Thursday, 17 August 2017

NZ' sorry record on reporting climate change

This article is a year old but holds true (even more so) now.

Changing the journalism of climate change

1 May, 2017

Claims that the government "cheated" on carbon emissions made headlines recently, but those in the know said this was actually old news. It's a sign reporting on the issue needs to change, an international expert in climate change journalism tells Mediawatch.

Listen to podcast HERE

Paula Bennett in New York questioned on New Zealand's used of "junk carbon credits" by TVNZ's Q+A show last weekend Photo: screenshot

When Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett signed a global climate change agreement at the UN in New York on Earth Day, she said it was "a huge achievement" for New Zealand.

But lately the headlines here have highlighted how little New Zealand has achieved in cutting emissions.

Paula Bennett had told the UN New Zealand was aiming for 90 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025, but on Tuesday RNZ reported industry insiders saying that was highly unlikely.

And even before she left for New  York, the government's emissions policy was under fire

"The government can no longer bluff its way with the help of unreliable carbon credits,” the Dominion Post said in a strongly-worded editorial.

The paper wasn’t alone in castigating the government over the trade in so-called junk carbon credits overseas.

How did this come to light?

"We Cheated!" screamed the cover of last week’s New Zealand Listener magazine, advertising a dramatic lead story about "dodgy credits" which had "done nothing to reduce emissions".

Back in October last year, prior to the Paris climate change summit, Listener writer Rebecca Macfie wrote another detailed cover story for the magazine - and an even longer one for the magazine’s website - which said companies here were importing so-called joint initiative credits from countries including Ukraine and Russia.

Overseas research, she wrote, had concluded "in 80 percent of cases ... these credits have little or no environmental integrity".

That finding was at the heart of the recent Listener cover story too, but some said the "carbon cheat" claims were not news.

No surprise?

"I waded through the Listener article on how New Zealand has rorted  - and been rorted by - the Emissions Trading Scheme over the past eight years. And by the end of it, I thought: 'No kidding I saw that coming,' said Andrew Dickens, in a comment piece for Newstalk ZB’s website.

The 'shock horror' reaction to the report dubbing New Zealand a 'carbon cheat' this week is hardly news," editor Pattrick Smellie said in an opinion piece for Fairfax Media. He said there was an outcry about the so-called junk carbon credits earlier, and their purchase had already been banned in New Zealand.

So why no headlines back then then? Pattrick Smellie wrote:

"The issue was complex and barely covered in mainstream media. Hence the belated outrage today, thanks to racy packaging by the Morgan Foundation."

Publishing in partnership

It was indeed economist Gareth Morgan's foundation which 'broke' the story about the scale of the purchases, in partnership with the Listener. The story made wider news the following Monday when the magazine appeared in print, and the full Morgan Foundation report appeared online along with an article in The Spinoff .
Some jourmalists had pointed out the problem of junk carbon credits long ago. A year ago, the New Zealand Herald’s economics editor Brian Fallow wrote
It seems the Government plans to rely heavily on a hoard of cheap, low-quality carbon credits to meet its current climate change target. Or at least pretend to meet it. But if that is the plan - its achieved by completely subverting the Emissions Trading Scheme.

And way back in 2003, Brian Fallow wrote this in The Herald:
A carbon credit is a creature of the Kyoto Protocol and will have no value unless it comes into force. That will happen if and only if Russia ratifies it. If Russia does ratify the question then will be how much of its "hot air" credits get released into the market.

Quite a lot were, and New Zealand companies were in the market for them

But if a dodgy practice undermining New Zealand's carbon emissions policy went mostly unreported until the Morgan Foundation got involved this month - why? 

Professor Robert A Hackett is an international expert on journalism and climate change, and was in Wellington this week speaking about the topic.

He told Mediawatch he was alarmed the media did little to bring the apparent rorting of New Zealand's emissions trading scheme to public attention while it was still going on.

"Carbon trading is rife with scams. Journalists should be surveying the scene for developments we need to know about. It should have been the responsibility of journalists to tell that story and make it interesting," said Prof Hackett, from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

The public interest - and what interests the public

Online tools now allow editors to know precisely how popular their stories prove to be with online audiences. Naturally, they want more of the content people click on and less of the rest.

Articles about environmental threats on the horizon, it appears, rarely harvest a lot of online traffic.

Last week, New Zealand Herald science reporter Jamie Morton pointed outthe Morgan Foundation Report wasn’t the only alarming climate research released in recent days. Another recent release was a Royal Society report, warning even modest rises in sea levels climate change could swamp significant areas of coastal New Zealand - but this was not widely reported in the media here.

"This hinders reporting of climate change," said Prof Hackett. "Research in Canada shows that people concerned about climate change - but who are not yet politically active on the issue - want climate treated as a a matter of politics, not just of science, environment or technology."

Journalists reporting on all these areas should be tasked by editors with covering climate stories together.

Better and stronger together

"We shouldn't just leave this up to journalists battling against economic retrenchment," Prof Hackett added. "You need to find ways to sustain and finance public interest journalism. In Canada, for example, we are exploring tax-exemptions for non-profit journalism organisations."

In the 1990s, a public journalism movement brought some US news organisations together to report major issues. Prof Hackett said the recent co-operative effort that went into the Panama Papers could also be a model to follow.

There have been some shifts. Before 2000, the reporting of climate change in the US was hamstrung by concerns about balance, with contrary views from climate skeptics often given equal weight.

"This confused the American public about the consensus among the majority of climate scientists. The US press has [now] moved away from fake balance," Prof Hackett said.

"If genuine climate scientists start questioning their own theories, that should be reported ... But there's a difference between skepticism based on science and opposition based on ideology or vested interests."

Listen to podcast HERE

Record temperatures in western Nunavut hub of Cambridge Bay, Canada

"Such warm Arctic temperatures reflect recent findings in the 2016 State of the Environment, the annual summary of the global climate, from the American Meteorological Society, released Aug. 11, that says the Arctic is "is warming at more than twice the rate of lower latitudes."

"In 2016, the average temperature of land surfaces north of 60 was two degrees Celcius above the 1981 to 2010 average, breaking the previous record of 2007, 2011, and 2015 by 0.8 C, the report said. That represents a 3.5 C increase since record-keeping began in 1900, said the report, which includes a special section on the Arctic."

Nunavut locals cooling off in the Arctic ocean as warm records tumble in the High Arctic islands

15 August, 2017

Unseasonably warm temperatures over the past weekend saw people in the western Nunavut hub of Cambridge Bay heading out to their cabins or the beach, where some even dipped into the Arctic Ocean to cool off.

However, it wasn't so long ago-for example, in 1974, according to Environment Canada-that you could expect to find snow on the ground at this time of year.
Recently, temperatures have been rising 10 degrees or more above normal ranges for this time of year in Nunavut's Kitikmeot region and the High Arctic islands, where the weekend's heat wave broke Environment Canada records.
Cambridge Bay's high temperature of 22 C on Aug. 11 broke the previous high temperature of 20.5 C for that day, recorded in 2013.

Temperatures remained warm in Cambridge Bay throughout the weekend-21.6 C on Aug. 12 (breaking the previous high of 21.4 C from 2013) and on Aug. 13, when the high reached 21.9 C (breaking the previous high of 18.9 C set in 1949).
Taloyoak's high of of 21.8 C and Kugaaruk's high of 22.8 C on Aug. 12 also broke records for the day.

Kugaaruk's even-warmer high of 24.3 C on Aug. 13 then broke the previous high record temperature of 21 C, set on that date in 1985.

On Aug. 12, the hottest spot went to Bathurst Inlet where the mercury rose to 33.5 C, breaking the station record of 32.2 C set in in 2013

 Kugluktuk also saw a high, but not record-breaking, temperature of 26.6 C on Aug. 10-with more warmth, and a high of 21 C predicted by Environment Canada for Aug. 14.

Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, with temperatures of 18.3 C and 18.4 C respectively, on Aug. 13, also broke previous recorded temperatures for that date.

Today Iqaluit is also set to enjoy some above-average temperatures, with Environment Canada forecasting a high of 16 C-six degrees above the usual 10 C temperature for Aug. 14.

Such warm Arctic temperatures reflect recent findings in the 2016 State of the Environment, the annual summary of the global climate, from the American Meteorological Society, released Aug. 11, that says the Arctic is "is warming at more than twice the rate of lower latitudes."

In 2016, the average temperature of land surfaces north of 60 was two degrees Celcius above the 1981 to 2010 average, breaking the previous record of 2007, 2011, and 2015 by 0.8 C, the report said. That represents a 3.5 C increase since record-keeping began in 1900, said the report, which includes a special section on the Arctic.

"Rapid change is occurring throughout the Arctic environmental system," the report said, with many signals indicating that the "Arctic environment continues to be influenced by long-term upward trends in air temperature."

Floods in north and south India

Biblical amounts of rain: Nearly 3 times the monthly ave 184mm or almost 7 inches drench Bangalore overnight the highest recorded amount ever


the Big Wobble,

16 August, 2017

When Bengalore went to sleep on Monday night, the city had received 44.8mm of rain for August. When it woke up on Tuesday morning, that figure had risen by 128.7mm - the highest rainfall in a day since 1890, according to the Met department.

It made up nearly 300% of the rain expected over the entire month, pouring down on the city from 11pm on Monday to 4am on Tuesday.

The highest-ever rainfall recorded in the city in a day was on August 27, 1890, when Bengalore received 162.1mm of rain, the monthly ave for Sept August is 62.8 mm.

According to the Karnataka State Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSDMC), that record was broken on Tuesday.

It said the city received 184mm of rain since Monday night, the highest being recorded in Bilekahalli. The overnight rain flooded several parts of the city, submerging parking lots and entire road stretches, and snapped power in vast swathes since the early hours of Tuesday

The Yediyur lake breached a retaining wall, while foam from the Bellandur lake flowed to neighbouring localities.

Over 40 rescue boats came out in ST Bed area of Koramangala, while the fire department was called to flush out water from apartments in HSR Layout, Koramangala, Jayanagar and Bannerghatta Road, among other areas.

At least 26 trees were uprooted.

Wildlife volunteers received panic calls as snakes entered homes in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, JP Nagar, Nagarabhavi, Thanisandra, Uttarahalli and Puttenahalli.

Floods continue to batter Bihar, several dead

The situation in Bihar continued to remain grim with the death toll climbing to 72. The flood has affected nearly 73.44 lakh people across 14 districts. Several parts of the state continue to be inundated following incessant rains in Nepal and northern part of the state.

Paul Craig Roberts on Charlottesville

Dr Paul Craig Roberts: Charlottesville.

Dr Paul Craig Roberts: Charlottesville and “Trump the white supremacist” to the real issue, the powerful oligarchic interests that are fomenting conflict with Russia.

Of neo-nazis and "anti-fascists"

The other side of the story: a video about neo-nazis and a mainstream defence of Antifa

Here is a video made by VICE on the neo-nazi groups in Charlottesville.

Having seen their distortion about events in the Ukraine and open defence of nazi groups there I am not inclined to give much credance to VICE.

At the very least there is an egregious double standard here. One group of nazis is to be applauded; the other condemned

I have just been listening to coverage on Radio NZ. Antifa, it turns out, are not the violent thugs they are. They are simply anti-fascist. For the first time violent Black Block anarchists are heroes in the media.

Sorry, these are not neo -nazi thugs with baseball bats. They are 'good guys' with baseball bats

Antifa: A Look at the Antifascist Movement Confronting White Supremacists in the Streets

What Is Antifa? Anti-Fascist Protesters Draw Attention After Charlottesville

"Groups on the right have used events like the protest in Berkeley to paint antifa protestors as being out of control and acting as enemies of free speech, because they have mobilized in order to “shut down” speech that they disagree with. Politicians on the right and left have both criticized such tactics. In turn, antifa activists have argued that certain types of speech are themselves violent or bound to cause violence if they are uttered in the public sphere. They have also said that alt-right groups are using the words “free speech” as cover for spreading racist and bigoted ideologies"

"Brave people" 

"Crowd for hire" recruiting 'political activists' for $25 an hour

Why Was This 'Crowd Hire' Company Recruiting $25 An Hour 'Political Activists' In Charlotte Last Week?

16 August, 2017

Trump ignited a political firestorm yesterday during an impromptu press conference in which he said there was "blame on both sides" for the tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville over the weekend.  

Now, the discovery of a craigslist ad posted last Monday, almost a full week before the Charlottesville protests, is raising new questions over whether paid protesters were sourced by a Los Angeles based "public relations firm specializing in innovative events" to serve as agitators in counterprotests.

The ad was posted by a company called "Crowds on Demand" and offered $25 per hour to "actors and photographers" to participate in events in the "Charlotte, NC area."  While the ad didn't explicitly define a role to be filled by its crowd of "actors and photographers" it did ask applicants to comment on whether they were "ok with participating in peaceful protests."  Here is the text from the ad:

Actors and Photographers Wanted in Charlotte
Crowds on Demand, a Los Angeles-based Public Relations firm specializing in innovative events, is looking for enthusiastic actors and photographers in the Charlotte, NC area to participate in our events. Our events include everything from rallies to protests to corporate PR stunts to celebrity scenes. The biggest qualification is enthusiasm, a "can-do" spirit. Pay will vary by event but typically is $25+ per hour plus reimbursements for gas/parking/Uber/public transit.
For more information about us, please visit
If you're interested in working with us, please reply to this posting with the following info:
  • Full Name
  • Prior relevant experience (as an actor/performer, photographer, brand ambassador, political activist, etc)
  • When are you usually available for work?
  • Resume (optional)
  • If you're a photographer, what equipment do you use?
  • Are you ok with participating in peaceful protests (optional)?
And a screenshot of the original post:
So what is "Crowds on Demand?"  According to their own website, they're in the business of sourcing large crowds of people to "provide clients with protests, rallies, [and] flash-mobs" all over the country.  They even have an entire page on their website dedicated to "Protests and Rallies."

Are you looking to create a buzz anywhere in the United States? At Crowds on Demand, we provide our clients with protests, rallies, flash-mobs, paparazzi events and other inventive PR stunts. These services are available across the country in every major U.S city, every major U.S metro area and even most smaller cities as well. We provide everything including the people, the materials and even the ideas. You can come to us with a specific plan of action and we can make it happen. OR, you can approach us with a general  idea and we can help you plan the strategy then execute it.
We’ve made campaigns involving hundreds of people come to action in just days. We have a proven record of delivering major wins on even the toughest campaigns and delivering phenomenal experiences with even the most logistically challenging events.

The CEO of Crowds on Demand denied to Snopes that his firm was involved in the Charlottesville protests but refused to provide details on the specific purpose of the craigslist ad and/or why it was temporarily removed yesterday before being restored.
"We were not involved in any capacity with the recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those impacted by the violence"

Silly question, but if your cause is worthy of protest then why would you need to pay $25 per hour to get people to show up?

Conservatives are in fear and are being labelled "terrorists" for voting for Trump

I don’t agree with Christoher Greene on very much and think his talk of "making America great again" is nonsense but I will defend him and others like him to the end.

A whole section of the American population are being officially villainised and told they are fascist terrorists simply for having voted for Donald Trump.

I don't even like Donald Trump very much but I dislike the fascist Deep State and its endless wars and lies even more.

An Open Message to the President of the United States


Something wrong with the rain these days

Intensifying Equatorial Rains: 3.3 Million Afflicted by Flooding in India and Bangladesh as Hundreds Lose Lives to Landslides from Sierra Leone to Nepal

16 August, 2017

There’s something wrong with the rain these days. For many regions of the globe, when the rain does fall, it more and more often comes with an abnormally fierce intensity.
This increasing severity of heavy rainfall events is just one aspect of human-forced climate change through fossil fuel burning. For as the Earth warms, both the rate of evaporation and precipitation increases. And as atmospheric moisture loading and convection increase coordinate with rising temperatures, so do the potential peak intensities of the most powerful storms.

(Climate and extreme weather news August 13 through 15)
Sierra Leone — More than 300 Dead, 600 Missing After Deadly Mudslide

This past week, in Sierra Leone — already one of the wettest regions of the globe at this time of year — a very heavy rainfall event generated a severe mudslide that ripped a huge swath of devastation through Freetown. 3,000 people were immediately rendered homeless by the great rush of mud, rock, and soil. But more tragically in excess of 300 people are feared dead with 600 still missing.

This single event represents the deadliest natural disaster on record for Sierra Leone — which also suffered a flood that killed 103 people in 2009. According to news reports, the region in which this disaster occurred has experienced 20 inches more rain than usual over the 30 day period from July 15 through August 15. A total amount of rainfall in a single month period that’s now in the range of 50 inches. Clearly, the surrounding lands could not maintain integrity under the force of such a prolonged deluge. And unfortunately one of the succumbing hillsides let loose into a valley settlement.

(Heavy thunderstorms of Freetown on August 14th. Image source: NASA and Weather Underground.)

A statement by Weather Underground’s Bob Henson provides further climate context for this disaster:
The heaviest downpours in many parts of the globe have become heavier in recent decades, a trend attributed to human-produced climate change and expected to continue. A study led by Christopher Taylor (UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), published this spring in the journal Nature, finds that the Sahel’s most intense mesoscale convective systems (organized clusters of thunderstorms) have tripled in frequency since 1982. The recovery of Sahel rainfall since the 1980s only explains a small part of this trend, according to the study authors. They argue that Saharan warming is helping to intensify convection within the MCSs through increased wind shear and changes to the Saharan air layer. “The meridional gradient is projected to strengthen throughout the twenty-first century, suggesting that the Sahel will experience particularly marked increases in extreme rain,” the study concludes.

Himachal Pradesh and Nepal Landslides and Floods Kill Over 100 More

Severe rains also on August 14th unleashed a mudslide in Pradesh India that knocked two buses off a cliff — resulting in the tragic loss of 46 lives. The resulting landslide also injured 5 other passengers even as it buried numerous homes along its path.

Across the Bay of Bengal in Nepal flooding and landslides resulted in the loss of 62 lives as 30 districts reported severe conditions. There, rains displaced 1,500 families, destroyed 305 homes, and damaged more than 15,000 other dwellings. Dozens of Nepali roads have been blocked, a school has collapsed, and an airport has been forced to close as severe storms inundated the region.
In India and Bangladesh, 3.3 Million People are Affected by Flooding

In the Indian state of Assam, 84 people have lost their lives due to a massive flood that has now affected 2 million people across 29 districts. 2,734 villages have flooded and 183,584 people have been forced to relocate to one of 700 refugee camps. Meanwhile, across the state, some 3,830 water rescues have occurred. Dozens of roads and bridges have been washed out as rivers rise from moderate to unprecedented flood stages.

(Assam floods on August 14. Image source: Government of India and Floodlist.)
Finally, in Bangladesh, record rainfall has pushed rivers to some of the highest levels ever recorded. The result has been the forced displacement of 368,000 people to 970 temporary shelters as 1.3 million are afflicted by flooding. 

Tragically, 27 Bangladeshis have also lost their lives due to the extreme flooding. Rainfall rates of up to ten inches per day are contributing to the severe flooding even as water from floods further upstream in India and Nepal are flowing into Bangladesh river systems.
Conditions in Context — Very Severe Equatorial Rains

Overall, these various events may appear to occur separately. However, they are all associated with a very severe Equatorial rain pattern developing from Africa through Southeast Asia and stretching into the Atlantic inter-tropical-convergence zone during 2017. The apparently increased thunderstorm activity is now impacting everything from the intensity of monsoonal rains over Southeast Asia, the severity of storms in the Sahel of Africa, and the early formation of tropical cyclones off Cape Verde during August.
These heavy rainfall features are arguably linked to the climate-change based intensification of the hydrological cycle and, particularly, to the increasing intensity of Equatorial thunderstorms. The overall climate and weather trend for the larger region should thus be noted and these various related events should not be viewed in isolation.

Hat tip to Shawn Redmond
Hat tip to Suzanne