Dita DeBoni: Is Hurricane Bennett prepared to take on climate change?

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In the time that I have been producing news for TVNZ in the mornings – about a year and a half now – there's not a week that goes by that differing parts of the world are not being pummeled by totally bonkers weather.

1 NEWS Columnist Dita DeBoni

Source: 1 NEWS

Now, it is true to say that TV news loves a good weather story.

It's in part because the pictures are so darned compelling, but also because survey after survey finds people are very interested in the topic, even if they would prefer to think of themselves as more interested in talking about Middle Eastern politics and quantum physics.

But even taking everyone's interest in weather as a given, the range and breadth of weather-related catastrophes that could fill bulletin after bulletin, week after week, is truly staggering.

It's more than weather of course – it's what could probably more broadly be termed 'environment' – and of course the two affect each other to a degree that's producing some extremely scary phenomena from which no-one on the planet is immune.

Just to take this week as an example: there's been a Red Alert issued in Beijing, where smog pollution from coal burning has reached off-the-Richter-scale levels.

We need, ideally, an environmental scientist as our climate change minister "
Dita De Boni

Those who watch the news are probably familiar with the fact that parts of northern England and Scotland flooded this weekend.

An unprecedented amount of water was dumped on the region leaving thousands homeless, many more without power, and two people dead.

Floods have happened across Britain in increasing severity in the past ten years.

In Norway, the worst floods in 150 years have swept away homes, bridges, and other bits of vital infrastructure.

Ethiopia is suffering one of its worst droughts in years.

While it is home to many droughts, the major ones generally coming once a decade, there's been a huge increase in the number and severity, as a result of climate change.

Currently the situation is seeing millions seek aid just to survive.

California has this week reported that tropical fish are swimming north as a result of El Nino's warmer currents – causing a boon for the state's sports fishing industry, but forcing out other species that local wildlife depend upon.

This on the back of two reports released this week – one detailing exactly how much the Arctic shelf is melting as a result of climate change, and the other from the World Meteorological Organisation saying 2015 is on track to be the warmest on record, with the one degree threshold passed before the last days of December.

All of this is set against the uber meeting of world leaders in Paris, trying to come to some sort of agreement about how all can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to try and avoid catastrophic warming of the earth to two degrees or over.

Incoming climate change minister, Paula Bennett, said the list was created by "a bunch of environmentalists that are always quite critical".
Source: 1 NEWS

Scientists and those in the know have been urging action for a long time, and yet New Zealand – which apparently has one of the lowest rankings for action on climate change in the developed world – has long labored under a minister who barely seems to believe in climate change at all.

Now, in Paula Bennett, we have someone who is happy to admit she 'doesn’t know anything' about climate change.

Well, as endearing as some may find that, it's just not good enough.

We need, ideally, an environmental scientist as our climate change minister – someone who is not beholden to big business - but if not a scientist, perhaps someone who merely understands the critical juncture the world is facing and the role New Zealand must play in both reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and proving an example for others.

After all, if we put our heads in the sand, we may just be surprised down the track with thousands of refugees seeking asylum in our country as their own nearby homelands become uninhabitable.

I would like to see a minister who is invested in the topic, wants to learn about it and lead on it, and sees it as a huge responsibility and privilege to be leading New Zealand through tumultuous climate times.

I am less than convinced by the current candidate, so far.

Here's hoping she schools herself up on it fast – she could start, perhaps, by turning on almost any television news bulletin.

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