Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Climate Change: Unimaginable?

The Climate Change Commission's report set out a vision of the future in which emissions had reached net zero by 2050. In order to do this, we'd stop burning coal and gas, switch to using EVs and public transport, and the land wouldn't be covered in cows. But many people's reaction has been to say that we can't possibly make such large changes in such a short time, that it is unimaginable. Really?

Its ironic that these are often older people. Because if we look back as far as the Commission is looking ahead - thirty years, to 1990 - we see a very different New Zealand. On a general level, it was a place where the internet was confined to university computer science departments, where if you wanted to buy something from overseas you had to put a "money order" in an envelope and use the post, and where we suffered under an unfair electoral system which gave huge majorities to parties which lost the popular vote. We were a nasty, pinched little country, full of homophobia and racism (OK...). Also, people could afford to buy a house. But looking specifically at climate change, we were still using CFCs and HFCs, we had no wind farms, and the land wasn't covered in cows. The changes since then - the restriction of ozone-depleting chemicals, the development of wind power, and the rise of mass dairy-conversions - have all been driven by policy (or its deliberate absence, in the case of the cows). I don't think its at all unimaginable that we can drive similar changes with different policies.