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Phil’s Weekly Column – The climate change debate & why common sense is needed

Scientists around the world appear to be stepping back a little from the rhetoric around climate change and how humans may be impacting the gradual warming – a move I think is sensible if more people are to get their heads around this complicated issue.

The current thinking seems to be that yes, the world is warming and that yes we’re seeing more extremes – but less political discussion around mankind being to blame.  

Most sane, reasonable people will agree that the amount of pollution humans are putting into the planet around the globe – especially from industrial nations like China, India and the US – has to be doing something negative to our planet – with consequences.

Put bluntly – there is no evidence that says 100% this increase in temperature is due to mankind’s pollution, but there is little doubt that we are contributing to it in some way.  The debate is – will us making changes really make a difference?

There are nutters on both sides of the argument.  Not to say that if you disagree with me you’re a nut job, but rather, if you can’t  calmly debate your factual view points, and be open minded, then I’ll most likely put you in that category.  So often these days people don’t debate, they instead yell the most extreme things to be noticed.

Many skeptics truly believe the scientific community is drumming up scaremongering statements to win more funding.  I’m yet to meet a respected scientist who would agree with that statement or even fit in to that description. But to be fair to the skeptics there has been a rash of unfortunate tampering of data – or selective use of data – which has led to court cases.  Every time the science community gets it wrong like that it sets their cause back significantly.

The climate change argument became too political before the recession – now its on the back burner as the economy trumps expensive clean and green energy ideas when everyone is broke. 

But clearly something is happening to the world.  I simply don’t understand why so many skeptics dig their heels in and refuse to accept what is clearly happening – more droughts, more floods, more snow storms, more extremes.  Just look at New Zealand over the past few years…the insurance industry worldwide has also confirmed there have been far more claims related to extreme weather – and it can’t be put down to more people living in more vulnerable areas.  Even insurance companies are saying climate change may already be costing them significant money.

And its not about the big events.  We have always had those.  it’s about the frequency of extremes.  It’s about the severity of those extremes.

The US just had its warmest month ever – not just the warmest July, the warmest month of any month over the past 120 years.  Sure, records are always broken, but what we’ve seen over the past 10 years are flood, snow, drought and heat records being broken far more often.

The North Pole now completely melts in summer – that never happened when I was a kid.  Greenland is melting incredibly quickly too. 

And to the skeptics – ok, what if it is normal and part of a cycle – does that mean we should just dust our hands and say “oh well, nothing we can do?”.  

As for New Zealand the climate change debate is a tricky one – as we aren’t one of the bad polluters and scientists I’ve spoken to say New Zealand may be one of better places on earth to cope with it.   For that reason it makes it hard for New Zealanders to perhaps invest as much energy into this.  If we lived in a nation that was predicted to go underwater, become a desert, or see more hurricanes, then we might worry a bit more. 

I believe we are already a fairly green society – we aren’t major polluters.  But can we improve?  Absolutely.  Do we need to do anything drastic?  Not in my view – so long as we continue to acknowledge cleaner and greener energy is better and continue to work towards being a cleaner society..  Will a tax fix things?  Are you kidding me?  No.  Charging a tax for climate change will line someone’s pocket and force the rest of us to pay more while other nations continue to pollute.  This is why we need to be reasonable from both sides.

Every country needs to do their part – every individual does – but we need to stop with the extreme political arguments and start listening to what the trusted and widely respected scientific community have to say.  If we – as a people – are going to go down the road of dismissing what scientists have to say then I feel we, as human beings, are going backwards.

– Homepage image / Zelda Wynn

– Philip Duncan


Dave on 13/08/2012 4:21am

Well said Phil. I believe if we think we can change nature we are much bigger fools than I thought. Nature is much too powerful to be bothered by a few vehicles running around.

For every action there will be a reaction, that is how nature keeps her balance


Ken Ring on 11/08/2012 12:28pm

To get a balanced viewpoint one only has to google the opposite of what research-fund-hungry climate science is claiming. So google Arctic ice increasing, Pacific sealevel dropping, Antarctic ice expanding, glaciers advancing, hurricanes and cyclones not increasing, and the next ice age approaching. You will notice that the research for all these is not funded by governments who are planning green tax grabs. Then go figure.
Pollution has nothing to do with climate. Cities will always be polluted or they cannot function. The climate is always changing within a cycle, but returning again to an original starting position. The planet is 4.5 billion years old, and knows how to look after itself. It can handle a few cars and trucks.
We haven’t a clue what the normal temperature of earth is supposed to be, because we have only been gathering reliable and verifiable data for about 50 years. We still only have about 3000 data gathering stations around the world, which is too tiny-sampled to be valid. Most of those are around the ever-more-warming cities.
The recent climb-down by scientists has been because commonsense is finally dawning and the morals of the old childhood stories of The Emperors Clothes and Chicken Licken are at last being realised. There has been so much fudging of figures now that the climate scientists are being laughed out of court.

Ken Ring on 12/08/2012 10:33am

Gary on 15/08/2012 4:04pm

Did you even read the articles you linked to? Even WUWT, an acknowledged denier website acknowledges that sea ice is decreasing. They just chose to focus on the 2011 refreeze in their headline. You didn’t read past the headline did you? The other article is from 2008. There had indeed been an increase in sea ice between 2007 and 2009, but that has now reversed (see graph in your WUWT article). Christopher Monckton was going on about that for a while, but even he has had to shut up about it now.

Sue on 11/08/2012 10:38am

Phil thank you for writing this article. Finally I get some peace of mind from someone in the know when you write “But clearly something is happening to the world”. I have been trying to convince those nearest and dearest for ages that yes we have always had bad weather and weather extremes but it is the record breaking data, the frequency and the intensity as you say that has changed.

I have been ridiculed and belittled for expressing my observations and they are just that – observations from someone who is a real nature lover and likes to observe natural phenomenen and weather extremes. Oh the power of mother nature!

I dont think she has even got started yet – we have fracked and hacked at this planet so much that we have wrecked the homeostatis and now mother nature is reaching a tipping point – time for an environmental cleanse methinks. Bring it on – it might sort out some of the greed and lack of humanity that exists on this planet right now.

Thanks again.


Peter of Dunedin on 11/08/2012 7:38am

Ice shelves disappearing at faster rate than ever at both poles; glaciers calving and retreating; more extremes in rainfall and drought;upward trending of global temperatures; man-made CO2 and other emissions still on the increase! It’s a no brainer, we humans are collectively and significantly contributing to climate change. To ignore the collective body of multi-disciplined bodies of scientists’ explicit and continuous warnings is just plain pig ignorant and stupid! It doen’t matter where on this sphere that we live, or how much or how little we contribute, we are all collectively affected. Remedial action is required by all nations. Listen to the scientists and act accordingly!

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