Total parts per million of carbon in our atmosphere is, at time of writing, around 397. This is reaching levels not seen for three million years. Not 300 hundred years, or 3,000 years, but three million years. Back then, the world was a different place; sea levels were much higher (by 10 to 40m), and the Arctic and Antarctic only existed as small ice patches. Different fauna roamed a much hotter and wetter planet, home to a range of very different flora.
Every time we start the car we are directly controlling the weather. Crudely controlled it may be, but it is still control. Because of our unique situation in NZ through generating substantial (yet falling as a proportion) amounts of hydroelectricity, which largely powers our buildings, transport makes up the largest part of our carbon emissions profile here in Auckland. Growing carbon levels in the atmosphere contribute towards a new climatic equilibrium as warmer and wetter conditions dynamically reach, within decades, a new stable climate pattern.
It is the character of this dynamic change that is problematic. Storms have become more damaging, and intense. Oceans are becoming more acidic, affecting sea life. Wildfires in Australia, the US, Canada and Russia are more frequent, and greater in number. Warmer winters means devastated forests as beetle populations (that use trees as a food source during the summer) are not suppressed by a freezing cold winter that keeps numbers in check. Country wide droughts become a possibility.
This dynamism will pose challenges for us as we adapt to a radically new climatic equilibrium. As a means of slowing down this change, we need to radically reduce our carbon emissions. The City Vision led Waitemata Local Board has recognised this threat, and is the only Board actively working to produce a carbon emission reduction plan that will encourage residents to explore ways they can bring their emissions down through collective action and individual behavioural change.
For example, walking or cycling to the supermarket to do your shopping will help in bringing emissions down, as will making a commitment to eating mostly vegetarian meals each week. Replacing your car commute with a bus and/or train trip, or by cycling a few times a week will help as well.
The plan is also about the actions the Board and Board members can take to cut carbon emissions. For example we are actively supporting the establishment of a Resource Recovery Network that will enable refurbishing and re-purposing of un-used items, thereby reducing emissions through avoiding buying new items.
While the carbon emission reduction plan draws on the Council’s regional response to the need to reduce carbon emissions the Energy Resilience and Low Carbon Action plan) , the Board’s plan will be taken to our different communities for their ideas on what they can do locally to help reduce emissions, as it is within communities that the biggest source of reductions can be made. It is critical that we bring our collective rate of emissions down. By playing your part, we all become better off.
Christopher Dempsey, member Waitemata Local Board