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Climate Change Reinforces Need For Kyoto Protocol

Climate change predictions for Otago reinforce importance of Kyoto Protocol for Otago

Predictions of a two to fourfold increase in the frequency of severe drought for inland and coastal Otago underline the need for the Kyoto protocol, Otago MP David Parker said today.

“This prediction is not at the extreme of climate change projections. It is based on middle-of-the-road assumptions,” said Mr Parker.

A recent report by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) states that drought risk is expected to increase dramatically in already drought prone regions, including the Maniototo and North Otago.

The report, titled Changes in drought risk with climate change, predicts that between now and 2080, the frequency severe of droughts will occur increase between two and four times in Central Otago and eastern parts of North Otago.

Mr Parker said the report warns that what is presently considered a one in 20 year drought will occur every 5 to 10 years. When droughts occur, they will be drier and more severe than is normally the case now.

“The effects on river flows will be significant. Rivers which that have their catchments in Central and Eastern Otago will have less water in them. The only two rivers on the east coast likely to maintain their flow are the Clutha and Waitaki Rivers, which receive most of their water in the Southern Alps from the west coast weather patterns. Except for these two rivers, there will be less water for irrigation and less water for town supplies.

“We in Otago will be more affected by climate change than most other parts of New Zealand. The efforts this Government and of the international community under the Kyoto protocol are especially important to us.

“The 1997-99 Canterbury drought cost $230 million at the farm gate alone and around a billion dollars nationally. The Australian drought of 2002/03 resulted in a 30% reduction in agricultural output, a net effect of 1.6 per cent drop in GDP and 70,000 jobs. This is the scale of the threat climate change can pose to New Zealand and the agricultural sector in particular.

“The scale of these costs puts in perspective the costs of the Kyoto protocol. I am convinced that it is especially important for Otago that, through the Kyoto protocol, NZ continues to play our part in avoiding even more extreme climate change. This is important to our economy and for the environment our children will inherit,” said Mr Parker.

On Wednesday 6 July, Finance Minister Michael Cullen and Mr Parker will visit the NIWA - Lauder Research Station, which is 30 minutes from Alexandra.

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