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The Standard

Retrograde NZ

Written By: - Date published: 3:46 pm, May 4th, 2009 - 18 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: , ,

I had the pleasure of meeting lauded climate activist and author Bill McKibben this morning. McKibben is in New Zealand as part of a tour encouraging action on climate change, in the lead up to the big UN climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

He’s a good guy tall, frank and realistic about the distinct possibility of us failing in the quest to save ourselves.

‘We are up to the edge (success is) a long shot, but we do have a very narrow window of opportunity. This is our final exam; so far we’re failing, but we don’t have to put our pencils down quite yet.’

He’s also very frank about how backwards New Zealand is on the issue.

‘New Zealand is retrograde; you’re just not getting it like other countries are. You’re kind of like the US was up until a few months ago. And you’re not like Europe, where the question is ‘how fast can we push this through?’ New Zealand needs to reboot. The conversation has to change .and quickly.’

It is such a delight when high-profile foreigners cotton on to the fact we’re luddites.

McKibben says without hesitation that the climate negotiations in December will be the most important in human history. He points out that the meeting will be too late to prevent global warming; rather what they’ll be talking about is whether we can avoid complete catastrophe.

But while acknowledging the geopolitical imperative for action, he also points out that the real negotiations are infact not between the countries of the world, but between humans and physics and chemistry ‘the problem being that physics and chemistry aren’t going to bargain.’

McKibben was one of the founding members of 350.org the significance of the name being that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the limit for humanity.

‘350 is the magic number; the red line. Any more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and it’s not compatible with life on earth.”

For the record, New Zealand’s proposed stabilisation goal is for greenhouse gasses is no more than 450ppm a level that would mean the annihilation of many low lying states, including most of our Pacific neighbours.

18 comments on “Retrograde NZ”

  1. George Darroch 1

    Head meets wall.

    I’ve been saying this for the last 7 years, and others for a lot longer than me. Guess how much we’ve been listened to by anyone with the power to make decisions? Not all that much, and by the looks of things not much more for a while to come.

    When are people going to start listening? We’ve hung off powerplants, met with MPs, protested on the streets, occupied valleys for years.

    Labour wanted to stay in a comfortable muddle-ground which didn’t actually involve doing much – the thermal ban, late in their term, was one of the few laudable actions they took.

  2. Terry 2

    George, you are right. I supported Labour and campaigned during the last election but now I’m really having my doubts. Climate change is by far the biggest and most dangerous challenge that we face. And yet when one tries to raise awareness with Labour supporters you often get this, silence.

    There have been well over 70 comments on the Mt Albert by-election. 6 comments came after this post, on Melissa Lee. And a dismal one comment on this post. A topic that eclipses the by-election, the supercity, student repayments, public service cuts altogether in importance and no one has got anything to say.

    One Labour supporter recently commented that I had defected to the Greens. I didn’t realise that I had to support one or the other. I have been supporting both but now I’m wondering if there is any point in supporting Labour at all. From the top to the bottom, Labour’s response to the climate change can only be described as weak.

    • George Darroch 2.1

      Well, during the last 6 years Labour couldn’t do what they wanted.

      After 2002 this was because they decided that the Greens were toxic, and chose Dunne instead, who vetoed effective action on climate change. After 2005 it was the same story, as a governing arrangement involving the Maori Party was “political suicide”, and Dunne and Peters had to be kept on side.

      So, you see, there was little that could be Dunne.

      • Terry 2.1.1

        I suppose leadership is more than just making policy and passing bills. Its raising awareness and trying to change things via other channels as well. I was really impressed when Grant Robertson went around New Zealand trying to raise peoples awareness of NZAID (for all the good it did unfortunately). Lianne Dalziel is going around with the issue of selling alcohol.

        I’ve been to forums on climate change organised by Victoria and Otago Universities, by secondary school groups, by Greens. Where are the Labour forums? Are Labour getting behind the 350 campaign?

        If they are going to be leaders they need to be CC literate, if they are CC literate why aren’t they trying to pass on this important information?

    • lprent 2.2

      You always would get a response from me, and I’m strongly labour because they even bother to think about it. There is widespread support for work towards climate change inside people in Labour.

      However they are also very aware that it has to be done bringing the rest of NZ at least part of the way there – otherwise it just get reversed*. To date that change of attitude hasn’t happened. Just look at what the Nats are doing after being voted in – saying that they were going to ‘review’ (ie stall) any action.

      Look at the kinds of dipshit science and comments about science that we see around here whenever the topic is raised. I always remember the thread where icebergs floating past Dunedin became conclusive proof that the world was getting colder. When in fact in a colder world there are bugger all icebergs – the stay attached to ice-sheets. This is an example of the Wishart/Hide school of earth sciences.

      There is a long way to go on educating our citizens. I’m afraid it will probably take some more atrocious weather, or a trade embargo against us. By then it will probably be too late anyway. Get used to bad weather and lots of refugees, plus many pious CCD’s saying it was all everyone else fault that they were so stupid.

      * reversed like Hide’s super-city bill passing under urgency will eventually.

  3. wibblewithoutapause 3

    rats! i didnt hear about this too until too late… Has anyone got a transcript or perhaps could point me towards some commentary of his tour in the press?
    Or are they all too busy planting fear and paranoia amongst us about the shorter term flu conditions?
    Thanks

  4. George Darroch 4

    I congratulate Demeter for bringing up these issues consistently on The Standard.

  5. gingercrush 5

    I see in Australia under a Labor government (why they don’t include a U is beyond me) that they have delayed their ETS till 2011, severely cut emission goals and priced carbon at $10. Of course the big factor is the recession. But why should New Zealand rush to take care of climate change? Particularly, when even if we severely cut emissions we’re so completely reliant on other countries to cut their emissions as they vastly contribute more emissions than we do.

    • George Darroch 5.1

      Why, because the ALP is in the pocket of coal. And is believing the lines of the coal and other mining industries.

    • James 5.2

      @gingercrush “Why should we rush do do anything?”

      You could say the same thing about abolishing slavery or giving women the vote … why rush and be the first to do the right thing when it could be such an inconvenience ?

  6. r0b 6

    But why should New Zealand rush to take care of climate change?

    Because it’s the right thing to do?

    • gingercrush 6.1

      Well I’m in some agreement in that we should do so before other countries economically disadvantage us. But even if we cut all our emissions. World emissions would still be so great that global warming would be a consequence. If emissions will either continue to rise or be high despite what New Zealand does. Meaning if you believe global warming, temperatures will rise and the world will be in trouble. Any cutting back of our emissions isn’t going to save the world.

      Edit: I can’t actually read. You said “Because it’s the right thing to do”, and all I did was provide some economic answer to it.

      • Terry 6.1.1

        So GC, if you realised you were speeding towards a brick wall would you hit the brakes in the last moments in order to mitigate the damage or just keep going?

        I suppose this analogy isn’t fair, it doesn’t take into account the self-interested nature of the driving and it doesn’t account for the people in poorer countries who are probably going to be affected first. Its more like a joyrider taking out a line of school kids on their way towards a brick wall, GTA styles.

        “if you believe global warming, temperatures will rise and the world will be in trouble.”

        Yep, including the tourism industry which is one of the backbones of our economy. Including our whole economy I would imagine.

        But hey, its a sweet ride so lets enjoy it now eh?

        • Tigger 6.1.1.1

          I keep seeing the current government as Nero, fiddling while we all burn…

          I was disappointed with Labour’s timidity over this issue but heck, I’ll take that over Key and Hide’s approach any day.

  7. Snook 7

    Thank you Demeter for raising this increasingly urgent topic probably for the umpteenth time. How anyone who cares about their own life, that of their children and grandchildren can vote in the promoters of environmental destruction, ie, Nact is beyond me. These guys think that the market will fix everything try that when the oceans are emptied of fish, the soil ruined, water and air fouled and people drop like flies from unbearable temperatures.

    Labour of course is not lily-white but acknowledged the need to reduce carbon emissions by buying back the rail network, at least it’s a start.

    I believe that any party in government in ten years from now will be unpopular on two fronts: one, for not having brought the issue to the attention of the public (who don’t want to hear anything that’s going to pull them out of the consensus trance that everything’s OK she’ll be right mate), and two, for having to impose severe limits on what people may do in every aspect of their lives.

    Any party that wants to have any measure of popularity in the future needs to get the message out. The Greens try but they really need to get right up in people’s minds with the kind of bleak future we can look forward to if we do nothing. I piss a lot of people off about peak oil but hopefully supplies will soon become short and thus expensive as a way to get people to get out of their cars and walking, biking and using public transport thereby mitigating some carbon emissions.

    I suspect that twenty years from now the Maldives and many of the Pacific islands will be uninhabitable and the Netherlands and Bangladesh will have started drowning.

    Dr Peter Lloyd says in his documentary that if the world had three Katrina-type events in one year it would spell the end for the insurance industry. This link is the first of seven:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2vflGvgC68&feature=PlayList&p=698E4D72F1507126&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=36

    Kudos to Gareth Morgan on ‘Sunday’ for dipping into his own pocket, 500k, and sourcing the truth about our predicament re global warming.

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    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • An economy that is just working for some is an economy that is not working
    The National Party presents itself as a great manager of the economy, but if the economy is only working for some we really need to question that assertion. Alongside the perpetually elusive surplus, the levels of risk in our economy are… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    4 days ago
  • House prices to a crack $1 million in 17 months
    The average Auckland home is on track to cost $1 million in 17 months’ time if nothing substantial is done to rein in soaring price rises, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. “Auckland’s house prices have skyrocketed 63 per cent… ...
    4 days ago
  • Vital support services can’t be left in lurch
    The National Government has big questions to answer about how a provider of services to thousands of vulnerable New Zealanders is set to fold, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. Relationships Aotearoa which provides support and counselling to families, individuals… ...
    5 days ago
  • Treasury and IRD on a capital gains tax
    Both the Treasury and IRD have been advising the National Government on the benefits of a capital gains tax. Documents released to the Green Party under an Official Information Act request show that John Key has been selective with the… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    5 days ago
  • Charity legislation needs review
    It is unacceptable that the big corporate based charities claim  millions in annual income tax exemptions, while small community based and operated non-profit organisations  struggle to gain official charity status, Labour’s acting spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community Sector Louisa… ...
    5 days ago
  • John’s panic-Key response to housing crisis
    John Key needs to tell New Zealanders what caused his sudden change of heart that led to the Government’s scrambled and last-minute housing measures, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “The Prime Minister’s sudden rush of blood to his head followed… ...
    5 days ago
  • Keep our Assets Christchurch Campaign: An update
    I recently presented my submission to keep Christchurch Council assets at the Christchurch City Council’s public hearings on its 10 year plan on 13 May. The hearings are live-streamed and recorded so you can watch them on www.ccc.govt.nz. The Council’s… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    5 days ago
  • John Key finally admits there’s a housing crisis
    John Key’s weak measures to rein in the astronomical profits property speculators are making are an admission – finally – that there is a housing crisis, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “But yet again National is tinkering with the housing… ...
    6 days ago
  • Government stifles voices in CYFs review
    The Government’s exclusion of the Māori Women’s Welfare League in a panel on the future of CYFs is a cynical ploy to stifle views, says Labour’s Māori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta. “It's unbelievable that a significant review on the future… ...
    1 week ago
  • Speech to the Otago Chamber of Commerce
    Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. It’s a pleasure as always to be back in the town that raised me. Growing up in St Kilda meant that there was one thing that was a big… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key can’t just be Prime Minister for Parnell
    John Key must show New Zealanders in next week’s Budget that he is more than the Prime Minister for Parnell, and is also the Prime Minister for Pine Hill, Putararu and Palmerston North, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. In… ...
    1 week ago
  • Stop the conversions
    This week, some Waikato locals took me and intrepid photographer Amanda Rogers on a tour of some  lakes and waterways in their region, and up to the massive dairy conversions in the upper catchment of the Waikato River. It… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • More regional jobs go in Corrections reshape
    News that 194 Corrections staff are to lose their jobs will have ramifications not only for them and their families but for the wider community, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. Prison units at Waikeria, Tongariro and Rimutaka face closure… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government’s climate meetings off to a bumpy start
    On Wednesday, I attended a hui and an evening meeting that the Government had organised in Nelson as part of its climate change consultation tour, to support the Nelson community telling the Government to take meaningful action on climate change.… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Taxpayers the only ones left feeling blue
    Ministry of Social Development bosses could have saved themselves thousands of dollars in consultants’ fees by providing staff with rose-tinted spectacles, Labour’s State Services spokesperson Kris Faafoi says. A report out today reveals the Ministry is spending over half a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Why are the regions still facing restrictions?
    Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford is questioning why the regions should continue to be saddled with LVR lending restrictions announced by the Reserve Bank today. “Labour has been calling for the regions to be exempted from LVRs for the best… ...
    1 week ago
  • The high costs of weak environmental regulation
    Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is described on the Department of Conservation website as “Canterbury’s largest and New Zealand’s fifth largest [lake], and an internationally important wildlife area.” But the lake is also polluted by nutrients leaching from farms in the catchment.… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Submissions to Wellington City Council on their Gambling Venues Policy
    Every three years Councils across the country are required to check that their gambling venue policies are still fit for purpose and they can choose to consult on their policy if they are thinking of making changes. Councils don’t have… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Reserve Bank action shows Govt out of touch and out of ideas
    The Reserve Bank’s unprecedented measures today show it understands the serious risks of the overheating housing market – in complete contrast to John Key’s refusal to acknowledge the crisis, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “The Bank is right to… ...
    1 week ago
  • Send us your snaps: 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year we've hit a milestone. We're turning 25.To help celebrate a quarter of a century, please send us your photos from the last 25 years of the Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand! Note: Photos must be jpg, gif or… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year the Green Party sends 25. To help us celebrate a quarter of a century please send us you photos of 25 years of the Green Party!Photos must be jpg,gif or png and smaller than 2MB. If you are… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Bay growth plan too little too late
    Today’s Bay of Plenty growth study from MBIE is another example of Government spin - lots of talk but little action, says Labour’s Regional Development spokesperson David Cunliffe.  “This is a region that desperately needs to develop the downstream processing… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Government bows to ACC pressure
     The Government has finally buckled to pressure from Labour and the New Zealand public in making a half billion dollar cut to ACC levies, but the full benefits are two years away,” says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.  “$500 million over… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • False figures cloud Auckland transport facts
    The Prime Minister should apologise and issue a correction after both he and Transport Minister Simon Bridges have been caught out misrepresenting facts on Auckland’s transport spending, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. "Both John Key and Simon Bridges have… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt books confirm National can’t post surplus
    The last publication of the Government’s books before the budget shows National will break its promise of seven years and two election campaigns and fail to get the books in order, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government is… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • US state joins NZ with GE food labelling
    New Zealand has a similar law making the labelling of many GE foods compulsory, but the Government seems to let it slide.  Because the government has not monitored or enforced our GE food labelling laws since 2003, it seems the… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago

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