Today, our thoughts go out to the people of Christchurch who are once again waking up to another natural disaster. As the true extent of the damage becomes apparent, many neighbourhoods will be pulling together to overcome the severe flooding that has been visited upon their city.
Seeing those images of inundated homes and desperate residents beamed in to my living room last night, I couldn’t help but think that there’s now rarely a day that goes by when extreme weather events aren’t making headline news. If I’d pressed the mute button the scenes of the elderly being moved to safety by fire crews or cars half-submerged where the torrents of floodwater had pinned them, it could so easily have been recent scenes from the UK or other parts of Europe.
And the interesting thing is that the link between these weather events and climate pollution has been dropped right in to the middle of the debate.
As John Key poses for election year snaps holding mops and refraining from using his ‘derp face’, there is something missing from the coverage: climate pollution. The flooding in Christchurch is not an isolated extreme weather event. Last year we had a severe drought costing the economy hundreds of millions; a few years back we had ferocious storm batter the same part of the South Island. These events are becoming more frequent. Describing an event as “once in a century” is useful for conveying the magnitude, but it’s now largely a redundant term with regard to preparedness. The science is telling us that the events could become the norm.
So to have the PM tell the people of Christchurch to “hang on in there” seems hollow. Why? Because he presides over a government that has a very poor record on tackling climate change. Very poor indeed.
Despite his government recognising that climate change will result in more flooding and periods of drought, which will have huge impacts on our economy, he and his Minsters have done nothing about it. Quite the opposite in fact. Simon Bridges is more interested in globe-trotting, trying to auction off permits to drill in our oceans than developing a sensible and necessary climate action.
You simply can’t avoid the fact that drilling in our deep waters for the last drops of oil will only add to the problem.
As the links between extreme weather and climate pollution become more certain, and these events become costly on both an economic and human scale, politicians and oil companies have nowhere left to hide.