Climate change: Natural cycle or man-made phenomenon?
Kiwis are getting bored with the global warming debate, at least our enthusiasm for leading the world in the fight against it is falling as the predicted doom and gloom doesn't seem to turn up here. An article in the Herald the other day talked about many New Zealanders being "cooler on global warming" . A ShapeNZ survey issued the other day by the Sustainable Business Council shows the number of New Zealanders who want to outpace the rest of the world has fallen by a third since just 2007. We're used to being told to 'prepare for the worst'. Whether it's Y2K, bird fu, SARS, tsunami or even the recession - humans, and some in the media are good at working us up into a right state. I was certain bird flu would get me. The other night I had a couple of friends over for dinner. While cleaning up afterwards one of them opened up a drawer and saw two or three sealed face masks. "What are these?" she asked...big long silence while I try to think of an excuse..."Oh...um...well...it's part of my old bird flu kit". "You had a bird flu kit?" she says in disbelief. I lower my head, followed by the two of them laughing at me to the point of tears. I felt like a complete idiot - to think I'd be wiped out by bird flu. So, are humans idiots for fearing that global warming will one day "get us all"? I get tired of hearing every severe weather event being blamed on global warming. A storm is a storm. They have always been around and they always will be. When you look back at New Zealand's record extremes, most happened last century not in the last 10 years. So if so many scientists around the world are saying this is going to happen - why doesn't it seem to be happening here in New Zealand? While individual storms aren't a creation of global warming, the number of them - and the intensity of them - can be linked. The same can be said for droughts. I'm not debating whether it's manmade or not. I think most people believe mankind has contributed to polluting our earth and every second ad on TV now talks about being "green" and "carbon neutral" and "good for the environment". The public are keen to be clean and green. In the 90s it was cool to buy diet drinks and low fat foods - now it's cool to buy green. We 'get' that it's important to look after the environment. So less New Zealanders rate global warming as important. Why? Well, I think to some degree, we're being lulled into a false sense of security. I'll explain that more in a minute. There's definitely a degree of politics being played out with global warming to - industry in America can shape the future, oil companies have a vested interest and people being elected into government roles can hype things up for political advantage. So yes, definitely a risk of "Y2K" fear-mongering to some degree, maybe to a high degree? Global warming is a bit like getting in a bath. Once in you can gradually add more hot water without really noticing it. It's the same with the planet. We can add a degree or two and really we're not going to notice it straight away. Someone who knows a great deal in this field said something interesting to me the other day. He mentioned that New Zealanders are being lulled into a false sense of security due to La Nina. We've had a number of La Ninas in the past 15 years. They bring cooler conditions to New Zealand. Think back to the droughts of last year - many of them shouldn't have happened as we had La Nina. Waikato, for example, is a prime candidate for La Nina rains - instead they had a record breaking drought. Can you imagine how different things might be if we had a strong El Nino for two or three years. Hot, dry, windy conditions through summer, then no winter rains to make things better. Farms parched, dairy prices through the roof, wild fires, day after day of temperatures as high as 40 degrees from Gisborne to Dunedin during summer and up to 30 in Spring and Autumn. The possible effects of global warming may be masked by La Nina, a cloudier, cooler weather pattern than El Nino. We simply may have been protected from any change over the past few decade or so. I'm certainly not a scientist and my knowledge in this area isn't huge but that article in the Herald the other day coupled with the comments mentioned by this guy I know who has a vast knowledge on weather records prompted me to ask the question - is global warming still an issue for you or have you pushed it to the back of your mind? So what are my thoughts? To me it's almost irrelevant what's causing global warming. If it's a natural phenomenon then we can do as much to stop it as we can to stop a cyclone from forming. Mother Nature will call the shots. If it's human related then I'll stick to the line I've been saying for years - it's time we started treating our back yard with respect. Stop treating earth like a rental car that you thrash while you have it and not caring about its future once you've finished with it. Keen to hear your thoughts... do you think global warming should be something we lead the world in? Or are there far more pressing issues at hand? Tropical Cyclone Jasper Yesterday Tropical Cyclone Jasper exploded into life off the New Caledonia coast much to the surprise of forecasters in Australia. The storm may well drop to 945hPa or lower by Friday and could become the second Category 5 cyclone in our neck of the woods in just two weeks. We've set up a special link for it which includes all the latest stats, its potential path and some great graphics. Bookmark it as we'll be updating the link regularly while it remains a cyclone. Like Hamish, Jasper is unpredictable, however Jasper is already closer to New Zealand than Hamish ever was so it's one to pay a little more attention to. It poses no threat to New Zealand at this stage however next week could see it travelling in any number of directions. For those who love to track big storms like this, especially ones near our front door, please do check out our link. Philip Duncan For the latest weather news keep up to date with The Radio Network's new Weather Watch Centre or the NZ Herald weather section. It's been 22 years since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.