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Thursday, 31 July 2014 04:09 am

Climate change debate avoided, but change may be in the wind

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AMERICA is trying silencing climate change because it is too difficult to talk about judging by the US elections – and New Zealand Government is following its lead.

America’s attitude towards climate change impacts how other countries respond and it is not prioritised correctly, says associate professor James Renwick of Victoria University.

“The American’s have thought it’s all too hard so let’s not talk about it,” says Dr Renwick, of the university’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences.

It wasn’t until the arrival of Hurricane Sandy that President Barack Obama mentioned climate change, which did not feature in the presidential debates.

A Guardian journalist reported he could “find nothing; nor have the many people I have asked on Twitter”, on the candidates mentioning climate change during the debates.

It was the first time since 1984 climate change had not been mentioned in the presidential debates and Dr Renwick says it is not productive to sweep matters like this under the rug.

“The attitude of the US is very important internationally, and it’s not good. It is not an issue that is a top priority,” he says.

“It’s about putting money into smarter technologies that will have a future, instead of short term thinking resources like coal.”

Despite climate change not being talked about during the debates, United Nations development programme administrator Helen Clark believes there is change in the air in the US.

Radio New Zealand reported this month that Ms Clark said majority of public opinion could influence the American Government to reach a global agreement in 2015.

“One thing that is changed is the prominence now being given to climate change in the US,” she said.

In a report called America’s Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in September 2012, which interviewed more than 1000 people in 12 days, states that between March and September 2012, 57% of Americans believe global warming threatens people in the US, up 11 per cent.

The report compiled by the Yale school of Forestry and Environmental studies also states the number of Americans who believe global warming isn’t happening has decreased from 20% to 12% over the past two years.

However, New Zealand appears to have backed off on its climate commitments to decrease greenhouse gases by not signing a second term of the Kyoto Protocol.

The initiative is an agreement to reduce greenhouse gases to a certain target but the four year term ends this year.

International Climate Change Negotiations Minister Tim Groser told One News, New Zealand is set to team up with economies that are collectively responsible for 85% of global emissions.

Prime Minister John Key told TV ONE’s Breakfast programme it is logical to side with countries such as America, China and Russia because New Zealand doesn’t want to be a world leader in climate change.

“We’ve always wanted to be what is affectionately called a fast follower,” Mr Key said.

Image: Los Angeles Times

 

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