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Call for Royal Commission on Global Warming


For immediate release 4 July 2006

Climate Science Coalition calls for Royal Commission on Global Warming

A Royal Commission to examine the validity of claims about global warming and its effect on New Zealand is to be proposed by the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. The newly appointed chairman of the coalition, Rear Admiral Jack Welch, said today that the proposal will be made in an open letter to members of Parliament when they resume sitting after the current two week recess.

“We are making this early signal of the coalition’s call for a Royal Commission on climate change for two reasons: Firstly, because of the scientifically unsupportable and impractical recommendations emanating from last weekend’s Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) conference. They continue to claim that there is a potentially critical environmental threat to the planet, and that there will be what they call dangerous climate change within the next 10 years.

“Secondly, because we believe that the climate change work programme announced today by the Minister, David Parker, is based on flawed analysis of the competing claims about the extent to which global warming is occurring and whether there is any measurable significance in the part played by human-induced emissions of gases like CO2 in the 0.6 degrees C warming of the earth that has taken place in the last 100 years” said Admiral Welch.

"The first year of operation of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) has demonstrated the pitfalls of rushing into this kind of activity without full and thorough consideration. A report just published shows that the scheme has raised serious questions about its organisation and effectiveness in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The report states that overall, the EU target will not reduce emissions. Member states handed out free permits for 1,829 million tonnes of CO2 in 2005, while emissions were only 1,785 million tonnes. Emissions would have to be 44 million tonnes higher for the system to actually ‘bite’ – in other words, for the EU as a whole, at present the system is simply not reducing emissions at all. But the way permits were allocated means that hospitals will spend about £1.3 million a year for the first three years buying up extra permits, while BP and Shell will be able to sell off the equivalent of £17 and £20 million worth of surplus permits each year," said Admiral Welch.

“On climate issues, notwithstanding that recent weather has been the very antithesis of global warming, New Zealand has got itself into a state of emotionally charged confusion with acceptance of misinformation very similar to that of the late 1990’s about genetic modification. This matter was clarified only after a searching independent examination of all the issues by a Royal Commission.

“Our coalition of climate scientists, economists, energy and policy consultants believe that New Zealand now needs a Royal Commission to sort out climate issues as they affect this country; to propose a rational and practical path for the government to follow.”

Admiral Welch said that comments by chairs of the coalition’s panels under-scored why a Royal Commission is necessary.

Greenhouse effect makes the world liveable

Professor Augie Auer, former chief meteorologist for New Zealand, and chairman of the coalition’s scientific panel said mankind could not alter the “greenhouse” effect even if we wanted to. “And why would we want to? The greenhouse effect is a near-miraculous phenomenon that keeps the planet a safe place to live on . . . if we did not have it, the earth’s mean temperature would be an unliveable -18 degrees C. It keeps us comfortable and is life sustaining."

Prof Auer said the greenhouse gas layer was made up of 95% water vapour, with the rest of it comprising C02 (3.62%), methane (0.36%), nitrous oxide (0.95%) and miscellaneous gases (0.07%). "But after allowing for natural emissions of CO2 from such as volcanoes and the sea,, the man-made contribution of CO2 is the equivalent of $1.17 in $1000. And for this we have Kyoto?”.

Prof Auer said the earth is affected by solar activity, with the heat input warming the equatorial regions more than the poles because of the angle at which the earth rotated.

Variations in solar energy due to sunspots could account for unusual weather patterns. "Sunspots occur in cycles last about 10 years and, in the period between 1650 and 1700, disappeared and the earth cooled significantly in what is known as the "Little Ice Age".

Closer to home, it was possible to explain the difference in spring weather in Taranaki last year, when September was fine and warm and October was wet and cold, to the fact sunspot activity was less volatile in October. The tracking of sunspots – the process began in 1612 – showed there was a regular pattern of activity increasing and decreasing and currently the cycle was coming into a minimal period which could have interesting consequences for the weather.

Prof Auer said that CO2 is not the “dreaded greenhouse gas that the global warmers crack it up to be. The gas is the most important airborne fertiliser in the world and without it there would be no green plants at all. Doubling of the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere would bring about a marked rise in plant production and no increase in water uptake - good news for an agricultural country like New Zealand, and even better news for those malnourished millions elsewhere in the world who cannot afford the cost of chemical fertilisers,” he explained.

Kyoto will not change world temperature

Bryan Leyland, chair of the coalition’s economic panel, said that in talking about ‘dangerous climate change within the next 10 years’, the ECO conference demonstrated inability to distinguish between “what we actually know and what they choose to believe.

“All that we actually know there is that the world has got a few tenths of degree warmer in the last 100 years and that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have increased over the last 60 years. We also know that the world has not got warmer since 1998 and that the changes in global temperature correlate better with sunspot effects than they do with carbon dioxide concentrations. We definitely do not know what the climate will do in the future: the cooling trend might continue or it might start to warm again.

“Their claim of ‘dangerous climate change in the next 10 years is based entirely on the output of computer models. None of these models predicted that the world would cool from 1940 to 1979 and again since 1998 so we can be sure that they cannot be relied on.

“Similar models show that Kyoto, even if fully implemented, will not make a measurable difference to the world temperature by 2050. So even world-wide action to do something now will have no measurable effects in 10 years’ time. To suggest that action by New Zealand could have a major effect in 10 years’ time is, to put it politely, ‘raving nonsense’.

“Their target of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020 is, if anything, even more crazy,” said Mr Leyland who is a leading New Zealand energy consultant. “It would involve scrapping about 3000 MW of perfectly good generating plant, and building something like 12,000 MW (1.5 times the existing total capacity) of new hydro power and wind farms and then accepting that if the wind drops (as it did during the cold snap last week), or it stopped raining, we would have to put our economy on a ‘go slow basis’ for hours, days, weeks, or, in a bad drought, months. If we have that amount of money to throw around building the schemes and our economy is strong enough to survive the frequent electricity shortages, the world would be far better off if, like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, we put the money and effort into providing clean water and fighting diseases like AIDS and malaria in developing countries.

“What New Zealand desperately needs is an objective review of the evidence that is used to support predictions of dangerous global warming.

“It is obvious that the conservation groups have rejected hard science in favour of blind belief and are happy to squander money that could be better spent elsewhere. Shame on them!”, Mr Leyland concluded.

Public transport will not reduce fuel consumption

Moving people from private cars to public transport has no measurable impact of fossil fuel consumption - and may even increase its use, according to Owen McShane, chair of the policy panel of the coalition.

“First, about 30% of our oil use is used to export goods overseas by ship and by air.

Second, a large percentage of our imported oil used on other non-transport uses such as heating and electricity generation. The end result is that less than half of our imported oil is used for internal transport.

“Most New Zealand towns are too small for public transport to be efficient or effective. Lightly loaded buses are less fuel-efficient than modern cars even with only one passenger. Cars are generally at least 25% loaded; day-long their loading averages 40%, whereas bus loadings average only 10% to 15%. Trains are even less fuel-efficient because of the trips at each end and their heavy weight, quite apart from the low average load factors in our irretrievably low-density cities.

“Engine technology already on the road will halve the current population’s fuel consumption within 20 years, and similar improvements could be made with buses, Mr McShane continued.

“But heavy trains will never compete. Cars and buses continue to improve energy efficiency – trains are at a dead end.

“The only opportunity to move people from cars to buses or trains is in the major centres which account for about half the population. But only a small percentage of vehicle trips in those centres are commuter trips and an even smaller percentage commute to central city areas. In western motorised New World cities, decentralisation is such that public transport will never again attract more than about 6% of total daily trips.

“Stopping 25% of Auckland’s urban car use would reduce New Zealand’s use of petrol by less than 1%. Transferring all those people to buses would increase consumption by about the same amount. If anything, there would be a small net gain in consumption of imported oil.

Rail transit consumes about four times the energy per person-kilometre delivered as cars. So incorporating rail into a composite bus-rail system would further worsen overall energy consumption, particularly as the buses must be re-routed to force-feed rail transit, resulting in longer combined distances. Our ‘Smart Growth’ town planners argue that ‘densification’ will overcome this inefficiency. They cannot – or will not – see that increasing density will merely increase congestion and exacerbate fuel consumption,” concluded Mr McShane.


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