Conference summary

Tomorrow, what you can do. But now, summary of the conference from my boss that’s just been published in the Royal Society’s weekly newsletter:

1. THE CLIMATE IS RIGHT
Comment by Royal Society CEO, Dr Steve.Thompson steve.thompson@rsnz.org
Two days of information deluge are difficult to digest. Victoria University’s Climate Change conference held in Wellington on Tuesday and Wednesday brought us several million individual facts. Yes, climate has changed and always will. Man-made greenhouse gases are but one minor factor in climate change, however, in recent times, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased dramatically and rapidly. We have reached 380ppm, and are on the way to 550ppm or more over a period of decades. People concerned about this have mapped out two broad approaches we need to take: 1) mitigate the effects of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and 2) take steps to adapt to the inevitable variability that will take place.

Even if we bring in measures to mitigate greenhouse gas release now, we won’t see real effects for 50 years, so we’re going to have to adapt as well. But, as one speaker said, it’s not as simple as adapting from one steady state to another steady state. Climate change in the short term will be characterised by high variability, with some good years, and some bad. What we will really need is a continuing ability to adapt, not just a one-shot change.

Some Conference Messages I took away were:
Climate Minister Hodgson: We are ready to act, but need a mandate from the people
UK’s Lord Oxburgh: Governments need to set in place clear and stable regulatory signals. Biofuels will fill a significant gap, but not if they use food land. Use bio-waste materials instead.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair: We have to bring the US, China and India into the next Kyoto round.
Murray Ward (ex-Kyoto negotiator): Withdrawal of carbon tax has left a policy vacuum in New Zealand.
Simon Upton: New Zealand is unlikely to contribute meaningfully to the big questions like hydrogen technology or CO2 sequestration. Since half our emissions are methane, we can make a good international contribution by research into ruminant methane emission reduction. Government should also impose a carbon tax. This should not be a party political issue.
Kirsty Hamilton (UK climate and business consultant): Industries are ready to act, but they need Government signals which are “Long, Loud, and Legal”.

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And, cover of Time magazine this week:


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