There’s no escape from climate change – and NZ should brace for the tariffs imposed by our trading partners to deal with it

When a magazine as authoritative as The Economist  heads   up   its  lead  “No Safe Place” ,   even  climate  change  deniers  should  sit  up  and  take  notice.

The  Economist”  says  the  most terrible  thing   about the  spectacular scenes of  destruction that  have played out  around  the  world  over recent  weeks  is  that there  is  no  safe place  from  which  to  observe  them.

“The  ground under the German  town of Erftstadt is torn apart like tissue paper by flood  waters; Lytton in British Columbia  is  burned  from the map just a  day after setting  a freakishly  high temperature record; cars  float  like  dead fish  through the streets-turned-canals in  the Chinese  city  of Zhengzhou. All  the  world  feels  at risk,  and  most  of  it  is”.

NZ   had  its  own   headline:  “The  Buller River  recorded  largest NZ  flood  flows in  almost 100  years”.

The  Economist argues  the  extremes of  flood  and fire  are  not  going  away  but  adaptation can  lessen  their  impact.

Greenhouse gas  emissions have produced  a  planet  more  than 1 degree  warmer  than  in  pre-industrial  days.

“Its atmosphere  stoked up and  out  of  joint, is  producing  heavy  weather in  ways  both  predicted and  surprising. And,  with emissions  continuing,  it  will  get  worse”.

In   NZ,  as  in Australia,  there is a degree  of  scepticism  about the  impact  of  climate  change. The   big  food  producers  in both  countries   argue   that  with the  higher  temperatures  in  the  tropics, severe  harvest  failures  will be  commonplace,    and the  populations  in  those  regions  will  desperately  need  the  food produced  in  the  more temperate  climates  of  NZ  and Tasmania.

Then  there  is  the  argument that in  NZ  methane  emissions  from  its dairy  herds  and  livestock generally    are  more  moderate  than   in   other  countries.  It  is  also  contended  that     NZ  has  a  major  scientific programme  under  way   to  produce  a  “methane  vaccine” which  will  cut  emissions,  and  we  should  wait for  that,  before   moving  ahead   with  reducing  the  size  of herds   by  15%  as  proposed   by  the  Climate Change  Commission.

Beyond  that,  solar  geoengineering  is  said  to be  the most  spectacular, and  scary, form  of  adaptation. This  seeks to  make  clouds  or  particle  layers in  the  atmosphere a  bit  more  mirror-like, reflecting  away  some  sunlight.   The Economist says  research over  the  past  15  years  has  suggested  solar  geoengineering  might  significantly  reduce  some  of  the  harms  from  greenhouse  warming.

But  advocates  who  have  urged  the  NZ government to  go   slow  on  the  proposal to  cut  herd  numbers   and  impose  penalties   on  other  emitters  of  methane  got  a  rude  shock  last week when the United States and European Union both announced they would introduce a ‘carbon border tax’ on imported foreign goods as early as 2023.

Carbon emission tariffs will be imposed on goods imported from countries with less strict emissions schemes, to level the playing field with local producers.

NZ sends 22% of its total exports to these markets, so these changes could be  a  major  hurdle for  Fonterra   and  other  food  exporters – perhaps   even   for products  like  honey.

NZ   is  still  trying  to  negotiate   a   trade   agreement   with  the   European Union,  and  has  found it  hard  going.

It   would  be   doubly  ironic  if  countries  like  China  followed  the  US  and  EU  example  and in imposed  a  ‘a  carbon border  tax’  at a  time   when  Foreign  Minister  Nanaia  Mahuta  has  been talking  up   the  need  for  food  exporters  to  diversify  away  from  China.

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