SMC Bulletin - The costs of climate inaction

Published: Fri 6 Apr 2018 04:11 PM
The costs of climate inaction
A new report commissioned by Westpac suggests billions of dollars could be on the line if there is further delay in moving to a low-carbon economy.
Released this week and carried out by EY and Vivid Economics, the report suggests that New Zealand’s economy could be $30 billion better off if early action is taken to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
Modelling two scenarios – an early, smooth transition versus a delayed, abrupt transition – the key difference was the timing of inclusion of agriculture within the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme.
Massey University's Professor Ralph Sims, director of the Centre for Energy Research, said the comparison of the two scenarios confirmed "what global scientific and economic analysis has stated for some time – that the sooner we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions the greater the benefits will be, and the lower the overall costs in the long term".
Victoria University of Wellington's Professor James Renwick said the report had focused on limiting warming to 2C, despite the Paris Agreement specifying that signatories must pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5C.
"The finding that it’s better to start earlier and make a smoother transition is good to see, but not surprising," he said. "For tourism, I wonder if the report considers the future cost and social acceptability of flying. There’s no indication they have, and these are things that could change quickly."
Prof Sims said Westpac had "shown leadership on climate change issues...for several years. The commissioning by the bank of this independent report is timely, especially given the Government’s plans to introduce a Zero Carbon Act and to set up an advisory Climate Change Commission."
"Having to make lifestyle changes and capital investments (such as in transport infrastructure) now, to gain benefits in the long term, is a message that is hard for many New Zealanders to accept. This independent Westpac NZ analysis should lead to a greater understanding of the urgent need for everyone to take action now – a message hard to convey."
The SMC gathered expert reaction to the report.
Quoted: NZ Herald
"Overall, people in Wellington are not as prepared as they could or should be for something like an earthquake.
"I want to change this, so that we as individuals and as a city can survive better the hazards in our future."
Victoria University of Wellington PhD candidate Lauren Vinnell
on research aiming to get Kiwis better prepared for disasters.
Hops appetite pill on market
Years of study at Plant and Food Research has led to the development of an appetite-suppressing pill which has just been launched in New Zealand and soon the United States.
The pills use a compound, registered as Amarasate, from hops, which the research team honed in on following tests of 900 extracts. The bitter-tasting compound “activates a process which is normally activated by food anyway,” said Plant and Food research scientist Dr John Ingram. “But it just does it in an extreme way and it triggers specific cells there to signal to the brain that you’re full.”
So far there has been only one clinical trial of the pill, which involved 19 men of “normal weight” who were each put through placebo phase plus the hop extract in two different capsule types, each of which ran for three days. During the hop extract phases of the trial, the men were reported to eat about 220 fewer calories when offered lunch and a snack where they were instructed to eat until they were comfortably full.
Dr Ingram presented that trial information at a conference in 2016 and has been searching for funding for longer-term trials since. In the meantime, the product is being marketed as Calocurb, available online only at a cost of $60 per 45 capsule bottle; it will go on the US market next month. It cannot be legally promoted for weight loss due to New Zealand laws that prohibit that claim being made about natural products.
Healthy Food Guide Nutritionist Claire Turnbull warned Seven Sharp the pill was no magic bullet. “It’s actually important to think about the quality of the food that you’re eating and also you need to remember to include exercise in the picture.”
University of Otago Professor Jim Mann, Director of Edgar Diabetes & Obesity Research, told that he would not recommend the product on the available evidence. “Any clinician who has been involved in treating patients who are obese would want to see long-term randomised controlled trials. You can claim it has metabolic effects but you can’t extrapolate that to weight management.”
Policy news & developments
NAIT review released: The review of the animal tracing system NAIT has been released.
Irrigation subsidies winding down: The Government has begun winding down public funding for large-scale irrigation through Crown Irrigation Investments Limited.
Myrtle rust spreads: The Ministry for Primary Industries says the fight against myrtle rust will shift gears now that the fungal disease has been found in the South Island. As containment has not been possible, the response will shift from surveillance and removal to long-term management.
This week on the NZ Conversation.
The urban agenda: what will New Zealand’s new government bring for towns and cities?
Jenny McArthur, University College London
See more NZ-authored Conversation articles.
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