Please accept this personal submission on the Covid-19 RMA fast-track consenting bill.
Since 2009 I have made 25 evidence-based submissions copied to all Members of Parliament on an existential threat to future human civilisation represented by human-induced climate disruption. These submissions contained 94,089 words that regrettably were almost completely disregarded by MPs – other than (occasional) polite acknowledgements of receipt.
I based these 25 submissions on my previous work experience that has included:
– a PhD in atmospheric physics (VUW, 1968);
– as a DSIR scientist;
– as a secretariat member of the former NZ Commission For the Future reporting on various future contingencies including climate disaster (1982);
– as a former health science senior tutor at the Central Institute of Technology.
Recent climate modelling suggests that planet Earth’s climate is substantially more sensitive to human-induced carbon emissions than previously believed.
According to this modelling, climate sensitivity – the amount of warming projected from a doubling of CO2 levels from preindustrial 280 parts per million – shows a potential upward shift from 30C to 50C. This revised projection has shocked many veteran climate scientists previously accustomed to a lesser climate sensitivity of around 30C since the 1980s.
The modelling results from more than 20 institutions are being compiled for the sixth assessment report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due to be released in 2021.
Previous IPCC reports have tended to assume that atmospheric clouds have a neutral effect on the Earth’s climate because warming and cooling feedbacks would tend to cancel each other out. However over the past year, evidence is growing that the net effect of clouds will be a warming effect, based on finer resolution computer modelling and more advanced cloud microphysics.
While acknowledging continued uncertainty, many climate scientists are increasingly acknowledging that modelling may be underestimating the threat of human-induced climate change by not fully taking into account various tipping points within the Earth’s biosphere.
According to Johan Rockstrom, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, “the more we learn, the more fragile the Earth’s climate system seems to be and the faster we need to move. It gives even stronger argument to step out of this Covid-19 crisis and move full speed towards decarbonising the economy.”
Suggested further reading: Jonathan Watts in The Guardian, 13 June 2020
My conclusion, taking into account Johan Rockstrom’s conclusion above, is that the proposed Covid-19 RMA fast-track consenting bill is an inadequate response to the absolute imperative to rapidly decarbonise the New Zealand economy.
The Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly causing grief for many New Zealanders through its effects on public health and the New Zealand economy (unemployment etc). It does not, however, represent an existential threat to future human civilisation that human-induced climate disruption clearly does.
Accordingly I suggest that the Government through the proposed Covid-19 RMA fast-track consenting bill use the opportunity provided by the Covid-19 pandemic to expedite the decarbonisation of the New Zealand economy.
I recognise that the construction of bike and walking trails etc are consistent with this goal but are very small steps. The proposed expansion of SH1 to ‘increase capacity’ however is inconsistent with decarbonisation.
In summary, my view is that the proposed Covid-19 RMA fast-track consenting bill is a missed opportunity to rapidly decarbonise the New Zealand economy.
Dr George Preddey