In election year many issues come to the fore with individual parties pushing the ones that are nearest and dearest to them. Some like National and A.C.T. push a pro business agenda, believing that wealth and economic development are key to progress, whilst others such as Labour and the Greens have a heavier environmental and social focus.
Over the years, the focus of Labour and the Greens in New Zealand has been increasingly focussed around climate change and how to combat it. Contrast with the business as usual approach of National and the outright denial of such a problem existing of A.C.T.. But is climate change all that the Greens make it out to be? And is someone like me, simply pointing out physical geography and geophysics have a role to play as well, a believer, a denier or something else?
According to the Greens and other like minded parties, 97% of scientists agree that climate change is happening and is an immediate threat. They say that there is a risk that the Earth will have the full 2.0ºC rise in temperatures in the next several decades because of unchecked emissions of carbon based gases; that man made climate change is having an irreparable impact on the climate, the ecosystem of this planet and how we live.
However there are some physical processes going on that none of the parties committed to reducing potentially harmful emissions are prepared to admit, or their admission has been vague:
- The Earth is not a perfect round geoidal sphere as people might think. In fact it is more pear shape when one looks at the distribution of ice across the northern and southern polar regions. We look at the northern and the southern polar regions and we wonder where the ice is going. Are we sure that as the distribution of the caps evolves that ice is not transit as water between polar regions? When we look at the isostasy of the ice, we need to remember that the surface portion is just a fraction of what we are seeing, so whilst there might only be a small piece of ice above the surface it could have a very substantial mass below the surface – only a tine fraction of the total mass is visible above sea level.
- The Earth has been warmer in the past. Christchurch in New Zealand sits on land that was underwater as far inland as the current University of Canterbury site in Ilam just 6,000 years ago. Boat sheds in the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum were on the beach nearly 2,000 years ago when the eruption of Vesuvius destroyed the town – now they are several hundred metres inland. This discovery was made by archaeologists trying to piece together the history of the town and its layout. How does the Earth compare today in terms of temperature to early A.D.?
- Erosion is a constant aspect of physical geography in process. We know that coral atoll islands are formed on top of ancient volcanoes that have gradually sunk back into the sea. You can see an entire chain of such islands in Hawaii, extending over 1,000 kilometres from the Big Island in the southeast past Oahu (where Honolulu is)and Kauai, out to Midway Island, some several million years old and so low in altitude that a tsunami caused by a large earthquake in 1952 or 1957 was able to travel several hundred metres down the runway. Some of these islands are just a couple metres above sea level at their highest altitudes, making them very susceptible to any large tide – even a king tide at the upper end of the island’s tidal range could cause significant flooding. Erosive processes will eventually erode the islands back into the sea and flood the lands that tiny atoll nations such as Niue, Kiribati and so forth now rather precariously sit on.
By virtue of having mentioned all of this, does that make me a denialist? Some people will say yes, as I am questioning common thinking by scientists, but am I really trying to discredit their stand point, or am I merely pointing out some basic geophysics and phyiscal geography?
I think not. I simply want to draw peoples attention to some facts that the Green and Labour parties among others constantly over look when they talk about climate change. I am not trying to make a blatant case of denial because that would be to point blank deny such an environmental challenge exists.
So, my question to you is: am I a believer of climate change, a denier or am I something else?