Latest signs of climate change can't be ignored

By John Milnes

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An elderly survivor walks past toppled cars outside a church in typhoon-hit Tacloban city in the Philippines on Saturday. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record, hit the country's eastern seaboard on November 8, leaving a wide swathe of destruction. PHOTO/AP
An elderly survivor walks past toppled cars outside a church in typhoon-hit Tacloban city in the Philippines on Saturday. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record, hit the country's eastern seaboard on November 8, leaving a wide swathe of destruction. PHOTO/AP

Life is full of them. Some are obvious, like slipping on the shower floor. I can do something to avoid the risks I know of, like the soap on the shower floor.

There is also a risk, although much more remote, that I may get hit by a meteor next time I walk out the door. There is also the possibility that the meteor is a couple of kilometres across, in which case it is not just me who will be returned to the soil.

People will get themselves in a tizzy over the possibility of a big meteor approaching but seem unable to take action to avoid some events that are obvious and potentially as serious, but are creeping up on us so incrementally that they go unnoticed.

Global warming and its effects is one of them. We have known what to do about it for 20 years: cut our fossil fuel use by increasing non-fossil energy use, such as wind, solar and tidal.

Why haven't we? I think it is partly that global warming is a glacial slow change. Combine that with an irrational fear that life will become primitive.

Climate change has just shown us primitive. Look at the typhoon-affected areas in the Philippines this last week and the devastation caused by 275km/h winds.

There was an emotional speech given at the United Nations climate summit in Poland by the Philippine Government's representative. Their lead climate change negotiator, Yeb Sano, was so shocked by the severity of the typhoon he tearfully requested that the world take note and take action on climate change.

What is New Zealand doing about it? Nothing.

There was a recent TV3 The Vote where the discussion was about deep-sea oil wells and the consequent risk of a serious oil spill. While this is one risk, it ignored the real probability of worsening climate change by deliberately releasing more carbon from oil and coal.

These companies deny this as their problem, and it is for somebody else to sort out.

On The Vote programme, the pro-mining/drilling team excused mining because we "need" to have coal to produce steel, because we "need" cars, which "need" oil, so we "need" to drill for more oil. This is a useful circular argument for the carbon profiteers, as it keeps this unstoppable behemoth rolling on, ensuring a future of climate change.

In the early years when climate change was being raised as a critical issue, any suggestion to do something about climate change prompted a response of: "We can't afford to, but when the economy is strong, we will." No, we didn't.

The risk from climate change must now be painfully obvious to all but the most blind. The storms, fires and floods of the last few years, and now the Philippines typhoon is telling us we can't afford not to.

John Milnes is a passionate advocate for our beautiful planet, a Green Party candidate for the past three elections, a trustee for Sustainable Whanganui and a grandfather.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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