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Whanganui Midweek - 2021-10-13

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Time to take climate change seriously

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Brit Bunkley

The science is in. Heat-driven, carbon spewing wild fires are starting earlier each year while reaching areas that were previously spared. A deadly heat dome raged through the Pacific Northwest causing the death of hundreds in Canada. Hurricanes are raging out of control. And most chillingly, The Guardian tells us that the Gulf Stream is now showing signs of collapse. Those are only some of many tipping points, cascades, and feedback loops that may well send us over the edge like Thelma and Louise holding hands into the Grand Canyon. The world has been failing to act on the science for decades. For decades politicians have been wringing their hands over climate change, creating protocols and limits to carbon production . . . yet carbon emissions keep increasing. As the new book Discerning Experts demonstrates that if anything, climate scientists tend to underestimate climate change. They do not overestimate it. They worry about public opinion, political kickback and the unrealistic need by the media for a lack of ambiguity (for an absolute consensus). Flak and coercion from the fossil fuel and agriculture lobbies constrain the scientists. In the USA the Republicans embraced the reality on environmental destruction during the McCain campaign in 2008. But it was quickly crushed by the Koch brothers’ campaign of intimidation. The latest IPCC report declares that climate change is far worse than predicted. They give us 10 years for a radical turnaround. As the BBC wrote: “Do you remember the good old days when we had ‘12 years to save the planet’? Now it seems, there’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis, among other environmental challenges.” Meanwhile, Biden demands that OPEC drill faster, while congress blocks his green energy plans. The European Union, which began the world’s most ambitious climate stabilisation programme (still inadequate), has budgeting that disproportionately hit the middle class and poor. Although China has, to its credit, advanced solar energy, its emission plans remain appalling. New Zealand has the good luck to have ample hydro, but has failed on solar, wind and agriculture. For instance, New Zealand receives only 6 per cent of its power from wind versus Germany’s 25 per cent. Greta Thunberg is correct in stating that world leaders have put politics in front of the science, and that New Zealand is still failing. Over a decade ago New Zealand had signed on the Kyoto Potocol, but soon the National government opted out of the second Protocol commitment in 2013. In 2017 the OECD Environment Performance Review of New Zealand rated an “F, fail” on our performance under the National led coalition. And in spite of minor improvements since, coal output increased last year to 2006 levels. As Professor Noam Chomsky wrote, “To confront this awesome challenge is a task for a co-ordinated international effort, well beyond the scale of John F Kennedy’s mission to the moon and vastly more significant.” Our government . . . indeed, all governments need to get serious about their renewable energy spending, and we need to hold them to account. Although scientists have been much maligned in social media and the right-wing press, it is time to take on board the scientific consensus on climate change. Chomsky continues, “Scientists are human. One can find all of the normal human flaws. But to be critical of science as such is to condemn the human quest to understand the world in which we live. And truly to abandon hope.” Sources: https://www.windenergy.org.nz/windenergy/nz-windfarms https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windpower-in-Germany#cite-note-2 https:/ /www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/ 02/08/2021/chomsky-we-needgenuine-international-cooperationtackle-climate-crisis https://www. theguardian.com/environment/ 2021/aug/05/climate-crisis-scientistsspot-warning-signs-of-gulf-streamcollapse https://blogs. scientificamerican.com/observations/ scientists-have-beenunderestimating-the-pace-of-climatechange/ https://www.bbc.com/news/ science-environment-48964736 Brit Bunkley is an internationally exhibiting artist, retired from UCOL. He has taught various political science courses.

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