Thursday, June 13, 2024

Preparing for dangerous weather

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The devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle in the Hawkes Bay, and to a lesser extent Auckland, has predictably brought out those looking for someone to blame for the weather.

But this is not the first cyclone to leave Hawkes Bay houses roof-deep in silt – Eskdale in 1938 saw similar devastation.

Nor is it the first time that houses in Muriwai have ended up at the wrong end of the precarious slope they were built on.

Our governments (local, regional and national) have clearly not done enough in the intervening years to improve resilience against dangerous weather.

This century has seen politicians do an awful lot of shouting, “we need to do something about climate change!”, when they’re the very people we elect to do the “something” – to plan and prepare for the collective threats to our society.

They extract more-and-more “climate” taxes from the working classes and then use the money for anything except preparing the country for the predicted bad weather.

They harp on about the need to reduce emissions to “fix climate change” as if New Zealand becoming “net zero” would mean that New Zealand starts having nice weather.

Here’s a reality check.

New Zealand’s entire population could stop using fossil fuels tomorrow and turn to a stone-age lifestyle relying on nothing but geothermal energy for heat, and the world wouldn’t notice. Nor would the climate. Nor the weather.

Developing countries around the world are using cheap, fossil-fuelled energy to bring their people out of poverty – not the poverty of “my internet is slow and my house is a bit draughty”, but the poverty of “I don’t have a toilet, or running water, or electricity; I cook my food on a wood fire and sleep on a dung floor in a hut with nothing more than holes for windows and doors”.

China and India are firing up a new coal power station every couple of weeks.

India has 1 billion people (200 New Zealand’s’ worth) who are dependent on coal for their energy. That is unlikely to change much this century.

New Zealand reducing its carbon footprint will make not one jot of difference. Nor serve any practical purpose.

Whatever the causes, climate change will happen. And dangerous weather. New Zealand has always been a target for cyclones. Near misses happen on a regular basis. The next big one is always a “when” not an “if”.

New Zealand can do nothing to stop, or even reduce, climate change or dangerous weather.

All we can do is prepare for it, but we’re not even trying to do that.

We’re not upgrading our infrastructure to cope with bigger storms and higher tides.

Nor are we properly maintaining what we have – we haven’t been making sure stormwater drains are clear of debris, and forestry blocks don’t have potentially dangerous levels of slash lying around.

There is a lot of finger-pointing about who is to blame for the bad weather and not nearly enough thinking about what is required to prepare for more of the same, which we know is coming.

Ryan Price, Half Moon Bay

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