World’s first Bachelor of Climate Change launched at University of Waikato

The world’s first Bachelor of Climate Change degree has been launched by the University of Waikato, delivering graduates that will lead future climate change solutions, as New Zealand works to meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

The three-year degree is the first of its kind in the world, combining scientific knowledge with understanding of economic, social and political systems and Māori and Pacific responses to climate change.

University of Waikato Dean of Science, Professor Margaret Barbour, says as Aotearoa and the world works towards a target of net zero emissions by 2050, our future depends on how we respond to the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how we adapt to environmental change. Continue reading

Experts comment on latest international report on climate change – NZ Minister says Govt will be equal to the science

Human-induced climate change is already affecting weather and climate extremes across the globe, according to the latest report from Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The evidence has strengthened – not only in the observed changes in heatwaves, heavy rains, and drought extremes, but also in their attribution to human influence, since the panel’s previous report, published in 2013.

The report has been written by thousands of scientists and reviewers from more than 100 countries, including New Zealand.

The findings provide the starkest warning yet of the risk facing our children, our planet, and future generations, unless urgent action is taken, this country’s Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said in a statement in response to the report.

The Minister said a collective effort involving every sector of the economy, every community, and almost every government agency and their Minister will be needed to avert a climate crisis.

“Right now, Ministers and agencies are discussing what action they will take to bring down emissions in their sector, which will form the basis of our forthcoming Emission Reduction Plan. We must use this chance to review progress and make sure the actions we are committing to will cut emissions in line with what the latest science requires. Anything less will not be enough.

“The findings of the IPCC reaffirm those of the Climate Change Commission and confirm why this Government is right to prioritise climate action.”  Continue reading

NZ’s warmest June on record – why climate change research is regarded as critical

The June Climate Summary was published today, showing last month was the warmest June on record for the country.

The average temperature was 2.0°C above average, the 13th time this has happened since 1909.

Several records were broken with 24 locations having their warmest June on record.

The highest temperature was 22°C at Hastings on June 26 and Leigh on June 19.

Taranaki is still leading the sunniest location table.

The data were being posted at much the same time as AgResearch Research Director Trevor Stuthridge was describing the recently released advice of the Climate Change Commission as an endorsement of the research being done to support agriculture’s shift to lower emissions.

The Climate Change Commission was established to provide advice to the Government about the paths to meeting New Zealand’s climate change targets. Continue reading

Climate scientists are making shift to a new “normal”

NIWA climate scientists are redefining what’s normal when it comes to the weather.

A team of technicians and researchers are embarking on a major project to update New Zealand’s “Climate Normals” that will take at least six months to complete.

Climate Normals are what scientists define as an average statistic based on a 30-year timespan. So when climatologists describe rainfall amounts as “above normal” or temperatures as “below normal”, they are currently comparing the figures to a 30-year average of data collected between 1981 and 2010.

Climate Normals are important because they act as a benchmark against which recent or current weather observations can be compared and are also widely used as a representation of the most likely climate conditions for a given location and time of year.

But soon “normal” will shift to the new 30-year timespan between 1991 and 2020. The change has been prompted by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) which determines the 30-year period as the accepted statistical convention. Updating to the new 30-year time period is a requirement for all WMO member countries around the globe.

The switch won’t change any actual weather measurements, but due to our warming planet, it will mean the new temperature normal will be higher than previously.

Technological advances have also been huge in the past 30 years which has meant changes to the way data are collected.

Principal climate technician Andrew Harper says his team continually undertake field verifications of the data they are collecting and calibrate the instruments.

“This is especially important because there has been a proliferation of different types of weather stations in recent times and we need to ensure that they each measuring the variables the same way.”

Climate scientist Raghav Srinivasan says the process of changing the normal takes several steps. After site checks data must be quality controlled, audited and standardised.

One of the crucial steps is identifying and then filling gaps in the data. Gaps can be caused by a range of issues from severe weather damaging the weather station, transmitting malfunctions and something as simple as a spider web affecting the size of a hole through which rain passes into a measuring container. Filling the gaps can be done using a range of calculations partly derived from data of nearby stations.

“Even if there is a complete 30-year record we need to make sure it is good quality so we follow several processes, including auditing selected variables,” Srinivasan says.

It is a detailed and painstaking process that he likens to good housekeeping.

“It’s a chance to look back and check the data and go into the details and it’s going to take quite a few of us to achieve.

“Tracking changes over time is fundamental to climate science.”

It is expected the new Climate Normals will be ready at the end of the year.

Source:  NIWA

Coupled systems are the key to successful climate change outcomes

Treating climate, biodiversity and human society as coupled systems will be key to successfully mitigate the effects of climate change.

A landmark international report on Biodiversity and Climate change co-sponsored by IPBES (the 137 nation biodiversity policy platform of the United Nations) and IPCC (the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says connecting the climate and biodiversity spheres is especially crucial at this moment when the world seems to be gearing up for stronger actions on both.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Researcher Dr Sandra Lavorel, who was a co-author of the report and is on the steering committee of the IPBES, says climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the most pressing contemporary issues.  But while there is recognition in both scientific and policy-making circles that the two are interconnected, in practice they are largely addressed in their own silos. Continue reading

Commission releases “achievable” blueprint for addressing climate change

Agriculture is among the sectors considered vital to a low emissions future for New Zealand in the Climate Change Commission’s blueprint for addressing climate change.  The Commission highlights the importance of further research into reducing agriculture biogenic methane emissions as well as the Government’s work to build the world’s only farm-level emissions measurement, management and pricing system.

The Commission’s final advice sets out the total amount of emissions New Zealand must cut over the next 15 years.

It also provides three different pathways the Government could follow to keep within the proposed emission budgets.

A press release from the Prime Minister’s Office highlights these points: Continue reading

Climate Change Commission delivers final advice to Government

The Climate Change Commission has delivered its advice on how New Zealand can reach its climate target to Minister of Climate Change James Shaw.

The Commission will publish the advice on its website next Wednesday (9 June) once it has been tabled in Parliament.

The Commission can’t comment, provide copies or release the advice until then.

Commission Chair Dr Rod Carr says the Commission has met its obligations under the Climate Change Response Act in delivering the advice. Continue reading

What a dry winter would mean for the ag/hort sector – and for the country

New Zealand may be heading into a dry winter following a month of near record-breaking dry patches across the country.

What are the flow-on effects if insufficient rain falls during the cold season?

The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment on how the potential dry season may affect …

  • Rural communities and agriculture
  • Hydro energy production
  • The environment

These experts have responded: Continue reading

Political parties are challenged by polarisation of voters on climate change policy

New Zealanders are polarised on climate change policy, according to a recent Stuff/Massey University survey of 55,000 readers. This puts the two major political parties in a difficult position as they seek options that are credible yet appealing to voters.

Just 30% of Labour voters and 22% of National voters think the country is “more or less on the right path” on climate action.

The majority of voters on one side of the political spectrum wants to see “urgent action and radical change”, while at the other end most recommend caution and scepticism.

Commenting on the survey findings, Professor Robert McLachlan says they help explain the deep distrust climate advocates have for the National Party, and their demands for bolder choices from Labour.

Robert McLachlan  is professor of applied mathematics at Massey University.

His article has been republished by Sciblogs from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. The original article is here. Continue reading

New risk assessment report identifies 43 climate change risks with big implications for NZ

The release of the National Climate Change Risk Assessment provided Environment Minister James Shaw with a platform to bat for the Government’s programme to tackle climate change.  He said the report shows that “the progress the  Government has made to solve the climate crisis is essential to creating cleaner and safer communities across New Zealand”.

Because of this report’s findings, he said,

” … we can see clearer than ever that the action our Government is taking to reduce emissions is essential for making sure we pass on a safer planet to our children and grandchildren.” 

The Risk Assessment outlines for the first time the significant environmental, social and economic risks New Zealand faces as a consequence of climate change.

The National Climate Change Risk Assessment identifies 43 risks that could have a major or extreme consequence to New Zealand. Continue reading