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The NZASAP Clarification: A Tiny Ripple of Hope for Climate Change

Says NZASAP, a new climate solutions advocacy, 'we began this journey remembering Greta Thunberg saying 'it's not as if the arc of the emissions curve is trending downward, the train is accelerating in the wrong direction.‘

‘So when we went to put together our initial education pack on climate change’, Beth G. from the group said, ‘we went to the numbers looking to produce a scary graphic of a train accelerating in the wrong direction but, you know, that is not the fair picture as of right now.

Milo from the group picks up the story ‘We know carbon dioxide levels have been rising for about 300 years. And for the last sixty, we have this incredible set of daily readings from the Hawaii-based Mauna Loa Observatory, the Keeling Curve, and everyone in the world should follow this. It is super-easy to google. The graphs are really easy to understand, but while they cover from 800,000 years to one week, there is nothing between a 60 year and a 2-year timeframe.

So we had to dig into the data to validate the iconic comment of Greta’s that meant so much to us, and what we did first was look decade by decade. Growth in the 90s was about double that of the 60s; and growth in the 2010s up 50% on the 90s. Completely validated: an accelerating train.

Beth interjected ‘But one of the statistical challenges of climate change compared to covid is so many of us are doing our best on eliminating hi-emission practices, but unlike covid where a super-spreader party shows up in community data in less than a week, with climate change, the IPCC report every seven years or so, and we are all understandably curious to see what the data shows on a shorter timeframe than a decade by decade’.

‘So that brings us back to Mauna Loa and the excel spreadsheet’, picks up Milo again. ‘So we drew the graph of the last 10 years or so, year by year.

And we stared and stared at it, and said

‘Well, is the trend of the emissions curve downward? Answer ‘No'

Well, is it trending upward ie accelerating in the wrong direction? Again, no. It is a straight line.

Yes, the total emitted continues to rise. And in the last decade yes, faster than ever.

But is the curve accelerating? No, it is not. Total emissions are rising at a high but steady rate.

So coming back to covid, whatever the health tragedy, we have lots of completed curves. And we know what happens in a curve, it rises, then it rises more quickly, then rises steadily, then rises more slowly, then begins to peak, peaks, then slowly starts to fall.

But with climate change, we have four key curves and only the CFC curve has pretty much flattened out, and the rest are long-term rising.

So it seems to us the fact that statistically for the last decade the total emissions curve is now rising fast but steadily, is progress - and worth sharing.

We do not have the scientific expertise to say that annual emissions have levelled, and many studies attempt to monitor this: what we can say is that the data, from the premier measure of co2 in the atmosphere, suggests in the last 10 or so years, that is what has happened.

Once the rate of growth, having been accelerating, steadies and flattens, the next step, as Greta and us all look forward to, should be it starts to slow; that emissions start to trend downward.

‘And just to make one more point’, says Beth again ‘Of course, population is a factor. As global population has risen some 800 million people this decade, and it’s people who cause emissions (unlike trees which absorb them!) per capita emissions are again therefore trending downward.

Were global population to voluntarily steady, however unlikely, it follows that the emissions curve would start to trend downward, the train to decelerate - independent of the huge, vital and intensifying efforts being made by so many innovators and consumers to speed up lower or zero emission practices.

Nicole Hill says, ‘We want to make three points. This first is educational; check out this Mauna Loa data. It’s awesome. The second is to ask the guys at Scripps who run it to think of doing a ten year graph? It’s been a lot of work to compile this one!

But thirdly and most importantly is not a hard science, but a social science point. This is not complacency: coaches know the achievement of a little progress is perhaps the most powerful motivation there is for intensified effort towards the greater goal. Maybe we should look to build a little on a sense of 'yes, we can' when it comes to climate change?

The NZASAP Clarification, that while the train is going fast in the wrong direction, it is no longer accelerating, is a tiny ripple of hope on the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. Aloha’.

Notes to Editors.

This piece is for publication in whole or part. We respectfully ask that the insight be referred to as The NZASAP Clarification: that net annual emissions – as measured by Mauna Loa – are historically high but are now stable and not accelerating.

NZASAP is a new climate solutions advocacy. The first episode of their climate change live stream show Let's Get This Done debuts on Feb 22nd at when, among other things, they introduce their first (of seven) initiatives to help towards getting to Net Zero As Soon As Possible. (A simple sign-in is required to view.)

A two-minute trailer for the program can be seen here. A data table2 for the graphs here can be seen here, while the images of the three spokespeople quoted above can be seen here.

For follow-ups during Asian hours, please email

@nzasap3 is as of today also available, where a follow is appreciated and will ensure awareness of future group communications and initiatives.


1. ‘Tiny Ripple of Hope’ references Robert F. Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation Address, Cape Town University, South Africa, 6th June 1966 to which NZASAP returns in its first programme.


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