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Kennedy Graham’s general debate speech on the upcoming IPCC 5th assessment report

Climate scientists and officials are assembled in Stockholm this week to go through the first of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment reports.

The focus is on the scientific findings of climate change. We know from the media that the report is confirming the scientific forecasts of climate change that were generally put forward in 2007. The difference is that the scientists are now affirming this with greater confidence.

Although this is reassuring, it does not alter the terrain for policy makers in terms of the need for prescribed policy. In fact, we have known for two decades now of the need for an economic transformation.

The first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 1990 concluded that scientists were virtually certain that emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.

Based on then current emissions, global warming would be about 3 degrees by 2100. That was in 1990. The panel’s four subsequent reports have simply reaffirmed what we largely knew 23 years ago.

This scientific insight, you might hope, would be matched with rational discussion and insightful policy. Given the stakes involved—the bio-integrity of the planet, the health of the global economy, the quality of life of our children—you might think we would act on the basis of the precautionary principle we proclaimed at the Earth Summit back in 1992.

But rationality and insight have been attacked by vested interest and a weird form of scepticism that have delayed action to a point where we now face catastrophe if urgent action is not undertaken.

The World Bank president, attending Stockholm, said yesterday: “Decades of progress are now in danger of being rolled back, because of climate change … This is a ‘make-or-break’ decade for action on global warming. The time to address the interlinked challenges of climate change and ending extreme poverty is now.”

There is a difference between the scientific method and political gaming. Science requires, by its nature, contestation of hypotheses advanced and conclusions reached. Political gaming allows the undermining of that process through tactics of defamation and selectivity of fact.

Let us listen to the scientists in the past 24 hours. They are saying a few things about the confidence thing. They are saying that they are about as certain that global warming is a man-made threat as they are that cigarettes kill. They are saying that they are as sure about climate change as they are about the age of the universe.They are more certain about climate change than vitamins making you healthy.

George Gray used to be the chief scientist in the Bush administration. He says: “There’s a group of people who seem to think that when scientists say they are uncertain, we shouldn’t do anything … That’s crazy.”

A new group of international leaders, headed by former Irish president Mary Robinson, has just issued an appeal. She says: “The time for radical leadership on climate change is now … for the sake of generations to come,”.

So the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment view, according to the media, is that atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 40 percent since 1750, half of that in the last half century. Temperature rises are pretty much as projected back in 2007, most likely around 2 degrees plus, perhaps almost 5 degrees.

The fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate science will be another wake-up call for humanity. It will inform us on the related issues that must follow—an assessment of impact and mitigation measures.

And what will New Zealand have to say? What might we ask of the Minister? He is attending trade talks in Asia right now, largely indifferent to the real global issues of the day in the Swedish capital.

What emission reductions have been achieved as a result of his Government’s radical leadership in the emissions trading scheme ? What is our projected emissions level for 2020, the end of the make or break decade for action on global warming?

Is he satisfied that the 5 percent unconditional target set by New Zealand for 2020 is enough, is a fair share in global radical leadership for this critical decade?

Why does he and the John Key Government not show greater concern for what is happening around them?

09/25/2013 – 00:00


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