‘Nuclear-free moment’ a bad climate analogy

Dave Frame, Professor of Climate Change and Director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington, says that Jacinda Ardern’s analogy of climate change being this generation’s ‘nuclear-free moment- is a bad analogy.

Climate change is a slow burn rather than a mushroom blast.

Newsroom: Climate change a slow burn issue

The Government has promised to make climate change a priority area, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arguing climate change will be this generation’s “nuclear-free moment”.

This is a bad analogy, for several reasons. One is that leadership implies followers, and in the case of the nuclear-free policy no country explicitly followed our lead. Much more significantly, it confuses a short-term political momentum issue (the nuclear-free declaration) with a long-term political structural issue (decarbonisation).

Climate change shares far more in common with other slow-burn issues like pension reform, intergenerational tax and benefit arrangements, and monetary policy than it does with suffrage movements or the nuclear-free policy. ‘Moment’ movements are predicated on single-shot legislative change. Slow-burn issues depend on the ability of democracies to resist the temptation to indulge now and pay later (or ask others to pay later).

Decarbonisation will take several decades, at least.

That sounds realistic – something some Green MPs and especially supporters should have a good think about.

Globally, it will involve concentrated costs on those leading the decarbonisation, while the benefits are diffused. This is just the sort of problem in which there are political incentives, often strong incentives, to renege on your commitment to conduct ambitious climate policy.

True bipartisanship is a commitment to a process. It requires mutual forbearance and the sharing of burdens and benefits.

Bipartisanship is not just a good idea; it’s the only plausible way to manage the socioeconomic transformation climate change demands.

Ardern is right that we should look to policy innovations in our past. But to look at politically divisive single-shot total victories would be a mistake.

And we should ease up on the idea that those who don’t share our specific vision of a low-carbon economy are moral degenerates.

All of that points towards a long-term, bipartisan commitment towards the development of institutions capable of creating and sustaining broad support for prices and regulations where the temptation to overturn those policies will be strong.

This is going to take serious, sustained leadership rather than announcing analogies that may sound catchy but miss the serious points that need to be worked on.


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  April 23, 2018

    Can someone tell Griff? I’m afraid he will self-immolate long before climate change slow burn shows a spark.

    Frame is right that the climate alarmist policies will face opposition because they will harm people as presently envisaged. The harm will be tangible and the claimed benefits will be intangible if not illusory. A lot of water will flow under our bridges before those conflicts are resolved.

    • Gezza

       /  April 23, 2018


      Alan said to tell you he’s afraid you will self-immolate long before the climate change slow burn shows a spark.

      Dunno why he couldn’t just tell you himself, tbh.

    • Griff

       /  April 23, 2018

      Already read it Alan i have always been a morning person.

      The harm will be tangible and the claimed benefits will be intangible if not illusory.

      See thats your problem Alan
      You are not interested in actually understanding the science and conclusions drawn from it Instead you frighten yourself with tales of catastrophe based on your fear of change.
      I am in this for the long haul.
      I look forward to laughing at you coal fired luddites In the coming years as the world changes around you.
      Just as I have had great fun rubbing noises in the global warming paused nonsense from a few years ago.

      Sweden’s deputy prime minister .
      Isabella Lövin
      What does it mean for a nation to be a “climate leader” in 2018?

      At the very least, it must mean having a firm plan in place to deliver your nation’s fair share of the Paris agreement. During that stunning fortnight in December 2015, 195 governments freely and willingly committed not only to keep global warming well below 2C, but to aim for the safer level of 1.5C. And they committed to bring net greenhouse gas emissions down to zero.

      I cannot help but feel huge pride that my government was the first in the western world to step up and deliver on the Paris agreement. In June last year, we adopted a target of cutting Sweden’s net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045, and we set it in law. Within a generation, Sweden will not be contributing to the problem of climate change. Science tells us that if all nations adopt this target, there is a good chance that we will live up to the commitments that we made at the Paris summit, and keep climate change within safe boundaries.

      Our law does not only set an emissions target and a date. Every year the government must present a progress report to parliament, and every four years it must make a new set of policies that deliver ever-greater emission cuts. This way we will ensure that we will make steady progress towards our net-zero target.
      Sign up to the Green Light email to get the planet’s most important stories
      Read more

      For these ingredients of our law, we owe the UK a debt of gratitude. Ten years ago, the UK brought in the first law in the world that set a legally binding target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sweden borrowed heavily from the UK Climate Change Act in drawing up our own, as have other countries such as Denmark and Finland.

      Climate laws deliver something that in a healthy democracy is invaluable for businesses and citizens: certainty. Our companies know that fossil fuels will be virtually eliminated over the next 25 years; coal has already gone, and oil and gas will follow. Certainty helps citizens, companies, investors and the government itself to make better decisions. For example, it is clearly good sense that all new houses are built so as to waste very little energy, so eliminating the need for more expensive retro-fitting in a decade’s time.


      • Gerrit

         /  April 23, 2018

        Coal has gone? How does one make steel without coal on a commercial scale?

        More green magic?

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  April 23, 2018

          The Steel Fairy does it, of course.

  2. alloytoo

     /  April 23, 2018

    It’s mostly a bad analogy because the Nuclear free movement is largely responsible for stalling the uptake on nuclear power and the continued reliance on fossil fuels.

    • PartisanZ

       /  April 23, 2018

      Yeah … Or maybe we just had a “nuclear free moment” mainly because we could afford to, having sufficient hydro, coal … and Muldoon’s “think big” natural gas in place …?

      And maybe “nuclear free” was also the perfect pill? The powerful pain-relieving ‘peoples’ panacea’ Labour needed to lubricate us while we were being Rogered?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 23, 2018

        I have no wish to have a Chernobyl or the Japanese equivalent here.

        The human cost was dreadful, and the economic cost was surprisingly widespread (I was in Europe at the time)

  3. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  April 23, 2018

    Talk about mixed messages coming from our Government…
    Minister says another 50 years of oil and gas exploration possible
    Prime Minister commits NZ to zero Carbon within 32 years.

    They both can’t be right.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 23, 2018

      Yes, they can if you are Labour or Green 😀

  4. artcroft

     /  April 23, 2018

    Have to agree with Alan. All these policies will do is make the population colder, hungrier and sicker. That’s socialism in a nut shell.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 23, 2018

      Nut shell is the right word, but it shouldn’t be what socialism is.

      Typo – nuts’ hell, I mean (as you do ?)