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The National Climate Change Risk Assessment. A case of science denial.

Ian Harrison, Tailrisk Economics


A Tailrisk Economics review of the National Climate Change Risk Assessment (NCCRA) found that it grossly overstated climate change risks and that the assessments were based on poor quality evidence and analysis.


The purpose of the NCCRA, which was released in August 2020, was to provide the ‘best available evidence, information and assessment of risks’ to inform the development of a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) that will set out what will be done to respond to climate change risks.


The central message was that the climate change risks are very serious, even in the relatively near term. Eight of the 43 sectoral risk assessments found that the consequences of climate change would be ‘extreme’ by 2050.


The Tailrisk Economics review of the NCCRA’s social, political and economic risk assessments, assigned evidence quality scores of between 0 and 10 to the cited evidence and provided a summary of every accessible reference, giving the reader the capacity to form their own view of the quality of the NCCRA assessments.


The average evidence quality score was a very low 3.09. Often the assessments consisted of little more than a recitation of the ‘five horsemen of the apocalypse’ : more extreme weather events, more drought, more river flooding, higher sea levels, and more wildfires, followed by unsubstantiated claims that they will have either major or extreme consequences, with little regard to the underlying science.


Much of cited evidence was irrelevant or did not support the arguments. Critical research reports that did not support a ‘catastrophist’ narrative were often ignored or misrepresented, and in some cases steps were taken to cover up ‘inconvenient’ evidence. For, example, NIWA recently did a flooding risk study that showed flooding risk would actually fall as the climate got warmer. But in its press release NIWA claimed that this work had not been done, and the NCCRA ignored this important result.


Some of the NCCRA assessments were plainly absurd. it was claimed, for example, that extreme risks to social cohesion by 2050 would result in ‘permanent disruption to education, employment and community services. Patterns of daily activity and behaviour unable to continue. Coping range of all communities exceeded.’ All because the temperature had increased by less than one degree; sea levels had risen by less than 20 centimetres and there had been a very limited increase, if any, in ‘extreme’ climate events.


Only two of the supporting references related to New Zealand, and neither raised issues about widespread social disruption. The evidence base was not even suggestive of the nationwide impacts implied by the extreme risk assessment.


Contrary to the picture painted in the assessment the science does not show that the New Zealand climate will deteriorate markedly over this century. Wind speeds will not increase significantly, and river flooding risk might actually fall overall. Droughts are likely to become somewhat more frequent in already drought prone areas, and there might be a few more wildfires. But these effects are likely to be outweighed by the positive impacts of climate change, including warmer weather and more fine days in summer, and the impact of carbon fertilisation on primary sector productivity. Sea level rise is a real issue but the impacts in the NCCRA were overstated by using the wrong methodology to assess storm surge flood risk.


The conclusion that climate change will have, at most, only a moderate impact on advanced economies (particularly if they have a temperate climate) is well established in the international literature. The 5th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came to the following view:


For most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers (medium evidence, high agreement). Changes in population, age, income, technology, relative prices, lifestyle, regulation, governance, and many other aspects of socioeconomic development will have an impact on the supply and demand of economic goods and services that is large relative to the impact of climate change.


Well-functioning markets provide an additional mechanism for adaptation and thus tend to reduce negative impacts and increase positive ones for any specific sector or country (medium evidence, high agreement).


Why then do we see such a different picture in the NCCRA?


• Some analysts and institutions might believe that it is necessary to exaggerate to buttress support for New Zealand’s net zero target.

• So many people and institutions in the climate change industry have been repeating the mantra of markedly increased risks from floods, sea level rise, wildfires and stronger winds, that it is now regarded as an immutable truth.

• Consultants and academics are following the money. A balanced or skeptical perspective could put their funding at risk.

• Unethical and/or imcompetent behaviour is unlikely to have negative consequences. As most of the ‘experts’ are in on the game they can circle the wagons to protect the narrative, isolating any dissent.


To read the full paper go here


Ian Harrison (B.C.A. Hons. V.U.W., Master of Public Policy SAIS Johns Hopkins) has worked with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Bank for International Settlements.

3,242 views89 comments

89 Comments


Doug Longmire
Doug Longmire
Jul 23, 2021

We are often told by the climate change fear practitioners that we are doomed because CO2 is now 400 ppm !! Wow - 400 sounds like a lot,

we can picture 400 liters, 400 kilograms, 400 k/hour !! Yes 400 is a big number.

But what they never say is that 400ppm, is actually 4 parts per TEN THOUSAND, or 1/2,500.

Not such a big number !!

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otway1
otway1
Jul 22, 2021

One more big extreme weather event missed from last week's list: The unprecedented flash floods in Germany and Belgium seeping away parts of villages established centuries ago, and the loss of over 100 lives. Those authorities, too, recognise it as an undoubted climate change event.

So a very bad week indeed for Tailrisk to pretend the consequences (and causes) of climate change are "exaggerated to buttress support for New Zealand’s net zero target"; or. that "Consultants and academics are following the money. A balanced or skeptical perspective could put their funding at risk. Unethical and/or incompetent behaviour is unlikely to have negative consequences. As most of the ‘experts’ are in on the game they can circle the wagons to prote…

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Gerald Stewart
Gerald Stewart
Jul 22, 2021
Replying to

In 1717 Christmas Floods in Germany killed 14,000---

ONLY 100 DEATHS THIS TIME ROUND.

The English Dictionary tells us that the word

-- Unprecedented -- Means -- never having happened or existed in the past. You should choose your words more carefully.

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otway1
otway1
Jul 21, 2021

To clarify an ambiguity in my text posted an hour ago: Halfway through, where I discussed 'comments above', I was referring to the comments that followed the TailRisk piece.

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otway1
otway1
Jul 21, 2021

What bad luck in the timing of Tailrisk Economics' criticism of the NCCRA' for over emphasising the dangers and urgency posed by climate change in NZ in the same week that it all seemed to come true: Unprecedented flooding in Westport and Marlborough, hard on the heels of equally disastrous flooding in South Canterbury - and that having followed the flooding of the Clutha, then Napier, ad infinitum before that. Not to mention reports this week of the equally unprecedented wildfires in almost the whole of western North America, Arctic Siberia and the Mediterranean (where, incidentally, it has just been reported that 8 of the 10 hottest years Europe were in the last decade). Then, in last week's 'NZ Listener',…

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Chasse Court
Chasse Court
Jul 24, 2021
Replying to

Unprecedented.. scuse spelling if thats wrong saw this at 1.25 am I seem to remember flooding so bad in westport about 15 years ago odd that the people at the head office over there were saying it's been raining so hard and so long that the "leather is rotting of the cows" AFAIK this is a reasonably regular occurance over there.

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The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H. L. Mencken

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Chasse Court
Chasse Court
Jul 24, 2021
Replying to

Perfect explanation and it results in votes and taxes.

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