The mining company Bathurst, given the Government’s blessing to dig up the lignite beneath the South Island’s pretty Denniston Plateau, has unveiled an impressive plethora of environmental initiatives with a $22m pricetag to mitigate for the damage of its proposed open-cast mine.
In a recent piece in the Herald, Gareth Morgan and Geoff Simmons argued it was a good deal, saying that “the reality is jobs and income matter and if the government of the day feels extractive industries are the best way to provide those, the challenge for those who disagree is to prove otherwise.”
The poor old climate scientists the world over have been providing that proof for years, but the situation has perhaps never been summed up with more clinical realism than by visiting US journalist Bill McKibben on his recent, nation-wide ‘Do the Math’ tour. Despite being unable to spell ‘maths’ correctly, his campaign certainly has all the hallmarks of a marketing genius. The gist: three numbers, compelling in their simplicity. Two degrees, the temperature all governments of the world agree we cannot afford to surpass; 565 gigatons, the amount of carbon we can release into the atmosphere by mid century and still have some small hope of staying below two degrees; 2795 gigatons, the amount of carbon on the fossil fuel companies’ books, already consented, with the full intention that it be burned.
And yet here we are looking for more, with Government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry reaching $46m a year. McKibben’s vocabulary didn’t let him down when he came up with a one-word summation of that logic: “Perverse.”