Climate change revolution is now inevitable but we can still steer it - expert

"The shit is, increasingly, hitting the fan."

That's the blunt message from David Hall, senior researcher at AUT's Policy Observatory and editor of A Careful Revolution, a collection of essays about how New Zealand will soon be transformed by climate change.

The UN estimates global emissions must be cut by 45 percent in 11 years to avoid locking the Earth into catastrophic levels of warming. Hall says reaching those targets means radical economic changes which will be forced on us if we don't choose to start adapting now. 

"A revolution is inevitable over the next few decades. We're going to be experiencing a societal transformation on the scale of the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago and the industrial revolution a couple of centuries ago." 

Despite his confronting message Hall remains optimistic, stressing that climate despair is counterproductive and decisions made now can mitigate the inevitable disruption.

"It's really a question of how we undertake that revolution and what choices we make in the way that the risks and opportunities are distributed amongst people."

Hall praised the Government's recently unveiled incentive scheme to get Kiwis into lower-emission vehicles, but he says it's only a step in the right direction. 

"I think that's really vital and important... but there's still not enough on that project level - the actual, specific, local changes that we need to make." 

The academic stressed that Government initiatives such as the One Billion Trees Programme and electric vehicle incentives have to be backed up by individual participation.

"This is a collaborative effort that involves central and local government and involves companies and communities that involves iwi, it involves everybody taking making the most of the opportunities that are there."

Hall also rejects the idea that Kiwis are not prioritising climate change.

"The thing I keep on coming up against is this idea that people don't care about climate change, and I just don't think that's borne out by the evidence." 

He says the real problem often lies in how climate issues are communicated to the public.

"There's a thought that if we just tell people more about climate change and we bombard them with facts then somehow they're all going to rationally pick up tools and change the world.

"What that perspective misses is that people are embedded in very complicated systems of economy and politics... the organisations we work in have a lot of momentum and a lot of inertia, and making these changes is a difficult process."

Despite the revolutionary tone of his book, Hall doesn't advocate declaring a climate emergency. 

"I think that a lot of the calls that we've been seeing recently for a climate emergency are a reflection of a wider crisis of representative democracy that we've seen kick-off around the world."

Hall says while he understands the frustration of climate activists who feel their governments are moving too slowly, the politics of emergency could end up backfiring. 

"The swiftest and most compelling transition is going to be one that brings everybody along with it... it just isn't obvious that working through emergency and and taking hard decisions without people's buy in is going to get us there.

"That way of doing politics necessarily triggers resistance, revolts and perhaps even counter-revolutions."

Newshub Nation.