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

 

Ramzy Baroud: Gaza’s Resistance Will Not Be Crushed

On the 13th day of Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, stories of entire families collectively pulverized, women and children keenly targeted by Israeli soldiers saturate the media. Until now, 430 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and ... More>>

ALSO:

Ian Anderson: Rearranging The Deck Chairs On The Titanic? The Labour Party And MANA

Early in July this year, Labour Party leader David Cunliffe made headlines by apologising for being a man. Stoked by capitalist media sensation, Prime Minister John Key responded that “not all men” abuse women. More>>

Shobha Shukla: Break The Silos: Drug Use, HIV, HCV, TB, Laws And Funding

Viet Nam is one of the countries in the world that has made remarkable progress over the last decade in not only making harm reduction and HIV services available and accessible for people who use drugs but also reforming laws for supportive health ... More>>

ALSO:

Fiona Gordon: Illegal Wildlife Trading: The Global Response

At the closing session of the inaugural United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi last month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “We need to act decisively to change humanity’s relationship with our planet.” More>>

Faisal Al-Asaad: Gaza: McCully’s Calls For Restraint On Both Sides Is Side-Taking Itself

Since June 12th, the world’s attention has been squarely focused on the events unfolding in the West Bank, Gaza and the occupied territories. The disappearance of three Israeli youths who were later found dead prompted a flurry of condemnations ... More>>

ALSO:

Tania Billingsley: Demand For Accountability On Sexual Assault

Since my assault I feel that people have been assuming that my idea of justice is to have Rizalman found guilty in a New Zealand court. While it is an important part of justice being done, my main reason for wanting this is not for my own sense of ... More>>

Leslie Bravery: Hold The Perpetrator To Account, Not The Victim!

In a 4 July 2014 statement to Scoop Independent News, on the violent deaths of four young people in the Israeli Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully made the following comments: 'The recent killing ... More>>

ALSO:

Santon Tekege: Investigative Report Into Oil Palm In Nabire Regency, Papua

Several companies’ plans to invest in the oil palm sector in Nabire have met with local opposition. People from the Yerisiam and Wate ethnic groups have staged several peaceful actions in Nabire against one of these companies, PT Nabire Baru1. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
TEDxAuckland
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news