What Generation 2100 will see

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand is taking the issue of climate change seriously.  Yvonne O’Hara, in a special two-part report with the assistance of the  Aotearoa/New Zealand Science Journalism Fund, looks at the predicted impact it will have on the environment, infrastructure and future  generations in Otago and Southland.

The conversations about ''climate change'' are getting louder and more frequent, and our grandchildren's children will benefit from the debate.

New Zealand is making its voice heard during worldwide climate change conversations.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was interviewed by climate-change campaigner Al Gore as part of his ''24 hours of reality'' campaign earlier this month.

Local Government New Zealand president and Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull and Climate Change Minister James Shaw attended the United Nations' Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Germany in November.

Mr Shaw also released a Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group's Stocktake report this month, which outlined the potential effects of climate change on New Zealand's communities, government and business.

He called it ''grim reading''.

The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre's international deputy director, Dr Andy Reisinger, has been involved with many aspects of climate change research and reporting.

''My sense [is] people have started to take climate change a bit more seriously in the past three or four years.

''It is now moving out of the abstract to the concrete, and out of the future to the relevant for this generation.

''Just because we are small, we think we have nothing to say, but people are changing their attitudes about that. It is real and its effects are being felt already, and therefore will affect the next generation even more.''

Dr Reisinger said New Zealand had its role to play in the climate-change debate - internationally and domestically - and that included businesses and farming.

The 2degC or 3degC predicted temperature rise would make a ''massive difference'' climatically, as there would be more extreme weather events, including heavier rainfalls and longer droughts.

For every 1degC increase in temperature, there would be a 7% or 8% increase in moisture in the atmosphere.

As an example of what a few degrees could do, he said the last ice age was on average 5degC cooler and it had Britain under ice sheets.

Dr Reisinger said farmers would experience extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods or snow dumps, far more frequently than the once or twice in a lifetime their parents might have experienced.

Businesses would universally have to accept they would have to pay a price for their greenhouse gas emissions and be encouraged to find more viable and competitive ways to reduce them, as well as to develop new technology and alternative energy sources.

About 49% of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture, largely methane and carbon dioxide.

Methane-reduction research is looking at feed management, selective breeding and developing inhibitors and vaccines that target rumen microbes, which are the source of the methane, while not damaging the digestive process for the cow.


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