Wise words for the Schoolkids

OPINION: Wise words for the schoolkids

This Friday’s strike by school students calling for action on climate change has the support of some of our wisest citizens. Wise Response Society secretary DUGALD MACTAVISH explains why.

WISE RESPONSE considers the best way to show support for Schools Strike 4 Climate is for each of us to take control and lead the way with personal emissions reductions.

In 2018, the International Panel for Climate Change stated that, to avoid traumatic changes in the climate, it was vital to limit global average temperature rise to 1.5deg, yet even with the international reductions pledged, we are currently on track for over 3deg.

New Zealand’s strategies for addressing national emissions are the Zero Carbon Bill, and Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and an independent Climate Change Commission to recommend a pathway to achieve, or better, zero net-carbon by 2050. But these measures are currently bogged down in the political arena.

Even with effective policies in the Zero Carbon Act, it seems likely that it will take four to six years to start to see results on the ground. This loses at least one third of the 12-year period considered by the United Nations that remains to instigate profound change.

Therefore, despite our climate emergency, and the inventory of opportunities that could be used to mitigate right now, there is a real risk the emissions footprint of most New Zealanders will remain virtually unchanged before these legislated instruments might have any effect. And all the while there is a growing risk of triggering runaway climate warming.

The quite inspiring groundswell of young people appealing for decisive action against the climate threat, thus offers us all a lifeline as it is appealing to our consciences as well as to our reason. They present us all with a simple yet stark choice.

We either shift rapidly to a low-emissions economy, or we continue living this same model in the full knowledge that eventually we will bequeath a planet that can’t be resuscitated.

If its to be the former, and accepting the uncertainties associated with international and national actions, an opportunity we all can control is to voluntarily take greater personal responsibility for our emission footprints. This will get the transformation under way, perhaps start to demonstrate many associated benefits and build the political licence for the government to get in behind the process without fear of political reprisal.

Wise Response stands with all young people appealing for the avoidance of a global climate catastrophe by effective greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

In our view, this will require from all nations states an unequivocal commitment to a pathway that delivers safe global limits, and by our Government, immediately incentivising, provisioning and enforcing climate mitigation ahead of short-term economic and political considerations.

But to provide the impetus for these actions by our leaders, the best each of us can do is be willing to assess and start voluntarily stepping down the emissions footprint that our current life and work propagates.

The Wise Response public seminar tomorrow in Dunedin is intended to support the call of our children for real action by equipping us for that task. The meeting will be held at Castle One, Otago University, at 7pm.

*The Wise Response Society describes itself as a coalition of academics, engineers, lawyers, artists and sports people who want New Zealand to plan how to deal with serious threats such as climate change. Its chair is the biologist Emeritus Professor Sir Alan Mark and its patron is constitutional law expert and former Prime Minister and environment minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer. Members include brothers Brian (poet) and Glenn (former international cricketer) Turner, academic and politician Bryan Gould, former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Morgan Williams, geologist Emeritus Professor Peter Barrett, energy and climate specialist Professor Ralph Sims, novelist and Booker Prize winner Keri Hulme, artist Grahame Sydney and former All Blacks Anton Oliver and Chris Laidlaw.