Friday, January 29, 2021

National cannot be trusted on climate change

On Sunday, the Climate Change Commission will release its draft emissions budgets and reduction plans, basicly setting the trajectory for climate change policy to 2050. They're expected to recommend much stronger action than we are taking. So naturally, today the National Party took the opportunity to remind us that they can't be trusted on this issue, with Climate Change Spokesperson Stuart Smith penning an op-ed which sounds a lot like the anti-lockdown cranks' "but muh freedomz!":

It is imperative that the Government does not meddle with the freedoms of New Zealanders and finds solutions to achieving net zero carbon emissions using effective and rational policy.


What will not work is the Government telling you how you should live your life, such as what car you can drive, what days you can drive it, the size of your house or where your energy comes from.

"Telling you how you should live your life" is literally what policy does. We have policies telling you you can't murder people, that you can't cheat people on the stock-market, that you can't bury nuclear waste in your backyard. We also have literally policies about what car you can drive, the size of your house (in your local district plan), and where your energy comes from (likewise). The question isn't whether policy interferes with your decisions - because again, that is what it is supposed to do - but (within the red lines set by the Bill of Rights Act and international human rights law) whether the interference is justified by the goal.

In this case, the goal is quite literally the survival of the planetary biosphere and human civilisation. A mere 2°C of warming - which we are currently on track to exceed - is expected to kill a billion people, and the toll gets higher and higher the hotter it gets. Preventing that justifies... quite a lot. It certainly justifies relatively trivial interventions like saying you can't buy a dirty car, or that we're not going to be burning dirty coal for electricity anymore. And objecting to these just makes you sound like an arsehole, who'd happily see people murdered to avoid the slightest inconvenience to your life.

But then, National has always been like this: reflexively opposed to regulation or change, even when lives are on the line. Thanks to that attitude, we got Pike River and a leaky homes crisis. This is more of the same, but on a vaster scale. And what it tells us is that they simply cannot be trusted on the most important issue of policy to face our planet; that despite their pretence of concern, they don't really care about climate change, and would happily see us all burn rather than make the merest change or suffer the slightest inconvenience. We should not give them that chance, ever.