Former Nasa scientist backs Kiwi woman's climate change lawsuit against govt
A former Nasa heavyweight has thrown his support behind a Hamilton academic who is suing the government over its climate change responsibilities.
Renowned climate scientist James Hansen who spent 32 years with Nasa, has signed an affidavit backing University of Waikato law student Sarah Thomson who has filed a lawsuit against the government in response to its emission-reduction target.
Her case challenges two decisions – Minister Tim Groser's alleged failure to review New Zealand's existing emissions target, and the proposal that the government will table at the climate conference in Paris next week.
The proposal is to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 11 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Thomson claims the targets are "unreasonable and irrational" – and Hansen agrees.
* Hamilton student sues government over climate change targets
* Tim Groser confident of climate change deal at Paris talks
* Opinion: NZ needs to peddle faster on climate change
* Climate change on agenda for new Waikato group
He said the present level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and its warming is already in the dangerous zone.
"We are now in a period of overshoot, with early consequences that are already highly threatening and that will rise to unbearable unless action is taken without delay to restore energy balance at a lower atmospheric carbon dioxide amount," Hansen said.
Hansen's research established that a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels – the threshold used in international negotiations – will have irreversible consequences for the planet and its inhabitants.
Hansen said urgent national and international action is needed to constrain carbon pollution.
"We will not preserve a habitable climate system unless developed nations act without further delay, both to phase out their own carbon emissions and to aid the balance of nations in the development of their own carbon and energy sources. It is critical that New Zealand be brought to do its part."
She's also collected support from Victoria University Professor James Renwick, a Wellington atmospheric scientist.
Both Hansen and Renwick will give expert evidence to support Thomson's lawsuit that New Zealand's targets are inadequate to avoid dangerous and irreversible climate change.
Both scientists note that New Zealand's current plan is to actually increase CO₂ emissions, but offset it on paper by trading carbon credits.
"This does nothing to reduce the atmospheric burden of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases," Renwick noted.
"New Zealand's emissions trajectory, instead, continues to be upward, and is projected to increase."
Thomson said she's taken the support as a sign of just how important it is to act on climate change.
"The fact that the world's leading climate scientist has taken time out of an incredibly busy schedule to give evidence illustrates just how much New Zealand's inadequate response to climate change is being noticed internationally."
Thomson said she's still waiting on a date for her hearing, having filed her case in Wellington's High Court. Her case follows a successful lawsuit against the Dutch government.