Monday, June 17, 2019

Climate Change: Advice it was right to ignore

A story on Scoop from NZ Energy and Environment Business Week about how the government had "ignored advice" when setting its methane target caught my eye last night. The story is based on a week-old press release from National climate denial spokesperson Todd Muller, and highlights the difference between the recommendations of the Climate Change Chief Executives Board - a collection of public sector CEOs - and the government's final position on methane targets. Reading the actual paper, the CEOs noted that the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change had recommended cuts to methane emissions of between 22 and 47% by 2050 were required to stabilise the climate and avoid more than 1.5 degrees of warming. Despite this, they then recommended a lower target. Their reasoning?

In respect of the range presented for the biogenic methane target, 22% represents the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s assessment of the reduction in livestock methane emissions required by 2050 below 2016 levels to prevent additional warming from these emissions. 35% represents the midpoint of the range for agricultural methane set out in the IPCC special report. Analysis suggests that this range of emissions reductions is feasible.

The range reflects the differing views of departments on the trade-offs involved in the target decision, and that specific targets have not been tested with the agriculture sector.

[Emphasis added]

So, despite everything that is happening, despite the planet literally catching fire in front of us, public sector CEOs are still recommending doing as little as possible to solve the crisis, due to (economic) trade-offs. Which is unsurprising, really: its the same narrow circle of thought that got us into this mess, and the same advice they've been giving for decades, and changing their minds now would mean implicitly admitting they were wrong. And so public sector arse covering means doubling down on failure rather than admit error.

But snark at our failed public sector "leadership" aside, what this really is is a case of the government deciding to listen to the IPCC - the acknowledged international experts in the field - rather than a bunch of business managers. And that's a perfectly reasonable decision. When it conflicts with the IPCC, the advice of the NZ public service is most definitely advice that should be ignored.