In response to the devastating Cyclone Gabrielle, our market-loyal politicians think we can 'adapt' our way out of the climate crisis.This flies in the face of repeated warnings from the scientific community that continued global warming will wreak increasing devastation across the planet.

RADIO BROADCASTER Sean Plunket is a climate change denialist and on The Platform last week and in conversation with ACT leader David Seymour, he was struggling to talk about the devastation wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle without referring to the big CC. In the end he opted to describe the cataclysmic event that unfolded as a bit of 'heavy weather'.

Plunket also claimed that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had walked back some of its grim warnings about the planet's future. But this isn't true. In April last year a new report starkly stated that harmful carbon emissions from 2010-2019 had never been higher in human history. That prompted UN Secretary Antonio Gutteres to warn that the world was on a 'fast track to disaster' and it was ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. In a newspaper column he also slammed what he described as 'a litany of broken climate promises', which revealed a 'yawning gap between climate pledges, and reality.'

Fortunately, climate change denialists like Sean Plunket are a declining minority. But while the days of overt climate denialism may be numbered, we are instead confronted with a much more dangerous form of denialism that suggests that we can 'adapt' our way out of the climate crisis. It seeks to minimise the risk from climate change by arguing that the impacts are manageable.

This flies in the face of repeated warnings from the scientific community that continued global warming will wreak increasing devastation across the planet, in the form of floods, droughts, heatwaves, cyclones, hurricanes and other extreme weather. Large areas of the planet will be unsuitable for agriculture and effectively uninhabitable, causing extreme harm to human society in many places.

As one scientist said recently: 'Human civilisation is based on the assumption of a stable climate. But we are moving far beyond the stable range.'

The problem with so-called adaptation is that it leaves untouched the very socio-economic order that is driving climate change in the first place. But as Naomi Klein points out in Capitalism vs The Planet: This Changes Everything

' ...our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.'

In November 2018 150 New Zealand academics and scientists issued an open letter to the Labour-led Government protesting that it was failing to adequately tackle climate change even though we were faced with a 'deepening ecological crisis'.  The signatories commented: 

"Infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is not viable. And yet successive governments have promoted free-market principles which demand rampant consumerism and endless economic growth, thus allowing greenhouse gas emissions to rise. If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is disastrous.'

The Labour Government, with the market-friendly Green Party co-leader James Shaw as its Climate Change Minister, failed to respond to that letter. Some four years later the response to the warning handed down by Cyclone Gabrielle has been much the same. Despite everything, the government pretends that tweaking the system here, or modifying it there, is enough to avert disaster.

Climate adaptation is, in truth, climate barbarism. While our politicians are paying lip service to the increasingly grim warnings of our environmental scientists, they continue to protect our current economic model and ignore transformative projects like the Green New Deal or claim that they are 'utopian' or 'too expensive'.

In their book Planet on Fire: A Manifesto for the Age of Environmental Breakdown Mathew Lawrence and Laurie Laybourn-Langton write:

'IN 1916, amid the wreckage of war and empire, Rosa Luxemburg saw that 'bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism'. Today, we once more stand at just such a crossroads: ecosocialism or barbarism. Yet this time really is different. Extractive capitalism tears apart the natural systems upon which all life depends and drives the disruption and violence of breakdown hurtling towards us. We are at a terminal juncture.'

Increasingly young people are demanding that their so-called leaders stop denying them a future. In order to provide that future we must demand a different type of economy, one orientated towards meeting social and environmental needs rather the needs of capital and the one percent.  


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