Political parties tend to be short-sighted in their policies when it comes to global catastrophic risks such as future pandemics, nuclear war, out of control artificial intelligence and climate change according to the results of a new survey.
The Public Health Communication Centre (PHCC) conducted the survey of the five parties currently in Parliament and has released the first Briefing in the series “Where the parties stand?” looking at Long-term thinking & catastrophic risk.
University of Otago Professor Nick Wilson says the survey responses show inadequate concern by the political parties about the need for planning and actions to address such risks.
“As political parties jostle for poll position on the election trail, it’s very concerning to see how little long-term thinking there is,” says Professor Wilson.
The parties were asked about possible legislation to help address global risks – such as recent law passed in the United States. They were also asked for policies they have that would strengthen the resilience of the country to long-term global risks.
Professor Wilson says NZ political parties do not appear see ‘global catastrophic risks’ as a distinct category to be approached in a systematic and comprehensive way. “This leaves the country vulnerable to massive harm to human wellbeing and the economy from catastrophic events. This also goes against an international trend where some governments are building long-term thinking into the policy-making process.”
Climate change was mentioned by all parties except National in terms of building resilience and adaption. The references to other potential catastrophic risks by the parties were minimal (pandemics by only one, and cyber-attacks by one). Only one clearly favoured considering a United States-style ‘Global Catastrophic Risk Management Act’. “These omissions were surprising given the recent major shock of the Covid-19 pandemic, concerns for future pandemics arising from bioengineered organisms, and the threat of a major war given the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” says Professor Wilson.