The Paris conference on climate change at the end of this year is shaping up as a triumph for world diplomacy.
While expectations may not be high, the result could be surprisingly good.
For the first time we may have an accord with all the major emitters, not just a few. Any global agreement needs to include the top 10 emitters which are China, US, EU, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia, Canada and Iran. Those 10 economies represent 71% of greenhouse gases. If they can agree on a fair reduction regime, then I believe most of the world will follow.
The main reason for this is that realism and pragmatism will finally win over zealotry and ideology. For too long the climate change debate has been dominated by doomsday merchants – from scientists to environmentalists.
For a variety of reasons and motivations, they say the world is doomed from rising temperatures and want to blame western civilisation.
As recently as today, a leading New Zealand climate scientist says New Zealand’s carbon emissions target should be set according to environmental demands rather than what is practical.
At the extreme these advocates want to tax people out of most forms of transport, heating and power generation. They want the western world to retreat from its high living standards and condemn the rest of it to not rising above their current levels.
In some cases, that means abject poverty. Obviously this is a not a viable position for any country.
Exactly. Climate change is real, and greenhouse gases play a large part in the warming. However that doesn’t mean that we undo the industrial revolution and turn the clock back.
Global climate change caused by man-made greenhouse gases is not the biggest and only existential threat to the planet.
It must be put in context with other pressing problems such as life-threatening diseases, environmental degradation, poverty and much else.
The main one will be an inclusive document to which all nations can subscribe, according to their ability.
But it won’t be like the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which phased out production of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other substances that deplete the ozone layer.
This was a great success. CFCs were a discrete problem, had limited uses and were easily replaced. Climate pollutants – if that is the right word – are rather different.
Most are a waste product of nearly every aspect of modern life. They are also not limited to carbon; methane, soot and nitrous oxide all contribute to rising temperatures.
In New Zealand, most methane, for example, comes from livestock. Other than extinction, no single global tax or regulatory scheme will solve that.
This is a key difference. Yes greenhouse gases have a detrimental impact on the temperature, but they come from highly beneficial activities such as energy and agriculture.
The Green Party policy is to kill off 20% or so of our dairy herd. That isn’t a solution.