A rough ride ahead
Last month we witnessed global and national school ‘strikes’ that highlighted the need for action on climate change. Young people are beginning to realise that the older generation’s response to our rapidly changing climatic conditions are either denial or downplay. Those with strong cognitive bias pluck random weather events to ‘prove’ it’s not happening, while ignoring a huge body of evidence to the contrary, while those in positions to effect change avoid their responsibility because it may affect their reelection chances (or the pockets of their sponsors).
Unless we address the fundamentals that are driving the rapid carbonisation of our climate, civilisation is in for a rough ride. The first is the magical thinking that we can continue to grow the economy forever within a finite system (our planet). We need an alternative to the GDP god that most economists worship. We cannot continue to grow our global economy while expecting to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
There is now more carbon in the atmosphere than there has been for over three million years. Humans have prospered during a period of particularly stable climatic conditions, but we are rapidly upsetting the apple cart. To achieve the Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius we need to halve emissions by 2030, and reduce those to zero by 2050.
This requires an annual reduction of 6.6 per cent. Last year New Zealand’s emissions rose 2.2 per cent, almost 9 per cent in the wrong direction. Anyone with a mortgage understands the implication of compound interest. You can see where we are heading. At our present rate of increase we’re looking at between 4 and 8 degrees warmer by the end of the century.
In a recent conversation with James Renwick, one of New Zealand’s leading climate scientists, I asked what it would take to avert this climate catastrophe. “Something like the WWII response, where virtually the whole population willingly supported the war effort. And in the near future!” Every year we carry on with ‘business as usual’ will mean a much steeper descent to achieve emission reductions.
If we are smart we can create a winwin situation. There don’t have to be losers. Ditching coal for geothermal, solar and wind is a no-brainer. The safer, cleaner jobs created by a New Green Deal currently being advocated in the US are just as applicable in New Zealand. Like wise for our agricultural emissions. Switching to regenerative farming methods can both sequester carbon in the soil and divert waste from our waterways into a resource to help grow the billion trees currently being planted.
I’m keen to work with anyone, including business people, farmers and young people, to find ways to help reduce our GHG emissions while creating a resilient economy that will work for everyone. The third article down on my page at https://www.facebook.com/ profile.php?id=100008566815341 has a raft of information on climate change. It’s time to have this conversation and start the change.
"We need an alternative to the GDP god that most economists worship. We cannot continue to grow our global economy while expecting to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions."