NZ hikes terrorism threat to “low”, ignores Pentagon warning of “immediate” threat from climate change

A low threat of a terrorist attack?  Never mind the climate. So, the threat of a terrorist attack on New Zealand is upon us has risen from “very low” to “low” — second to lowest in a ranking that has six levels. Cabinet is now urgently reviewing our security laws to make sure we’re equipped to deal with this horrific new threat. The media has dedicated hours of discussion, gigabytes of online content, and metres of newspaper articles to this important issue. I’m now quaking in my boots.

The day after John Key’s announcement of this new “low” threat, a major report on a global security threat went entirely unnoticed here in New Zealand. The Pentagon’s “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” released on October 14, warns that climate change is an “immediate threat” to national and global security, describing it as a “threat multiplier” that can worsen national security problems such as terrorism and the spread of infectious diseases.

The report says:

 “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

The US Department of Defense has set out several goals around climate change in its defence strategy, as it seeks to integrate climate change considerations across the department.

“In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.”

One of the major issues for The Pentagon in dealing with climate change was the increasing need for the military’s involvement in dealing with the aftermath of extreme weather events, both at home and across the world.

This sounds familiar. A quick google search shows our defence forces being called in to help with the aftermath of cyclones both in New Zealand: Ita, Westland, 2014) and across the Pacific (Cyclones Ian, Tonga, January 2014; Evan, Samoa and Fiji, December 2012; Pat, Cook Islands, 2010, to name but a few.

In March this year the IPCC reported that New Zealand was “unprepared” for the kind of sea level rise we will get with continued global warming. In recent years we’ve seen a number of weather events — and even just king tides — that have battered our coastlines, such as the disintegrating sea wall in Island Bay, the damage suffered by St Clair esplanade and seawall in Dunedin, and coastal erosion in Hokitika.  Wellington City Council this week released its analysis of what rising seas would do to the city, putting the bill at $400 million.

The people who live in these areas may take a different view to our Prime Minister on which threat is closer to home.

Our climate change minister Tim Groser “welcomed” the IPCC report, but went on to say that it was down to local government to deal with the problem, ruling out any guidance from central government, which was more focused on getting an international agreement.

What does that big focus on an international agreement look like? Last week New Zealand proposed to the UNFCCC its idea of an international agreement that Governments should agree in Paris next year.

Such an agreement, says our Government, should not include legally binding targets for cutting emissions. Everyone should do what they feel up to, not what is necessary to keep global warming to their agreed 2degC. Make ’em voluntary. Of course this has won praise from the US, not least because there’s no way Obama would ever agree to anything but voluntary action.

What we failed to say in our proposal was that legally binding emissions reduction targets would put New Zealand in a terrible position, because we’d actually have to cut our emissions, emissions that and are projected to rise exponentially in the coming years.

We are setting a shining example to the internationally community that we say we so keenly want to take action.  Our attempts to deal with climate change at home have resulted in our backing out of the Kyoto Protocol, and a failed emissions trading scheme:  in the last two years the taxpayer has paid out $5.85 million in free carbon credits to one company alone – NZ Aluminim Smelters Ltd (Rio Tinto) – which can then surrender those credits for cheap international ones, making enormous profits at the expense of the taxpayer. No emissions cuts in sight as a result of this, then.

Meanwhile our country is getting drier, with international scientists confirming last year’s drought was caused by climate change, and knocking  $1.3 billion out of the New Zealand economy.

We’re terribly concerned about security here in New Zealand – we’ve even just scored a seat a the UN Security Council.  But hey, let’s all focus on the imminent “low” threat of terrorism, and IS. Let’s not look at a threat that’s staring us all in the face because, heaven help us, we might actually have to start doing something about it.

11 thoughts on “NZ hikes terrorism threat to “low”, ignores Pentagon warning of “immediate” threat from climate change”

  1. Much of the disruption in the Middle East was caused by rising food prices and drought which were triggered by climate change. We can expect to see a great deal more mass movement of people and civil war in the years to come.
    For New Zealand the problem is going to be drought on the East coast, where we live and farm, and infrastructure loss by sea level rise.
    I did some local research on our very wet spring and recurring floods and found that it is not necessarily the amount of rain in an event that causes a damaging flood but the speed at which rain falls in short bursts. This might be due to climate change but the records are not good for long term evaluation.

  2. When qualified climate scientists, professional meteorologists and academics say things like:

    “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events…. will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

    …they are routinely derided and dismissed as being shrill, hysterical and alarmist. It’s interesting that so far no-one seems to have levelled such accusations at the Pentagon. Perhaps no-one dares.

  3. One has to give the government top marks for sounding like they are doing massive amounts while they are in fact doing nothing. I guess that level of spin and skill takes years to refine. It really is worthy of a knighthood.

    Meanwhile the good old planet is taking a bit of a hammering, but never mind John Key will save us all by smiling a bit harder. The fable of the frog being slowly boiled alive comes to mind, it just doesn’t notice or care. Humans are just not designed to evaluate and respond well to longer term risks.

  4. Yeahbut our `Great White Leader` was very clear that we (NZ) would not be leaders in climate change initiatives and he and deputy dog Grosser have not deviated from that course until now. It seems the initiative now is to be leaders in reverse gear. (A `Modern Major Geneeraal` in fact).
    Trouble is the planet is not in tune with his cunning plan or timeframe. (2050 seems to be convenient to him and Key will only be remembered by every ones grandchildren because he did nothing).
    I suggest that if you are waiting for Governments to take the lead here forget it. It is not conducive to holding office to show `real leadership` by possibly upsetting those who elect you.
    If you want it fixed, fix it yourself.

    1. None of the other political parties are particularly interested in climate change either
      Labour are in favour of Deep Sea Drilling, and the Greens think child poverty is the biggest issue in NZ
      Internet Mana had some climate policy that they downloaded from somewhere

      The media were focussed almost exclusively on the contents of Cameron Slaters inbox, than any actual policy discussions.

      So you can’t blame it all on the government

        1. Gareth Hughes MP made the comment about child poverty on Backbenchers TV show. They have a policy on climate, but it wasn’t big on their radar this election.

          At least that is the impression I got.

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