An NZ Climate Change News Story from Yesterday


The extraordinary, brief article (above) published more than 100 years ago (1912) in country New Zealand did the rounds of the social media about a month ago. It deserves far more prominence and publicity than it has received. In 4 sentences and 61 words it encapsulates the physics of the greenhouse effect and the law of the conservation of mass and that the profligate manner humanity is burning fossil fuels posed a threat to the earth’s future climate.

One wonders why the huge Murdoch news empire (and other media multinationals) has yet to grasp the essence of climate change, when the Rodney and Otamatea Times and Waitemata and Kaipara Gazette pioneered the way even before Rupert’s father Keith had established himself as a competent journalist. Andrew Bolt of the Peoples Paper, or any other of the mercenary hacks from the Oz, need only to consult Wikipedia to find that Joseph Fourier discovered the ‘greenhouse effect’ nearly 200 years ago (his maths indicated the earth should have been about 30 degrees cooler than it was) or that an English chemist James Tyndall in 1857 identified carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane as the major greenhouse gases or that a Swede, Svante Arrhenious in 1895, calculated how much the temperature of the earth would rise if the CO2 was doubled. The answer is of course that it does not suit their, and in particular their masters’, political agenda.

There are other examples of political agendas that don’t coincide with physics and natural laws that eventually succumb to fact. Those commonly cited include Galileo’s discovery of the organisation of the solar system, or the shape of the earth. In primary school we were told the story of King Canute who had his throne placed on the seashore and foolishly commanded the tides to stop – the same approach as the Murdoch media and a large proportion of our politicians on climate change. I much prefer that Canute was a wise king, demonstrating clearly to his followers that, all powerful as he was in human matters, he could not stop the tides.

There can be no doubt that Murdoch, his minions political and otherwise, are wrong and that their efforts will eventually, in the long run, amount to nothing. Unfortunately as JM Keynes noted we are ‘all dead in the long run’, and the damage that can be (and has already been) done by the politically powerful in the meantime is horrendous. In the years following the war the Peoples Paper had dual uses; after being read it then migrated to the outhouse where it was used again. Even treating the rubbish dished up by the Murdoch press in the latter occupation is too generous and you obviously can’t wipe your bum with a television set. Which leads us back to how wonderful the news snippet produced in that NZ country paper really is. It shames the all-powerful Murdoch media which should be treated with the same contempt that it accords basic physics.