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Climate change report a 'wake-up call' for NZ – scientists

Monday 31 Mar 2014 12:59 p.m.



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By 3 News online staff

 A United Nations report on climate change is a "wake-up call" for New Zealand, according to local scientists.

The report found the impact of climate change is leading to rising sea levels and will bring more flooding to low-lying areas.

"This report […] paints a very clear picture of what the future could hold for humanity if we don't get on top of greenhouse emissions," says Dr James Renwick of Victoria University's school of Geography, Environment and Earth Science.

"Every 10cm of [sea level] rise triples the risk of a given inundation event, and we are expecting something like a metre of rise this century. That would mean today's one-in-100 year event occurs at least annually at many New Zealand coastal locations. New Zealand has a great deal of valuable property and infrastructure close to the coast that will be increasingly at risk as time goes on."

Dr Renwick calls the report, published by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a "wake-up call" and says ecosystem biodiversity is also at risk - especially marine and alpine ecosystems.

Dr Euan Mason of Canterbury University's School of Forestry says the report shows New Zealand is not pulling its weight when it comes to climate change.

"Our per capita emissions are among the fastest rising in the world, and our Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is failing because of poor policy and so we have had to withdraw from the second commitment period of the Kyoto agreement in order to avoid penalties. 

"With the right policy settings and with some relatively simple changes to our ETS we could become fully greenhouse gas neutral if we chose to. That we choose instead to do less than our share to solve the problem is shameful."

In a statement released yesterday, Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser said the Government was "investing heavily in international agricultural research on ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions" and was committed to reducing emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

But Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman says a lot more needs to be done to combat the impact of climate change.

"National’s policies are driving up climate-changing emissions," says Dr Norman. "It has failed to help our regions adapt and prepare, and it is refusing to show any leadership globally on the issue."

Instead, the Green Party would tackle emissions by working with the forestry sector to grow more trees to absorb carbon, as well as revising transport funding to invest more in cycling walking and public transport options.

Dr Norman says the Greens would establish a "fair price on carbon pollution to incentivise cleaner, smarter ways of doing things" and develop a 100 percent renewable electricity system by 2030.

As well as increased flooding and sea levels, the report also predicts of more hot extremes, rising snow lines and stronger tropical cyclones.

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