The window is closing rapidly if the world wants to avoid the catastrophic consequences of global warming according to the IPCC’s latest report.
Yes, we’ve heard warnings like this before; the experts have seen this metaphorical meteor hurtling toward Earth for quite some time and have given us ample and repeated warnings that we need to transition to a low-carbon economy and society. Yet, like a scene straight out of the recently released climate change disaster film ‘Don’t Look Up’ the world has mostly stuck its head in the sand. While there are many reasons for this, I think there are two which are particularly prevalent in New Zealand.
The first is that this country is yet to experience the real, catastrophic effects of a changing climate. Previously, I worked for a humanitarian agency and witnessed coastal villages in Bangladesh having to move inland to escape rising sea waters. Salt water flooded rice paddies ruining livelihoods. Unpredictable weather events in the Pacific destroying already fragile infrastructure. Years-long and underreported drought in Afghanistan resulting in acutely malnourished children. Their parents, poverty-stricken and helpless, forced to watch them suffer.
While many of us might not live long enough to see the worst effects of climate change in this country, the young people we love will.
Another familiar argument I have heard regarding efforts to reduce carbon in this country is we’re too small to make a difference. However, New Zealand punches above its weight when it comes to our carbon footprint per capita. We have one of the biggest in the OECD at 17.21 metric tonnes: more than double that of our mates in the United Kingdom.
The IPCC’s latest report notes the actions of individuals in isolation will only have a minor impact in slowing rising temperatures. However, it also emphasises that, as a collective force, individuals have the power to influence business and government action.
By choosing to purchase independently verified environmentally responsible products and services, consumers put pressure on businesses to adopt a more sustainable operating model. Ordinary people, not politicians decide election issues and outcomes. Together, there is a whole lot of power in our hands.
Laura Gemmell is the CEO of not-for-profit ecolabel, Environmental Choice New Zealand. ECNZ is a Type l ecolabel meaning it is the most rigorous for goods and services in this country. It considers all possible environmental impacts including water-quality, biodiversity, and carbon emissions.