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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Kate Follows Celia – Climate Change as a Religion

New Zealand is a secular state, meaning that state and religion are entirely separate. In correlation, today traditional religion plays a less important role in society. People still want to believe in something, so they are turning to alternative things to worship, like Facebook, consumerism and Star Wars.

There is substantial evidence to suggest that climate change is also a new alternative religion. The religion of climate change is becoming increasingly intertwined with Wellington City Council policies and processes. While this could be considered a move away from secularism, I believe it is nevertheless a vital move, as action is urgently needed to adapt and mitigate around climate change.

The religion of climate change is simply centered around the belief, moored in science, that the Earth is warming at a rate unseen in the measurable past, due to humans. Climate change further meets the criteria of being a religion by creating powerful meaning and action around that meaning; relating humans to beliefs and values; directing lifestyle, morals and ethics; and by creating behaviours and organisations.

WCC is doing more and more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate unavoidable consequences. This has been magnified with the election of Celia as mayor. The Climate Change Action Plan adopted last year is a prime example of this. This Plan identifies seven areas where we can take action: adaptation, buildings and energy, land transport, waste, council operations, forestry and aviation.

Celia is very dedicated to more reliable and efficient public transport—light rail, more bus lanes, safer cycling conditions. This is in response to climate change (35 per cent of Wellington City’s greenhouse gases come from land transport) and peak oil. While these propositions have not thus far been met with total support from her councillors, nor all rate-payers, Celia remains positive and is working hard towards these plans regardless.

A significant amount (42 per cent) of Wellington’s greenhouse gas emissions are from the energy used in buildings. WCC are taking several measures to reduce this. They currently offer grants for solar hot water heaters, assist the state government with grants that retrofit older homes with insulation and heating, encourage the development of renewable energy such as the Makara wind farm, and provide local guidance to businesses wanting to reduce their carbon emissions and waste.

Wellington City’s third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is from the aviation sector—making up a surprising 18 percent. Some bits are pushed to the side when it’s decided. WCC’s interpretation of climate change chooses to overlook aviation because dealing with it would be bad for the short term economy.

The Council really are embracing the small things too. Rumour has it streetlights throughout Newtown (and doubtlessly other areas) have been out for over a year. Every little bit helps.

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