By Robert McLachlan 15/10/2019


An essay by Judith Collins MP reported on Carbon News yesterday seems to show an alarming shift in attitude within the National Party. Collins argues against the Zero Carbon Bill, the Paris Agreement, and downplays the magnitude of climate impacts.

The Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015 and ratified by the New Zealand Government, of which Judith Collins was a cabinet member, in October 2016. This involved agreeing to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by

Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

The Zero Carbon Bill implements this agreement for New Zealand. It implements what the National-led government agreed to when they signed the Paris Agreement, which Judith Collins now states “is not justified by any scientific findings” – this after innumerable scientists and delegates, including those of the New Zealand government, pored over and agreed to every word. Since the Agreement was signed, the IPCC 1.5ºC report – “1.5 to Stay Alive” – has strengthened the case for 1.5ºC. There is a broad consensus, both in New Zealand and internationally, about what needs to be done. Contrary to what Collins claims, the NZ emission target does not have “almost zero chance of being achieved”; it is entirely feasible and will lead to health and economic benefits for all New Zealanders.

As for “there is no indication they [the costs of global warming] are insurmountable”, it partly depends on what value you place on mass extinction and the loss of treasures like the Great Barrier Reef, not to mention coastal cities. How can this be surmounted?

The existential risks are real if difficult to size up. Hans Schellnhuber, founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and climate advisor to the EU, Angela Merkel, and the Pope, said in 2018, “I think there is a very very big risk that we will just end our civilisation. The human species will survive somehow, but we will destroy almost everything we have built up over the last two thousand years. I think we have more than a five percent chance of [preventing this]. But it’s definitely less than 50% in my view.”

If Ms Collins believes “any politician… who questions global warming policy instantly being ostracised as the equivalent as a global warming ‘denier’”, she would be well advised not to include statements like “assuming the IPCC models reflect the relationship between carbon dioxide and global warming” in her essay. Certainly 600 commenters interpreted her post as support for a science denial position, with everything from sunspots, Noah’s Ark, volcanoes, Al Gore, change is normal, plants need CO2, to the ice caps on Mars getting an outing.

The faster we cut emissions, the slower the impacts of climate change will be, and the easier it will be to adapt. The mechanisms in the Zero Carbon Bill constitute a tested, measured, and reasonable way to do this.

Originally published on Carbon News. See the original article.