Tuesday, 9 October 2018

"It's Now or Never for Action" -- International Climate Change Report (Updated)

Update. See also Pacific Media Centre posting.
Yesterday in the PM's post-cabinet press conference, not a single question was asked about the IPCC report, despite it being hot off the presses. 
Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin, by Alex Braae and supported by Vector.

Climate change report says it's now or never for action.
The latest report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change has been released, and it's a brutally stark warning. 

Radio NZ reports that it calls for "unprecedented changes," to avoid the world warming more than 1.5 celsius above pre-industrial averages. 

To put that in context too, the co-chair of the IPCC's working group said preventing further rises is "possible within the laws of chemistry and physics," which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the chances of that happening.

Why is this report different? 
It's the urgency and unequivocal language of it. "We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes," is one sample quote from the IPCC's press release. The NY Times says it's a "far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought," and that without significant action, unprecedented climate crisis could happen as early as 2040. I don't know about you, dear reader, but I intend to still be around in 2040.

But the current crop of worldwide political leadership probably won't still be around in 2040. They'll either be out of office or dead. That's a problem, because action needs to begin immediately (or rather, 40 years ago) to have any meaningful effect. The report's FAQ section noted that "countries’ pledges to reduce their emissions are currently not in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C." 

To avert catastrophic warming, the economic costs and social changes that will need to be made will be dramatic. Because of that, it will require political leadership and bravery that is almost unfathomable, and it will need to happen in every single country.

On The Spinoff, a range of experts have outlined exactly what the report means, especially for New Zealand. It's worth pulling out two key areas from the contribution of Dr Bronwyn Hayward, one of the lead authors of the IPCC report. 

The first is coastal communities, including, for example, almost every major city, which will be increasingly affected by rising sea levels. Think about Petone around Wellington, or South Dunedin, or Marine Parade in Napier, or South Brighton in Christchurch, or Matua in Tauranga, or the huge swathes of Auckland that are right near the sea. They're going to flood more often.

Also impacted heavily will be the farming industry, the economic base of the country. In particular, methane emissions – heavily produced by farm animals – need to come down worldwide, and New Zealand can't be exempt from that either. 

Here's a Stuff report specifically about the implications for the farming sector. And of course, if warming and climate change produces more severe droughts (which is also likely) that's going to be a heavy cost in and of itself. 

As for our Pacific neighbours, well, they're already being hit hard by rising sea levels. Recently the NZ government announced they'd help build a weather station on Tokelau, "to help Tokelau build its knowledge of and resilience to climate change." The question really has to be – why does more knowledge need to be built up? People living in the Pacific already know exactly what climate change is doing to their homes. 

Submissions on Zero Carbon Bill

It's worth a reminder here that submissions on the Zero Carbon bill came back recently. That's the flagship bill for fighting climate change this government is pursuing, and on Newshub Nation, minister James Shaw noted that while there was strong support for emissions cuts across all gases, there are also powerful voices favouring slower approaches, and compromises by all will be needed. 

Is that an intellectually tenable position in light of this latest IPCC report? That really depends on how urgently the report's recommendations are taken. 

There's a self-reflective point about journalism in all this that needs to be made too. 

Yesterday in the PM's post-cabinet press conference, not a single question was asked about the IPCC report, despite it being hot off the presses. 

Hell, the very next story in this Bulletin is going to be about government moves to pressure petrol companies to bring prices back down.

Climate change is going to have to become one of the lenses that everything gets assessed through, or else stalled progress is inevitable.

Reprinted, with thanks,  from The Bulletin.

Related.  Newsweek article "Everything you need to know about the climate change report?

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