Climate Change – A Titanic Problem For All Earthlings
Posted on November 10, 2022
by Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze
Our response to climate disaster has been compared to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s an apt analogy. For far too long the world, convinced our Mothership is ‘unsinkable’, has refused to take climate change seriously. Instead of clear, decisive, early action we are inclined to small, futile gestures. If we continue along these lines it could, in the words of leading NZ Climate Scientist Professor James Renwick, “upend our communities and our societies at almost incalculable cost”.
Warnings that burning so many fossil fuels would change the Earth’s climate were first sounded by scientists as far back as the 1960s, based on science understood since the turn of the 20th century. In the intervening decades, especially in the last thirty years, we have seen predictions of more extreme weather events realised at an increasing rate. Yet wealthy nations are still behaving like entitled first-class passengers on the Titanic. Unwilling to make changes to our privileged lives, we have given no thought at all to the plight of third world nations – the ‘steerage classes’ – whose contribution to global warming is significantly less than our own, but who inevitably end up paying the heaviest price.
Unwilling to make changes to our privileged lives, we have given no thought at all to the plight of third world nations – the ‘steerage classes’ – whose contribution to global warming is significantly less than our own, but who inevitably end up paying the heaviest price.
For the last quarter of a century that yearly COPs, or ‘Conference of Parties’ have taken place, the world has seen record heatwaves, sea ice and glacier melts, sea level rise, severe droughts, out-of-control wildfires, devastating floods, intense storms and other catastrophes. These events have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people, with millions of the most vulnerable in developing countries losing homes, livelihood and food security. They have also condemned thousands of domestic animals and millions of wild animals to cruel deaths by fire, drowning, starvation and habitat loss.
Ahead of COP27, currently being held in Egypt, the June Bonn Climate Change Conference shared data showing that addressing animal agriculture is key to combating climate change and meeting the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. At this summit the Humane Society International hosted a side event focussing on how plant-based protein can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Agricultural emissions are very significant globally, and especially here in New Zealand. It follows that the agricultural sector is a major lever to combat the worst effects of climate change, but while a lot of attention has been given to the transport and energy sectors, in previous COPs food has only been addressed tangentially. I was pleased to note that in COP27, food system transformation, along with help for poorer nations most affected by climate change, has finally made it to the Agenda.
Last month our government released the farmgate emissions pricing scheme. Greenpeace lead climate campaigner Christine Rose calls it ‘greenwash’, as it fails to address the problem of our enormous agricultural emissions, favours intensive dairy, and doesn’t properly regulate, price and cut methane emissions.
Last month our government released the farmgate emissions pricing scheme. Greenpeace lead climate campaigner Christine Rose calls it ‘greenwash’, as it fails to address the problem of our enormous agricultural emissions, favours intensive dairy, and doesn’t properly regulate, price, and cut methane emissions.
As part of their measures to address the problem caused by animal agriculture, the Government has recently established the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions. This is bound to be another waste of money and precious time – time we may not have. For example, for more than two decades there has been ongoing research on alternative feeds that lower the amount of methane released from livestock farts and burps, and a breakthrough still hasn’t been achieved. Instead of remedial measures, what is needed is for our government to go to the heart of the problem – – animal agriculture is inefficient and unsustainable – and begin to transition our farmers to climate-friendly crop growing and horticulture.
Our Earth is in deep trouble, and who is to say when we reach the point of no return? It is time for our government to think food transformation, not tax levies. Climate change doesn’t only affect humans, it affects all life on earth. It’s not just our Mothership we’re destroying. It’s theirs too.