National guilty of ecocide | The Jackal

9 Nov 2012

National guilty of ecocide

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The National-led Government has been "charged" with ecocide for passing a law which watered down New Zealand's obligations to reduce carbon emissions.

The final reading of a bill which amended the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) drew impassioned speeches from MPs, in particular Green Party climate change spokesman Kennedy Graham.

Kennedy Graham's speech was indeed passionate, and in my opinion entirely justified.

However there was unfortunately no adequate response from the government, mainly because one particular MP, Tim Groser, was conspicuous by his absence from the debate. The Minister for Climate Change Issues entirely failed to speak to his Climate Change Response (Emissions Encouragement) Amendment Bill in its final reading, showing a level of arrogance rarely seen in parliament, even by his fellow National MP's.

Dr Graham levelled mock criminal charges at the Prime Minister and Minister for Climate Change.

"I charge the leaders of this Government with the moral crime of ecocide. I trust that in due course that they stand accountable before the children of this world, the children of John Key, the grandchildren of Tim Groser and mine."

He went further: "The leaders of this government ... are committing us to purgatory and thence to hell. Purgatory is the next decade, and hell the decade after."

Some might claim that this is a bit over the top, but I don't think so. Anybody who has been keeping up to date with developments concerning climate change would likely agree with Graham whole-heartedly, and commend him for his forthright and compelling oratory.

There are a number of truths about climate change that cannot be ignored. In fact only the most ardent climate change deniers are now sticking to their guns, namely those with a vested interest in not reducing GHG emissions.

Let's take two examples of what climate change deniers often like to ignore; the increased cost of not doing enough to reduce GHG emissions, and the increased speed at which climate change is affecting the environment we all live in.

The exact cost to worldwide economies from climate change is a difficult thing to quantify, mainly because the phenomenon is unprecedented and the variability of the changes as they impact on civilization is a dynamic process. However there have been a number of comprehensive studies to show the true financial cost of climate change.

Here are some excerpts from a recent report intended for the insurance industry, called Severe Weather in America (PDF):

In the long term, anthropogenic climate change is believed to be a significant loss driver, though it influences various perils in different ways. For instance, it particularly affects formation of heat waves, droughts, thunderstorms and – in the long run – tropical cyclone intensity. Short and mid-term natural climate variability also play a crucial role in the latter. Climate-related changes in hazard – other than increases in exposure – are not automatically reflected in the premiums.

I find it astounding that the insurance industry recognizes climate change, while our government is doing its damnedest to ignore it. How they're able to live in complete denial is beyond me, considering the increased amount of severe weather events that have occurred in recent years. The report continues:

In response to Hurricane Andrew, several organizations partnered with the insurance industry to develop models to assess the risk and estimate maximum losses from wind related events. However, loss events like Hurricanes Ivan (2004), Katrina, Rita and Wilma (2005), Ike (2008) and the Joplin tornado (2011) proved that wind-related loss potential was often greater than what the models predicted.


When global warming combines with natural weather cycles such as the El Niño/La Niña phenomena, the risk of severe weather is intensified and these factors will result in even larger loss costs from natural peril events than what we have seen so far.

The up-shot of this is that insurance is going to get more expensive because more things will be damaged from severe weather events, but that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the cost of climate change.

What National obviously fail to understand is that the cost of reducing GHG emissions, which is a required expense to reduce the effects of anthropomorphic climate change, might not be cheap... But the cost of failing to act will be even more expensive.

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2008 entitled What We’ll Pay if Global Warming Continues Unchecked (PDF) found that:

New research shows that if present trends continue, the total cost of global warming will be as high as 3.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Four global warming impacts alone—hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs, and water costs—will come with a price tag of 1.8 percent of U.S. GDP, or almost $1.9 trillion annually (in today’s dollars) by 2100.

These projections are now outdated, with a comprehensive report by the DARA group entitled Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet (PDF) published in September this year, finding:

Climate change causes 400,000 deaths on average each year today, mainly due to hunger and communicable diseases that affect above all children in developing countries. Our present carbon-intensive energy system and related activities cause an estimated 4.5 million deaths each year linked to air pollution, hazardous occupations and cancer.

Climate change caused economic losses estimated close to 1% of global GDP for the year 2010, or 700 billion dollars (2010 PPP). The carbon-intensive economy cost the world another 0.7% of GDP in that year, independent of any climate change losses. Together, carbon economy- and climate change related losses amounted to over 1.2 trillion dollars in 2010.

The world is already committed to a substantial increase in global temperatures – at least another 0.5° C (1° F) due to a combination of the inertia of the world’s oceans, the slow response of the carbon cycle to reduced CO2 emission and limitations on how fast emissions can actually be reduced.

The world economy therefore faces an increase in pressures that are estimated to lead to more than a doubling in the costs of climate change by 2030 to an estimated 2.5% of global GDP.


Continuing today’s patterns of carbon-intensive energy use is estimated, together with climate change, to cause 6 million deaths per year by 2030, close to 700,000 of which would be due to climate change. This implies that a combined climate-carbon crisis is estimated to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade.

Sobering reading indeed. In my opinion, if New Zealand isn't willing to play its part in reducing GHG emissions, then we're partly responsible for those estimated 400,000 deaths worldwide that will occur in 2012 because of climate change.

Let me be more specific; when I say we're responsible, what I really mean is the politicians who have made the decision to put the economic welfare of polluting industries ahead of their responsibility to reduce emissions are responsible.

National’s obstructive role at the recent United Nations climate summit in Durban has been widely condemned by scientists and climate activists alike. It was reported that New Zealand attempted to “water down the integrity of market mechanisms” for reducing emissions and adopted a “deliberately inconsistent” position on extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

In light of these events, New Zealand is not only failing to meet obligations on a national level, the current government has attempted to reduce the effectiveness of climate change negotiations worldwide. This is entirely unacceptable from politician's that are meant to represent the people of New Zealand, a country previously known for environmental responsibility and leadership.

As Minister for International Climate Change Negotiations, Tim Groser was New Zealand’s lead representative at those talks. He's also the Minister responsible for severely watering down the ETS so it's effectively useless! Nationals changes to that legislation mean GHG emissions will not reduce to ensure New Zealand meets its international obligations under previous agreements.

Therefore the charge of ecocide leveled at Tim Groser and the rest of the National party climate change deniers is justified. People like them should be held to account for putting the short-term profits of polluting industries ahead of the ability of future generations to survive on planet earth. One day their crimes of ecocide will be acted upon... The world will demand accountability.