Stuff’s “Ice Age” story has changed

Following up on this post: In response to a complaint from me (and presumably communications from others as well), Stuff has stripped the inaccurate material out of their “Ice Age” story and added an apologetic note at the bottom.

It can’t take away the effects of the earlier version, but it at least ensures that this isn’t another link that can be circulated through the climate change denier echo chamber.

The person I communicated with sounded embarrassed by the whole affair – as they should be, it is a humiliating failure. Here’s hoping the lesson has been learned. Journalism Fail

Main story at for the last hour or two: “Solar Minimum could trigger ice age

Check the article’s opening paras:

The world could be heading for a new ‘solar minimum’ period, possibly plummeting the planet into an Ice Age, scientists say.

Researchers say the present increase in sun activity with solar flares and storms could be followed by this minimum period.

The period would see a cooling of the planet, refuting predictions of global-warming alarmists.

The research for this comes from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences.


“Refuting the predictions of global-warming alarmists”? What kind of language is that? Completely inappropriate.

To google, and in moments I’ve found the abstract and ScienceDaily’s summary. From the latter:

…those findings cannot be directly transferred to future projections because the current climate is additionally affected by anthropogenic forcing.

So, from “climate is affected by anthropogenic forcing” to “refuting predictions of global warming alarmists” in one easy step.

This is UNACCEPTABLE. Where did it come from? A media release from one of the “climate sceptic” pressure groups? Heads should bloody well roll over this.

Too angry about this to say any more.

EDITED TO ADD: see also Hot Topic and The Atavism

Quick Shots

I miss being able to blog about things in the world. Writing here helps me process and understand things. My comprehension of reality has reduced while I’ve been busy. Anyway, to spare you lengthy tortured posts, here’s some quick thoughts.

Shipwreck: A ship on a reef leaking oil, and the election just changed again. Our PM is under pressure from the media for a change, and he’s not coping. Key has been protected from tough questions his entire premiership for this reason – he can’t handle the pressure while keeping his smiling “nice Mr Keys” persona going. It won’t cause a huge desertion of the National party by voters, but expect Key’s preferred PM #s to drop and the Greens to continue to gather up votes.

OvalBall: I’ve never seen our country like this. The Rugby World Cup really has become a national celebration (even as the promised economic benefits fail to appear, SURPRISE). When we roadtripped up to Hastings and back a few weeks ago, the whole route was lined with festive signs. All Blacks flags in so many windows, flying from so many cars. And so many other flags! And every little town dressing up in global-village finery for the visiting rugby teams. A genuine spirit of love for the game, huge applause for the little-guy teams when they play well. It’s quite a wonderful atmosphere. I’m genuinely delighted. (Of course, if the All Blacks lose to Australia this weekend, there’ll be… well, not riots. But it will be rough. And hard to avoid even if you care not one tiny fig about rugby.)

Occupy: Yes yes, the Occupy Wall St movement has a vast overrepresentation of university-educated hipsters, and elides differences between middle class and working class, and hasn’t articulated unifying principles, and harbours madness on its fringes. It is important to note all of these things. But for heaven’s sake, don’t mistake these concerns for justifications not to celebrate the appearance of a genuine grass-roots societal justice movement that is driving the conversation in the US. (The US being the society whose abject brokenness all other Western societies are striving so hard to match.) There isn’t a completely different movement that does a better job waiting in the wings. This is the shot we get. Wish it well.

Who: loved Matt Smith’s performance this season of Doctor Who, but my enthusiasm for the show as a whole is at a very low ebb. Moffat as showrunner has lost me completely. His big villains are a complete failure of storytelling craft, and the more you try to forgive that, the more holes show up elsewhere. I stand by my earlier call: Torchwood season 4 > Doctor Who season 6.

James Hansen talk – Wgtn tonight

Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s most prominent and influential climate scientists, is in New Zealand to deliver his lecture “Climate Change: a scientific, moral and legal issue”. Tonight – in Wgtn.

Mon 16th May: Wellington
5.45pm public lecture Rutherford House, welcomed by Mayor Celia Wade-Brown

Worth seeing. No question. More info.

Climate in Court

I was mostly intending to stay quiet on the court challenge to NIWA’s temperature record on account of it being nonsense and well-covered elsewhere, but last night while watching Outrageous Fortune (NZ free-to-air = graphic rendition of a twincestuous threesome in an 8.30pm show)(scene played for pathos) I followed a link to Poneke’s blog comments, where Iwi/Kiwi advertising guy John Ansell was holding court.

He referred to the Inconvenient Truth court case in the UK: “the movie was banned from schools” he said. Another commenter challenged him: “Banned?” he was asked. “Yes, banned in its original form.” I couldn’t resist mocking this farcical display, to which he replied with further dancing around the subject and pretending “banned” was an appropriate word to use when of course nothing of the sort was ordered by the judge.

And it strikes me that this is exactly what the court challenge is designed to do – not merely to gain the oxygen of publicity, as I’ve read all over, but to provide another chunk of narrative that can be circulated through the denier infosphere, heavily manipulated into service of their pre-defined conclusions. It isn’t intended to convince anyone of anything – but a year or two down the track, *whatever* happens, this court case will be one of the talking points mentioned by the John Ansells of the world, one more factoid in the rolling maul of misinformation and disinformation thrown out by people desperate to believe in a comforting conspiratorial lie.

Coincidentally, Ansell has just now gone off the deep end on race. Charming.

(See also this headache-inducing Kiwiblog thread where friend-of-FTM Repton tries to take up a wager on the outcome of the court case. The other party has gone strangely silent as of this writing.)

Emissions Trading Begins

The NZ emissions trading scheme launches in NZ today. It’s a market-based mechanism putting a price on carbon emissions as a means of holding back climate change, or more correctly, a step towards full-cost accounting in the environmental arena.

It’s a good thing. The ETS is riddled with holes and problems, according to sources I trust (e.g. this book co-authored by the very smart economist and all-around good egg Geoff Bertram), but fundamentally I’m pleased that we’ve managed to get a price of some kind on at least some of the carbon emissions generated out of NZ. There has been a fair bit of shouting about the ETS, including a protest at Parliament and lots of letters to the editor, but my impression is that these objections didn’t run deep – the public perception is in support of an ETS (c.f. Now We Have Won).

The Key government has delivered something worthwhile here, for all their many flaws. Yes, it is a full six months after the deadline Key set for imposition of the ETS, but it’s still 2010 – not too late to get changes rolling. So Key, in the end, wasn’t a Rodney – well, not as much of one as I feared. I suspect Nick Smith deserves some kudos for this, because you can be certain he was talked to about backing down from the ETS plenty of times but he has withstood this pressure. Well done that man.

The international effects of this will not be small, either. We are another country putting our markets where our mouths are, and even if we’re not nearly at the level the science calls for, we’re part of a growing consensus that action is needed and needed now. Our ETS will influence our trade partner nations and others besides. It’s a worthy and important position in which to be.

It’s important to note, however, that this isn’t the end of the story, but rather the long-delayed beginning. As Bertram & co’s book notes, our ETS needs to be improved, made more fair and comprehensive and convincing. Ordinary households are going to feel the bite at the petrol pump and the power bill, with corporations relatively insulated from the new costs – that needs to change. Popular support for the ETS needs to continue at the current level despite the extra costs starting to pinch. Indeed, popular support for the ETS needs to grow. It’s a massive communications challenge and one the current government will think twice about working on, especially if it starts to hurt their electability. Once again, the responsibility falls at the feet of ordinary people like me and you to think about the scheme, judge the costs worthwhile, and spread that message around.

Anyway. It’s a good day. I’m happy.

Obama is failing the planet

Reuters 30 May 2010:

Although the Obama administration has put the blame squarely on BP, polls show Americans are losing faith in the government’s ability to mitigate the disaster.
In his second visit to the Gulf in the 40-day crisis on Friday, Obama faced criticism that he responded too slowly. He told people in Louisiana that they “will not be left behind” and that the “buck stops” with him.
There is not much Obama can do other than apply pressure to BP to get it right and put his best scientists in the room. The government has no deep-sea oil technology of its own.

I, personally, don’t understand why Obama hasn’t swum down to the leak and used his super-breath to blow all that oil down into the centre of the earth, then used his heat-vision to weld the top of the pipe shut, then flown over the surface of the ocean at super-speed and scooped up the oil inside a gigantic satellite dish, then poured it gently into a gigantic tank for later use. I think it’s because he doesn’t love America/because he is a corporate tool. Curse you Obama!

[The scale and the depressing inevitability of the oil disaster make me furious, but not as much as the fact that BP’s gonna emerge from this with little more than scuffs.]

Conserve Versus Converse

Heard Kelvyn Eglinton of Newmont Waihi Gold on National Radio this morning making the case for drilling into conservation land. His line (people who’ve had media training always repeat their line word for word several times unless they’re very skilled) was that there’s plenty of low-value conservation land in the protected Schedule 4 territories, so lets see if we find some high-value minerals there and then we’ll have a conversation about what to do.

There have been well over 30,000 submissions on the government’s mining proposals. That is a phenomenal number – one for every hundred voters in the country. It’s impossible to know how many are against the mining of schedule four land, but I think 95% would be a fair guess.

I think that means, Kelvyn, that we’ve already had the conversation. What’s more, the government know it – they are carefully preparing a backdown, with the man responsible Gerry Brownlee seizing on a minor issue to pointedly distance himself from Newmont. It’s clearly the enormous vote-loser everyone sensible expected it to be. We’re no closer to understanding why the Nats didn’t see this steamroller of negative public opinion a mile off, they certainly haven’t revealed any late-stage maneuvers to show they were controlling the story the whole time. It isn’t because they’re poor at media management – witness their expert delivery of the budget, as smooth a piece of media control as has ever been seen in this country. They just didn’t see it as a problem until it was far too late. I can only presume they really are that out of touch with the national identity and with what New Zealanders truly value.

Its pleasing to see a grass-roots opposition movement really take off. Kelvyn Eglinton’s conversation is over before it starts. And that makes me happy.

(More info: )

Social Economics

I’ve recently had work-related chats with two economics academics who broadly fit the “social economist” type: “public good” is the same thing as “economic good”, you just need to figure out a model that can represent all the variables that aren’t expressed in dollars. Smart people trained and motivated to look at the big picture of how systems fit together.

They were both recently retired. It is unclear to me if there are many others coming up the ranks to fill their large shoes. But there really ought to be. More of this sort of person, please, world.

(See also: the nef and their “A Bit Rich” report; the earnest but flawed Stern Report)

(Related: it’s really neat how you can just ring up these people who have done all sorts of interesting things and they’re quite happy to come and meet you over a cup of tea. Life lesson: don’t be shy about approaching people who know good things.)

Mining Protest Was Mining Protest

There were a lot of people there. The house monkey spotted me and my Cal in this crowd photo from Scoop’s coverage (and I found him in this one). Ran into china_shop, who pointed out how weird it was that the speakers kept citing The Economist (thanks to this article that rips into this nation’s environmental credentials).

The fellow moose was elsewhere in the crowd, and mentions it at the end of this post. Also there was Stephen Judd, who adds a mighty GRAR, too. Both the dancing moose and Mr Judd lead with another story I hadn’t even heard of until their posts: sacking the democratically elected Environment Canterbury council to make way for some National cronies. See also Brother Knife. The Nats have opened the ‘gates and it’s all rushing through now. Expect morer, and worser.