'Wake-up call' on climate change

Massive waves at St Clair Beach, Dunedin, may become a more common sight as the sea level rises. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Massive waves at St Clair Beach, Dunedin, may become a more common sight as the sea level rises. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
While Otago and Southland's agricultural sector could benefit from higher rainfall and warmer winters, the region's coastal environments will be at risk from greater erosion and storm events, Niwa climate scientist Dr Andrew Tait says.

Dr Tait, along with AgResearch scientist Dr Paul Newton and New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre scientist Dr Andy Reisinger, were the lead authors of a chapter on New Zealand and Australia in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Working Group 2 report released in Japan yesterday.

''It's a wake-up call.''

The report highlighted where signs of climate change impacting on the environment were being seen and predicted what the impacts were going to be as the climate continued to be affected by increasing concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, he said.

Temperatures were predicted to increase by 2degC, depending on what inroads into reducing greenhouse gases were made.

Drought was expected to increase in frequency, even in Southland and Otago, and flooding was predicted to have a serious impact in some places as big storm events increased in frequency.

''The big ones will be even bigger. A 1-in-50-year could become a 1-in-20-year time frame by the end of the century.''

This would create a real risk to coastal infrastructure and create a need for communities to be well equipped if bigger floods come downstream, Dr Tait said.

Sea level rise of 0.5m to 1m was predicted, again depending on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and if those reductions were not made the rise might be greater.

As a result, a lot more thought needed to be put in, not just at a local government level, at how coastal infrastructure and the country's ecosystems were going to be protected, he said.

At present, the Government provided guidance on climate issues while local government was charged with policy and planning decisions.

University of Otago geography department senior lecturer Dr Daniel Kingston said the report's predictions of increases in the strength of the prevailing westerly winds would mean inland and southern areas of Otago would see an increase in rain, primarily in winter and spring, and mostly in South Otago and inland towards the Southern Alps.

The expected changes would be good and bad for the region, such as reduced winter heating needs, but increased fire risk in summer, he said.

''The temperature-driven decrease in snow/increase in rainfall will be beneficial for hydropower generation in the short term, but the longer-term decrease in meltwater from snow and glaciers would increase vulnerability.

''Reduced winter snow will also mean more a greater reliance on snow-making machines for the ski industry.''

While higher temperatures in Otago would better suit conditions for pine forest growth, it would also be good for pine disease and pests, he said.

Otago Regional Council engineering, hazards and science director Gavin Palmer said the council had been including climate change considerations into its work for many years.

''This reinforces the need for such things. With this information, we'll review what we are doing and have planned.''

The regional council was working with the Dunedin City Council on its district plan review to ensure inclusion of hazard information.

Also as part of its regional policy statement review it was working with other councils in Otago to ensure climate change information was considered.

''We are taking it seriously.''

It was also including climate change considerations in upgrades of its flood protection infrastructure such as its recently commissioned Waipori pumping station.



The findings

• Rising snow lines, more frequent hot extremes, less frequent cold extremes and increasing extreme rainfall.

• Annual average rainfall expected to decrease in the northeast South Island and northern and eastern North Island, to increase in other parts of New Zealand.

• Regional sea level rise likely to exceed the historical rate (1971-2010)

• Rainfall changes projected to lead to increased run-off in the west and south of the South Island and reduced run-off in the northeast of the South Island, and the east and north of the North Island.

• Annual flows of eastward flowing rivers with headwaters in the Southern Alps projected to increase in response to higher alpine rainfall.

• Flood risk projected to increase in many regions due to more intense extreme rainfall caused by a warmer, wetter atmosphere.

• 50-year and 100-year flood peaks for rivers in many parts of the country will increase, with a corresponding decrease in return periods for specific flood levels.

• Flood risk near river mouths will be exacerbated by storm surge

• Very high and extreme fire weather in many, in particular eastern and northern, parts of New Zealand will increase

• Fire season length will be extended in many already high-risk areas, reducing opportunities for controlled burning.


CO2 emissions

If you read the full version of my comment you will find the suggestions I made on ways to reduce CO2 emissions.

Yet again

Yet again, nzpudding, you're trying to shoot the messenger.

Yet again

Yet again vivk, you give a philosophical statement with zero ideas on how to practically reduce emissions globally. [Abridged]


Is that so hard to understand?

If you have an exalted notion of humanity's place in the world and in "creation" then you may not be all that concerned about your immediate environment. Many people think this world is just a "way station" on the path to the next. They think redemption lies in the next world and we'll all "float" up to it like balloons in the "rapture". Such people have no concept whatsoever of ecology and because of "their" special status in creation, little or no concern with anyone else's environment. For example, those who think religious faith and gated communities will save them from the fate of "others". "Greenies" as I understand them, are concerned with the sustainable well being of everyone and that requires a strong commitment to environmentalism. Some sort of balanced sustainable lifestyle that uses natures dividend without plundering natures capital. Is that so hard to understand? 

Natural gas

Speaking of direct methane leakage into the atmosphere, this happened just the other day.

The facility provides supplemental gas during times of high demand for a 4,000-mile pipeline stretching from the Canadian border to southern Utah. Its two storage tanks for liquefied natural gas each have a capacity of 1.2 billion cubic feet, Williams spokeswoman Michele Swaner said. The one that punctured was about a third full.

Gas pipeline incidents are common. For the US, you can see where they have happened, or get the official summary statistics.


I think there is some merit in thinking of Global Warming as an approaching asteroid that gets bigger and bigger the the longer we do nothing. The "collision" may not be as intantaneous as the encounter 65mya but the effect could be just as catastrophic over a period of 200-300 years. Now for many this is an exercise in imagination that is "a bridge too far". For others, used to the "deep time" of geology and evolution, the outcomes could be a tragic betrayal of millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of political, scientific, economic and cultural progress. 

Odd indeed

Everyone cares about the environment they live in and so everyone is green. Ironic that most of the damage to the green cause is done by Green Party and Greenpeace with their extremism.

Odd division

Odd that the world is divided into "Greens" and others. To be "Green" just means to use nature's resources rationally. 

Reducing CO2 emissions

Refusing to make changes to try and avoid damaging climate change, unless someone hands you all the solutions on a plate, is a total cop out, and we don't have to stop using fossil fuels overnight, that is wrong.

James Hansen says we should reduce CO2 emissions by 6% a year if we start now, but if we wait until 2020, then cuts of 15% a year will be needed. NZpudding your claim that gas saves 80% emissions is wrong, it is 50% (according to the American EPA >>Link<<) That figure doesn't count direct methane leakage into the atmosphere and methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

Read the rest of this comment here


We are woefully behind

Without targeting anyone in particular I'm reminded of the folks who claim the choice is between open slather and prohibition in that sacred cow of ours - booze!

I've never said petroleum is intrinsically evil. Some petroleum companies maybe, but the way forward is responsible usage. I don't think for example the medicine, pharmacy and science in general could do without the synthetics derived from petroleum. Nor can we dump the infernal combustion engine overnight but companies like Tesla are developing practical alternatives. Anyone checked their share price lately? If you want a green investment better rattle your dags! There are practical alternatives now. Ammonia can be burnt in cars producing water vapour. Tesla is developing a battery pack with the global market in mind. Rolls Royce are experimenting with induction chargers. Even a restriction on private cars where public transport is available in cities would be a huge hole in our emissions.

A lot of the denial propaganda in NZ comes from a few in the farming community usually associated with the Act party, and politicians who wish to transform their anxieties into votes. It is nothing to do with us leading the way. We are woefully behind many communities including communities in the US. 

No one is in denial

No one has denied climate change, whether man-made, natural or both, and no one has denied that the planet needs to be greener and cleaner. The big question is how do we quickly and realistically make the changes needed to reduce emissions?

Neither you, the Greens nor Greenpeace haven't been able to come up with any rational way we can quickly achive emissions reductions, especially when it comes to powering cities with populations of 1 million-plus. Natural gas is the immediate solution, giving time for alternatives and renewables to be more cost effective and more efficient than what they currently are.

Not being clever

@vivk: No, I don’t think I'm clever. You are the one demanding that we make the change, and you are the one who pointed out there is a problem. Now I'm asking you for your solution.
But it would seem that while you are more then ready to point out the problems you don’t know how to fix them either. Maybe before stating your argument you should put your thinking cap on try and find out what is being done to fix the problem.I asked simple questions in response to your argument about the need to stop using oil and gas. That’s not being clever, that was me being interested in what you had to say.
I am sorry, but until there is a solution available to the masses at affordable prices I will carry on driving my car, using the power in my house, and enjoying the benefits that it give me. Just as I am sure you will. [Abridged]

Good question

Lgn: Your question “What is the answer?” is a very good one and that is what needs to be worked on. I personally can’t supply the answers as to how western civilisation would carry on as usual and not cause catastrophic climate change. You seem to think you are clever by demanding such answers of me. I am saying there is a problem. Everyone needs to work on a solution. Ignoring it is not the answer.

Climate change is real

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has just released a report called “What we Know” that assesses the current state of climate science.  http://whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts/
The key findings are:

Climate scientists agree:
- climate change is happening here and now.
- We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
- The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.

Nzpudding – they have credibility in the area of climate science, as far as I know you don’t.


Total fiction

Fact is vivk your numbers are made up and total fiction. Your fossil fuel reserves take into account all the coal there is and still in the ground un-tapped, when we can all agree we need to move away from coal. So let's not burn coal eh? 

Fact also is that natural gas is up to 80% better for the environment than coal and if it wasn't how come we burn the stuff in our homes for heating and cooking if that's bad? 

You have a misguided philosophical argument with no solutions whatsoever on how to practically tackle and make the changes necessary in countries whose emissions from coal burning are damaging the planet. As said before natural nas isn't the perfect solution but it's a massive step in the right direction.

What is the answer?

@ vivk

I'm interested in what you suggest is the answer to our immediate energy need. If not oil or gas then what can we replace them with tomorrow, next week within the next year? What is out there today that would replace all our energy needs tomorrow? .

If we all park up our cars, motor bikes, trucks, planes, boats, trains, push bikes (push bikes use oil too) and everything else that require some form of oil by product today. What can we start using tomorrow to move us, and all the other things that they are used for around the world.

If we turn off the dams today how do we heat and light our houses, cook our food, store meat etc, teach our children, fix our sick, and earn our wage so we can pay for it all communicate with others around the world?

All this needs to be answered and put in place by tomorrow so we can all park up and turn off by midnight tonight. Oh and please don't answer these simple questions by saying we can replace them with things that are not yet readily available to the masses at affordable prices . One last thing computers cannot be used to help think up design and manufacture any of these replacement energy as they are made from oil by products too.

Compare our contribution

Compare our contribution of .02% GHGs with our % of the world's population, .00061%. This equates to times 32 the global average by my reckoning. Do you seriously think our overseas markets are going to ignore that? According to your logic none of us should pay any tax because individually it's a small proportion of the national total. I suspect your Libertarian sentiments are against paying tax anyway. Leave it all to market forces and private enterprise, even the defence of the realm. $$$$ yummee! I'm alright and the devil take the hindmost.  

It is not surprising many

It is not surprising many think that everyone will be penalised financially for using fossil fuels. The fossil fuel industry has done a damn good job putting that scenario into your heads. Overseas the subsidies for photovoltaics mean that many are paying less for energy than New Zealanders. It is even possible to charge electric vehicles for less than $5.00 a day. Of course the petrol companies don't want you to know that. In Germany sustainables are now about 20% national energy production. China is following the same path. Even the US are moving quickly into sustainables although our media wouldn't tell you that. Tesla cars are embarking on worldwide distribution of cars and battery packs very soon with a joint venture with Panasonic. In NZ with hydroelectric, windfarms and geothermal, we are uniquely placed to make the transition to clean energy for transport. 

ORC and climate change

Otago Regional Council engineering, hazards and science director Gavin Palmer said the council had been including climate change considerations into its work for many years.

That's why they set conservative stream low-flow limits, make sure that wetlands are looked after, and don't overallocate river and stream water for irrigation, recognising that we don't know what we will be facing in 30 years.

Yeah, right.

Enough CO2 already

The fossil fuel companies already have enough reserves which, if burnt, will result in more than a 2 degree temperature rise. There is no need to drill off Otago to add to what is already an extremely serious threat to our civilisation. Natural gas has 75% the CO2 emissions of oil and 50% of coal (the claimed 80% reduction is wrong). Fossil fuel gas is part of the problem, not a solution. Expecting to continue with current, or expanding, energy use by changing to gas would mean driving off the runaway climate change cliff (in 4th gear rather than 5th perhaps) but the crash of civilisation will still be the end result. The fossil fuel companies are playing a permanent April Fools' joke on the rest of mankind as they make hundreds of billions of profit a year and destroy our children's future.

Natural gas

Whether the Greens are willing to admit it or not, natural gas is a near immediate solution to switching from coal and therefore dramatically reducing CO2 emissions by up to 80%. It's not perfect, granted, but it's a massive step in the right direction. You're not going to power a city like Beijing on wind turbines, solar panels or pond scum.

Therefore, protesters should be welcoming any exploration off our coasts for natural gas, so we can make a practical and immediate impact on climate change.

This is the real April Fool's Day Joke

Climate change is apparently caused by human behaviour. It's a pity (or not) that it was not discovered and acted on by the leaders during the industrial revolution that made the western world what it is today, with its modern convenient living, appliances, technology, communication, democracy, greater freedom etc. If it had been, the greens would be happier now but no real progress would have been made.

New Zealand with a nett contribution of 0.2% is hardly likely to make any real difference to a percieved but unproven theory about the health or otherwise of our planet.

Lay off us and do not tax us without representation and good reason.

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