Climate report must spur action from new government

A new climate report being released today must spur New Zealand’s political and industrial leaders into reducing greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of who takes the reins of government later today, says Forest & Bird.

“New Zealand’s wildlife and coastal communities are already experiencing the early effects of climate change, but we still have a chance to help avert the worst case scenario, if we act now,” says Forest & Bird’s Climate Advocate Adelia Hallett.

The Ministry for the Environment and Statistics NZ are releasing the Our atmosphere and climate 2017 report later this morning.

The 2015 Greenhouse Gas Inventory showed that, compared to 1990 levels, our greenhouse gas emissions had increased 24%, but this soared to 64% when deforestation and other land use factors were taken into account.

"New Zealanders often think of climate change as something that is happening elsewhere, but our wildlife is already experiencing the impacts of climate disruption, as are many of our communities and primary industries," says Ms Hallett.

“Fortunately, nature is on our side. New Zealand’s biggest carbon sinks are our forests and soils, and we already have the tools and knowledge to protect and enhance them. All that’s missing is the political and corporate leadership, and resourcing.

“Landscape scale predator control; converting hill country to native forest; and reducing harmful development in erosion-prone catchments are all important actions that central and regional governments can progress immediately.

“At the same time, the transport and farming sectors must reduce their massive carbon and methane outputs, which make up the majority of New Zealand’s emissions. New Zealand must also withdraw from coal, oil and gas extraction which contributes to global emissions.  

Examples of native species being impacted already by climate change include:

  • The kea is in serious trouble due to increased predation from rats, stoats, and cats, which can survive at higher altitudes due to warming.
  • Tuatara populations are starting to show a male bias, as their eggs develop according to soil temperature.
  • Feral cats are breeding earlier, sparking fears their soaring numbers will overwhelm predator control efforts.
  • Mast years, and consequent rat and stoat plaques, now occur far more frequently than in the past, putting our native birds, reptiles, bats and insects at ever greater risk of extinction.
  • The yellow-eyed penguin, Antipodean albatross, and other seabirds risk starvation as ocean currents and fish distribution change. While parents have to travel further to find food, their chicks on shore lose weight and can also starve.
  • Just recently, an entire generation of Adelie penguins in Antarctica starved to death due to changes in ice distribution.
  • At the same time, coastal communities such as Granity, Dunedin, Clifton, and Kaeo, are facing major social and economic disruption as sea levels rise and storm surges eat away at the land they are built on.

“Climate change is without doubt the most serious challenge humanity has ever faced; it’s desperately important that New Zealand’s government and industry leaders act with urgency to rein in our emissions,” says Ms Hallett.

“We still have a window to keep climate change in check. Scientists recently confirmed that it is possible to keep warming under 1.5°C, if we make urgent emissions cuts now,” says Ms Hallett. 

“New Zealand’s political and business leaders must step up to help prevent the ecocide and human suffering that extreme climate change will deliver. There is still the opportunity to do so, so let’s take this latest report as a spur to action, and get on with it.”