Sex, as someone noticed, has no memory. It is experienced entirely in the moment. The same could be said of the weather. It is a surprise to be reminded in this glorious early summer that back in January and February we were feeling short-changed.

Last summer was dismal, entirely forgettable and we forgot it.

Reviewing the year this week, the Herald reminded me "a weather bomb wreaked havoc" in January bringing destructive gales, extensive flooding and winter temperatures. Fresh snow fell on Cardrona skifield last January.

March brought three big storms in quick succession. The first caused some flooding in Auckland and cut short school camps in the Hunuas and Coromandel. In April Cyclone Debbie lashed the North Island, cutting off power in places. Some residents of Whanganui spent the night in a hall as the river rose. Edgecumbe was flooded when a stopbank failed.


Remember any of this? Well Edgecumbe yes, but it seems longer ago. I do remember my back lawn became a bog much earlier than usual last winter, now it's so dry it has cracks that normally don't appear until February.

By any reckoning 2017 has been a "year of atmospheric extremes" as the headline on the weather review said. It is exactly what we have been warned would happen with climate change. So how was it for you?

Memorably bad if you were in Edgecumbe, just memorable if you were camping at the time or spent the night in the Whanganui hall. But for the vast majority of us, admit it, we are amazed in the middle of this sizzling summer that it happened this year.

If we have any memory of weather it was good. The summers of our youth were always golden. That's the problem, I think, for the politics of climate change which is probably going to be the story of next year.

Global warming sounds sensational at best and tolerable at worst. It offers us new crops, more kauri forest, milder winters and summers like this one. From what I have read, the worst we can expect if we do nothing is a sea level rise of 53-97cm by next century, more severe droughts, storms, heatwaves, coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion in aquifers and new tropical diseases.

Those are good reasons not to do nothing but the problems also sound manageable. To a lesser degree we manage them now.

The most important thing the new Government proposes to do in 2018 is pass a law requiring New Zealand to reduce its increase in carbon emissions to net zero (increases matched by carbon absorbing forests) by 2050. It will also set up an independent commission to guide and monitor progress to that goal.

The net zero emissions target is going to be the justification for a great deal the Government wants to do. The Greens' agreement with Labour calls it a "Net Zero Emissions Economy". That's about the size of it.


But before we accept the costs and inconvenience of reducing consumption of so many things fuelled by oil, we ought to be convinced it is necessary and likely to be effective. The truth, according to climate science, is that even net zero emissions is not going to be enough to stop the warming effects of greenhouse gas levels already in the atmosphere. The genie is out of the bottle, the horse has bolted, so what is the point?

The point, as The Economist once admitted, is that climate change justifies doing things that environmentalists would like to do anyway. Drawing energy from renewable resources, replacing private cars with public transport, roads with cycleways, thermal power stations with wind turbines and solar panels, forsaking plastic, reducing waste, recycling, swimming in rivers, living a more wholesome, homespun, self-contained lifestyle.

If that is what Labour and Green voters want to do, they can do it. There a bikeways snaking all around Auckland these days and its rare to see anyone on them. But before they set about more drastic changes to our economic arteries and financing green industries, they need to be sure where the world is going.

If the Government believes all these things are necessary for the world to survive storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels, it is fooling only itself. It has become clear this year we are getting the storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves, though we've yet to notice any sea level rise.

And we would notice it on our coasts, wouldn't we? We're told it is rising in Fiji so why is it not yet raising our high water line? That genuinely mystifies me because there is no question the Arctic ice cap has shrunk. Ships are sailing through there.

I'm looking forward to the politics of the new year. The climate is changing and it's not all bad.