Day 1 of climate conference

This is my random scribbles yesturday’s climate conference. Don’t have time to be more coherent, as it starts again very shortly. Its probably best if I just summarise Pete Hodgson, as he seemed to hit the nail on the head:

The government can solve this, but only if it takes actions that, right now, are unacceptable to the voting public. Government should show leadership, but they only govern by permission of the people, and the people are not giving permission for the government to solve this problem.

Pete’s four conundrums and his thoughts on them:
1) We will have to mitigate and abate. How much of each?
Mitigation – pay now, we benefit
Abate – pay now, everyone benefits at some future point

2) What effort now vs. total effort?
We can avoid intergenerational theft, but its hard to justify paying now, when we can’t see the effects now.

3) Should we go hard on current technologies or wait for new technologies?
This is the holy grail syndrome. Well, we have to do everything now, so we should.

4) How do we justify diverting resources into mitigation and adaptation when the lag times before we see a result are so huge? If we wait until we can accurately cost mitigation and adaptation then it will be too late. So how to justify this spending when returns are inherently unknown?

And from me, other ideas floating around Wellington are that:
Industry wants long-term certainty. However, climate change policy is new, and we won’t get it right first time, so it will need adjustment. Hence the policy will change.
Everyone wants to depoliticise this debate, so that the policy doesn’t change every three years. But no-one agrees what the policy should be and opposite ends of the political spectrum want incompatible results, so I can’t see how this might happen.
The science about what the climate is doing is firm. The knowledge about the impacts upon humanity and the economy is not.
The costs of doing something are large and not certain.
The costs of doing nothing are even less certain, but might be astoundingly huge.
Its possible that there may be no safe level of carbon emissions. Its also possible that emitting more than one trillion tonnes will be needed, i.e. that there’s a fixed amount in total that we can emit, over a given number of centurys, and we might be half-way through that.

Anyway, that’s my thoughts right now. Please take with a grain of salt as I haven’t had a change to think through these things and brain is somewhat fried by an overwhelming conference day.

Oh, and scored a free light bulb.

8 thoughts on “Day 1 of climate conference

  1. Linky no worky

    This stuff is all good, and I wholeheartedly agree with the ‘act now, benefit later’ scenario. However, NZ is tiny on a global scale, and whatever we do will be pretty much a drop in the ocean unless the rest of the world follows suit.

    Having said that, the rest of the world is damn good at following our lead at times.

    Seen this? I stayed there on the weekend and had a chat with the guy about what he’s doing. He makes the turbines from old washing machines and sells them all over the world. Worth calling in if you’re up that way.

  2. Intergenerational theft

    Given the enormous debt racked up in Western nations by a couple of generations in the post-WW II period, I have scant hope we’ll avoid it. There’s a whole way of life predicated on “Government borrow, give me money, my grandchildren repay.”

    cf: Selfish Generations.

  3. Yup, and that’s a pretty good series from the US, especially when the US debate is about five years behind everyone else. Worth a read. But just today in NZ press:
    NZ ‘must play world role’ on climate change says Tony Blair
    Gore blimey, it’s kiwifruit country
    Hyundai scores greenie points
    Climate change concern builds
    Coastal love affair threatens Kiwis
    Pacific cyclones may increase and worsen
    Keep heat on govts over climate – Blair
    Ice sheet collapse warning
    which is pretty good coverage for the conference.

    And hope no-body’s sick of the topic, coz it ain’t going away.

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