Sunday, November 29, 2015

Experts speak out about what climate change actually means for NZ – and why we should care

On Monday the 21st annual Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will begin in Paris. Over the two weeks of CoP21, 147 heads of state will attempt to negotiate a global agreement to mitigate the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

New Zealand is one of these states. It has tabled its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the global reduction in carbon emissions, which has been criticised as inadequate. Some have pointed out in defence that New Zealand contributes only 0.15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Two books in the BWB Texts series show why we should care about climate change on our own doorstep, and why our own commitment towards reducing emissions can – and should – be significant.

Veronika Meduna’s Towards a Warmer World: What Climate Change Will Mean for New Zealand draws on the latest scientific research to outline exactly how climate change is expected to affect these islands, in both the low-carbon future aimed at by the attendees at CoP21, and the high-carbon future we face if negotiations fail.

Marshalling her long experience as a science journalist, Meduna (right) clearly lays out the data around the predicted increase in climate ‘events’ such as floods and wildfires, the demise of flora and fauna struggling to adapt to a warming climate, the threat posed by rising sea levels to the two thirds of New Zealanders who live in coastal communities, and the long-term consequences of ocean acidification. For those who want to be better informed about the tangible outcomes of climate change in New Zealand, Meduna’s book is the perfect place to start.

Ralph Chapman’s Time of Useful Consciousness: Acting Urgently on Climate Change outlines the actions we can take to address climate change in New Zealand. The Director of the Graduate Programme in Environmental Studies at VUW, Chapman draws on his expertise to assess why the government’s INDC isn’t good enough, why emissions trading isn’t the answer, and why and how New Zealand needs to transition speedily to a green economy. His book answers the important questions about how to green our transport system and our urban planning, and proposes a plausible path towards 100 per cent renewable energy.
As Chapman points out, if we fail to address climate change robustly in the ever-narrowing window of time remaining, it will impact not just upon our economy and environment but upon our ability to maintain a democratic society. These two rigorous and informative BWB Texts are essential reading for New Zealanders monitoring efforts to tackle climate change 
in Paris, and beyond.

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