Whanganui district councillor Alan Taylor is asking his fellow councillors to declare a climate emergency. He explains why.
On February 11, I will be introducing a motion at the Whanganui District Council meeting seeking that the council declare a climate emergency.
In my opinion, this declaration is urgent.
Scientists have been recording and analysing weather data for more than 350 years and paleoclimatology provides such data covering millennia.
The precision of the early recorded data may be questioned but the trends are clear. The globe is now heating at an unprecedented rate mostly due to human activity (anthropogenic global warming).
Climate is a global phenomenon, the long-term expression of day-to-day weather events.
Our climate is globally driven, as the lower atmosphere responds to the variations in energy balance in the earth-atmosphere system.
The oceans and air mix and circulate as the physical forces responding to heat differentials attempt to establish equilibrium.
Unlike countries, the oceans and atmosphere have no hard boundaries.
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The impacts of global heating will affect everyone, everywhere.
Whanganui is likely to feel these impacts later and more benignly than elsewhere because our district has one of the world's most temperate climates, seldom plagued by extremes.
We cannot take this for granted or become contemptuous of the extremes that others in the world are already experiencing.
Serendipity may provide Whanganui with time to make good judgements about how we adapt but it does not provide more time to begin doing our bit to mitigate global warming. Of course, we should have begun that process 60 years ago and yet we have barely got off the mark.
Readers following the myriad scientific papers in all forms of media and prolifically disseminated academic publications will be aware how rapidly the processes of climate change are being discovered and understood.
There is no question that it is anything but very real, massive, impactful and quite frightening; adjectives that intensify the longer we delay reacting appropriately to climate change.
That this is already upon us, and certain to get worse, is unequivocally evident from the blanketing effects of the smoke from Australia's worst recorded bush fire season and ice-melt as our southern glaciers retreat. Further abroad, evidence abounds from accelerating ice-sheet melt in Greenland and the Antarctic, methane ice melt and vast areas of permafrost thaw in the northern hemisphere, and refugees from areas of African drought.
Indeed, the prospect of climate refugees is critical for us since we presently offer a relatively stable climatic environment and we cannot lawfully reject them.
Declaring a climate emergency means that our council, on behalf of its residents, understands that we are faced with a situation requiring urgent action to halt climate change and avoid resulting, potentially irreversible, environmental damage.
Effectively, the council would be undertaking to consider the consequences of climate change as a priority in any relevant decisions it makes.
The first climate emergency was declared in December 2016 by the City of Darebin in Melbourne.
By January this year, 25 countries, the European Parliament comprising 28 nation states, and over 1250 local authorities had followed suit.
Sadly, the New Zealand Government has not.
More surprisingly, our own Horizons Regional Council (our local environmental watchdog) has also failed.
Whanganui, guided by its "Leading Edge" strategy, needs to demonstrate that its head is out of the sand and is prepared to show the necessary leadership.
Last year the council engaged with the public seeking views toward formulating a climate change strategy and the calls to action were noted.
Whanganui school students, responding to a nationwide Strike4Climate, were joined by others in a 300-strong march to the council asking for such a declaration.
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We are bound to take such understanding and concern seriously as we formulate the necessary council strategy.
In the meantime, the most appropriate way in which we can deliver due impetus to this process is to join the growing group of world governmental authorities that are responding positively to the existential crisis of global heating and declare this to be an emergency.
• Alan Taylor is a Whanganui District Councillor