Friday, January 10, 2020

Climate Change: The action that counts

Over on Newsroom, Professor Jacqueline Beggs writes about the action she is taking on climate change. Its the usual list: reduce meat, don't fly, consume less. I'm doing some of this myself, and none of it hurts - but the way our economic system is constructed means the impact of such actions is limited. Shifting to a plant-based diet is not going to stop the dairy industry, our biggest emitter, from poisoning our atmosphere, soils and rivers, because 95% of what it produces is exported to rich pricks overseas. Using public transport is not going to shut down the trucking industry, our next biggest polluter. Buying less crap is not going to stop Tiwai Point from using 10% of the country's entire electricity supply or help shut down Huntly and other fossil fuel power stations. And driving an electric car is not going to close off those gas wells in Taranaki or stop OMV from drilling for more in the Great South Basin. Sure, all of these tiny individual actions all add up, in the way that raindrops wear mountains down to dust - but its not the most effective method of reducing emissions.

What is the most effective method? Politics. All of those industries depend on regulation. And all of them can be regulated out of existence, or to pollute less and less until they cease to be a problem. And that means electing governments who will do that, and putting the pressure on parties to adopt climate friendly policies. Not bullshit half measures like giving agriculture a 90% pollution subsidy, or banning new fossil fuel exploration but extending existing permits forever and letting them dig up and burn whatever they find - but reducing those industries to a level consistent with human survival, and doing it as quickly as possible.

Currently our political choices are climate arsonists who don't care if we all burn to death (National); do-nothings who pretend concern but fundamentally refuse to upset the destructive status quo (Labour); or well-intentioned sellouts (the Greens, at least under their current leadership). These are not good choices. But putting pressure on parties will force them to change their positions and force stronger policies. And we do that by marching, by occupying, by speaking up and by voting. This is an election year, the year where our voices count, where politicians have to at least pretend to listen (and suffer the electoral consequences if they don't). So if you want real action on climate change, get involved and speak up. It's the only action that counts.