Lack of govt leadership on climate change - Renwick

Climate scientist James Renwick

One of the country’s leading climate scientists, Dr James Renwick, has criticised the government for a lack of leadership on adaptation around climate change.

Dr Renwick told TVNZ’s Q+A programme that farmers need prepare for a drier climate in future, adding: “I think the government does have policy around adaptation, but I think, yeah, there could be more political leadership on this issue.”

He also said that New Zealand needed to opt for more sustainability, lower intensity and lower stocking rates in order to cope with the change in weather patterns.

“The present intensification of farming and dairying, in particular, doesn’t look very sustainable, given the way the climate’s likely to change.”

Dr Renwick told the programme that global warming was the only explanation for the drought, saying the average around which temperatures vary is changing and will be hotter over time.

“So what we call a very warm year now will be a cold year in 50 or 60 years’ time. What we’d call a dry summer now will be getting closer to the normal summer in another 50 to 100 years’ time.”

Watch the full interview here.


RAW DATA: Q+A TRANSCRIPT: CORIN DANN INTERVIEWS DR JAMES RENWICK

CORIN DANN
                        Good morning, Dr Renwick. How are you?

DR JAMES RENWICK - Climate Scientist
                        Good morning, Corin. Very well.

CORIN            Listen, thanks for coming on the show. I know you’re literally just back off the plane this morning. Tell us what is happening to NZ’s climate. Paint us a picture of what’s going on.

JAMES           Well, like the rest of the globe, NZ’s climate is warming up gradually. Temperatures have risen by the best part of a degree in the last century, and they’re set to rise by two or three degrees or maybe even more over the course of the coming century.

CORIN            And this isn’t some normal- What is this? Is this climate change at work?

JAMES           Yeah, it is. Yeah, climate change, global warming. Put more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and things warm up.

CORIN            And you’re of no doubt of that.

JAMES           Oh, no, no. There’s no other explanation that’s remotely plausible.

CORIN            That’s interesting, though, because there is sometimes a perception, and certainly Bill English in Parliament this week was sort of saying, ‘Well, you know, climate changes. It happens. Farmers have been used to it for years.’

JAMES           Well, that’s true. The climate varies. It always has and it always will. You know, things go up and down. We have dry years, wet years, cold years. That’ll keep happening, but the average around which things are varying - that’s changing over time. So what we call a very warm year now will be a cold year in 50 or 60 years’ time. What we’d call a dry summer now will be getting closer to the normal summer in another 50 to 100 years’ time.

CORIN            I guess the point that I think Bill English and others are making here is should we be panicking just because we’ve got another drought? We’ve had plenty of droughts before.

JAMES           Well, no, I don’t think panicking is very helpful.

CORIN            But it feels like that with this drought, though, doesn’t it?

JAMES           It’s a pretty exceptional event, yeah. It’s probably the first time in 50 years that it’s been this dry over this much of the country. So, sure, it’s exceptional. You know, a farmer would only see this once in a working lifetime.

CORIN            But if we’ve only seen it once in 50 years, should we not be that worried? That suggests it’s not going to happen for another 50 years.

JAMES           Well, the way the climate’s changing, the likelihood is that summers will become drier, so what’s a one-in-50 year event now will be, say, one in 20, one-in-25 year event by the middle of the century. And in some parts of the country, it might be a one-in-five year event by the end of the century, which means the farming sector’s going to have to adapt to that. We’ve got time - it’s decades we’re talking about, and farmers are very adaptable, but things will have to change.

CORIN            The point is, though, that NIWA, and I guess the official advice that the best scientists in NZ can give to our government is that climate change is changing our climate, that farmers need to adapt.

JAMES           That’s the bottom line, yeah, and NIWA had led a lot of good research on this through the Ministry for Primary Industries and so on. And there’s some very clear messages out there through the ministry about how farmers can adapt to the changing climate as we go through the century.

CORIN            Do you think we are adapting? Are you seeing a strategy? Do you see any urgency around that adaption?

JAMES           Yeah, there is adaptation happening in some areas. There are some farming groups that are more on to this than others, so, you know, like all things, it happens in a patchwork kind of way.

CORIN            Can we afford to be patchwork, though?

JAMES           Ultimately, no. No, we can’t. It is an incredibly big issue. It’s the biggest issue.

CORIN            So do we need almost like a government strategy saying, ‘Right, we’ve got a problem here. We have to start adapting now’?

JAMES           I think the government does have policy around adaptation, but I think, yeah, there could be more political leadership on this issue.

CORIN            It’s interesting, though, because, you know, we’re a country which is making a lot of money from dairy farming. We continue to want to try and push more cows into more paddocks to make more money. If we end up in a dry-farming climate, can we do that?

JAMES           No, basically. But the way you respond to that is to go the other way - go for more sustainability, lower intensity, lower stocking rates, that kind of thing. So, no, the present intensification of farming and dairying, in particular, doesn’t look very sustainable, given the way the climate’s likely to change.

CORIN            What about water, the issue of water, just in particular for cities? Do you think that New Zealanders in general are going to need to start thinking more about water, conserving water? Perhaps we need to see more of a price signal on water or something to make us use it better.

JAMES           Oh, perhaps. That’s one way you could go, but also storing water, storing more water and storing it more efficiently, using it more efficiently. That counts for a lot. Winter times are not likely to become drier, so I think it’s going to come down to storing the water when it falls or when it flows in the rivers and using it.

CORIN            So the issue of sort of incentivising people to be a bit more frugal with the water, that’s not such a biggie, in your mind?

JAMES           Oh, that’s part of it, for sure. You know, being efficient with resources is definitely the way of the future - water, energy, everything.

CORIN            Dr James Renwick, thank you very much for your time.
 


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I have posted this elsewhere but its even MORE relevant on this thread:
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.............

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Actually, the irony is even richer. We also have the world financial crisis, caused by bankers and Wall Street merchants like John Key to add to the irony. Risk, recklessness and 'too big to fail' are words that will show you where that irony is coming from.

Then there’s the Christchurch earthquakes. We can hardly blame Key for that, but the unregulated insurance industry with minimal reinsurance routing the system and screwing people over is endorsed by Key’s ideology. Profit before people - they had 50 years to build up a war chest to cover a major disaster, but no, the billions in profit was spent on private jets, super yachts, lavish lifestyles, mansions in Monaco, Switzerland, etc.That's ok, remember in a free market capitalist society there is no accountability, just make as much money as you can.

Next up is the Kim Dotcom debacle which will cost this country hundreds of millions. Oh yes, Key's backscratching his wealthy Hollywood mates started that, then his hands-off reckless approach to his portfolios ensured a complete disaster there!

Then there’s the Solid Energy failure - again the "too big to fail" recklessness rears its ugly head.

One disaster to the next and we still have two years to go.... God help us! At least Johnny can now change his broken record “world financial crisis” excuse for the economy not performing.

In conclusion, there is no need to plan ahead or protect against eventual disasters under Key's risk-taking, money trading ideology. All one needs to do is get into a large 'too big to fail’ monopolistic firm that can manipulated the markets and then take as much from the world as you can before that disaster happens.

Oh the last 5 years of irony is rich indeed...

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Climate change? Eh what? Oh that belief system developed to keep quasi scientists in work and relevant.

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"Belief", "Quasi", another baseless charge by someone that has not read nor understand the basic science of Physics or Chemistry.
Every major science institution has issued a statement regarding Global Warming and agrees we must act to reduce emissions.

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Not true Henry. Give the planet another 10 years and you may just have to switch to another 'pop' science fear. Check the literature for the many credible groups which warn against current GW modelling.

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Wake up the Global Warming con is coming unstuck every day.
And get your facts correct theres a small % of hack scientists who rely on tax payer funds.

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Renwick relies upon a group of computer models which predict that the world will get warmer at a rate of at least 0.2°C per decade. Those programmes made the same predictions in 1991,1996, 2001 and 2007. All of the predictions were wrong and there has been no detectable global warming during the past 17 years.

After 40 years of mild cooling, a warming trend began in 1979 and ended 17 years later. It has just flatlined since 1996. Will the next move be up or down? Nobody knows.

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This is how Barry sees global warming: http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=47

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Pre-1980s warming was considered to be indistinguishable form natural warming - 1980-97 gives us 17 years of global warming. Skeptical Science shows no statistical significant warming from between 16-23 years as the tiny warming in their graphs is smaller than the error margin:

http://skepticalscience.com/trend.php

A maximum of 17 yrs of supposedly anthropogenic warming followed by 16-23 years of no warming. The case for CO2 induced AGW isn't looking good, especially when the NCDC say that an interval of 15 years is long enough to prove the models wrong. Combine that with a missing tropospheric hot spot proving there is no positive feedback from water vapour and the case for AGW is falls apart.

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Simon - please stop replying to all sceptic comments with the elevator graphic. It is not how "sceptics" see GW.

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They (NIWA) also accurately predicted that droughts would become more common and warned the government who have done little to combat this. That is their job. The fact the government and deniers like you refuse to listen is not their fault.
Your reliance on the air temp to deny warming is continuing is rather sad. The ice continues to melt across the planet (yes I know in some areas ice is growing but overall it is melting at record rates) and the oceans to warm. In short more energy is coming in than going out = warming. In fact recent studies show this warming is not only at record levels it is also at an unprecedented rate. That's frightening.

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Barry is correct. How does Renwick account for the last 17 years of flatline temperature data?
Has there been an increase in droughts in NZ? Where is the evidence? Renwick is just using the current drought to peddle is Global Warming bias.
Renwick wants us all to pay tax for something that hasnt happened yet and the real data shows that the predictions have been wrong. Why is there not an outrage about Carbon Tax (or ETS) like there is about the Parking Tax? The parking tax only affects a few but the ETS affects everyone.

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So he thinks the government has a policy around adaption - and is not really talking about a lack of leadership but a lack of uptake by farmers?

You can't legislate for a maximum farm stocking level - in the end it is individual property that we are talking about, and individual farmers need to make their decisions.

I'm also not convinced that we are going to see dryer weather as a rule. With the ice melt there is more water in the atmosphere and more potential for extreme weather, agreed ... but increased drought frequency does not really scan as a consequence.

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Anyone who goes on state TV with a shirt like that immediately lacks credibility. How can anyone talk about global warming when they can't see the joke in the way they dress. Same goes for so-called global warming - a joke.

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Presumably the outdated shirt goes with the outdated theories

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Yes a more conservative shirt as worn by the defendants in the finance company trials, by the CEO of Solid Energy, the executives of Mainzeal, etc. would give me more confidence......

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Really good to see you concur.

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I knew Renwick at university.

There is no traditional discipline of "climate science" it is a made-up field. The people spouting this stuff are usually people who study the atmosphere. They do the wishy-washy stuff with lots of hand-waving, loose assumptions - they call it a soft science.

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Which university was that?

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The key question is what is the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) to increasing CO2 to a doubled level, or possibly burning all fossil fuels on the planet

Given the lack of warming for 15 years or so (acknowledged pretty much across the board) it seems reasonable to ask whether IPCC projections that a doubling of CO2 will lead to three degrees of warming may be overstated.

In fact, many "mainstream" (i.e IPCC approved) scientists are suggesting figures around the two degree mark.

If we don't get any more warming in the surface temperature record for several more years (as suggested by the UK Met Office), then this figure may have to be downgraded further.

Of course, only time will tell.

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The response from Anonymous to Crowd Pleaser would have to be one of the dumbest comments to be seen here and one wonders what on earth he/is he is doing reading NBR ?

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Agree, could only come from a so-called coloured party in the forty shades of green category. There are many more idiotic comments from the so mentioned and this is just another one.

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"Dr Renwick told the programme that global warming was the only explanation for the drought"

This is an incredibly unscientific statement. NZ has been experiencing droughts for millions of years so it must have been affected by human-caused warming long before humans evolved.

In his eagerness to advocate for policy action, Dr Renwick often seems to overlook that scientists are supposed to be objective, unbiased and balanced.

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Predictive science requires an empirical relationship. To establish an empirical relationship all the variables, except the one you are changing, must be kept fixed. There is no way we can keep the multitude of variables contributing to climate fixed to observe the effects of changing one at a time.
Dr Renwick's talks rubbish.

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