The global warming debate can at its most feverish state reach dizzy depths. Hot air and defensive name calling of sceptics as deniers is destructive of sensible discussion. The climate has always fluctuated, changed and indulged in cyclic fashion. The climate has always had its periods of warming and has done so for millions of years.
Where I live in Marlborough if you chance to travel along state highway 63 to the West Coast, the road will follow the valley towards St Arnaud and Lake Rotoiti. Towards an hour’s drive, the highway comes to its first significant rise. That low hill is the old moraine from a glacier that several million years ago, a glacier groaned, ground and grated down the Wairau valley pushing rubble ahead of it to about the Wairau River’s confluence with its tributaries the Branch and Goulter Rivers. The moraine from the glaciers is evident in the low mound-like hills on both the Wairau River’s east and west banks.
Head south to Central Otago and the St. Bathans area.
Sixteen or so million years ago in the Miocene period, Otago warmed to almost tropical temperatures. Fossil leaf deposits revealed the then presence of eucalypt forests. George Gibbs in his brilliant book “Ghosts of Gondwana” (2017) wrote fossils from Central Otago that included a turtle and a small crocodile, “testify to a much warmer sub-tropical climate”. So the climate had warmed to produce this startling sub tropical environment and then cooled to become the climate it is today with hot summers and cold winters.
Undeniably the climate fluctuates cooling and then warming in cyclic fashion.
These natural climate fluctuations seem to have been lumped into the total global warming by the global warming theorists.
The equation is natural climate change plus or minus man-induced climate change equals the real state of the climate trend.But to ignore natural climate change is distortion of the real situation.
Take a trip from the South to the North Island and more specifically, the Ruahine Ranges. Hawkes Bay botanist and hydrologist the late Dr Patrick Grant was intrigued by 19th century explorer missionary William Colenso diary descriptions of the mountain ranges which he crossed to preach in the Taihape district. Colenso wrote of dead and decaying trees, shingle choked stream beds and giant mountain slips. In the 1950s, Government departments and Forest and Bird blamed the erosion and forest “damage” to wild animals such as deer and possums. But Dr Grant’s research debunked that theory. Instead he identified cyclic periods of dramatic natural climate change going back to 1530 with extreme weather of gales and storms causing forest damage. Droughts happened too.
During 1909-15 there were several dry years that exponentially amounted to worsening drought and culminating in “the mother of all droughts" in 1915-16. The series of droughts killed 100-plus year old trees leaving dead spars for which wild animals were erroneously blamed. Dr Grant’s work showed climate change and extreme weather occur naturally.
In recent years, international conferences have been held to tackle climate change but they miss that basic point that climate change is and has always been happening. From the “babble-fests" of conferences arose the Kyoto Protocol to deal with climate change, natural and/or man induced.
The late Owen McShane NBR columnist, planning consultant, said in 2003 that the the protocol developed out of the IPCC conference in Kyoto “is a fraud, because it is based on fraudulent assumptions, fraudulent models and fraudulent manipulations of data — Claims that the climate is static and unchanging are fraudulent.”
He concluded “this necessarily means that the Kyoto protocol itself is a fraud and that our (NZ) government is the victim of a major scam.”
Arising from the Kyoto Protocol was carbon trading designed “to allow nations who are unable to meet their carbon emission reduction targets, to purchase carbon credits under a unified regulatory framework.” In short it means “wheeling and dealing” carbon credits. It is a free market capitalist approach to a perceived serious environmental problem. As such it won’t work. Corporates’ primary interest are profits bereft of environmental conscience. In itself carbon credits are very arguably a scam, costly to the people and only benefiting corporate gamblers aiming to reap rich profits financially.
Monocultures of pine forests are not the answer as they are environmentally detrimental in many ways such soil acidification, depleted streams and heavy siltation at logging time.
Whether one is a global warming disciple or denier is really immaterial. The world does have an environmental crisis. New Zealand with less than 5 million people has a looming environmental crisis. And we’d all better do something to combat it.
Whether it’s global warming or the big environmental picture, the major cause is people and the lack of a population policy.
The cause of the problem is people and politics. Political hot air cannot hide the reality of degraded rivers, fisheries mismanagement, air and water pollution, exploitive monocultures, raw sewage in rivers and coastlines at high rainfall times, ailing soil health and other symptoms.
It’s clear whether you believe in climate change or not, the world faces the bigger picture of declining environmental health due to human activities. The sharp reality is more people and more consumers equal more resource exploitation, on-going demand for more costly infrastructure such as motorways, cause more emissions and jettison more garbage. More, more and more - an addictive disease.
The planet cannot tolerate infinite growth. It’s already at a crisis. The big problem is not global warming. The big problem is the environment in total.
Tony Orman, once a town and country planner, is now a part-time journalist and author.