Open Letter on Climate Change to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

This is an Open Letter with reference to the statement ascribed to you under the heading: “Science key to climate” (ODT, March 23), in which you are quoted from your address to the Platinum Primary Producers annual conference in Wellington, that “The world is going to heat up if it’s [climate change] left unchecked. ….. [but people] …. are missing one fundamental point and that is science will deal with the issues, as long as we keep investing. If we did absolutely nothing and just allowed temperatures to continue to rise then we would have a huge issue but the truth is that won’t happen.”

We are reassured that you are acknowledging the potential seriousness of global warming but we consider your conclusion to be quite wrong. We are deeply concerned that you could rely so heavily on science to develop ways to curb the earth’s current warming trajectory when the mainstream science community has agreed that we must have a credible plan to reduce net carbon emissions to zero, as a matter of urgency. Science is important, but action on the basis of science is even more important.

As you are aware, virtually all (195) nations agreed at COP21 that in order to prevent a catastrophic situation of combined extreme weather events, continued sea level rise and ocean acidification, average warming should be kept to 1.5 deg C. above pre-industrial levels. It is now time for all national leaders to recognise the urgency of this situation and respond.

Meanwhile, the warming continues, with 2015 being the warmest year and January and February 2016 being the warmest months ever. Ambient CO2 now exceeds 400 ppm, and mountain glaciers, such as those in our Southern Alps, keep shrinking. Given scientific advice that such trends lag by up to 30 years and are very difficult to reverse, the lack of action by Government in developing comprehensive adaptation and mitigation strategies is effectively gambling with our country’s future. The absence of leadership is scientifically and morally indefensible.

Accordingly, we would be very interested to learn what advice you have received from your personal science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, aimed at addressing the many problems associated with global warming. Does he consider research is sufficient in its own right, or that action (including effective policies, targets, and strategies) is also required to reduce both current green house gas and nitrogen emissions?

Instead of promoting BAU and hoping that science will solve these issues, we consider that the only responsible way for New Zealand to play its part in meeting the 1.5 degree limit is to urgently establish a national carbon budget and emissions reduction programme. To be effective, this programme would need to be staged, allocated between sectors and critically require the participation of all New Zealanders, desirably with oversight by an independent Climate Commission.

Your response to the issues we have raised would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Alan F. Mark, FRSNZ, KNZM. Chair, Wise Response Society Inc.