Climate policy madness (again)

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Here’s your weekly exercise in the practice of government, as exemplified by New Zealand’s present leadership. Compare and contrast TV One’s breakfast news item earlier this week, reporting that the wild and wacky weather of the last year was likely to continue and get worse as a result of climate change, with the NZ Herald’s item reporting that the government is considering a cut of $10 million in the climate change research budget.

TV One quoted Victoria University’s Professor Dave Frame:

There are good reasons to think these sorts of latitudes are going to get drying on seasonal timescales, there’s also good reason to think there’ll be explosive wet events and violent storms.

More of what we’ve been getting, in other words. More floods, more drought, more extreme storms felling trees and ripping up rail lines and roads.

Meanwhile, how is our government planning to deal with this issue? By cutting $10 million from climate change research funding.

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Treasury documents showed that Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has recommended scaling back funding for Climate Change Research Grants by $2 million in the next financial year, $3.75 million in 2014/15 and $4.25 million in 2015/16. This would reduce the pool of funding from nearly $10 million a year to $4.5 million a year by 2016.

As climate change impacts get steadily worse, the government plans to cut spending on how New Zealand might cope. Worse, the Herald reports that associate minister Jo Goodhew wants the money they do spend to be “more closely aligned with current Government policy — in particular the Business Growth Agenda, the Primary Growth Partnership and the Sustainable Farming Fund”.

The transparent idiocy of wanting to align climate science research — research which will be essential in helping this country to ride out the impacts of a climate system gone wild — with the government’s pro-fossil fuel and agribusiness agenda seems to have escaped Treasury, Goodhew and her boss Nathan Guy.

We need to be spending more money on understanding what climate change will deliver to New Zealand, not less. This mindless penny-pinching, from a government quite happy to spend hundreds of millions on promoting the privatisation of national power assets, betrays a deep and continuing failure to understand the threat that’s looming. History will judge them harshly for their wilful ignorance and strategic incompetence.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Actually, we don’t need to do any more research on climate. We have known for well over 100 years that CO2 causes warming

    We have known for over 30 years that warming due to CO2 posed an existential threat.

    We have known for 5 years that glaciers and ice sheets are rapidly shrinking, and that the ice cover of the Arctic Sea is disappearing at a phenomenal rate….. probably gone completely in September 2015.

    We have known for a long time that triggering positive feedbacks via CO2 emissions would set us on a path that leads to +4oC, or +6oC, or even higher temperatures within a few decades.

    And we know that government policy (whichever party is in power) is to INCREASE CO2 emissions, as a consequence of increased fossil fuel dependency and increased population.

    We have known for decades what we need to do: drastically alter current living arrangements and the whole structure of society to cut emission to zero.

    And we have known for over a decade that short term vested interests will NOT ALLOW the necessary changes to occur.

    So we continue to march towards Near Term Extinction, waiting for Peak Oil and the widespread corruption that characterises the financial system to bring industrial civilisation to a standstill…. too late to save humanity or most other vertebrate species, of course..

    • “So we continue to march towards Near Term Extinction, waiting for Peak Oil and the widespread corruption that characterises the financial system to bring industrial civilisation to a standstill…. too late to save humanity or most other vertebrate species, of course..”

      [citation needed]

      • of course, it’s not happening. More oil is coming soon and if my head will go deeper into the sand I won’t see the water rising as well.

    • So we continue to march towards Near Term Extinction,…

      I figure an extinction level event, one that mankind will survive but in numbers far below what we have now. I would be highly surprised if it breaks the 1 billion mark and will probably be counted in the tens of millions.

    • SFF could be OK – but in order to make farming sustainable, we need climate science to tell us what’s coming so that farmers can make sustainable adaptation decisions.

      • The first thing we need to do to make farming sustainable in this country is cut the number of hectares being farmed by 50% and get the remaining ones away from the rivers so that we can plant native bush there so as to let the wildlife back.

  2. Petrol tax has just gone up by three cents to – build more roads.

    Apart from a few urban blobs, this country is largely rural with a scattered population, and private transport is essential.

    Does this inspire our politicians to direct money toward finding affordable and far less harmful alternatives for private travel? No.

    Does it bring much sense to Auckland’s political scene for matching urban transport to citizens’ needs at any hour of the day? No.

    Are they, the politicians, seeking advice as to how the scattered population can conduct its work and social business with less travel and more fluency? Or even building on the work done by Federated Farmers? Doesn’t seem so.

    We’re bumbling on as if the twentieth century never happened. It’s easier to tax and curtail, than spark any synapses into creative thought for moving through this set of challenges.

  3. Among the recent AGU climate communication conference addresses Bruce Wielicki looked at the economic benefits of getting a good climate observation system established. His general conclusion was $1 invested now provides a $50 return – that’s with all the discounting that economists believe to be essential..

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