COMMENT

As our long, hot, sticky mess of a South Pacific summer continues, it's hard to find anyone who isn't verbalising their rising dread about the ever-increasing presence of climate change.

Oh, sure. There's still the more obtuse among us. Those that have convinced themselves that the rest of us have fallen for an orchestrated global conspiracy, while they alone recognise the "real truth" of the "climate change industry". Yeah, them.

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And, yes, there's still the odd weather presenter who speaks beamingly of the wonderful weather we're all having, and recommends a day at the beach and chucking another sausage on the barbie. Fortunately, this insulting inanity is becoming a little less frequent.

In the main though, the relentless heat here in New Zealand is in perfect sync with the public's growing discomfort with what they see as tinkering around the edges by politicians. Because all of the evidence points to just that. Tinkering.

Day after day, disturbing images of the new climate reality pour in from around the globe.

There's no ignoring what's happening in Australia. Temperatures off the charts. Fires, flooding, and drought. Wildlife are dropping down dead, fish are dying in rivers en masse, thousands of homes are currently inundated in Townsville, and farmers are beyond anything even resembling hope in many parts of the continent. Our closest neighbours are doing it hard.

In North America, the polar vortex saw the temperature in Fargo, North Dakota, drop to -35 degrees Celsius. In Chicago, Illinois, it was -28 degrees Celsius, but brisk winds made the air feel like -50 degrees. That kind of wind chill can freeze a person's skin within 15 minutes, and over 20 deaths have been recorded so far.

Of course, these events have always happened. But not with the frequency or intensity we are seeing now. Faced with the fact that climate change is not linear but exponential in nature, then the years ahead are guaranteed to be a living climate hell. Add heat to any system and it simply creates more energy.

There's no doubt we've had decades to do something meaningful about the problem, while there's also no doubt that we haven't. The citizenry's only hope is to force change by pushing politicians to act.

Currently, the homegrown political tinkering involves much talking, with glacial, if any, progress, while soundbites are becoming parodies.

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Jacinda Ardern's "climate change is my generation's nuclear-free moment" is already knocking on the door of a Monty Python-esque skit. Not least because the threat of oblivion by nukes hasn't actually gone away, but also because meaningful, urgent solutions are yet to be seen.

What is being seen is self-promoting Government spin which attempts to show what a global leader Aotearoa is in climate change action. Really? Are we? This is news to me.

During the scorching summer, I noticed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) were pushing a short video on social media called 'Climate Change: leadership'. It depicts cartoon characters sitting on a beach either going under water, actually being completely under water or, with decisive action on climate change, being in a green, tree-laden Eden of wind power and electric cars. The narrative is simplistic and patriotic.

"When faced with the threat of climate change, we can choose from one of three options. We can try to ignore it, we can keep on talking about it, or we can decide to take action."

"Aotearoa New Zealand might be small but we're already helping to make a big difference in the global fight against climate change. By working to achieve a net zero emissions economy by 2050, we're showing our international partners that if we can all work together, we still have time to keep our heads above water."

Innocuous enough? Well, that depends on from what vantage point you're sitting. I imagine that Kiribati and Tuvalu residents may be more than a tad insulted by the lampoonish images of water lapping or inundating cartoon people on a sandy beach.

For me, the insult is squarely to my intelligence. Zero net emissions by 2050? Do these wallahs really think the planet will graciously give us until 2050 to achieve that? Do they really expect us to believe that they're on track to achieve it? You know, given the fact that agriculture and tourism are still our biggest export earners, and one of the letters in MFAT stands for 'Trade'?

We've entered the climate emergency stage. If silly, tactless cartoons are how MFAT (and Government) want to play it, there's little hope for us. Indeed, a cartoon depicting burnt toast would likely be more motivating.

Because crowing about how we're leading the way in inspiring other countries to act on climate change, is akin to Foghorn Leghorn buddying up to Barnyard Dawg.

In other words, it's Looney Tunes.