“Advice from the NZ Climate Commission is evidence-based”
It follows that any recommendations they make should be backed up by the evidence, technically and economically achievable and supported by a cost benefit analysis.
The introduction says: “The climate science is clear, the direction of climate policy is laid out and the time for accelerated climate action is now.” This ignores the evidence from the IPCC that says that there are major uncertainties in climate science.[i] It also ignores a recent report that uses recognised data sources to show that climate conditions were more extreme 100 or more years ago.[ii] This demonstrates that there is absolutely no justification for calling for "accelerated climate action".
A major shortcoming is the apparent failure to recognise that if New Zealand diverts a massive amount of scarce resources into fighting climate change it will count for nothing unless all the nations in the world actually abide by their Paris Agreement promises until 2050. Few are doing so at the moment.[iii]
But even that won’t work because, as Bjorn Lomborg has calculated using the IPCC’s own climate models, if everyone abided by their Paris Agreement promises until 2100, the world would be 0.048°C cooler.[iv]
By implementing Draconian climate change policies, New Zealand and the world are on a hiding to nowhere. Far better to spend the resources on lifting people out of poverty so that when and if climate disasters threaten, they are better equipped to cope with them.
Input from experienced engineers is seriously lacking: engineering gets a mention in the report only in relation to “genetic engineering” and “engineered landfills”. Their recommendations imply the need for massive engineering projects.
The NZ CC report says we must act, but does not provide a comprehensive scientific, engineering and economic evaluation of what really needs to be done and, as the report makes clear, there are huge uncertainties in almost everything that they recommend for action.
For instance, they have an expectation that the upcoming “NZ battery” project will provide a credible, low-cost solution to the critical problem of keeping the lights on in dry years without gas or coal. The chances are that, as the report of the Interim Committee on Climate Change[v] makes clear, it will be technically difficult and very costly.
Some of the policies that the report promotes will increase worldwide emissions. For example, if New Zealand steel shuts down its low emissions steel production, we will need to import steel from high emissions steel mills overseas.
Other policies seem to contravene Article 2 of the Paris Agreement because they will reduce agricultural productivity. They recommend subsidising electric cars (at the expense of the taxpayer and other motorists) and ignore the fact that they are a seriously expensive way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.[vi] Spending a smaller amount of money getting rid of old polluting cars and replacing them with cheap modern efficient cars would have a much greater benefit/cost ratio.[vii]
From an engineering point of view, the most effective way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide is a massive swing to nuclear power.[viii] Evidence from the OECD says that nuclear is, by far, the most reliable and environmentally friendly form of power generation.[ix] It does not get a mention. Nuclear power is one of the best and cheapest way of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide while keeping the lights on.[x]
If the world did decide to follow the nuclear route to zero emissions by 2050 the challenge is still enormous. The world would need to commission 5,000 MW of nuclear power plant every week. Common sense tells us that it is technically and economically impossible to do this in the time available.
Wind and solar power cannot provide a reliable and economic supply without massive amounts of backup or energy storage to keep the lights on when the sun isn’t shining and/or the wind isn’t blowing.
Every 1,000 MW of load would need 4,000 MW of solar power or 3,000 MW of wind power at about $2,000/kW to provide the energy needed. So, we would be paying something like $6,000/kW of load supplied plus a similar cost for backup and storage. According to the NZ CC report, we would need an extra 4,000 MW of wind power by 2035. On a windy summer’s day with low demand, maybe 3,000 MW of this would need to be stored. Massive storage facilities and transmission reinforcement is likely to be needed.
The report recommends cutting livestock numbers by 15%, thus ignoring the Paris Agreement that bans anything that would reduce agricultural productivity. NZ farmers own 1% of the world's ruminants that produce only 15% of the planet's methane emissions. Methane is claimed to be responsible for 0.15°degrees of warming. According to the climate models, removing 15% of NZ's livestock will reduce world temperatures by 0.00003375 of a degree. Not much bang for the buck!
To achieve what the CC believe New Zealand must do in the timeframe that they specify is effectively impossible.
Massive changes to the RMA would be needed. Laws will need to be passed to force farmers to kill off their cows, to force others to plant native forests and to override environmental objections against wind and solar farms. Property rights will be trampled. It will be little different from the ”command and control” economy that the communist world was forced to abandon in 1990.
The evidence tells us that there is no need to do it. A recent study[xi] mostly based on government data sources shows that, compared to 100 or more years ago, temperatures are not rising rapidly, sea level rise is steady and small and floods, droughts, hurricanes and the like are well within historical levels.
The NZ CC report assumes that anything beyond a 1.5°C above preindustrial temperatures will lead to disaster. In support of this, they quote an IPCC report which, in fact, says that there are huge gaps in knowledge and, in particular, whether or not there is a significant difference between 1.5° and 2° or more.
Finally, everything in the report it is based on a belief that man-made greenhouse gases cause dangerous global warming. When I asked the Climate Commission and then its chief executive to provide convincing evidence, based on observational data, they were unable to do so.
Instead, they claimed that they relied on the “consensus views of climate scientists”, in spite of the fact that, as I had already pointed out, consensus has no place in science because, for instance, one person seeing one black swan destroys the consensus that all swans are white. Evidence rules.
The fact remains that the NZ Climate Commission has confirmed in writing that it believes that “consensus” alone is sufficient to support the very reason for its existence.[xii]
The chances are that, in 2050, the climate will be continuing to change naturally and a seriously impoverished New Zealand will be able to boast that “it led the world in virtue signaling!”.
The government should bin this report and disband the Commission. If it does this, everyone in New Zealand will be markedly better off and our climate will be unaffected!
Bryan Leyland is a Consulting Engineer with wide interests in modern technology. "Things you know that ain’t so" is a column in which he exposes the truth behind popular misconceptions.FOOTNOTES:
The world has not warmed as fast as we predicted and we don't know why.
2. "... an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 historical simulations (...) reveals that 111 out of 114 realisations show a GMST trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 trend ensemble ...." [WGI contribution, chapter 9, text box 9.2, page 769, and in full Synthesis Report on page SYR-8]
97% of the model runs over estimated the actual temperature rise.
3. "There may also be a contribution from forcing inadequacies and, in some models, an overestimate of the response to increasing greenhouse gas and other anthropogenic forcing (dominated by the effects of aerosols)." [SPM, section D.1, page 13, bullet point 2, and full Synthesis Report on page SYR-8]
It is possible that we have overestimated the climate forcing factor and other key factors – the numbers that drive our predictions of dangerous global warming.
4. "This difference between simulated [i.e. model output] and observed trends could be caused by some combination of (a) internal climate variability, (b) missing or incorrect radiative forcing and (c) model response error". [WGI contribution, chapter 9, text box 9.2, page 769]
- Comments added by Bryan Leyland
[viii] A 1992 NZ Government report entitled “The Safety of Nuclear Powered Ships” made it quite clear that nuclear ships and nuclear power stations were much safer than any other major power generation technology. Small Modular Nuclear Reactors will soon be available and will provide an even safer, reliable power supply at less than the real cost of wind and solar power.