Greenpeace and others are campaigning for the Government to agree to a target of 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Where did they get that number from? From the science. The scientific consensus is that if we let carbon dioxide rise stay above 350 parts per million in the atmosphere we will cause heating that will seriously destabilise the world climate and create a disastrous feedback loop (the Amazon burning, release of greenhouse gases that are currently frozen, disruption of ocean currents, over-acidification of the oceans) that will be ruinous for humanity.
Currently, we’re at 390 ppm. We need to get back below 350ppm and fast. The best way to do that is to reduce emissions. Sharply. Now. 40% is the bare minimum.
Of course, those with a short-term interest in not having to pay the cost of reducing emissions are dragging their heels like they have been doing for 20 years. The people who have stuffed up our world’s climate by pumping climate changing gases into the atmosphere don’t want to have to pay the cost of cleaning up their act. So they and their lackeys oppose any solid programme to reduce emissions.It’s just endless excuses. If you go a little deeper, they usually don’t make any sense and fundamentally misrepresent the issue.
It used to be they could just deny climate change was happening. Now they say action would be too expensive (as if inaction bore no cost). They claim that it would be impossible to reduce emissions by 40% of 1990 levels because we are 20% above those levels. That’s bollocks – that’s a lie they know they’re telling you. A lie told by omitting to mention that we’re discussing net emissions, and while New Zealand now emits more GHGs than it did in 1990, its forests absorb even more than that increase.
According to Treasury, our net emissions over the 2008-2012 period will be a few percent below 1990 levels. We’re already on our way down. It just takes a concerted government effort to get us down 40% in 11 years.
The best way we can cut emissions by 40% would be to plant more trees. All that’s needed is more financial incentive for rural land owners to convert marginal farmland to commercial forests. Add to that the phasing out of thermal power plants aided by investment in energy efficiency, greater use of electric-power public transport, and smarter farming enabled by R&D investment and 40% isn’t so far away at all. With some effort, commitment, and leadership on the part of the government we can do it.
Of course, the former deniers, now the do-nothing lobby, just don’t want any action on climate change. All they see is the cost to government (‘oh noes, my taxez!’) and to emitters of reducing emissions. They fail to see the cost of inaction.