I spoke at this Dunedin City Council meeting along with Jennifer Shulzitski of Extinction Rebellion, Sue Novell from the Seniors’ Action Network Group, some students from Northeast Valley School and a person from a South Dunedin focused group whose name escapes me for the moment.
I spoke against declaring a climate emergency as my feeling is that these declarations are token and potentially a threat to democratic rights. Jack Brazil from Climate Change Otepoti et al was there in a Tutu because natch he’s treating this issue seriously (in support obvs). The Tutu will of course bring this issue to the attention of the general public who will quite clearly laud him for his fashion sense and wonder at how they should address climate change. Or not. Various others of these groups were there as well including Abe from Logan Park High School, mentioned on this blog previously for his rather pathetic performance at the School climate event in the Octagon a few weeks ago. I’m not currently on talking terms with these supposed climate activist brethren of mine, so only looks and smirks were exchanged. In fact I think Jack Brazil makes a point of ignoring me. I’m perfectly fine with that, we might be of different generations but I feel that I probably share my view of his activism with plenty of his peers. In related news one of the councilors is alleged to have mentioned the term ‘hand shandy’.
Jennifer’s speech bought nothing new to the table but was delivered with a smirk that irritated at least one person (no not me) and I thought that her answer to Lee Vandervis’ question was unnecessarily sarcastic. In fact it was rude and counter productive. Lee gets a lot of attention but in my view he is smart enough to realize at some stage soon that he’s been wrong on the climate change issue. In fact he probably already has, it’s just that he wants to be Mayor and he figures there’s still votes in denial. Rumour is that he drives an electric car, like Jennifer (she told us she did…), and has solar panels on his roof but I’m not sure of the validity of those claims. The final vote was 9-5, meaning of course that Vandervis was not a lone wolf here.
Jennifer seems to be the Otago Daily Time’s (ODT) favourite climate change ‘warrior’ from this meeting as no other speakers get a mention in its hallowed pages either before or after (save the primary school kids) and they called her a geologist as well in an attempt to raise her up on this issue I guess. She actually said that she was a biologist and nobody at the meeting could have missed that distinction. The ODT still hasn’t made this correction. Interesting though that Extinction Rebellion seems to have the official approval. So much for the Rebellion.
The others who spoke all made better points than Jennifer. Sue Novell (Seniors action group) was quite strong and made several good points. I don’t necessarily agree with separating action by generation but nevertheless her content was solid and she delivered it well. The South Dunedin group spokesperson was also fine. And so too were the students who were the only other ones to get a mention in the ODT and were also where the Climate deniers concentrated their focus.
I wasn’t terribly happy with my own speech, I stood rather than sat and this impacted on audibility because although I lifted the microphone up it still didn’t work apparently. I got a reaction (laughter) from the Council when I mentioned the ridiculousness of building the new hospital at sea level. But I don’t think too many councilors were happy with my speech by the end. I figure I probably got through too much that was rather close to home. But generally I’d give myself a pass mark for content, despite its barbs, and I’d give myself a ‘needs work’ mark for delivery. My excuse is that I didn’t have much time to prepare (about 4-5 hours) after noticing the public submission part only the previous day and that its my first time speaking in public for a little while. And that probably made me a little defensive in style.
This is the text of the speech that I made. Yes it reflects that it needed more work, and that starts right in the first point about electric cars – not being the answer – which would have been reworded with a bit more time;
Hi my name is Richard Seager, I have recently completed post-graduate study at the Geography Department at Otago focusing on the Arctic and climate change. I grew up on a dairy farm and have a small business background, through thick and thin. I apologise in advance for any holes in my presentation, I only started on it yesterday.
First let me go over what should be happening.
* electric cars are not the problem, cars are. There are close to 1 billion of them on the planet. Currently only 2.2% of new cars are electric and 70 millon + new cars are manufactured each year. There will be supply chain issues if the world only changes to electric cars. So we need to (re)institute public transport. Back this up with cycling infrastructure and encouraging people to walk. Don’t waste time doing this and replacing this form of travel with public transport or you’ll be competing with everyone else on the planet for the rolling stock. I do not see cost in a society that has almost one car per person being an issue. It’s just a matter of organization.
- Block cars from the central city and extend this outwards quickly.
- Build medium density accommodation which will better justify the public transport.
- extend the cycle paths, right now I cycle down Hillside Road daily and I frequently have to dodge cars as there is no cycle path there. Some of the cycle paths that do exist are good, some not so good.
- Move the hospital above sea level. This is an asset that is supposed to last many decades but is currently being proposed for a site that is barely above sea level. For a contrast the CALIFORNIAN state government now recommends that local planners adopt a risk-averse approach to permitting developments such as hospitals and housing — facilities with low “adaptive capacity” — in areas that have even little chance of flooding in the coming decades.
- We all know about South Dunedin, most of which is less than 1 metre above sea level. It is sinking while the oceans are rising. We need to start withdrawing now.
- forget the Opera House development on the foreshore, there are better uses for this money and it’s 30 years too late.
- support local food initiatives. Food can contribute greatly to CO2 emissions.
Now lets move on to the case against declaring a climate emergency in Dunedin.
Renee Gerlich, a writer on feminist issues based in Wellington, recently suggested that such declarations paved the way for anti-democratic forces. I have done enough history to see that these forces are never far away from us and their systems for some reason always rely on their own self selection. But science is against them as more brains on anything always results in better decisons.
I also don’t think that anybody who has their eyes open is missing these anti-democratic forces sudden and recent appearance here in NZ. Women’s right to democratic decisionmaking re their own spaces, including prisons and sport, is in the process of being removed. If allowed to continue everyone elses democratic rights will soon follow.
Groups such as Peace Action Auckland or Wellington Peace Action have indulged in several very badly thought out actions in the last few years including planting fake bombs in a movie theatre and draping large unapproved distractionary signs over motorway bridges. They’re now amongst the chief supporters of declaring such ‘Climate Emergencies’ which should give everyone else pause for thought. The last thing we need here in NZ is the “Valerie Morse climate forum for woke blokes”.
More locally recent changes at the DCC regarding containment of supposed abusive correspondence when robust views are exactly what is needed right now is also another sign of this encroachment on democracy. I’m sure that there are adequate means to address such abuse if it does happen. Appointing someone, or worse having someone else appoint that person, to the role of deciding which emails get through is though a step well beyond the pale.
Adding two unelected representatives of Kai Tahu to the Otago Regional council is also concerning as although a case for inclusion of local Maori could be made (much along the line of Maori seats in Parliament) they should still be elected to these positions.
Bascally a declaration of intent is useless if not followed up. We have very real examples of these in the IPCC conferences that we have had since 1995. In this timeframe total gigatonnes of CO2 emissions have increased by about 70%. In fact many believe the real figure is closer to 50 gigatonnes per year which would in effect be a doubling of emissions in that timeframe.
Ireland was very recently only the second country to declare a climate emergency after the UK. Various Canadian municipalities have also declared such emergencies. Meanwhile the extraction of oil in the Albertan tarsands and the takeover of the proposed pipeline to Burnaby in the Vancouver region to deliver this oil to East Asia and elsewhere is strongly supported by the Trudeau government. In Ireland declaring a climate emergency was supported by the government and most opposition parties after an amendment was passed but the Irish government continues to stymie the bill put forward by Bríd Smith (of Solidarity/People Before Profit), that would effectively keep the carbon in the ground. It is a bill that calls for the amendment of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act (1960) placing limits in the Irish jurisdiction until the measurement of C02 at Mauna Loa in Hawaii is back down to 350 ppm. It’s current status is that it is more or less vetoed by the Government using somewhat underhand tactics. So much for their ‘climate emergency’.
I will quote some reactions to the news of the declaration of the Climate Emergency in Ireland.
“! Chair of the Climate Action Committee, Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton, welcomed the outcome as “an important statement” but added “now we need action.” (Irish activists are unconvinced that Hildegarde will do anything of the sort)
Greta Thunberg (I like Greta and have been a supporter of hers from the start, but we cannot rely on the young only to get ius out of this mess) “Great news from Ireland!! Who is next? And remember: #ClimateEmergency means leaving fossil fuels in the ground.”
This is what BridSmithherself has to say on the topic on Twitter
@RichardbrutonTDtells#energyIrelandmy#ClimateEmergencybillispremature:ipcc says we have 11years for radical far reaching action, CO2 levels are at 415ppm and the artic permafrost is melting. When is right time? When globe hits 2, 3 or 4 degree temp rise?
“A plan to increase Agricultural emisisons, put 1 million private EVs on the road, & is wholly dependent on private finance & firms for renewable energies No vision for public transport or plan on how ordinary people could retro fit their homes?” #ClimatePlan2019 @ExtinctRebelsIE
Therefore here we are reminded of the Austrian/ Russian group OMV which is planning to drill off the coast of Otago later this year. Russia sees permafrost melt and retreat of Arctic Sea Ice (something that I wrote on last year for my postgraduate degree) as an opportunity. And it is rapidly happening. It is likely that we will see the end of Arctic Summer ice in the next decade, most likely sooner rather than later in that decade, and winter ice won’t be far away as it relies on multi- year sea-ice and that disappears as soon as the summer sea-ice disappears. It is a big task for Russian enviromentalists to stop such extraction occuring. And it is our task to stop them here.
Just to make a note on CO2 levels. There is considerable drag in the impacts of current CO2 levels. What we have now won’t have its full impact for decades which is why rising sea levels are such a concern. Currently the level at Mauna Loa in Hawaii the station most often referenced and chosen for its distance from industrial output, is around 415 ppm which is up 15ppm in just 4 years, 350ppm was reached in the 1980s. Pre industrial level was about 280ppm. Sea levels have been up to 20 metres higher on levels lower than today’s. For those interested there is a NZ station at Baring Head on the south coast of the North Island and the levels of CO2 measured there are similar to the levels at Mauna Loa.
Only about 3.4% of the world’s energy use is currently generated sustainably. Far less than 1% of the emissions from the other 96.6 % of this energy use is then extracted or stored via CCS.
At a presentation I attended at Paris in 2015 as part of the IPCC conference (COP21) there (I was a visitor rather than an official guest) one of the three presenting on Carbon Capture & Storage (widely referred to as CCS) presentation said, despite displeasure indicated from his two colleagues, that after 10 years or more of pushing this in Europe there was very little to show for it, one rather unsuccessful installation, in Canada, being almost the only exception. His conclusion, expressed with some dismay at its opposite still holding court even amongst his two colleagues it seemed, was that the best CCS by far was to leave it in the ground. Since then of course things have rapidly deterioated and CCS is still mostly pie in the sky technology.
Back to a ‘Climate Emergency’ declaration.
“Some environmentalists, including Adam McGibbon, a fossil fuel divestment campaigner, have expressed concern that declaring a climate
emergency could become “tokenistic” and “meaningless” if it is not accompanied by immediate and strong action. Re Scotland, McGibbon argued the declaration of a climate emergency could not go hand-in-hand with the welcoming of new fossil fuels extraction in the North Sea.”
Here is what he has said about it on Twitter !
@BP_PLC: “We are investing in renewable energy” 100% of the advertising is about renewable energy, but only 1% of the spending (the same could be said of CCS).
“This is my fear with the whole “climate emergency” push to get these motions thorough local government – a lot of it looks useless. No consistent key demand beyond “declare an emergency” allow spoliticians to get away with looking like they are taking a ction when they aren’t.”
“@NicolaSturgeon declares a ‘climate emergency’, but unless this means halting the insane cheerleading of more and more oil and gas finds in Scottish waters, it will mean absolutely nothing. #SNP2019”
In summary I believe that declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ is token at best and a trojan horse for anti-democratic forces at worst. It is concerning that it is supported by groups who have no intention of adjusting to a society that does not rely on fossil fuels. We should therefore move past words and focus instead on action while at the same time extending the democracy. As the saying goes, many hands make light work, except in this case it’s just as much a case of many minds.