If 2017 was the election where we changed the government from right to centre left, then 2020 should be the election where we changed that centre left govt into a green left one.
We’re kind of getting there, but here’s the problem. The climate crisis isn’t on the doorstep, it’s now in the front hall poking it’s head into the living room. Incremental approaches used by centre left governments are not going to act in time.
The Ministry for the Environment’s report, Our Atmosphere and Climate, was published yesterday. Would that they had released this a few weeks ago and the MSM had pushed on it hard during the election campaing. It’s sobering.
Natasha Lewis, the Ministry’s deputy secretary of strategy and stewardship, said the 84-page report shows climate change is not a far off threat.
“Climate change is having a profound impact on us and on our environment here and now, and it’s the decisions that each one of us make that are contributing to this.”
… the report finds extreme fire danger is expected to dramatically rise over the next two decades.
Fire danger is projected to increase by an average of 70 percent by 2040 with the the largest increases set to be in areas not used to fire, like Wellington and Otago.
By 2040, the report predict Wellington will see a doubling in fire danger to 30 days a year where fire risk is very high or extreme, and coastal Otago a tripling – to 20 days a year.
It found that over the past two decades there was an increasing trend in days with very high or extreme fire danger at Napier, Lake Tekapo, Queenstown, Gisborne, Masterton and Gore.
The report also notes that, unlike Australia, New Zealand ecosystems have not evolved to cope well with fire.
There are so many red flags here. For those of us paying attention this is scary stuff, because as far as I know MfE, Niwa etc are still working with conservative predictions, not what will happen if we get runaway climate change. But we’re not doing the things to prevent the worst of climate change.
Climate scientist James Renwick, who advised on the report, said if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase globally, New Zealand’s climate would see massive changes through the rest of this century, making adaptation very difficult. “If emissions are reduced rapidly, in line with the Paris Agreement, climate change across New Zealand would still be significant, but more manageable,” he said.
“making adaptation very difficult” should be the wake up call. If we don’t act we’re going to start experiencing domino effects from climate impacts locally.
Also pertinent here is that unlike Australia we don’t have good sensibility about wildfires. We still build housing in highly flammable situations, we still plant flammable trees around and near housing and infrastructure. Up until recently, we still let clueless international tourists travel at will and free camp and light fires in the dodgiest of places. Now would be a really good time to start teaching New Zealanders about fire.
There’s also some damning stuff in the report about New Zealand’s emissions, including related to transport. TL;DR is that we have to majorly adjust our behaviours around personal car use, and government priorities on public transport.
Of 43 countries in the OECD, New Zealand ranks 5th in terms of worst polluters on CO2 emissions from road transport. in other words, each person pumps 3.2 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year from driving alone.
We will see what we can do in the next three years, if our luck holds and we end up with a Labour/Green government on Saturday.
But every extra Green MP we can get now ups our chances significantly of New Zealand finally getting on board with what real climate action is.
Although the report does not make recommendations, Lewis said it should inform decision making everywhere.
“The whole point of doing the report is to generate response across the country and across all levels – from whānau and hapū level, local government, business, industry and of course government,” Lewis said.
If you haven’t voted, climate is still by far New Zealand’s biggest challenge, and it’s the Greens that have the plan for what to do.