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XRQL requests a Climate and Ecological Emergency declaration

Media Advisory - 18 June 2019

Extinction Rebellion Queenstown Lakes (XRQL)
requests a "Climate and Ecological Emergency" declaration
by Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC)

On 27 June, Extinction Rebellion Queenstown Lakes will present a deputation to QLDC requesting it declares a "Climate and Ecological Emergency". The council would be following the lead of more than 600 elected bodies representing some 74 million people in 13 countries, including councils in Christchurch, Nelson, Hawke’s Bay and Auckland in Aotearoa New Zealand.

XRQL is seeking a public declaration stating QLDC understands and agrees with the scientific evidence around our climate and ecological crises and agrees to incorporate it into the council’s decision making process. We are also asking the council to use its role as a community leader to clearly communicate the reality of what we are facing and what needs to happen to our local community.

What is the climate emergency?
The emergency starts with our ever increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. In 1910 there was 300ppm (parts per million) of CO2 in the atmosphere. In 1986, 76 years later, we passed the highest safe level of 350ppm. In 2013, only 27 years later, we passed 396ppm and today we're at 415ppm. This puts us on track to reach 450ppm by 2030.

Why does 450ppm in 2030 matter?
Just a few years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommendation was to have the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere stabilised at no more than 450ppm by 2050. This would have given us a 50% chance of keeping global heating under 2°C. We are now on course to reach that threshold 20 years earlier than predicted. And our emissions continue to rise.
Climate scientists consider a rise of 2°C above pre-industrial averages to be the tipping point where feedback loops will be triggered, causing self-sustained global heating. When this occurs, humanity will no longer have the ability to mitigate the changes to the biosphere upon which we all rely.
This is predicted to lead to possible collapse of our civilisation through pressure on food production and the financial economy, along with the loss of much of the natural world as we know it.
The IPCC was established in 1988. This means the world has known since at least 1988 that our civilisation is threatened by rising CO2, but we have, thus far, failed to treat it as an emergency.
So today, we find ourselves in a situation where we have very little time to initiate the huge changes required to reverse the rising trend and only 10 years left to halve our emissions. We have only 10 years left to avoid runaway climate breakdown - this is an emergency.
The notoriously conservative IPCC puts it this way:
"Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes."
What is the ecological emergency?
We are in the midst of the 6th great mass extinction. Within the last 40 years vertebrate populations have declined by an average of 60% and in Germany, where long-term insect data are available, reports suggest a loss of around 75% of insect biomass. Globally, around one million species are now threatened with extinction.
Any caring human being should be shocked by the loss of our fellow planetary inhabitants, but even without the moral and ethical concerns, we must remember that humanity also relies on the myriad of "free" services offered by our biosphere. Water filtration, oxygen generation, nutrient uptake, decomposition, recomposition and much, much more is wondrously generated for us by healthy ecosystems. The loss of one element can result in whole system changes. We depend on these systems. We depend on the pollinators and the soil biome to absorb carbon and feed us, and on forests and bacterial life in the ocean for the air that we breathe.
The "planetary boundaries" model has attempted to define the safe operating parameters for human activity within the life supporting systems of the planet. We have already breached two of those safe limits: that of biodiversity and biogeochemical flows.

The two crises we are facing are, of course, intertwined. Climate change is accelerating biodiversity loss and this loss reduces the ability of our marine ecosystems and terrestrial landscapes to sequester carbon - thus leading to accelerated climatic heating.

It’s no exaggeration to state that the next 10 years are probably the most important years since the dawn of humanity. The quality of our response will decide if our civilisation, and indeed our species, has a future.

The first step towards changing our self destructive path is for leaders at all levels of government to loudly and clearly state that they accept the science and recognise the urgent need for action, hence our request that QLDC joins others in declaring a Climate and Ecological Emergency.

We ask that you give these declarations, as steps toward a survivable future as much prominence as is possible in your publications. We genuinely thank you for your important work on this matter.


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