The cost of climate change | The Jackal

2 Nov 2012

The cost of climate change

I happened to watch the Late Show with David Letterman last night. It was somewhat subdued compared to their usual exuberance and energy, mainly because there was no audience and the super-storm Sandy had just ripped the heart out of the United States.

It was interesting to see the issue of climate change being raised by the entertainer, being that on the whole it hasn't been reported on. Unfortunately Letterman's guest did not do well in explaining the link between Sandy and climate change. In fact he looked decidedly nervous in even broaching the subject.

By now, most people would have heard that climate change is resulting in more extreme weather events such as increased drought and flooding in areas that are already prone to such phenomena. Climate change is exacerbating the problem, and making storms like Sandy far worse than they would normally be. There is no doubt that the oceans have warmed, which is one of the main driving factors in storms. Sandy had another driving factor, there has recently been unprecedented Arctic ice melting, far greater than scientists previously anticipated.

Despite the United States recently suffering from another devastating storm in the form of hurricane Katrina, which occurred just seven years ago, some people are still claiming that hurricane Sandy is a once in a hundred year storm. This might work to delude people who can't remember what they were doing yesterday, but it won't work on most people. Perhaps after Sandy we can expect a change in policy direction from the United States' administration concerning their over-reliance on fossil fuels. With such devastation, how can they honestly ignore the main cause of Sandy's power?

The same can be said for the New Zealand government... What kind of moron ignores such hugely damaging events and the fact that they're undeniably linked to manmade climate change? What kind of devastating event will it take before the New Zealand government wakes up and changes our economy so that it's clean and sustainable? New Zealand is better placed to reduce GHG emissions than most other countries, and yet we are failing to do so.

Today, the Ministry for the Environment reported:

In 1990, New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 59,797.2 Gg carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e). In 2010, total greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 11,860.0 Gg CO2-e (19.8 per cent) to 71,657.2 Gg CO2-e. The four emission sources that contributed the most to this increase in total emissions were road transport, dairy enteric fermentation, agricultural soils, and public electricity and heat production.

New Zealands failure to reduce GHG emissions is one of the main reasons National is throwing in the towel concerning the Kyoto protocol. The issue is that to reduce emissions would mean putting a limit on dairying and using less fossil fuels while many National MP's have personal vested interests in promoting farming intensification and further oil and gas exploration. This essentially means that nothing will change while they're in power because they're selfishly putting their own investments ahead of the common good.

Just like the United States' presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, National is tactically avoided discussing the importance of climate change and the environment. They are also trying their best to inhibit the mainstream media from having that all-important discussion as well.

Unfortunately New Zealand is entirely unprepared for a storm of Sandy's magnitude. Most of our townships and cities are situated in areas close to the sea where flooding and tidal surges are a distinct possibility. Our isolated provinces would be left to their own devices because of slips and broken bridges. Indefinite power cuts would occur because most of our power generation is distanced from the consumer and much of our infrastructure is old and prone to damage. This would have a devastating effect on our economy. That's before we even talk about the cost of repairing things when we can least afford it.

All of these costs would soon add up to be far greater than the income the government hopes to achieve from further dairy intensification and increased drilling for fossil fuels, both of which will increase our GHG emissions. National is gambling with our future in a game they will surely lose. Unfortunately we are all going to lose along with them as a consequence of their stupidity. It's not if a storm like Sandy wreaks havoc across New Zealand, because of a failure to reduce GHG emissions, it's when?

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