Weather Watch

Weather analyst Philip Duncan checks the forecast and the story behind the temperatures

WeatherWatch: Columnist weathers storm of friendly critic

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Scientists can't be doing too good a job of convincing us of climate change, judging by more polls indicating that the public's level of concern is waning.

The NZ Herald has reported that an academic analysis of surveys spanning 40 years has found that today's young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources than their elders were when they were young.

In New Zealand a few years ago climate change was frequently headline stuff but these days it isn't.

Last year I wrote that because of the global recession climate change would shift further down the list of priorities. Who cares about greener cars when you can't even find a job?

In the US it is a major part of the election as Republicans say now isn't the time to invest in cleaner, greener, energy when their nation is broke, but President Obama says now is the time and continues to invest money in failing "green energy" projects. In New Zealand, if Niwa and other scientific organisations want more support they need to better educate New Zealanders, some of whom see cold snaps as proof that the world isn't getting warmer.

Last week I suggested we may be seeing evidence of climate change with all the storms and the fact the insurance companies are paying out more than ever for weather-related damage.

Another point was suggested to me by reader Merv Merrilees, who works for the Department of Anatomy with Radiology at the University of Auckland. Merrilees has written to me a few times over the years countering points I've made on climate change. As a self-described sceptic ("I am sceptical of claims of impending catastrophe, and I am sceptical that humans and CO2 are significant drivers," he says) he has always presented me with a balanced view from the other side of the coin to Niwa.

He says: "I remember reading an analysis of the increased insurance claims - conclusion was that the increase is independent of any warming, and more due to people moving into the coastal areas affected by storms, hence more claims for flooding and storm damage.

"As a graduate student I spent time collecting fish in the swamps south of Mobile, Alabama, near the Mississippi delta. Now it's a built-up area with houses on drained land and more houses right on the coast."

For those who don't know, Mobile is on the Gulf Coast and is frequently hit by hurricanes, so Merv makes a valid point. More people live in low-lying areas near coastlines throughout the world, which are more vulnerable to damage.

As someone who has always supported a commonsense approach to climate change, I'd like to hear more from New Zealand experts on both sides, and more transparency about any climate change taxes, where that money will be used and why they believe it will help our future.

- Herald on Sunday

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