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English leading debate on climate change


Dipton farmer Bill English dared say what every urban business person has thought for years.

Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast this week, the finance minister said it was not sustainable for the government to keep providing financial assistance to farmers during droughts.

Instead, farming practices will have to adapt, he said.

Mr English’s comments have a bipartisan heritage.

Shortly after being appointed, Lockwood Smith, arguably the most right-wing agriculture minister of recent decades, told the media that providing support to drought-stricken farmers would be unfair given no such support exists for other climate-dependent businesses.

All hell broke loose and Dr Smith was soon handing out cash and arranging for soldiers to move feed about.

Some years later, Jim Anderton, undoubtedly the most left-wing agriculture minister in history, made almost identical points.

He also was ignorant that his ministry had cash available for when it gets too hot, too dry, too cold or too wet.

No similar government support exists for tourism operators, manufacturers, miners, fishermen, education exporters or other industries of comparable significance to the economy.

Farmers hate the comparison but, with the exception of animal welfare, it is difficult to see why a lack of precipitation is worse for them than, say, someone owning a skifield or a white-water rafting business.

Alarmist prophecies

Mr English’s comments were in the context of climate change.

Regular readers will know I am one who doubts the more alarmist prophecies.

In my view, climate change has a touch of the Salem witch trials. Whatever happens is presented as evidence for the hypothesis.

Moreover, it is too easy to see how the issue could suffer from inflation. If Professor A has a model suggesting sea-level rises of, say, 2 metres, Professor B with a model suggesting only 1.8 metres is not going to get any media attention.

It’s Professor C with a new 2.2 metre forecast who will get the attention of the university’s PR department and wind up being interviewed on some deeply earnest programme on PBS, MSNBC or Radio NZ.

Nevertheless, I accept I am in the minority. A majority of those who style themselves as climate scientists believe the world is warming – except for where climate change is making it colder – and the seas are rising.

A majority of governments formally agree – unsurprisingly given any poll will agree too.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is considered the authority, although anyone who bothers to read what it says will learn it forecasts far more modest and manageable temperature and sea-level rises than those touted by multinational climate-change alarmists such as Greenpeace.

That divergence makes sense, of course. This year’s IPCC report will be read and critically analysed by scientists and historians in 100 years. The latest Greenpeace fundraising campaign to pay for the dividend back to corporate HQ in Amsterdam won’t be.

Carbon crash

What is now clear, however, is that anyone who truly believes in even the IPCC’s forecasts – let alone the Waterworld scenarios of Greenpeace and Hollywood – must now accept that any chance of serious mitigation is gone.

Since at least the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, they have told us that, unless the world takes urgent global action, catastrophe lies ahead. The world has not taken any action, urgent or otherwise.

The Kyoto Protocol was ratified by countries representing only 15% of global emissions and that percentage is falling as countries, including Canada, Japan and Russia, pull out and emissions continue to soar in China, India and the rest of the industrialising world.

Al Gore’s Chicago Carbon Exchange has folded, even the EU carbon price is heading toward zero and no country in the world – except, temporarily, Julia Gillard’s Australia – is even considering implementing an emissions trading scheme (ETS) such as New Zealand’s.

This means anyone who believes in climate change must accept it is going to happen and there is absolutely nothing New Zealand can do about it.

It sometimes surprises the local warmist fraternity to learn that whatever happens with our local ETS, temperatures and sea levels in New Zealand will rise by just as much or as little as they would have otherwise.

Military build-up

This leads to one obvious conclusion. If there are local greens who genuinely believe what they say about climate change, then they would no longer be talking about mitigation measures like Kyoto or the ETS but, like Mr English, they would be talking about adaption.

That would mean, firstly, some effort to protect coastlines as the Netherlands has done for 1000 years.

It would suggest a significant build up of New Zealand’s armed forces to protect us from what environmentalists say will be hundreds of millions or perhaps billions of people desperate to find somewhere cold enough to survive.

It goes without saying that the Greens should back subsidies to grow bananas in Northland and grapes in Southland.

Water storage would be a priority, with New Zealand suffering not from a lack of water but a failure to capture and hold it. The environmental movement, of course, has always opposed such initiatives.

We do not see Greenpeace, the green movement or the Green Party advocating anything like this. It suggests they don’t have any more confidence in so-called climate science than I do.

How ironic that it is a conservative finance minister who appears to be leading the policy debate away from mitigation toward adaption.

More by Matthew Hooton

Comments and questions

Why on earth do we need subsidies to grow bananas in Northland? We've got a huge bunch ripening faster than we can eat them in our lounge. They grow just fine here without any financial assistance at all and have for a long time.

Mitigation was always a giant rort and fraud on the population of the world. So is the RMA. Get rid of it and let people manage their own properties and water catchments as they wish.

Agree. Our family in the North have grown bananas since the 1950's and I know they've been grown before that. They are self sufficient.

I knew we were on track to being a banana republic. "Self sufficient bananas" I would like to meet them. Do they share the same opinion as you deniers on climate change? I'm sure they do. You're all a bit fruity.

"A majority of those who style themselves as climate scientists believe the world is warming"

Not any longer. The new consensus is that the 20-year warming episode stopped some 17 years ago. It is either over or in remission.

Global warming did not stop 17 years ago. That is ridiculous! Every year of the 21st century ranks in the top 10 of hottest years ever recorded. You need to get the facts.

Actually there's been no statistically significant warming in the last 16-23yrs according to Skeptical Science. The warming shown during this time is so tiny that it falls into the margin of error (ie, it's meaningless):

Try GISS from 1997-2013 and adjust the 'autocor' to the same (if you leave the 'autocor' the lack of warming is worse). 0.081C/decade warming with an +/- error margin of 0.099C/decade. There you have it, no statistically significant warming for at least 16 years. Both the UK Met Office and the IPCC's Pachauri confirm this. That's the facts according to Skepticalscience.

Magoo, what a bizarre argument. Did you read the site? I think you will find Skeptical Science actually argue it has not stalled and is continuing to rise.

And I'm guessing you would handing out masks to people who are affected with respiratory conditions by thick smog caused by pollution then?

CO2 is not something which creates "thick smog", nor is it pollution. If you cannot distinguish between CO2 and other 'pollutants' you should investigate the subject further rather than rehash the ecofascist line.

So you think that pollution is OK then, perhaps some toxic waste in our rivers.
Tell you what, how about the people here open up their back yards to those who want to dump their toxic waste somewhere.

So you agree that global warming isn't worth worrying about and you are on to the next issue de jour - pollution. Haven't we already had that one?

The best mitigation is guns and ammunition.

OK, Mr. English isn't it high time we had a proper debate about who is supporting who then? Let's find out who it is that really needs to "adapt".

I can think of numerous types of govt support that many industries enjoy - finance industry, media advertising, welfare administration, "sustainable" green quackery, health 'n safety - the list is endless. Govt is involved with well over 40% of the economy.

Farmers in NZ, by and large, spend most of their living days supporting the rest of the country. Brian Gaynor demonstrated that the 20% rural population provides 60% of NZ's GDP. I'm pretty sure that farmers would love it if everybody would learn to adapt to adverse life situations and paying their own way. Not the least welfare recipients, unions, govt bureaucrats, accountants and lawyers who ride on the endless govt gravy trains and boondoggles.

Farmers did not start this socialist quagmire, they are just trying get back what they would have socked from hard times away on their own if they weren't paying taxes into the farcically unfair wealth redistribution system called govt inc.

Some good food for thought here - but farming is still the foundational basis to our whole economy - providing around 1/3 of the entire GDP for the NZ Economy. In other words, the cash providing one in three of all the jobs (teachers, nurses, lawyers, accountants, cleaners, etc. etc) in this county can ultimately be traced back to farming - so we need to make sure that the cows are not all starving or lambs all culled...
Also some local food security for NZ (in case of an unexpected international disaster) is always a good form of insurance for us all...

It's pretty unlikely our farmers are going to suffer anything other than short term weather events from climate change. The world is getting greener and plants are growing better just from the extra CO2:

However, in every adversity it is to everyone's advantage to help each other get through it. That doesn't mean the taxpayer has to throw a heap of money at business failures.

Is Alan Wilkinson a paid up shill for the fossil fuel industry? We should be told.

Or perhaps he's looked at the science that shows, no tropospheric hot spot, no positive feedback from water vapour, no significant warming for at least the last 17 yrs, failed computer models, and a failure of the AGW theory as a result.

Even Skeptical Science say there's been no warming in 16 yrs:

Maybe the fossil fuel industry has corrupted them with a tidal wave of hush money.

Since the Rural Sector provides about 80% of our overseas income, it makes good sense to ensure that it is always viable.
When building town centres, rail tunnels under cities and similar is shown to directly earn overseas income; then we can also support such ventures with the Taxpayers money.
Remember it is overseas earnings that fund the new cars, large screen TV's, ipads, Tablets etc.; NOT GDP

"Green" does not mean favouring subsidies. Subsidies encourage inappropriate land use. Water storage is fine in moderation so long as it does not destroy waterway ecosystems.
Barry Brill's comment on "stopped" warming is misleading as he has cherry-picked his start-point and ignored the effects of recent persistent La Nina weather patterns. It would be interesting to know whether he has yet compensated NIWA for wasting their time by taking them to court.

Even the IPCC recognise the lack of increase in warming over the past 10 - 15 years. Analysis of most of the major data sets shows the same thing.

You want to compare the cost of a court case in which the judge stated the court would not make a judgment on disputed science to that of the abortive ETS as advocated for by NIWA staff?

Barry Brill's link to David Whitehouse's article gives a pretty convincing argument as to why the "global-warming-stopped" argument is not cherry picked. Whichever way you look at it, warming has failed to materialise as per the IPCC projections, and we need to consider why this is the case

Simon, the current phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (1999-2030?) is characterised by a preponderance of la Ninas.
The PDO phase from 1975-98 was characterised by a predominance of el Ninos.
The point that Brill was making is that the IPCC projection from their unvalidated models is now known to be totally wrong.

All trend lines have to have a start point. Try one starting at the Roman Warm Period: the linear trend is cooling. Start at the Little Ice Age: the linear trend is warming. See?

So as there is no warming at present, what would cooling look like?

But the climate alarmists never carefully select their data points! So Simon, tell us simply, what is the appropriate period to determine if/how much temperatures are changing? If 16 years is too short, is 30 years OK, or should it be at least 150 years, or perhaps 1000 years. Surely the period selected will reflect the natural cycles which are occuring with the period eg the 11 year solar cycles, the 30 year PDO cycle etc.

If you are interested in the erosion of freedom represented by the climate change ideation, make sure you attend one of the presentations by Lord Monckton touring throughout NZ during April. Details at

Have you done some background reading on this individual?I suggest you do before you waste your time on listening to him.

Actually there's been no statistically significant warming for between 16-23 years:

GISS shows the shortest period of no warming from 1997 to 2013 (don't forget to adjust the 'autocor' settings to the same years). The +/- figure for natural variation is 0.099C/decade which is greater than the 0.081C trend. In other words the warming falls within the error margins for natural variation and is insignificant as a result. The results for GISS, NOAA, Hadcrut 3, Hadcrut 4, BEST, RSS, and UAH all show no significant warming from between 17-23 years.

As this is the 17th year of no warming according to GISS that is where the IPCC's Pachauri got his ‘no warming in 17 years’ from, and it’s the bare minimum of all the temperature records.

Considering that climate scientists say that the warming before 1980 was natural, that leaves just 17 years of warming attributable to AGW (1980-1997) followed by 17-23 years of no warming. Hardly any reason to get alarmist and wacky, but that’s what the pro AGW crowd are doing. No tropospheric hot spot, no positive feedback from water vapour, no amplification of the minuscule warming attributable to CO2, no AGW. In fact it’s not even warming and it hasn’t been for longer than it was warming. The NCDC says that 15 yrs of no warming proves the models false – how long has it been now …. 17 or 23 yrs, take your pick.

Even Al Gore has sold up his stake in the AGW business.

Note: the Skeptical Science website is notorious for having a pro global warming bias, so any accusations of cherry picking or other such nonsense can hardly be due to the influence of the 'big oil' conspiracy theory.

The public perception is that Government support for affected farms is huge. It is not - its meagre, as it should be', and is in the form of advisory service - some of questionable value, perhaps. People know when it's dry! Moreover, drought declarations put no dollars into farmer’s hand. Mr English and Mr Hooten are being a bit disingenuous by playing up to the false perception. Rural Poor #5 has a good handle on things.

I agree adaptation is important, but to suggest there is nothing more that can be done or being done in mitigation is wrong. There are many ETS coming on line in the next few years, even in China! Just look at: But the author is right, they are not like the NZ ETS - most set far more ambitious targets and have carbon taxes and standards at the same time. Yes, New Zealand's actions alone won't save the planet, but to use that as an excuse for inaction altogether is shirking responsibility. Just as the IPCC reports will be read 100 years from now, so will a nation's actions be judged.

Governments like ETS because they can raise more tax from another source. Even better to have a carbon tax. They know it will make no difference to climate, individually or collectively (for nations). Governments read the full IPCC reports and know the uncertainties and areas where knowledge is lacking. But the make sure the Summary for Policy Makers (written before the full report is complete) has plenty of scary stuff to keep the plebs in a state of fear - and therefore justified in "doing something" to deal with the perceived threat.

Steve have you heard that (all other things being constant) as a price rises demand falls? Of course a carbon tax will reduce demand. Less fossil fuel equals less CO2 which equals slowed human generated climate change. And there will be greater incentives to develop the subsequently economically viable clean energy sources once the pollution externality is costed..

Interesting you're now a skeptic, Matthew. Weren't you in fact employed to buy carbon credits for the previous government?

Well argued, Rural Poor.


Good to hear that Lord Christopher Monckton is pulling the crowds in Australia despite the lack of media attention and will be here during April starting his tour in Northland. Look for a venue near you

I'll be there. One can't beat a bit of upper class English inbreeding and buffoonery. His climate change denials are almost as funny as his eyes.

When one lacks anything intelligent to say it is quite useful to be able to fall back on personality attacks. Pathetic. Borat is a similarity, me thinks.

All governments are run by liars and nothing they say should be believed."

I. F. Stone 1907 - 1989

A government (National) that has sought to row back on everyone of its obligations on climate change, which because of the drought damage to GDP will now miss its forecast balanced budget in 2015. An industry (dairy) that has steadfastly refused to get its house in order in any aspect of environmental pollution now feeling the deleterious effects of the second major drought in 5 years.
Oh the irony, the rich, rich irony. If only the rest of us were not going to be made to suffer as a result.............

So why are we getting blatantly ripped off by the Emissions trading scheme which was designed as a tax hike in drag.

I'm not sure why Matthew Hooton thinks his opinion about climate science is particularly relevant. I think it is down-right irresponsible.

While individual scientists may differ in the range of their predictions - there is a substantial consensus from scientists about the trends and risks. Go to organisations like the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences.


Most scientists would argue adaptation is inevitable but mitigation is urgently required. The warming will not stop if we keep pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The risks for this are clearly stated in the IPCC report.

This is the ultimate failure of the market - which will have devastating effects on large tracts of humanity - not just our farmers. The failure of our governments and climate markets to address the issue mean it is up to us - local communities - to develop our local resilience, oppose developments that increase greenhouse gas emissions and show solidarity to those people around the world who are struggling to do this now.

Sorry Michelle - you are completely wrong around these things - your fears about harm to "large tracks of humanity" are reflections of the propaganda machine that have somehow found their way into your foundational beliefs. And it's not your fault - that the message that most of us have heard relentlessly for the last 20 years or so....
However many of us (including some of the globes top physicists) have uncovered numerous lies and associated big business strategies behind what we've all been listening to and believing. Check it out Michelle - what if we are actually being duped into believing that humans can have any serious influence on climate? What if it's actually about creating whole new industries and companies and revenue streams by getting enough of the globe's population to believe them, so that multiple governments are politically forced to make laws that indirectly hand out huge taxpayer support funnelling enormous amounts of cash into these new industries? Get enough of the voters to believe anything and the politicians have to act or they are forced to walk...

It is not even all farmers, it is just politically connected - powerful dairy, beef and lamb (who also get govt subsidy implicitly through all the work MFAT does on their behalf, and Fonterra subsidy through override of competition law). Grape farmers get no "drought" subsity, snow operators get no "snow drought", etc. The whole country is dependent on water, and this nonsense of subsidy to pastoral agriculture only must stop.

Three months without rain could hardly be called a drought anywhere else. Something is wrong with the management of farm water supply or grass seed type, or just inertia to protect ourselves from the vagaries of the weather. Climate change is real but how bad it will be is debatable. A few simple precautions - e.g., tanks in new housing developments and better and more water reservoirs, recycling water stations. Although expensive, these could not be as expensive surely as the council charges for water at present. Council charges could be a tax to develop better water management. Does this make sense? Judy H

Bill English doesn't think the drought will affect the Budget. Do we laugh or cry at this point? It seems a lot of people don't wish to see the emissions trading scheme get off the ground where Groser threw it. Now the new talk is "adaption". Where will the money come from for adaption? People haven't thought through what those costs may be nor what may need to be adapted to.