Call for a risk assessment by our leaders

Could this ‘Wise Response’ appeal from New Zealand show a model which could be copy-pasted and translated in your country?


Tackling the threats of climate change by transitioning our society to a zero-carbon energy production really shouldn’t be a political question at all. The consequences of our carbon pollution and climate change will hit you regardless of your political views, regardless if you are rich or poor. This is a collective, cross-party security issue. It is about our common safety.

In March 2013, a loose affiliation of prominent New Zealanders launched an appeal to their parliament asking for a non-partisan risk assessment of the “unprecedented threats to our collective security” as a result of climate change, fossil fuel extraction and economic uncertainty.

All governments, certainly not only New Zealand’s, must begin to face up to their nation’s critical risks. Policy should be based on real risks. In the name of all our children and grandchildren, we, citizens from all walks of life, must not just politely appeal but urgently demand from our elected leaders for a cross-party risk assessment to shape policy-making – a ‘Wise Response’.

The video of the ‘Wise Response’ launch event features excerpts from presentations by a glaciologist, an engineer, a writer, students, an economist, ecologists, a science communicator, an environmental lawyer, and a surgeon:

Published on on 19 March 2013.


“By and large, we trusted our parents when they told us that they look out for us. For hundreds of years, long before the growth of Western and industrial civilization, one generation has lead to better the world for the next. But as our generation has got older, we have watched that sacred contract between generations being broken.

The International Energy Agency warns us that we have to peak global emissions before 2017 to be on track to keep the Earth’s warming below 2°C degrees. And the IMF forecasts that oil prices will double by 2022.

We firmly believe that limited oil resources and climate change require a fundamental shift in New Zealand’s society. We need to take on these twin issues with the same vigour that we have taken on world wars, the prevention of decease and the challenge of economic development. This is going to require and all-system all of society transformation.”
Louis Chambers, Generation Zero, Dunedin

“The logical end for our efforts should be zero carbon emissions.”
Peter Barrett, geologist from Wellington, New Zealand



‘Wise Response’ – Appeal to Parliament for a NZ Risk Assessment

Posted on Facebook on 13 November 2013 at 11:52pm

Support this appeal by signing the Avaaz signature campaign here:


Symptoms too serious to ignore: A call to face up to NZ’s critical risks:

We live on a biologically complex and exquisite planet, home to 7 billion people and a myriad of other unique life forms. We believe it is our human responsibility to maintain the integrity of life support systems and the natural processes which sustain and renew them.

We believe it is also our responsibility to fervently defend the basic right of humans to live secure and fulfilling lives consistent with the UN Declaration of Human Rights. It follows that our generation must satisfy our present material needs in ways that do not diminish the prospect of their realisation for present and future generations.

We are deeply concerned about the links between global climate change, fossil fuel extraction and combustion, and the economy. We consider the evidence is now overwhelming (refer Urgency below) for accepting that human-induced climate change, (including extreme weather events) and impending oil constraints threaten our ability to meet those environmental and social obligations. There are also numerous other unprecedented trends and threats of the present era which, individually or in combination, could destabilise New Zealand’s wellbeing.

So far, New Zealand has failed to truly face up to such unprecedented threats to its collective security. Indeed, some policies exacerbate the situation. There appears to be an unwavering faith that technological fixes will be found in time. Yet with scientists saying critical “thresholds” are upon us, the odds of such solutions being found diminish by the day and the consequences of this faith being ill-founded will, in all probability, be disastrous and irreversible.

Therefore, in the name of all our children and grandchildren we, the undersigned, call on the New Zealand Parliament to face up to this situation now by dispassionately assessing risk levels in the following five areas. Then, if found necessary, and with public input, design coherent, robust cross-party strategies and policies to avert these risks and give future generations the very best chance of security, peace, social justice and opportunity for all.

  1. Economic Security: the risk of a sudden, deepening, or prolonged financial crisis. Such a crisis could adversely impact upon our society’s ability to provide for the essentials, including local access to resources, reliable supply chains, and a resilient infrastructure
  2. Energy and Climatic Security: the risk of continuing our heavy dependence on fossil fuels and associated global warming. Progressively restricting their extraction, importation and use could promote a switch to genuine renewables and encourage smarter use of existing energy and energy systems while creating better public transportation. Such responses would simultaneously lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  3. Business Continuity: the risk exposure of all New Zealand business, including farming, to a lower carbon economy. To mitigate this risk, all businesses could explore both market and job opportunities in reducing the human ecological footprint, finding substitutes for petroleum-based goods and services, increasing efficiencies and reducing waste in food and resources. This would position New Zealand as a market leader in low-carbon technologies and living arrangements.
  4. Ecological / Environmental Security: the risks associated with failing to genuinely protect both land-based and marine ecosystems and their natural processes. We believe that such protection is essential for both the maintenance of indigenous biodiversity and ultimately, all human welfare.
  5. Genuine Well-being: the risk of persisting with a subsidised, debt-based economy, preoccupied with maximising consumption and GDP. An alternative is to measure progress by means of indicators of community sustainability,human well-being, more equitable wealth-sharing and environmental resilience, and to incorporate full-cost pricing of harmful environmental impacts.

A risk assessment is the first step in determining the scale, time frame and inter-activity of the risks faced by New Zealand. It would build on international risk assessments such as the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report. Such a report for New Zealand should then be used as the basis for engaging the public and businesses of New Zealand in informed discussion as to what choices need to be made to buffer New Zealand from such risks and to work towards genuine well-being.

Thirty years ago, widespread public concern about nuclear proliferation led to cross-party support for New Zealand’s anti-nuclear legislation. This was a defining moment in New Zealand’s history, and was in response to just one single risk, albeit one that continues. The Land and Water Forum is another example of where New Zealanders have come together to acknowledge, work through and address the risks of deteriorating water quality. Today New Zealand faces numerous additional risks, which are all the more risky for being largely unacknowledged. We believe Parliament should build on its proud tradition of foresighted collective response to risks, and initiate arisk assessment as the first step in achieving a more secure future.



  • The International Panel on Climate Change’s 5th Assessment Report – Summary for Policymakers (27 Sept. 2013) put a figure for the first time on how much carbon dioxide humanity can continue to release into the atmosphere before overheating the planet. Half to two-thirds of the “budget” have already used up, and if emissions continue at current levels, or rise, then the world is on track for global temperature increases of more than 2 degrees by 2100, and possibly up to 4 degrees. See 27Sep2013.pdf
  • Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the The International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated recently that: “If current trends continue, and we go on building high-carbon energy generation, then by 2015 at least 90% of the available “carbon budget” will be swallowed up by our energy and industrial infrastructure. By 2017, there will be no room to move at all”. (, IEA (2011) World Energy Outlook). A new report draws attention to the climate extremes already being experienced and the urgent need to prepare (IPCC. 2012. Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. A Special Report of Working Groups I and II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., et al]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 582 pp. Gruber,N. 2011. Warming up, turning sour, losing breath: ocean biogeochemistry under global change. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. A 369: 1980–1996).
  • International negotiations to combat human-induced climate change (Rio 1992, Kyoto 1997, Copenhagen 2009, Durban 2011) reveal that the course of climate diplomacy has increasingly lost touch with the scientific evidence (New Scientist 3843: p3. We can still avoid a ‘lost decade’ on climate change. Dec 2011).  Not only is the widely used  target, based on the 4th IPCC assessment  report (450 ppm atmospheric CO2 equivalent) now very difficult to achieve, but this limit may be far too high.  Scientists such as Jim Hansen argue that the maximum safe level for atmospheric CO2 concentration is 350 ppm (Hansen, J. 2012.  Scientific Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and Nature. ).
  • Fatih Birol from the IEA (2011) has also stated that maximum global conventional crude oil production (“peak oil”) occurred in 2006. This means that “all liquids” supply will likely steadily decline after an undulating plateau with a growing gap between demand and supply occurring from around 2015. The economic implications of this decline are likely to be serious. See Hirsch, R. L., Bezdek, R. & Wendling, R. 2005. Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, US Department of Energy, and Hirsh R.L, ASPO presentation Vienna. 2012).  Only by moving away from fossil fuels can we both ensure a more robust economic outlook and address the challenges of climate change. This process will be a “decades-long transformation that needs to start immediately” (see Murray, J. & King, D. 2012. Climate policy: oil’s tipping point has passed, Nature 481: 433–435.).
  • Financial inequity is increasing and the world financial system is unable to deliver security; social cohesion is at risk both nationally and globally (see Jackson, T. 2009. Prosperity without Growth. Earthscan. London, UK).  In 1998, more than 45% of the globe’s people had to live on incomes averaging US$2 a day or less while the richest one-fifth of the world’s population has 85% of the global GNP. The gap between rich and poor is widening (see Meadows, D., Randers, J., Meadows, D. 2004. Limits to Growth: the 30 Year Update, Chelsea Green, USA.). The perpetual growth myth is enthusiastically embraced by politicians and economists as an excuse to avoid tough decisions facing humanity (see The Asahi Glass Foundation. February 2012. Environment and Development Challenges: the Imperative to Act, and Lloyd, B. 2009. The Growth Delusion, Sustainablity1: 516-536)

First 100 signatories endorsing the above Appeal:
Alan F Mark, Professor Emeritus, Botany, Dunedin; Jocelyn Harris, Professor Emerita, English, Dunedin; Tim Hazledine Professor, Economics, Auckland; Brian Turner, Writer, Central Otago; Michael Stedman, Managing Director, NHNZ, Dunedin; Bob Lloyd, Associate Professor, Physics, Dunedin; Wayne Smith,Former All Black and assistant coach, Hamilton; Les Cleveland, Retired Company Director, Dunedin; Liz Slooten, Associate Professor, Zoology, Dunedin; Te Radar, Opinionist and Social Commentator, Auckland; Abigail Smith, Associate Professor, Marine Science, Dunedin; Fiona Kidman, Writer,Wellington; Jean Fleming, Professor,Science Communication, Dunedin; Hank Weiss, Professor,Social Medicine, Dunedin; Jim Simpson, Professor,Chemistry, Dunedin; John Highton, Professor,Medicine, Dunedin; Gilbert van Reenen, Photographer, Wanaka; Russell Tregonning, Surgeon,Wellington; Glenn Turner, Retired professional cricketer, Wanaka; Keith A Hunter, Pro-vice-chancellor,Sciences, Dunedin; David Thom, Retired Professional Engineer, Auckland; Philip Boyd, Professor,Marine Chemistry, Dunedin; Catriona Hurd, Associate Professor, Botany, Dunedin; Elizabeth Smither, Writer,New Plymouth; Philip Temple, Author and Historian, Dunedin; Derek Wilshere, Civil Engineer, Wellington; Anne Salmond, Distinguished Professor, Anthropology, Auckland; Ian Wedde, Poet Laureate 2011-2013, Auckland; Vincent O’Sullivan, Professor Emeritus, English, Dunedin; Julian Dean,Professional Cyclist, Spain/NZ; David Round, Schoolof Law, Christchurch; Doug P. Armstrong, Professor,Conservation Biology, Palmerston North; Owen Marshall, Writer,Timaru; Morgan Williams, Former Parliamentary Commissioner, Nelson; Robin Fordham, Retired ecologist, Kapiti Coast; John Jillett, Retired Marine Scientist, Dunedin; Mike  Joy, Senior Freshwater Ecologist, Palmerston North; David Hamilton, Professor,Biological Sciences, Hamilton; Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Writer,Christchurch; Roger Mortimer, Company Director, Auckland; Terry Hannan, NZ Land Aid Trust, Australia; Neville Bennett, Writer-economist,Christchurch; Robert Poulin, Professor,Zoology, Dunedin; Richard Thomson, CEO Acquisitions, Councillor, Dunedin; Jillian Sullivan, Writer,Queenstown; Janet Stephenson, Director, Centre for Sustainability. Dunedin; John Peet, Chemical engineer, Christchurch; Hoani Langsbury, Maori Advisory Council to Local Government NZ,Dunedin; Chris Trotter, Political writer and commentator, Auckland; Colin Townsend, Professor, Zoology, Dunedin; Bruce Burns, Schoolof Biological Sciences, Auckland; Margaret Stanley, Centrefor Biodiversity and Biosecurity, Auckland; Richard Langston, Freelance journalist, New Zealand; Mark J. Costello, Associate Professor, Marine Laboratory, Auckland; Carol Brown, Dance Studies, Auckland; MGary Nicholls, Professor Emeritus, Medicine, Christchurch; Chris Laidlaw, Broadcaster,author and councillor, Wellington; Emma Neale, Author and former Burns Fellow, Dunedin; Colin Gibson, Professor Emeritus, English, Dunedin; Gillian Whitehead, Composer,Dunedin; Jay Cassells, Father of 2 sons, Queenstown; Peter Barrett, Professor, Geology, Wellington; Barry Coates, CEO, Oxfam, Auckland; Anton Oliver, Consultant and former All Black, England/Otago; Lloyd Geering, Professor Emeritus, Religious Studies, Wellington; Steve Wratten, Professor,Ecology, Canterbury; James Higham, Professor,Business, Dunedin; Rob Lawson, Professor, Marketing, Dunedin; Jack Woodward, Professor Emeritus, Electrical Engineering, Auckland; Jonathan Boston, Professor,Director, Public Policy, Wellington; Penny Carnaby, Professor,Digital Knowledge, Librarian, Canterbury; Gerry Te Kapa Coates, Professional engineer, author, company director, Wellington; Susan Krumdieck, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Christchurch; Niki Harre, Associate Professor, Psychology, Auckland; Sophie Jerram, Curator and artist, Wellington; Grahame Sydney, Artist and author, Central Otago; Steve Earnshaw, Surgeon, Councillor, Timaru; Aaron Packard, 350Aotearoa, Wellington; Tamsin Cooper, Fashion Designer & TV Presenter, Dunedin; Heidi Mardon, National Director, The Enviroschools Foundation, Hamilton; Anne Braun-Elwert, Director,Alpine Recreation, Lake Tekapo; Paul Tapsell, Professor,Maori Pacific and Indigenous Studies, Dunedin; Evan J Begg, Professor,Medicine, Christchurch; Lani Evans, Convenor, ReGeneration, Wellington; Dougal Stevenson, Broadcaster,Dunedin; Ralph Chapman, Assoc.Professor, Director, Environmental Studies, Wellington; Rebecca Priestley, Science writer and science historian, Wellington; Lydia Wevers, Professor,Director, New Zealand Studies, Wellington; Johnla Roche, National Secretary Engineers for Social Responsibility, Auckland; David Galloway, Retired Lichenologist (London Museum), Dunedin; Paul Young, Coodinator, Generation Zero, Wellington; PhilKer, Chief Executive, Polytechnic, Dunedin; Fiona Farrell, Author and Poet, New Zealand; Ralph E H Sims, Professor,Energy Research, Palmerston North; Rick Boven, former Director of the NZ Institute, Auckland; Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor,City Council, Wellington; Kepa Morgan, Lecturer Civil and Environmental Engineering, Auckland; Keri Hulme, KaiTahu / makyr / writer, Okarito; Dave Kelly, Professor,Biological Sciences, Canterbury University; Neville Peat,Writer, Dunedin; Bryan Gould, Former Vice-chancellor and Chair Research Science and Technology, Hamilton.




» Support the appeal to be delivered to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key by signing the Avaaz signature campaign here:

The ‘Wise Response’ text above was copy-pasted from Facebook