Opinion: We care more about petrol prices than climate change warning

Opinion 13/10/2018
Photo: AAP.

By Rodney Hide, former ACT Party leader.

OPINION: Twelve years to save the world – that was the big news this week.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its five-yearly report saying the world must make “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in everything we do. It says global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide must drop 45 percent from 2010-levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

That’s what’s needed, the Panel says, to achieve a safe and sustainable world. But 2030 is just 12 years away. Miss that target and the world will be unsafe and unsustainable.

The target’s a tough one. Emissions have been up every year despite all the international jamborees, the air miles, the hand wringing, and government policy.

High petrol prices have garnered more attention than twelve years to save the planet.

We have talked the talk but not walked the walk.

Meanwhile our Prime Minister is on the warpath over petrol prices. Too high, she says.  She wants them down.  The Government is rushing through legislation. That legislation won’t directly attack prices. It’s just so another report can be prepared.

But why complain about high petrol prices? They are nowhere near high enough. Not if we want to achieve the Government’s goal of net zero by 2050. The Prime Minister should be celebrating the high prices and promising to tax them even higher.

That’s if she is serious that climate change is her generation’s nuclear-free moment.

Of course, talk is cheap. It’s easy to say carbon zero. It’s harder to do.And voters don’t like paying more to fill the tank – that’s the political reality.

In New Zealand, high petrol prices have garnered more attention than twelve years to save the planet. Paying a bit more each week versus the end of the world.  It doesn’t make sense.

But paying a bit more is here and now. The end of the world is some way off. Besides, we have heard it all before.

Back in 2007, the NZ Herald reported the then talks in Bali were the last chance to save the earth. It wasn’t. 

Then IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri declared 2012 the deadline: “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.” It wasn’t.

In March 2009 Prince Charles said we had less than 100 months to act. July 2017 came and went without fanfare.

Former Vice President Al Gore said we had only ten years. That was in 2006. This week he’s still at it, saying we are running out of time.

We have had scary deadline after scary deadline. Yet we are still here.

The UN and the IPCC should remember the little boy who called wolf. One day they might be right, but right now they’re hard to believe.

We are now well-inured to their endless prophecies of doom.

Our concern is the cost of filling the tank.

It seems the Prime Minister is the same. Her fury this week has been at petrol prices. Not at the prospect of the end of life as we know it.

Rodney Hide speaks all things politics every Saturday on RadioLIVE’s Weekend Life.