Gavin Maclean If anyone is “inept on climate issues” (Oct 6 letter), Bill Gates surprisingly is. He is not a fount of wisdom. His renowned promotion of energy alternatives is firmly rooted in a mindset of continuing catastrophic growth, so if he now preaches against “climate exaggeration” it will be because the degrowth movement has blossomed globally since he wrote his book. No wiser is your volatile correspondent, who quoted Gates and also wrote: “A LGM (Labour-Green-Māori) government would be catastrophic for the economy and country at large — dealing with any climate issues would be the least of our worries”. This is wrong on at least four counts. 1. “Economy” here clearly means the growth economy, which of course is the source of catastrophes, not just natural ones but right down to shortages, shipping, low morale, inequality and the cost of living. 2. It implies the economy is more important than the environment, which is ludicrous. What’s happening to the climate and natural world is not the least but the greatest of our worries, and the time to fix it is now. Another three years would be catastrophic for our supporting environment —and yes, in consequence, for the economy. 3. “At large” applied to our economy and our country is small-minded, not large. It’s thinking local and acting global, by competing with and exploiting the rest of the world. It’s the environment that’s large, and we who are small. The business mind is a small one if divorced from its environment. 4. “Any climate issues,” implying there may not be any such things, is transparently cheap rhetoric. It’s certainly true that alarmist speech is not helpful, but knowing actual evidence and suggesting solutions and mitigations definitely is. The evidence is on all fronts, from the predictions since the 1970s proving consistently true, and sophisticated modern measurements reinforcing them, to climate events now hitting people, landscapes and structures around the globe. It is indeed easy to be alarmist about that stuff, but the people who study or broadcast it are the very same ones talking about taking positive action. They do not have their heads in the sand. Recently interviewed by New Scientist magazine, former climate adviser to the British government, Simon Sharpe, stated: “We don’t know as much as we should about worst-case scenarios for climate change, and what we don’t know isn’t put at the forefront of the information that’s communicated to governments. If you want your political leaders to act strongly, then a minimum requirement is that they know there’s a bloody enormous problem. Scientists need to be bolder in talking about worst-case scenarios.” So why am I quoting this apparently alarmist expert? Because there’s a fifth problem with the sentence I quoted at the start. As well as dangerously misleading, it’s inconsistent, because talk of economic catastrophe is itself alarmist. The funny thing is that in climate policy, the tendency is to put likely prediction first, and possible worst-case scenarios second. In the clamour of election fearmongering, over crime, immigrants, idle layabouts, and the whole host of lesser issues and prejudices that crowd on to the stage, it’s the other way round, speculating wildly on the worst that could happen, instead of how likely it is — or, as research so often suggests, unlikely. The environmental parties (I really believe we have two now!), Green and Māori, are precisely that, and not just that, as from their principles a consistent set of policies is generated. Putting people and nature first is the way to fix the economy.

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