Thursday, October 03, 2013

Climate change: Time to act

Over the weekend the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the first part of its Fifth Assessment Report. The short version: unless we do something, we're pretty much fucked, with two degrees of warming by mid-century, and four or five by 2100. Which means drought, famine, war, extinction, and the spread of tropical disease. Locally, it means more extreme weather events, more drought, and bankrupt farmers (and its worth noting that that drought report is based on AR4 models; reality is looking much worse than that). So what's the government's policy response to this crisis? Nothing. Climate Change Minister Tim Groser has said that they're not going to do anything, and will continue the heedless charge to exploit fossil fuels - the cause of the problem.

Today in the Herald, that drew a deserved response from Brian Fallow:

The Government's refusal to do much of anything to curb New Zealand's emissions is as economically myopic as it is morally contemptible.

If man's activities are what is warming the planet - and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change there is very little "if" about it - the good news is that we can do something about it.

The bad news is that so far what we are doing about it is five-eighths of not very much at all.

The government has said that we'll do our "fair share". Well, our fair share is a fuck of a lot more than what we're doing at the moment, which is nothing. Our ETS doesn't work, because National deliberately broke it. Our forest owners cut down their trees because they can pay for it with mickey mouse "credits" from overseas. Foreign businesses have set up great polluting factories here because the ETS astonishingly pays them to do it. And meanwhile farmers, our biggest source of pollution, get a free ride. We had an opportunity with the ETS to set our emissions on a downward path towards decarbonisation, and National squandered so that their crony vested interests could keep on profiting. But it has to be done, which means that the necessary corrective action - five years of lost ground to make up - will be even more unpleasant

And we need to do it. This isn't just about an abstract "saving the planet" (and in particular the tens of millions of lives of those who will perish because of climate change); its about saving us. The storms and droughts we've seen this year have been ruinous. And they're just a taste of our future. Unless we do something. Unless we act.