How will climate change affect New Zealand?

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, says New Zealand faces significant impacts from climate change in the next 30 to 40 years requiring a risk management approach and constant environmental monitoring of changes across the country.

Sir Peter Gluckman
Sir Peter Gluckman

Sir Peter’s report, New Zealand’s changing climate and oceans: The impact of human activity and implications for the future, was released this morning and is available for download here.

It summarises the current state of scientific understanding of global climate change then drills into the issues New Zealand could face in the next few decades due to temperature increases.

Sir Peter writes: “In the intermediate term (over the next 30-40 years), New Zealand will face significant adaptive requirements to cope with these shifts in climate and there will need to be a consequent readjustment in expectations of frequency of extreme events. The impact of change is likely to be greatest in domains unable to adapt quickly or in those areas already close to limits of tolerance.

“These include natural and farming ecosystems evolved to function in current conditions and infrastructure requiring a long lead-time to plan and build, but also areas with high vulnerability such as those already prone to flooding or drought. The magnitude of environmental changes will depend in part on the global trajectories of greenhouse gas emissions and land use change.”

He also addressed the apparent pause in global temperature increase since around 1998 which scientists have recently sought to understand further in the context of the longer term warming trend.

“Any short-term departures from the long-term warming trend can broadly be explained through a combination of other causes of climate variability and inherent lags in the system. That is not to say that our understanding of the global climate is complete; inherent in any scientific assessment of the future is a component of uncertainty. There is no way to completely remove uncertainty, given the nature of climate science and the climate system, but despite this there is strong scientific consensus on the general trends and drivers of recent climate change. The most probable future scenarios are cause for concern.”

While not going into policy responses to the issues climate change pose to New Zealand, Sir Peter posed some questions that the country’s decision makers will have to ask on behalf of us all:

• What is an acceptable level of climate-related risk to society?
• What are the costs and benefits of adaptation or mitigation compared with other priorities?
• How are different stakeholders affected, (either now or in the future)?

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18 Comments

  1. stephenthorpe

    Grant: At the risk going off-topic while at the same time answering your (second) question (I don’t have an “angle” on fishing!), approval has been granted by EPA to release up to a dozen species of exotic dung beetles in N.Z. There is a disease of domestic dogs called canine spirocercosis which is vectored by dung beetles (and which EPA did not consider!) It seems to be more prevalent in warmer climes (particularly South Africa and Israel, where the incidence of the disease is rapidly increasing for unknown reasons), though it isn’t a big problem currently in Australia, so the factors are probably more complex. Nevertheless, I would suggest it as an example of potential for shifting insect-borne diseases (of dogs) more typical of warmer climes to (former) temperate zones.

  2. Grant Jacobs

    To try bring this on-topic (climate change, not the messenger—as in ‘don’t shoot the messenger’—or other blogs), does anyone have any information about how climate change might affect the fishing industry? It’s an angle I haven’t seen talked about myself.

    Another topic I find fascinating is the potential for shifting insect-borne diseases more typical of warmer climes to (former) temperate zones. The rise of tick-borne infections in Europe might be an example.

  3. stephenthorpe

    Yes, “Gluckman’s office” is a political organ, to some extent, as well as a scientific office. You say [quote]Gluckman’s position has no bearing whatsoever on whether he is correct. Nobody is claiming any such thing[unquote]. That is a pretty strong claim, I reckon! I am using the tweet by Gluckman about Ken’s blog to illustrate an indication that Gluckman either (1) has an agenda on the climate change issue; or (2) doesn’t always read things properly before publicly endorsing them (albeit implicitly by not explicitly saying otherwise). Kens blog article was a highly spun piece of rhetoric based on no evidence.

  4. Chris B

    Stephen, this is a report created by Gluckman’s office. Who exactly do you expect to sign off on it? Should this office not be producing reports on climate change? That seems pretty ridiculous, considering that the scientific community and indeed the general public seem to think it’s a pretty important issue. What exactly is the point of having an office of the PM’s science advisory committee if they’re not going to be muzzled on important issues of science?

    Let me rephrase, since you seem to have taken issue with my use of the word ‘simply.’ Gluckman’s position has no bearing whatsoever on whether he is correct. Nobody is claiming any such thing. If you have a problem with what the report says (and to date, you haven’t actually said so), work through it on its merits, and I’m sure there will be people willing to give you their feedback.

    I’m not interested in rehashing Ken’s post, but I will say that you’re asserting quite a bit in terms of Gluckman’s behaviour and motivations, solely based upon your personal reading of the post.

  5. stephenthorpe

    Chris B:
    I guess I’m saying that the climate change issue is a very “political” one, and having Gluckman’s name and face plastered all over this report is part of the “political” game. You say that nobody is suggesting that Gluckman is correct simply because of the position he has been appointed to, but I think the key word there is “simply”. I would suggest that it adds credibility, rightly or wrongly, to the report, in many people’s thinking. I also note one small incident (his tweet about Ken’s article) which suggests to me that he didn’t look very carefully at what Ken had actually written, but rather thought something like “oh, this says science is good, and climate change deniers are all a bunch of cranks, so I’ll endorse it!” The only thing that I am trying to point out is that the Gluckman report is to some extent an executed bit of strategy … a move in the chess game, if you will… science and politics intimately intertwined, and why wouldn’t it be, since he advises the PM.

  6. Chris B

    You’re thinking of the argument from authority fallacy, Stephen, only aimed specifically at Gluckman.

    Except, of course, that nobody is suggesting that Gluckman is correct simply because of the position he has been appointed to.

    Rather, Gluckman is accurately (so far as I can tell) conveying the position of the scientific community on a broad range of topics. As you say, any number of people are delivering the same messages, based upon quality research.

    If you would care to argue that some of the facts presented or statements made by Gluckman are incorrect, you are of course welcome to do so, but complaining that his position provides him with a platform to say things and be listened to isn’t exactly the kind of argument which will convince people of anything. Lots of people have platforms, after all, and present arguments to varying degrees of success.

    If he were to start saying silly things, I’m sure the scientific community would call him on it. Nor is Gluckman the only spokesperson we have on various issues. The media seeks out all manner of different people and viewpoints, depending on the topic under discussion.

  7. stephenthorpe

    @Peter Griffin Yes, but in a perfect world (or even just a better world), people get listened to because of what they say, not because of who they are. I don’t think that I digressed at all from the topic here. I’m just trying to put the topic into context of the bigger picture, and (Grant) everything I said was relevant to the topic of climate change, just not all of it relevant to Gluckman’s report on climate change. Perhaps we can coin a new fallacy, the “Gluckman fallacy”: if the c.s.a. says it, then it must be correct! Peter: you surely don’t really believe that the only reason people like Gluckman get commissioned to do these reports is that they can consult widely more effectively? No, there is an advantage in creating these positions of supposed “special authority”, at least because they will be listened to more widely than anyone else who may be saying exactly the same thing …

  8. Grant Jacobs

    Why is the topic (climate change) being hijacked?

    I think most people realise reports are summaries of others’ works (not ‘just’ the opinion of the author) and I would suspect that the Galileo Fallacy is a modern re-naming of an older fallacy as many/most formal descriptions of logical fallacies have very long roots.

    Wouldn’t the projected affects of climate change and what might be done to address them be more on-topic and constructive?

  9. Peter Griffin

    In an attempt to bring this back to the topic of the post… Stephen, you write “what I find a tad worrying here is that it is very much set up as this is Gluckman’s view, so it gives people who wish to accept it anyway a pretty clear mandate to do so, more so, I suggest than if some other lesser known (and/or lesser qualified) scientists presented it in exactly the same way, based on exactly the same facts, interpretations, and analyses.”

    Isn’t that the whole idea of having a chief science advisor? They consult widely, as Gluckman has done here, distill the main points and trying and offer some over-arching advice based on that. I think that has more impact than the scientists publishing their own reports because Gluckman is appointed specifically to advise the PM, so there’s a good chance he will be listened to.

  10. Ken Perrott

    Stephen – as nauseum.

    I thought that political lobbying would be included in the modern equivalent of revelation, scripture or dogma. You see to wish to ignore the important point I made:

    “The real lesson from Galileo is not to oppose the “establishment” or current scientific consensus – but to rely on evidence. It was this argument of his, which today most of us accept and see as almost self-evident, that describes Galileo’s real contribution to the progress of science”.

  11. stephenthorpe

    Ken: I cannot find any source other than RationalWiki for the supposed fallacy or “gambit” in the form in which you state and use it. There is no evidence to suggest that The Galileo Movement is trying to use the Galileo fallacy. You are reading too much into their adoption of the name “Galileo”. Plausibly, and charitably, they called themselves that simply because they see certain parallels between their circumstances and those of Galileo, namely dissident scientists against a majority, and of course they see a further parallel (but they are probably mistaken) in thinking that, like Galileo, they are also correct. But there is no evidence to suggest that they are trying to convince anyone that they are correct BECAUSE their view is a dissident view against a majority! Galileo isn’t part of their argument, just part of their name! There may be a bit of a spin that they are trying to weave by choosing their name wisely, but it isn’t part of their major argument…

  12. Ken Perrott

    As I said, ad nauseum.

    However the other point of my article was to counter the idea that Galileo’s contribution came from simply standing up to the establishment (after all he caved in the end) and that he shouldn’t be simply seen as someone who was standing up for something that was right (he was wrong on somethings like the tides). His contribution was in promoting the idea that our understanding of reality should come from interaction with reality, not from revelation, scripture or dogma,

  13. stephenthorpe

    Alison: The version that Ken used was directly from RationalWiki (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Galileo_gambit). The first sentence of the RationalWiki article reads [quote]The Galileo gambit, or Galileo fallacy, is the notion that if you are vilified for your ideas, you must be right[unquote] I say that there is no evidence to suggest that anyone has ever held such a ridiculous view. It is bad form in rational debate to argue against the weakest possible interpretation of your opponent’s argument. You should argue against the strongest interpretation. I haven’t seen any actual appeals to the Galileo example which can’t be interpreted as simply demonstrating that just because something is a majority (orthodox) view, doesn’t make it right. Nobody is arguing that just because something is a minority view, it therefore must be right! Yet, the latter is RationalWiki’s interpretation, as far as I can see.

  14. Ken Perrott

    I assure you, Stephen, (and of course I have already assured you because we have had that discussion ad nauseum) that my article was not based on RationalWiki ( the link was simply provided for others to follow up). My article was based on my own concerns about the fallacy, or gambit (which is probably the more common term) – and the climate change denial group The Galileo Movement is a prime example of the gambit.

  15. Alison Campbell

    Not sure when RationalWiki first recorded the term, but certainly someone else came up with the idea back in 2005: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/02/21/the-galileo-gambit/ In that post (my edits in square brackets, in what follows), Orac describes those using the Galileo Gambit (yes, I know, he’s not using ‘fallacy’ but his intention is clear from what he writes) as seek[ing] to denigrate the experts who reject the altie’s claims as not knowing what they’re talking about or as close-minded, unable to have the vision that they do. It [ie the gambit] also deceptively tries to associate the quack, crank, pseudoscientist, or pseudohistorian with the theories and findings of great visionaries that went against conventional wisdom and were thus rejected by the experts of the day–and then later shown to be correct.

  16. stephenthorpe

    You know, what I find a tad worrying here is that it is very much set up as this is Gluckman’s view, so it gives people who wish to accept it anyway a pretty clear mandate to do so, more so, I suggest than if some other lesser known (and/or lesser qualified) scientists presented it in exactly the same way, based on exactly the same facts, interpretations, and analyses. That’s just the way it is, I know, but I am not comfortable with it. It seems to be a point where the boundary between science and politics starts to blur.

    Speaking of Gluckman, a few days ago, he tweeted thus:

    peter gluckman ‏@PeterGluckman 25 Jul What is scientific consensus: an interesting blog.
    https://sciblogs.co.nz/open-parachute/2013/07/25/the-galileo-fallacy-and-denigration-of-scientific-consensus/

    The “interesting blog” was Ken Perrott here on SciBlogs, who had based the article on something he found on RationalWiki (which is extremist anti-CreationWiki). Basically, RationalWiki invented this thing called the “Galileo fallacy”, but there is no evidence that anyone has ever held such a ridiculous view as they describe! Anyway, on the surface, Ken’s article was pro-science and anti-climate-change-denial stuff. In other words “science is good and right!”. However, I can’t help feeling that Ken’s article was based on nothing more than propaganda originating from RationalWiki. I therefore feel that Gluckman’s tweet, without further elaboration, was not particularly constructive …

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