There’s a first time for everything, and today it was making an oral submission to a parliamentary committee — the ETS Review committee. I made my written submission public a while ago, so I won’t repeat that here, but in my 15 minute slot (5 mins for initial presentation, 10 mins for questions), I chose to emphasise four key points:
- That the effects of climate change are being observed now, ahead of expectations. I quoted from the recent Copenhagen conference closing statement in support: For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.
- That the emissions reductions New Zealand will have to make are likely to be much steeper than currently envisaged, because the science is beginning to suggest we need to move beyond stabilisation of GHG levels into active sequestration (I mentioned Hansen and 350 ppm), and because simple equity demands that the developed world adopts a “cap and converge” approach to emissions in order to engage China and India.
- That the climate commitment — the fact that we have 20 to 30 years of warming in the pipeline whatever we do means that New Zealand has place considerable emphasis on adaptation. We need to build resilience to the direct impacts of climate change here (which with luck won’t be too bad), and to the actions that other countries take to address change (counter food miles arguments and so on).
- Finally, that early action on reducing emissions would be significantly less costly than making drastic forced changes later.
I closed by reiterating my first recommendation: that the government should seek to build a consensus of business and consumer interests on both the need for action, and the direction to be followed.
The questions were interesting. Charles Chauvel, Labour’s climate spokesman, asked me to elaborate on the matter of targets. John Boscawen (ACT) commented that my evidence flatly contradicted the previous submitter, Dr Bruce McCabe (which appears to have been along the lines of “cooling since…”), and asked if I would examine that evidence and explain to him why it was wrong. Peter Dunne asked me to do that on behalf of the whole committee, and I happily agreed. Should be an interesting exercise… Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green) then asked me to explain the significance (if any) of 8 year trends in climate data — obviously making a point to Boscawen. Finally, Nicky Wagner (National) asked me to elaborate a little on why regulatory action was required to complement the emissions trading scheme: I mentioned efficiency measures.
Looking at the full list of submitters the committee is hearing (available at Carbon News), it’s clear that more than a few of the usual crank suspects have got through: Bryan Leyland’s there, as is Vincent Gray and the NZ CSC. Plenty of debunking to come, as their submissions are made public…