Wednesday 9 April 2008

Nationwide public assemblies on climate change

by Vaughan Gunson Member of ASTE union and RAM It’s just keeps getting hotter. The threat of irreversible climate change looms larger and larger with every passing month, week and day in which real solutions aren’t actioned. In last month’s Workers Charter we ran an article by Dr Gideon Polya, a hugely respected scientist, who has made the call for a global declaration of climate emergency. He argues the tipping point for a massive ice melt at both poles is almost upon us. Polya’s urgent call was based on the research of climate scientists like James Hansen, head of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Hansen has just given a clear message to the European Union. Your targets of 550 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere are hopelessly inadequate. He is calling for a target of 350ppm (CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is currently 385ppm). Hansen argues this drastic cut is needed if “humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilisation developed”. Hansen’s team of scientists have been studying the earth’s history through core samples taken from the bottom of the ocean. Based on historical CO2 carbon levels they’re saying that if levels stay at 450ppm for long enough all the ice on the planet will melt. “That’s a sea level rise of 75 metres. What we have found is that the target we have all been aiming for is a disaster – a guaranteed disaster”, says Hansen. The urgency of the problem requires immediate actions, like banning the use of coal for power generation, free public transport, public investment in renewable energy (solar, wind and wave), and the development of localised and organic food production in every country. This requires a political will which challenges the big corporations and politicians who would put profits before human survival. We must build a mass movement in this country, one that links up with a worldwide movement, to fight for rational, public solutions to climate change. How about organising public assemblies in every major city in New Zealand on climate change? At these assemblies a wide cross section of people could come together to be educated and discuss immediate action. Because of the level of mass concern such assemblies could be big, kick-starting a grassroots movement in this country. The networks exist to organise large gatherings of people. If leaders from trade unions, churches, political parties, environmental groups and other community organisations came together we could make it happen. A good idea?

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