Martin Gibson

New Zealand politicians have an inglorious history of sacrificing our people and surrendering national sovereignty in the hope of getting trade windfalls, then framing it in terms of the global good.
In World War 1, New Zealanders were placed under the command of Britain’s aristocrat generals, who grimly marched them toward
machine guns to put on jolly good shows, then ordered them shot when they got shell shock.
The sacrifice of our best and brightest was necessary to maintain the freedom and dignity of humanity, we were told, and the men running the show lied about Germans bayoneting babies until we policed ourselves, handing white feathers to those who dared question the orgy of death.
New Zealand suffered some of the highest casualty rates in both world wars because politicians failed to back up their gestures-bybodycount with equipment and training.
Sacrifice itself was the objective to ensure New Zealand butter and mutton enjoyed continued access to the British market — but that’s a tough sell to mothers waving sons goodbye.
The latest incarnation of our quixotic passion for self-sacrifice is our Emissions Trading Scheme, and I would dance on Al Gore’s gold-plated coffee table and shout that out during cocktail hour.
When the idea of a carbon tax came up in the early 90s as a potential UN-fundraiser, I was in the second year of a science degree, and had the implausibility of CO2 as a driver for global warming explained to me by several professors.
CO2 is only 0.0383 percent of the atmosphere; and of that only 3 percent or so is from humans.
Only a small part of the UV spectrum gets turned into heat by CO2, and the amount doesn’t increase directly with CO2 concentration, unlike plant growth rates. Climate has constantly changed for billions of years, and the warm periods are generally the nice ones for life. In the last 600 million years of Earth’s history, only the Carboniferous Period and our present age, the Quaternary Period, have witnessed CO2 levels less than 400 ppm.
These taxes are based on climate models whose upward-pointing predictions of the future have been wrong, and plenty of scientists have made careers inspiring hysteria by cynically cherrypicking data to fit the party line.
When the sheep became the shepherds on the issue, when celebrities stood in for scientists arguing the case and bankers were suddenly concerned about future generations and the environment, my suspicion deepened that we are sleepwalking into yet another sacrifice by leaders who lack the courage and creativity to find a better way.
New Zealand’s biggest environmental problem isn’t that we pay insufficient money to developing nations or carbon traders, nor is it the amount of methane our cows emit.
Readers of New Zealand history shouldn’t be surprised our leaders sacrificed agriculture in our ETS when no-one else did to court global approval, but as the people who will pay the bills we should openly discuss how much better off our environment will be if we spend the billions to restore lost habitat, save our unique endangered species, control pests, improve water quality, and introduce our young people to the wondrous complexity and simple wisdom of nature.
These are New Zealand’s real environmental battles, and the Government is cutting the funding to fight them.
The saving grace of this artless “sacrifice for trade” is that it is Kiwi cash spilled on the soil of other nations instead of Kiwi blood for a change.
Let’s hope New Zealanders still have the heart to fix the real problems once the bill for Helen Clark’s UN cv is due, because it is fixing those real problems, not the scope of our ETS that will redeem our smug lie of being 100% pure.
Martin Gibson
Gisborne Herald