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Major underestimates of climate change in MoE documents

Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa has issued a letter to Government and Opposition Ministers and to every regional and district council in New Zealand highlighting the rapidly growing evidence that climate change and sea level rise will be much faster and more severe than Ministry for Environment (MfE) guidance suggests. By using the current guidance, New Zealand will remain unprepared for the impacts of climate change, local government agencies will make poor decisions about climate change adaptation and New Zealanders will be unaware of the scale of transformation required survive the rapidly approaching climate catastrophe.

The Ministry for Environment has issued several reports which are used by local government agencies, planning authorities, engineers, researchers and environmental scientists to evaluate climate change hazards, vulnerability and risks, to make climate change adaptation plans and to design resilient long-term stormwater, flood and coastal defence and water supply infrastructure.

The MfE reports focus on “middle of the road” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) modelling results and make no mention of either the “least drama” foundation of IPCC projections or the increasingly high probability that climate change will be much more severe and rapid than the IPCC projections suggest.

The evidence for faster-than-expected climate change grows by the day. Scientific research released in the last few months has shown:

• Rapid collapse of arctic permafrost with the potential to double the climate feedback associated with permafrost thawing

• Antarctic Ross Ice Shelf melting 10 times faster than expected coupled with faster-than-expected melting of both the Greenland Ice shelf and Bering Sea ice

• Arctic permafrost nitrous oxide emissions are up to 12-times higher than previously thought; nitrous oxide is a very powerful greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential about 300 times that of CO2

Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa has urged government ministers to issue new climate change planning and adaptation guidance which highlights the need to consider severe climate change scenarios in all climate change adaptation and infrastructure planning work and to tell the truth about the severity of likely future climate change impacts via the MfE website. A new structure for NZ climate science advice is required, to move away from the flawed “least drama” approach taken by the IPCC and many scientists to date and recognise the severity of potential climate change consequences: near-term collapse of our civilisation and mass extinction. The government must give Regional Councils and Territorial Authorities the powers they need to respond to the climate crisis.

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