It seems that National has a new response to how to deal with climate change, and that is that all we have to do is adapt.
“The latest IPCC report is another useful contribution to climate change science that will help inform our climate policy. We can use the information in the report to help ensure that New Zealand’s economy, environment and society are resilient to the impacts of climate change.”
It is telling that Groser thinks that the economy is more important than anything else, and that it is something distinct from the environment.
“The report backs the view that adaptation is an important part of dealing with climate change that cannot be ignored.
“While much of our focus is on getting international agreement on reducing emissions, some change can’t be avoided so we must be prepared to adapt.”
National thinks that we can fail to live up to our own obligations to reduce emissions yet persuade the major polluting nations to change.
The response is frankly pathetic. Even in overseas nations with conservative governments there is recognition that urgent action is required.
In England the Tory Minister of Climate Change’s department has said:
The science has clearly spoken. Left unchecked, climate change will impact on many aspects of our society, with far reaching consequences to human health, global food security and economic development.”
Even in Tony Abbott’s Australia there appears to be some understanding of the issue. Greg Hunt, the Minister for the Environment has said:
Australia is committed to addressing the challenges through direct and practical policy measures. This includes reducing emissions by five percent from 2000 levels by 2020. Central to achieving this is the creation of the Emissions Reduction Fund,” said Hunt.
“The five percent target represents serious action and is comparable with the action being taken by other countries when compared using 2005 as the benchmark starting point.”
Although the target is artificial and not nearly enough at least there is not talk about Australia adapting to climate change. And this is from an administration whose Prime Minister has downplayed the potentially devastating effects climate change could have on the Lucky Country by claiming that Australia had always had droughts.
It is not as if there is no financial justification for reducing emissions. The Stern Report estimated that it would cost at least 5% of GDP each year if no action was taken whereas the cost of action would equate to 1% of GDP. Stern subsequently said that he had got it wrong and had underestimated how bad climate change was.
And the cost locally would be horrendous. Much of our urban development is on the coast and transportation links such as motorways and rail lines would be submerged by a sufficient increase in sea levels. And the increasing frequency of drought and flood would ravage our horticultural industry.
Groser was asked yesterday in Parliament about his comments on climate change. He confirmed that without changes over the next decade the country’s output of greenhouse gasses will increase by 48%. He also said “New Zealand is extremely well placed, over a very long period of time of 100 years, to make the necessary adaptation, provided we have sensible policies in place.”
I do hope that National may come to its senses and decide to do something to address the causes of climate change but I am afraid that we should not hold our breath. It seems that we are no longer even a fast follower, more of an international slacker thinking we can ride climate change out. And if National is dependent on a party that thinks that doing something about climate change is irresponsible moral exhibitionism and that poor countries should be responsible for addressing climate change then the prospects of New Zealand doing something tangible to address the worlds most pressing environmental problem are bleak.