Editor's note

Nau mai haere mai - and welcome to this week’s New Zealand newsletter.

This week, media organisations throughout the world are increasing their coverage of climate change as part of the international Covering Climate Now project, which encourages journalists to improve climate reporting and to recognise it as the defining issue of our time.

AUT political scientist David Hall argues that the climate crisis is an appalling lapse in duty of care by decision makers, which now affects us all, but that our response cannot overlook this duty. He writes that we can’t afford to be careless about the consequences of climate action, nor uncaring towards people it affects and that to achieve our goal of a low-emissions future, we need to strike a balance between encouraging action and limiting pushback.

During this week, The Conversation is also publishing Climate Explained articles every day, in which experts respond to climate-related questions from readers. The latest stories look at why carbon dioxide, at less than one-twentieth of 1% of Earth’s atmosphere, has such an important role in regulating climate, and whether we should mass plant trees and shrubs that are known to be effective in stripping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

And in other significant developments, New Zealand history will be part of the core curriculum in schools from 2022. Massey University historian Michael Belgrave welcomes the decision but argues that the teaching of history will have to be well resourced to ensure that children learn more than facts about people, places and timelines, but understand why things happened and their consequences.

You will find many more articles about New Zealand issues in this newsletter, as well as The Conversation’s international coverage, and much more on the New Zealand page. The Conversation is committed to delivering responsible, evidence-based journalism. Many thanks for reading. Please share this newsletter with friends and colleagues - they can subscribe here. Ka kite anō ā tērā wiki.

Veronika Meduna

New Zealand Editor

Top stories

The climate crisis is itself an appalling lapse in duty of care by decision-makers, but we shouldn’t overlook this duty in our response. from www.shutterstock.com

Why our response to climate change needs to be a just and careful revolution that limits pushback

David Hall, Auckland University of Technology

Climate change is a super-wicked problem. With a growing sense of urgency to act on climate change, it is vital we strike a balance between encouraging action and limiting pushback.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite makes precise measurements of Earth’s carbon dioxide levels from space. NASA/JPL

Why carbon dioxide has such outsized influence on Earth’s climate

Jason West, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Carbon dioxide makes up less than one-twentieth of 1% of Earth's atmosphere. How does this relatively scarce gas control Earth's thermostat?

While hemp does not sequester as much carbon dioxide as trees, it can be used as an efficient energy crop or in concrete, both with a potentially positive carbon sequestration effect. from www.shutterstock.com

Climate explained: how different crops or trees help strip carbon dioxide from the air

Sebastian Leuzinger, Auckland University of Technology

Planting any tree is more important than planting a particular tree when it comes to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

New Zealand is one of few places in the world where teaching the country’s own history has not been compulsory. from www.shutterstock.com

Why it’s time for New Zealanders to learn more about their own country’s history

Michael Belgrave, Massey University

Teaching history is as much about facts and people as it is about contested narratives and disputed interpretations, which is why it's time to make New Zealand history a compulsory subject at school.

Auckland Council’s upgrade plans highlight the importance of local Māori communities as part of the process. from www.shutterstock.com

If Auckland’s plan to include Māori histories in city centre upgrade is genuine, it must act on inequalities

Fleur Palmer, Auckland University of Technology

As part of an upgrade of Auckland's city centre, the council promises to include local Māori communities and their histories. But without addressing inequalities, it is no more than a token gesture.

Research shows that New Zealand children are exposed to an average of 46 ads for unhealthy products every day. from www.shutterstock.com

NZ children see more than 40 ads for unhealthy products each day. It’s time to change marketing rules

Tim Chambers, Imperial College London

Despite repeated calls for an overhaul of New Zealand's marketing regulations to protect children from exposure to ads for unhealthy products, successive governments have failed to act.

The new measures that give police discretion not to prosecute are in keeping with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision not to join US President Donald Trump’s “war on drugs”. from www.shutterstock.com

New law gives NZ police discretion not to prosecute drug users, but to offer addiction support instead

Max Abbott, Auckland University of Technology

A change to drug laws in New Zealand has been hailed as a leap towards treating drug addiction as a heath issue. But it has also been criticised for essentially decriminalising class A drugs.

From The Conversation's international editions

The good, the bad and the ugly: the nations leading and failing on climate action

Bill Hare, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Ahead of the UN climate summit, we take stock of the world's best and worst performers on climate action - including some surprise success stories.

How other countries get parents to vaccinate their kids (and what Australia can learn)

Katie Attwell, University of Western Australia; Mark Navin, Oakland University

In some countries, parents are fined if they don't vaccinate their child or they have to go on a course before being granted an exemption to vaccinate. Are any of these options right for Australia?

Is it even possible to connect ‘13 Reasons Why’ to teen suicide?

Emily Lund, University of Alabama; Michael R. Nadorff, Mississippi State University

Over the past decade, more teens have attempted suicide. The trend has vexed researchers, but it's that much more difficult to determine whether a fictional TV show has had any role.

Brexit: France and UK have long and troubled history – but pragmatism offers a bright future

Karine Varley, University of Strathclyde

Relations between the UK and France are often portrayed as a history of at best mutual suspicion and at worst open hostility..

Why do the US, China and international community remain silent on Papua?

Amelia Joan Liwe, Universitas Pelita Harapan

Indonesia's strategic position in today’s geopolitical configuration explains the lack of response internationally.

Amazon fires: Indigenous people show fire can be used sustainably

Jayalaxshmi Mistry, Royal Holloway

Fire doesn't have to be destructive. For many in the Amazon, it is part of their livelihood and culture.

Are the Amazon fires a crime against humanity?

Tara Smith, Bangor University

Destroying the Amazon rainforest will accelerate climate change, harming millions. Can those responsible be prosecuted?

Felicity Huffman: White is the colour of remorse

Michael Orsini, University of Ottawa; Linda Mussell, Queen's University, Ontario

The fallout from the Huffman case has been intense, with much anger centered on the light punishment meted out to a white A-list celebrity versus the excessive charges levelled at Black defendants.

Huge sharks, tiny plankton: Exploring the changing Arctic from an icebreaker

Jonathan A. D. Fisher, Memorial University of Newfoundland

The eastern Arctic and sub-Arctic marine areas of Canada are changing rapidly under climate change.

Mugabe is dead, but old men still run southern Africa

Henning Melber, University of Pretoria

It remains to be seen how much longer the 'old men syndrome' will persist in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, despite growing frustration among the politically powerless.