Climate-reaction rubber meets the road
New Zealanders have just demonstrated the perfect problem, perfectly.
After three decades of denial and procrastination, including nine years of Clark-led Labour government inaction, Jacinda Ardern has announced transport policy timidly conducive to global-greenhouse-gas-emission reductions.
The policy includes increasing the excise on fossil fuels and spending a little more on public transport. If the policy had not included an increase on the excise on fossil fuels, not only would it have been all carrot and no stick and thus not be as effective, the Labour Party would have been lambasted for announcing unbudgeted policy.
By their vociferous reaction to the, very mild, transport policy, New Zealanders have unequivocally demonstrated the shallowness of their understanding of anthropogenic global warming. They have demonstrated that, whatever little climate comprehension they have, that it lacks any awareness that a less exploitative lifestyle is called for.
Modern civilisation is built on fossil-fuel. That fossil-fuel energy was a one-off bounty squandered by recent and current generations was deeply questionable, but the commensurate greenhouse gas emissions should long since have had every church or moral authority denouncing the practice. Instead, it is individual mobility that is sacrosanct, including the individual prerogative to drive one’s children to school, until such age as they can drive themselves.
In Aotearoa, cars and cowsshorthand here, of course, for agricultural and transport (greenhouse gases) account for two-thirds of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. A transition from dairying to planted forestry, provided the carbon in the timber harvested is locked up in long-lasting products such as factory-built accommodation, is part of the solution to the burping-cow conundrum. But while more electric cars are needed, far fewer cars in total are required if serious solutions to urban transport, such as battery-assisted trolleybuses, are to be successfully implemented. And if the public-transport phobic consider there’s too much stick in the new policy, they won’t know they were alive once those trolleybuses are granted priority at traffic lights.
If, between now and next Easter, criminal elements were to kill 400 New Zealanders and seriously wound another 5000, there would be a law-and-order crackdown that would send the Sensible Sentencing Trust into a swoon. But because the road carnage, like fossil fuel use, is a crime that New Zealanders do to themselves and each other, government after government is allowed to get away with paying lip service to road safety. The combination of collective-cowardice and self-interest, of political parties, means that the one evidence-based remedy—lowering speed limits—which reduces both emissions and crashes, is not touched with a barge pole.
Perhaps if Dr Lance O’Sullivan was to lead a political party, Aotearoa would begin to see courageous policies that put public health before profit.