Climate weirding: the climate wild cards

Written By: - Date published: 6:05 am, August 8th, 2023 - 5 comments
Categories: climate change, election 2023 - Tags: ,

One of the most important pieces of messaging I’ve heard about climate in recent times comes from RNZ’s environment commentator Kennedy Warne. A writer and founding editor of NZ Geographic, Warne spoke on Nine to Noon yesterday. Referencing (failing) international goals to keep global warming within 1.5C or 2C average increase over pre-industrial levels, he says the focus is now shifting to what that means in reality in terms of climate extremes,

These climate wild cards that seem to be the real worry. Climate scientists are warning that it’s not just global warming, but global weirding. The extremes are becoming the new normal. Conditions once thought inconceivable, or at least extremely unlikely not that long ago, are now the expected reality.

These are big, devastating, and increasingly seen as unpredictable… Unpredictable change is the new status quo.

He gives some recent examples,

  • In Chile winter temperatures were as much as 20 degrees above normal
  • Phoenix Arizona had 31 consecutive days of 43C. Pavement temperatures exceeded 83C, and people that fell on the pavement required intensive care treatment for third degree burns
  • Oceans are storing more heat, increasing tropical cyclones and atmospheric rivers, transferring very large amounts of water from sea to land
  • Sea surface temperatures in the coldest parts of the world are hitting new highs (up 5C in Antarctica).
  • Marine heatwaves are now so high that bathing in Florida is akin to stepping into a hot tub, the highest sea surface temperature so far is 38C.

The point here isn’t to just roll out another list of terrifying news. It’s to highlight just how unstable the climate already is. We are in new territory, and it requires a fundamental rethink of our current green BAU response. This is no longer about climate change being something in the future for other generations to deal with. It is here now in two very important ways.

One is that we still need, urgently, to drop greenhouse gas emissions fast. If we don’t, we will be locking in a civilisation-destroying catastrophe. Think I’m exaggerating or fearmongering? There are any number of mainstream analyses of this, including from the IPCC. This from the Guardian in November 2022,

Humanity is on a “highway to climate hell”, the UN secretary general has warned, saying the fight for a liveable planet will be won or lost in this decade.

The other is that we don’t get to escape that. If we don’t act, it will impact on our lives. We might not be around for the collapse of civilisation, but the pathway to that will not be pretty or comfortable. The pandemic and the current cost of living crisis will be child’s play in comparison.

What we can do

It’s not too late. This is the crucial piece of messaging unfortunately missing from much climate discourse, along with what we can actually do. It’s increasingly a knife edge between telling the truth about how bad the situation is so that people will act, but also encouraging people to act rather than give up or switch off.

The good news is that we’ve never had so much choice in terms of what we as individuals can do. In New Zealand we have the election in ten weeks, we can make this the climate election. Over the coming two months, NGOs will be releasing analysis and comparisons lists of the climate policies of political parties. Please share these widely along with the message that we have to act now. Most people want the government to do more, this is only possible with a progressive centre left government.

It’s vital that lefties don’t give up on this election. We need a strong turnout and for that we need the message that this is a fight worth having. James Shaw is telling the Greens’ activist base that the election is tight and may come down to a few thousand votes. What we say and do, online, at home, in work places, at the pub, matters.

Action begets empowerment. At the end of his piece Kennedy Warne talks about the process of ‘normalising the abnormal’, and that we must not lose the ability to be shocked or feel dismay at what is happening to the planet. If we want to act, we have to find ways to stay engaged, and one of the best ways I know is to get involved in positive and proactive change.

A useful frame for that is the three pillars of transition:

  • activism
  • creating regenerative replacement structures for running society
  • and changing people’s hearts and minds.

There’s a list in that link of some of most progressive transition movements to get involved with. Every rohe in New Zealand has such initiatives to swing behind.

Key here is that we turn society and culture in the right direction, the one that gives us the best chance of things working out. This requires hope, and for hope to survive we need stories of what is working as much as how bad the situation is.

5 comments on “Climate weirding: the climate wild cards ”

  1. Blazer 1

    'Climate weirding','Global Boiling'….the…heat..is definitely being ..turned..up.

  2. arkie 2

    Stopping climate breakdown is likely going to require constraints on energy use. Will the constraints be imposed on working classes and the poor (the default under capitalism), or on the rich and corporations (ecosocialism)? This question will define politics in the 21st century.

    Jason Hickel, Dec 3, 2022

    https://twitter.com/jasonhickel/status/1598659832638218240

    I don’t know how to say this in a punchy, eloquent way… but the climate and environmentalist movements need to get very serious about creating alliances with labour movements and working-class political formations. And fast…

    Jason Hickel, May 4, 2023

    https://twitter.com/jasonhickel/status/1653743870453116930

    Party vote Green.

  3. Mike the Lefty 3

    It is interesting to note that climate change is often now a topic in church sermons. The attitude that whatever happens is God's will appears to be slowly moving towards a more balanced reasoning that humans are causing climate change by failing to listen to the words of God.

    Not all churches of course.

    I doubt that climate change is much mentioned in the US bible belt.

  4. newsense 4

    And also now Bernard Hickey has said it, it can’t be ignored: doing both road tunnels first increases our carbon output for construction, but has no benefit in reducing it. Thus it leaves us very much on the hook for $20 billion in fines if we miss our carbon target in the Paris accord.

    Let alone National’s lala land.

    I haven’t caught up with today’s announcement, but it seems unlikely enough to reverse our current position plus such a large new carbon output.

    Like your work Chris H, but Hickey’s right isn’t he?

  5. newsense 5

    This is nice but it relies on the same NZ businesses who have been dragged kicking and screaming into this to pull finger. You never know!

    Still if the milk price is down and farmers can’t afford to pay for their current business costs, let alone their carbon costs we can direct all the subsidising of that industry into tourism, education and conservation. And hi tech or whatever buzzword is going around. Game streamers. That dude who streams traditional carving on Twitch. He’s earning export $$ give him some subsidies!

    Anyhou- investment fund announcement: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/495339/pm-hipkins-hails-2b-blackrock-climate-investment-fund-for-renewable-energy

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