The government must take concrete action on climate change as the country braces for warmer years to come, a climate science professor said.
New Zealand recorded its seventh warmest year last year, according to Niwa’s annual climate balance sheet.
Several places have experienced droughts of more than 40 days, which has resulted in widespread restrictions on water use in parts of the North Island.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called climate change the “nuclear-free moment” of her generation, and last month the government declared a national climate emergency.
James Renwick, professor of climate science at Victoria University and commissioner of the Commission on Climate Change, said the time has come for the government to take tangible action.
“New Zealand needs to see emissions reduction start almost immediately, every country needs to do that. So that’s what this government is responsible for.”
He said a lot has happened at the political level, but now a practical change is needed.
Although the pandemic continues to be a priority, he said climate change cannot take a back seat.
“Last year the greenhouse gas emissions around the world went down because of all the lockdowns and there is talk of how we could take advantage of that and reduce emissions this year, if we can invest. the right way, build back better, put more money into renewable energy. “
Renwick said one of the strengths of the pandemic was that it could be the start of the drop in global emissions.
Some of the changes the government could make would be getting a fleet of electric vehicles for public transport, phasing out coal boilers, subsidizing electric cars, he said.
“When you look at the numbers, New Zealand, like everywhere else, is heating up. Last year was the seventh warmest year on record.”
He said climate change meant the country could expect warmer years and more rain, but also the likelihood of droughts.
“We’re constantly pushing the odds towards warmer … and in some places towards drier. Conversely, when we have a storm, we load the atmosphere with more humidity, hence the chances that we will receive more heavy rains when we have a rain event. “