No time for climate change – we’ve got more important matters down here…

It may beggar belief, but perhaps it was inevitable.

The NZ Government does not have the time to tackle climate change.  It’s focused on milk damage-control.  And it can only do one thing at a time.

Last week, the PM’s chief scientific adviser released a report on climate change – its impact on human activity and implications for the future.

There are some pretty telling observations in the Gluckman report.  Its purpose, said Sir Peter, was to provide New Zealand with an update on the current scientific understandings of climate change. It is important, he said, that we all have an understanding of the most likely scenarios ahead as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in our oceans and the atmosphere. Many decisions will be required at both national and local levels.

The report, said Sir Peter, intentionally did not address policy questions.  The key decision of when and how to respond to climate change fell beyond the scope of the report. But the main message in the report was: “climate change is happening now. A 0.8°C rise in global temperatures has [already] occurred”.

Concerned whether the NZ Government was aware of the fact, I put it to the Minister yesterday at Question Time.  Yes, said Mr Groser, he was aware.

Faintly perplexed, I asked how that could be reconciled with the statement by the Finance Minister in March that climate change “may well be real”.  No need, replied Mr Groser, for any reconciliation.

The Minister was in no mood to trifle.

Perhaps he could reconcile for the nation, then, Prof Gluckman’s observation with a statement by the Minister for Science & Innovation [sic].  The Gluckman report had said, after all, “there is strong scientific agreement that [climate change] is predominantly as a result of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.”  But the Minister for Science had said, also in March, that “it’s open to debate, really, actually, by a whole range of experts”.  What gives (or who)?

Yeah, nah.  The Government acknowledges, said the Minister for Climate Change, that there is “some room for genuine scientific argument around the metrics, around the pace of time, around global warming potentials, and a host of related science issues”.  But let’s focus on the underlying point: this Government is treating this as real.

Bravo, Minister!  A blow for scientific integrity and political resolve.  In fact, the National Government had signed a formal acknowledgement to that effect, in 1992.

Fortified by this display of fearlessness, I persevered.  Was the Minister worried about the impact of New Zealand’s inaction on climate change on our clean green image – given we have the worst emissions record among developed countries and are the last to enter a formal target for 2020?

Nah. The Minister is much more concerned about our image through ‘rather more natural events’ such as the Fonterra botulism crisis.  “I am not the slightest bit concerned about our position on climate change” in relation to New Zealand’s image.

That is what he said.

Perhaps it was inevitable that, at some stage, the paucity of New Zealand’s 100%-pure image would be exposed.  Inevitable, that the responsibility to combat climate change, which the Government’s science adviser and Climate Minister say is now, collides with the responsibility to handle trade crises, which the Trade Minister says is more important.

One and the same person; one and the same government.  Really, actually.

17 Comments Posted

  1. Four things,
    1. Why should the public shell out $10 million per annum to bail out Fonterra. They stuffed up, let them pay for it….
    2. If the Nacts can’t multi-task give the job to someone who can. Vote for any major party starting with a ‘G’
    3.Take the $10 mill off Fonterra to look after our poorest kids AND address climate change.
    4. Adopt the Swiss model of binding citizen’s referenda. We are spending $9 mill on a referendum to halt asset sales and shonkey johnkey has already told us he intends to ignore the voice of the people.
    Our parliament, like Godzone, needs to be 100% Green !!!

  2. I think the appropriate phrase for the government and huge number of people who aren’t concerned for climate change is “ship of fools” – sadly innocent parties will be affect too.

  3. “given we have the worst emissions record among developed countries”

    I’d be interested in evidence sources for this statement.

    What would we ALL be prepared to give up to minimise emissions?
    We ALL contribute to the problem.

  4. Perhaps it was inevitable that, at some stage, the paucity of New Zealand’s 100%-pure image would be exposed.

    I am always confused by this type of statement. Will someone please tell me which part of New Zealand isn’t 100% part of New Zealand, and what percentage of the country it constitutes?


  5. Trevor, if you believe that Labour did do, or would have done, anything significant to address climate change and other environmental problems, then that is up to you. Personally, I never saw them do anything of note. Even in Clark’s speech about being the first sustainable society, her primary focus was economic growth. One step forward and two steps back, in my book, means you’re going backwards. That Labour might have gone backwards a little more slowly than National is not particularly encouraging.

  6. No Tony. Under Labour, action to address climate change inched forward. Under the NActs, any gain was “gone by lunchtime”, with the ETS gutted and the moratorium on new fossil fuelled base load power stations scrapped. These governments are definitely not the same.


  7. frances, to be fair, it’s not just the current government. All governments have been the same, so far as the environment is concerned, so far as I can tell. They say different things and supposedly have different aspirations but the environment usually comes last, in terms of effective actions.

  8. The current govt has never been part of solution for any problem, they only create more and more, worse and worse problems/crisis…due to total ignorance/incompetence and arrogance (and lots of greed.

    Those ones in denial of climate change I have to assume they don’t have children as they don’t care about generations to come who will suffer from consequences…or maybe, they think rich people will never suffer from climate change as small people would??? Best luck to those idiots!!!

  9. Kennedy, surely you didn’t expect anything else? As dbuckley said, the nation doesn’t give a stuff about climate change. That’s unfortunate as it is one of the most important and dangerous issues facing the planet. But economic growth and big monopolies are more important to this government and every government we’ve had. I hope that, if the Greens ever get into government, that shameful trend is halted.

  10. I too watched your questions today.. it seems that climate change is a Govt priority, BUT only when the media raise it & it looks likely to effect the Govt poll standings.
    This Govt. main priorities are :power, money & looking after those who support them.. everything else is just ‘debating points!’


  11. I watched you question Groser in the House, Kennedy.
    His pig-headed stupidity contrasted nicely with your theatrical presentation.

  12. Perhaps he could reconcile for the nation, then, …

    The Nation doesn’t need any reconciling; the nation doesn’t give a stuff.

    Supporting documentation: Public Attitudes towards Climate Change & Other Environmental Issues across Time and Countries, 1993-2010 (PDF).

    New Zealanders rank the Environment as the 5th most important problem amongst Health care / Education / Crime / The environment / Immigration / The economy / Terrorism / Poverty.

    Perhaps more worrying, although 20.6% of New Zealanders said that climate change was “extremely dangerous”, that number is down from 1993 (24.9%) and 2000 (27.7%).

    It is true: mankind is fooked.

  13. Oh my oh my… Beggar belief it certainly does.. The international media will make hay with this one… Is the Aim of the Key government to sufficiently destroy the credibility of the country as to make it so worthless that it will have no choice other than to be subsumed under.. Let me see.. Possibly China? As a strategy I predict remarkable success for the current path.
    Why are we allowing these irrational beings to remain in government, could someone explain please ? The Minister for… What????

  14. Keep up the great work, Kennedy. you have just exposed how shallow this government is. The just lurch like zombies between one minor crisis to another while ignoring the really big issues.

    In the big scheme of things this Fonterra debacle may be a good thing if we end up with less cows and a more diverse agricultural sector.

    Perhaps you should borrow our Coal Action Murihiku elephant so that it can continually sit in parliament as a reminder to those present that a certain something still exists.

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