Monday, March 31, 2014

Climate change: Fire and flood

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released the second part of its Fifth Assessment report, focusing on impacts. The report had been widely leaked ahead of its release, and on a global scale predicts war, disease, and famine. But there's also a regional chapter on Australasia, which is equally grim reading. Australia gets the worst of it, of course - they will lose the Great Barrier Reef and lose key species no matter what we do - but New Zealand is going to cop it as well, from fire and flood:

o increased frequency and intensity of flood damage to settlements and infrastructure in Australia and New Zealand, driven by increasing extreme rainfall although the amount of change remains uncertain; in many locations, continued reliance on increased protection alone would become progressively less feasible [Table 25-1, 25.4.2, Box 25-8, 25.10.3]


o increased damages to ecosystems and settlements, economic losses and risks to human life from wildfires in most of southern Australia and many parts of New Zealand, driven by rising temperatures and drying trends; local planning mechanisms, building design, early warning systems and public education can assist with adaptation and are being implemented in regions that have experienced major events [25.2, Table 25-1, 25.6.1, 25.7.1, Box 25-6]

The flooding risk will be exacerbated by sea-level rise, which will turn one in 100 year floods into annual events in some regions. Which is something you'd expect local councils to be taking into account in their planning rules. Unfortunately, when they try, rich residents take them to court to try and protect the value of their soon-to-be worthless homes long enough to flick them on to the next sucker (who will then no doubt take the council to court for failing to warn them of the risk of inundation). I expect it will be a similar story with wildfire risk: people will say "you can't put that on my LIM, because no-one will want to buy my house!" Its the whole story of climate change write small: a slow drift to apocalypse, with any move to prevent or limit it foiled by the selfish and greedy rich.

As for our government, they're basically ruling out doing anything:
"We're not playing God on this. That natural process will determine what happens to adaptation of human beings and other mammals and species," he said.

The New Zealand carbon emissions account for 0.2% worldwide. The Government says it's up to local authorities to do what is needed.

So, they won't try and save our climate, our coast, or even our endangered species (some of which face being wiped out by climate change), because that would be "playing god". Which invites the question: what fucking good are they? And why are we paying Tim Groser a generous ministerial salary for this portfolio if he is ruling out doing anything at all?