WR Letter to Government requesting a formal body dedicated to addressing the causes of climate change

WR_Logo_trans_whiteWise Response Society Inc.,
c/o Alan F. Mark, FRSNZ, KNZM,
205 Wakari Rd.,
Hon Paula Bennett, Helensburgh,
Minister of Climate Change Issues, DUNEDIN.
Parliament House, 12 December 2016
WELLINGTON. Your reference 16-m-1360

Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation

Dear Minister Bennett,
We congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Prime
Minister. The purpose of this letter is to give our Society’s support to the Climate
Change Adaptation Technical Working Group you have appointed, and to encourage
you to continue to take a leadership position by also establishing a forum to address
mitigation, and invite you to our rescheduled NGO’s climate change workshop.

We thank you for your letter of 11 November 2016 indicating you would be unable to
attend the NGOs climate change workshop on 14 November, which was postponed due
to the severe earthquake that day. We hope you can join us on Monday 13 February
2017. We are also holding a participatory climate change modelling workshop on the
afternoon of Sunday 12 February to work on scenarios.

The Wise Response Society would like to applaud your leadership in establishing the
Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group. The need for adaptation will
continue to grow. Global warming impacts are already being felt and the transient
response of the climate to the energy balance shift caused by increased
accumulation of green house gases is at least 30 years. This means that even if
emissions were halted today, climate impacts will worsen for decades.

We were encouraged by this statement in your letter:
“We need to make emissions reductions all across the economy and I believe
we, as a country are up for the challenge. I am considering ways to come up
with a long term plan to reduce emissions. I want people to start thinking past
just the next few years, right out to 2050 and beyond”

We agree absolutely that insufficient attention has been directed so far at what we
can do to reverse known causes of climate warming. However, the terms for the
Adaptation Working Group do not permit it to consider mitigation nor to develop
policy recommendations for reducing emissions.

Fossil fuels are used in all sectors of society. We acknowledge the political and
economic difficulty of addressing the reduction of transport fuel use, coal burning,
agricultural practices and land use. We urge you to consider that due to New
Zealand’s remoteness, culture of resilience, and bent for innovation, our companies
and organisations could be some of the first in the world to find profitable new
enterprises for accomplishing the energy transition and ecological recovery.[1] Such
enterprise would help offset costs and risks associated with emissions reduction.

The Nationally Determined Contributions declared at Paris will almost certainly not
be adequate to keep global warming below 2deg. C. above pre-industrial levels. The
internationally agreed pathway would require at least 5% reduction in emissions
year-on-year from 2016.[2] This level of reduction in fossil fuel consumption and
land use change will require innovative transitions in transportation demand,
agriculture practices and business operations, and consumer behaviour, as well as
social expectations and values. The next five years will be a critical period for
creative and heretical innovation.[3]

Underscoring the situation is the fact that at any time, a tip-over point will be
reached where feedback loops – such as methane emissions from thawing
permafrost and more heat absorption in an ice-free Arctic – might make remedy
impossible. This means so much is at stake now that our best chance of a solution is
if all New Zealanders and political persuasions are availed of the bald facts about
mitigation options and their implications, as soon as possible and no matter how
politically or economically unpalatable they may be.

We thus ask that you urgently establish an additional forum focused on identifying
adequate and “just” mitigation measures that could operate in parallel with the
Adaptation Group. This way, elements common to both could be exploited to best
advantage and an integrated plan developed.

To address the range of practice outlined above, the terms for a new working group
would not only need to include a mix of specialist scientists, engineers and
businesses, but also the likes of young people, social leaders and behaviour
specialists. We would like to offer dialogue with our Society’s members to explore
innovative ideas and new ways that research and development could drive the
transition and how the forum might best operate.

We are very hopeful that you (or any new Minister of Climate Change Issues) and
ministry staff might be able to join our 13 February sponsored workshop, as it will
include discussion on mitigation and testing whether participatory mediated
modelling might provide a helpful way to build consensus on this important issue.

Yours sincerely,
Alan Mark,
Wise Response Society Inc.

[1] Susan Krumdieck, “Transition Engineering”, In: Energy Solutions to Combat Global Warming, Ed: XinRong Zhang and I.
Dincer, Springer (2016) p. 647-706.
[2]Bob Lloyd, Evidence to Fonterra Studholme Dairy Factory Expansion, Environment Canterbury, 2016.
[3] Andrew Winston, The Big Pivot, Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World, Harvard Business
Review Press, Boston, MA (2014).