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The letter to the Minister of Energy  
Letter from the Minister of Energy 
Key Questions of Science of Symbol Use


The July response acknowledged was to correspondence largely concerning the electricity industry. Subsequent to this letter, farmers have demonstrated across New Zealand against the tax on the methane emissions and forced the Government to drop the so-called 'flatulence tax". Also the Government has promoted the construction of a series of fossil fuel burning  plants for generating electricity in years when there is a shortage of hydro-electricity.

Note: The Response the cartoon character, Bonus Joules, first receives is the response given by officials to earlier requests for a discussion with the Minister. (Use back button to return.)

Letter from the Minister

Office of Hon Pete Hodgson
MP for Dunedin North

Minister of Energy
Minister of Fisheries
Minister of Research, Science and Technology
Minister of Crown Research Institutes
Associate Minister for Industry and Regional Development
Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change

17 October 2003

Dave McArthur

Dear Mr McArthur 

Thank you for your letter of 20 August 2003. 

We believe the images we have used to portray the greenhouse effect and ways we conserve energy in our climate change kids booklets are the most obvious and user-friendly way to communicate these messages – and in a way that school children can most readily identify with.

We do not believe that you can explain how the climate works without using images of a sun, an earth and a blanket of gases. These images are a simplified representation of the science behind climate change and are a correct and adequate way to convey how it comes about. 

We believe that ‘greenhouse gases’ is a better term than ‘warmer trace gases’, as the term ‘greenhouse’ describes exactly how such gases work on the earth’s atmosphere.

The climate change booklets have been very popular with school children and we have received many positive comments about how fun, informative and easy to understand they are.

 Yours sincerely

 The Hon Pete Hodgson


 Parliament Buildings, Wellington, New Zealand, Telephone: (04) 470 6558, Facsimile: (04) 495 8449

The Letter to the Minister...

Wellington 3

20 August 2003

 Minister of Energy
Hon Pete Hodgson

Dear Pete,

Our Government uses images that communicate that energy can be conserved by humans and that the atmosphere works like a greenhouse.

What scientific evidence does the Government have that these images most effectively communicate the nature of energy? *

Can we have a meeting?

Yours sincerely

 Dave McArthur (pp Bonus Joules.)

 * Please see attached page for questions of scientific evidence in detail. My experience of a range of the Government agencies is that no one has ever asked these questions before and no one knows of any relevant research. I believe the ramifications are profound.


Thank you for your response (2 July 2003, ERD 02-03/1074). It was a disappointing response. At least no one can say I have not tried to communicate to you and that I have not gone to extraordinary lengths to support the Government’s stated objectives, Science and democracy.  For the record this was only one in a series of attempts to provide you with information and tools to achieve those objectives.

 Several years ago I foresaw the difficulty the Government would have implementing the Kyoto Protocols.

Three years ago I developed for Negawatt Resources Ltd Energy Action 2008, an eighty lesson, 11 poster, vertically integrated programme for teaching scientific concepts of energy, energy efficiency strategies and Climate Change issues for primary schools and their communities. I went to considerable length to interest the Ministries of Energy, Education, the Environment and the Prime Minister. I could not even gain an evaluation of the resource.

 Two years ago I sent the Climate Change Group a detailed proposal how it could promote a competition between year 7-8 schools to create a 2-3 minute video portraying the nature of the Warmer Trace Gases. The best 5/ 6 films would be collated into a peer-peer resource video for the use in all schools and the winners could be broadcast before the TV 1 7pm weather to celebrate Rio plus 10 week. I never even received an acknowledgement of receipt of the proposal from the various individuals in the Climate Change Group.

 One year ago I attempted to interest the Prime Minister’s office in the attached questions.

  I observe with interest the political and statistical impacts of the continuing ignorance of the atmospheric environment. 


Key Questions re. communicating the nature of energy and Climate Change issues.

 ***What scientific evidence is there that the use of images of Earth’s atmosphere as a greenhouse effectively communicates atmospheric processes to the general population?

(I know of no research and I hypothesise the use of the image Atmospheric Effect generates significantly fewer learning blocks than does the use of the image of Greenhouse Effects.)

 *** What scientific evidence is there that the use of images of Greenhouse Gases is more effective than the use of images of Warmer Trace Gases in communicating energy transformations in the atmosphere?

 (There is no evidence, as ‘Climate Change experts’ use no other term in public than Greenhouse Gases, despite many despairing at their ability to communicate the vital role and impact of the Warmer trace gases to general populace.)

 *** What research has been done on the impact of the use of Greenhouse images of atmospheric processes on the development of strategies for ameliorating the impact of human activity on Climate Change e.g. of use of air in insulation?

 (I know of no research and I hypothesise that the use of the Greenhouse image of the atmosphere suppresses the use of key images of the convection and conduction capacities of air.)

 On a related note:

*** What scientific research has been done on the impact on levels of scientific knowledge in the general population of the use of the image that humans can conserve energy in their daily lives?

 (I know of no research and hypothesise that the image of transformations within constancy inherent the Principle of the Conservation of Energy is a more sustaining image and is less vulnerable to greenwash.)

 Note: I emphasise the phrase image use, as my experience is that top ‘Climate Change experts’ are so engrossed in the debate they completely fail to register that I am not questioning the science in the debate but rather the science in the communication of the debate.

The alternative strategy for communicating Climate Change issues at was stimulated by asking the above questions. Without sustainable images of energy we do not even have the tools to build a sustainable culture and economy.


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