The small village Eita has become a separate island during high tide. The people of Kiribati are under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. Each year, the sea level rises by about half an inch. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Bulletin: A climate report unlike all the rest

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Climate change report says it’s now or never for action, legislation aimed at anti-competitive markets prioritised, and Chorus contractors under scrutiny.

The latest report from the intergovernmental panel on climate change has been released, and it’s a brutally stark warning. Radio NZ reports that it calls for “unprecedented changes,” to avoid the world warming more than 1.5 celsius above pre-industrial averages. To put that in context too, the co-chair of the IPCC’s working group said preventing further rises is “possible within the laws of chemistry and physics,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of the chances of that happening.

Why is this report different? It’s the urgency and unequivocal language of it. “We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” is one sample quote from the IPCC’s press release. The NY Times says it’s a “far more dire picture of the immediate consequences of climate change than previously thought,” and that without significant action, unprecedented climate crisis could happen as early as 2040. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I intend to still be around in 2040.

But the current crop of worldwide political leadership probably won’t still be around in 2040. They’ll either be out of office or dead. That’s a problem, because action needs to begin immediately (or rather, 40 years ago) to have any meaningful effect. The report’s FAQ section noted that “countries’ pledges to reduce their emissions are currently not in line with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.” To avert catastrophic warming, the economic costs and social changes that will need to be made will be dramatic. Because of that, it will require political leadership and bravery that is almost unfathomable, and it will need to happen in every single country.

On The Spinoff, a range of experts have outlined exactly what the report means, especially for New Zealand. It’s worth pulling out two key areas from the contribution of Dr Bronwyn Hayward, one of the lead authors of the IPCC report. The first is coastal communities, including, for example, almost every major city, which will be increasingly affected by rising sea levels. Think about Petone around Wellington, or South Dunedin, or Marine Parade in Napier, or South Brighton in Christchurch, or Matua in Tauranga, or the huge swathes of Auckland that are right near the sea. They’re going to flood more often.

Also impacted heavily will be the farming industry, the economic base of the country. In particular, methane emissions – heavily produced by farm animals – need to come down worldwide, and New Zealand can’t be exempt from that either. Here’s a Stuff report specifically about the implications for the farming sector. And of course, if warming and climate change produces more severe droughts (which is also likely) that’s going to be a heavy cost in and of itself.

As for our Pacific neighbours, well, they’re already being hit hard by rising sea levels. Recently the NZ government announced they’d help build a weather station on Tokelau, “to help Tokelau build its knowledge of and resilience to climate change.” The question really has to be – why does more knowledge need to be built up? People living in the Pacific already know exactly what climate change is doing to their homes.

It’s worth a reminder here that submissions on the Zero Carbon bill came back recently. That’s the flagship bill for fighting climate change this government is pursuing, and on Newshub Nation, minister James Shaw noted that while there was strong support for emissions cuts across all gases, there are also powerful voices favouring slower approaches, and compromises by all will be needed. Is that an intellectually tenable position in light of this latest IPCC report? That really depends on how urgently the report’s recommendations are taken.

There’s a self-reflective point about journalism in all this that needs to be made too. Yesterday in the PM’s post-cabinet press conference, not a single question was asked about the IPCC report, despite it being hot off the presses. Hell, the very next story in this Bulletin is going to be about government moves to pressure petrol companies to bring prices back down. Climate change is going to have to become one of the lenses that everything gets assessed through, or else stalled progress is inevitable.


The government has prioritised passing the Commerce Amendment bill, which will allow the Commerce Commission to undertake market competition studies. Which is a dry way of saying they’re pointing the finger at petrol companies “fleecing” consumers at the pump, reports the NZ Herald on their front page this morning. She says they’re to blame for high prices, not the government’s taxes.

As an aside, by passing the bill, it will also allow the Commission to look at other areas as well. And the minister in charge of that will be rising star Kris Faafoi, who was profiled in this really interesting E-Tangata interview over the weekend. The subjects covered don’t include the bill, but it’s a good insight all the same into where Mr Faafoi came from and what he wants to do in the job.


Nearly all Chorus contractors have been found to be breaching employment law, reports the NZ Herald. That included extended voluntary training periods, and sub-minimum wage pay. It’s not that Chorus themselves are breaking the law as such, but the Labour inspectorate says it’s disappointing they “failed to monitor compliance with basic employment standards” among contractors. Those workers being exploited were mostly immigrants, reports Radio NZ.


The PM has come out furiously against the previous government promoting water bottling for economic gain, reports One News. She stated very clearly that it wasn’t happening under her government. National leader Simon Bridges says the previous government did nothing wrong by courting water bottling company Nong Fu, whose plans to expand have sparked outrage in Whakatāne.


Speaking of water, a five year plan has been set to make rivers swimmable again, reports Māori TV. In the short term, it will involve setting up three advisory groups, and the promise is “noticeable improvement” within five years. However, as Politik reports, key details of the policy are yet to be worked out, so the advisory groups will have a tricky task ahead of them.


We’re a nation of deadbeat dads it would seem, with billions of dollars collectively owed in child support payments, reports Newsroom. However, within that big top-line figure, many of the individual debtors owe more than a million dollars – most of that coming from late payment penalties. In fact 77% of child support debt is penalties, and that money, if it’s ever collected, ends up going back to the government, rather than the caregiving parent or child.


Access to China has been secured for New Zealand’s avocados, and there are big plans to expand the trade, reports Radio NZ. About 40,000 trays will be exported there this season, and all going to plan, it could be as many as 600,000 trays within six years.

The interesting thing about avocado growing is that seasonal yields are highly variable – some glorious years there’s an abundance, and in others there’s a scarcity. Domestically speaking, last year was a shortage year, and you’ll probably remember the house-like prices consumers were paying for them. It will be a significant challenge for the industry to ensure enough are being grown for the Chinese market too.


Lower South Island polytechs are bucking the trend of poor financial performances in the sector, reports the ODT. 10 out of 16 NZ institutes of technology and polytechs are expected to make a deficit this year, but not Southern Institute of Technology and Otago Polytechnic, who will make surpluses. Otago Polytechnic is putting part of that success down to relying heavily on getting students learning in the workplace.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Kiwi country singer Kaylee Bell talks to Gareth Shute about making it in Australia and Nashville. With Dr Who back, newly minted Time Lord Jodie Whittaker speaks to Uther Dean about the weight of expectations on her. And we all love the Black Ferns, so shouldn’t it be easy to buy one of their jerseys? Not so, reports Madeleine Chapman.


A dramatic election is underway in Brazil, which could have major implications for the whole of the American continent. Currently, the first round of voting has finished, with far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro winning by a huge margin. However, because he just failed to crack 50%, there will now be a runoff. In a country that has been wracked by scandals and politically divided, that runoff could turn very ugly. Here’s an excerpt from a CNN report from Sao Paulo.

A victory in the second round for former army captain Bolsonaro would signal a historic shift to the right in Brazil. The Social Liberty party candidate has stirred controversy by making misogynistic, racist and homophobic remarks and has often been compared to US President Donald Trump and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte.

The campaign hit the headlines during last month when Bolsonaro was stabbed in the stomach during a political rally in the city of Juiz de Fora. The incident underscored the uncharted territory into which the election was heading and landed the frontrunner in hospital for several weeks.

Political divisions have deepened in Brazil as the country suffers from a prolonged economic recession and extreme violence, with murder rates reaching a record high last year.

So that’s the restrained version of writing about Bolsonaro – for the no-holds barred version, have a read of The Intercept’s piece. It’s rather more urgent. The argument being made in this piece is that democracy in Brazil itself is under threat from the widespread wins by Bolsonaro and his allies.


Who was to blame for the absolute scenes at the end of the weekend’s UFC event? Arguably everyone, according to this opinion piece on the Guardian. Both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor got amongst in brawls after their title fight, but the context was racist taunts and the UFC’s indulging of ultimately profitable bad behaviour. And there’s already talk of a rematch between the two, which lets face it, is exactly what fight fans would stump up cash for. There’s a counterpoint though, from the NZ Herald, in which NZ UFC fighters Dan Hooker and Israel Adesanya argue the post-fight scuffles are being blown out of proportion.


From our partners, Vector’s sustainability manager Karl Check explains why the company is pushing for more urban forests, despite recent storms in Auckland bringing trees down on powerlines, and cutting electricity to parts of the city.


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