Before the climate summit in Paris, there might have remained much uncertainty in the public mind about the subject of climate change: whether or not it was caused by human activity and/or represented a serious threat to our society. After Paris, any such lingering wishful thoughts should have been finally dispelled. From their point of view, the more than US$500 million spent by corporations, such as the oil companies and their owners, and paid to PR companies, politicians, bogus scientific authorities and the media to persuade the public either that climate change was not happening to a threatening degree (or that if it was happening, it was an entirely natural process and not susceptible to human intervention) was money well spent. It bought them several decades of freedom to generate profits unhampered by constrictive legislation. The reverse of the coin is that this demonstration of corporate greed has turned a deteriorating climate change situation, which, over time, could have been addressed relatively painlessly, into a full-blown emergency, which now calls for urgent action.
After Paris, one can safely claim that there is no reason for anyone, other than the victims of chronic wishful thinking, to give any credence to those who continue to deny the real and present danger of man-made rapid climate change. After Paris, society is faced with a problem of a different nature: complacency. Paris was a major diplomatic victory for the nations of the world. At long last, diplomacy brought them together to the point where, all in unison, they publicly announced that rapid climate change posed a threat to human civilisation, which had to be addressed and, more impressively, each individual nation put itself on record as to what its government intended to do about it.
From the point of view of the people of the planet, however, the diplomatic victory was a political failure. Firstly, the actual counter-measures promised by their leaders at Paris, if implemented, will still leave the global climate with a change in temperature considerably above the maximum acceptable danger limit of an additional 2C of warming. Secondly, despite the ebullient celebrations, there was no enforcement structure put in place; all the promises at the Paris summit were non-binding.
What for their citizens was a political failure, for the politicians was a resounding success. They have bought themselves more time. They have lulled the vast majority of mankind into a complacent belief that their leaders have the matter under control. In reality, for the politicians, it is back to business as usual. Business as usual means continuing to prioritise the illusion of well-being to be derived from a national economy, which prospers to the detriment of the planet off which it feeds. The economy is what will ensure a government’s re-election at the end of the current three-year, or five-year or whatever-year term. Measures implemented to safeguard the future of the planet, while showing no visible positive results in the current electoral term, will limit economic growth and thereby hamper the leadership’s chances of re-election. Even, the feeble and inadequate promises made by the New Zealand government at Paris, are unlikely to be implemented, without serious and continuous pressure being exerted by the electorate.
Climate Karanga’s mission is to ensure that no restricted vision allows complacency to flourish among the electorate and that, in its turn, the electorate allows no such complacency to flourish among the leaders it elects. If our politicians want to be voted into power, they have to act for the long-term benefit of future generations and not just the short-term benefit of their own.
The posts are a collection of opinion articles written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim.