The ANZICE program is certainly producing some intriguing results when viewed from a purely scientific perspective. But the serious implications of this research for the future of our environment and society give this work a pertinence beyond just the scientific community. Preliminary results are strongly suggesting that we have no time to lose in making significant changes towards a lower carbon economy.
Sean Weaver is an Honorary Research Associate in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University and now runs Carbon Partnership Ltd, a company that specialises in innovative climate change solutions through carbon financing, waste reduction and alternative energy sources. Sean is working towards synthesising the scientific results of ANZICE, interpreting the policy implications of those results and translating them into accessible and policy-relevant language.
At an international level, this process of translation is greatly facilitated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC seeks to achieve consensus on climate change issues, and to provide reliable information for the international policy community, based on rigorous scientific research. However, the IPCC’s effectiveness for informing policy has been systematically undermined by lobby groups, and their receptive audiences in government, bent on maintaining the status quo. The 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC is due in 2013 and the results of ANZICE will be directly contributing to this compendium through Working Group I (and to a lesser extent Working Group II).
In a world dominated by the quest for perpetual ‘growth’ one quarterly statement at a time, one of the biggest challenges for environmental planning is to convince government and business to invest in distant sustainable futures: to step back and perceive the value of the things that we currently take for granted (our inshore fisheries and our glacier-fed central South Island hydroelectric lakes are examples particularly relevant to ANZICE). Strategic management of our environment and resources is essential for safeguarding the quality of life of future generations. As the Greek proverb so eloquently puts it, “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.
The climate is still a poorly understood system. But this knowledge gap needs to be viewed as a challenge for, not a failure of, modern science, and public research funding needs to be targeted accordingly. Applied climate science initiatives like ANZICE can help clear up common misconceptions surrounding the complexities of the climate system, show us where our efforts for change will be most effective, and give a quantitative sense of just how much we stand to lose through complacency.
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