Thursday, April 02, 2009

Climate change: a policy of genocide

Representatives of 175 nations are currently meeting in Bonn to hash out the details of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol in the leadup to December's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. New Zealand is there, of course - but our negotiating position leaves a lot to be desired. According to Greenpeace, the New Zealand delegation is advocating a stabilization target - the long term level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - of 450ppm.

Once upon a time, people thought 450ppm was a safe number, likely to limit global average temperature rise to acceptable levels. But the science has moved on. Even the Stern Report (published 2006, using data from 2001) warned that 450ppm meant a greater than even chance of more than 2 degrees of temperature rise - meaning mass-extinctions, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, and effects on the food chain. More up to date studies are even scarier. Last year climate scientist James Hansen warned [PDF] that 450ppm is now a maximum, and that we need to aim much lower if we are to avoid disaster.

Against that background, a policy of stabilizing greenhouse gas levels at 450ppm is a policy for melting icecaps, drought and famine. It is a policy that our Pacific neighbours should drown. It is, in short, a policy of genocide in the name of continued coal-industry profits. And that is simply immoral.