Climate change and New Zealand

Last week the Royal Society of New Zealand released a statement on climate change prepared by its expert committee on climate. The statement responds to the public controversy and confusion around climate change and aims ” to make absolutely clear what the evidence is for climate change and anthropogenic (human-induced) causes.”

NZ emissions in 2004

NZ emissions in 2004

The statement also indicates likely effects of climate change on New Zealand.

It’s worth reading the three page statement. But in part it makes several points.

“There has been an overall upward trend in global surface temperature since the beginning of the 20th Century. Most of the observed global warming over the past 50 years is very likely to be due to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere”

“Natural factors also cause climate variations. These include changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the shape of the Earth’s orbit, the energy output from the sun, dust from volcanic emissions, and heat exchanges between the atmosphere and the ocean (such as El Niño).”

“Further global changes are predicted. Many impacts are expected to be more costly as time progresses.
Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols were held constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming trend would be expected for at least several decades, due mainly to the slow response of the oceans.”

Measurements show that

“Present global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide far exceed pre-industrial values dating back at least 650,000 years.

The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration since pre-industrial times are due primarily to fossil fuel use and land use change.”

If no substantial efforts are made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions projections suggest:

  • “An increase in globally-averaged surface temperature of 1.1 to 6.4°C by 2100
  • A New Zealand-average warming of 0.2 to 2.0°C by 2040 and 0.7 to 5.1°C by 2090. Fewer cold temperatures and frosts, and more high temperature episodes.
  • A stronger west-east rainfall gradient (wetter in the west and drier in the east) in winter and spring, and an increasing risk of extreme rainfall as the century progresses.
  • Increasing drought risk during this century in areas which are currently drought-prone.
  • An increase in New Zealand-averaged sea level of the same order as the IPCC global projections.
  • Natural year to year variations in New Zealand’s climate will be superimposed on top of these projected anthropogenic changes.”

However, its not all gloom and doom. The statement indicates that while major international policy changes are required to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases these can be achieved using existing technologies. The suggested policies include:

  • “More efficient use of energy, e.g. better designed and insulated houses, more efficient appliances and industrial processes
  • Renewable energy sources, e.g. hydropower, geothermal, wind, marine, and solar
  • Lower-carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas and the capture and storage of emissions from power plants
  • More efficient transport and urban systems and the use of appropriate biofuels and other renewable energy sources to power transport
  • Reforestation, reduced deforestation, and lower emission forms of agriculture”

The members of the RSNZ New Zealand Climate Committee are:

  • Dr DS Wratt crsnz (Chair), NIWA Wellington,
  • Dr JA Hall mrsnz, NIWA, HAMILTON
  • Dr WA Matthews , WELLINGTON
  • Dr Brett Mullan , NIWA, WELLINGTON
  • Dr Jim Renwick mrsnz, NIWA Wellington,
  • Assoc Prof R Warrick, International Global Change Institute, The University of Waikato, HAMILTON
  • Dr SA Weaver , School of Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, WELLINGTON

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7 responses to “Climate change and New Zealand

  1. Thanks for this Ken,
    It looks to be very helpful. I’ll have a closer look at it later. cheers.


  2. Very interesting. There’s an expert review of the ‘statement’ here.


  3. “There’s an expert review of the ’statement’ here.”

    Following your link, all I could find was global warming denialism.

    Why is it that Global Warming Denialists operate out of no-name websites?
    Why do they never collect thei own data or do their own research?

    Why is it that every single scientific community on the planet agrees with global warming?

    Please note that I don’t mean MOST scientific communities or just SOME scientific communities.

    I mean ALL of them agree on global warming.
    Every single last one of them.

    Every single university, every single eminent body of scientists are all part of the consensus on global warming.

    Why do you suppose that is?
    Think hard.

    Scientific opinion on climate change.


  4. When ‘bodies’ and ‘communities’ are promoting a consensus, you can be sure that it is a political statement that they are making, not a scientific statement.

    I am happy to report that not all scientific bodies are completely closed-minded yet. Physics & Society, The journal of the 46,000-member American Physical Society, just published “Climate Sensitivity Revisited,” by Viscount Christopher Monckton. The editor says “There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution.”


  5. Yes, Ross. You should probably mention the follwing disclaimer that appeared with Monckton’s article saying:
    “The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.”

    I have heard that the IPCC assessment receives the support of about 75% of climate scientists. 15% think the assessment overestimates human contribution. Another 15% thinks it underestimates the contribution.

    That’s the nature of consensus I suppose – especially around such a complex area. But that’s the reality of the situation and that’s what governments have to work with.


  6. “When ‘bodies’ and ‘communities’ are promoting a consensus, you can be sure that it is a political statement that they are making, not a scientific statement.”

    Yeah, right.
    That’s why scientists keep saying the Earth is billions of years old. It’s all just politics.

    Yet thank you for tacitily admitting that there is indeed a global consensus on global warming.

    Your use of Monckton’s puff piece as support for your position is embarrassing.
    Next time, please do a little more research.


  7. Pingback: Spreading doubt on climate change « Open Parachute

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