Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Global Climate Change, Local Impacts

Global Climate Change, Local Impacts

by Dakota Jackson

As Donald Trump prepares to defund climate research in America, now is the time to revisit the risks facing New Zealand and its people. Dr. James Renwick, a professor in the school of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University is a resident expert on the subject. He had some sobering advice when asked about the best way for New Zealanders to tackle rising oceans. “All organizations, communities, and nations,” Dr. Renwick advised, “should be work on reducing GHG (greenhouse gas gasses). In the end, that’s all that will help.” Though bleak, Dr. Renwick prognostication is grounded in reality, not wishful thinking. The largest and most robust seawalls in the world can’t hold back the ocean if it steadily rises. Tackling the cause (greenhouse gases) is the best and possibly only solution to preserve the coastal cities as we now know them.

I pressed Dr. Renwick on additional measures that countries might employ to counteract sea-level change. His answer was as haunting as it was monotonous: “minimize greenhouse gas emissions.” Regarding the question on many people’s minds, namely what is the point of no return for emission levels and climate change? For Dr. Renwick, it’s simple science: “If we reduce GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, temperatures will go down. Period. The more warming, the more change in precipitation and extremes. This is fairly reversible if we change tack.”

Unfortunately, in the direction we are headed, things are destined to get worse before they get better. According to Dr. Renwick, “the latest studies suggest that global warming of between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius would trigger irreversible melting of the West Antarctic ice shelf plus part of East Antarctica and Greenland. This would commit the globe to ten or more meters of sea level rise.”

The most evident effect of climate change in the islands is hotter than average temperatures. We are now seeing both subtle and devastating consequences. Ecosystems are both robust, yet fragile. Losing one species of plant could result in the loss of an animal species, which could result in unhealthy numbers of yet another plant or animal species. While warmer winters may make New Zealanders more comfortable at times, some bird species that depend on predictable patterns to lay eggs will become disoriented. Fragile chicks have a narrow window for survival and adapting to temperatures they have not evolved to withstand can lead to dwindling numbers. Plant species that flower at specific times and temperatures will also be affected. The failures of native plants and animals to propagate in reliable patterns will give invasive species new territories to conquer. Once they have set root or foot, they can be there into perpetuity.

New Zealanders will likewise be affected by the hotter summers. Air conditioners will become commonplace where before they were optional. Higher electricity bills and increased demands on the environment will become the new reality.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that we already passed "the point of no return" for some certain climate change effects. Even though New Zealanders contribute only a small fraction to the problem, they will reap the full devastation. There are no borders when it comes to the effects of climate change. For New Zealanders to make a difference, they need to exert their influence on the major players such as the United States, China, India, and the E.U.

Climate change affects every country, every city, every plant, every animal, and every human being. In New Zealand, the north and eastern sections of the North Island will receive more rainfall in the summer and less in the winter. For the South Island, expect more rainfall in the winter and less in the summer. This not only makes farming erratic, but also makes the islands susceptible to flash floods. Paved streets in Auckland and Whangarei can become river bottoms in a matter of hours in a deluge. Drainpipes can fail and businesses and family homes alike can take on water. Insurance adjusters will tell you, water damage is the most-costly of all natural disasters.

In contrast, the eastern parts of the country are expected to endure droughts, making farming and agriculture nearly impossible. Beaches will shrink as a result of a rising ocean and coastal protection will become necessary to prevent erosion damage and flooding of coastal cities. If there is a silver lining, expect a shortened flu and cold season and lower heating costs assuming civilization as we know it continues.

***

Dakota Jackson is a journalism student from the US who has been living in Auckland.


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

The Conversation: Rogue Poll Or Not, All The Signs Point To A Tectonic Shift In New Zealand Politics

Richard Shaw AAP(various)/NZ Greens (CC-BY-SA)/The Conversation Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour ... More>>

Dunne Speaks: It's Time For Matariki Day

The period of Matariki, the celebration of the Māori New Year, which began earlier this week, is being celebrated increasingly as an important national event. While many other countries have their own form of New Year celebrations, Matariki is uniquely ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Why We Shouldn’t Be Pushed Into Re-Opening Our Borders

I believe in yesterday as much as Paul McCartney, but it was bemusing to see the amount of media attention lavished last week on the pandemic-related musings by former government science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman, former Prime Minister Helen Clark ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Media Collusion With National’s Attack Lines

For most of the past week, any consumer of this country’s management of Covid-19 would think New Zealand was actually Brazil, or Texas. The media language has been full of claims of “botches” at the border, and laxness and inexcusable errors ... More>>

The Coronavirus Republic: Three Million Infections And Rising

The United States is famed for doing things, not to scale, but off it. Size is the be-all and end-all, and the coronavirus is now doing its bit to assure that the country remains unrivalled in the charts of infection . In time, other unfortunates may well ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Altars Of Hypocrisy: George Floyd, Protest And Black Face

Be wary what you protest about. The modern moral constabulary are out, and they are assisted by their Silicon Valley friends in the Social Media club. Should you dare take a stand on anything, especially in a dramatic way, you will be found out ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Welcome Deaths: Coronavirus And The Open Plan Office

For anybody familiar with that gruesome manifestation of the modern work place, namely the open plan office, the advent of coronavirus might be something of a relief. The prospects for infection in such spaces is simply too great. You are at risk from ... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Why Thinking Makes It So: Donald Trump’s Obamagate Fixation

The “gate” suffix has been wearing thin since the break-in scandal that gave it its birth. Since Watergate, virtually anything dubious and suggestive, and much more besides, is suffixed. Which brings us to the issue of President Donald Trump’s ... More>>