Highway to Hell!
Some time ago Jeanette Fitzsimons described our action on climate change like a car driving rapidly to a precipice while the occupants argue about whether they should maybe change down a gear. If we are to continue with this analogy I would say that the cliff edge is now very visible, the car is still in top gear and we have only a slight chance of stopping in time if we hit the brakes now.
350.org named itself after the parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere that was considered a safe level. At the time the organisation was formed in 2008 that level had not been reached, but five years later we passed 400 ppm.
It's not as though we haven't had ample warning, there has been scientific consensus for decades and even Margaret Thatcher was making speeches on climate change thirty years ago. The evidence of rapid climate change is constantly in our faces. We are globally experiencing extreme weather events on a far more regular basis and the intensity of these are growing. Australia had to introduce a new colour to their weather maps to include temperatures above 50 degrees celsius that were occurring more regularly. 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000.
It has just been reported that a Russian city on the edge of the Arctic Ocean recorded a temperature of 28.9 degrees (more than twice the average high of 12 degrees for the time of year). The latest reading of carbon in our atmosphere is 415 ppm and I am concerned that while it was reported in Stuff, it wasn't a headlining piece.
While visiting New Zealand the UN Secretary General expressed concern that action to address climate change is being frustrated due to a lack of political will. While the Secretary General praised our leadership on climate action, we should be taking a lead anyway. We are the 5th worse in the OECD for per capita emissions and the worst for methane (6 times the global average). While methane doesn't remain in the atmosphere permanently like carbon, it is 30 times more potent as a heat trapping gas. In terms of our impact on the climate we are possibly the worst in the world per capita.
At a local level The 2018 Summer in Invercargill was the hottest for 100 years, trees died in our garden and the sea temperatures at Oreti Beach were 7 degrees celsius warmer than usual. Our local politicians are also dragging their heels on climate change. Mayor Tim Shadbolt had no idea whether his council had any climate change policy when challenged by student protestors (it hasn't). It was clearly an issue that rarely enters his mind.
Climate Change Minister James Shaw is trying to get cross party support for the Zero Carbon Bill and yet politics and economic self-interest have already ensured that it will be too little, too late. We still have a "softly softly" approach to deal with our agricultural emissions, Oil and Gas company OMV have an application to discharge waste while drilling off the Otago coast and our transport emissions still grow steadily. We currently have business as usual when delaying action is not an option.
If we really cared about the future for our children and future generations we should demand more from our politicians and give them a clear mandate to make the necessary decisions. We are on a highway to hell and we need to hit the brakes on our emissions immediately!