivered a report back in April detailing 43,000 homes, 130,000 people, 2000 kilometres of road 46 kilometres of rail and 5 airports that are currently at risk from increased flooding and coastal erosion. That was never officially released either.

:Fiona
Now I don’t want to be too hard on the climate change skeptics, they’ve had a tough week. Half of Bangladesh went under water, while flooding there and across Nepal and India affected 16 million people and killed 1200. 500 people died in landslides in Sierra Leone and 44 in Houston, Texas, where 48,700 homes were flooded. That last one was caused by Hurricane Harvey which was described in the Washington Post as a one in 1000 year event. So that’s bad timing. They had to come up with new colours to use on the map. Its also described as the third 500 year flood to hit Houston in the past three years. So if climate change is not a real thing then they won’t have another big flood for 1500 years. Which is great. Of course climate change might be a real thing. Then it could happen again next week.

:Veena
Oh. Did I mention. There’s another major hurricane already on the way. Its name is Irma, and it could make landfall in the Carribean or U S in the next fortnight.

:Moira
This week the prime minister told Morning Report that Kiwis don’t wake up thinking about climate change. He’s usually very solid on his facts and not prone to hyperbole, so I must assume that the GCSB has extra powers these days.

:Oliver
You know, this admission that he now knows what all kiwis think of when they wake up in the morning is really quite something. I’m not even angry, I’m impressed. He ought to be told that there’s a glitch in the system somewhere since Kieran frequently wakes up thinking about climate change. Kieran doesn’t want to share this with Bill since on the rare moments when he wakes up thinking about something else it’s usually a very private time and one of the few remaining occasions when he is actually happy.

:Fiona
Surely spying on the private thoughts of citizens to this level is a little draconian. But that’s also where we’re at right now. Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett said this week that some people had “fewer” human rights than others and Prime Minister Bill English said it was good that New Zealand lacked a written constitution as it gave them flexibility to make it happen. The Universal Declaration of Human rights was a product of the Second World War and came about through a U N committee headed by Eleanor Roosevelt.

:Veena
She said this about the Declaration. That without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. Wish she were here today to have a sit down with Paula. I’m sure one would call the other sweetie eventually.

:Oliver
Also in the last week Al Jazeera released a documentary on the state of New Zealand waterways, showing that they are among the most contaminated in the developed world.

:Fiona
So its turning into quite an election. Did I mention that the head of NASA has now been replaced by someone with no training in engineering or science? In 2013 he accused President Barack Obama of a “gross misallocation” of funds, saying the administration spends 30 times more on climate change research than on weather research.

:Oliver
So NASA will soon lose its position as an authority on the subject of climate change. Which is quite the circle since it started there with James Hansen in 1988. Thankfully, he has a job at Columbia now.

:Karen
Australia has also taken the path of getting away from bad news by removing the scientists. Its climate change authority lost its last climate scientist in July, they removed the science portfolio from the government all together and removed its climate research arm, axing 110 science jobs, and moving 350 climate staff into unrelated roles.

They said they did this because the science is settled. Also, presumably, it gets in the way of mining.

:Veena
Speaking of mis-information, how about this tasty nugget from the Federated Farmers official statement on river quality.

“Nitrogen is organic and essential to life.”

Can’t argue with that. Unless you’re implying that you can dump as much of it into a river as you like with no effect. Water is also organic and essential to life. But try telling that to a drowning man.

:Oliver
Dear lord I hope the skeptics are right. These greens and their conspiracy theories about politicians pulling the wool over our eyes. Its not like the bad old days when lobbyists tricked everyone into thinking smoking was good for you and now 6 million people a year die from it. Its not like that where vested interests devote huge resources to protect their income at the enormous cost to the human race. Its not like people go from working for tobacco giant Phillip Morris into the arms of the National Party. Except maybe for Christopher Bishop, their candidate in Hutt South. And Todd Barclay. Just those two guys. For now.

:Moira
So lets wrap this up.
The executive branch of the US government took another important step in preventing people around the world from learning about climate change. At the same time weather events never seen before killed thousands and displaced millions. Here at home the government announced some rolling back of human rights in the efforts to solve the drug problem and reminded us that we don’t have a constitution to prevent it.
They’re not bothered about climate change, and some of them were pretty chill about promoting tobacco as well. They also claimed to know that no one woke up thinking about climate change, putting Kieran in a difficult ethical dilemma.

:Veena
Does he come out and state that he wakes up thinking about climate change all the time, exposing himself presumably to the scrutiny of a prying government, or does he keep silent?

:Oliver
Are you laughing New Zealand? With all the shenanigans in Australia and the U S you could be forgiven for thinking you’re doing a better job than them on this subject. But you’re not. According the the climate action tracker you’re beating the Ukraine, who due to some political instability, really struggled to come up with a plan at all, and Singapore which just ran out of space to make anything.

:Moira
As some say in this country: the sky sheds tears in sympathy with the grief of man.

:Fiona
Its going to be shedding a lot more, by the looks. We’ll all be waking up thinking about the same things eventually.

:Moira
There there.

:Fiona
This episode was recorded in Wellington, New Zealand. Solomon would like to report that he got to meet Sarah Thomson in Auckland and that they are besties now. Kieran reports that Solomon seemed a bit star struck and failed to wake up at all when they were there. Neither of them get out much and after the 23 hour battery car trip to Auckland. Kieran spent some time imagining he was some latter day Jean Batten. There’s a real episode coming out soon so you can hear Sarah laughing at Kieran’s jokes. She’s really quite a sport.

NOTE:  The stick also contained a python script that appeared to generate the voices and perform this little piece.  To try it yourself in OSX select the text and hit Option+Esc. Go to System Preferences / Dictation & Speech to set the voices.

# LINKS

https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/climate-news/96433693/coastal-erosion-report-urges-immediate-action
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/sierra-leone-death-toll-landslide-nears-500-170820172022255.html
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/28/climate-change-hurricane-harvey-more-deadly?CMP=share_btn_tw
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/08/31/harvey-is-a-1000-year-flood-event-unprecedented-in-scale/?utm_term=.ab3070759626
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/31/us/hurricane-irma-forecast-weather/index.html
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/201856304/election-2017-leaders-interview-bill-english
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2017/08/polluted-paradise-170831042123144.html
https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/09/02/45811/rod-oram-a-trickle-of-problems-for-a-big-problem
https://bridenstine.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=127
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2017/jul/05/climate-change-authority-loses-last-climate-scientist
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/17/science-minister-abbott-australia
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/australia-cuts-110-climate-scientist-jobs/
https://twitter.com/comingupcharlie/status/904099549848846336
http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/newzealand.html
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10072231/National-picks-another-tobacco-man

Sarah sues the government. An NZ view on climate change and the Paris accord (New Zealand)

Finally – the talk with Sarah Thomson in Auckland. We talk about floods and denial and curious fact the NZ does not have a constitution. I’ll try and catch up with Sarah briefly in the next episode. Remember this conversation happened early in August. With from statements about denial during floods to the need for a constitution, it all seems eerily prescient.

Thanks again to Sarah. Every day I discover someone else working hard to turn this mess around. I’m excited about getting to talk with them.