Wed, 21 July 2004
Clark acknowledges climate change, but what is NZ going to do?
Wednesday July 21, 2004: Greenpeace today welcomed Prime Minister Helen Clark’s comments yesterday that climate change is here to stay (1) and urges the Government to put its concerns into real action.
The Prime Minister was commenting on the recent flooding disaster in the Bay of Plenty which comes only five months after devastating storms and flooding ravaged the lower North Island in February.
“February’s storms cost New Zealand $300 million in repair bills and the Bay of Plenty floods will cost in the order of tens of millions. These are the real costs of climate change,” said Greenpeace Climate Campaigner, Vanessa Atkinson.
“Helen Clark is right. We are living in an age of climate change. Now she needs to ensure that the Government takes urgent steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
NIWA predicts New Zealand can expect more extreme weather events like flooding and droughts, wetter conditions in the west, drier in the east and warmer conditions overall, with climate change.
Rising temperatures are already causing glaciers to melt. New Zealand’s Franz Joseph glacier has retreated 1500 metres since scientific observations began. Franz Joseph, Fox and other glaciers are in an overall pattern of retreat. If temperatures rise by 1.5 – 4.5 degrees Celsius, the South Island could lose 1000 glaciers in a few decades.
But concerns about climate change are not just being raised in New Zealand. The Prime Minister’s comments come just one week after David King, the British Government’s chief scientific advisor, stated that "climate change is the biggest problem that civilisation has had to face in 5,000 years" (2). In January he stated that climate change was a bigger threat than global terrorism. Last year Europe suffered a crippling drought and heatwave, taking 35,000 lives and costing 13 billion Euros worldwide.
Carbon dioxide is the main contributor globally to climate change, mainly from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas for our energy needs. Climate scientists have calculated that we must leave 75% of all fossil fuels in the ground, never to be burnt, to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
“What we need in New Zealand is a long term sustainable energy strategy that will allow the rapid uptake of renewable energy generation like wind. What we don’t need is more coal mines such as Cypress and Pike River, or more coal and oil electricity generation if New Zealand is going to get serious about tackling climate change.” concluded Ms Atkinson.
Contacts: Greenpeace Climate Campaigner: Vanessa Atkinson 021 565 165 Greenpeace Communications Officer: Suzette Jackson 021 577 556
Notes to Editors
1. "I think climate change is here to stay. I think the climate will continue to be erratic and more extreme than we have seen in the past" Govt preparing for worse and more frequent flooding, Scoop, 20 July 2004.
2. Melting ice: the threat to London's future, Guardian, Paul Brown, environment correspondent Wednesday July 14, 2004.