Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Climate change: Getting used to the ‘new normal’

Getting used to the ‘new normal’

by Cindy Baxter
March 11, 2013

http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/getting-used-to-the-new-normal/

As I flew up the country from Wellington to Auckland this week, on yet another beautiful day, I was struck by the colour of our country.

Brown. Burned to a crisp. The occasional smattering of green forest, but an island suffering from its worst drought in 70 years, as I’d heard climate scientist Jim Salinger saying on the radio that morning.

Next I’m listening to Bill English saying farmers can’t expect get the same level of support in future droughts, if they continue to happen with more frequency, as NIWA tells us they will.

Meanwhile John Key is in Brazil pleading with oil giant Petrobras to come back, and an industry-written report tells us we should drill all over the East Coast.

It’s obviously bad. The Sunday Star Times tells us:

“experts warn it could spell the end for farming as we know it and may cost the country billions of dollars in drought relief each year before practices are adjusted.”

It’s taken quite some time for the words “climate change” to enter the national conversation about this drought. I spoke with NIWA’s Brett Mullan last week and he had some very interesting points to make on the massive and very unusual highs that have been sitting over the country since early February. He’d make a great interview, I thought, but he said no media had called him to even ask.

Climatologist Dr James Renwick wrote an excellent article in The Press, but it’s well away from those in the major drought area.

Our agriculture-based economy is going to feel this pinch more than most in the decades to come. Indeed the Government is already signalling it may cause a return to recession. What worries me is that our agriculture is increasingly turning to intensive, water-hungry dairy farming, at a time when water scarcity is expected to rise.

In 1981 there were 2.92 million dairy cows wandering our land. By 2010 this had grown to nearly six million.

In the last few weeks we’ve seen farmer after dairy farmer on the news, having to dry off their herd early, buy in feed and sell cows off to the works as they can’t sustain them.

There are so many ironies in this story that it’s difficult to know where to start.

Federated Farmers and Fonterra fought tooth and nail to keep agriculture out of the Emissions Trading Scheme. You know, that thing that was supposed to be New Zealand’s response to climate change. Except it doesn’t, as our ETS is so weak it’s pretty much dead in the water.

The ETS would, apparently, have been too costly for farmers. Because after all they have to deal with expensive things like – erm – dealing with drought. Of which there will be more, caused by – erm – climate change.

Some of the extra feed they’re buying is palm kernel, palm kernel that comes from Indonesian plantations on land that used to house peatlands and old growth forest, activities that add a massive chunk of carbon to our atmosphere.

So we don’t act on climate change, and we are now only OECD country to have no specific 2020 target to cut emissions. And our government is at the forefront of efforts to undermine progress at international climate talks. We’ve turned our backs on Kyoto, and we’re showing no signs of treating the need for a global climate agreement with the urgency the science is telling us it deserves, instead treating it like a set of trade talks.

This is our worst drought in 70 years, but 2007/8 was almost as bad. Taking action to curb emissions, the government has argued, would cost the country, but did they factor in the cost of this drought, at $1 billion and ballooning, and the last drought that cost $2.8 billion?

Meanwhile our dairy giant, Fonterra, wants to open a coal mine to operate its milk powder factories. Coal, that stuff that causes climate change.

But we’re not allowed to argue climate change when coal extraction is being considered. Heaven forbid. Let’s hope the Supreme Court will listen to the West Coast Environment Network’s arguments this week as they battle Bathurst and Solid Energy in their bid to get the law changed.

Of course I have sympathy for farmers at this terrible time. And of course I don’t blame all farmers for the state of the Government’s climate policy.

We’re all in this climate change business together. From my own fast-emptying water tanks to the farmers (and associated industries) suffering across the country, we need to turn to a new way of thinking, a new way of operating in this climate-changing world.

If I were a farmer I’d be screaming at the government to take leadership on all counts. Maps like this aren’t pretty.

Our Government, for the sake of our farmers and all of our futures, needs to wake up, dump its short-term, fossil fuel-based thinking that holds up international action, and, indeed our economy.

Instead of his myopic focus on coal mining, fracking, mining, offshore oil drilling – and indeed, carbon-intensive dairying, instead of kowtowing to the likes of Petrobras, John Key could be leading our country towards real prosperity.

As a recent Greenpeace report has pointed out, we could be embracing a smart, clean, 21st century economy based on 100% renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transport.

All we need is some leadership.

Otherwise we’ll all have to get used to this “new normal”.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Syed Atiq ul Hassan: Eye-Opener For Islamic Community

An event of siege, terror and killing carried out by Haron Monis in the heart of Sydney business district has been an eye-opener for the Islamic Community in Australia. Haron was shot down before he killed two innocent people, a lawyer and a manager ... More>>

Jonathan Cook: US Feels The Heat On Palestine Vote At UN

The floodgates have begun to open across Europe on recognition of Palestinian statehood. On 12 December the Portuguese parliament became the latest European legislature to call on its government to back statehood, joining Sweden, Britain, Ireland, France ... More>>

ALSO:


Fightback: MANA Movement Regroups, Call For Mana Wahine Policy

In the wake of this years’ electoral defeat, the MANA Movement is regrouping. On November 29th, Fightback members attended a Members’ Hui in Tāmaki/Auckland, with around 70 attending from around the country. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Mockingjay Of Palestine: “If We Burn, You Burn With Us”

Raed Mu’anis was my best friend. The small scar on top of his left eyebrow was my doing at the age of five. I urged him to quit hanging on a rope where my mother was drying our laundry. He wouldn’t listen, so I threw a rock at him. More>>

ALSO:

Don Franks: Future Of Work Commission: Labour's Shrewd Move

Lunging boldly towards John Key, shouting 'Cut the crap!' - Andrew Little was great, wasn't he? Labour's new leader spoke for many people fed up with Key's flippant arrogant deceit. Andrew Little nailing the Prime minister on lying about contacting a rightwing ... More>>

Asia-Pacific Journal: MSG Headache, West Papuan Heartache? Indonesia’s Melanesian Foray

Asia and the Pacific--these two geographic, political and cultural regions encompass entire life-worlds, cosmologies and cultures. Yet Indonesia’s recent enthusiastic outreach to Melanesia indicates an attempt to bridge both the constructed and actual ... More>>

Valerie Morse: The Security State: We Should Not Be Surprised, But We Should Be Worried

On the very day that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released her report into the actions of people the Prime Minister’s office in leaking classified Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) documents to right-wing smearmonger Cameron ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: PFLP Soul-Searching: Rise And Fall Of Palestine’s Socialists

When news reports alleged that the two cousins behind the Jerusalem synagogue attack on 18 November were affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a level of confusion reigned. Why the PFLP? Why now? More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news