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Unambitious for New Zealand

Written By: - Date published: 6:52 pm, August 10th, 2009 - 44 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

If ever there were a sentence that summed up our collective folly it’s “Scientific opinion is that a reduction of 40 per cent is needed to prevent serious global warming but few countries are expected set that as a target.”

That’s from the NZPA article on the Key Government’s newly announced climate change target. 10-20% below 1990 levels. The hihger limit is conditional on the new international treaty being favourable for forestry (ie easy for us to achieve). So, half of what is needed if we get offered a good deal. Quarter otherwise. Imagine if a government decided that the Police would have to get by with quarter or half of the officers they need.

‘But other countries aren’t making big enough reductions either!’ – Great. We can all be fools together.

‘But we’re starting from too high 22% higher than 1990 levels, we can’t get down to -40% in time’ – That’s gross emissions. Our current net emissions are the same as 1990, despite 69% economic growth.

‘There’s nothing we can do’ – Bollocks. Plant some forests, replace our dirtiest power plants, more public transport, smarter agriculture, building, and appliances using existing techniques, and we’re there.

‘But it will cost too much’ – Not as much as not doing enough. What’s that called? Oh yeah, cost/benefit analysis.

In reality, this is a weak target because it is in the short-term interests of capital to stick its head in the sand and pretend climate change isn’t happening. Everything else is just an excuse. Short term profits for corporates and farmers come before the long term health of our economies, our societies, our environment.

As so often, No Right Turn sums it up incomparably: “we’re demanding the world make an agreement that limits temperature change to less than 2 degrees, while refusing to do anything to actualy make that happen, and we’re demanding that developing countries, who are not responsible for the problem, bear the burden of fixing it. We’re doing less than Europe, and (more importantly) less than Australia. In short, our government has given up. Pricks.”

44 comments on “Unambitious for New Zealand”

  1. darryl 1

    Despite 10 years of Labours’ lead NZ couldn’t drag its way up the OECD and despite all the money, all the training and all the potential the All Blacks always drop out the bottom of a World Cup. The 40% target is irrelevant, the way our countries going I’ll be surprised if we even reach our 10% target.

    • Marty G 1.1

      What a bizarre comment.

      A total lack of ability to debate the issue on substantive grounds. False analogies and generalisatons instead.

  2. Jared 2

    What part of “it would bankrupt the country to achieve a 40% reduction” don’t you understand? Its all well and good to criticise the move, but its a more achievable and rational target. One that we might actually be able to achieve.
    I ask you this though, if we were to get rid of Huntly and Otahuhu and the other Coal/Gas power plants, and Hydro projects are being denied consent left right and centre, where on earth do we get our energy from?

    • Marty G 2.1

      What part of “it would bankrupt the country to achieve a 40% reduction’ don’t you understand?

      I understand the statement. I don’t accept it’s truth. Did you read the Greens’ proposal for getting down to -40%? No, of course not. They show which power plants can be replaced economically (ie at no cost).

      “Its all well and good to criticise the move, but its a more achievable and rational target”

      On what basis have you decided that -10-20% is ‘achievable and rational target’? I bet you would be saying the same thing whether National had gone with +10%, 0%, or -030%

  3. Jared 3

    Actually I have read the green proposal, and whilst it sounds nice, considering the recent resource consent battles for ANY Hydro, Geothermal and Wind projects, I hardly think their proposal is viable at any rate. Just like the proposal to only allow “economical” cars.

  4. What part of the distinction between net emissions and gross emissions does Nick Smith not understand? Or does he understand it, but just wants to mislead people?

    That’s what annoys me the most. A price on carbon means that forestry will become far more profitable. Surely we could generate most of our “savings” by ensuring a carbon price is high enough to make the planting of a LOT of forests profitable and viable.

    And hey, adding a few cents per litre to the cost of petrol is going to be pretty much swamped anyway by the higher prices caused by peak oil.

    • Jared 4.1

      Thats right, Peak Oil, good to see the theory isn’t actually evident in a recessionary environment

      • mickysavage 4.1.1

        Jared

        Peak oil will come back. Just wait for human’s sense of wellbeing to be increased and they will then buy the bigger car and drive more. And the current consumption of petroleum will increase, hit the expensive stuff and the price will skyrocket again.

        And we will then have a new recession as the cost of everything shoots up.

        And after this it will happen again, and again, until we learn to live without petroleum.

        Then if we have saved the earth and saved the economy our kids may have a future.

      • jarbury 4.1.2

        Jared, I suggest having a read of this article: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10588388&pnum=0

        For your benefit:

        The world is heading for a catastrophic energy crunch that could cripple a global economic recovery because most of the major oil fields in the world have passed their peak production, a leading energy economist has warned.

        Higher oil prices brought on by a rapid increase in demand and a stagnation, or even decline, in supply could blow any recovery off course, said Dr Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the respected International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, which is charged with the task of assessing future energy supplies by OECD countries.

        A few years ago the IEA was saying that oil production wouldn’t peak for “decades”. They’ve changed their tune quite a bit:

        But the first detailed assessment of more than 800 oil fields in the world, covering three quarters of global reserves, has found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now running at nearly twice the pace as calculated just two years ago.

        The only reason prices have lowered recently is because the global recession has reduced demand.

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.3

        http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5574
        http://netenergy.theoildrum.com/node/5600
        http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5582

        There’s some light reading for you. Basically, as the IEA has said, we’re already at if not past Peak Oil. The economy no longer grows because we need more energy to grow it and we don’t have that excess anymore. We’ve burned it away.

  5. Bill 5

    I admit to being suspicious about this 40% figure being bandied about. Here’s why.

    If the idea is that all countries reduce emissions to 40% below 1990 levels then the obvious spanner in the works is going to be those countries that had bugger all industry pre 1990. What are they supposed to do?

    CO2 reduction on a per capita basis would seem to make much more sense and be more equitable. Of course, NZ and the rest of ‘the west’ is way up shit creek using that scenario.

    Since NZ comprises 0.064% of the world’s population it would seem reasonable to expect it to emit 0.064% of the world’s CO2. But in 2006 it was emitting 0.1%. ie roughly double what would seem to be a fair share.

    Here’s some other population (circa 2009) and CO2 %ages (circa 2006) indicating how out of kilter the two figures are. The links for the figures are here, here and here

    UK 0.9% pop/ 2% CO2…..a factor of x2

    E.U. 7.3% pop/ 13.8% CO2…..x1.5

    Aus 0.32% pop/ 1.3 % CO2……x4

    US 4.53% pop/ 20.2% CO2…..x5

    China 19.6% pop/ 21.5% CO2……x1

    India 17.23% pop/5.3% CO2……x0.3

    • Luxated 5.1

      From memory the idea is that by 2050 developed nations will bet at 10%-20% of 1990 levels or less while developing nations will only be expected to be at 40%-50%.

      Such a scheme is a bit of a blunt instrument but it should be easier to get countries to agree to, although having most countries agreeing to anything substantive will be an achievement in and of itself.

      captcha: bother. My sentiments exactly

    • Macro 5.2

      Good point Bill, and quiet right – we are right up there as emitters on a per capita basis. The 40% target is what the developed world needs to do by 2020. Scotland are going for 42%.
      But I have to agree with darryl – the way this govt’s running things we won’t even reach a 10% reduction.
      However if NACT took AGW as seriously as they take cost cutting in education welfare and health, we could achieve a 10% reduction by the end of the year!

      • mike 5.2.1

        ‘the way this govt’s running things we won’t even reach a 10% reduction.’

        Compared to Labour who lead us to greater emmision growth than the evil USA.
        Which is almost as funny as fat Al Gore having a 3k monthly power bill…

    • GNZ 5.3

      Bill,
      you have lost the plot.
      There are two objectives that get mixed up in these debates

      The first is stopping global warming. In order to achieve that you need everyone to become carbon neutral as fast as is feasible and reduce the polution as fast as one can reasonably expect them to comply.

      The other objective is ‘fairness’ – for example in terms of polution output per capita as per your comment.

      The first problem is that you are going to tend to encourage polution to be exported from rich countries to poor countries rather than an absolute reduction.

      The second is that you are going to get countries like india to build up a head of steam in terms of their dependance on pollution fuel. The US is well and truely on the decline and india and China are on the way up. It would actually be better in the long run for future polution levels if you gave the US the free pass than if you gave india or china the free pass (not that you should give anyone a free pass!).

  6. Andrei 6

    If ever there were a sentence that summed up our collective folly it’s “Scientific opinion is that a reduction of 40 per cent is needed to prevent serious global warming but few countries are expected set that as a target.’

    The collective folly is that we are even worrying about this bogus target.

    Do you not realize that the current intergalcial which has encompassed the entirety of recorded human history is an aberation and that for the majority of the past 5 million years or so the world has been significantly colder.

    Get this intergalcials (such as the one we are in now) are in the scheme of things short periods of benign climate that interspersed much longer periods of much harsher times. And there is absolutely no reason to assume that our current comfortable climate regime is not going to give way to a much more severe and colder climate.

    There was a period of “unprecedented warming” and it happened about ten thousand years ago – and people were not responsible for it – there weren’t hardly any.

    And with the warming people flourished! And when the planet goes back to being cold people wont. The human species might even go extinct.

    And guess what no bureaucrat, no arbitrarily assigned targets by the chattering class, who are in my experience are generally functionally innumerate, can change this one little bit.

    Our salvation if it is at all possible will be the ability to adapt and this will come, if it comes at all through technology and the ability to manipulate large quantities of energy.

    And while we are considering plucked out of the thin air targets you might like to consider why 1990 is the magic benchmark year.

    Let me inform you – see back then in Eastern Europe there were lots of obsolete, filthy smoke stack industries a legacy of communism. And since then most of these have closed down being as it were uneconomic without the prop of communism to hold them up.

    Thus these nations are way ahead of their targets and can be all virtuous even though they are still far greater “emitters” of GHGs than little old New Zealand.

    Whereas this little country with an agricultural base and virtually no heavy industry is struggling to meet its targets simply because it was not a great “polluter” to begin with.

    Talk about being conned

    • Macro 6.1

      What a load of bullshit!!

    • BLiP 6.2

      Do you not realize that the current intergalcial which has encompassed the entirety of recorded human history is an aberation and that for the majority of the past 5 million years or so the world has been significantly colder.

      Glabal Warming denial tactic XXVII – its not warming its the start of another natural ice age.

      Talk about being conned.

      • Andrei 6.2.1

        Get with the program BLIP – GLOBAL WARMING is so twentieth century – didn’t you get the memo?

        The correct term now is CLIMATE CHANGE.

        See the dire predictions of 10 years ago about how warm it would be in 2009, if we DON”T ACT NOW, haven’t come to pass – indeed it is cooler now than it was then according to the methodologies used to determine such things.

        So the correct term is CLIMATE CHANGE something that is undeniable.

        sheesh

        • Maynard J 6.2.1.1

          I thought it was called climate change because retards (not pointing any fingers) tried another defence “well it’s cold here/now, so there can not be any global warming”.

          Climate change is ‘deniable’, you just need to prove that the climate, and recorded trends thereof, are not changing.

        • Macro 6.2.1.2

          No! The correct term is Average Global Warming – causing Climate Change.
          As for your assertion that its getting cooler! UTTER BULLSHIT and you know it. Well that is if you have looked at ALL the data and not just cherry picked that which is in support of your outlandish thesis.
          And yes there was a prediction in 1975 that we were nearing the end of the interglacial. Now relegated to the dustbin of alarmist journalism. But you know – having done some physics I take it, that a doubling of the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere above pre-industrial levels and increasing methane, water vapour, and NO, will have a significant effect on the “greenhouse effect” raising the average global temperature by around 2 degrees C. at the least. If you are aware that this piece of physics is incorrect – perhaps you had better publish.

        • Gosh you are selective. No warming over the last 10 years, but pray tell, how much warming over the last 20, or for that matter, no warming for the last 10 years, what about the last 9 years, or 11 years?

          • Marty G 6.2.1.3.1

            1998 is the warmest year on record because of the el nino that year.

            Tell me this. Do you agree that people are getting taller on average over the decades? Yes? Obviously true. But for a long time the tallest ever man had lived in the 1930s, everyone after that was shorter… would you take that as evidence to deny the ‘people are getting taller theory’

            The greenhouse effect increases the average warmth of the global atmosphere, creating climate change.

            • BLiP 6.2.1.3.1.1

              Tabulating average warmth over, lets say, the last 30 years, would you say the average increase in the temperature of the atmosphere has increased at a more rapid rate in the last five years than in the previous 25 years combined?

              Or maybe all swans are white . . .

    • Zorr 6.3

      There is only one appropriate response to this kind of comment.

      And that is to laugh.

      However, the problem I see is that this kind of disinformation is actually being spread through the populace. I would note a few, not insignificant, issues with some of the details in this.

      “And with the warming people flourished!” – ummmm, I cannot even begin to start to tear this apart in an infinite amount of words so I will just use a few. First off, warming periods are not actually responsible for mankinds advances and one of the most popular theories around at the moment to explain the migration of our ancestors out of Africa is that there was a period of climate change resulting in greater areas of possible survivable habitats around the edges of the Sahara so that we could traverse up through the Middle East (the specifics get a little muddied at this point). Also, I would have thought, in the cradle of civilization 10000 years ago, the important feature of mankinds development was not “oooh, it’s warmer today” but a degree of control over their own food sources.

      “if it comes at all through technology and the ability to manipulate large quantities of energy” – We don’t actually have the ability to harness as much energy as you seem to imagine and what energy we do have we only really know how to release in a destructive manner. Nuclear plants can be all fine and good but they lead to their own issues which need not be discussed here. To be honest, it isn’t technology that is going to save us, it is going to be the collective intelligence of our scientific community putting their heads together to come up with the simple (but potentially difficult) answers. A good analogy to this is weight loss, you don’t need the latest in surgical techniques to lose weight – just eat a little less and better and exercise a little more on a daily basis and you get there.

      “uneconomic without the prop of communism to hold them up” – Isn’t it currently ‘communism’ that is keeping our financial sector alive? I just felt the need to comment on this particular one because the invocation of Big Bad Communism should break a Godwins Law somewhere. ^_^

      • BLiP 6.3.1

        Don’t for a minute believe that the handing over of our money to the banks is socialism or communism. Far from it. It is corporate welfareism and is the natural result of capitalism run rampant. It will continue to be a feature of macro-economics until we change our ways.

    • I hope you are right because if you are not we are f*%ked.

      Wanna place a bet?

    • no leftie 6.5

      Great stuff.

      Of course you’re talking far too much sense for this crowd.

      It doesn’t fit into their need for CONTROL.

      “the Greens’ proposal for getting down to -40%? show power plants can be replaced economically (ie at no cost).”

      Really? Free power stations for all! I guess Phil Goff’s money-printing pixies will be really busy that day.

  7. JohnDee 7

    Andrei. THe trouble with you and the rest of the Climate change deniers is if you are wrong then we are so far behinfd the 8 Ball that we may never recover. If those of us that accept that the World is “going to Hell in a handbasket” and do something about it know then we are that much further ahead towards reducing Green House Gases.
    I prefer the option of doing something about it now than do nothing at all until it is too late.

    • Swampy 7.1

      The truth of Green policies like this is that they would not stop at killing cows. China’s population growth is the biggest threat to the world at the moment. Mao managed to kill off a few million when he was in power but that hasn’t made much difference.

      Climate change while an issue is a long way from being so important to the greens handwrining themselves silly over it. The fac tthere are so many hardcore commies in the Greens party makes it obvious they have a hidden agenda for this policy.

  8. Brett 9

    God you environmentalists are such bores. You hinder the cause more than you help

  9. Bill 10

    Crosses my mind that if NZ was fully engaged in a war that there would be a conscientious objector movement.

    Is it conscionable that politicians and business leaders pursue insane policies that seek to preserve capitalism and their positions of privilege within that system at the expense of a viable climate?

    If the prospect is unconscionable, then where is the movement of objection, of mass non-participation based on moral prerogatives? And where are the alternative visions and the developing opportunities that would facilitate people stepping away from this madness?

    Maybe it is time to begin a rolling maul of initiatives from below that might eventually offer us a possible future.

    Refusing to participate in work activities detrimental to our medium term survival would be no more mad than refusing to pick up arms in time of war and of far greater importance. (Under present employment law an argument exists that being asked to do something that threatens our survival is an unreasonable demand by the employer and therefore should be free of sanction.)

    Unions striking on the grounds of moral imperatives (in spite of present labour laws) could be a nice part of a beginning of something better too.

    • BLiP 10.1

      Hear hear! Politicians, Labour included, and those Unions too busy selling insurance to care about anything else, will do nothing about climate change until they are forced to. Direct action – by all means necessary – against the polluters of our planet is the only way forward.

    • Marty G 10.2

      Transition Towns – direct action but not of the type you’re talking 🙂

  10. J 11

    We need to increase science literacy in this country starting with John Key. This is a disgusting cop out and has to be one of the worst decisions made by a new zealand public leader in decades.

    It is just so painfully wrong on every level, ,..it’s bad for tourism, it’s bad for long term business sustainabilty and our kids will get their arses kicked financially when we have to buy carbon credits, which will happen ….and the biggest mistake isof course the earth is going to violently smash up on us big time if we screw this up.

    It’s just putting the problem on the shoulders of our children. Gutless,

  11. Gerald 12

    I seriously wonder if any of you guys have ever stepped onto a farm or looked at a farmers balance sheet over the past few years. It’s not a case of farmers wanting ‘short term profit’ as you put it as the reason for not going 40 per cent. Its economic survival.
    Meat & Wool NZ last year said Labour’s ETS would cost sheep and beef farmers an extra $34,000 a year. That’s more than some of them were making last season when lamb prices were at $56. (They’re now up in the $80s but most of them are using this extra profit to pay off the debt they accumulated over the three seasons of crap prices)
    There is no proven scientific solution to stopping livestock emitting yet. There’s a few experiments being done in the pipeline but nothing tangable that can be mass produced for farmers. Until then, sheep, cattle and deer will keep on emitting. I know scientists are desperatly trying to come up with a solution.
    Also, most of the EU’s emissions come from industry, not agriculture so they have more opportunity to cut them. Ironically, a lot of those european countries have not included agriculture in their emision cuts.

    De-stocking is a partial soltion at best because farmers still have to make a profit. They’ll somehow have to strike that balance between having enough stock to make a profit and being able to afford the credits or land for forestry. You also talk about smarter farming. NZ farmers are the smartest in the world. If you don’t believe me, go overseas and look at some of the filthy factory farms in the US, China and Europe.
    Also, before you start pontificating about the Greens Plan that came out recently, Dairy NZ came out on the same afternoon saying they had misrepresented their research on de-stocking dairy cows.

    Oh and no I’m not a climate change denier. You just need to look at what’s happened to farms on the East coast of the North and South Islands to know its real. Agriculture needs to come into the scheme and farmers should do their bit. Farmers can survive and adapt to a 10-20 per cent reduction and even make a profit. If it was 40, it would bankrup most of them. Thats not an exageration. That’s a fact.

    Finally, something else you should consider. The costs of producing this food is going to skyrocket when petrol comes under the ETS and farmers will be forced to pass on this cost to the consumer.

    Anyway, there’s hopefully some food for thought while you sip on your lattes in grey lynn from someone in the proviences that works with farmers every day. Cheers.

  12. J 13

    Gerald,

    If farmers need assistance to change methods they should get it but that doesn’t change the fact that we are copping out.

    Keys government are not anything like the business visionarys they touted themselves to be. They have already shown themselves to be uncreative and outdated legislators in many feilds.

    On the environment and its subsequent impact on our future economy they are incompetent( ref Nick Smiths use of the a completely wrong study to back his claim that we can’t afford to do our bit. The study he used actually warns of world taxes that would cripple us if we turn up in 2020 with no serious change.)

    If it was an academic paper at a university they would fail him and make him redo the paper. He should be sacked for showing a dangerously low level of understanding towards his ministry.

  13. Swampy 14

    The greens are tree huggers who would sell every person in this country down the river as long as their precious trees and animals that they worship survived.

    I don’t know why they don’t just realise that the whole world is going to hell in a handcart and climate change is a fairly trivial issue by far.

    • Extremely bored 14.1

      Swampy, perhaps if you had half a brain you might realise one of the reasons the world is, as you say going to hell in a handcart is because the trees and animals are not surviving, courtesy of human impact, you and me.

      And climate change trivial you think. Sackfulls of cash wont be able to stop global warming drying up tedious boggy little fellows like you.

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