Arctic Ice

The arctic ice sheet continues to NOT shrink! For the last eleven years arctic ice sheet extent has been stable.

On September 13th the extent of the arctic ice sheet reached its annual minimum at 4.64 m Km2. This is the eight (8th) lowest on record and 1.25m Km2 (37%)above the all time low of 3.39m Km2 recorded in 2012.

Here is a graph of arctic sea ice extent over the last eleven years. The higher three years are 2009, 2013 and 2014.

The lowest horizontal line is 3m Km2, rising in increments of 0.5m Km2. The 2017 line is the blue line (or green depending on your eyes / screen) that finishes in mid-September.

For the last eleven years the arctic ice sheet has been stable at 4½m Km2. For the last nineteen years global temperatures have been stable. It seems that it took some eight years for the arctic ice sheet to catch up with the 0.4oC rise in temperature that occurred between the late 1970’s and 1998.

Figures for annual minima are:

 Year  m Km2
2007 4.16
2008 4.59
2009 5.12
2010 4.61
2011 4.34
2012 3.39
2013 5.05
2014 5.03
2015 4.43
2016 4.14
2017 4.64

There is no trend here. You can inspect my graph here.

Early Voting

In New Zealand we have a system of Advance Voting. A voter can cast their vote up to two weeks in advance of election day. Election day this time is Saturday 23rd September and advance voting began last Monday 11th September.

NZ Labour has come under sustained pressure on tax. Labour is committed to setting up an “independent” review body to review capital gains taxes, retaining the right to implement the findings of this body before the next general election. This is a big deal. For instance though tax on the family home, and the land it sits on, has been ruled out, it is not clear what the “family home” consists of. For instance; for a farmer does it include the entire farm? What happens where you run a business from your home? Will you be able to sell your parents family home without paying tax on that when they pass away?

And yesterday Labour changed its policy! Now any outcome of the review body would only be implemented after the next election.

So those who voted on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning voted on one set of Labour tax policies. Those who vote after this are voting on a [significantly] different set of Labour tax policies. And all parties continue to throw out lollies to a range of voters on a daily basis.

Would it be so tough to require parties in NZ elections to publish a manifesto before advance voting starts?

Election Manifestos

I ended my last blog looking forward to the manifestos from the parties contesting the NZ general election. Apparently I will be waiting a long time! The parties in New Zealand have not in the past, and will not this time, be issuing manifestos!

The Green party and New Zealand First have pages on their websites that look like manifestos; without any commitment not to change them, or even a date on which these were their policies.

The Labour party web page contains this caveat “More policy to be announced as we get closer to the election.” The National party web page contains this caveat “This page will be updated throughout the campaign as we announce new policies.”

This leaves voters having to work out for themselves what each party’s policies actually are; from their speeches, websites, blogs, interviews, tweets, and any other social media.

Does it matter, given that the UK elector who reads even one manifesto is a very rare creature indeed? I think it does in the UK. In the UK (First Past the Post), electors can refer back to the manifesto and a government which was elected with a majority can be held to that. In New Zealand (MMP), a one party majority is almost inconceivable, and each governments policies are the result of negotiation after the election results are in.

This NZ election campaign has become a giant “lolly scramble”, as no politician expects to be held to account for all the promises they make. Maybe we all head down the rabbit hole during any election campaign?


Tertiary Education

At last – some coverage of the New Zealand general election campaign in the UK media! The Guardian highlights the NZ Labour Party’s promise to provide three years free tertiary (university) education from 2024. It would come in stages – one year free from 2018, and two years free from 2021. Student allowances would also rise next year, from $170/week to £220/week.

All very reminiscent of the UK Labour Party at the last UK general election. Indeed the whole drive by NZ Labour to capture the [disenchanted] youth vote, is very reminiscent of the UK Labour.

However, the commentary here is every bit as bad at giving the promises made by the various parties some sense of scale. The free tertiary education promise will cost around NZ$1.2bn per year, when fully implemented. That is a very, very big deal in a country when the governments entire annual expenditure is NZ$75bn. This NZ Labour Party promise is similar in size to the National Party’s income tax promise, to happen next April if National are returned to government, which is expected to cost around NZ$1bn per year.

This all puts a very different gloss on NZ Labour’s plan to charge tourists NZ$25 each, raising about NZ$100m pa.

The same problem arises when both NZ Labour and National offer to build / refurbish Dunedin’s hospital for around NZ$1.5bn, but cannot find the NZ$123m required to complete the funding of the Christchurch Arena rebuild. Populations are:- Dunedin, 120,000 – Christchurch – 390,000. Compared to Bristol, UK with a population of 620,000.

This election campaign started with a focus on the poor in New Zealand, especially child poverty. With government schemes to build social and affordable housing set to consume substantial funds whichever party is in government, it seems that poverty may have to be challenged without being a direct spending priority. Let’s see what finally emerges in the party manifestos!



Pre-Election Fiscal Update

This week the General Election campaign in New Zealand witnessed an eminently sensible ritual, that is completely absent from the UK. The government gave the Pre-Election Fiscal Update (Prefu) as it is required to do by law. This allows all parties to base their spending on the same fiscal outlook, which significantly restricts their ability to rely on their very own growth fairy.

Why would we not have this as a standard feature of a UK general election campaign? What’s not to like?

Incidentally, this gave a [nominal] GDP growth rate of 3.0% over the next four years, with inflation (CPI) currently at 1.7%. You have to go back to 2003 for the last time the UK had a [nominal] GDP growth rate over 3.0% (actually 3.5%), with UK inflation (CPI) at 1.4% that year.

This New Zealand election is being run against a backdrop of government surpluses. New Zealand national debt has risen since the 2008 GFC, when it stood at 5%, but it still stands at just 24% of GDP. And, New Zealand had to fund the aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake during this period. New Zealand is not relying on the next generation to bail the country out.

Modified Temperature Data?

I keep an eye on the Lower Troposphere data release month by month by the website. I missed the June release and have just looked at the June and July figures. I noticed that the figures for Jan, Feb, Mar, Apl and May have all been significantly increased since they were released, by 0.18 degC on average, without any explanation.

Dr Christopher Essex  has shown conclusively that the “scientists” have been fiddling with the surface measurement data so comprehensively that it can no longer be of any use to anyone. Have they started doing the same thing to the satellite data?

Americas Cup Coverage

Emirates New Zealand won the Americas Cup, beating Oracle USA by 6-1 in the final in Bermuda’s Great Sound. Redemption after losing the final 8-9 four years ago, having lead 8-1. A great story. And one that is fully reported in New Zealand. Not surprisingly.

However, when I open the sports section my hard copy Daily Telegraph this morning? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And BAR UK was one of the teams competing in this competition. BAR UK lost to Emirates NZ in the quarter finals.

To be fair, the BBC do report the Americas cup result; just below “Shrewsbury Town are first club to apply for safe standing” and above ” Roy of the Rovers cartoonist who made putting an art form”.

Are we really such bad losers in the UK? Or so parochial? Maybe, at a time when the MSM are full of what may go wrong in Brexit negotiations, they have also lost the plot on other international events as well?

UK Electorate Wins Again

The UK electorate has an impressive way of getting what it wants, whatever the newspapers and pollsters may encourage them to believe.

When Margaret Thatcher came to power, can anyone doubt that the UK electorate had had enough of Union Power. They elected a government that would fix that.

When Tony Blair came to power, who can doubt that the UK electorate had had enough of state services being run down – especially schools and hospitals. So the elected a government that would spend on public services.

When David Cameron came to power at the head of a coalition with the Lib Dems, who can doubt that the UK electorate wanted some fiscal sanity to be restored, without the unbridled free markets that the Conservatives offered. So they elected a government of Conservative fiscal rectitude with a Lib Dem restraining hand.

When David Cameron was elected with an absolute majority, who can doubt that the UK electorate wanted the EU referendum, to cure this chronic ailment in British politics. So, in 2015 they elected the only party offering that referendum. In 2010 the Lib Dems were the only party offering an EU referendum, but by 2015 they had lost their way in a blaze of red boxes and ministerial limousines.

And last week? Who can doubt that the UK electorate has had enough of the kind of austerity where the rich get ever richer whilst the rest get poorer. Jeremy Corbyn offered hope of a fairer society. But the UK electorate had no appetite for 1970’s style socialism. So they elected a minority Conservative government that will maintain some fiscal sense, constrained to do so in a fairer way.

And what of Brexit, in what was initially dubbed as the “Brexit Election”? The UK electorate knew better. In 2015, of the 650 MP’s elected, nine (9) were for Brexit (DUP [8] and UKIP [1]) and 641 were for Remain. In 2017, 591 are for Brexit and just 59 are for Remain (SNP [35], Lib Dem [12], Sin Fein [7], Plaid Cymru [4] and Green [1]). As soon as the election was called the UK electorate knew it would return a parliament overwhelmingly in favour of implementing Brexit. So they were free to vote on other matters.

Would any of this have been different under some form of proportional representation? Given the impressive ability of the UK electorate to get its way under First Past The Post, it has to be likely that they would work out how to get their way under any other system. The wisdom of crowds is a wonderful thing.

Saving Species

I was heartened to read an article The Independent that was reporting on an article in Nature. The apocalyptic headline “Humans are ushering in the sixth mass extinction of life on earth” was followed by the warning that “tens of thousands of species are now threatened with extinction. The number may or may not be accurate – have they counted them? – but most would agree that there is a major problem. Over-fishing, poaching, pollution and loss of habitat will result in the irreversible loss of species on a large scale.

Nothing very heartening in any of that, but the article goes on say that it “it was not inevitable that this process would continue”. The abstract from the original Nature article says; “Proactive international efforts to increase crop yields, minimize land clearing and habitat fragmentation, and protect natural lands could increase food security in developing nations and preserve much of Earth’s remaining biodiversity”.

All of this without the usual, lazy references to “Global Warming”. Whether the US administration dumps the Paris Accord or not makes next to no difference to the future of biodiversity. The Paris Acccord is about CO2 emissions. For all the virtue signalling that goes on in connection with CO2, there is no evidence that it raises temperatures in the real world (no temperature rise in the last 20 years), and it may even be beneficial (global greening).

I have blogged about this before and the whole CO2 footprint debate is a wretched distraction from the real issues so neatly summarised on the Nature abstract. If scientists and media are now turning away from flogging the CO2 horse, then that should hearten all of us.

EU Subsidiarity

I came across this gem today. I had always thought that subsidiarity meant that if something could be done better at the national or regional level, rather than at the EU level, then it would be done at national or regional level. No. Apparently that was me being credulous!

Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union says this: “Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.”

So, if something falls within the competence of the EU, such as health and safety legislation, then any action must happen at the EU level. On the other hand, if something does not fall within the competence of the EU, such as defence, then the EU may act if it decides that the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by member states.

The wording is carefully asymmetric, in favour of action at the EU level. The UK is so much better off out!