“Our climate is changing.”

This serious understatement opens the climate change section of the Auckland Unitary Plan.

As Mrs Brown says, “That’s nice.”
A more compelling view comes from the World Meteorological Organisation’s annual Statement on the Status of the Global Climate: “…the decline of Arctic sea ice in 2012 is a clear and alarming sign of climate change.”

In the US, 230 people died, 62 million others were affected and $70 billion in damage was caused when super-storm Sandy slammed into the East Coast last October.  That event led US authorities to wake up to the threat that climate change presents.  It was described as one of a series of “teachable moments” about our growing vulnerability to climate change.

In response to this year’s drought, Prime Minister John Key would not even consider it as an effect of climate change.  He said the Government “…was still on track to reach surplus, but it remained to be seen how deep the drought was.”  So much for people.

Kennedy Graham of the Green Party, asks the question “What Does It Take … to extract climate change action from this Government?”   The question deserves to be answered rather than taken as a rhetorical one.  The New Zealand public deserve an answer.

Any individual doubt that climate change is a real issue caused by human activity was dispelled in a University of Queensland study published last month.

The study of nearly 12,000 abstracts from peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate found three groups of positions.

Fully 1% either rejected anthropogenic global warming or were uncertain about the cause.

Around one third expressed an opinion about global warming with 97% of those finding human activity to be the cause.

Around two thirds did not express any opinion about the cause of global warming in the abstract.  Which is not surprising – that the earth is round is now a given, and scientists no longer have a need to express a view on that once-contentious issue.

In a second stage to the study, the University invited the authors of each paper to self-rate their view on anthropogenic global warming.  Over 97% endorsed the consensus that it was human-caused.

350_Do_the_maths_tour_2013

Bill McKibben is giving presentations in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington from 11th June. Visit 350.org.nz for info.

That is a sufficient conclusion for me and I take it as a fact – global warming and climate change is caused by us.  It is our problem to fix and to deal with.

So what do our Councils do to ensure that our communities and residents will cope?  They talk about mitigation and adaptation strategies.

They say that climate change “… may result in changes to temperature, rainfall and sea level.”  The Auckland Unitary Plan views climate change adaptation as being about sea level rises.

The plan says “… how we locate and manage land use and its integration with transport will be the main way we respond to climate change.” To place transport at the centre of our response to climate change is simply myopic.

And what does the government do?  They hold a conference.  To also talk about the issue.

As I write this, the 2013 New Zealand Climate Change Conference is kicking off in Palmerston North.  Renowned researchers from across New Zealand have gathered for the two day conference to “…showcase the latest climate change research thinking and outputs.”

As Mrs Brown says, “That’s nice.”

I don’t mean to be rude, but I look for action, not talk.

Yes climate-induced disasters are increasingly inevitable, but with planed action, it is possible to limit their impact.

What must New Zealand’s “teachable moment” on climate change be before we take action?