Calls for Australia and NZ to follow Britain’s cross-party climate change pledge

Britain’s prime minister, deputy prime minister and leader of the opposition have made a joint declaration on climate change: “Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today. It is not just a threat to the environment, but also to our national and global security, to poverty eradication and economic prosperity.”

Calls for Australia and New Zealand to follow suit echo the calls from Wise Response for cross-party commitment to climate change action.

Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt has called on Australia’s political parties to follow Britain’s example by striking a joint pledge to urgently tackle climate change.

In New Zealand, author Ryan Mearns, of Generation Zero has urged New Zealand politicians to make the same commitment.

As reported in the Guardian, Britain’s Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders have pledged “to seek a fair, strong, legally binding, global climate deal which limits temperature rises to below 2C” – which is the safe level agreed upon by climate scientists to avoid dangerous global warming.

The pledge also made a commitment to work across party lines, to agree on carbon budgets in accordance with the Climate Change Act and accelerate the transition to a competitive low-carbon economy.

Similarly, Switzerland announced they were committed to cutting their emissions by 50 percent of 1990 levels come 2030.WR_Logo_trans_white


From public to planetary health: a manifesto

The manifesto endorsed by The Lancet calls for a social movement to support collective public health action at all levels of society; human health and wellbeing, threats to the sustainability of our civilisation, and threats to the natural and human-made systems that support us. The aim is to respond to the threats we face: threats to human health and wellbeing, threats to the sustainability of our civilisation, and threats to the natural and human-made systems that support us.

From public to planetary health: a manifesto

This  manifesto  for  transforming  public  health  calls  for a  social  movement  to  support  collective  public  health action at all levels of society—personal, community, national, regional, global, and planetary. Our aim is to  respond to the threats we face:  threats to human health and wellbeing, threats to the sustainability of our civilisation, and threats to the natural and human-made systems  that support us. Our vision is for a planet that nourishes and sustains the diversity of life with which we
coexist  and on which we depend. Our  goal  is to  create a movement for planetary health.
Our audience includes health professionals and public health practitioners, politicians and policy makers, international civil servants working across the UN and in development agencies, and academics working on behalf of communities. Above all, our audience includes every person who has an interest in their own health, in the health of their fellow human beings, and in the health of future generations.
The discipline of public health is critical to this vision because of its values of social justice and fairness for all, and its  focus on the collective actions of interdependent and  empowered  peoples  and  their  communities.  Our objectives  are to protect and promote  health and wellbeing, to prevent disease and disability, to eliminate conditions that harm health and wellbeing, and to foster resilience  and adaptation. In  achieving  these  objectives, our actions must respond to the fragility of our planet and our obligation to safeguard the  physical and human environments within which we exist.
Planetary  health is an attitude towards life and a philosophy for living. It emphasises people, not diseases, and equity, not the  creation of unjust societies. We seek to minimise differences in health according to wealth, education, gender, and place. We support  knowledge as one source of social transformation, and the right to realise, progressively, the highest attainable levels of health and wellbeing.
Our patterns of overconsumption are unsustainable and will ultimately cause the collapse of our civilisation. The harms we continue to inflict on our planetary systems are a threat to our very existence as a species. The gains made in  health and wellbeing over recent centuries, including through public health actions, are  not  irreversible;  they can  easily  be  lost,  a  lesson  we  have  failed  to  learn  from previous  civilisations.  We  have  created  an  unjust  global economic system that favours a small, wealthy elite over the many who have so little.
The  idea  of  unconstrained  progress  is a dangerous human  illusion:  success  brings  new  and  potentially  even more  dangerous  threats.  Our  tolerance  of  neoliberalism and  transnational forces dedicated to ends far removed from  the  needs  of  the  vast  majority  of  people,  and vespecially the most deprived and vulnerable, is only deepening  the  crisis  we  face.  We live in a world where the trust between us, our institutions, and our  leaders, is falling to levels incompatible with peaceful and just societies, thus contributing to widespread disillusionment with democracy and the political process.
An urgent transformation is required in our values and our practices based on recognition of our interdependence and the interconnectedness of the risks we face. We need a  new  vision  of  cooperative  and  democratic  action  at all levels of society and a new principle of planetism and wellbeing  for  every  person  on  this  Earth—a  principle that  asserts  that  we  must  conserve,  sustain,  and  make resilient  the  planetary  and  human  systems  on  which health depends  by  giving  priority to the wellbeing of  all. All  too  often  governments  make  commitments  but  fail to act on them; independent accountability is essential to ensure the monitoring and review of these commitments, together with the appropriate remedial action.
The  voice of  public  health  and medicine as the independent conscience of planetary health has a special part  to  play  in  achieving  this  vision.  Together  with empowered  communities,  we  can  confront  entrenched interests and forces that jeopardise our future. A powerful social movement based on collective action at every level of  society  will  deliver  planetary  health  and,  at  the  same time, support sustainable human development.

*Richard Horton, Robert Beaglehole, Ruth Bonita, John Raeburn, Martin McKee, Stig Wall
The Lancet, London NW1 7BY, UK (RH); University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand (RBe, RBo); Department of Public Health, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand (JR); Department of Health Services Research and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK (MM); and Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden (SW)
We declare that we have no competing interests. RBe and RBo gratefully acknowledge their Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio joint residency.

WR Submission to Otago Regional Council Regional Policy Statement

Wise Response has made preliminary comments on the Otago Regional Council’s Regional Policy Statement.

The comments are below or can be downloaded here: Wise Response Preliminary Submission to ORC RPS


Preliminary comments on the Otago Regional Council’s
Regional Policy Statement

To: Regional Policy Statement Review Team,
Otago Regional Council.
From: Wise Response Society
Contact: Sir Alan Mark,

What in Otago is important to you?

Wise Response Society encourages all levels of government as well as all New
Zealand citizens to ensure that our way of life and priorities are not leading us, either
wittingly or unwittingly, to deny our children the opportunity of a viable and fulfilling
Specifically the Society seeks to have addressed systematically this key question: “As
demand for growth exceeds earth’s physical limits causing unprecedented risks, what
knowledge and changes do we need to secure New Zealand’s future wellbeing?”
Evidence-based science on several fronts, shows that, due in large part to
encountering limits, New Zealand in general and Otago in particular are
environmentally, socially and economically vulnerable. Therefore, until we address
the implications of limits, planning is unlikely to be realistic; it may even undermine
critical needs over the next decade or two.
Following the Precautionary Principle, Wise Response asks the Otago Regional
Council to base its revised Regional Policy Statement (RPS) on an objective,
uncompromising assessment of the relevant science and associated risks. The risks
identified need to be prioritised and logical principles and policies developed
dispassionately from the consequent outcomes.
From these analyses, we anticipate that the RPS will need to place greater weight on
genuinely securing the longer term future and accordingly, given our current situation,
a level of near-term inconvenience will be unavoidable for us all if this is to be
achieved.  Plan wording will need to be tough, explicit and unambiguous to make a
real difference and minimise legal challenge.
Relying on the free market and handing the management of our key resources over to
local management groups that may not be truly representative of the public at large or
have the necessary breadth of understanding, are policies that appear unlikely to
achieve sustainable management of the available natural and physical resources.

What do you think the major issues facing Otago are?

Wise Response Society considers the following issues to be the most urgent:
1.   Lack of willingness by most of our leaders and citizens to accept credible
scientific evidence about the adverse impacts of our current living
arrangements and practices on the environment, and therefore our failure to
recognise the urgent need for transformational (mitigation) rather than
incremental (adaptive) change.
2.   Vulnerability, due to the high level of dependence of our communities and
businesses, including farming, on carbon-based fuels and financial shock, as
well as the loss of diversity, loss of local control, and loss of skill base in
production and manufacturing.
3.   Our failure to genuinely arrest and reverse a steady deterioration in the quality
of our land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes and
ecosystem services.  In this respect we note that much better outcomes could
be expected if many of the polices in the current RPS were just properly
4.   Our collective preoccupation with the accumulation of material wealth above
other measures of progress and quality of life.
A range of other issues flow from our failure to address these primary issues.

How do you think these issues should be addressed?

Wise Response suggests Council address these issues primarily in these ways:
1.   demonstrates in the RMAct S32 analysis that it has systematically assessed the
scientific evidence relevant to the above issues and risks, then sets down
clearly what constraints and assumptions it will adopt as a basis for each of the
Policy Statement’s objectives and policies.  The rationale for omitting or
altering any existing policies should also be clear.
2.   acts consistently in accord with the Precautionary Principle as expressed in the
New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (Policy 3), as an underlying tenet
of the Regional Policy Statement and makes building both urban and rural
resilience its first priority in the face of growing uncertainty.
3.   formally accepts the duty of each Otago resident, business and organization to
mitigate as well as adapt to serious threats to a living planet which appears
inherent in the Precautionary Principle.
4.   accepts the implications of rigorous research and statistics, and the established
principles of physics, ecology and environmental management as a basis for
adopting principles and policies that will significantly reduce risk exposure,
including strongly sustainable approaches to infrastructure and economic
5.   shifts the focus of its activity away from promoting economic development
throughout the RPS, and returns to sustainably managing the natural and
physical resources, as required under S5, RMA.
6.   takes into account the global as well as the national context to give
“sustainable management” a fully integrated and defensible bio-physical
7.   actively informs the general public of the need for any transformational policy,
and explains how citizens can best aid the process of sustainable management
of our natural and physical resources, at the same time as improving their
personal security and contentment.

Other matters

Wise Response Society would like to submit further on the ORCs draft plan, and
produce further relevant evidence in support of our submission, once the draft plan is
prepared, and wish to be involved in the formal planning process, post-notification.
Meanwhile, the Society would be happy to liaise further on this preliminary
submission if that would assist the Council.


WR Special General Meeting – Monday 1 Dec

Wise Response Society Inc
Notice of Special General Meeting

Monday 1 December, 4.00pm, Centre for Sustainability, 530 Castle St, Dunedin

 Business to be conducted

  •     Apologies
  •     Receive the Society’s Statement of Account
  •     Elect members of the committee and officers
  •     Fix the annual subscription
  •     Appoint an auditor
  •     Consider if appropriate to appoint a patron
  •     Motions to be considered
  •     Rule changes to be considered
  •     General business, including updates on:

    • Royal Society adoption of Climate Change motion and implications/opportunities
    • Regional Policy Statement review
    • Appeal to Parliament – Select Committee stage
    • Communications and website

All welcome.
Sir Alan Mark, ΦΒΚ, Hon DSc (Otago), FRSNZ, KNZM,

THIN ICE Kickstarter deadline approaches

Thin_Ice_DocoThe campaign to fund the edit of a TV version of THIN ICE – the inside story of climate science” for airing on US Public Television this summer has now reached 70% of its target, with a deadline of noon, Monday, 24 November. The team is delighted with the support the project has received so far. They want to remind those still wanting to help others appreciate the integrity and commitment of climate scientists, as well as their message,  that there are only a few more days left to donate. You can help by donating  as little as $10, get a THIN ICE beanie for $70, or give your local school a one year licence for unlimited streaming for $225. Check it out here.

This project will also broaden the appeal of  THIN ICE for schools, community groups and for TV in other countries.”

In order to have the Thin Ice Documentary aired on US Public Television it needs funding to be edited. You can help by donating a little on the kickstarter funding site.

This will also make it more accessible for schools, community groups and for tv in other countries.

WHAT’S THE STORY? Our climate is changing worldwide, with more extreme weather, melting ice and rising sea levels. If it really has been caused by us, we need to know how and why so we can deal with it together. So, what’s your experience of climate change and what do you think? We see climate change stories in the media and hear about it from our politicians. Now our film, an award-winning feature documentary, brings you the scientists’ voice directly from field and laboratory to film viewers at home, community halls and classrooms.  With your support we can edit THIN ICE to TV length to reach a much wider audience. 

At this stage we need numbers of donors more than $$, so this is a pitch for you to check our Kickstarter site. Hopefully it will move you sufficiently to chip in $10! More is of course acceptable, but currently we would be delighted just to have you join us in this effort, and of course the support of any friends you might spread the word to on Twitter or Facebook.

Research confirms ‘Limits to Growth’ correct

Research from the University of Melbourne has concluded the Club of Rome’s 1974 ‘ Limits to Growth’ Report is substantially correct in its findings that civilisation will likely collapse sometime this century.


The British national daily newspaper “The Guardian“ states that new research from the University of Melbourne confirms that the “book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon.”

“[…] The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.

So were they right? We decided to check in with those scenarios after 40 years. Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios.

The results show that the world is tracking pretty closely to the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario. […]”


To find out more about the “Limits to Growth” and about its real message, follow this link.


Labour Party formalises support for Wise Response

Labour_CC_PolicyPress release for immediate use:

The Wise Response Society Applauds New Zealand-wide Risk Assessment Proposed by some Political Parties

The Wise Response Society is heartened to see that Labour’ just released Climate Change policy includes formal support for the Society’s call for a New Zealand-wide Risk Assessment.The Green Party has also formally acknowledged support for the Wise Response Appeal as a key similarity between Green and Labour climate change policies.

Labour’s policy says that it “will implement a comprehensive risk assessment framework to predict and quantify the risk levels across our economy, environment and society, in order to inform policy decisions which can allow us to avert, mitigate against, or adapt to, these risks”.

Wise Response petitioned Parliament in April this year to assess the risks posed to the country in five key subject areas. These risks included the implications of continuing use of carbon-based fuels and their impacts, particularly on climate change; exposure to another financial crash and its implications for business continuity and employment; environmental/ecological degradation; and the risks to increasing inequality and social wellbeing of endlessly chasing GDP as the primary measure of progress. The group is supported by more than 100 notable New Zealanders.

Spokesperson, Sir Alan Mark said they had invited all political parties to support their appeal, seeking a “cross-party” response, and  while Labour, Greens and NZ First supported the petition to Parliament, it is extremely gratifying and hopeful when the request is formally adopted by a party in its policy.

Even though the Society’s concerns are with the sustainable management of resources generally,Wise Response considers Labour’s proposal to set up an independent Climate Commission might provide the vehicle needed for a wide-ranging risk assessment programme for New Zealand’s future.

Alan F. Mark, FRSNZ, KNZM. Spokesperson for Wise Response Society Inc.

White House examines Cost of Delayed Action on Climate Change

The White House has released a new report from the Council of Economic Advisers that examines the economic consequences of delaying action to stem climate change. The report finds that delaying policy actions by a decade increases total mitigation costs by approximately 40 percent, and failing to take any action would risk substantial economic damage. These findings emphasize the need for policy action today.

The Executive Summary is reproduced below:

Executive Summary

The signs of climate change are all around us. The average temperature in the United States
during the past decade was 0.8° Celsius (1.5° Fahrenheit) warmer than the 1901-1960 average,
and the last decade was the warmest on record both in the United States and globally. Global sea
levels are currently rising at approximately 1.25 inches per decade, and the rate of increase
appears to be accelerating. Climate change is having different impacts across regions within the
United States. In the West, heat waves have become more frequent and more intense, while
heavy downpours are increasing throughout the lower 48 States and Alaska, especially in the
Midwest and Northeast. 1 The scientific consensus is that these changes, and many others, are
largely consequences of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. 2

The emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) harms others in a way that is not
reflected in the price of carbon-based energy, that is, CO 2 emissions create a negative externality.
Because the price of carbon-based energy does not reflect the full costs, or economic damages,
of CO 2 emissions, market forces result in a level of CO 2 emissions that is too high. Because of this
market failure, public policies are needed to reduce CO 2 emissions and thereby to limit the
damage to economies and the natural world from further climate change.

There is a vigorous public debate over whether to act now to stem climate change or instead to
delay implementing mitigation policies until a future date. This report examines the economic
consequences of delaying implementing such policies and reaches two main conclusions, both of
which point to the benefits of implementing mitigation policies now and to the net costs of
delaying taking such actions.

First, although delaying action can reduce costs in the short run, on net, delaying action to limit
the effects of climate change is costly. Because CO 2 accumulates in the atmosphere, delaying
action  increases  CO 2 concentrations.  Thus,  if  a  policy  delay  leads  to  higher  ultimate  CO 2
concentrations,  that  delay  produces  persistent  economic  damages  that  arise  from  higher
temperatures and higher CO 2 concentrations. Alternatively, if a delayed policy still aims to hit a
given climate target, such as limiting CO 2 concentration to given level, then that delay means that
the policy, when implemented, must be more stringent and thus more costly in subsequent years.
In either case, delay is costly.

These costs will take the form of either greater damages from climate change or higher costs
associated with implementing more rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In practice,
delay could result in both types of costs. These costs can be large:

  • Based on a leading aggregate damage estimate in the climate economics literature, a
    delay that results in warming of 3° Celsius above preindustrial levels, instead of 2°, could
    increase economic damages by approximately 0.9 percent of global output. To put this
    percentage in perspective, 0.9 percent of estimated 2014 U.S. Gross Domestic Product
    (GDP)  is approximately $150 billion. The incremental  cost of an additional  degree of
    warming beyond 3° Celsius would be even greater. Moreover, these costs are not one-
    time, but are rather incurred year after year because of the permanent damage caused
    by increased climate change resulting from the delay.
  • An analysis of research on the cost of delay for hitting a specified climate target (typically,
    a given concentration of greenhouse gases) suggests that net mitigation costs increase,
    on average, by approximately 40 percent for each decade of delay. These costs are higher
    for more aggressive climate goals: each year of delay means more CO 2 emissions, so it
    becomes increasingly difficult, or even infeasible, to hit a climate target that is likely to
    yield only moderate temperature increases.

Second, climate policy can be thought of as “climate insurance” taken out against the most severe
and irreversible potential consequences of climate change. Events such as the rapid melting of
ice sheets and the consequent increase of global sea levels, or temperature increases on the
higher end of the range of scientific uncertainty, could pose such severe economic consequences
as reasonably to be thought of as climate catastrophes. Confronting the possibility of climate
catastrophes means taking prudent steps now to reduce the future chances of the most severe
consequences of climate change. The longer that action is postponed, the greater will be the
concentration  of  CO 2 in  the  atmosphere  and  the  greater  is the  risk.  Just  as  businesses  and
individuals  guard  against  severe  financial  risks  by  purchasing  various  forms  of  insurance,
policymakers can take actions now that reduce the chances of triggering the most severe climate
events.  And,  unlike  conventional  insurance  policies,  climate  policy  that  serves  as  climate
insurance is an investment that also leads to cleaner air, energy security, and benefits that are
difficult to monetize like biological diversity.

1 For a fuller treatment of the current and projected consequences of climate change for U.S. regions and sectors,
see the Third National Climate Assessment (United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) 2014).2 See for example the Summary for Policymakers in Working Group I contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC WG I AR5 2013).