We are saying this is an emergency that has a level of equivalence to any Civil Defence emergency.
The Prime Minister however seems to think it’s not akin to an already existing emergency and is something we need to prevent happening in the future.
There’s probably a whole post in the difference between those two positions, but rather than getting caught up in the details of what the New Zealand government and New Zealand as a whole is and isn’t doing, let’s step back and look at the bigger picture.
Vox published this piece in 2017 on the issues with climate targets and reliance on unproven tech,
One of the morbidly fascinating aspects of climate change is how much cognitive dissonance it generates, in individuals and nations alike.
The more you understand the brutal logic of climate change — what it could mean, the effort necessary to forestall it — the more the intensity of the situation seems out of whack with the workaday routines of day-to-day life. It’s a species-level emergency, but almost no one is acting like it is. And it’s very, very difficult to be the only one acting like there’s an emergency, especially when the emergency is abstract and science-derived, grasped primarily by the intellect.
This psychological schism is true for individuals, and it’s true for nations.
What if I told you the Paris Agreement on climate change relies on technologies that scientists know DO NOT and WILL NOT WORK?
Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) systems like Carbon capture and storage (CCS) and Direct air capture (DAC) put more greenhouse gases into the air than they take out, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) would push Earth over ecological limits.
‘Beccs features in more than 80% of the IPCC pathways, which means it sits at the very centre of the Paris agreement – even though it is not mentioned in the text. But there is a growing consensus among scientists that Beccs won’t work.’
The technology has never been proven at scale, and there’s no way it will appear in time to save us. Even if it did, it would require that we create plantations equivalent to three times the size of India, which would eat up 1/3 of the planet’s arable land’
This would make it impossible for us to feed the world’s population. And transforming that much land into bio-energy monoculture would trigger ecosystem collapse that could be disastrous for all of us.
‘While many scientists and climate change activists hailed December’s Paris agreement as a historic step forward for international efforts to limit global warming, the landmark accord rests on a highly dubious assumption…’
‘BECCS at scale would require 724 million arable hectares of Earth’s surface to be dedicated to bioenergy crops, approximately double the size of India. BECCS of such magnitude looks wildly improbable’
to avoid a 1.5°C global warming calamity without relying on fantasy, large-scale carbon sequestration, the global community would have to get to zero carbon emissions by 2026.
This is why I write about the Powerdown, a framework for acting fast on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time as transitioning to regenerative and resilient societies that are based in degrowth rather than perpetual growth but still give us a decent standard of living.
Because if it’s true that global climate agreements are at best giving us only a percentage chance of avoiding catastrophe, and those agreements are based on technology that isn’t available yet, is unproven at scale and may cause more damage, then we need another way. And the block to other ways is not lack of options but is our collective and personal inability to grasp the immediacy and scale of the emergency.
The best way I know of managing the cognitive dissonance that kicks in in the blunt face of climate reality is to have proactive pathways for action. This is things we can do right now that bring a personal sense of making a difference (climate activism, planting gardens, divesting from climate polluters), as well as movements and world views that present us with hope even if we can’t see how things might work out.
That’s twofold: one is letting ourselves be confronted with the enormity of the situation and all the grief, shock and fear that goes with that, and two is choosing to act in ways appropriate to it being real.
I don’t know what will shake enough people out of complacency, denial and clinging to our “workaday routines of day-to-day life” to get the mass mobilisation necessary to shift our government to ‘war footing’, but I do believe that there are enough of us who get it already to be stepping things up and demonstrating the action matching the reality of the emergency.
Many of us are already doing things in our personal lives, and many of us are here for the discussion, although I fully expect at least some of the threads under this post to be focused on arguing about what is real about the green tech vs powerdown realities. For those of us that do get it, can we please use the climate emergency declaration to shift things up to the next level and strategise about our political options. We can’t afford to wait for parliament, but they will follow the radical edge if we make them.