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Climate Report #1 – Extinction Rebellion Queenstown Lakes

Extinction Rebellion Queenstown Lakes has been engaging with local governments for 5 years on Climate and environmental issues. The latest scientific data pushed us to expand this conversation to the central government and to the national media.

This Climate report will be sent to all sitting MPs and to all New Zealand media.

In 2023, the annual global average temperature reached 1.5ºc. (1)

This was not supposed to happen this century. When we signed the Paris agreement in 2015 (2), we committed as a country to do everything we can to avoid passing this limit, it is only 2024 and we have already broken it.

The consequences of breaching 1.5ºc are real and yet the silence is deafening.

It is this complete lack of reaction to an event that will be remembered as a turning point that made us decide to reach out to you and to start these regular Climate reports.

These reports will be apolitical, fact based and supported by reputable sources. We will not only report on Climate science and on Climate events, but we will also connect the dots between the Climate Crisis and the effects it has on New Zealand society.

What are the consequences of a 1.5º world?

The Climate collapse is not a crisis that will happen at once like a tornado that flattens a town in a matter of minutes, but we have progressively and increasingly been impacted by its effects this century. (3)

Climate Change affects of course our ecosystems and participates in the mass extinction we are in the midst of today. (4) Therefore it affects us as our civilization is dependent on the services provided by our ecosystems. But these last years humans are also more often directly affected by the effects of rising temperatures.

The frequency and the intensity of extreme weather events will keep increasing. Our country just suffered its worst climate disaster year in 2023 with the destruction caused by Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland Floods. Thousands of New Zealanders have been displaced, their homes and livelihood destroyed. Some will never be able to go back to their properties. Soon after this disaster, its cost was estimated at $14 Billion, considering that smaller scale floods have been ongoing since Cyclone Gabrielle we can assume that the full cost for the year is now far beyond $14 Billion.

Yes Climate change isn’t only an environmental crisis, it is also a human crisis and an economical crisis. How long can we afford to manage it? Are we even still able to manage it? The damages of the Nelson floods are not even repaired yet and now we have to manage the consequences of last year’s floods while this year the drought is settling in and Port Hills was burning as we were remembering Cyclone Gabrielle one year on.

Some political parties focus more on the environment, some focus more on social justice and some focus more on the economy.

All these aspects of New Zealand society are being negatively affected by the Climate Crisis, whichever goals and hopes you have for the future of the country, they will not materialise under unabated Climate Heating.

For example, the cost of living crisis that was clearly a common talking point during the elections, is increasingly caused by Climate Change.

All the lost harvests due to droughts and floods have and will increase the cost of food. (5) Also globally the trend is towards reduced agricultural yields as the planet warms. (6)

Insurance prices will also keep rising as the damages pile up. (7)

Of course infrastructure repair costs will keep skyrocketing,… and we have hardly started to feel the effects of sea level rise.

The laws of physics are not doing politics, they do not care about our beliefs and they are not negotiating with us. We can either face the problem and take the necessary measures or we can be crushed by them.

The choice is ours as the laws of physics will not back off. As a matter of fact, they are actually doubling down on us, last year the warming of the planet has markedly accelerated:

https://climate.copernicus.eu/global-climate-highlights-2023

At this point, past 1.5ºc of warming, on some level we have already failed. (8) We cannot solve Climate Change anymore. But we can still minimise the damage and we should: 2ºc of warming will be a lot worse than 1.5ºc of warming and 2.5ºc will be even worse. (3) Also, the last real limit left to not break is an unclear one: the temperature that would trigger runaway warming. (9)

As the climate warms, we are passing tipping points that are irreversible. Up until now we were directly responsible for the warming of the planet so we were in control of it, but these tipping points, once broken, lock in future warming on which we have no control whatsoever. (10)

For example, today the Amazon rainforest has already become a net emitter of carbon, if the trend continues it will turn into a savanna and permanently emit all the carbon it stores. (11)

The melting of the permafrost releases the methane it holds under the ice. (12)

The melting of the ice around the poles reduces the Albedo Effect and accelerates the warming of our oceans, … (13)

Which temperature will trigger runaway warming is not known for sure, but what is certain is that we do not want to reach it.

This map shows the world we are heading towards if we do not take back control of the situation:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/18/climate-crisis-heat-is-on-global-heating-four-degrees-2100-change-way-we-live

In the current trajectory, without an urgent push for decarbonisation, we will reach this situation before the end of the century and our civilization will have collapsed long before we get there.

We all know what we need to do if we want to avoid this unsurvivable situation.

For 40 years we have been warned that we had to stop burning fossil fuels and for 40 years we decided to ignore the laws of physics. (14) Now the day of reckoning has arrived. We know what needs to be done. All we have to do is to decarbonise our lives and our country, but make no mistake if we choose to ignore this crisis, we will have to face its consequences and we will be responsible for them.

 

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