Global Temperatures – A Curiosity

2016 was the warmest year since reliable records began in 1979. It exceeded the previous hottest year, 1998, by 0.02°C. The surface of the earth (the lower troposphere to be precise) has been warming by 0.001°C per year over the last 19 years. There was a significant El Nino associated spike in temperature early in 2016. December 2016 was the coldest month since September 2014.

What is curious is the coverage. Here in New Zealand there has been coverage on national television and in the press. We turn to NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research) as our primary source for data relating to New Zealand. They inform us that 2016 was 0.8°C above the 1981-2010 annual average. This is a big number. Sadly, they use a “seven-station series”. These are ground stations, and given the liberties that have been taken with the ground station series for the world as a whole, it is difficult to be confident that this figure is all it seems. Satellite data for New Zealand is available and NIWA could, and should, be using that.

For interest the satellite data for the world shows that the world was 0.5°C hotter in 2016 than the 1981-2010 average. And, remember that 1981-2010 is a very odd reference period. It includes a period, 1981-1998, when the world was warming; and a period, 1998-2010 when the world was not warming (actually cooling very slightly).

And in the UK . . .  Well not a lot. A search of the Guardian and Independent websites brings up nothing. Do they feel that the current cold conditions in Europe make this a bad time to run their usual global warming narrative? Are they disappointed that the rise is so close to zero as make no difference? Are they worried that 2017 seems destined to be cooler than 2016?

This last possibility deserves a little clarification. How can I be so certain on Jan 10th 2017 that 2017 will be cooler than 2016? Well, 2016 was a exceptional year, as was 1998. No other years come close. And 2017 is starting cold. So 2017 would have to change from being cool by recent standards to being exceptionally hot by recent standards, for it to compare with 1998 and 2016.

Whilst the Global Warming crowd work out how to play this, the rest of us may remain sceptical.

UN Resolution 2334

There has been plenty of coverage of the vote in the UN Security Council condemning Israel for its settlements in the occupied territories, in the UK media. It even commanded editorial comment, such as this from Simon Tisdall in the Guardian. However, as far as I can find it, nothing in the New Zealand press. Not a Dickie bird! Which is especially odd given that New Zealand was one of the non-permanent members, final month of the two year membership, that voted for the resolution; and was one of the two countries singled out by Israel to have their ambassador withdrawn.

For those of you who feel that the press reporting has overstated the severity of the wording in this resolution, please do have a look for yourself here. In this case the journalists are doing no more than reporting the facts.

Hopefully, the lack of reporting in NZ shows that New Zealanders are less concerned with geopolitics and more concerned with getting on with their lives. I think Queen Elizabeth II would approve.

Liberal Values

In the England that I grew up in it has always been assumed that being “liberal” was a good thing. All right-thinking, educated people would have a “liberal” outlook on the world. In the UK, as in New Zealand, national politics has offered a choice of two parties offering remarkably similar “liberal” policies; centre-right (Conservative and National parties respectively), and centre-left (Labour and Labour parties respectively).

However, that “liberal” consensus has vanished, and those with a “liberal” outlook don’t seem to have noticed. They have forgotten that truth comes in many shades of grey. The rail against a “post-truth” culture because they no longer hold a monopoly on deciding what is true.

Sweden’s Minister for Culture and Democracy writes to Facebook calling on them to censor fake news voluntarily or the government will compel them to do so. Mark Thompson writes in the Guardian that we are “in a battle . . . between facts and lies.” And he singles out the New York Times, where he is CEO, and the Guardian as the kinds of news sources that “believe in the opposite of fake news”. He even has the temerity to state that in order to be properly informed peole should pay to hear his views.

But he is precisely the kind of “liberal” that believes the world is warming AS A FACT and that the £350m per week claim by leavers in the Brexit campaign was flat out wrong AS A FACT. In both cases there is more than reasonable grounds to take the opposite view from his own.

As I wrote on 15th Nov the satellite data shows no meaningful warming since 1998. And the fiscal pick up from Brexit is certain to be greater than £350, if only because outside the EU we will be able to require multi-national to pay corporation tax on their UK activities in the UK; regardless of the view you may take on the safety of our current rebate had we remained.

At one point Mark Thompson did acknowledge the old advice that you should “expose yourself to multiple sources of news”. Just now it seems that it is only the British media who do not trust people, especially electors, to do that. I have seen no such comparable tendency to censorship or paying for news and opinion here in New Zealand.


Prime Minister Resigns

John Key that is. He was actually in power, whereas Matteo Renzi was merely in office.

There is a slight difference in the coverage between New Zealand and the United Kingdom press.

In the UK, the BBC goes with “Mr Key, a popular leader, said it was a personal decision, and later denied media reports his wife of 32 years, Bronagh, had given him an ultimatum.” Never too highbrow to resist a bit of mindless and baseless tittle-tattle when its there for the taking! But it goes on that Mr Key “was formerly at Merrill Lynch as a foreign exchange dealer” and was “known by the local media as “Teflon John” because very little controversy has stuck to him during his time in office.”

Maybe the UK press is getting used to the idea that rule by bankers and other establishment figures has a limited life expectancy, and are suspicious that he is going now before things get tricky.

There is some scepticism in New Zealand; Jennifer Lees-Marshment, an associate professor in politics and international relations at Auckland University, said in The Guardian: “The Key brand has become disconnected and he has increasingly appeared to be someone who doesn’t understand what it is like to be an ordinary New Zealander any more.” This is not a view your hear in New Zealand today.

Liam Hehir, a conservative commentator in New Zealand writing for Stuff, states that; “I believed then (as I do now) that in this doggedly centrist country, Key is about as good a prime minister as any conservative New Zealander can reasonably hope for.”

Even the leader of the Opposition Andrew Little paid tribute to outgoing Prime Minister John Key, saying he has “served New Zealand well”.

The New Zealand press and politicians seem minded to cut John Key the sort of slack that UK politicians can only dream of. Maybe he really was that good?


Global Temperature Trends

I last wrote on this back on 2nd Jan 2016. Today we have newspaper reports that 2016 is very likely to be hottest year on record. This may indeed be true. However, the reports persist in undermining the case for action on the environment by using discredited information. The terrestrial and oceanic surface measurement data [rightly] requires manual adjustment to avoid the “garbage-in-garbage-out” problem, and once given an inch the analysts doing this manual intervention have taken a mile – the historic record seems to change each time they present another graph. The only reliable global temperature data comes from satellites.

So, when the BBC reports that “October data indicates that 2016 is very much on track to surpass the 2015 level, which in turn broke the previous high mark set in 2014”, we should be sceptical.

If you want to make up your own minds, you can. The NOAA satellite data is available on the REMSS website. They give you the MSU/AMSU data and if you want to appreciate the scientific integrity of this then REMSS are happy to explain. (My data analysis is here). This shows that the 1998 average anomaly was +0.55°C, compared to +0.62°C for the first ten months of 2016. Even if the October reading of +0.35°C is repeated in November and December, 2016 will still average out at +0.58°C. 2016 is the first year to come anywhere near close to 1998.

The claim about 2015 and 2014 being record years is nonsense, based on the discredited terrestrial and oceanic surface data.  Using the satellite data you can see that the anomalies for 2014 and 2015 respectively were +0.27°C and +0.38°C. If you draw a straight linear regression through the data from Jan 1998 to Oct 2016 you find that temperatures are +0.33°C above the period Jan 1979 – Dec 1997, and increasing at +0.05°C per decade. That is not a typo. For the last 19 years global temperatures have been essentially static. The “pause” in Global Warming is a scientific FACT.

All of which means that the fuss over CO2 is an awful distraction from the task of conserving species and genetic diversity through conservation of habitat, very large bits of habitat. So, if and when Donald Trump concludes that the “CO2 emperor” has no clothes, he might just be giving an enormous boost to proper conservation.

Trump and Polling Error

There is little to say on different perceptions in the UK and new Zealand to Donald Trump’s victory. Overwhelmingly there is a consensus, that his was “a primal scream against Washington” (Rupert Cornwell, Independent in the UK). Tracey Watkins, writing for Stuff in New Zealand, concludes that “The forces that propelled Donald Trump into the presidency are the same forces that drove Britain out of the European Union”. That the people of the UK and now the USA wish to take back control of their futures; and, specifically, to have a less divided society, must surely be good.

Some people are concerned that this is a nationalist, right-wing, thing. Looking after the interests of the nation that elected him would be one thing. Bigoted xenophobia would be quite another. Time will tell.

On the polling, the excellent Anthony Wells writes:

“the final polls were clustered around a 4 point lead for Clinton, when in reality it looks about 1 point. More importantly, the state polls were often way out, polls had Ohio as a tight race when Trump stomped it by 8 points. All the polls in Wisconsin had Clinton clearly ahead; Trump won. Polls in Minnesota were showing Clinton leads of 5-10 points, it ended up on a knife edge. ”

There is already a narrative about “shy” Trump supporters appearing in the media. Evidence for this is apocryphal to non-existent. It is too early to know the reasons that the US pollsters got it so wrong, but we do know why the UK pollsters got the last UK general election wrong. The British Polling Council conducted an in depth review, and “shy Tories” was an urban myth not a cause. They concluded that “The main cause of the error was unrepresentative samples”. Anthony Wells’ excellent summary, with a link through to that full report is here.

The US and UK electorates understood that “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten” and voted for something different – anything different. The pollsters techniques were incapable of identifying and correctly analysing that change.

Labour Party considering training levy.

The New Zealand labour party that is. Their finance spokesman, Grant Robertson, said that “Immigration, skilled workers will always be part of the mix but we’ve got to do a better job of training New Zealanders”. I believe this would not affect the arrival of seasonal labour, essentially Pacific Islanders, who come to bring the fruit crop under what is widely regarded as a well targeted and well administered scheme set up specifically for that purpose.

There are the same concerns here in New Zealand, and in Australia, over the levels of low wage immigration, as there are in the UK. And there are some pretty Trump’esque solutions on offer. The opposition coalition in Australia proposed last week “to deny asylum to any asylum seeker who has been judged to have purposely destroyed their identity documents”. Maybe those arriving in Australia are different, but I doubt that that identity documents would be top of my list of concerns if I were fleeing the fighting in Syria.

The scheme being considered by the Labour Party would charge all businesses this levy, unless they were providing approved training to their employees. Which strikes me as just the kind of sensible sounding, do-gooding proposal that we are so familiar with in the UK. And it will come with the support of the same kind of crony corporatist elite that have been making such a mess of running the EU and the UK. Big companies love this kind of stuff, because they know that it will hammer small businesses.

Fortunately, in New Zealand this kind of proposal is very unlikely ever to come into effect. New Zealand recently came top in a Forbes list of the best countries in which to do business. And New Zealand is not going to allow proposals like this to jeopardise that reputation.

Lukewarming – A Consensus on Global Warming?

I have blogged on global warming in Jan 2016 and continue to follow the subject with interest. So I was very interested to hear what Viscount Ridley had top say in his lecture to The Royal Society on 17th October. The full text is here, and I strongly encourage you to real all of it.

The central thesis of his talk is that Global Warming can be real but not dangerous, saying:

Suppose they do indeed experience carbon dioxide levels of 600 parts per million or more, but do not experience dangerous global warming, or more extreme weather, just a mild and decelerating increase in global average temperatures, especially at high latitudes, at night and in winter, accompanied by spectacular global greening and less water stress for both people and crops.

He does not even mention “the pause” in global warming – no increase in global temperatures from 1998 to 2016. Instead he says:

I am not claiming that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas; it is.

I am not saying that its concentration in the atmosphere is not increasing; it is.

I am not saying the main cause of that increase is not the burning of fossil fuels; it is.

I am not saying the climate does not change; it does.

I am not saying that the atmosphere is not warmer today than it was 50 or 100 years ago; it is.

And I am not saying that carbon dioxide emissions are not likely to have caused some (probably more than half) of the warming since 1950.

The implications for energy policy are huge.

Also, I was delighted to find a piece of relevant science that was completely new to me. CO2 is proposed to have a direct effect and an indirect effect in raising global temperatures. Matt Ridley accepts the former and reject the latter. There is supposed to be threefold amplification of carbon dioxide’s warming potential, principally by extra water vapour released into the atmosphere by a warming ocean, and accumulating at high altitudes. However, NASA’s CERES data shows that there is a strong and significant, negative correlation: that higher temperatures lead to more cloud cooling.

There is so much more in this article, and I hope you will take the time to read it.

New Zealand Rugby – Crisis?

The BBC has today posted an article asking if New Zealand Rugby is in crisis? The BBC asserts that “these are dark times for New Zealand’s national sport, that has become mired in scandal”. This will be news to rugby fans in New Zealand, which is to say most of the nation.

The immediate spur for this article is presumably the recent release of video footage showing the starting All Black scrum half, Aaron Smith, entering a toilet cubicle with a woman who was not his partner.

They back this up by citing three other possible indiscretions:

  1. Members of a Super Rugby club, The Chiefs, were accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a club function.
  2. A teenager with the Wellington Lions was accused of assaulting four people.
  3. A former All Black, Dan Carter, is accused of failing a drugs test.

In none of these three cases has anyone been found guilty. The first two are history now, and Dan Carter denies the charge and will defend himself at a forthcoming hearing.

The BBC went on to say that it ” has asked New Zealand Rugby (NZR) how it maintains discipline and ensures that players remain role models”, noting sniffily that “NZR has yet to fully respond to our inquiry”. I very much doubt if NZR have any intention of indulging journalism as desperate as this.

Maybe there will be lots more of this leading up to The British & Irish Lions tour here next year, and through to the next World Cup. Because, just now, there is no sign of anything on the field of play that is going to upset this imperious All Blacks squad.

Or, maybe it was just a [very] slow news day in the UK.


Local Elections – Results

The results of the local elections here in New Zealand are in, and . . . Not much really. I asked a few people at a barbecue last night and they were unanimously uninterested. One thing they did share with me was that directly electing members of the Health Board was a nonsense. Over such a huge area, and with candidates running without party labels, voters have virtually no information to inform their vote.

Scanning the demographics of the mayoral election results did surprise me. Out of 67 Mayors, district council Chief Executives, elected there were:

48 White male.

13 White female.

3 Result not yet in.

3 Other.

Judging from the names and mug shots the three other were, all male, and; 1 Indian, 1 Chinese, 1 Maori.

I’m not sure what to make of that. Maybe the non-white population have more sense than to spend their time in local politics?

Oh, and there is a consensus on the main challenge facing these mayors, which will be familiar to UK electors. It is . . . the availability of affordable housing.