Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The tide is high (except for viewers in New Zealand)

A reader from Morningside (an area of Auckland which contains at least two Fundy Post readers and therefore could be considered a demographic cluster for this blog) draws my attention to the latest utterance from Owen McShane, prompting the question "why does the Herald publish this crap?"

Mr McShane's intent is to to discredit Brian Rudman, one of the few remaining Herald commentators inhabiting a mental space this side of barking, for his opinions about climate change. Mr Rudman made the modest suggestion that it is hardly necessary for Parliament to revisit the emissions trading scheme, given that the scientific questions are settled. Not so, says Mr McShane. You see, global sea-level rises are no more than a statistical artifact, an offing that does not apply in New Zealand, where tectonic plate and earthquake movements (apparently, these are not the same thing) are more important. What's more, "local sea levels are falling rather than rising."

Now, correct me if I am wrong, but does not the world 'global' mean global? And does not water always find its own level? Allowing for the differences caused by tidal pulls, is it not the case that, if sea levels are rising, they are doing so everywhere? What I mean to say, if I have not made myself clear, is that all the seas are connected and that any increase in the amount of sea will be distributed throughout the seas. Of course, I may be wrong; I am but an humble architectural historian. But something tells me, something connected with those school science experiments with beakers of water, that Mr McShane is talking bollocks again.

Or do local conditions mean that New Zealand is exempt from global changes, that our local conditions mean we can continue to have beaches and baches while the rest of the planet drowns? This is an important question, particularly if the Maori Party wants Parliament to revisit the Foreshore and Seabed legislation. After all, if global conditions prevail, there may be a lot less Foreshore and a lot more Seabed before too long. However, if Mr McShane is correct, we will still have a lot of coast to argue about.

Of course, there is a lot more to Mr McShane's argument than water. He notes that carbon credit trading was invented by Enron. It is important to note in this respect that margarine was invented by order of Napoleon Bonaparte. Moreover, Hedy Lamarr invented frequency hopping.

Mr McShane also notes that the previous Climate Minister relied on the evidence of "a small beltway group that controls climate issues within Niwa, the Royal Society of New Zealand, and most of our country's input into the UN's IPCC;" a small beltway group of climate scientists, that is. The Minister disregarded the evidence of independent climate experts, by which presumably he means such men as the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. Incidentally, I was at Prep School with the 3rd Viscount's younger brother, a fact which almost makes me an independent climate expert.

Given my new-found status, I feel I should report to Mr McShane my own observations of local sea-levels. Although they do fall every day, they always rise again. However, I find I am still unable to answer the question I posed at the beginning of this paper: why does the Herald publish this crap? Perhaps I should ask a critical thinker.

Mutton Birds:

18 comments:

harvestbird said...

What with my friends in academia conspiring to obscure this country's True Celtic Origins and now my friends in NIWA and the Royal Society conspiring to obscure this country's True Unchanging Climate, I ought to be reaping more benefits of being among the conspiring elite than I am. Is someone conspiring to exclude me?

Paul said...

That would be telling.

david w said...

Sea levels can be local. I was once the token biologist at a 'spatial science' conference (if you are approached to be the token architectural historian at such a meeting turn and run) and the one interesting thing I did learn was that local sea level is the result of

a) the amount of ocean that there is to go around
b) local conditions including water temperature (warm water takes up more room) and atmospheric pressure (the 'storm surge' that precedes a hurricane reaching land is caused by the low pressure in the eye of the storm).

In the Northern Hemisphere apparent sea level rise is magnified because, and this is impossibly cool, the continents are slowly 'rebounding' from being compressed by the ice-caps that sat on top of them during the last glacial maxima.

That's not to say McShane is anything short of barking. Sea levels are rising in New Zealand and the local conditions are only going to exacerbate the global trend.

HORansome said...

Maybe you should. Once I've got my brain around the Celts I'd like to fisk McShane. It's such a doddery piece he wrote I find it hard to even know where to begin.

Peter in Dundee said...

In the Northern Hemisphere apparent sea level rise is magnified because, and this is impossibly cool, the continents are slowly 'rebounding' from being compressed by the ice-caps that sat on top of them during the last glacial maxima.

Um you were doing so well until you ruined it at that point. The rebounding after the last ice age is only being magnified locally where the land is um, not rebounding, but sinking. Like the SE of the UK. Parts of Denmark are rebounding at a rate that will outstrip sea level rises. For a while at least.

Lyndon said...

You'd think we'd be sinking, what with all that punching above our weight.

Someone was telling me there are these ridiculous tides somewhere in scandinavia where the shape of the coastline meets the tidal flow or whatever it is.

Oh look - turns out the biggest tide are in Canada's Bay of Fundy. Combines several of your interests there.

david w said...

Um you were doing so well until you ruined it at that point.

Oh, right, I got the directions of the change mixed up in my head somehow. I shall limit my comments to the squishy science in the future, leaving the physical science to them that know.

Stephen said...

Heh. You may or may not be interested to know, Paul, that Owen's qualification is also in Architecture of some kind or other. But he's been 'doing science' for ages aye!

Peter in Dundee said...

Sorry David W but I'm a squishy bits scientist too. The moniker is a reference to my main interest, the development of in fact. I just have wide interests. I subscribe to New Scientist and have read every issue from cover to cover since 1987, the year we got access to the department common room as honours students. I got so hooked that when i eventually left (did my PhD there too) I had to buy my own fix.

david w said...

Then I am out of excuses, please accept my apology for letting the team down

Paul said...

I am a bit lost: "The rebounding after the last ice age is only being magnified locally where the land is um, not rebounding, but sinking." How does this happen?

Stephen said...

I 'spose you could do worse than to just go and ask that guy.

Paul said...

Nice link, thank you. It goes straight into Blog-u-like. The McEwen piece is good reading.

Paul said...

Sorry, McEwan.

Peter in Dundee said...

How does it happen? well my understanding is that it's all to do with the fact that the ice cap was not uniform in its distribution. The SE of GB is sinking because the ice was thickest up here in Scotland and further north in Scandinavia (all those lovely steep sided Glens and Fjords). Take away the ice and the north rises up faster and the land that had no ice tips. You have to remember that the continents are floating on a sea of molten/squishy rocks.

Paul said...

I see. So, finally, Scotland has its revenge.

Peter in Dundee said...

Only if we can either get Independence or full fiscal autonomy before they need our taxes to upgrade the Thames barrier.

Just don't by any property close to the coast in the SE of England, including East Anglia. The policy is now is to let Nature take its course. Cue pictures of houses falling into the sea from crumbling cliff tops.

Uroskin said...

Mr McShane's latest publishing flatulence caught my eye too: http://uroskin.blogspot.com/2008/11/flat-earthers-on-recruitment-drive.html