Climate: Will New Zealand fight alongside the elves or the orcs ?

Following the militaristic culture and thinking of our ally and only remaining superpower America we frame all our problems in terms of war. War on drugs, war on terror, war on weeds and the list goes on. I am desperately waiting for the war on war.


At present war is fought over climate change as the headline of the feature article in the Business Herald of 12 June < Climate change the next battle > suggests. Climate change has been going on for over 200 years without us first understanding it. Since it dawned on humanity how grave the consequences are for everyone and every side the battle line has been drawn. Even if the details of how climate change will affect the planet and everyone of us are still sketchy the big picture is clear and does not look good. The consequences of our actions or non-actions will potentially be fatal to millions of our fellow men and all other living beings on our planet.

According to the above mentioned enlightening article by Brian Fallow the main question for New Zealand will be what will we be bringing to the fight?

Shouldn’t we at least be discussing what it is about, what are the objectives, are they worth fighting for and should we join in. However these simple questions seem to be lost in the government’s consultation process.

The government asked economic modellers at Infometrics and Landcare Research to model.
The mind boggles. There is a battle raging and in true neoliberal fashion the government is calling in the accountants!  Instead of engineers and scientist of all fields from climate to agriculture we are looking for economists! Waterloo has been in the news lately. Imagine the Duke of Wellington when the battle was on a knife’s edge calling instead of the cavalry a regiment of accountants to give him victory.

All the focus has been on the financial matter of carbon pricing and how much it is going to cost and who is going to pay and who gets paid by whom for what. Which basically boils the whole existential threat down to a matter of the economy.


And in true neoliberal fashion all the accounting figures are based on phony theories and consequently equally phony data.

“In recent years New Zealand emitters with obligations under the emissions trading scheme (ETS) have been able to buy those credits for a few cents per tonne of carbon – a far cry from the estimated $25 a tonne when the ETS was designed.”
This means that the theory failed in the real world. The whole purpose of the ETS to actually reduce carbon emission was defeated by making it cheaper to buy credits than to do the right thing by the planet.

And the crazy thing is these people who following their neoliberal theories designed or backed those brilliantly failing carbon credit markets are today still at it coming up with questions like:
“From 2020, however, the modellers were asked to assume that the international carbon price will rise from $25 a tonne in 2020 to $50 by 2030.”
Haven’t we just learned that a ton carbon credit could be bought for a few cents instead of $ 25.- Who in a clear state of mind expects a significant change by having to pay instead of a few cents a few more cents. The market approach has failed so let’s try more market and hope for a different outcome. The classic definition of insanity.

As our neoliberal government worships the “Market” it cannot possibly set the price required to reduce carbon emission or do the only fair and sensible thing of introducing a carbon tax.

But we have to give it to the creators of carbon credit market that they at least achieved one of their goals to create some riches for their mates on the way.

The whole economic discussion is of course a farce and distraction. If there would be a serious economic argument the other side of the ledger needed to be included. The costs of doing something would need to be balanced against the cost of doing nothing. And the cost of a transition towards a low carbon economy would need to be balanced with the benefits of such a transition. Our government does not seem to be interested to ask the right question even if it is economics 101.

So lets not get distracted further. The science is clear. Lets ask the real questions.

What do we like more?
Do we like our planet more and want to keep her for our grandchildren and their grandchildren to enjoy ?
Or do we like more our wasteful capitalist consumer lifestyle, which is designed to never really satisfy us like an addiction ?

Or as Fawzi Ibrahim puts it:
Humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism or save capitalism and ditch the planet.


The government hasn’t answered the above questions yet. It hasn’t made the safe or ditch decision. We don’t know which side we are on.

As we seem to be going into “battle” later this year at the Climate Conference in Paris let me put the battle scenario into a context the majority of us who luckily never experienced war understands. Imagine Lord of the Rings. Imagine us from Hobbit Country joining the battle without having made up our minds if we want to fight alongside the elves


or alongside the orcs.


Isn’t it time we decided between the elves and the orcs. It shouldn’t be too difficult, really.

Yet the current government consultation process does not cover this fundamental discussion and decision.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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