Symptoms too serious to ignore: a call to face up to NZ’s critical risks

A loose affiliation of New Zealand’s great and good will launch an appeal to parliament next week, asking for a dispassionate and non-partisan risk assessment of the “unprecedented threats to our collective security” facing the country as a result of climate change, fossil fuel extraction and economic uncertainty. The Wise Response group features poets, writers, All Blacks, academics, surgeons and scientists amongst its first 100 supporters1, and will launch its appeal at a public meeting in Dunedin on March 8th.

In its appeal the group identifies critical risks in five areas:

Continue reading “Symptoms too serious to ignore: a call to face up to NZ’s critical risks”

  1. The Otago Daily Times lists Brian Turner, Wayne Smith, Fiona Kidman, Glenn Turner, David Thom, Philip Temple, Anne Salmond, Julian Dean, Owen Marshall, Morgan Williams, Chris Trotter, Bruce Burns, Richard Langston and Anton Oliver amongst others. []

McKibben: naming the enemy

“It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization.”  These are the words Bill McKibben uses to describe the fossil-fuel industry in a recent striking article in Rolling Stone which has received wide attention. It’s well worth reading, not least for the elegant lucidity of its prose. This post is not intended as some kind of summary, but rather as a reflection on McKibben’s notion that we need to recognise that we are up against a formidable enemy.  He moves to this declaration by considering three numbers.

The first is 2o Celsius, the level of warming which is widely accepted politically as not to be exceeded. Scientifically it can’t be regarded as a safe level of warming, and it’s certainly not so regarded by McKibben, but ”political realism bested scientific data, and the world settled on the two-degree target”.

The second number is 565 gigatons, which is the amount of carbon dioxide scientists estimate can still be added to the atmosphere by mid-century and give us a reasonable (80%) hope of staying below two degrees.

The third number is 2,795 gigatons, which is the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries that act like fossil-fuel companies. “In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn.” And it’s five times more than we can burn and have any hope of staying within two degrees of warming.

Continue reading “McKibben: naming the enemy”

Roughan’s ready theory

John Roughan has a theory. The New Zealand Herald‘s columnist and leader writer waxes lyrical this week about the discovery of the Higgs boson bringing excitement back to science — science having been made dull by being “dominated by environmentalism” for too long. Others may wish to make fun of Roughan’s somewhat incoherent take on particle physics:

The glimpse of the ‘Higgs boson’, or something like it, allows minds to boggle on the existence of “dark matter” and the possibility there really is a dimension to the world that is beyond human sensory perception.

Who knows where that knowledge will lead? Next they will work out how to control the particle, then they will remove it to enable things – people – to travel at the speed necessary to explore the galaxy.

But bring it on, I say. Let’s get the Roughan-Higgs drive patented. That’s a new technology that could really drive the economic transformation of New Zealand. Truly ground-breaking stuff from a political columnist.

Roughan’s real theory, sadly, is much more mundane, and amounts to little more than an extended and ill-educated rant against environmentalism.

Continue reading “Roughan’s ready theory”

John Key’s fossilised vision for NZ

One wearies of lamenting the government’s inability to view proposed paths of economic development from the perspective of climate change. But as they continue to trumpet economic solutions which are inimical to facing the challenge of global warming there is little option but to keep reiterating that they need to take a longer term view.

What has provoked this post was the news in the NZ Herald on Thursday of the pleasure the Prime Minister has expressed in the results of a Herald-Digipoll survey suggesting that most New Zealanders back the Government’s plan to increase exploration for oil, gas and minerals. In welcoming the poll result John Key commented:

Continue reading “John Key’s fossilised vision for NZ”

Exxon boss: intellectually obtuse position on climate impacts

I sometimes wonder what the CEOs of fossil fuel companies think about the effect of their products on the atmosphere and whether they harbour any anxieties about climate change. One of them, Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil, has told us how he views the matter in his reply to a question following a speech he gave to the Council of Foreign Relations last week, a speech in which he had explained how unexpectedly vast the sources of extractable natural gas and oil in North American rocks are proving to be.

To get a full sense of his reply to the question you’ll need to look at it on the website – it’s about two thirds the way down the page. It’s copyrighted but I’ll try to give a fair paraphrase of his main points albeit accompanied by my criticisms. Tillerson is answering a question, not delivering a prepared statement, but his answer no doubt broadly reveals his basic stance on the question.

The questioner briefly outlined some of the devastating consequences for humanity of the burning of all the reserves Tillerson had talked about in his speech and asked what he was going to do about it. “We need your help to do something about this.”

Continue reading “Exxon boss: intellectually obtuse position on climate impacts”