Vacancy: Independent chair and member for NZAGRC governance group

The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) is seeking expressions of interest for two new governance positions – an independent chair and member for the newly established NZAGRC Governance Group.

The NZAGRC, estsablished in 2009, is a collaboration involving the leading New Zealand research providers working in the agricultural greenhouse gas area (five Crown Research Institutes, two universities and DairyNZ) and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc).

It coordinates and invests in New Zealand research programmes aimed at reducing methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural systems and maintaining or enhancing carbon in the soils that support those systems. Continue reading

Climate change costs through drought and floods may be greater than previously estimated, NZ scientists say

New Zealand is already paying heavily for climate change – about $800 million from droughts and $140 million from floods in the last decade – scientists say in an article published by the New Zealand Herald.

The authors argue that the costs of climate change are hitting us now and may have been previously underestimated.

Their article is the newspaper’s contribution to this week’s international media campaign Covering Climate Now.

It has been written by the director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University Professor Dave Frame, and his colleagues, Professor Ilan Noy (Victoria) and Dr Suzanne Rosier (NIWA).

They say New Zealand has experienced three significant droughts over the past 12 years and many damaging storms and extreme rainfall events.  Some of these have been linked to the influence of climate change. Continue reading

A quarter of natural carbon solutions involve putting it back in the ground

An American-led study has attempted to measure the role soil carbon could play in mitigating climate change.

Researchers say soil carbon sequestration – which involves taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in soils – accounts for 25% of the potential of natural land-based climate change solutions.

They say the technique is a ‘no-regrets opportunity’ for climate mitigation that could benefit agriculture by improving soil fertility and climate resilience.

The study mostly involved American scientists but also included scientists working in Scotland and China.

According to the Abstract (HERE):

Mitigating climate change requires clean energy and the removal of atmospheric carbon.

Building soil carbon is an appealing way to increase carbon sinks and reduce emissions owing to the associated benefits to agriculture. However, the practical implementation of soil carbon climate strategies lags behind the potential, partly because we lack clarity around the magnitude of opportunity and how to capitalize on it.

Here we quantify the role of soil carbon in natural (land-based) climate solutions and review some of the project design mechanisms available to tap into the potential. We show that soil carbon represents 25% of the potential of natural climate solutions (total potential, 23.8 Gt of CO2-equivalent per year), of which 40% is protection of existing soil carbon and 60% is rebuilding depleted stocks.

Soil carbon comprises 9% of the mitigation potential of forests, 72% for wetlands and 47% for agriculture and grasslands.

Soil carbon is important to land-based efforts to prevent carbon emissions, remove atmospheric carbon dioxide and deliver ecosystem services in addition to climate mitigation.

Source:  Scimex


Climate-driven farming shifts threaten biodiversity and water quality

A warming world will unlock new areas for growing crops, opening the way for farming in regions that were previously unsuitable for agriculture.  But this could significantly impact biodiversity, water resources, and greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, the authors of a new global analysis warn.

Unchecked expansion of farmland into new areas will increase CO2 emissions, reduce biodiversity, and lead to a loss of water quality for hundreds of millions of people, the authors report. They say these frontiers will need careful management to avoid negative environmental consequences.

Lee Hannah, of Conservation International’s Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science in Arlington, Virginia, and colleagues present a new analysis of these risks in the open access journal PLOS ONE (see  HERE)  Continue reading

Study finds climate change throws tree seeding out of sync

Climate change is negatively affecting tree reproduction by throwing seed production systems out of synchronisation, according to a new international study co-authored by a University of Canterbury scientist.

Many tree species worldwide produce large seed crops at irregular intervals, known as mast seeding. New Zealanders are probably already aware of this because in three of the last six years (2014, 2016 and 2019) the Department of Conservation has had to run extensive pest control operations over very large areas, says University of Canterbury Professor Dave Kelly, School of Biological Sciences, a co-author on the study.

The pest control was required to protect rare native birds from booming populations of two key predators, rodents and stoats, which increased after big seed crops in southern beech (Nothofagus) forests. Continue reading

The vulnerability of climate safe havens and the implications of a sudden permafrost thaw

Scimex has posted two items which deal with research findings related to climate change.

One deals with the threat of future climate change to biodiversity and the need for scientists to seek ever more effective ways to identify the most vulnerable species, communities, and ecosystems.

The second study looks at permafrosts, which  store around 60 per cent of the world’s soil carbon.  It says there has been substantial underestimating of how quickly this could be released.
Continue reading

Breathing pores of ancient plants challenge climate thinking

Fossils of a group of plants which includes banksias, proteas and macadamias, show that when past climates were high in carbon dioxide, the pores that plants use to absorb CO2 were smaller and more abundant, according to Australian research.

Fossilised plant pores, known as stomata, have been used to estimate past climate and CO2 levels.

The Australian research results challenge current models that predict larger and less densely packed stomata under the higher atmospheric carbon dioxide prevalent in warm climates.  Thus, the size and abundance of stomata are significantly affected by environmental factors other than atmospheric carbon dioxide

The researchers say this means future models may need to consider other environmental factors that might influence the size of these plant pores, not just CO2.

They used plant fossils from the major southern hemisphere family Proteaceae to show that stomata (the tiny adjustable pores that allow plants to absorb carbon dioxide) varied through the Cenozoic period (the last 65 million years).

In particular, stomata were smaller and more abundant when climates were warm and rainforest was abundant.

The research involved scientists from the University of Tasmania, The University of Adelaide and the CSIRO. It was supported by Australian Research Council Discovery Grants (grant nos DP140100307 and DP160100809).

Source:  Scimex

Beef and lamb top NZ’s food emissions

Beef and lamb are the most climate-polluting foods, according to University of Otago researchers who put together a database of foods commonly consumed in New Zealand and their climate effects. Beef and lamb are followed by processed meats, butter, pork, and cheese.

The researchers say if all Kiwi adults shifted to a plant-based diet, emission savings equivalent to cutting annual car emissions by 59 per cent could be made.

Savings to the healthcare system worth billions of dollars over the next few decades could be made, too, according to the University of Otago study.

Lead researcher and Otago medical student Jono Drew explains the global food system is driving both the climate crisis and the growing burden of common chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Continue reading

Things are hotting up – NIWA report is rich with data, if you want to talk about the weather

NIWA data  show the global trend of warming weather continued in 2019, setting record average temperatures in many parts of the country

It was New Zealand’s fourth warmest year since 1909 (when records began) with an average temperature of 13.37°C.

NIWA’s annual climate summary shows New Zealand has not had a month with below-average temperatures for 35 months.

Five of the past seven years have been among New Zealand’s hottest on record.

Data from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology show 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year.

The hottest year on record for New Zealand was 2016, when an average nation-wide temperature of 13.45°C was recorded. The years 1998 and 2018 are tied in second place with an average of 13.41°C.

Annual temperatures were +0.5 to +1.2 degrees Celsius above the annual average across the majority of New Zealand.

Yearly rainfall in 2019 was above average in western Southland and parts of Westland, but large areas of the country – including Northland, Auckland, the Bay of Plenty and parts of Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, the Wairarapa and Marlborough – had only 50–80 per cent of their usual rainfall.

The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment on the NIWA summary. Continue reading

Rethinking climate modelling to prepare for even hotter temperatures

Improper adoption of climate impact modelling could leave us ill prepared for even higher temperatures and more frequent heatwaves, according to new research.

University of Melbourne researchers compared two major climate modelling methods, transient climate where the global temperatures are consistently rising over the next 80 years and equilibrium climate where the temperatures rise and reach a steady equilibrium over the course of centuries.

Published in Nature Climate Change, the study found that, to be effective, climate change policies need to take into account the significant differences between transient and equilibrium climate models.

More than 90 per cent of the world’s population would experience higher local temperatures and twice the number of heatwaves as per transient climate modelling compared with equilibrium modelling at the same global temperature.

Globally, emissions and climate change targets, including those set by the 2015 Paris Agreement, are more often based on equilibrium climate models.

Lead researcher Dr Andrew King, from the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences, said it would be more appropriate to also take into account transient modelling to prepare climate change policies for the near future.

“Differences in methods used to simulate future climates could lead to inadequate information and development of ineffective policies,” Dr King said, “especially in building resilience for future extreme heat events.”

The researchers used simulated future worlds to compare the two climate modelling methods.

The transient future climate model showed that the northern hemisphere would experience warmer average temperatures in summer. The researchers also observed that poorer regions of the world had a greater probability of hot seasons.

The study concluded that using multiple modelling methods would more comprehensively help to examine the impacts of the Paris Agreement global warming levels.

“If we manage to implement effective policies and meet the Paris Agreement goals we will benefit from fewer hot summers and, in some populated areas, we should see a reduction in heat extremes relative to the current climate,” Dr King said.

The research was conducted at the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences and the Australian Research Council Centre for Excellence for Climate Research in association with the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University. The study was funded through ARC research grants.

Source:  Scimex