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NRT: Climate change: “Adaptation”

Written By: - Date published: 10:45 am, April 2nd, 2014 - 51 comments
Categories: climate change, law - Tags:

no-right-turn-256No Right Turn notes the typical response from politicians to the Fifth IPCC Assessment report. Perhaps that promoting legislation with a penalty of long prison terms for political negligence would help? It sounds like a good way for lazy politicians to retire. After all the law recognises negligence as being a criminal action in other spheres – why not for our political servants?

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Fifth Assessment Report, showing the world facing war, famine and death. But rather than committing to reducing emissions, politicians have said “we’ll adapt”. In The Guardian, George Monbiot rips apart what that means:

When our environment secretary, Owen Paterson, assures us that climate change “is something we can adapt to over time” or Simon Jenkins, in the Guardian today, says that we should move towards “thinking intelligently about how the world should adapt to what is already happening“, what do they envisage? Cities relocated to higher ground? Roads and railways shifted inland? Rivers diverted? Arable land abandoned? Regions depopulated? Have they any clue about what this would cost? Of what the impacts would be on the people breezily being told to live with it?

My guess is that they don’t envisage anything: they have no idea what they mean when they say adaptation. If they’ve thought about it at all, they probably picture a steady rise in temperatures, followed by a steady rise in impacts, to which we steadily adjust. But that, as we should know from our own recent experience, is not how it happens. Climate breakdown proceeds in fits and starts, sudden changes of state against which, as we discovered on a small scale in January, preparations cannot easily be made.

While our past inaction means some level of adaptation is required, we need to be clear: it will be hugely disruptive, cost a fortune, and be driven by disasters. To use a local example: what do you think a metre of sea-level rise is going to do to Wellington? And what do you think that combined with a winter storm will do to the coast highway segment of SH1, the Hutt Road segment of SH2, the Hutt-Wellington railway line, Petone and Eastbourne? The latter already loses houses in severe storms; in the future it’ll probably lose its road. Preventing this will cost a fortune – and given our politicians and their denial, it won’t be done in advance. We’ll have to wait until houses are flooded and transport links cut before they do anything.

This is the future our politicians have given us: one where we face large costs, because they were too lazy and selfish to act now. And when it happens, we should drag them from their retirement homes and hold them criminally responsible for their negligence.

51 comments on “NRT: Climate change: “Adaptation” ”

  1. Populuxe1 1

    Perhaps the post-greenhouse earth will be a more conducive climate to reptilian shapeshifters?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1

      Last I heard it’ll take about 10,000 years to naturally scrub the last of the anthropogenic CO2 out of the atmosphere. That might be enough time for lizards to become the dominant species but not for them to evolve shape-shifting capabilities 😉

      • Populuxe1 1.1.1

        One was working on the assumption of David Icke and other conspiracy theorists who believe that our current government already are reptilian shape-changers from Sirius. That bloody John Key refused to deny it. LOL

  2. Bill 2

    Methinks the post paints an altogether too rosy picture. Sod the roads and the houses! Crops will be failing, floods and droughts will be hitting. Distribution systems will be falling over (okay – that includes roads…alongside water supply and electricity supply) And the refugees. Millions rising to tens and then hundreds of millions looking for an ‘air pocket’ in some random compartment of planet earth. (No lifeboats)

    Politicians and policy wonks have known for years what was going to happen and have deliberately chosen to do nothing due to over riding short term considerations. And we have gone along with it due to our own short term ‘necessities’…the mortgage/rent payments, the HP payments, our (laughably) children’s future, our social status, protecting the years of investment/sacrifice we made to get to where we are….and so on.

    • weka 2.1

      Thanks for moving us on from the lifeboat analogy.

      “Politicians and policy wonks have known for years what was going to happen and have deliberately chosen to do nothing due to over riding short term considerations.”

      yes, but I still think that most people can’t bring themselves to believe that it’s real. It’s hugely cognitively and emotionally challenging to take in the reality and lots of people don’t have the skills to manage that. We need to change that if we want people to do the right thing.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        We need to change that if we want people to do the right thing.

        I don’t think that most ordinary people are at fault, other than giving up their own faculties of critical thinking, believing authority figures and the news saying that things won’t be too bad, there is plenty of doubt if there is actually a real problem and of course we will cope anyways. The corporate MSM has been promoting non-reality based content for many years now, soothing the common frogs in the pot even as the water that we are immersed in heats up.

        At the end of the day, politicians can’t even bring themselves to lower house values, increase taxes on big corporations, and deal with the massive asset hoarding of the top 0.1%, let alone effectively deal with a slow motion catastrophe which will probably cause an extra billion deaths in the next few decades.

        Let the next chump voted into office handle it, eh.

      • Bill 2.1.2

        Thanks for moving us on from the lifeboat analogy

        Yeah – not a problem….was bugging me. The whole rest of Titanic analogy is pretty fucked too mind 😉 See, whereas we really need to change course, it was because the captain of the Titanic changed course that the Titanic got it’s belly ripped out and sank.. The strategy for dealing with an ice-berg (apparently) is to run the bow straight into it while slowing, lose from front end compartments, deal with impact injuries, and limp on. Not a strategy for AGW though.

      • Jenny 2.1.3

        I still think that most people can’t bring themselves to believe that it’s real. It’s hugely cognitively and emotionally challenging to take in the reality and lots of people don’t have the skills to manage that. We need to change that if we want people to do the right thing.

        The wisdom of the street….


        Increasingly, the question being asked; ‘Where’s the leadership?’

        Vox pop:

        Question: Is climate change something that you worry about?

        Answer 1: Yeah, definitely

        Answer 2: Nah. Well it’s here now. I’m not going to worry about it

        Answer 3: I do pay attention, but not enough attention

        Answer 4: I am still quite young so I don’t think about the real world that much.

        Answer 5: I am not going to live to 100. (But) I am worried about events that are happening now in terms of serious weather events.

        Answer 6: Certainly the weather patterns we are seeing are increasingly extreme not just in New Zealand but around the world.

        Answer 7: …Australia was under water at one time, where’s your global warming?

        Answer 8: …starting at home reducing everything I do, stop taking everything for granted

        Answer 9: ….reduce a car trip somewhere, or being able to carpool somewhere.

        Answer 10: There are lots of little things, but in the end I don’t really see how those personal things can make much of a difference unless we actually get together collectively to make change…

        Answer 11: Good leadership will take everybody along, if everybody does it, it will make a big difference, but people as individuals feel the little I do won’t make a difference either way, so I will keep on doing what I’m doing.

        No more hiding, no more back peddling, no more avoidance, no more excuses, no more dodging the issue. This is the greatest challenge of our generation, Leadership on climate change is what is missing, and what is called for.

        Climate change needs to become an electoral issue.

        No more of this: The snake that ate the elephant in the room

  3. Bill 3


    Funk notes that “on Wall Street you no longer get a lot of climate denial.” Largely indifferent to the causes of climate change, his respondents decided early on that investing in green technology was a losing proposition. Instead “the warmer the world, the less habitable it became, the bigger the windfall.”

    In 2008, Royal Dutch Shell developed two sophisticated climate-risk scenarios called Blueprints and Scramble. The first modeled a greener future while the latter predicted – due to government inaction – a future of droughts, floods, heat waves and super storms. By 2012, Shell executives confided to Funk “We’ve gone to Scramble. This is a Scramble kind of world. This is what we’re doing.” Another Shell official opined “I will be one of those persons cheering for an endless summer in Alaska.”

    rising sea levels make Bangladesh “ground zero” for climate change. India’s response is a 2100 mile, floodlit, electrified barrier, the “fence of shame,” erected to prevent some twenty-five million Bangladeshi climate refugees from crossing the border when one-fifth of their county is under water.


    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Funk is curiously nonjudgmental about his interview subjects, preferring to view them as good people “according to their own belief system,” who only act out of perceived self-interest. He allows that “We can’t trust capitalism to fix this” but asserts there’s “nothing fundamentally wrong with profiting from disaster” and frets that readers might unfairly vilify businessmen.

      I don’t think that there’s anything unfair about vilifying the people who caused the disaster. Especially when they’re looking to profit from that same disaster.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        Societal ostracisation is a key control on the behaviours of these people, who can only be considered dangerous capitalist radicals.

      • Bill 3.1.2

        I don’t think that there’s anything unfair about vilifying the people who caused the disaster.

        So we should vilify ourselves then.

        • Draco T Bastard

          We certainly let it happen so we do have to carry some of the blame. But it’s been the business people who demanded the conditions to let it happen and, of course, actually then went out and destroyed the environment for their profit.

          • marty mars

            No the demand for their products did that and of course we were the ones that bought that stuff. Even now we pretend that our stuff is magiced by fairies instead of slave labour in faroff countries. I can understand why we don’t want to face the truth – hell even I can’t face it but it is still the truth and the exploitation of everything to give us our pretend comfortable lives is on all of us.

            • weka


              Plenty of ordinary NZers have had time to think this through.

            • Macro

              But marty that analysis takes no account of advertising – the creation of wants rather than needs in a consumptive economy. Societies demand for more is profoundly driven by corporates telling them through advertising what they “need” and “deserve”.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Considering the psychological manipulation that goes into advertising are you sure that it was our demand?

              • Look around the room you’re in and answer it yourself – are you not aware of the manipulation? Are you still manipulated? Why?

                • weka

                  But I like my flat screen teevee.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  It wasn’t until I stopped watching TV and listening to radio and thus out of the advertisers field of play that I even realised that I was being manipulated. And even then reading up on the psych manipulation and watching series such as The Century of the Self helped with that.

                  The point here is that most people won’t know that they’re being manipulated and will probably even claim that they aren’t.

                  • Macro

                    True Draco – I have had a similar experience. No TV, no Papers (except online) and the Guardian, and no radio except occasionally National if I hear something important is going on. For days I was unaware of the missing aircraft, because that was not where I was at. Now I “want” for nothing except a good book and the local library supplies me with that, and 3 exceptional bookstores in town – all 5 mins away. Bake my own bread, grown our own fruit and veg, buy our eggs at the local market – but chocks are on the plan, and the local butchers meat has to be had to be appreciated.
                    My son in law bought us a flat TV (because he thought we needed it and in payment for them staying – but he needn’t have) and we watch from time to time dvd’s from the local, I added a free view but haven’t bothered with it. the half an hour we spent trying to find something worth watching convinced us that we were missing nothing.

    • Ad 3.2

      I was a huge fan of those Shell scenarios.

      Scramble began in my view when successive Bush administrations chose to have a last great triumphalist surge and temporarily expand US military dominance across the globe. This was accelerated by the US reaction to 9/11 and EU and Five Eyes states to similar more locallised events.
      In doing so they killed the global will for multilateral responses to global problems outside a greatly weakened U.N.
      I keep waiting for crises in which governments and societies will adjust for good. Wistfully.
      – The GFC was a great crisis-opportunity, wasted by all sides.
      – Occupy was reduced to mere entertainment.
      – The predicted oil crisis was sufficiently softened for a few decades.

      I see no will for states to grow in strength and capacity to deal with a crisis of such a scale as is described in the IPCC. Certainly I see no appetite for it in New Zealand.

      Transition Towns continue to be noble communitarian exercises.

      But I have little hope for the vulnerable parts of most of New Zealand’s cities – in particular the low-lying and sand-based soils of Tauranga, suburbs such as Devonport, the coastal parts of Christchurch, Dunedin’s St Clair, the flood-prone areas of Invercargill. Whether it’s managed or not, we must retreat from the coasts.

      Local and regional government, as Mayor Lawrence Yule said yesterday, does not have the capacity by itself to deal with the scale of this. Minister of Foreign Affairs Tim Groser said that regional responses are the right route.

      I think the only thing that will wake the New Zealand government up is a sustained drought that damages New Zealand’s capacity to produce milk exports. I would not wish that on my country, but our record of responding comprehensively to global crisis with major local impacts is very very poor.

      • weka 3.2.1

        Dairying already happens in areas where there isn’t enough water, they just pump it out of the ground or nearest river. It would take a mighty drought to put an end to that. More likely would be the hydro being affected and there not being enough power to run the irrigators. That might work, because presumably the govt would priortise electricity generation for commerce over people.

        A collapse in dairying might wake up lots of people, but if we had the current govt in power I wouldn’t hold hope of them doing anythign close to useful 🙁

        • Ad

          Our legacy hydro systems are a massive support against drought and for sustaining dairy beyond where standard catchments allow it.

          But it’s not only hte current government I am pessimistic could respond to this scale of threat – it’s aany conceivable coalition combination.
          It’s why I rarely comment on climate change or environmetnal issues broadly – I’m simply too pessimistic.

          • weka

            If we had a decade or so of the GP in a coalition govt under our belts, we would be in a very different situation now. It’s times like this I consider NZers to be gutless.

            • Colonial Viper

              If we had a decade or so of the GP in a coalition govt under our belts

              NZ voters rarely give the Left 3 terms in power.

              • Draco T Bastard

                They haven’t really had a chance to yet. FPP worked in National’s favour and so we ended up getting more National governments than we voted for. 81 and 93 were the most noted ones but there were other times National won when they shouldn’t have. I fully expect that under MMP we’ll end up with more left leaning governments over time and that they’ll stay in power longer.

        • Tracey


          dairy conversions in north otago and north canterbury rely entirely on irrigation from the rivers. that MUST alter the ecosystem.

          waikato once the best place to dairy is in another drought. this year, last year and 2008 are the three driest years on record there.

          • Macro

            And its not looking good for next year either.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Heard on the radio today that the farms in the Waikato are on the brink of going bankrupt.

              • Jenny

                Last year was supposed to be a once in 50 year drought. But now we are having another one. Farmers in the North report that the soil moisture levels this time round are worse than last year. Last week the North was officially designated “In Drought”, allowing farmers suffering its affects to draw on several government and banking services to stave off bankruptcy. But farmers in some parts of the Waikato who say that they are even worse affected than last year have not been officially declared to be in drought areas. Last week’s storm which provided some rain but know where enough to break the drought, and there has been very little since.

                But this is nothing as compared to California, their “once in 200 year drought” looks to become permanent for the forseeable future.

                • Macro

                  The problem in the waikato – and I drove past some farms that are clearly affected over the weekend on my way to Hamilton -is that following on from last years drought there was not the rainfall to replenish the water in the ground over the winter – you may recall NZ had its warmest August ever recorded, and this year the persistent winds have had a severe drying effect, as well as below average rainfall. This is what is predicted to be the patten for the east side of the country in the years ahead. It just seems that we are experiencing it ahead of time – as all the forecasts for climate change seem to be doing. El Nino conditions are forming in the Pacific and with El Nino is usually associated drought.So 2015 is also not a good look.
                  What was once the dairy centre of the North Island is looking extremely vulnerable right now. National putting all its eggs in the Dairy Basket is proving to be, as we always suspected, very shortsighted in the extreme.

  4. greywarbler 4

    How much control have I over those people that direct the world and point it in the direction they want so that our every step is slanted towards their pre conceived goal?

    • Bill 4.1

      At an individual level you have the same amount of power and control as all those young men and boys who refused to go off and fight in WW1 or WW2. And the punishment you receive will be less than was meted out to many of them. Collectively, we have all of the power and “those people that direct the world and point it in the direction they want”, absolutely none.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.1

      Verifying the finding that right wing political beliefs predict for low IQ, and vice versa.

  5. logie97 6

    … don’t worry Mr Key has scientists developing different types of grass to adapt to the change.

    a bunker mentality is satisfactory. After all he will still have his nice place in Hawaii.

    And we have yet to hear from the Christian fundies who believe it’s all part of some greater plan – an inevitable result of man’s selfish, greedy attitudes.

  6. johnm 7

    This is not a political game wherein irony and hypocrisy can delight in! Because there are many serious respectable voices telling us that BAU is leading to near term human extinction which now we cannot escape from! We are done, finished, toast whatever and that includes ACT and The National aholes as well. Bye Bye arrogant hubristic naked apes your day in the sun you fucked up! Never Mind.

  7. fambo 8

    Given that John Key, Tony Abbot and others are all playing a significant role in causing millions of deaths and huge environmental destruction that will be greater than what Hitler caused in World War II, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be held to account when they are 80 or 90. You could argue they were voted into power, but Hitler was voted into power as well, if I recall correctly.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 8.1

      Yes, but Hitler’s malice was probably caused by an enlarged amygdala and shell shock, whereas Abbott is driven by a low IQ and an enlarged amygdala and John Key is a (more-or-less) higher functioning sociopath.

      Diff’rent strokes etc 🙂

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        Yes, but Hitler’s malice was probably caused by an enlarged amygdala and shell shock

        And given his voice by a weak liberal democratic German government that proved unable to listen to, articulate and act on the deep economic and social concerns of millions of German voters, which Hitler and the National Socialists promised to do.

  8. Mike 9

    Yeah right. The only problem with all the talk about the planet warming, sea levels rising and it all being anthropogenic is that so far no-one can offer any hard evidence that this is happening anywhere. Until this evidence is offered up most thinking people will recognise that this chicken-licken scaremongering is just a way for more controls and worst of all more taxes. NZ creates 0.1% of the world CO2 emmissions. If we turned Amish and produced virtually no CO2 emmissions the difference to the world would be …..nothing! There is nothing in it for NZ to adopt a world leader stance on this issue except a downgrading of our living standards.

    • Murray Olsen 9.1

      It’s a lot more than talk, which is all you’re offering, Mike. The climate scientists do not propose more taxes and more controls, they do the science. The rest is up to us. At the moment, most of us are getting the downgrading of living standards anyway, while more greenhouse gases are spewed into the atmosphere. Some of us want to do something about it. Idiots want to develop a new type of grass. Haha, what a bloody joke.

  9. weka 10

    This is good


    IMAGINE THAT YOU woke up tomorrow with complete trust in climate science and its implications. By trust I do not just mean a kind of dispassionate intellectual understanding. I mean a trust that combines the intellect with an emotional and psychological acceptance. How would such a trust change your life?

    Would you quit your job? Plant a vegetable garden? Have children? Have a vasectomy or tubal ligation? Write more? Write less? Talk to your neighbours? Build a survival bunker in the hills? Go inward spiritually and bear witness to the devastation? Phone your parents? Hug your children? Become an environmental activist? Cry?


    There is no ‘one right way’ to grieve but if you have strong networks of support the experience can be liberating and even enriching. Grieving can help us detach from our old vision and expectations for the future and adjust to a new reality. We all have capacity to readjust and in fact many of us have experienced something similar after a family member dies or a relationship unexpectedly ends.

    Following this, it is well documented that a healthy and effective response to grief is to join with others and take action using whatever skills and opportunities available to us.


    “You can have the most resilient communities you want, but if temperatures rise above 4°C, there will be no communities left.”

    To have even a modest chance of avoiding this scenario all of us need to become politically active. To quote academic Clive Hamilton, “we need a new environmental radicalism made up of those willing to put their bodies on the line.”


    The bottom line is that if we don’t have a movement in the streets, prepared to get arrested, willing to take those chances, you cannot get the best out of even the most progressive government. By contrast, if you have a movement, you can get something even out of a terrible government.

    For example, 1970s US President Richard Nixon hated the environment movement but he signed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and created the US Environmental Protection Agency. Why? There was a movement powerful enough to force his hand.

    It is incredibly important that environmentalists around Australia become aware of this history — particularly as we face conservative governments around Australia and the regression of even the most basic environmental protection laws.

    my emphasis.

    The whole thing is worth a read, one of the better essays I’ve come across recently. It hits the spot of personal and political.

    • Bill 10.1

      It is a good piece, but…. ‘the politics of small green fences’

    • Ad 10.2

      I’m a really early pessimist.

      I’m going to continue activism and personal responses as good as I can… Knowing (like all Calvinists at base) that we are generally damned and doomed. Feels right anyway. 😉

      • Colonial Viper 10.2.1

        Access to a good scotch does soften the blow.

        • In Vino

          So I should just refill my glass..

          I have told my peers and their grandchildren that my generation may have been the luckiest…

          But I teach in a secondary school, and I cannot look at those damned wonderful youngsters and believe that they are doomed.

          We have to live in hope.

  10. Jenny 11

    “I still think that most people can’t bring themselves to believe that it’s real. It’s hugely cognitively and emotionally challenging to take in the reality and lots of people don’t have the skills to manage that. We need to change that if we want people to do the right thing.”

    Public opinion has changed, climate change is a vote winner, this is a lesson that Labour and the Greens need to take on board.

    In an August 2012 Horizon Poll over 60% indicated that they wanted the government to do more on climate change.


    64.4 per cent wanting Parliament to do more
    60.6 per cent wanting the Prime Minister to do more and
    62.9 per cent saying government officials should do more.

    “The news isn’t good for Prime Minister John Key, with 15.4 per cent saying he’s doing the right amount, 26.1 per cent saying he should do more, and 34.5 per cent saying he should do much more. Just 2.7 per cent want him to do less.”
    Horizon August 10, 2012

    Since the above poll was taken the world has witnessed Sandy and Bopha and Haiyan, and two record breaking Australian heatwaves, California is in a record breaking drought that may never end. And the devastating cold snap in the Midwest and the Atlantic coast has been linked to climate change.

    In giving a lead over climate change the current government is failing miserably, they could really take some big hits here. But it will mean the opposition parties stepping up and taking up the lead dropped by the government. It will mean the opposition parties openly challenging the government head on, over their support for more coal mining and fracking and oil drilling and motorways.

    No more hiding, no more back peddling, no more avoidance, no more excuses, no more dodging the issue, no more censorship and self censorship. Climate Change is the greatest challenge of our generation, courageous and forthright leadership is what is called for.

    Climate change needs to become an electoral issue.

    We need to have serious debate over state investment in renewables, as opposed to government spending on fossil fuel subsidies, we need to argue for diverting government funding away from more motorways and into public transport.

    Climate change has been called the elephant in the room, the big problem that the policy makers refuse to seriously address.

    From Hot Topic 2011:

    “The snake has swallowed the elephant in the room…..” election analysis 2011

    You know what really strikes me about climate change in the election? It’s the absence. It is as if climate change is nearly completely absent from the campaign. When climate change does pop up, it’s portrayed in simplistic soundbites.

    Nick Smith (National) says anthropogenic climate change is real and complex and ‘wicked’. But promises more moderating, balancing and delaying of the NZETS.

    Labour says anthropogenic climate change is real and we will fiddle with some NZETS details for agriculture slightly earlier than National as farmers don’t vote for us anyway.

    The Greens say anthropogenic climate change is real and we have a detailed wonk-friendly exposition on our website, but for this election we are running with “jobs, kids, rivers”

    Simon Johnson at Hot Topic

    Back peddling and deliberate avoidance of discussion about climate change by our politicians, particularly our Green Politicians, can no longer be tolerated or excused, it was barely acceptable in 2011.

    The political parties that decide to take up the issue of climate change and seriously run with it, will seize the time.

    The Labour leader David Cunliffe made a serious mistake when he came out and supported Deep Sea Oil Drilling.

    Labour also made a big mistake when they refused to join the Greens in questioning the government’s $155 million bail out of Solid Energy our biggest coal miner.

    But the Greens also need to take heed. Instead of declaring that they “have no bottom lines” in negotiation with Labour. The Greens need to state clearly that there can be no compromise with Labour over Denniston, or deep sea oil drilling and fracking, just to get cabinet posts. That these positions are bottom lines. That any coalition agreement with Labour if it is to be a just and honourable agreement must cancel both Denniston and Deep Sea Oil Drilling and fracking.

    It is no good at all saying you have “no bottom lines” and then expecting to get anything concrete out of the coalition agreement, The Greens will only win concessions around the big climate change issues like coal and oil and transport, if they have a mandate to do so, and to get a mandate they will have to fight for it, the Greens will have to campaign openly and hard on these issues to gain the mandate to make demands on labour.

    Silence, and wishful thinking is not an option. These issues have to be thrashed out on the campaign trail. Let National and Labour try and justify their positions if they can. The truth is they can’t and if they are openly challenged will prove to be wanting.

    Let’s do it.

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  • Defence Minister visits Ukraine and Poland
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