In the week of the second cyclone, while people in various parts of the country were either mopping up or still waiting to see if their homes had been destroyed in the previous one, New Zealand reached a turning point in realising that climate change is here to stay. I’ve lost track of how many serious events happened over the weeks of the two cyclones, and it was only a month since the previous big storm (which is significant, because it means there was still water in the land). The thing that stands out this time is that the MSM are no longer shying away from talking about climate change directly. This is significant not only because it’s about time, but because it offers an opportunity to influence what happens next. It’s not a big, shiny silver bullet that will save us, but another more subtle move in the shift in the culture that is taking us from denial to active engagement.
The thing about tipping points within societies is that we don’t necessarily know which way they will go. In this case, it’s a further step in a long period of change for NZ from she’ll be right to turning to face the strange and integrating that into society. At times of chaos and abrupt change there is more opportunity to intervene in systems and have them go in the direction we want.
What we want now is to build on this next layer of awakening. People will be talking about climate change more at this time, and from now on, so there are opportunities to open conversations about a range of responses,
The point here isn’t solely to get people to act, it’s to build a momentum that generates more awareness and willingness to change, and for that to happen in a way that leads to the right kind of action. So tactics are important. What’s the optimal ratio of scary to hopeful to inspired-to-act?
There’s another reason to feel hopeful here. The MSM are now talking about climate change because it’s become normalised to do so (great!), but also because there are real live human beings in those organisations who care and who are trying to do the right thing. They make choices about what gets covered and how, and how the questions get frames. Forget about the deniers and sensationalists, and look for the people that have kids and grandkids and also know that the time to act is now. Those are the people who will increasingly be on the right side of history and each time a new opportunity arises, will have the power to tip things further in the right direction.
Examples from the media over the days of the storms,
A science Q and A on The Herald,
While no one weather event is caused by climate change, all events are influenced by climate change since the atmosphere is now warmer and moister than it was in the past.
Climate change increases the likelihood of extreme rainfall, given the appropriate weather setup.
Research suggests that there will be up to 8 per cent more intense rain for every 1C of warming.
A former mayor of Whakatane, Colin Holmes, spoke on Checkpoint yesterday about how better information gathering and planning would have lessened the impact of the flood in the Bay of Plenty.
[my emphasis, just getting that one out of the way]
Former Whakatane mayor Colin Holmes says the volume of the flood was misjudged and the water from the Matahina dam was released "too late"
— Checkpoint (@CheckpointRNZ) April 6, 2017
While the flooding was still happening RNZ interviewed Colin Holmes where he makes no bones about climate change(here). He talks about flood management in the age of climate change, where you can’t prevent the rainfall but you can better prepare in how you manage infrastructure (in this case an overfull dam). Holmes stresses the need for climate change appreciation, better knowledge/information, and better protocols. He says it’s about investing in monitoring tech to give more detailed real time information as events are starting and peaking, and that investment has to be done with climate change firmly in mind.
While the civil emergency was still going on RNZ had coverage not just of this series of events within a climate change context, but what else NZ can expect, and looked at flood, extreme fire, strong winds, drought, and sea level rise as being givens.
RNZ also linked to NIWA’s NZ climate change scenarios. These are conservative estimates (because that’s how science works), and don’t take into account runaway climate change, but they give some starting points for looking at broad stroke changes in different parts of NZ.
Twitter of course was on point,
When I lost it all in the '04 floods – home, contents, vehicles, stock – I woke up. Maybe this latest mess sees climate stragglers wake up.
— Rachel Stewart (@RFStew) April 6, 2017
Moderation note, zero tolerance for climate change denial in this thread.