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They’re doing it, why aren’t we?

Written By: - Date published: 4:17 pm, March 18th, 2009 - 20 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: , ,

This morning I spotted a poignant example of the inequalities inherent in tackling climate change. The Maldives have announced they’ll go carbon neutral by 2020. Newly elected President Mohamed Nasheed says his small archipelago nation will hereby spurn fossil fuels – opting instead for wind and solar power – and buy EU carbon credits to offset emissions from tourists. You can understand his concern: his country is the lowest lying on earth; eighty percent of it is only one meter above (a rising) sea level.

On the one hand, the move is a bit like pissing in the wind (the Maldives make up less than 0.01 per cent of global emissions, so their visionary pledge is unlikely to prevent them from drowning). On the other, it’s a gallant display of leadership from a tiny nation bearing the brunt of a warming globe.

Nasheed, in an op-ed in the Observer, says

Going green might cost a lot, but refusing to act now will cost us the Earth.

He also points out that although the Maldives are in the frontline, the bunkers in which other countries are biding time aren’t foolproof.

The level of warming and associated sea-level rise that would inundate the Maldives could also tip climate change beyond man’s control. If the world can’t save the Maldives today, it might be too late to save London, New York or Hong Kong tomorrow.

In other words, by the time the Maldives go under, we’re all screwed, because at that stage we’ll have passed the tipping point and will be battling it out with runaway climate change.

In an ideal world, the industrialised nations spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere with the intensity of 21-year olds after a yard glass would lead the charge to cut global emissions and spearhead moves towards low carbon economies. They are, after all, the longest-serving root of the problem, and they have the most ground to make up. But this world isn’t ideal; for one thing its mean temperature is rising too fast. For another, people have jetskis.

The symbolic gesture on the part of the Maldives will set an example for other nations when they convene this December in Copenhagen for the culmination of UN climate talks. Leaders are needed; both on the Obama scale, but frankly anywhere they can be found. Lest we forget the spectacular turnaround of the Bali climate talks in December 2007, thanks to one softly-spoken Papua New Guinean delegate.

Back home in Godzone, our government continues to do its best to ensure that when it comes to carbon we’re as far from neutral as we can get. New roads, new fossil fueled power stations, bad bulbs, an emissions trading scheme on ice and a PM who’s aching for the skeptics to be proved right. If the Maldives get it and believe they can make a difference, why don’t we?

20 comments on “They’re doing it, why aren’t we? ”

  1. gingercrush 1

    Jeepers something has gone really strange on your post. Why don’t we? Because National doesn’t see global warming as the utmost importance. Indeed even those who do side on global warming. For instance Australia which went from a country in complete denial (well the federal government anyway) to a country that adopted Kyoto. But even though they have an ETS scheme. Its rather mild itself. Obama himself whilst adopting green measures doesn’t exactly do much to stop greenhouse emissions. And unless the US and Russia and China and other huge countries start really doing something about it. Efforts from the Maldives, New Zealand or any other country has little chance.

    Though I am basically a climate change denier so I don’t worry about it.

  2. gingercrush 2

    Though I do think the National government has to be careful. The reality is most countries do think global warming is real and are taking measures to combat it. And in the future one can foresee scenarios where free trade agreements and business deals will have a carbon factor. While certainly our vegetables and fruits and dairy products produce less carbon emissions than other countries. I do believe in the future particularly Europe will start not trading with countries that don’t cut emissions.

    That and we still have to find a way for heavy polluters to pay. Because we’re still signed to the Kyoto treaty meaning we still have to pay for the carbon emissions. The reality is that even if you’re a climate change denier etc . The reality is most of the world believes it, it is a factor. And regardless of whether its real or not. It will have a huge factor for world economies in the future. Thus New Zealand still has to do something about it.

  3. Bill 3

    So….how about every worker trade in their stat days over a given week. (Workers have the right to determine when they take their stats by giving 14 days notice,..the boss can determine the timing of annual leave in the same way.)

    Anyway, massive reduction in emissions from industry (shut down) and from vehicles (nobody rushing backwards and forwards to work). Nobody loses pay and the government gets a very clear signal of where people’s desires lie.

  4. MikeE 4

    Its not exactly hard for a country with a landmass 298km2 and ~300,000 whose economy is soley dependent on non motorised fishing, tourism and cottage industries to cut most of its emissions profile. Hell, they don’t have one to start with.

    Comparing NZ to the maldives is like comparing it to the antarctic in terms of emissions profile.

    You’re right about it pissing in the wind, and I’d hardly call it gallant leadership to continue what they’ve always done, that is sit in the sun and go fishing.

    • jack 4.1

      You’re right about it pissing in the wind, and I’d hardly call it gallant leadership to continue what they’ve always done, that is sit in the sun and go fishing.

      Quoted for truth.

  5. BLiP 5

    Why aren’t we doing it? We have no leadership. Little Miss consumer couldn’t give a fuck so long as she can buy that latest cellphone with all the packaging. Little Master consumer doesn’t give a fuck so long as he can do burnouts and and get to 160kmh in less than 15 secs. Mum and dad consumer are too busy trying to earn a buck and keep their jobs to pay the mortgage to look up and take in the omens on the horizon. The rich don’t believe it will affect them because they are special. Science has been corrupted by vested interests replacing truth with half-turths. Fundamentalist Christians think its a good thing and will hurry along the rapture. Many of our brightest have been convinced its all a big hoax. Business knows its cheaper and just as effective as far as sales are concerned to simply put the enterprise through a PR greenwash.Our society is so individualised and crushed in spirit that many of us think “what difference does just me make”. Those waving the warning flags are mocked and ridiculed.

    The list goes on . . .

    • Ianmac 5.1

      A very sad blip for Blip. But you are right. Apathy and self interest are hard to change. Hell would a politician be brave enough to cause change to my comfortable lifestyle? Doubt it. Unless of course there was a groundswell of belief from “Middle Nz.”

    • QoT 5.2

      Pretty much this.

  6. out of bed 6

    or they were a Green party politician

  7. lprent 7

    The hot-topic link in the post was fun to read. Talking about Key..

    I assume that in fact he has little idea of the science himself and instead of enquiring of the appropriate people he falls back on the notion that it may all be a big fuss about nothing. Not siding with the so-called sceptics, but making a big allowance for the possibility of their being right. Which is about all the organised denialist industry is seeking at this stage.

    Classic ostrich technique. Ignore it and hope it all goes away. The science says that it won’t. Key may get the idea when the plains around Thames get storm surged.

  8. Macro 8

    As I’ve said elsewhere, and on another post, the behavior of this crowd of environmental vandals who call themselves a govt, are actually hoping to hit two birds with the one stone! (Probably kakapo but I couldn’t be sure). I believe their thinking is this!

    “By behaving in a denialist manner, and cutting any initiative no matter how meager towards encouraging NZers towards reducing greenhouse emissions (CO2 as well as methane) we will hasten the the arrival of the point of no return. So we solve the problem of Greenhouse gases by ignoring it. The other problem is that pesky Seabed and Foreshore thing. Walla! by ignoring the greenhouse gas we solve the Foreshore prob! There won’t be any! Well not as we know it today. And it’s todays foreshore that all the fuss is over! ”

    I wonder if the Maori Party have twigged to this yet?

  9. mike 9

    Yes! why not demeter – we could all live in mud hut’s and trade produce with our unemployed neighbors.
    Now there’s a greenies wet dream…

  10. infused 10

    And what are our emissions? %0.04

    Funny that. Just a piss in the wind eh?

  11. Macro 11

    Its not about how much! Its about do as I do. You can’t ask others to change if you continue to act inappropriately.
    Key’s holiday home at Omaha is looking under threat! A 1 – 2 m rise in sea level will see that inundated in short order.

  12. lprent 12

    So infused (and hs) following your line of thinking we should have never changed the voting rights for woman (substitute any initiative) before almost anyone else. After all that it only affected a minority of the worlds population of woman.

    Don’t be daft, it is almost always the smaller societies that change things. What you are in fact advocating is doing nothing. That is a prescription for never changing. Since you’d probably also advocate for innovation in business, I think that you have a skewed philosophy.

  13. DeepRed 13

    And what of the possibility of President Obama et al making carbon neutrality and other green issues as conditions for free trade talks? It’ll be interesting to see the reactions of the USNZFTA proponents to that.

  14. DeeDub 14

    Did anyone else see Paul ‘Presenter Of The Year’ Henry on TV this morning?

    Apparently ‘the jury is still out on human driven climate change’?!!

    He went on about it (as only he can) for some time…..

    Scary mofo.

    • Tigger 14.1

      Someone should complain to TVNZ about that – the jury isn’t out. A few lunatics are outside the courthouse with their placards, chanting to their economic gods, but the jury delivered its verdict and it said climate change is man made.

      • DeeDub 14.1.1

        Oh, he made sure he said “in my opinion” each time he said it…. and he said it plenty.

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