Sir Nicholas’ Big Book of Answers

There’s three questions that matter, when it comes to climate change:

  1. Is it happening?
  2. Is it worth doing something about it?
  3. Who pays?

The first is settled, has been for ten years. The second, well today1 sees the release of a weighty tome about the costs. And it’s not coming from a bunch of smelly hippies2, it’s not concerned about survival of the Lesser Spotted Bolivian Tree Slug, it’s coming from the UK Treasury and written by Sir Nicholas Stern, ex-head of the World Bank. That’s pretty solid.

And the answer to question 2 is definite. Doing something costs far less than doing nothing. By a factor of about 20, making this the best investment that we could make.

Also please note, that news article is in the Business section, wot important people read.

So that brings us on to the hardest question – who pays? Sir Nick reckons its worthwile3 spending about 1% of GDP on doing something about it. And that will pay for itself, at some point in the future, many times over. But the costs start now, and 1% in NZ means about a billion dollars. And that’s lots of schools, roads, hospitals and hip transplants that won’t be happening. All this pain now, for some vague benefit4 at some point in the future.

How can that be politically sustainable? People are simply crap at making decisions with far-off benefits, witness the number of people who still smoke. We don’t like being told what’s good for us and we don’t like change, witness the fuss over smoke-free bars and realise that New Zealand is up there with Bhutan, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Italy in the complete list of countries that have banned smoking in bars. Everywhere else, you’re still allowed to poison your neighbours and friends, so who’s really going to give a damn about poisoning the climate? So how are we going to get people to vote for this?

Anyway, something practical tonight, at a time people can get to:

What you can do about climate change – panel discussion

Monday October 30, 5.30–6.30 pm.
Lecture Theatre, Science House (upstairs), 11 Turnbull St, Thorndon, Wellington

Panel – Diana Shand (ICLEI-A/NZ), Peter Healy (Community worker), Matt Bartlett (Publisher)
Chair: Peter Barrett (Victoria University of Wellington).

* Diana is National Programme Manager for Communites for Climate Protection (CCP-NZ), a New Zealand Government initiative delivered by ICLEI-A/NZ. This programme is part of ICLEI’s international Cities for Climate Protection campaign. This is a voluntary programme in New Zealand empowering local councils to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their own operations and in their communities. At the same time this helps reduce energy costs and improve quality of life.

* Peter has been running a workshop called ‘Restoring a Sense of the Sacredness of Earth” in small communities and with school groups. The workshop takes a big picture approach beginning with the earth story. People are then invited home to their sense of belonging to a particular place and are asked, What can we do here and now to live sustainably?

* Matthew is an early career professional who is thinking about what his generation will have to face, and is concerned about how to motivate ‘mainstream’ New Zealanders on these issues.

The panellists will each spend ten minutes outlining their interests, after which there will a discussion with questions and comments from the audience.

The panel discussion will be followed by refreshments (6.30–7 pm) and the
22nd Annual General Meeting of the Pacific Institute of Resource Management (7–8 pm).

1 – Today in the UK, so this evening our time, which means I don’t have to read 700 pages til tomorrow.
2 – Friends of the Earth said the same thing in their report two weeks ago, but they smell.
3 – He’s an economist, so ‘worthwhile’ here means good for your pocket.
4 – Like not losing the CBD, Petone, Lyall Bay and Christchurch.

11 thoughts on “Sir Nicholas’ Big Book of Answers”

  1. I wouldn’t mind losing Petone and Christchurch, but I’m rather fond of the CBD and Lyall Bay.
    And didn’t we decide that kittens were the cure to all the world’s woes?

          1. See the political problem here? All we need to do to save civilisation is cut off the paws off all the kittens. But kittens are cute and the Earth isn’t uninhabitable, yet. So how are we going to get people to vote for this?

    1. Yup, looks like a good one and I’m forwarding that on to the people who run our communications skills for scientists course. Also, the Royal Society runs a communications skills for scientists course, which is much needed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *