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New Zealand is seeing the impact of excess greenhouse gas emissions in our climate and oceans, according to the latest national report from the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ about the state of the atmosphere and climate.
The recently released "Our atmosphere and climate 2017" reports on changes in global and domestic greenhouse gas emissions and how these are affecting our environment. It also provides projections for New Zealand’s climate and the factors that influence our high summer ultraviolet light levels.
Key findings from the report are:
• Global concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million in 2016 and there is now the highest level of CO2 in the atmosphere in at least the last 800,000 years.
• Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased 23% since 1972.• Global gross greenhouse gas emissions have risen 51% from 1990 to 2013.
• New Zealand gross greenhouse gas emissions have risen 24% from 1990 to 2015 while its net GHG emissions rose 64% as a result of increasing gross emissions and higher logging rates in production forests. Net emissions take into account the role of carbon sinks such as forests for removing GHGs and adding them when the trees are harvested and land use changes.
• Agriculture makes up nearly half of New Zealand gross emissions, while road transport had a 78% increases in emissions since 1990.
• New Zealand has experienced a 1degC temperature increase since 1909.
• 2016 was New Zealand’s warmest year since at least 1909 and the five warmest years on record, which includes last year, have occurred in the past 20 years.
• New Zealand’s glaciers have lost a quarter of their volume since 1977.
• Sea levels have risen 14cm to 22cm at four main New Zealand ports since 1916.
• The global production of ozone-depleting substances has dropped 98% from 1986 to 2015.
• Soils at one-fifth of sites around New Zealand are getting drier compared with 1972-73 measurements.
Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said the most concerning change in our atmosphere was the unprecedented high levels of carbon dioxide, which were leading to increasing global temperatures and changes to our oceans, including rising sea levels and increasing ocean acidity.
"While New Zealand is not a large contributor of emissions globally, we are certainly affected locally and we need to act on what that means for us," Ms Robertson said.
"The future impacts of climate change on our lives all depend on how fast global emissions are reduced and the extent to which our communities can adapt to change."