The new Labour - NZ First - Green Party Coalition Government's proposal to call an Independent Commission on Climate Change provides the country with an unmissable opportunity to make New Zealand Number One again in innovation, with a 21st Century approach to climate change management and economic and social development.
You can't get away from the science. Climate change is happening, and it's happening faster than we first thought. The Australians have a very scary climate model - scary because it's so accurate. Twelve years ago at an Australian Transport Conference, they showed their model with Arctic and Antarctica ice melt, and sea level rise predictions based on various warming scenarios. Twiddle the scenario and you get certain predictions. Based on the climate science back then, you weren't supposed to be able to sail through an ice-free Arctic or see very major parts of Antarctica break off until about 2040.
But these things are happening now - 25 years ahead of that prediction. The interesting thing then was that if you twiddled the model inputs to match the global warming data we have now, then the Aussie's model pulled back 20 years to put Arctic and Antarctica ice melt, and accelerating sea level rise into the 2015-2025 time frame we are seeing now. Not bad for a bunch of cricket players.
The work that our own scientists are doing, especially in Antarctica, is invaluable in refining these predictions through the NZ Sea Level Rise Programme. Hopefully the new political atmosphere will encourage all the parties involved to work together on a National Climate Change Response Strategy that gives the people of New Zealand sound, practical advice on how to plan for the changes that will happen over the next 50-100 year timeframe. A stitch in time saves nine.
It will also provide us with the opportunity to fix our fundamentally flawed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Everybody needs to be "in", because this issue is quite literally everybody's problem for those of us who recognise that we live on Planet Earth, and we have to go by her rules. If we are smart enough to design an "all in" ETS with the right policy levers, international linkages, massive tree planting programme (which doesn't have to be on prime agricultural land - there are plenty of "badlands" needing planting), and effective carbon trading rules, it will drive us into Carbon Negative territory. Then we will have a Great Story to tell.
And by the way, Carbon Zero isn't quite enough. That concept is something of an academic "will-o-the-wisp". You could argue forever over which scientific technique (aka magic wand) should be used to define "Carbon Zero". There will always be an assumption, a flaw, an error limit, or an uncertainty that will cast serious doubt on the postulated "Carbon Zero" position.
Don't pay our scientists to argue about that red herring in front of courts and tribunals. The reality is that there's already so much greenhouse gas in the atmosphere we need to figure out ways to suck the damn stuff up. That's where the electric cars and massive tree planting programme come in. Pay the scientists to figure out more ways to get rid of the stuff - or at least issue them all with a spade and a box of trees to plant. Every week.
Then, we will have a Great Story to tell the world: Responsible Carbon Management, Carbon Negative Export Products, a World-Leading ETS, and a good and great heritage for our children and grand-children. Carbon Negative New Zealand.