Head in sand, or eye on the future?
It's a hard conversation, how to limit greenhouse gas emissions and the warming of our planet — and many people don't want to have it.
Some readers were horrified at the prognosis of investment consultant Dr Paul Winton, covered in Saturday's paper, that to do our bit to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5C we could not replace cattle, stop felling trees and, yes, we definitely need to get petrol and diesel out of our lives within five to 10 years.
A key point is that the first two responses are the sort of actions that could be required to meet the 1.5C average global temperature rise (since pre-industrial times; we're up about 1C already) scenario embedded in the Zero Carbon Act 2019, that aims to get the country to net zero emissions by 2050.
Projecting out three decades seemed to comfort people but in reality “this battle is won or lost in the next five to 10 years”.
For now there was no real, meaningful action on climate change from either central or local government, he said. The risks for businesses and consumers came from either a continuation of not taking enough action, or a future government getting heavy-handed — and it would only take a few big climate change-exacerbated weather events to transform political sentiment.
A major capital reallocation was required for New Zealand to lower its greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to be pulling its weight in the global effort. Part of Dr Winton's argument was that we all needed to be factoring in these issues and scenarios, to prepare our “business and life for this new world”.
Cue some angry responses to The Herald for publishing these views in a front-page story, and no doubt to Trust Tairawhiti also for bringing Dr Winton to Gisborne.
The 2016 Paris Agreement fudges the rapid action required to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5C somewhat by acknowledging it is nigh-on impossible; while countries signed up to “pursue efforts” to limit the increase to 1.5C, the long-term goal in this key international accord is to keep the rise in global average temperature to “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels”.
As Dr Winton said, the world is currently on track for a 2.3C-4.4C rise in global average temperature.
If you and your business are not assessing the risks around climate change and the likelihood we will be required to act aggressively in the near future, you are not thinking long term. We should all thank Dr Winton for the warning.