When Russel Norman repeated in parliament the words of a Filipino climate negotiator there were howls of outrage, but we listen to the pleas to end the madness we will only see more devastation

Survivors in the worst affected areas of the Philippines, where the monster typhoon Haiyan struck, describe their experience with disbelief – winds of over 300kph and a storm surge five metres high that carried all before it. Haiyan was the most powerful, most horrific storm to make landfall since records began.

The humanitarian response from New Zealand has been inspiring. People across the country have donated generously to help Filipinos whom they have never met. Oxfam and other NGOs are on the ground providing life-saving food, clean water, toilets and shelter to help people survive and stop the spread of disease amongst those who survived the storm. But the need is still immense – over 11 million people have been affected.

As we rush to help survivors, we also need to look at the bigger picture. Yeb Saño is the lead negotiator for the Philippines at the UN climate change talks taking place in Warsaw, and this week his plea has been carried around the globe. He challenged anyone who continues to deny the reality of climate change to get out of the comfort of their armchair and visit the places around the world where communities are being devastated by the changing climate – by sea level rise, heat waves, melting ice caps and glaciers, floods and deadly storms. He suggested people may also want to visit the Philippines.

When his speech was reported in our Parliament, there was heckling and denial. Apparently some of our MPs believed it was inappropriate to share Saño’s words and point out the connection between greenhouse gases and super typhoons. But if we aren’t honest about the causes that are increasing the frequency of devastating storms, we are failing to respect those who suffer the consequences and protect future victims.

It has been known for more than a century that burning fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases, and those gases warm up our planet. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reveals that 90 per cent of the warming has been absorbed by the oceans. Warmer water, which was around 2°C higher than normal before the typhoon, provides the fuel for more dangerous tropical storms. This makes typhoons like Haiyan more likely.

The people of the Philippines have done little to cause climate change. It is rich nations that have burned fossil fuels and emitted greenhouse gases, including us in New Zealand – our emissions per person are amongst the highest in the world. But Yeb Saño’s plea to end the madness of rising emissions is unlikely to change our government’s position in climate change negotiations. New Zealand pulled out of commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and then reduced our target for emissions reductions to only 5 per cent below the 1990 level. Domestically, the Emissions Trading Scheme has become a farce, fuelling deforestation, and our economic development plan seems to consist of more roads and a scramble for coal, oil and gas. The irony is that most of the world’s fossil fuel reserves can never be used – they would fry our planet.

We urgently need a global agreement to tackle climate change and prevent more devastating disasters. The current negotiations in Warsaw could lay the foundations for a safer climate. New Zealand needs to play our part as a good global citizen, rather than joining those who are blocking progress.

A better future is possible for us as well as vulnerable communities across the world. New Zealanders are already tackling climate change. Opportunities are opening up for solar power, electric cars and low carbon agriculture. People are realising the health benefits of walking, cycling and home insulation. Local authorities are creating more liveable cities. Energy efficiency and waste minimisation are saving money for companies and households. There are inspiring examples of New Zealand businesses leading the world in the shift to low carbon opportunities. We have exciting opportunities for building our economy of the future, but we cannot achieve our potential without supportive government policy.

At the time of his speech in Warsaw, Saño’s brother in the Philippines had not eaten for three days. In support, Saño has undertaken to fast until he can foresee a meaningful outcome of the negotiations or until the end of the climate change conference on November 22nd.

As well as being generous in the relief effort, some of us may want to join him.

Comments (38)

by Andrew Osborn on November 15, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Whilst I understand the emotional outburst and share the pain for those lost in the Phillipines, I am not impressed with the logic.

One swallow does not a summer make

Look at the hard numbers presented here http://pc.blogspot.co.nz/ under " Sorry Russell, your're wrong"

Best of luck with the money gathering  ;-)


by Phil on November 16, 2013

Other than agreement, there seems me to be two principal perspectives that have emerged subsequent to Russell Norman's statement to the house.

1) He committed a grave breach of parliamentary protocol by using the occasion to relay the words of the head of the Philippines climate delegation, Naderev Saño. It was also disrespectful to those who've suffered loss.

2) In any event, Saño's understandably emotionally-charged speech does not align with the science as typhoons have always happened, and the frequency of such events does not seem to be altering.

The qualms expressed at Norman's bending of the paliamentary rules should certainly have been removed by the congratulatory response from Saño himself. He clearly thought it appropriate timing and absolutely respectful.

The second perspective relies on a particular interpretation of the comments made by Saño (and subsequently Norman himself). The actual words were as follows;

"The IPCC report on climate change and extreme events underscored the risks associated with changes in the patterns as well as frequency of extreme weather events. Science tells us that simply, climate change will mean more intense tropical storms. As the Earth warms up, that would include the oceans. The energy that is stored in the waters off the Philippines will increase the intensity of typhoons and the trend we now see is that more destructive storms will be the new norm.” (my emphasis).

The key here is frequency of extremes, rather than of storm events themselves, which at this stage the science is indicating will remain relatively constant. So what did the IPCC actually say in this regard;

"Average tropical cyclone maximum wind speed is likely to increase, although increases may not occur in all ocean basins. It is likely that the global frequency of tropical cyclones will either decrease or remain essentially unchanged." p.11 IPCC Special Report

So the essential message here is that whilst storms in the Pacific may maintain the same, or lower, frequency, when they do hit they will be stronger and more destructive. Haiyan has been estimated as the fourth most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded and possibly the strongest to have ever hit land. Surely then, the most prudent, and moral, choice is to redouble our efforts, as both individuals and through the international community, to get serious about lowering emissions?

If however, the likes of Tau Henare, Gerry Brownlee, Shane Jones, Paula Bennett et al. are using the smokescreen of "disrespect/protocol" to mask their repudiation of international science, they could at least have the integrity to clearly state that.

by Tim Watkin on November 17, 2013
Tim Watkin

One swallow, Andrew? Really?

A record seven typhoons developed across the west Pacific during October, beating beat the previous record of six in 1989.

However that seems to have been one against the grain, given what Phil rightly describes – fewer but stronger typhoons. Time to stop the madness and get serious.

by Chris Morris on November 17, 2013
Chris Morris

Disregarding the timing, the main problem with Russel's comments is they actually went against the science. If one actually reads the table in the SPM http://www.climate2013.org/images/uploads/WGI_AR5_SPM_brochure.pdf there was low confidence in whether the intensity of tropical cyclone activity had actually increased and further, there was low confidence in whether any of this could actually be attributed to human activity.

Go to http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/supporting-material/uncertainty-guidance-note.pdf medium confidence is only a coin toss, so low confidence is a wild guess.

Then if you go to NOAA and look at the SST anomalies, as this is what actually drives hurricanes, with Haiyan starting on 3rd November, then you find this:http://weather.unisys.com/archive/sst/sst_anom-131103.gifTemperatures are below normal.

http://weather.unisys.com/hurricane/w_pacific/2013/index.php only lists 6 hurricanes in Western Pacific for October. Sepat was just a storm.

With regards to numbers of hurricanes/typhoons, look at Ryan Mauve's website http://models.weatherbell.com/tropical.php where he has been tracking them and their energy levels for 40 years.

You can attack people's politics all you like, but make sure the science matches the rhetoric


by Andrew Osborn on November 17, 2013
Andrew Osborn


People are making stuff to match their emotional outburts:


Specifically: Figure 1. Tropical Cyclone Frequency in the Philippine Area of Responsibility 1948 to 2007

Can you see a trend here? I can't!

(Note that this is an authoritative 

by Andrew Osborn on November 17, 2013
Andrew Osborn

If you want to save lives in the Phillipines try some of the following:

1/ Contraception. They've had a population explosion which dramatically increases the number of people in the way of the storms. Religion is maybe playing a part here as both the Muslims and the Catholics seem to be in a race to outbreed each other.

2/ Education & better governance. To stop the stripping of forests to be replaced  with slash & burn agriculture. This destabilises hillsides resulting in mudslides and exacerbates flash flooding.



by Rab McDowell on November 17, 2013
Rab McDowell

Typhoon Haiyan was a very strong typhoon but it was not “the most powerful, most horrific storm to make landfall since records began”, or even to hit the Philippines. It was about the same as typhoon Sening, one of five to hit the Philippines in 1970, when CO2 levels were much lower than they are now, and much less than Reming which hit the Philippines in 2006.
Sea temperatures in Haiyan’s path were not elevated because of seas heated by global warming. According to the US NOAA they were around the 25 yr average.
 In contrast to Barry Coates view that global warming is causing more dangerous tropical storms, the latest IPCC reports states there is "low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust" and "confidence in large-scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low"

The tragedy of Haiyan is that it made landfall in a country that was poor and underprepared for what was a fairly predictable event, one that was much more likely than, say, an earthquake in Christchurch. It would have been far less destructive of property and human life it had struck a wealthy country that had the resources to prepare.
Typhoons have always struck  and will continue to strike the Philippines. The only feasible way to reduce their effect is to increase the countries prosperity so it can spare resources to prepare for events that have occurred regularly for thousands of years. History shows that increasing that prosperity will not be possible without greater energy use. That is most likely to mean increased fossil fuel use. Other forms are too expensive.
Greater fossil fuel use will be part of increasing the wealth of the Philippines so as to allow it to become more resilient in the face of storms. Cutting fossil fuel use will have no effect for at least a hundred years.
What should the Philippines, and the world, do if they wish to reduce the impact of such typhoons?

by Barry Coates on November 17, 2013
Barry Coates

Thanks for comments on the blog. The links between climate change and any particular cyclone or typhoon are complex, but it is widely accepted that likelihood of more intense cyclones is higher under climate change, especially under the scenarios that result from continued inaction. Recently the World Meteorological Organisation commented on the link between Typhoon Haiyan and climate change:

 “The WMO said more than 90 percent of the extra heat from greenhouse gases is absorbed by oceans. It predicts that sea levels will continue to rise, making coastal populations more vulnerable to storm surges.

“Near (the) Philippines, the sea level rise over the last 20 years was probably of the order of three to four times bigger than it was globally. Definitely because of the higher sea level, the damage has been more than what it would have been 100 years before, under similar wind conditions,” Michel Jarraud added.

The WMO argues that while the relationship between climate change and the frequency of tropical cyclones is the subject of much research, their impact is expected to become more intense.” http://www.euronews.com/2013/11/13/impact-of-future-storms-like-haiyan-to-be-more-intense-wmo/

Prof Myles Allen, of Oxford University, has said: "The current consensus is that climate change is not making the risk of hurricanes any greater, but there are physical arguments and evidence that there is a risk of more intense hurricanes."

A Nature Geoscience research paper from 2010 found that global warming will increase the average intensity of the storms, while the total number of storms will fall, meaning fewer but more severe cyclones. It also found that rainfall in the heart of the storms will increase by 20%. Earlier this year, a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Prof Kerry Emmanuel agreed that the most intense cyclones – category 3 to 5 – would increase, but the work suggested smaller cyclones would also increase. It also found that "increases in tropical cyclones are most prominent in the western north Pacific".

While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was guarded on the near term increase in cyclone intensity (because of insufficient data and studies yet undertaken) they predicted “…a likely increase in both global mean tropical cyclone maximum wind speed and rain rates” over the 21st Century. If you live in the Pacific, the Philippines or other regions prone to cyclones, this is of a serious concern.

In addition to listening to credible scientists, we could also listen to conservative politicians. Asked last Friday whether climate change was linked to the Philippines disaster, British Prime Minister, David Cameron said: "I'll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change. But the evidence seems to me to be growing. As a practical politician, I think the sensible thing is to say let's take preventative and mitigating steps given the chances this might be the case."

He added: "Scientists are giving us a very certain message. Even if you're less certain than the scientists, it makes sense to act both in terms of trying to prevent and mitigate." Cameron made the case that Britain should tackle climate change as an "insurance policy".

"There is no doubt there have been an increasing number of severe weather events in recent years," he said. "And I'm not a scientist but it's always seemed to me one of the strongest arguments about climate change is, even if you're only 90% certain or 80% certain or 70% certain, if I said to you there's a 60% chance your house might burn down, do you want to take out some insurance – you take out some insurance. I think we should think about climate change like that." (see Independent at http://t.co/w5WWBpRtIR and http://www.guardian.co.uk/).

Perhaps some National Party politicians (Gerry Brownlee, Bill English) could listen to David Cameron, as well as listening to their Minister responsible for climate change, Tim Groser, who said you would have to be denying reality to deny man-made climate change.

But ultimately if we do nothing to address climate change, despite scientific evidence that is as strong (95-100% likelihood in IPCC AR5) as the evidence that smoking causes cancer, it is primarily not us in countries like New Zealand who will suffer, but people who live in poverty in vulnerable environments.

In the Philippines, the provinces most impacted are poorer than the national average, with about four out of ten families living below the poverty line before the disaster hit. The average household income in Eastern Visayas (Samar and Leyte) was only about US$3400 per annum. Many families lived from small-scale agriculture (e.g. rice, maize, coconuts) and fishing, and from low paid jobs and micro-enterprises in the towns and cities. Most of these people have no savings, no insurance, no social welfare system and have lost all their assets.

Even if the probability of super typhoons occurring more frequently is only ‘likely’, surely the precautionary approach argues that we should reduce the likelihood of massive suffering being felt by others as a result of our avoidable actions.

by Chris Morris on November 17, 2013
Chris Morris


Please don't qute politicians soundbites or newspapers for your science. Chapter and verse of peer reviewed literature or the official organisations websites it what is demanded.

And you, (or anyone else for that matter)  still haven't explained why a very big hurricane occurred when the SST was below average and how this is from global warming.

by Phil on November 17, 2013


You may wish to reconsider the first part of Barry's answer where he focused on a number of scientific responses. It was only later that he quoted political sources such as Cameron who are clearly re-evaluating their more skeptical stance.

If you have questions regarding trends in  the Pacific SST temperature, I suggest you direct them to a more science-focused forum, as I suspect there are few here who could discuss the finer points with you in that regard. One source you could try is the University of Hamburg's Intergrated Climate Data Centre who suggest that in fact the Western Pacific has been warming by 0.062 deg C / year. 

Personally, I have to rely on trained scientists to provide guidance on the linkage between climate and extreme weather events. At a local level, the chap tasked with this is the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, who starts his recent assessment of the science with the following;

"An assessment of current scientific reports on the global climate show a very high level of consistency with previous work and with the continuing scientific consensus. There is unequivocal evidence that the Earth’s climate is changing, and there is strong scientific agreement that this is predominantly as a result of an- thropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Any short-term departures from the long-term warming trend can broadly be explained through a combination of other causes of climate variability and inherent lags in the system. That is not to say that our understanding of the global climate is complete; inherent in any scientific assessment of the future is a component of uncertainty. There is no way to completely remove uncertainty, given the nature of climate science and the climate system, but despite this there is strong scientific consensus on the general trends and drivers of recent climate change. The most probable future scenarios are cause for concern."

I can't argue with that. Eerie how that echoes Cameron's comments though...perhaps we should get on and focus on what we're going to do about it.

BTW, Andrew; no one's arguing the frequency question here - it's intensity.

You might want to re-read your own link where in point 10, the Philippines National Statistical Co-Ordination Board notes;

Menacingly, the typhoons are getting stronger and stronger, especially since the 90s. From 1947 to 1960, the strongest typhoon to hit us was Amy in December 1951 with a highest wind speed recorded at 240 kph in Cebu. From 1961 to 1980, Sening (Joan) was the record holder with a highest wind speed of 275  kph recorded in Virac in October 1970. During the next twenty years, the highest wind speed was recorded by Anding (Irma) and Rosing (Angela) at 260 kph in Daet (November 1981) and in Virac (Oct-Nov 1995), respectively. In the current millennium, the highest wind speed has soared to 320 kph recorded by Reming (Durian) in Nov-Dec. 2006 in Virac (Table 7 and Figure 6). In fact, typhoon signal no. 4 is a fairly recent category!  If this is due to climate change, we better be prepared for even stronger ones in the future!

Enough said.

by Tim Watkin on November 18, 2013
Tim Watkin

Thanks Phil, points all well made. I was going to reply much the same to Chris.

Andrew, agree that addressing those other points would also be good for the Philippines. But why choose? If one child might starve and another might drown, do you only try to save the one?

Rab, I'm not sure where you're getting your info from to support your claim that other more powerful storms have hit land in the past. The handfall of media reports I've read and seen on this in recent days have all been consistent in calling it the strongest to hit land... including the Guardian report I linked to in an earlier comment.

by Andrew Osborn on November 18, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Tim: - the handful of media reports you've read are likely 'it leads if it bleeds' media stories. As I have mentioned before, the media are largely worthless if you want to gather any hard facts.

My references for this are more academic in nature. Read this: http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/2012.04.pdf

which records the landfall of typhoons in the  region  (and shows a downward trend if you put the data into a spreadsheet)

and this:  http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00053.1

where they talk of an "inactive period" in recent years. The climate in the region is highly unstable and likely always has been. One data point proves nothing either way.

Barry: The references you refer to are all extrapolations based on computer climate models. Models which so far have all been hoplessly flawed and have consistently over-reached, requiring adjustment downward when the predicted horror stories did not in fact occur. Non-predictive science is not good science. The facts I am presenting are what IS - not what MIGHT be. Although I wouldn't even dare to guess about the future, THIS storm was nothing exceptional and did not fall outside the current patterns. Note also that we have a very short data series for this region - nobody was measuring storm velocity via satellite 100 or even 50 years ago over the Pacific, so we don't know if variations are a genuine trend or part of a longer term oscillation. Certainly geological evidence around Cairns indicates that it has seen monster storms in the past which would wipe today's town off the map. It seems Nature has some surprises for us!

If I was a Phillipino I would be looking for education and good governance to minimise the effects of the next 'big one' rather than hand-wringing from Western environmentalists.

by Ross on November 18, 2013

Devastating typhoons have been hitting the Philippines for well over 100 years. Seems a little silly to start talking about climate change now. Put another way,what caused the devastating typhoon of 1897?



by Andrew Osborn on November 18, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Ross: Good point. The difference today is that a) More people are in the way b) We have instrumentation to measure it c) More media to spin the story!


by Andin on November 18, 2013

Aha mention climate and the deniers flock.

" hand-wringing from Western environmentalists." 

So thats what scientists call themselves these days. Well I never!

"what caused the devastating typhoon of 1897?"

Same thing that caused Haiyan!

 How dumb are you?

by Phil on November 18, 2013

Hi Ross / Andrew.

I think you'll find that the 'they happened in 1897' logic somewhat flawed.

We can agree for example, that fire has been a naturally occuring phenomena from prehistoric times on. If I came across such a natural fire and poured petrol on it, we could also agree that it would be illogical for me to then argue that I had no hand in the ensuing conflagration. After all I didn't start it, and fires have always happened right?

Given what Gluckman, the IPCC et al. are indicating through their current understanding of the science, you'd have to think we are the ones metaphorically holding the jerry can.

I note Andrew, that you have remained studiously focused on the frequency rather than intensity question. This is perplexing as you did indeed bring some historical data to the debate, rather than future extrapolation, in the form of the Philippino's Stats Link.

From that data, the intensity trend seems reasonably clear. Sening led the record in 1970 at 275 kph and then subsequenty Reming hit 320 kph in 2006. Haiyan was apparently a little shy of that at 315 kph.

Whilst it is true that satellite measurement was not employed until relatively recently, as an outpost of the US I suspect that they had reasonably accurate anemometers on the ground from at least the '50's onwards that provided that data (useless fact of the day; they were invented around 1450 apparently). 

This trend in the Philippino's records is exactly in line with the latest IPCC advice which notes the lack of frequency change, but indicates increased intensity. Who knows, they may have considered that Pielke paper you profered as evidence for this as it aligns with that thinking too.

Anyway, I sense that this thread is running its course with comments starting to move to the personal rather than the factual, so I'll be moving on.

Thanks for the exchange of views.





by Ross on November 18, 2013

"what caused the devastating typhoon of 1897?"

Same thing that caused Haiyan!

How dumb are you?

Oh I thought the politically correct answer was climate change.

by Ross on November 18, 2013

 If I came across such a natural fire and poured petrol on it, we could also agree that it would be illogical for me to then argue that I had no hand in the ensuing conflagration.

If I follow your line of reasoning, you're suggesting that typhoons are a natural phenomenon and would continue long after climate change has been eradicated.

by Chris Morris on November 18, 2013
Chris Morris

Phil (and Tim)

Please actually read what the IPCC said, before you use them to back up your point of view. In the SPM, look at Table SPM.1 and the third bullet point on P21. Then go back to the technical summary from which the SPM was supposed to have been distilled. And Sir Peter made no mention of fewer but stronger hurricanes/typhoons which is what Barry's article was about.

Surely Phil's Google search could have come up with a lot better information than a 5 year old blog post by the Secretary General of the information Board, who was a university lecturer in  statistics before going into management. Why not try the relevant organisation PAGASA that knows facts, not opinions? Even their data only goes back to 1948. As well as others listed in previous comments, how big was the 1853 or 1911 typhoons?

As I an others have pointed out, both Maue and Pielke have actually done the reasearch with real data on both the energy and destructiveness of the typhoons. They have found no trend.   

It was a disaster for the Philippines yes, and unfortunately, it is something that they are very susceptible to.  But it isn't a posterboy for AGW. Remember Katrina in 2005 and how that was the harbinger of things to come? How many have hit the US since then?

by Andrew Osborn on November 18, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Chris makes a good point: I didn't post any historic data on typhoon intensity...because I couldn't find any.

The reason is that we didn't even attempt to measure wind speeds in typoons before the 1960's. Today we use satelite imagery to estimate wind speeds. 

This is the disingenuous aspect of the media that most annoys me. Banner headlines claiming some sort of record when we have little to compare it with. (Next question: Was there a hole in the ozone before we started measuring it in the 1980's?  ;-) )

by Ross on November 18, 2013

Andrew, agree that addressing those other points would also be good for the Philippines. But why choose? If one child might starve and another might drown, do you only try to save the one?

Well, you might be unable to do both. People talk about reducing the effects of climate change as if it's a piece of cake and involves no costs. In fact, the costs are likely to be huge. So, if we're spending on alleviating climate change (with no guarantee of success), we're not spending elsewhere.

Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and expensive actions now being considered to stop global warming will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, are often based on emotional rather than strictly scientific assumptions, and may very well have little impact on the world's temperature for hundreds of years. Rather than starting with the most radical procedures, Lomborg argues that we should first focus our resources on more immediate concerns, such as fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS and assuring and maintaining a safe, fresh water supply-which can be addressed at a fraction of the cost and save millions of lives within our lifetime. He asks why the debate over climate change has stifled rational dialogue and killed meaningful dissent.

by Ross on November 18, 2013

Consider the European Union’s 20-20  policy, which targets a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions below 1990  levels by 2020. It is important to examine this approach, not only because the  EU is pursuing the world’s largest and most ambitious climate policy, but also  because other climate policies suffer from similar shortcomings.

The most cost-efficient way to achieve the 20% target would  be to operate a single, EU-wide carbon-market, which would cost the EU about $96  billion annually by 2020. But the benefits to the entire world would be much  lower. Indeed, the only peer-reviewed  overview of EU climate policy estimates that it can avoid climate-related  damage of about $10 billion per year. So, for every dollar spent, the EU stands  to avoid about ten cents of damage.

This does not mean that climate change is not important; it  means only that the EU’s climate policy is not smart. Over the course of this  century, the ideal EU policy would cost more than $7 trillion, yet it would  reduce the temperature rise by just 0.05oC and lower sea levels by a  trivial nine millimeters. After spending all that money, we would not even be  able to tell the difference.

Advocates of the EU’s policy often argue that we should  pursue such policies nonetheless, because there is a risk that global warming  will be much more severe than currently expected. But, though this argument is  valid in principle, economic models show that this risk has only a moderate  effect on the best policy. Moreover, the absence of any temperature rise over  the past 10-17 years has made such worse-than-expected outcomes extremely  unlikely.


by Tim Watkin on November 18, 2013
Tim Watkin

Andrew, your attempt to be "more academic" suggested you were actually interested in science... until you told Ross he had a "good point" re a typhoon in 1897. Good grief.

Phil's said it all as well as I could (if not better), so like him I'll bow out now because you guys are clearly very amateur scientists but well-trained deniers skimming real science to try to find holes in it. You just sound like Sunday afternoon touch players running round trying to point out how the All Blacks aren't as good as they think they are.

So unless you're one of the 4% of climate scientists who disagree with the consensus, adieu.

by Andin on November 19, 2013

"Oh I thought the politically correct answer..."

there you go.. really put your foot in it now!

Or should I say your agenda is showing. And its not a frilly petticoat.

by Chris Morris on November 19, 2013
Chris Morris


Your response is reminiscent of the little boy taking his ball home because things don't go his way. And signing off with an ad hom shows you are conceding intellectual defeat.

Going back to Barry's original post and paraphrasing what was said, The typhoon was the most powerful one since records started, it was caused by the oceans being warmer than usual caused by climate change, and the IPCC says we are going to get more of them. There were other points but I think that is a fair enough summary. No doubt Barry will correct me if I am wrong

Looking at just the three points raised above:

PAGASA have provisionally identified Haiyan as the 7th most powerful hurricane to hit the Phillipines since 1950. The IPCC in AR5 also say "There is "low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) changes in tropical cyclone characteristics are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities."  as one of their key uncertainties so the big cyclones before 1950 need to be taken  into account. The IPCC define "low confidence" as about a 2 out of 10 chance.

NOAA showed the Phillipines Area of Responsibility where Haiyan  came from was cooler than average. KNMI shows there has been no warming since 1994.

The IPCC  specifically noted that the frequency of destructive tornadoes in the NorthWest Pacific isn't predicted to change. Though there appears to have been few models, they show the frequency of Category 4 & 5 hurricanes might increase 5% over the next hundred years, subject to the proviso documented above and this one: There is low confidence in projections of many aspects of climate phenomena that influence regional climate change, including changes in amplitude and spatial pattern of modes of climate variability.

Against this, all that has been offered is Wikipedia, politicans' statements and newspaper articles. A real solid weight of evidence. And by the way, Tim, if you are going to use the discredited Doran meme, you could at least get it right. It was 97% of climate scientists (75 out of 77 people surveyed).


by Barry Coates on November 19, 2013
Barry Coates

The point of quoting David Cameron was not because he is a credible climate scientist - he isn't and I defer to the IPCC and the 97% for good science. The quote was about what to do in the absence of certainty. Even a modest probability of a fire in your home would have each of us scrambling for preventative measures to protect our family members. But somehow that precautionary approach isn't applied to climate change, possibly because the people who are most at risk are poor, vulnerable and most of them don't live in our society.

The arguments from those who may not agree with climate change (a dwindling number) does not alter the credibility of the analysis of the IPCC and peer reviewed science (as well as the position of every major national science academy). It is 'extremely likely' that human indiuced climate change is increasing average global temperatures and increasing the incidence of extreme weather events (although I accept that the lack of data means that there is less certainty that the intensity of cyclones has increased to date).  

So what would those who are sceptical do if they accept that there is an inherent lack of certainty in their scepticism? The right approach should surely be to consider the value of taking precautionary action by reducing emissions. Otherwise they would knowingly contribute to the risk of inflicting suffering and unnecessarily loss of life on others.

There is little robust information on the costs of reducing this risk by mitigating our emissions, compared to the cost of inaction on climate change, but the analysis undertaken by Lord Stern is one reference point, suggesting that the costs of inaction are higher than the costs of taking action, especially if we take action early. Putting a price on carbon to internalise the costs of the externalities is an approach that sits firmly in the mainstream of economics, and would increase overall welfare. That would be a good start to provide more accurate price signals.

This need not mean that we would not also fund investments in areas such as clean water, immunisation, education for girls, support for small scale farmers. These have been shown to generate a high social return and we should invest more.

by Mike Osborne on November 20, 2013
Mike Osborne

Firstly, I want to commend Barry (and Russel Norman) for having put climate change out there in the public eye and for debate. By debate, I don't mean sniping about "the science" as that just plays into the deniers favourite attack dog of "the science isn't settled"; the underlying science is settled, has been for a long time.

The debate needs to move forward to how are we, as a population (nationally and internationally) to meaningfully address the threats. One of the obvious difficulties is that both inaction and action will have negative consquences for some people.

Naomi Klein, I think, gets straight to the nub of it (Naomi Klein: Why Climate Change Is So Threatening to Right-Wing Ideologues) as she outlines that to effectively address climate change requires dismantling a number of pillars of neoliberalism and right-wing ideologies. As she also points out, we in a relatively insulated developed country look at climate change as an issue that will affect our grandchildren. However, in poorer countries climate change is impacting people now (as I'm sure Barry is well aware); I'll ignore October bush fires in the Blue Mountains, the Danube record flooding, heatwave deaths in the UK, or indeed New Zealand extreme weather events as, of course, these are all statistically insignificant and in no way linkable to climate change.

Climate change is an urgent problem of unreasonable proportions; it isn't going to be effectively addressed by reasonable solutions. It's going to require some fairly hefty political shifts and that needs meaningful debate beyond denial (god only knows where we'll find the time for anger, bargaining and depression), now.


by Rab McDowell on November 20, 2013
Rab McDowell

The best thing New Zealand could do to alleviate the weather risk to Philippinos is to cut its CO2 production. It’s the most pressing response to a looming environmental catastrophe. But is it really?
Given that China and India, in a quest for plentiful energy without which they cannot increase their prosperity, are building coal fired power stations as fast as they can. Even Germany is building coal fired power stations because other options are not politically acceptable.
Suggesting that we must help Philippinos by cutting NZCO2 will do nothing more than provide those who propose it with a warm sanctimonious buzz.
Let’s say we could convince the world that CO2 needs to drop and that we should not just reduce current emissions but must actually reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere by 20 % from 400 ppm to 320ppm. It would take a massive drop in current emission levels to actually reduce atmospheric CO2 levels rather than just hold them. The cost would be horrendous. It would drive the world richest economies into deep depression and condemn the rest to permanent poverty. The cost would fall disproportionally on the already poor.
Would 320 ppm help the Phillipinos?
That was the level back in 1970. In 1970 the Philippines got hit by five typhoons including two super typhoons in one week that killed 1400. In 1970 Bangladesh was hit by a typhoon that killed half a million people.
So, even going down to 320 will not provide relief.
Search for NOAA “worst natural disasters by death toll” and note that the worst storm death tolls happen in poor countries or in countries that were not yet rich.
The only solution worth trying is to increase the prosperity and wealth of countries like the Philippines so that they can mitigate the risks by building stronger houses and sea walls.
That won’t happen without increased energy consumption.
That means higher CO2 levels.
It may seem counter intuitive but the best hope for Philippinos involves higher, not lower, emissions

by william blake on November 21, 2013
william blake

"It may seem counter intuitive but the best hope for Philippinos involves higher, not lower, emissions"

According to Robert Simpson, there are no reasons for a Category 6 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale because it is designed to measure the potential damage of a hurricane to manmade structures. Stating that "...when you get up into winds in excess of 155 mph (249 km/h) you have enough damage if that extreme wind sustains itself for as much as six seconds on a building it's going to cause rupturing damages that are serious no matter how well it's engineered"


by Ross on November 21, 2013

Andrew, your attempt to be "more academic" suggested you were actually interested in science... until you told Ross he had a "good point" re a typhoon in 1897. Good grief.

 Not sure what you're getting at Tim. Criticise me by all means but I see you've made no criticisms of Lomborg's comments. Is it safe to assume you agree with them?

by Andrew Osborn on November 21, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Tim: "So unless you're one of the 4% of climate scientists who disagree with the consensus, adieu."

I got my BSc a few decades ago. When did you get yours? ;-)

And before you say mine doesn't count because it's not in climatology, explain to me why the head of the IPCC is a mechanical engineer withwhose previous expertise was in railway maintenance in India?

Mike: The science is far from settled. Get back to me when a climate model accurately predicts climate and I'' buy you a beer.

by william blake on November 22, 2013
william blake

"The science is far from settled. Get back to me when a climate model accurately predicts climate and I'' buy you a beer."

Isn't the science about looking at measured and documented climate history and finding  trends and then theorising possible future outcomes? 

It is very hard to predict the weather but not so hard to predict the climate. ie Aucckland has a sub-tropical climate; or is that fact not settled enough for you Andrew?

by Andrew Osborn on November 23, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Wiliam: "Isn't the science about looking at measured and documented climate history and finding  trends and then theorising possible future outcomes? "

Not quite. That would be just extrapolation.

What the modellers are trying to do is build a physics model of the earth and then run the model to see where it goes. WAY harder to do! The basic problem is that a simple 'no feedback' model based on increasing CO2 levels will give a small temperature increase and then stabilise. This is because CO2 only absorbs a small part of the Suns spectrum and there is already enough CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb most of it. So the modellers attempt to make it more accurate by adding various feedbacks (eg polar cap melts and the albedo of the earth increases causing runaway warming). The problem then is that they finish up cherry picking feedback loops to try and make their model match actual climate records. One can theorise about hundreds or thousands of possible feedback loops each of which could be positive (runaway) or negative (self stabilising). The Earth is a large and vastly complex system so it's not surprising that so far the modellers have been unable to make their models predictive. So far the most accurate model was the 'no feedback' option: slight warming and then a new plateau of stability.

by william blake on November 23, 2013
william blake

It’s a bit like the God debate; atheism is just as much an improvable position of belief as having faith in a deity. You are in the tent of climate change unbelievers, I am in the other tent of belief and I suspect the change is man made.

 This belief coincides with a mistrust of economic theories that are premised on unending growth and have their foundations in a carbon based economy.

 My extrapolation takes in the soft sciences of sociology, economics even psychology. It seems a part of the answer to our troubled world is a less exploitative and more a redistributive approach.

 Your belief of not enough scientific evidence of climate change, even when there is plenty, seems to be one of stasis, a  conservative acceptance of the status quo and it has been said, “the status quo cannot be vetoe it must be overturned."





by Andrew Osborn on November 23, 2013
Andrew Osborn

Nope, you're artificially trying to polarise our positions. My view is that the AGW is, as yet, unproven. It's that simple. 

It goes almost without saying that there is 'climate change'. It is an inherently unstable system. We have data showing both warmer and cooler periods in Earth's past. We have Vikings living a pastoral life for a couple of hundreds of years in Greenland before the ice came back. What caused that? Climate instability. We have the Maunder Minimum. Cause? Likely low sun spot activity. Going futher back we have history of about 40 million years of cycling between Ice Age and warmer periods like we have now. Cause? I don't know...other than none were due to our fossil fuel use. 

So we don't even have decent correlation let alone proof of causation.

As regards scientific proof, this is not an exercise in democracy. I don't really care what % of cliimate scientists are prepared to stand against the prevailing AGW wind. All that matter is evidence which so far is pretty thin. We have the failed Mann 'hockey stick' which previously was on the masthead of IPCC. We have the East Anglia emails scandal showing the nasty political undercurrent in this business. We have Himalayan glaciers that were supposed to have melted but didn't (hasty retraction!). We have climate models that are non-predictive.

I'm not holding my breath

by william blake on November 25, 2013
william blake

"you're artificially trying to polarise our positions"

Yes I think I am.

Fence sitting was probably a good option back in the 1950's when the odd article suggesting anthropogenic climate change was afoot (Time, Nat Geo etc.) but prety left field and running against the prevailing technocratic culture.

'Keeping an open mind' and dismissing the correlations IS a polarised position. It allies with the big carbon emitters. (China, India, etc. we seemingly have outsourced the problem and have complicated it wildly)


by Andrew Osborn on November 26, 2013
Andrew Osborn

What's the quote? If you can remember the 60's you weren't there. ;-)

Actually in the 60's & 70's experts were warning us of impending doom through global cooling:



If I recall, the start of AGW was with Mrs. Thatcher in the 80's. She is said to have latched on to it as a way to push investment in nuclear power, whilst her real agenda was to provide an alternative to coal in the face of strike action by unionised coal miners.

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.