Global warming is here, happening now, and we caused it.
There’s more warming in the pipeline. Even if we could stop the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere today (and we can’t), the planet would carry on warming up for 30 years or more. There is nothing we can do that will stop this.
The world needs to keep atmospheric greenhouse gas levels as low as possible to try to limit the amount of damage from climate change. Kyoto is only the beginning.
Ignoring climate change won’t make it go away. The climate sceptics – including the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition – are now irrelevant.
NZ is likely to be a good place to be, at least in the next 20-30 years, because it is expected to warm up more slowly than most of the rest of the world. Our agriculture may get a boost from the extra warmth.
NZ is vulnerable to what climate change does to the rest of the world. If Europe, North America or Asia are hard hit by climate change, we’ll feel the impact here, in our pockets.
NZ is vulnerable to what the rest of the world does to combat climate change. Restrictions on air travel or food miles campaigns could hit our economy hard. We need to be clever, and proactive, to avoid the tyranny of distance, and be seen to have a low carbon footprint.
Water will be a flashpoint. Increased risk of drought on the east coast of both islands will put more and more pressure on water resources, while increasing rainfall intensity will make damaging floods more common.
NZ is well placed to become a low-carbon economy – even a world-leader – but it’s not going to be easy, and getting there will challenge a lot of our comfortable assumptions about how things should be done.
Electricity and carbon-based fuels are pivotal issues. Building a low carbon energy infrastructure might mean wind farms in iconic landscapes or more hydro power in fragile river systems, and weaning our transport system off fossil fuels could transform agriculture and the landscape as crops are grown for biofuels.
Coping with climate change and reducing carbon emissions is going to shape national and international politics in coming decades. In NZ, taxpayers should “follow the money” as emitters and forest owners jostle for emissions holidays or credits.
Lifeboat NZ: the world will perceive NZ as a great place to live. What happens if climate refugees from the Pacific or Asia knock on the door, or our half million expat Kiwis all decide to come home to ride out the rigours of climate change?
There is a real risk that climate change could be faster and more dangerous than currently expected. Watch the sea ice in Arctic Ocean, and the ice caps on Greenland and the West Antarctic. What’s happening there is already dramatic. If it gets worse, get worried.
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