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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2009

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Bluetooth headset worth $69 On ice: Tanya O’Neill arrives at Pegasus Airfield, her very short hair courtesy of a child cancer fundraiser.

Photo: KERRY BARTON

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uperbly uneventful is how I would describe this year’s flight south. After four tries at getting to Antarctica last season, firstly due to high turbulence over Canterbury, followed by bad weather at Scott Base and finally mechanical issues with our ski-equipped Hercules mid-flight, I was a little sceptical about this flight. But as the engines revved up for the final time on the Christchurch tarmac, I couldn’t help but smile because I was off again to one of the most mindblowingly stunning, yet harshest continents on Earth. As our packed US Antarctic Programme Globemaster C-17 lifted off, I was a swirl of emotions: excited, feeling extremely fortunate, and raring to go. So what is involved in getting to Antarctica with the New Zealand Antarctic Programme? Firstly you have to secure some of the limited logistic funding through the New Zealand Government and get your science approved. Everyone venturing south must have an up-to-date first-aid certificate, as well as medical and dental clearance. My trip to the GP took three hours – I was poked, prodded, and tested for everything imaginable. The day before departure everyone arrives in Christchurch to be kitted out in the swish field clothing. It’s so stylish, the Kiwis are told to guard it

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■ Tony Orman is a conservationist, freelance journalist and former land resource planner.

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he debate on global warming (or is it climate change?) is so confused by conflicting cross currents of hot air. Contrary to government beliefs there is a difference between global warming (presumably man-induced) and climate change. Consequently the term ‘‘climate change’’ should not be used for the simple reason climate change has been here since the world began evolving. Yet Cabinet minister Nick Smith is even dubbed climate change minister! Climate change was evident to the early European explorers such as botanist-missionary William Colenso, who crossed the then trackless Ruahine Ranges from Hawke’s Bay to preach in the Taihape area. In his diary he told of dead trees, stream beds choked with shingle and tree trunks and large land slips. But Colenso’s graphic descriptions gathered dust until in the 1980s, they were dusted off and read by a scientist in Hawke’s Bay – the late Dr Patrick Grant. Dr Grant researched and found old tree skeletons in the Ruahine Range, attributed by government agencies and the Forest and Bird Society to a combination of deer and possums, were in fact, caused by climate change. During a period 1909-1914, rainfall records revealed there were six successive droughts and then a big drought in 1915. The 1915 drought – aggravated by the six preceding dry years – stressed and killed giant forest trees. Marlborough’s rainfall records

warm period, the Romans grew grapes in York and Nordic settlers farmed Greenland, hence its name. In August 2007, new scientific studies were reported to have prompted scientists to declare the fear of ‘‘catastrophic man-made global warming’’ was scaremongering. The announcement said the studies debunked the United Nations, former US president Al Gore and the mediaengineered consensus on climate change. Ironically Gore, of the film An Inconvenient Truth, won a Nobel Peace Prize for his global warming hysterics. Another report suggests Gore might not be squeaky clean on the subject, being involved in a carbon trading company that will make millions out of the Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile back in New Zealand the late Augie Auer, meteorologist and TV weather presenter, described the global warming argument as a ‘‘combination of misinterpreted and misguided science, media hype and political spin that had created the current hysteria’’. The last Labour-led government and indeed the present National-led Government, endorse the Kyoto Protocol. It is hypocrisy at its worst. The (Labour) government trumpets the climate change catastrophe, yet floods New Zealand with gas-guzzling cheap car imports that are a major contributor to emissions. National is committed to the same environmentally disastrous free-market policies, too, yet endorses Kyoto. The Government won’t allow coalfired power stations because of alleged emissions but exports coal to China to burn in their tens of thousands of coalfired stations.

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■ Waikato University Earth and Ocean Sciences student Tanya O’Neill is in her second year of a PhD looking at the impact on Antarctic soils of human activity.

It’s all a load of hot air show the same drought pattern. If those several years of successive droughts happened today, would the global warming lobby have immediately blamed ‘‘climate change’’? In 1909-15, there were virtually no motor vehicles and low farm stock numbers compared with today. Dr Grant identified three periods of climate change cycles that were relatively recent in terms of geological time: ■ Matawhero Period (1530 to 1620) ■ Wakarara Period (1770 to 1800) ■ Waipawa Period (1950-present day) So climate change has been going on for centuries, indeed millions of years. After all are not ice ages proof of natural climate change? To use the phrase ‘‘climate change’’ in the context of any debate against global warming is either ignorant or dishonest. Don’t tag normal climate change as global warming. Frankly I can only conclude the global warming debate is hyped up out of all proportion. Sure, we should be both aware and alert about global warming but not overreactive and hysterical. The real question is whether accelerated change is happening beyond natural climate change cycles? My concern at the confusion isn’t alone. Indeed some very learned people think the same. Here are some I have come across. Professor David Bellamy said mid2007: ‘‘Global warming . . . has become a political football that has lost its foundations in real science. ‘‘The most reliable global, regional and local temperature records from around the world display no distinguishable trend up or down over the past century.’’ Professor Bellamy went on to point out that during a worldwide medieval

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gym with treadmills, exercycles, weights, and it has the most beautiful lounge area in the world, with views out to the flagpole, the Ross Ice Shelf and aptly named White and Black Islands. But it’s not all luxury resort-style living. Scott Base is a hub full of scientists and artists on fellowship programmes, eager to get out into the field to start the work they’ve been planning for months. There’s a reason Antarctica is called the most inhospitable continent – the weather forecast must be factored into every move. Even a trip up nearby Observation Hill (a high point on Ross Island which Scott’s party climbed and waited for their leader to return from the Pole) requires a trip to the signout book, an estimated time of return (they will come searching), and extra clothing as even the perfect day can quickly change. At the time of writing this I’ve been here two full days, so my first activities have been reconnaissance, a lot of walking between the base and neighbouring McMurdo Station, up and around Observation Hill, and up Crater Hill, the site of new wind turbines, which will help decrease fossil fuel reliance at both stations. The real science starts soon as I begin sampling disturbed and adjacent undisturbed sites to get a handle on how soil properties change with human disturbance.

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Long, cool summer with our lives when we visit our neighbours at the US base of McMurdo Station as the orange and black jackets with the Antarctica NZ penguin and fern logo have gone walkabout in the past. Landing at Pegasus Airfield on the Ross Ice Shelf is an awesome experience. The first thing you notice isn’t the cold – your Extreme Cold Weather gear is able to keep you toasty warm at minus 40 degrees Celsius – but the glare. Next you notice the absence of greenery or trees, in fact anything that gives you a handle on scale and distance. The landscapes are vast, infinite, and indescribable – photos don’t do them justice. Kiwis are greeted by staff from Scott Base, and quickly shuttled from the ice airfield to that familiar set of green buildings New Zealanders have called home since the late 1950s. Life on the base is a bit like school camp; structured meal times, everybody pitches in with the dishes, and 10 loaves of bread are baked daily. Scott Base is 18C all year round. This is achieved by heating the outside air, which consequently drops the humidity indoors to less than 10 per cent so it’s extremely dry. (Bottles of moisturiser are scattered all over the base.) Another consequence is excess static; there are metal strips beside the base phones, computers etc, and you have to give yourself a massive shock before touching electrical equipment. Home comforts include a zippy cafestyle coffee machine, and home-baking. Scott Base has a bar with pool table, a

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