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That is the message Dunedin author and photographer Neville Peat will deliver to listeners in Owaka tomorrow night as he presents "The Invading Sea" as part of the Catlins Summer Programme of natural history events.
Drawing on his recent book of the same title, Mr Peat said he would illustrate the presentation with a wide range of photos putting climate change and sea level rises into a global context.
"Although my topic has a global scope, the Catlins are as vulnerable as anywhere to the predations of sea level rises caused by climate change.
"The area has several low-lying estuaries of outstanding natural value which would be severely affected by even a modest sea level rise."
At the core of his message was a "call to action" for central and local government - and the communities they represented - to co-ordinate efforts to combat climate change and its effects.
"As I've travelled round the country researching this subject, the most common message I've heard is that the government has been missing in action for the past 20 years in regard to this issue.
"I'm simply adding my voice to the rising clamour demanding authorities take climate change and sea level rises seriously."
Legislation, in the form of the Zero Carbon Act now passing through Parliament, was a vital first step, he said, but equally important was "adaptation".
"Mitigating emissions is essential for the longer term survival of the planet, but just as critical is adaptation in the meantime. This means we need to properly empower agencies like Niwa, and take action to defend coastal communities where appropriate."
Mr Peat voiced a word of caution, however.
"At the same time, we need to avoid investing heavily in the wrong adaptations only to have to reinvest elsewhere later. Flexibility is key."