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Recent Climate Reports Underscore Genuine Emergency

Recent Climate Reports Underscore Genuine Emergency

The Wise Response Society is anxious the underlying message in a suite of recent reports about the evolving climate crisis is fully recognised and heeded. While the New Zealand Government has been making big efforts to address national climate risks, what these reports together do is reinforce the need for all sectors of the economy and society to embrace the required changes with utmost urgency and purpose.

A group of eminent scientists have stated that the tipping points could be exceeded between 1 and 20C warming and lead to a cascade of unstoppable events (reported in Nature 27 Nov. 2019). The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has reported that yet another high record level of Greenhouse Gas concentration has been reached (20 Nov. 2019). The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) has stated that a 1.5 0C target is now slipping out of reach (20 Nov. 2019).

The World Scientists (over 11,000) Warning of a Climate Emergency stated that our goals need to shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence, towards sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality (BioScience 5 Nov).

Sir Alan Mark, FRSNZ, Chair of Wise Response, a Society largely comprising academics from across New Zealand, said "We therefore call on all New Zealanders to move from a business-as-usual economic model and adopt an economy and way of life that enables us to live within earth's natural support systems ".

In another disturbing report, the Global Energy Monitor has reported that China has increased its coal power capacity to 43GW between Jan 2018 and June 2019, while elsewhere in the world there has been a decrease of 8.1GW. Should China continue to increase its total coal power capacity through to 2035, its coal generation alone could be more than three times as large as the global limit on coal power use, determined by the IPCC to keep warming well below 20C.

This surge of disturbing reports may be timed to influence the UN Climate Change Conference, now transferred from Chile to Spain, to be held 2-13 December, where a key objective is to seek "full operationalization" of the Paris Climate Change Agreement before all signatories are to submit National Climate Action Plans in 2020."If that is the case, all power to them, as clearly a step change is needed right now" said Sir Alan.

Prof Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre offers a possible pathway. He has pointed out that the wealthiest 10% in the world are responsible for 49% of the GHG emissions. So if they were to cut their emissions to around 8 tonnes of CO2e per capita, global emissions would be reduced by one third, even without any change from the other 90%.

"While most NZers will fall outside this highly wealthy category, with a little forethought and planning, halving our current per capita emissions rate from 16 tonnes of CO2e should be largely painless and potentially very satisfying"

"One thing’s for sure" he added, " the science is telling us failure to re-stabilise climate will deliver our children a painful hospital pass which surely none of us would want knowingly, to be part of".

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