The December 2015 floods in the North of England come only two years after the December 2013 floods which inundated the Somerset levels and the Thames Valley. A Northern Newspaper emphasised the Northern regional nature of the current floods and said that the South had money spent on floods defenses while the North was deprived.
While it is true that London has the Thames Barrier this will not be a lot of help in a rainfall flood as it is designed to keep out sea water from storm driven high tides and cannot help control a rainfall flood. It does highlight the danger and cost from these exceptional rain storms which are becoming more frequent and shows that the threat from climate change cannot be accurately forecast or budgeted for.
The Thames has a huge drainage area and although it has always had floods the new situation puts the whole conurbation at risk and the potential cost to London is huge. If in an exceptional series of rainstorms totaling a hundred millimeters or so of rain fell within the Thames catchment area, it would overwhelm the current defenses and flood massive amounts of infrastructure.
The known risks from rainstorms is very high and recent events now show that they are becoming a reality. With the current frequency of rainstorms, it must be a question of 'when' rather than 'if' and this risk is becoming a reality in every country in the world. Politicians are not good at dealing with long term strategic planning because of the short term costs and unrecognized benefit but one good thing from the Paris COP21 agreement is that all the countries in the world have now recognized that climate change is a real threat.
Politicians who try to deny climate change and then suffer a disaster cannot survive in power.
What could New Zealand do to cut Greenhouse gas emissions.
New Zealand's problem is that our emissions profile is different to almost every other country in the world. The first difference is that 50% of our emissions comes from cattle and they burp their methane here and we export their milk or meat product emission free, the complete reverse of exported coal where the CO2 is emitted in the country of purchase. The second difference is that we already use hydro, geothermal, wind and gas to produce electricity whereas most countries can reduce coal burning to make big savings.
Being realistic we are not going to cut our dairy herd, the drop in milk prices may make this self adjusting but I can’t see New Zealand farmers having a big future in broadacre arable farming.
All that is left, in the big numbers, is transport and here technology is on our side. Our fleet of cars is oldish and we currently make no distinction between efficient and gas guzzling cars and there is no assistance to encourage electric cars.
Putting a heavier import tax on inefficient.vehicles would not be difficult and electric cars could be given some help. In the UK there is no tax or GST on electric cars which, considering the small numbers, is not an expensive exercise. The government could buy electric cars for its vehicle fleet which would send a strong message to the market and save money at the same time..
We have a railway network that is going nowhere and unlike Europe and China there are no plans for modernization. Parts of the railway system could be offered to the electricity companies who are looking for a new market for their electricity and have the financial resources to make it happen. Mighty River Power has already stated that is wants to develop transport as a way of securing future markets for it electricity. In the UK model the government owns the track as a national asset and private companies run the system and it works well. It needs a lot of capital but interest rates are very low and the savings on reducing our oil import bill would pay for the improvements.
New Zealand thrives on its point of difference with the rest of the world so how would it look if all our tourists drove electric cars? Its that sort of bold move that shows New Zealand is serious about its clean image and is doing something about it.
A report by James Renwick about the AGU Fall Meeting posted on Hot Topic highlighted the possible end to the temperature hiatus. As you can see from the above chart we have had two previous pauses in the temperature increase, one in 1900 and one 1940. If we are indeed coming out of the third pause and heading for a rise such as was experienced after 1940 then as James said “ if we are now heading back into a more El Niño-dominated period (as in the 1980s and 90s). A period of rapid warming such as we saw in the late 20th century would blow global temperatures right through the 1.5°C warming “guardrail”, given we are already at one degree of warming since pre-industrial times.”
This would indeed be a really bad outcome and bring every dire climate change prediction a lot closer than anyone thinks.
Living in New Zealand we only see a jet contrail once a week or so whereas when in the UK there would be thousands each day and especially in the early morning when all the trans-Atlantic flights come in from the USA. By 10.00 AM the sky would be a milky blue white and this would be normal. Industrial soot and dust add to the story.
In the UK sunbathing is common and it takes a long time to get sunburn. While part of this is due to the higher latitude, a big proportion is due to the cloud cover caused by the jet contrails. In New Zealand you will burn after 15 minutes in the sun and although the lack of ozone protection is part of the story the very clear air gives the Sun direct access to the surface and projects more heat.
Evidence of this comes from the 9/11 disaster in the USA as, when the jets were grounded for three days the temperature of the whole country rose by 1.8 C and the then settled back to normal.
The contrail cloud cover has two effects where firstly it reflects incoming heat back into space during the day and secondly it also stops heat that is nearer the ground escaping and therefore raises the temperature, which is most noticeable at night.
The combined effect is a flattening of the temperature range.
The worry here is that if we eventually get to the point where we really do start to recognize that climate change is ruining the planet and cut back hard on the big polluting industries we have locked in a nearly 2 C temperature hike across the Northern hemisphere which would be instantaneous.
With all the civil unrest and wars in the Middle East there has been considerable debate as to whether climate change has played a part and in particular the drought in Syria. The illustration shows the prediction for the whole of the Mediterranean region for the end of the century and there is a huge reduction in rainfall.
With sea levels already rising faster than predicted, a 50% reduction in Arctic sea ice, a 30% increase in ocean acidity and many weather patterns already changing and noted climate change has already started.
Why would we not see the start of the Middle East drying and land that was productive no longer able to support farming?
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