A nice attempt at wedge politics from rightwing economic think-tank NZIER today. They say we should be concentrating on water quality, air quality, and saving native species, rather than climate change – a transparent attempt to divide conservationists from environmentalists.
The entire substance of this ‘report‘ is a table on page 17 that doesn’t actually attempt to work out the costs and benefits of different environmental activities. That’s right, there’s no actual numbers. It’s just some generalisations and subjective rankings. This isn’t actually a cost/benefit analysis, they haven’t quantified the costs and the benefits. All this is really about is NZIER saying ‘we don’t want NZ to do anything about climate change because it means putting the costs of pollution on to business, so we’ll pretend that other things are higher and mutually exclusive priorities’.
But this isn’t a zero sum game. Better dairying would do a lot for both water quality and greenhouse emissions, for example. The greatest long-term threat to our endangered species is climate change. We can, should, and must tackle all these environmental problems at once. Often they have common solutions.
The NZIER report is simply not the robust piece of analysis it purports to be and can be dismissed as such.
The report fundamentally misconstrues, intentionally I suspect, the nature of climate change and the efforts to prevent it. We are in danger of pushing the world’s temperature beyond a tipping point where catastrophic climate change will occur, if that is allowed to happen the cost of any other environmental issue and the cost of emissions reductions will pale in comparison. We must not let that line be crossed or everything else will be for nought.
In terms of emissions reductions. NZIER brings up the old saw that we only produce 0.2% of world emissions, so whatever we do doesn’t matter. Well, every community, every city, most countries in the world can also claim to produce an individually trifling amount of emissions but it’s the combined effect that is the problem and it is our responsibility to do our part as much as it is the responsibility of everyone else to do theirs. Apart from being immoral, the free-rider behaviour that NZIER extorts just encourages the same from others until we all end up doing nothing.
I don’t know what kind of people NZIER thinks New Zealanders are but the New Zealanders I know have always been people with a sense of fairness who are ashamed not to do their part when hard work needs to be done. We have never sat on the sidelines during any other global crises that has faced us, and we are better than shirking our responsibilities on climate change.