World doomed to 3C temperature rise if everyone copied New Zealand - report

If every country did as much as New Zealand to combat climate change, the world would fail to meet its Paris Agreement targets, according to a new report.

Climate Action Tracker, a non-profit which provides "independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate action", ranked New Zealand's efforts as "insufficient", despite the Zero Carbon Act, which aims to make New Zealand carbon-neutral by 2050.

"The Zero Carbon Act does not introduce any policies to actually cut emissions but rather sets a framework," Climate Action Tracker said earlier this week, criticising its weaker targets for other greenhouse gases like methane and ongoing subsidies for the "biggest industrial polluters" like Rio Tinto.

"While the Zero-Carbon Act recently adopted strengthens its former 2050 target (halving its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050), excluding such a substantial share of emissions from the net zero goal lowers its ambition."

In addition to going soft on agriculture emissions, the report notes New Zealand also has "one of the oldest passenger vehicle fleets in the developed world", many of which don't have to meet newer emissions standards because of their age, and the Government backed down on plans to make its entire fleet electric by mid-2025. 

Only two countries analysed in the report are meeting their Paris obligations to keep warming below 1.5C - Morocco and The Gambia. No countries are considered a role model.

At the other end, countries whose actions are "critically insufficient" and would result in warming above 4C this century include the US - which is in the process of pulling out of the Paris Agreement altogether - oil-rich Russia and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Ukraine. 

Countries whose efforts are highly insufficient include China, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Indonesia and UAE. New Zealand will join them if further action isn't taken, Climate Action Tracker says.

"New Zealand's current policies are not consistent with holding warming to below 2C, let alone limiting it to 1.5C as required under the Paris Agreement, and are instead consistent with warming between 3C and 4C."

Climate Action Tracker Dec2019
Photo credit: Climate Action Tracker.

In Climate Action Tracker's first report, published in 2012, New Zealand was rated 'inadequate', where it remained until 2017 when the wording was changed to 'insufficient', where it was remained. 

Scientists' predictions have been accurate so far - study 

Scientists have long warned if the world keeps warming, to expect sea level rises, droughts and increasingly erratic weather. In recent years threats of mass extinction and sea level rises that would submerge most seaside cities have entered the conversation, as well as feedback loops which could see temperatures spiral rapidly out-of-control beyond scientists' expectations.

A study in August found last time temperatures were 2C to 3C warmer than today, the seas were 16m higher. 

New research published just this week found climate scientists' predictions as far back as the 1970s, before today's powerful computers were available, have been accurate.

"How much warming we are having today is pretty much right on where models have predicted," lead author Zeke Hausfather of the University of California told magazine Science

Where models from the 20th century got the level of warming slightly wrong, the research found, it was usually because pollution habits changed in ways scientists didn't predict. Once real-world pollution data was entered into the primitive models, they were largely accurate. 

"The fact that early climate models got future temperatures broadly right is strong evidence that longer-term climate changes are predictable," Hausfather  told CBS News, "and that they have been driven by increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations in recent decades."

His research was published this week in journal Geophysical Research Letters.