Climate Change – the True Costs

New Zealand is a small snow covered rock south of Fiji that depends on its clean, green “100% pure” marketing slogan to pretend that we value our part of the planet.

It is very clear that our politicians are too busy with the sophistry of their own political games that they are either ignorant or in complete denial about what and why we should be solving the problem of climate change in New Zealand.

Toby Manhire writes todays Herald Bumbling on climate will shame our grandkids

“When the historians of the future come to assess the early part of the 21st century and the way a world beset by pathological narrow-mindedness made an awkward face and did not do very much at all about climate change, New Zealand is unlikely to be ranked among the great villains.

Fifth highest emitter per capita of greenhouse gases in the developed world, sure, but in sum that’s a drop in the rising ocean.

And yet, future New Zealanders may very well review their grandparents’ response with more than a little embarrassment. If not anger. Shame, even. After all, there was no serious dispute that climate change was happening, and that humans were responsible. Ninety-seven per cent of scientists agreed about that. Had it been possible to predict an earthquake, and had evidence been produced showing one was imminent, you’d expect some serious action to be taken.”

NZ has policy to reduce our “greenhouse gas emissions to 5 per cent below our 1990 emissions by 2020” but no way to doing this – due to a useless EFTs scheme that doesn’t work and has been manipulated by the market into a standing joke.

Finally the Greens have come up with a policy that might actually work. Note: Groser is NZ’s climate change minister with nothing useful to contribute to the debate.

“The Green Party this week released a new policy to scrap the emphysema-ridden emissions trading scheme and replace it with a carbon tax, with revenue to be redirected into corporate and income tax cuts. The idea was enthusiastically received by many right-inclined commentators who are normally Green-allergic, though not by Groser, who denounced a “swingeing tax” from an “extreme end of opinion.

But if nothing else, the Greens’ announcement is welcome because it puts climate change squarely on the agenda for September’s election.”

Ironically in the US – President Obama has just announced a big push to cut carbon pollution in the U.S. US set to unveil rules to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30%

“The Obama administration will propose sweeping new environmental rules on Monday, cutting carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30% over 2005 levels by 2030, according to people briefed on the plan.

The new power plant rules – which will be formally announced by the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday morning – represent the most ambitious effort by Barack Obama or any other president to deal with climate change.

The regulations could lead to a sweeping transformation of America’s energy economy, if they survive an onslaught from business and conservative groups, and Republicans in Congress.”

On May 29th columnist Paul Krugman writing in the NY Times had this to say. Cutting Back on Carbon He didn’t know what was in the later announcement by Obama but he did point out that the cost of managing the downside is far, far less than most people think.

“Next week the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new rules designed to limit global warming. Although we don’t know the details yet, anti-environmental groups are already predicting vast costs and economic doom. Don’t believe them. Everything we know suggests that we can achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little cost to the economy.

Just ask the United States Chamber of Commerce.

O.K., that’s not the message the Chamber of Commerce was trying to deliver in the report it put out Wednesday. It clearly meant to convey the impression that the E.P.A.’s new rules would wreak havoc. But if you focus on the report’s content rather than its rhetoric, you discover that despite the chamber’s best efforts to spin things — as I’ll explain later, the report almost surely overstates the real cost of climate protection — the numbers are remarkably small.

Specifically, the report considers a carbon-reduction program that’s probably considerably more ambitious than we’re actually going to see, and it concludes that between now and 2030 the program would cost $50.2 billion in constant dollars per year. That’s supposed to sound like a big deal. Instead, if you know anything about the U.S. economy, it sounds like Dr. Evil intoning “one million dollars.” These days, it’s just not a lot of money.”
“And all of this is based on anti-environmentalists’ own numbers. The real costs would almost surely be smaller, for three reasons.”

You will need to skip to that link to read the rest of Krugman’s column but for all the political stonewalling that goes on the actual costs of mitigation are low for the U.S and by implication for tiny countries like New Zealand as well.

The real calculation that New Zealand needs to make is whether we will put up with the continuing degradation of water quality and other negative environmental impacts despite having great natural assets and high levels of renewable energy.

New Zealand will not stay “clean and green” if we just keep ignoring the warning signs. Out of sight, out of mind – or so the saying goes. We have only to look at the Fonterra contamination scare to see that our high (perceived) environmental standards are valued and they have real costs when there is a screw up.

Danone has a lawsuit for $350m based on their losses.

The connection? Our climate change policy suffers from the same lack of insight that all environmental policy suffers from in New Zealand. We have precious few politicians who actually care about anyone other than themselves.

And in case anyone is still confused about climate change and weather…

Neil deGrasse Tyson breaks down the differences between weather and climate change.