The quest for a ra­tio­nal cli­mate-change pol­icy.

What would a ra­tio­nal New Zealand cli­mate-change pol­icy look like?

Metro Magazine NZ - - Contents - TEXT — MATTHEW HOOTON

The UN’s In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC) says hu­man civil­i­sa­tion as we know it will soon end un­less rad­i­cal global ac­tion hap­pens over the next 12 years.

To­day’s most ex­treme weather events will be com­mon­place. Coastal re­gions will be flooded. Equa­to­rial re­gions will be­come un­in­hab­it­able. Food pro­duc­tion will plunge. Per­haps more than a bil­lion refugees will be on the move. This is the IPCC’s po­ten­tial re­al­ity within al­most ev­ery­one’s life­time. It puts Oc­to­ber’s Koru Club cri­sis into per­spec­tive.

The global re­sponse has been to ig­nore the re­port. Of the lead­ers of the four coun­tries re­spon­si­ble for more than half the world’s green­house-gas (GHG) emis­sions, the US’s Don­ald Trump and Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin are cli­mate-change de­niers, while China’s Xi Jin­ping and In­dia’s Naren­dra Modi have said noth­ing. There has been lit­tle more from the next tier of pol­luters, those emit­ting 1 to 3 per cent of the global to­tal, in­clud­ing Ja­pan, Brazil, In­done­sia, Canada, Mex­ico, Iran, South Korea, Aus­tralia and Saudi Ara­bia. Even the Euro­peans are now more pre­oc­cu­pied with stop­ping right-wing ex­trem­ism than sav­ing the planet.

Ra­tio­nally, this means New Zealand should do noth­ing to re­duce emis­sions either, un­less there are other ben­e­fits, such as im­me­di­ately in­vest­ing in Sin­ga­pore-stan­dard pub­lic trans­port rather than stum­bling along with a tram here and a rail loop there.

Be­yond that, our main fo­cus should be pre­par­ing for what now seems to be an in­evitable global catas­tro­phe, at least on the scale of World War II. We should re­move set­tle­ments and in­fra­struc­ture from low-ly­ing ar­eas such as the Hau­raki and Can­ter­bury plains, while build­ing dykes and wa­ter-pump­ing sys­tems for the Hutt Val­ley, Christchurch and parts of Auck­land and Dunedin. We need to con­sider how to re­main self-suf­fi­cient in food, en­ergy and other ne­ces­si­ties. Most con­trary to lib­eral sen­si­bil­i­ties, a mas­sive mil­i­tary build-up is needed to stop the most apoc­a­lyp­tic fears of the most xeno- pho­bic New Zealand First voter be­com­ing re­al­ity. New Zealand could eas­ily ac­com­mo­date 100 mil­lion peo­ple, but the di­as­pora from equa­to­rial re­gions will be much greater than that. Un­less pol­i­cy­mak­ers talk about these is­sues, doubt the au­then­tic­ity of their cli­mate claims.

The IPCC has made a joke of Jacinda Ardern’s “nu­clear-free mo­ment” of be­com­ing a net-zero emit­ter by 2050. Even if we reached zero well be­fore that, global emis­sions would fall by just 0.17 per cent, with no im­pact on the cli­mate chal­lenge we will face. It makes no sense to take any steps down that path if they re­duce in the slight­est our abil­ity to cope with ef­fects of the cri­sis. Do­ing noth­ing, though, of­fends the con­ceit of punch­ing above our weight.

The flaw in the UN’s strat­egy is to see com­bat­ing cli­mate change as about each coun­try wor­ry­ing about re­duc­ing do­mes­tic emis­sions rather than what it can con­trib­ute to solv­ing a global prob­lem.

When looked at through a na­tion-state lens, it re­ally does make no sense for any­one other than the top dozen or so emit­ters to do any­thing. But New Zealand is able to make a glob­ally im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion in one area and that is agri­cul­tural emis­sions.

The only pos­i­tive out­come from the UN’s 2009 Copen­hagen fi­asco was the launch of New Zealand’s Global Re­search Al­liance (GRA) to re­duce meth­ane and ni­trous-ox­ide emis­sions, which ac­count for 22 per cent of the world’s GHG to­tal. More than 50 coun­tries are now in­volved. If the GRA de­vel­ops sci­ence to cut agri­cul­tural emis­sions by two-thirds it would be the equiv­a­lent of the US be­com­ing a zero emit­ter. If it elim­i­nated them, it would be like China go­ing car­bon zero. This would ben­e­fit the world at least 100 times more than New Zealand be­com­ing net-zero do­mes­ti­cally.

Were Ardern se­ri­ous about cli­mate change, her gov­ern­ment would be is­su­ing re­quests for pro­pos­als to pro­tect coastal re­gions and fast-track a com­plete Auck­land pub­lic trans­port net­work. She would be or­der­ing her mil­i­tary top brass to build up the navy and air force faster than Michael Joseph Sav­age in 1939. Chris Hip­kins would be told to in­crease fund­ing for Massey Univer­sity’s agri­cul­tural sci­ence depart­ment 100-fold.

Ex­cuse the pun, but any­thing short of this, like set­ting up an­other com­mis­sion in Welling­ton, is just more hot air.

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