New Zealand Research and Climate Change

I have taken a leaf out of Jo Nova’s book, and thought I would take a quick look at research funding for climate change in New Zealand. I seem to recall that at some time, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition has looked at this, so this might serve as an update. The only source I am looking at is the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI), and there will undoubtedly be other sources of funding that will be available. The MSI website has an excellent search function, and my first search was for the keywords ‘climate change‘, with no start or end date specified (the earliest grant was awarded in 1996). The results were a little startling, as follows:

Number of awards: 92,

Value of awards: $341,732,959.40

I also conducted a search for ‘climate change global warming’ and produced 7 results with a total value of £65 million. I have found some of the numbers to be a bit odd, but can only go assume that the information from the website is correct. I downloaded the results as a spreadsheet, and took a quick glance through the titles of the funded projects, and it seems that most of them were focused directly on climate change research. It will be unsurprising to find that National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd. (NIWA) was a major recipient, with grants as follows totalling $161,130,930. It will also come as no surprise to find that New Zealand universities were also each awarded several grants.

Other large grants were primarily awarded to crown research institutes; GNS Science Ltd. with over $36 million,  Landcare Research Ltd. with $54 million, AgResearch Ltd.  and Scion, both with just over $8 million, with some other examples of major grants being Industrial Research Ltd with about $4.5 million, New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research Limited with $22 million,  Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd. with about $3 million.
When looking at these grants, and the search term, it must be remembered that climate change is a real phenomenon. It is whether humans have a major impact on climate that is questionable. Nevertheless, I think we can safely assume that these grants are given based upon the latter point; that the grants are a response to the theory of anthropogenic climate change. The problem is that, NIWA’s data has shown that warming has come to a halt in New Zealand. As such, this research appears to be investigating a non-problem. And the cost of the research is huge.

I have reproduced one of the explanations of NIWA’s grants at the end of the post (I have added formatting for readability), and the original can be found here. The grant is for $29 million. If you read the grant explanation carefully, it is possible to find some very worrying justifications. As just one example, the Stern report is cited, which has been widely criticised as alarmist and unjustified on economic grounds, with the Cato Institute suggesting that Stern’s investment advice is ‘sheer lunacy‘. However, the main problem is that there is an absolute acceptance of anthropogenic global warming theory, and absolutely no discussion of any alternative or investigation of any alternative.

During economic ‘good times’, it may be less harmful to use money on wasteful research. However, these are not ‘good times’, but actually a time when the economy is going through a tough time. The only comfort in the search was that new grant starts seem to have reduced in size and quantity. However, having said this, a case might be made for new grants to investigate climate change. In particular, despite the NIWA grant proposing that they would provide a sound foundation for New Zealand policy, their work has been found to be biased (e.g. see here), and one of their key scientists has been shown to be biased in the extreme (actually participating in activity to get a skeptical scientist sacked from his job). Therefore, perhaps a grant to investigate the skeptical position is overdue?

NIWA’s Research Grant

The Drivers and Mitigation of Global Change (DMGC) programme serves to integrate research in the fields of stratospheric change, tropospheric composition and climate change, and atmosphere-surface interactions.

  • It provides in-depth scientific understanding of the drivers of global environmental change.
  • The programme provides an international context for the impacts of stratospheric and surface climate change on New Zealand’s environment, and an authoritative basis for the development of national and international policies to mitigate global change.
  • The research directly serves New Zealand’s obligations under international treaties, including the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (and Montreal Protocol), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (and Kyoto Protocol), and the Antarctic Treaty System.
  • In addition to research on global scale issues, there are objectives that focus on topics of national importance, principally the emission of greenhouses gases from agriculture and the physical properties of solar/UV radiation because of their influence on the health of New Zealanders and the performance of construction materials and energy availability.

Thus the programme provides a sound basis for the management of New Zealand’s environment and economy, and information for improved policy development and societal decision-making. Over the term of this contract (2004 – 2007), the research has greatly improved understanding of the climate change issue. Global concern with respect to climate change is mounting in response to the:

  • greater certainty in the science: it is regarded as extremely likely that humans have exerted a substantial warming influence on climate through combustion of fossil fuels (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; IPCC);
  • widespread acceptance of the economic costs of climate change and that mitigation cost incurred over the next few decades could avoid the risks of very severe consequences in the future (Stern Report);
  •  widespread recognition that major action to cut fossil CO2 emissions is needed within the next two decades in order to avoid dangerous climate change and/or global mean temperature increases of <3°C above pre-industrial levels (IPCC).

To help address the mounting concern by governments and the public at large on the impacts of global change, this programme provides essential physical data, models and interpretation of the processes that determine the human induced changes to the composition of the atmosphere and its radiative properties. Key personnel have been involved as lead and contributing authors in the 4th assessment report of the IPCC, the WMO 2006 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion, and the 2006 UNEP Effects Panel, all released in 2007.

The Earth’s climate system is currently undergoing rapid change, primarily in response to changes in the natural abundance of long lived greenhouse gases (GHG)s. Global atmospheric concentrations of the most important GHGs (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) have increased markedly as a result of human activities since AD1750 and now far exceed the pre-industrial values obtained from ice cores spanning many 1000s of years. Measurements of carbon dioxide made at Baring Head, New Zealand, within this programme form the longest continuous baseline record in the Southern Hemisphere and are a key component of observational evidence in the IPCC’s 4th assessment report published in May 2007.

These data show that, despite the GHG emission limitations proposed in the Kyoto protocol, carbon dioxide concentrations, currently around 380 ppm, continue to increase at an exponential rate in the atmosphere. Concentration measurements at Baring Head are supported by carbon dioxide isotope and oxygen measurements to assist in determining the magnitude of source/sink processes in the carbon cycle. The programme also made a significant contribution to predictions of stratospheric ozone recovery. A key science member within the programme was lead author of the 2006 WMO Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. This important document assesses the status of global ozone depletion and its impacts. At a national level, the programme not only monitors local stratospheric ozone levels, but also continues to measure and map solar and UV radiation over New Zealand.

This work is essential to understanding the impacts of UV on human health and materials. Recent work has highlighted the potential connection between very low winter UV and reduced population levels of vitamin-D in New Zealand. Further research on this issue is to be advanced with the health sector over the coming year. Science information resources: Water and Atmosphere: Greenhouse gas data: Simple climate model: Nitrous oxide: Ozone hole: UV radiation: UV atlas: Ocean-atmosphere studies: Ocean gas exchange: Iron fertilisation:



2 responses to “New Zealand Research and Climate Change

  1. “a little startling” all right, I did a double take at that $342m figure. Nice bit of digging.

    All thanks to tax paying benefactors; the same source of funding for other beneficiaries like DPB and Unemp.

  2. Reblogged this on pindanpost and commented:
    One day I’d like to visit NZ, but it would have to warm 10degrees first…

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