Human stupidity and the NZ election (Heigh ho! Heigh ho!)

I’ve been writing about climate science and policy for the last five years, and taking an interest in the subject for far longer, but I’ve seldom read more depressing news than Fiona Harvey’s Guardian article last week — Rich nations ‘give up’ on new climate treaty until 2020. According to Harvey, expectations for the UN conference in Durban are low:

…most of the world’s leading economies now privately admit that no new global climate agreement will be reached before 2016 at the earliest, and that even if it were negotiated by then, they would stipulate it could not come into force until 2020.

Unfortunately for all the inhabitants of this planet, the atmospheric carbon load is increasing fast and unless emissions peak soon — no later than 2020 — we will be committed to dangerous, and quite possibly uncontrollable future warming. How in the name of your favoured deity did we allow that to happen? Here’s a clue: a few sentences taken from the environment policy statement of New Zealand’s National Party, who led the outgoing government, and who on current polling will lead the next after Saturday’s election:

We’ve introduced a more balanced approach to climate change … Ensured New Zealand is doing its fair share on climate change … Amended Labour’s ETS to strike a better balance between New Zealand’s environmental and economic interests.

The National Party document also claims the last (Labour-led) government “set an impractical goal of carbon neutrality”. Well, have I got news for you, John Key and Nick Smith. Carbon neutrality is not an impractical goal — it’s what the evidence tells us we need to achieve, not just in New Zealand but around the whole world.

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Treadgold gets it (nearly, but for $30bn) right

Don’t get too excited, but I agree with Richard Treadgold when he says of the gazetting of a ’50 by 2050′ emissions target by the New Zealand government that:

Noting that 39 years remain in which to achieve these so-called “reductions”, the gazetting strikes us as primarily a marketing exercise rather than a sincere attempt to influence the climate.

Full of hope and joy at this unwonted sagacity I read on to where Treadgold complains about a lack of references:

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Routefinding the future: reflecting on the climate futures forum

Two busy days in Te Papa last week, and a lot to think about. The Climate Futures Forum organised by the Climate Change Research Institute at VUW was fascinating and disturbing in equal measure. Fascinating because it’s hard not to be interested when a lot of very smart people are feeding you information, and disturbing because they provided a stark reminder of how hard is the task that confronts us all. Below the fold: some reasonably random thoughts on the forum, interviews with some of the key speakers, and a summing up based on Jonathan Boston‘s remarks at the close of the forum.

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