Climate apocalypse warnings unjustified and unhelpful

The more extreme warnings of mass extinctions and the collapse of civilisation due to climate change are not supported by science or common sense, and are likely to be more damaging to the important measures we should be taking too reduce emissions and pollution, and limit the destruction of important habitats and ecosystems.

There are reports that some young people suffer from anxiety over what apocalyptic events could happen, while it is likely that many people will turn off to the whole climate issue, to an extent at least.

The worst case scenarios that some are promoting as inevitable in the near future are likely to be wrong. Humans have had an impact on the Earth’s environment for a long time, increasingly as the population has exploded and industrialisation has introduced major adverse effects. But we have also been adaptable and resourceful. Most of us will likely survive climate change, and in some ways some of us will benefit.

It is still worth reducing energy consumption and food consumption and pollution, as we will benefit, as will our planet.

Michael Shellenberger (Forbes):  Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong

Environmental journalists and advocates have in recent weeks made a number of apocalyptic predictions about the impact of climate change. Bill McKibben suggested climate-driven fires in Australia had made koalas “functionally extinct.”  Vice claimed the “collapse of civilization may have already begun.”  Extinction Rebellion said “Billions will die” and “Life on Earth is dying.”

The name “Extinction Rebellion” sounds as extreme as there warnings. They have protested in New Zealand recently, but failed to attract much support.

Few have underscored the threat more than student climate activist Greta Thunberg and Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The latter said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.”

Says Thunberg in her new book, “Around 2030 we will be in a position to set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control that will lead to the end of our civilization as we know it.”

They have wider (worldwide) support but specifying years that catastrophe will strike or will become unavoidable seems like nutter territory.

Sometimes, scientists themselves make apocalyptic claims. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” if Earth warms four degrees, said one earlier this year. “The potential for multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” said another. If sea levels rise as much as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts, another scientist said, “It will be an unmanageable problem.”

They sound like vague but extreme guesses at best.

Apocalyptic statements like these have real-world impacts. In September, a group of British psychologists said children are increasingly suffering from anxiety from the frightening discourse around climate change.

In October, an activist with Extinction Rebellion (”XR”) — an environmental group founded in 2018 to commit civil disobedience to draw awareness to the threat its founders and supporters say climate change poses to human existence — and a videographer, were kicked and beaten in a London Tube station by angry commuters.

And last week, an XR co-founder said a genocide like the Holocaust was “happening again, on a far greater scale, and in plain sight” from climate change.

There was quite an adverse reaction to that.

Climate change is an issue I care passionately about and have dedicated a significant portion of my life to addressing. I have been politically active on the issue for over 20 years and have researched and written about it for 17 years. Over the last four years, my organization, Environmental Progress, has worked with some of the world’s leading climate scientists to prevent carbon emissions from rising. So far, we’ve helped prevent emissions increasing the equivalent of adding 24 million cars to the road.

I also care about getting the facts and science right and have in recent months corrected inaccurate and apocalyptic news media coverage of fires in the Amazon and fires in California, both of which have been improperly presented as resulting primarily from climate change.

Attributing single weather events like storms and hurricanes to climate change is common, and stupid. There’s no way of measuring long term effects against single events, which have had complex influences.

It’s as stupid to claim, as is common Kiwiblog and The BFD, that some snow somewhere somehow proves climate change isn’t happening (heavier snowfalls and worse cold storms are predicted effects of climate change).

Journalists and activists alike have an obligation to describe environmental problems honestly and accurately, even if they fear doing so will reduce their news value or salience with the public.

There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people.

And it provides fodder to the ‘nothing is happening, we don’t have to change anything’ brigade.

And exaggerating climate change risks distracting us from other important issues including ones we might have more near-term control over.

I think that’s the biggest problem with overstating and scaremongering.

“I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as “climate deniers” or “climate delayers” anyone who pushes back against exaggeration”

I feel the need to say this up-front because I want the issues I’m about to raise to be taken seriously and not dismissed by those who label as “climate deniers” or “climate delayers” anyone who pushes back against exaggeration.

With that out of the way, let’s look whether the science supports what’s being said.

First, no credible scientific body has ever said climate change threatens the collapse of civilization much less the extinction of the human species. “‘Our children are going to die in the next 10 to 20 years.’ What’s the scientific basis for these claims?” BBC’s Andrew Neil asked a visibly uncomfortable XR spokesperson last month.

“These claims have been disputed, admittedly,” she said. “There are some scientists who are agreeing and some who are saying it’s not true. But the overall issue is that these deaths are going to happen.”

“But most scientists don’t agree with this,” said Neil. “I looked through IPCC reports and see no reference to billions of people going to die, or children in 20 years. How would they die?”

“Mass migration around the world already taking place due to prolonged drought in countries, particularly in South Asia. There are wildfires in Indonesia, the Amazon rainforest, Siberia, the Arctic,” she said.

But in saying so, the XR spokesperson had grossly misrepresented the science. “There is robust evidence of disasters displacing people worldwide,” notes IPCC, “but limited evidence that climate change or sea-level rise is the direct cause”

What about “mass migration”? “The majority of resultant population movements tend to occur within the borders of affected countries,” says IPCC.

It’s not like climate doesn’t matter. It’s that climate change is outweighed by other factors. Earlier this year, researchers found that climate “has affected organized armed conflict within countries.

However, other drivers, such as low socioeconomic development and low capabilities of the state, are judged to be substantially more influential.”

So should be getting more attention and resources.

Last January, after climate scientists criticized Rep. Ocasio-Cortez for saying the world would end in 12 years, her spokesperson said “We can quibble about the phraseology, whether it’s existential or cataclysmic.” He added, “We’re seeing lots of [climate change-related] problems that are already impacting lives.”

That last part may be true, but it’s also true that economic development has made us less vulnerable, which is why there was a 99.7% decline in the death toll from natural disasters since its peak in 1931.

In 1931, 3.7 million people died from natural disasters. In 2018, just 11,000 did.  And that decline occurred over a period when the global population quadrupled.

Also, far fewer people now die from medical epidemics. While the death toll from measles in Samoa is alarming and tragic, it is not anywhere as as bad as The 1918 influenza pandemic: “The total number of deaths attributable to influenza was later estimated to have reached 8500, or 22% of the population. According to a 1947 United Nations report, it ranked as ‘one of the most disastrous epidemics recorded anywhere in the world during the present century, so far as the proportion of deaths to the population is concerned’.”

What about sea level rise? IPCC estimates sea level could rise two feet (0.6 meters) by 2100. Does that sound apocalyptic or even “unmanageable”?

Consider that one-third of the Netherlands is below sea level, and some areas are seven meters below sea level. You might object that Netherlands is rich while Bangladesh is poor. But the Netherlands adapted to living below sea level 400 years ago. Technology has improved a bit since then.

What about claims of crop failure, famine, and mass death? That’s science fiction, not science. Humans today produce enough food for 10 billion people, or 25% more than we need, and scientific bodies predict increases in that share, not declines.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) forecasts crop yields increasing 30% by 2050. And the poorest parts of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, are expected to see increases of 80 to 90%.

Those predictions of increased food production may be affected by climate change – but those effects could be positive as well as negative.

Nobody is suggesting climate change won’t negatively impact crop yields. It could. But such declines should be put in perspective. Wheat yields increased 100 to 300% around the world since the 1960s, while a study of 30 models found that yields would decline by 6% for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature.

Rates of future yield growth depend far more on whether poor nations get access to tractors, irrigation, and fertilizer than on climate change, says FAO.

So more tractors could be more important than more electric cars.

All of this helps explain why IPCC anticipates climate change will have a modest impact on economic growth. By 2100, IPCC projects the global economy will be 300 to 500% larger than it is today. Both IPCC and the Nobel-winning Yale economist, William Nordhaus, predict that warming of 2.5°C and 4°C would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by 2% and 5% over that same period.

IPCC reports are rubbished by some, but that is usually superficial dissing based largely on cherry picking and ignorance.

Does this mean we shouldn’t worry about climate change? Not at all.

One of the reasons I work on climate change is because I worry about the impact it could have on endangered species. Climate change may threaten one million species globally and half of all mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in diverse places like the Albertine Rift in central Africa, home to the endangered mountain gorilla.

But it’s not the case that “we’re putting our own survival in danger” through extinctions, as Elizabeth Kolbert claimed in her book, Sixth Extinction. As tragic as animal extinctions are, they do not threaten human civilization. If we want to save endangered species, we need to do so because we care about wildlife for spiritual, ethical, or aesthetic reasons, not survival ones.

And exaggerating the risk, and suggesting climate change is more important than things like habitat destruction, are counterproductive.

Scientists overwhelmingly warn of climate change risks, but some are concerned about the over-egging.

Climate scientists are starting to push back against exaggerations by activists, journalists, and other scientists.

“While many species are threatened with extinction,” said Stanford’s Ken Caldeira, “climate change does not threaten human extinction… I would not like to see us motivating people to do the right thing by making them believe something that is false.”

I asked the Australian climate scientist Tom Wigley what he thought of the claim that climate change threatens civilization. “It really does bother me because it’s wrong,” he said. “All these young people have been misinformed. And partly it’s Greta Thunberg’s fault. Not deliberately. But she’s wrong.”

And media who have promoted Thunberg as some sort of messiah should be more careful about the message they send.

Part of what bothers me about the apocalyptic rhetoric by climate activists is that it is often accompanied by demands that poor nations be denied the cheap sources of energy they need to develop. I have found that many scientists share my concerns.

“If you want to minimize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2070  you might want to accelerate the burning of coal in India today,” MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel said.

“It doesn’t sound like it makes sense. Coal is terrible for carbon. But it’s by burning a lot of coal that they make themselves wealthier, and by making themselves wealthier they have fewer children, and you don’t have as many people burning carbon, you might be better off in 2070.”

There have been similar ‘counter-intuitive’ arguments here about the problem with shutting down cleaner gas recovery which pushes is to rely more on dirtier energy from elsewhere.

Emanuel and Wigley say the extreme rhetoric is making political agreement on climate change harder.

“You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient,” said Emanuel. “We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate.”

Happily, there is a plenty of middle ground between climate apocalypse and climate denial.

Can our politicians put more focus and efforts in this middle ground?

And while our media has moved recently to not provide publicity to denialist cranks, they should apply the same sort of restrictions to apocalypse cranks. Neither are supported by most science, nor by common sense.

Warning of ‘untold suffering’ from climate change

I have thought that doom and gloom preached by climate activists has been a bit extreme and more likely to turn off popular support for much more drastic action than anything.

But many scientists are also making grave warnings.

I don’t think we can carry on as if there is no problem with little more than hot air from politicians. We have to make significant changes to how we live, as individuals, as a country, and as a planet. The worst that can happen is we will be better off – and more importantly, future generations will be better off, and our planet will be better off. And we could prevent much worse from happening.

Stuff: ‘Untold suffering’: Global scientists warn of climate emergency

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world have declared a “climate emergency”, warning of “untold suffering” and calling for action ranging from curbing human population to leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

The unusual international collaboration, published in BioScience journal, was backed by more than 350 Australian scientists, including 10 current or ex-CSIRO researchers. Signatories hailed from 153 countries.

Despite warnings being issued for decades that rising greenhouse gases would disrupt the climate – and a slew of summits and treaties – such emissions have continued to rise with “increasingly damaging effects”.

“An immense increase of scale in endeavours to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis,” the article said.

Some of us in temperate New Zealand could shrug and smugly say that a few warmer days would be good. But it’s much more complex than that.  A few more storms and floods and maybe droughts could have a big impact here. As could population pressure from elsewhere in the world if overcrowding, pressure on food and water resources and  less a liveable climate push people to higher and lower latitudes.

We are not just facing possible climate change issues. Alongside that an expanding population will make adverse effects harder to deal with.

The researchers – members of the Alliance of World Scientists – identified six critical steps governments, business “and the rest of humanity” can take, including leaving remaining stocks of fossil fuels untapped and “carefully pursuing effective negative emissions”, such as “enhancing natural systems”.

The signatories also highlighted population, a target often omitted in climate debates. The report noted the number of humans was swelling at the rate of 200,000 people per day, or more than 80 million a year.

Populations “must be stabilised – and ideally, gradually reduced”, it said. Strengthening human rights, including making education “a global norm for all, especially girls”, were ways to stem population growth.

Those of us who already have families, and perhaps grandchildren, may not see much in this. But there are signs that a growing number of young people are not only concerned about their own future, they are also seriously concerned about the future of the planet, to the extent that they are thinking of having only one child or no children.

If this happens to any degree it will also eventually have a big impact on an aging population. Our age demographic is already getting top heavy through better health extending lives, and smaller and more delayed families.

“If you have a rising human population, there’s the need for more food and the need for more energy,” said Thomas Newsome, one of the paper’s authors and a lecturer at the University of Sydney, Australia.

I’m amazed that much more isn’t being done to conserve energy and reduce energy needs.

Newsome said the impacts of climate change already underway were broad-ranging, prompting concern if not alarm from researchers ranging from human health to ecology and the social sciences.

Charlie Veron, a marine biologist accredited with naming about one-fifth of the world’s coral species and among the signatories, said climate change “was a lot, lot more serious than the general public realises”.

Young people in particular “should make as much noise as they can”, Veron said, referring to the recent school strikes for climate action. “They are facing a world that will be absolutely horrible place.”

The loss of half the Great Barrier Reef’s corals in two consecutive summers of mass bleaching had failed to prompt action. “It’s still not taken seriously,” he said. “What’s it take to wake the country up?”

Climate impact on our neighbour Australia will have a significant impact on us here.

Linden Ashcroft, a lecturer in climate science and science communication at The University of Melbourne in Australia, said the report “adds to the roar from all fields of science needs to be taken now”.

Other steps people should take include eating mostly plant-based foods to reduce methane and other emissions, saving remaining primary forests to protect biodiversity, and shifting to a carbon-free economy based on renewable energy, the report said.

We should all be doing more than considering changing our diets and our style of living. We can and should be making positive changes – this will likely benefit our own health anyway, and may help the health of others and our planet.

There will always be some who grumble and claim that there is nothing wrong and/or nothing we can or should do differently.

But the weight of science (as imperfect as climate science is it is leaning strongly towards drastic effects and drastic actions) and the growing strength of public realisation and acceptance of personal and collective responsibility.

The worst that can happen if we do something about it is we will likely be better off, healthier.

The worst that can happen if we pretend we are not adversely affecting our planet is difficult to predict, but it could easily be very bad, perhaps not for us, but for future generations.

We can do much more about it, and should. On an individual level it doesn’t need to be drastic change, but we should be moving in better direction.


See also…

The Independent – ‘Untold human suffering’: 11,000 scientists from across world unite to declare global climate emergency

Washington Post – Trump makes it official: U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord

The Trump administration notified the international community Monday that it plans to officially withdraw from the Paris climate accord next fall, a move that will leave the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases as the only nation to abandon the global effort to combat climate change.

President Trump has long criticized the 2015 accord and insisted that the United States would exit it as soon as possible. As recently as last month, Trump called the agreement “a total disaster” and argued that the Obama administration’s pledges to cut carbon emissions under the deal would have “hurt the competitiveness” of the United States.

In a statement Monday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration had sent official notification of its plans to the United Nations.

“In international climate discussions, we will continue to offer a realistic and pragmatic model — backed by a record of real world results — showing innovation and open markets lead to greater prosperity, fewer emissions, and more secure sources of energy,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change and prepare for and respond to natural disasters.”

Time: Trump’s Paris Agreement Move Is Unpopular. Here’s How He’s Trying to Spin It.

By leaving the landmark climate deal, Trump would fulfill a campaign promise, pleasing some of his supporters in the fossil fuel industry while angering mostly those unlikely to support him anyway.

But since then the politics have changed: climate change is now one of the most-discussed issues in the 2020 presidential race and the vast majority of Americans say they support measures to reduce emissions, including the Paris Agreement.

While Trump’s policy agenda on climate hasn’t changed to meet the political moment, there are signs suggesting that his messaging has. He’s largely stopped making the brazenly inaccurate claim that climate change is a “hoax,” instead making a more nuanced but also spurious claim that climate policy would mean wrecking the economy.

In a statement Monday announcing the U.S. withdrawal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. “has reduced all types of emissions” and claimed the Paris Agreement imposed an “unfair economic burden” on the U.S. This is the other side of Trump’s new climate messaging plan: he and his Administration argue that Democratic policies aligned with scientific consensus will destroy the economy.

In a telling interview on the podcast Climate 2020, John McLaughlin, one of Trump’s top pollsters, acknowledged that the “vast majority of Americans” know that climate change is happening, but said that they remain skeptical of the costs, hinting at how the Trump campaign might try to explain its inaction on the issue. Specifically talking about leaving the popular Paris deal, McLaughlin suggested that Trump needed to hammer home his talking points about jobs. “Voters are highly cynical,” he said. “They don’t want to lose their jobs over this and they don’t want to pay a lot of money.”

Not doing enough could destroy the US economy, but that’s probably a longer term risk – beyond the current presidential term.

 

Planned climate extremist disruptions risk alienating wider support

Growing significant support for taking more urgent and more meaningful and effective action to minimise and mitigate predicted possible effects of climate change may be jeopardised by extremists who claim extinction and who seem to be using climate change as a reason to drastically change the world economic and political systems.

Following a widely popular series of countrywide protests last week, more extreme action is threatened for Wellington on Monday, with more extreme goals. I think that this risks alienating popular support.

The future of the human race could be in jeopardy due to pollution, over-consumption and climate change, but using that threat to force what would effectively be a revolution – ironically one goal is to undemocratically impose a different sort of (unproven) democracy – could be a bigger risk.

The cure could be worse than the ailment.

Stuff: Wellington will be first city targeted for ‘disruption’ in worldwide climate change protest

Monday morning commuters could face delays, with climate change activists set to “disrupt Wellington” with protest action in the central city from 7am.

Police, Wellington City Council and NZTA are gearing up in anticipation of the protest, which is part of what has been called a “global rebellion”, with Wellington the first of more than 60 cities worldwide targeted for climate activist disruption.

The protest is organised by the Extinction Rebellion, a group formed in October last year in the UK, with branches all over the world, including New Zealand.

The action is coinciding with a “Rebel Camp” running in Paekākāriki from Saturday to Wednesday, which will include training in “non-violent direct action”.

Extinction Rebellion Wellington spokesperson Dr Sea Rotmann said the New Zealand branch would disrupt Wellington traffic with a street party and expected arrests.

The news report includes odd looking staged photos of Dr Rotman who seems to be trying to depict themselves as something extraordinary:

Dr Sea Rotmann, Wellington spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, says "it is time to draw the line and to take whatever non-violent action is necessary".

Weird, and I’m not sure that will attract a lot of support.

The Extinction Rebellion website said it aimed to “support and encourage a citizens’ uprising in Aotearoa New Zealand”.

That would involve “low level and higher risk acts of civil disobedience by some”.

“When ready, create a participatory, democratic process that discusses and improves a draft manifesto for change and a new constitution.

“This will involve creating a genuine democracy, alongside an economy to maximise well-being and minimise harm.”

So they intend using a revolution to create “a genuine democracy”. That doesn’t sound very democratic.

Suddenly and drastically changing the economic system would be at more risk of maximising harm and adversely affecting wellbeing.

This all seems like an idealistic experiment that if forced on us could cause more disruption and harm than climate change.

What does Extinction Rebellion want?

Extinction Rebellion has three demands of Government:

1. “Tell the truth” and declare a climate and ecological emergency

2. Act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse emissions to net-zero by 2025

3. “Go beyond politics” and set up a “Citizen’s Assembly” on climate and ecological justice

I wonder if they are aware that a “Citizen’s Assembly” should be inclusive of and represent all citizens, and not just a minority of extremists.

Drastically changing all of the world’s governments immediately seems to be a totally unrealistic aim.

Extreme action and extreme demands are much easier to dismiss as extremist nutters.

And more immediately, disrupting Wellington traffic on Monday is likely to alienate a lot of people rather than attracting popular support.

I think that we should be doing significantly more to address possible affects of climate change, and reduce waste, and reduce pollution, but I think that Extinction Rebellion could be counter-productive to getting support to do this.

Their website home page says:

JOIN THE REBELLION

Enter your details to join Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa. Stay up to date with our latest direct action events, news and volunteering opportunities.

To create the change the world so desperately requires we need everyone’s support, we’re in this together.

You’ll be joining part of a larger global movement dedicated to preserving life on earth.

ISSUES

We are unprepared for the danger the future holds. We face floods, wildfires, extreme weather, crop failure, mass displacement and the breakdown of society. The time for denial is over. It is time to act.

Conventional approaches of voting, lobbying, petitions and protest have failed because powerful political and economic interests prevent change. Our strategy is therefore one of non-violent, disruptive civil disobedience – a rebellion.

Historical evidence shows that we need the involvement of 3.5% of the population to succeed – in Aotearoa New Zealand this is 170,000 people.

We are the local branch of the Extinction Rebellion International. We are everyday New Zealanders just like you. We are supported by journalist Naomi Klein, academic and renowned dissident Noam Chomsky, and around 100 other prominent international progressives calling on “concerned global citizens to rise up” and join us.

OUR VISION

A world where we build thriving connections within our society and environment, bringing hope and enabling us to decide the direction of our lives and futures. An inclusive world, where we work consciously to ensure fair processes of collective decision-making, where creativity is prioritised, and where our diversity of gifts are recognised, celebrated and flourish.

OUR MISSION

To spark and sustain a spirit of creative rebellion, which will enable much needed changes in our political, economic and social landscape. We endeavour to mobilise and train organisers to skilfully open up space, so that communities can develop the tools they need to address Aotearoa New Zealand’s deeply rooted problems. We work to transform our society into one that is compassionate, inclusive, sustainable, equitable and connected.

OUR PURPOSE

Support and encourage a citizens uprising in the Aoteaora New Zealand involving low level and higher risk acts of civil disobedience by some (with others willing to support those that take actions). When ready, create a participatory, democratic process that discusses and improves a draft manifesto for change and a new constitution. This will involve creating a genuine democracy, alongside an economy to maximise well being and minimise harm.

 

Iconic Thunberg target of awful attacks but ‘allies’ are her target

Greta Thunberg has become an international icon of youth concerns about climate change.

She has attracted over the top and awful attacks from some who seem threatened by having to change the world to stop the world from suffering potentially irreversible damage due to predicted climate change.

But she is also a threat to politicians who think she is on their side.

Stephen Buranyi (Guardian): Greta Thunberg’s enemies are right to be scared. Her new political allies should be too

Greta Thunberg has made a lot of enemies. They are easy to recognise because their rage is so great they cannot help making themselves look ridiculous. Thunberg’s arrival in the US earlier this month set off rightwing pundits and then the president himself. The conservative provocateur Dinesh D’Souza compared her look to a Nazi propaganda poster; a Fox News guest called her a “mentally ill Swedish child” being exploited by her parents; and Trump mocked her on Twitter as a “happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future”, after a speech in which she urgently laid out the dismal prospects for her generation’s future.

These are the latest attacks, but they aren’t the darkest, or most unhinged. Arron Banks intimating that she might drown crossing the Atlantic in August might be the single worst example – or you can stare directly into the abyss by witnessing the depraved abuse Thunberg receives across the social media networks.

Social media is notorious for attacks on messengers in trying to discredit messages.

Thunberg’s age and gender undoubtedly annoy her critics, but they’re melting down because she explicitly makes the connections that scientists are generally unwilling to make. Namely that their scientific predictions for the climate, and the current economic and political order, may not be compatible.

Continuous growth – economic, population, consumption – is untenable. If the economy keeps growing then crashes are inevitable. if the population keeps growing then the human race is at increasing risk of a crash in food production, or even an inability to keep increasing food production.

Catastrophe may not happen in our lifetimes, but the longer we let things continue as without doing much about it, the greater the risk for us, or for future generations.

Last year’s IPCC report warned there were just 12 years left to avoid irreversible damage to the climate.

That has been misrepresented as 12 years until the world will end. The warning was overstated, and that has been amplified by critics.

Thunberg refers to this often, updating the count as if it were a timebomb strapped to the chest of her entire generation: the closer it gets to zero, the more radical action seems justified.

It’s a moral argument, fundamentally, that assumes the climate crisis will be worse than any disruption caused by addressing it.

I’ve seen Greens (national and local body politicians) here push this argument here. Not just the disruption of trying to address it, in particular the cost. But they don’t seem to have done costings on trying to mitigate the effects of climate change – it seems more of a pie in the sky faith based argument, absent any practical suggestions.

We have already seen something similar in action on a smaller scale in Dunedin, the almost evangelical and expensive  introduction of cycle lanes on busy highways and streets that have increased cycle use, but from hardly any to a bit more but still not a lot.

Carbon moves the deadly clock forward, and anything that facilitates that must be bad.

But we really can’t suddenly cease use of carbon, suddenly cease use of fossil fuels, suddenly cease use of cars, trucks, planes. Trying to achieve anything like that would threaten civilisation more than effects of climate change. At least more suddenly.

She judges long-touted paradigms of “green growth” and market-based solutions as failures by this simple measure. “If solutions within this system are so impossible to find then maybe we should change the system itself,” she said at the UN climate conference in Katowice last year.

Change the system to what? Suddenly or with some sort of transition?

I think that rapid change to world systems would pose bigger risks, and more rapid risks, than business as usual. At best rapid change would cause major disruptions, and the end result could easily be worse than the established systems.

I think that radical change is being promoted because politicians and leaders have failed to act enough incrementally (or failed to act at all, or acted more irresponsibly).

The right doesn’t just mindlessly explode at every climate activist. Thunberg has none of the unthreatening geniality of Mr Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, or the various Hollywood celebrities who have taken on climate as a cause. She styles herself as a climate populist: she invokes a clear moral vision, a corrupt, unresponsive system – and has a knack for neatly separating an “us” and a “them”. When she spoke of her supporters “being mocked and lied about by elected officials, members of parliament, business leaders, journalists”, she was drawing now-familiar political lines against the elite.

This framing releases ordinary people from complicity in the climate crisis, just as other populisms release them from blame for their economic or social fate, and directs that feeling towards a political enemy. “Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is just another convenient lie,” Thunberg told attendees at Davos earlier this year. “Someone is to blame.” A 2017 report showing that just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 has become a popular reference among protesters. The alchemy of populism is that powerlessness fuels anger rather than despair.

And anger at inaction is growing, around the world – and here in New Zealand. James Shaw is promising carbon zero legislation but that seems to have been delayed (he has been Minister of Climate Change for nearly two years).

Thunberg’s critics previously understood exactly what to expect from the climate issue. Even if they didn’t follow it closely, they could intuit, as most people could, that the mainstream channels of communication were gunked up with denial and obstruction, and international negotiations were governed by a politics that was accommodating to the status quo. Despite the lofty promises, no one believed anything would change.

It isn’t just that Thunberg has made climate politics popular, she has – for the first time since the early days of the climate justice movement – made them populist on a large scale, something these people rightly see as a threat to the more liberal order that suited them fine. A good reactionary recognises the potential vehicle for real change, and they hate it.

Yes, some people seem to hate change. Or fear it.

In seeing this, Thunberg’s red-faced peanut gallery hecklers are actually more perceptive than many of the liberal and centrist politicians who have taken to gushing over her without hearing her message. Justin Trudeau, for example, praised her last week while unveiling new climate policies that fell short of Thunberg’s goals.

After meeting with him, she claimed Trudeau was “not doing enough” on climate – and she has previously called his government’s doublespeak on climate policy “shameful”.

The New Zealand Government, and the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, are under similar pressure here. Early on her leadership role Ardern grandly stated that climate change was this generation’s nuclear free issue, but those wanting significant action want to put a bomb under her government.

It’s not clear where Thunberg’s politics lie, or where they will go in the future, but her rhetoric mirrors the left of the environmental movement, a wing of which has long cautioned that reductions in consumption and growth will be required to deal with the climate crisis. “You only speak of a green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular,” she told delegates at the UN climate conference in Katowice last year, criticising the “same bad ideas that got us into this mess”, and telling them to pull “the emergency brake”.

Earlier this month in New York she continued the critique in front of world leaders. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can think of is money and fairytales of eternal growth: how dare you,” she said, visibly angry.

I think that talk of “the beginning of a mass extinction” is not helping Thunberg’s case. Presumably that is what she believes, but it is easy to ridicule and dismiss as over the top scare mongering. But those who may do that are not her target market.

This is worth pointing out – not to claim Thunberg for any particular political faction, but to note that her main rhetorical targets are not denialist wingnuts, but the same mainstream politicians who invite her to speak and praise her activism.

Politicians like Trudeau and Ardern.

They beam at her as if she were their own child, and, perhaps in a similar way, they don’t appear to hear her when she says it’s their fault her life is ruined. It’s the reaction of a group who have long considered themselves on the correct side of the climate divide, and thus, of history. As if a grand “we tried” would satisfy the generations after them.

But the problem is they haven’t even tried very much, they have just talked about it.

Thunberg’s great contribution is to convince the wider public of the bankruptcy of that outlook, and to indict years of missed targets as the failures that they are. Politicians don’t appear to take this shift, or her, very seriously. They’re happy to bask in her light, perhaps convinced this new insistence on immediacy will pass, as all the others did.

In her latest speech, Thunberg promised change was coming, “whether you like it or not”, although it’s not clear she has a plan for how. For the moment she and the movement she has invigorated are in a strange place, commanding immense popular support for a radical cause, and simultaneously praised by the very people they identify as the problem.

A problem, or problems, with no obvious solution.

They want radical change. But to what? And how?

Democracy doesn’t seem to be the answer, going by poor voting rates so far in the local body elections. Early returns are low, in Dunedin just three quarters of the corresponding time last election, and thus half of the rate in 2010.

 

General strike 4 climate in Aotearoa

A strike or protest against inaction over climate change is planned around the country today.

The Spinoff:  General strike for climate: everything you need to know

What and when?

The School Strike 4 Climate movement has invited people of all ages to a nationwide strike today. More than 40 rallies and marches are planned around the country and upwards of 90 businesses, including The Spinoff, have committed to downing tools and joining the movement.

In Auckland, protestors will gather at noon at Aotea Square.

Hamilton protestors are meeting at Civic Square at 1pm.

In Tauranga, it’s a 12pm start at the south end of The Strand.

Wellington protestors are meeting at 11am at Civic Square ahead of a march on parliament.

In Christchurch, protestors will gather at 1pm in Cathedral Square.

Dunedin’s strike kicks off at 12pm outside the Dental School ahead of  a march to the Octagon.

Events are also planned in Whangārei, Lower Hutt, Dunsandel, Porirua, Greymouth, Golden Bay, Thames, Whanganui, Foxton, Nelson, Kāpiti, Hawke’s Bay, Alexandra, New Plymouth, Timaru, Whakatāne, Gisborne, Great Barrier Island, Palmerston North, Invercargill, Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Marlborough, Taupō, Motueka, Karamea, Coromandel, Opunake, Rotorua, Opononi and Wānaka. In Oamaru, Forest and Bird and the Waitaki Girls’ High School Environment Club will be planting trees after school at Cape Wanbrow.

School Strike 4 Climate NZ’s Sophie Handford said opening the strike to workers and employers strengthened the movement and diversified their base.

Newsroom – Uni scientists: Why we’re marching for climate action

Professor Quentin Atkinson from the School of Psychology studies the evolution of language and human cultures. He has contributed to a book on how New Zealanders can tackle climate change and is founder of climate action group Claxon

What troubles me most about the climate crisis is the profligate insanity of the whole thing. The stakes could not be higher. Livelihoods lost. Lives lost. Species gone forever. Real threats to our planet’s life support systems. Positive feedback loops like dieback of the Amazon rainforest or methane released from thawing permafrost causing truly scary runaway climate change. And these warnings are coming not from some lunatic or charlatan, but from hundreds of scientists, the best minds in the world, paid to question every assumption and temper every conclusion. Indeed, climate change is hitting sooner and harder than they initially predicted.

Dr Brendon Dunphy from the School of Biological Sciences studies the metabolic strategies animals employ to adapt to environmental change and potential effects of climate change on seabirds, fish and invertebrates

It’s a struggle to capture the complexity of what I feel as I fluctuate daily between outright despondency to a more pragmatic “Right, let’s get on with solving it”. However, it is one unimpressive number that really captures me…3mm. A small number, but 3mm is the annual sea level rise attributed to climate change we are currently seeing.

It’s a slow march. From talking with people, I get a sense that the thinking is one day we simply won’t wake up, that we will have undergone a cataclysm that sterilizes the planet of life. But it won’t be like that. It will occur slowly, but surely, in increments of 3mm per year. The struggle I have as a parent is trying to alleviate the anxiety my children have for their future. However, I remain positive that we will respond…there’s no other choice.

Professor Shaun Hendy from the Department of Physics is a physicist and science commentator whose book #NoFly: Walking the Talk on Climate Change will be published next month. He is director of the centre for research excellence, Te Pūnaha Matatini

The discovery that fossil fuel emissions are heating the planet is one of science’s greatest achievements. The scientific detective work that led to this discovery was a collective effort, built on the inquiry and insight of many minds, over many decades. For the first time in human history perhaps, we are not only able to see centuries into our future, we also know how our actions will shape that future. Despite this we have struggled mightily to decide how to use this knowledge. While we must each take responsibility for reducing our own carbon footprints as best we are able, it is only by acting together that we will avoid dangerous climate change.

Professor Niki Harre from the School of Psychology studies the human drive to participate in the common good. Her books The Infinite Game: How to Live Well Together and Psychology for a Better World: Working with People to Save the Planet, were published in 2018

For well over a decade I’ve been aware the climate change threat is my problem. Along with other citizens of industrialised nations, I live within social systems damaging to the ecology of our planet and it is up to us to change those systems. I am marching to show I will accept whatever is required for an effective response. This includes more limited, expensive travel options; government-backed insurance for people with homes vulnerable to sea level rise; creating employment for those whose income-stream is not viable in a climate friendly society. I am not asking others to bear the cost of these changes,

I am also prepared for a significant rise in my taxes to support transition that protects the wellbeing of all. I am not afraid of reduced access to material goods and consumer experiences. I am afraid of a world where people are pitted against one another in a scramble to survive in a harsh environment. I want to live in a world that brings out the best in us – pulling together and focusing on what really matters.

Professor Richard Easther is Head of the Department of Physics and a leading theoretical cosmologist who is a regular commentator on science issues and science research

Our nervous systems respond quickly to clear and present danger — the clench in the gut if we see a child at risk of harm and our instant response. As a physicist and astronomer I know why carbon dioxide traps heat, and why we can’t blame the sun for increasing temperatures: I can follow the math and appreciate the complexity of the data. But it is still more head than heart.

For most adults, climate adaptation is like saving for retirement — present desires often take priority. But if the detached perspective of adulthood is “mature”, the flipside is that kids do a better job of appreciating the urgency climate change deserves. The students I interact with are smart, articulate, thoughtful, committed and passionate – and my strongest emotional response is admiration for the commitment and composure of the kids participating in the climate strikes.

And that’s why I’ll be marching.

RNZ:  Climate change report underlines sea level rise threat

The latest international climate report sends a stark message about the fundamental importance of the world’s oceans, a New Zealand scientist says.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report revealed the clearest information to date on the future of the planet’s oceans and frozen regions, and the price civilisation will pay if there is not urgent action.

“Changes that have been under way in these systems imperil the health and wellbeing on life on this earth. It’s a pretty stark message for us to listen to and to act on,” Massey University professor Bruce Glavovic said.

Prof Glavovic, one of more than 100 authors from 36 countries who worked on the report, said sea level rise was an immediate and real issue, not a problem for future generations to worry about.

“Importantly it’s not going to stop. Even if we stop greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow sea levels will continue to rise for centuries.”

Global sea levels are rising at 3.6mm a year, more than twice as fast than during the 20th century, the report said.

Even if greenhouse gas emissions were greatly reduced and global warming is limited to well below 2C, sea level rise could still reach 30-60cm by 2100. That would increase to 60-110cm if greenhouse gas emissions continue to strongly increase.

Prof Glavovic said if any country should be concerned it was New Zealand, with 90 percent of the population living within about 10km of the seashore.

“The struggle for sustainability is essentially going to be won or lost in the boardrooms in the communities in the government offices in the cities and towns of our coastlines.”

Newsroom – IPCC: Ocean’s future depends on emissions

The ocean has protected us from experiencing even worse effects from global warming, but changes to fisheries, coasts and cyclones are beginning to bite. What happens next depends on us, says the latest IPCC special report.

The state of the ocean will enter “unprecedented territory” this century, and it will take an unprecedented social transformation to stop things getting worse from there, according to the latest IPCC special report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere is out, drawing on more than 6,000 studies, reviewed and synthesised by a panel of 104 scientists from 36 countries.

The fate of the Antarctic ice sheet and the Southern Ocean – two areas of intense research and monitoring by New Zealanders – feature heavily in the report’s gloomier findings, regarding ocean heating around Antarctica and the potential for surprise runaway ice melt.

The report’s key messages are that we’ve already locked in significant changes to ocean levels, cyclones, fish stocks, glaciers and beaches, but we can avoid more extreme changes by acting fast. That would require “unprecedented” social change, though.

It’s hard to ignore the the overwhelming numbers of scientists and growing number of people warning and demanding more action climate change.

Naysayers will keep naysaying, but they are now losing the PR battle. The tides of science and opinion are rising against them.

The question is not whether we have climate change, it is how bad the effects could be.

The question is not whether we should we do anything about it, but how much we should do and how quickly.

And what we do will generally benefit us and our planet regardless of the extent of climate change and how much we manage to minimise the effects.

One way or another this will affect all of us.

 

Tsunami of coverage of Climate Change Now

It is not a matter of whether measures will be taken to try to combat climate change, it is how much will be done, and how quickly. Momentum is building in New Zealand, with a burst of media activity this week.

ODT

…the Otago Daily Times has joined an international news media initiative in the run-up to the UN Climate Action Summit.

More than 250 newsrooms representing 32 countries with a combined monthly reach of more than a billion people are co-operating under the banner Covering Climate Now.

During the week leading into the summit, we have agreed to share resources and focus coverage in a way that does justice to the defining story of our time.

Also:

RNZ

Newsroom

The Spinoff

Stuff

Stuff has a section devoted to Climate Change News

NZ Herald

Climate Change: What New Zealanders have to change and when

Like it or not, climate change is going to drive significant changes with energy use, transport, travel and food. In other words, to the way we live.

Newshub – Climate Change: What New Zealanders have to change and when

Newshub Nation explores what will be different about how we get our energy, how we get around, how we shop, how we travel and what we eat.

Energy:

The Government has set a target of being 100 percent renewable by 2035. Currently, 82 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources – mainly hydropower.

“We’ve obviously got lots of wood lying around and the problems we had in Tolaga Bay – you can imagine that would have been much better used as a source of energy if we’d had the supply chain set up,” says James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change.

Another potential solution to the storage problem is using renewable sources to produce hydrogen gas, which acts a bit like a battery.

“Hydrogen plants can make a lot of energy at short notice, and that’s a really key capability that we need to push the last bit of coal and gas off the grid and get to 100 percent renewable,” says Katherine Errington, Helen Clark Foundation executive director.

Transport:

Transport accounts for 19 percent of the country’s emissions, mainly because New Zealanders love their cars.

We imported 319,662 light vehicles in 2018. Of that total, just 5,542 or 1.7 percent were electric or hybrid cars according to the Ministry of Transport.

This needs to change and fast. By 2030, the Productivity Commission says 80 percent of NZ vehicle imports need to be electric and by 2050, nearly every vehicle will need to be electric. As at March 2019, electric vehicles (EVs) made up just 0.3 percent of our fleet.

Drive Electric’s Mark Gilbert says the quickest way to get more EVs into the market would be through adjusting the fringe benefit tax, to incentivise businesses to transition their company fleets.

For trucks, trains, ships and planes, green hydrogen offers a potential climate-friendly solution.

Air Travel:

Aviation is one of the trickiest areas to reduce emissions. It currently produces about 859 million tonnes of carbon each year or around two percent of global emissions. However, by 2050 it is expected to emit more than any other sector.

solution put forward by the UK Climate Commission is having industries like aviation pay to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere. It estimates the cost of this at $20b-$40b in the year 2050, with that cost likely passed on to consumers. This means the price of flights will start to increase from 2035 as emission removals are predicted to scale up.

Shopping:

Online shopping can actually be better for the environment than traditional shopping, because it means people aren’t driving their cars to and from the store.

However, US research found online shopping is only better when consumers choose regular delivery rather than express shipping, which creates nearly 30 percent more emissions.

Food:

This is probably the most controversial area to make changes, but with the world’s food system accounting for nearly a quarter of all emissions it is one of the areas we need to adapt.

In New Zealand, agriculture makes up half of our emissions – mainly from livestock burping methane. This gas breaks down in the atmosphere after 12 years, unlike carbon, which can hang around for hundreds of years. However while it is shorter lived, methane is 25 times stronger than carbon when it comes to warming.

“There are ways to try and reduce methane which are being researched – what you feed the animal on, how you breed the animals to produce less methane,” says Ralph Sims.

“But if we can increase the productivity [e.g. more milk from each cow] then that’s a better alternative than having to reduce stock numbers.”

Sims also says that the potential of vegetable protein is something that New Zealand’s agricultural sector should keep an eye on.

The world may change significantly as a result of climate change.

I think there is no doubt how people live will change significantly regardless. Climate change as well as population, resource depletion and pollution will all at least need to be adapted to, one way or another.

The end is nigh for Planet Earth?

Pat Baskett considers what it feels like for young people to face turning their lives around to save the planet from environmental collapse

If I were 14 instead of 74 I would be pretty depressed after last week. Another 220sq km of good food-producing land in Taranaki is to be potentially wrecked so that we can continue to drive, fly and live the way we always have.

My 14-year-old’s eyes would have been caught by the title of the conference, the Just Transition Summit, at which these new permits for oil and gas exploration were announced. She understands that we need to go through a transition period but her impatience for this to start is obvious. New permits – on land as opposed to the ban on new ocean permits – seem like a step backwards.

She also understands the positioning of the word “just” because she understands that climate change is linked to the rise of inequality and economic injustice.

Ten years, the most likely time we have to turn our lives around, seems a mere blink to me. For teens, it stretches ahead like an open road leading they know not quite where.

 

Response to introduction of climate change bill

This is a big deal for the Greens.

Edgeler has been unusually critical of the Claytons binding referendum on cannabis law reform.

“Landmark action on climate change” bill introduced to parliament

The Government has announced today that the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has been introduced to Parliament:


Landmark climate change bill goes to Parliament

The Government is today delivering landmark action on climate change – the biggest challenge facing the international community and New Zealand.

“To address the long-term challenge of climate change, today we introduce the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill to Parliament,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’ve built a practical consensus across Government that creates a plan for the next 30 years, which provides the certainty industries need to get in front of this challenge.

“In March this year, tens of thousands of New Zealand school students went on strike to protest the lack of decisive action on climate change. We hear them. The Zero Carbon Bill outlines our plan to safeguard the future that those school students will inherit,” Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said.

“The critical thing is to do everything we can over the next 30 years to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and the Zero Carbon Bill makes that a legally binding objective.

“Carbon dioxide is the most important thing we need to tackle – that’s why we’ve taken a net zero carbon approach.

“Agriculture is incredibly important to New Zealand, but it also needs to be part of the solution. That is why we have listened to the science and also heard the industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane.

“The split gases approach we’ve agreed on is consistent with that commitment.

“The Bill sets a target for 10 per cent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, and aims for a provisional reduction ranging from 24 per cent to 47 per cent by 2050.

“That provisional range will be subject to review by the independent Climate Change Commission in 2024, to take account of changes in scientific knowledge and other developments.

“The independent Climate Change Commission, established by the Bill, will support our emissions reduction targets through advice, guidance, and regular five-yearly “emissions budgets”.

“The Bill also creates a legal obligation on the Government to plan for how it will support New Zealand towns and cities, business, farmers and Iwi to adapt to the increasingly severe storms, floods, fires and droughts we are experiencing as a result of climate change.

“New Zealanders have made it clear they want leadership and consensus on climate change legislation.

“We’re delighted that the three Government partners have reached an agreement over such a significant piece of legislation after lengthy consultation.

“I also want to acknowledge National Party leader, Simon Bridges, and National’s Climate Change spokesperson, for conducting negotiations in good faith and setting politics to one side while we’ve worked through the Bill.

“The fact that, across Parliament, all parties have engaged constructively in this process signals mutual interest in creating enduring climate change legislation that will stand the test of time and deliver long-lasting commitment to action on climate change for future generations.

“But the work’s not finished. I urge people to engage with the Zero Carbon Bill as it passes through Parliament. Have your say in the select committee process.

“All of us have a part to play our part in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global temperature increases.

“That includes New Zealanders making their contribution to see the Zero Carbon Bill become law by the end of this year,” James Shaw said.