Monday, July 29, 2019

Will National stay the party of climate change denial?

The National party has a long history of climate change denial. When they were the opposition to the Clark government, they opposed the carbon tax, opposed biofuels, and infamously drove a tractor up Parliament's steps to symbolise their opposition to farmers contributing to the cost of researching solutions to agricultural emissions. When in government, the first thing they did was gut the ETS and remove restrictions on fossil-fuel electricity generation. And back in opposition, they have opposed every measure the government has offered to reduce emissions. Why? Reporting from the weekend's party conference makes this clear: because their rural core vote are climate change deniers:

Addressing the party faithful, [climate change spokesperson Todd] Muller caused some to grumble as he spoke about the need for an agricultural response to climate change, pointing to “market signals” from consumers and businesses that could not be ignored.


The first question from the audience did little to suggest that message had got through.

“Methane is 0.000082 percent of the atmosphere, it comes from a cow, emanates from a cow at either end...could you please explain to me how it actually contributes to global warming?”


“The previous National government was quite comfortable that the science expressed by the global scientists in the IPCC reports were valid.”

“Rubbish,” interjected one audience member. “Are you saying the science is settled?,” shouted another.

A less extreme critique came from someone noting New Zealand’s minimal contribution to greenhouse gases compared to larger nations.

“Given that we’re 0.17 percent, even if we achieve and get to zero percent, what the hell are we going to achieve on a global basis from a global perspective and why do we need to lead the world?”

...and so on. They're not all like that, but these are National's core voters, the people it is there to represent. And with them, it seems like its denial all the way down.

Its a problem for National, because they are going to have to deal seriously with this issue next time they are in government. The climate crisis is not going to go away just because a bunch of backwards rural hicks don't believe in it, and urban voters (who are facing entire suburbs being drowned) are going to demand action. National will need to respond with effective measures, or risk losing the votes of the 80% of us who live in cities. It's that simple.

The Zero Carbon Bill is the real test of this. If they support it and strong methane targets, they're a credible party. If they oppose it, then they're a climate denial party and should be treated with all the seriousness such loonies deserve.