What you can do

We’ve had a week of debate about climate change and absolute agreement that “something must be done”. So what can be done? Well, here’s my list, off the top of my head, based on what I know from the debate and from being involved in this for a long time, and for a job:

Firstly, if you believe that something needs to be done, then tell politicians that you want something done and vote for politicians that will. A carbon tax would be a very useful thing, for many reasons, but we’ve dropped plans for it because the government doesn’t have the votes for it. This is a democracy, and that’s how it works.

Secondly, how do we change people’s behaviour? We can argue that the future is so frightening that we need to start fixing the problem right now. Basically, it’s a problem we must solve. Or we can argue that there’s plenty of win-win actions to take right now, to get change going and convince people that it’s a problem we can solve.

Right here and now, I’m plumping for the later. I don’t care if you don’t think something should be done, or you don’t care or you’ve got the social conscience of a dog caught short on a croquet lawn. All I care about is changing people’s behaviour, not their beliefs. Behaviour causes emissions; beliefs don’t. So then here’s a list of things that you can do, right now, to make a difference to yourself. Even if you think, “bollocks to the planet, load of tree-hugging hippy crap”, you’ll still benefit from doing these things.

My suggestions, which seem to revolve around either money or people that you want to sleep with

Conference summary

Tomorrow, what you can do. But now, summary of the conference from my boss that’s just been published in the Royal Society’s weekly newsletter:

Comment by Royal Society CEO, Dr Steve.Thompson steve.thompson@rsnz.org
Two days of information deluge are difficult to digest. Victoria University’s Climate Change conference held in Wellington on Tuesday and Wednesday brought us several million individual facts. Yes, climate has changed and always will. Man-made greenhouse gases are but one minor factor in climate change, however, in recent times, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased dramatically and rapidly. We have reached 380ppm, and are on the way to 550ppm or more over a period of decades. People concerned about this have mapped out two broad approaches we need to take: 1) mitigate the effects of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and 2) take steps to adapt to the inevitable variability that will take place.

Even if we bring in measures to mitigate greenhouse gas release now, we won’t see real effects for 50 years, so we’re going to have to adapt as well. But, as one speaker said, it’s not as simple as adapting from one steady state to another steady state. Climate change in the short term will be characterised by high variability, with some good years, and some bad. What we will really need is a continuing ability to adapt, not just a one-shot change.

Some Conference Messages I took away were:
Climate Minister Hodgson: We are ready to act, but need a mandate from the people
UK’s Lord Oxburgh: Governments need to set in place clear and stable regulatory signals. Biofuels will fill a significant gap, but not if they use food land. Use bio-waste materials instead.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair: We have to bring the US, China and India into the next Kyoto round.
Murray Ward (ex-Kyoto negotiator): Withdrawal of carbon tax has left a policy vacuum in New Zealand.
Simon Upton: New Zealand is unlikely to contribute meaningfully to the big questions like hydrogen technology or CO2 sequestration. Since half our emissions are methane, we can make a good international contribution by research into ruminant methane emission reduction. Government should also impose a carbon tax. This should not be a party political issue.
Kirsty Hamilton (UK climate and business consultant): Industries are ready to act, but they need Government signals which are “Long, Loud, and Legal”.

And, cover of Time magazine this week:

Day 1 of climate conference

This is my random scribbles yesturday’s climate conference. Don’t have time to be more coherent, as it starts again very shortly. Its probably best if I just summarise Pete Hodgson, as he seemed to hit the nail on the head:

The government can solve this, but only if it takes actions that, right now, are unacceptable to the voting public. Government should show leadership, but they only govern by permission of the people, and the people are not giving permission for the government to solve this problem.

Pete’s four conundrums and his thoughts on them:
1) We will have to mitigate and abate. How much of each?
Mitigation – pay now, we benefit
Abate – pay now, everyone benefits at some future point

2) What effort now vs. total effort?
We can avoid intergenerational theft, but its hard to justify paying now, when we can’t see the effects now.

3) Should we go hard on current technologies or wait for new technologies?
This is the holy grail syndrome. Well, we have to do everything now, so we should.

4) How do we justify diverting resources into mitigation and adaptation when the lag times before we see a result are so huge? If we wait until we can accurately cost mitigation and adaptation then it will be too late. So how to justify this spending when returns are inherently unknown?

And from me, other ideas floating around Wellington are that:
Industry wants long-term certainty. However, climate change policy is new, and we won’t get it right first time, so it will need adjustment. Hence the policy will change.
Everyone wants to depoliticise this debate, so that the policy doesn’t change every three years. But no-one agrees what the policy should be and opposite ends of the political spectrum want incompatible results, so I can’t see how this might happen.
The science about what the climate is doing is firm. The knowledge about the impacts upon humanity and the economy is not.
The costs of doing something are large and not certain.
The costs of doing nothing are even less certain, but might be astoundingly huge.
Its possible that there may be no safe level of carbon emissions. Its also possible that emitting more than one trillion tonnes will be needed, i.e. that there’s a fixed amount in total that we can emit, over a given number of centurys, and we might be half-way through that.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts right now. Please take with a grain of salt as I haven’t had a change to think through these things and brain is somewhat fried by an overwhelming conference day.

Oh, and scored a free light bulb.

Yes, its climate change week in the policy world, where we talk about climate change till our jaws fall off. I’ll just give you the edited highlights.

Yesturday was the NZ Institute of International Affairs, on the current policy around climate change. So notes:

  • Kyoto is the only game in town, its got specific targets and teeth if nations don’t meet them
  • No reasonable people are questioning the credibility of the science
  • There’s still reasonable people questioning the costs of doing nothing
  • No-one knows what anthropogenic means. Let’s all say human-induced.
  • China is building three more Huntly’s every month
  • Soil can act as a sink of carbon, just like trees, but Kyoto doesn’t count soils, yet.
  • Dairing makes for a fifth of our emissions and a fifth of our export earnings
  • Fonterra’s rail hub in the Waikato halved their transport emissions by taking forty thousand truck movements off the roads
  • Everybody wants “enduring, long-term” policies but no-one agrees on what type of policies
  • The industry people all wanted “flexible” government policies and don’t want to be penalised by NZ taking a whiter-than-white approach.
  • Industry representatives say that they’re energy efficient already and that they’re using “best practise”.
  • I asked about their definition of best practise? Surely they use whatever tech is economcally viable, depending on the energy price and if that price goes up then they’ll invest in better technology? They ummmed and ahhhed…
  • Most countries are trying to reduce emissions, even if it costs them economically to do so. And we want to keep trading with those countries…
  • Biofuels in NZ are far, far behind Brazil, Germany and Canada. This is one where we can make a difference right now by getting on with it.
  • Some degree of climate change is going to happen anyway, so we will have to adapt
  • The wine industry is carbon neutral. Let’s all celebrate!

Today and tomorrow, the big climate conference. For people can’t come to that, there’s Wednesday’s: Climate Change night at the Paramount
6.30-10.30 Victoria University and The British Council present an informal and informative night of movies, discussion, food and drinks. Hosted by Radio New Zealand’s Phil Smith and UK climate change expert, David Vaughan. $10 adults / $7 students. Tel 384 4080 for tickets.

You can keep your wowddowh40k thing

Its study time and we all know what that means. Yes, games! Not fancy immersive shared virtual engaging experience. No. Just psychadelicly coloured objects, moving rapidly, and exploding in rainbows, all over psychadelicly coloured moving backgrounds. Set to repetitive techno. Pure fast-twitch, Defender/Tempest pace.

Two of the best, and they’re free:

And in other news, real, live firefox discovered.

Bits going everywhere

In terms of joyfully complicated machinery, the Napier Deltic takes the biscuit. An eighty-eight litre engine, with eighteen cylinders and thirty-six pistons. And its a diesel. All this fantastically byzantine engineering gets you up to four thousand horsepower.

Sadly replaced by gas turbines, which have one moving part that just goes round. How dull.

Climate change – its all on

Next week there are a bunch of talks alongside the big Vic conference. Go think about stuff:

Climate Change and Us forum
next Monday, 7-9, Te Papa
Hear world experts from the conference talk about climate change and NZ.
Free, but will pack out so phone 471 1982 or diana.shand@iclei.org for tickets

Climate Change night at the Paramount
Wednesday, 6.30-10.30
Victoria University and The British Council present an informal and informative night of movies, discussion, food and drinks. Hosted by Radio New Zealand’s Phil Smith and UK climate change expert, David Vaughan. $10 adults / $7 students. Tel 384 4080 for tickets.

And in Auckland – Energy and climate, time to act
Friday, 6 pm, Room 439, Auckland Uni, Symonds St
Lord Ron Oxburgh, ex-head of Shell, geologist and peer gets his groove on.
Free but get there early.

and there’s talks in Chch too

On a mission

That was the most fun I’ve had for far too long. The ingredients being:

  • brightly coloured objects moving rapidly
  • jumping in the sea
  • more jumping in the sea
  • tissu outdoors – ooh, view and a breeze
  • tinfoil hats
  • being north of Tawa for the first time in months
  • f&c shops with fish in tanks, “tropical fish”
  • the arse-kicking competition, followed by the misuse of a large roll of sellotape
  • earplugs
  • acrobalancing twins
  • diabolo taken to a new level, then several more levels up
  • Jenny’s slow fire poi
  • Lou’s staunchness of partying
  • Pipi’s stories
  • Andrea’s pitching
  • guy from circoarts doing a toehang from a streetlight, above tarmac
  • five of us making the dragon with three legs, and winning prizes!!!
  • being terrified that distracted 6-year olds were going to kill themselves
  • shopping, but only for much-needed unicycle parts
  • dinner with beach and sunset

No photos, as we were having too much fun. Just use your imagination.


After grumbling about being a stayathome, I’m in Raglan for the juggling festival. Have just been for a swim in the sea as the sunset. Now f&c then wine then more fun.

Free! and informative

Feed your brain:

Tomorrow, “Small Brains, Smart Minds”, honeybee vision and thinking, free, 6 pm, LT1, the lecture theatres in the courtyard at the back of the Government Buildings/Law School Buildings/whatever the official name for them is.
“Insects cope remarkably well with their world despite possessing a brain that carries fewer than 0.01% as many neurons as ours does.”

Tomorrow, Robert Fisk, already booked out. Darn.

Ronald Wright, this thursday, not free:
History is the story of civilisations destroying themselves. – like Jared Diamond, but far more concise.

Climate Change and Us Forum, Monday 27 March 2006 at 7 – 9 pm, Te Papa. Entry free but limited places coz it will be full, apply for your ticket by 20 March. (Its the public part of http://www.vuw.ac.nz/sog/events/info-climate.aspx, which costs lots of money to go to.) If you go to one, go to this one.

Ahh, s0d it

Any of these would help today:
All the hammers in the world
though there’s at least two kinds that they don’t have: toffee hammers1 and non-sparking beryllium-copper hammers2. Are there any other kinds of hammers that they are missing out on?

1 – These are not made of toffee, but are a specified design, according to the UK Ministry of Transport.
2 – I think people might use brass hammers instead. Can anyone who works in explosive gases please clarify?

On not being pointlessly rude, for once

On Sunday, of course, The church rock band were practising in the room next to us in Te Whaea, where we were practising aerials. As I walked out, I saw that they have perspex screens around the drummer, I dunno, maybe he hasn’t learned to play quietly. I wanted to walk in there and say:

“drummer in a cage! thats *so* metal!!!”


But I didn’t. Should I have?

And aerials class last night had no shouty tutor but went hard and not just coz half of Les Arts Saut were watching.

Helen Clark on peak oil, yesturday in Parliament

“I am of the view that New Zealand needs to think a lot more boldly about issues of moving beyond being an oil-dependent economy. I am aware of other economies, like Sweden, which are looking at how to eliminate the use of oil in their economies within the next 20 years. I think we could well learn a great deal from others who are exploring those possibilities.”