We live on a biologically
complex and exquisite planet, home to 7 billion people and a myriad
of other unique life forms. We believe it is our human
responsibility to maintain the integrity of life support systems and
the natural processes which sustain and renew them.
We believe it is also our
responsibility to fervently defend the basic right of humans to live
secure and fulfilling lives consistent with the UN Declaration of
Human Rights. It follows that our generation must satisfy our
present material needs in ways that do not diminish the prospect of
their realisation for present and future generations.
We are deeply concerned
about the links between global climate change, fossil fuel extraction
and combustion, and the economy. We consider the evidence is
now overwhelming (refer Urgency below) for accepting that
human-induced climate change, (including extreme weather events) and
impending oil constraints threaten our ability to meet those
environmental and social obligations.
So far, New Zealand has
failed to truly face up to such unprecedented threats to its
collective security. Indeed, some policies exacerbate the
situation. There appears to be an unwavering faith that
technological fixes will be found in time. Yet with scientists saying
critical “thresholds” are upon us, the odds of such solutions
being found diminish by the day and the consequences of this faith
being ill-founded will, in all probability, be disastrous and
Therefore, in the name of
all our children and grandchildren we, the undersigned, call on the
New Zealand Parliament to face up to this situation now by
dispassionately assessing risk levels in the following five areas.
Then, if found necessary, and with public input, design coherent,
robust cross-party strategies and policies to avert these risks and
give future generations the very best chance of security, peace,
social justice and opportunity for all.
1. Economic security:
the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged financial crisis. Such
a crisis could adversely impact upon our society’s ability to
provide for the essentials, including local access to resources,
reliable supply chains, and a resilient infrastructure.
2. Energy and climate
security: the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil
fuels. Progressively restricting their extraction,
importation and use could promote a switch to genuine renewables and
encourage smarter use of existing energy and energy systems while
creating better public transportation. Such responses would
simultaneously lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
continuity: the risk exposure of all New Zealand business,
including farming, to a lower carbon economy. To mitigate this
risk, all businesses could explore both market and job opportunities
in reducing the human ecological footprint, finding substitutes for
petroleum-based goods and services, increasing efficiencies and
reducing waste in food and resources. This would position New Zealand
as a market leader in low-carbon technologies and living
security: the risks associated with failing to genuinely protect both
land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes. We
believe that such protection is essential for both the maintenance of
indigenous biodiversity and ultimately, all human welfare.
well-being: the risk of persisting with a subsidised,
debt-based economy, preoccupied with maximising consumption and
GDP. An alternative is to measure progress by
means of indicators of community sustainability, human well-being,
more equitable wealth-sharing and environmental resilience, and to
incorporate full-cost pricing of harmful environmental impacts.
Birol, the chief economist at the The International Energy Agency
(IEA) has stated recently that: “If current trends continue, and
we go on building high-carbon energy generation, then by 2015 at
least 90% of the available “carbon budget” will be swallowed up
by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be
no room to move at all”.
IEA (2011) World
A new report draws attention to the climate extremes already being
experienced and the urgent need to prepare (IPCC. 2012. Managing the
Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change
Adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., et al].
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 582 pp. Gruber,N. 2011.
Warming up, turning sour, losing breath: ocean biogeochemistry under
global change. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A 369: 1980–1996).
negotiations to combat human-induced climate change (Rio 1992, Kyoto
1997, Copenhagen 2009, Durban 2011) reveal that the course of
climate diplomacy has increasingly lost touch with the scientific
evidence (New Scientist 3843: p3. We can still avoid a ‘lost
decade’ on climate change. Dec 2011). Not only is the widely
used target, based on the 4th IPCC assessment
report (450 ppm atmospheric CO2 equivalent) now very difficult to
achieve, but this limit may be far too high. Scientists such
as Jim Hansen argue that the maximum safe level for atmospheric CO2
concentration is 350 ppm (Hansen, J. 2012. Scientific Case for
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and
Birol from the IEA (2011) has also stated that maximum global
conventional crude oil production (“peak oil”) occurred in 2006.
This means that “all liquids” supply will likely steadily
decline after an undulating plateau with a growing gap between
demand and supply occurring from around 2015. The economic
implications of this decline are likely to be serious. See Hirsch,
R. L., Bezdek, R. & Wendling, R. 2005. Peaking of World Oil
Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, US
Department of Energy, and Hirsh R.L, ASPO presentation Vienna.
2012). Only by moving away from fossil fuels can we both
ensure a more robust economic outlook and address the challenges of
climate change. This process will be a “decades-long
transformation that needs to start immediately” (see Murray, J. &
King, D. 2012. Climate policy: oil’s tipping point has passed,
Nature 481: 433–435.).
inequity is increasing and the world financial system is unable to
deliver security; social cohesion is at risk both nationally and
globally (see Jackson, T. 2009. Prosperity without Growth.
Earthscan. London, UK). In 1998, more than 45% of the globe’s
people had to live on incomes averaging US$2 a day or less while the
richest one-fifth of the world’s population has 85% of the global
GNP. The gap between rich and poor is widening (see Meadows, D.,
Randers, J., Meadows, D. 2004. Limits to Growth: the 30 Year Update,
Chelsea Green, USA.). The perpetual growth myth is enthusiastically
embraced by politicians and economists as an excuse to avoid tough
decisions facing humanity (see The Asahi Glass Foundation. February
2012. Environment and Development Challenges: the Imperative to Act,
and Lloyd, B. 2009. The Growth Delusion, Sustainablity1: 516-536).
Add your voice to the
Appeal for a New Zealand Risk Assessment