Monday, November 19, 2018

Climate Change: Committing to burn the world

The government likes to talk about New Zealand doing our "fair share" to reduce greenhouse gases. But are we? A paper in Nature and accompanying website looks at countries' commitments, assessing them on the fairly simple metric of "what if everyone else did this?" The result is (unsurprisingly) that major economies are on track to burn the world. And if you look at the graph, New Zealand is among the worst:

If everyone did as little as New Zealand has promise - a promise we are failing to keep, BTW - then the world would warm by 5.1 degrees by 2100. And that means melted ice-caps, uninhabitable tropics, a collapse of the global food supply, and all the war, famine and death that that involves. As for New Zealand, we just don't know, because NIWA's reference case just doesn't consider effects that high (oddly, they're not studying what we're actually doing). But 5m of sea-level rise will mean great chunks of our major urban areas under water, and the East Coast drought scenarios (already disastrous at 2 degrees) will basicly mean the whole place dries up and blows away. Plus, we'll be flooded with Australians fleeing the baking, uninhabitable wasteland their country will become.

The Prime Minister has talked of climate change as "my generation's nuclear free moment". If that is to be anything more than hot air, we need to dramaticly scale up our ambition and actually do something. The current policy of mouthing platitudes while refusing to do anything which might cost polluters any money or require anyone to change anything they do is not enough. This is about literally saving the world, and the government needs to start acting like it.