Climate change happening faster than anticipated, New Zealand scientists warn

As wildfires spread in Europe and a heatwave hammers the United States, scientists in New Zealand warn climate change is happening faster than they thought.

Temperatures this week in Britain were as hot as those forecast for decades from now, meaning climate targets for 2050 may not be happening soon enough.

In scorching Spain, it's taken all week for raging wildfires to begin to be tamed. A week of extremes across the continent has erased swathes of Europe from the face of the Earth.

In Spain alone, 20,000 hectares have been burned in just a week - an area larger than New York City. And now New York is also sweltering, with temperatures set to reach record heights.

Scientists say it's an ominous warning that climate change isn't just here already, it's happening faster than we thought.

"The extremes are hitting us sooner and harder, and this was not necessarily predicted by the models," Victoria University climate scientist Tim Naish told Newshub.

Waikato University climate scientist Luke Harrington agreed.

"This was probably something that happened a little bit earlier than what we were anticipating."

It's not just happening in Europe - it has hit New Zealand as well, where events like this week's extreme winter weather will become more common in a warming world.

"Sea level rise for certain parts of New Zealand may be much quicker, and you may only have half as much time as you thought," Naish told Newshub.

It means our plans for climate action by being carbon neutral by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C may already be out of date.

"Is that soon enough? Many would argue not," Naish said.

Harrington said limiting it to 1.5C was discussed seven years ago.

"That was aligned with 1.5C back when we were talking about these targets back in Paris 2015," he said.

"Now we're in 2022, for us to get to 1.5C and stay below there, we probably need to be net zero by 2040 or something like that."

The Climate Change Commission stands by the target but it warned we must act fast.

"It's certainly not the case that the Emissions Reduction Plan is out of date - but it will become out of date if we don't take action now," Climate Change Commission chair Rod Carr said.

Time is running out in a climate crisis that is now coming quickly whether we are ready or not.